Series on II Corinthians, I Paul’s Dedication to Ministry, C Spiritual, 2 Superior Covenant Administration. Text: 3:7-18, Title; Surpassing Glory.,

Introduction

Chapter 3 is about the Spiritual character of Paul’s Ministry. First he made clear that his preaching was in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and Power, resulting in changed lives. Now he gives us the Biblical basis by showing that God’s covenant relationship with man has undergone a change resulting in greater, or surpassing, glory. God’s glory was revealed in creation and redemption in Old Testament times, but it has never been revealed as it is today.  Here there is no fiery pillar as Moses saw in the wilderness. There is no thunder and lightening as on Mount Sinai. There is no physical vision of heaven being opened as when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up and surrounded by cherubim. No chariots of fire will cross the sky as seen by Ezekiel. Unlike the Apostle John, you will not see heaven opened and Jesus on a white horse with a sword in his mouth striking the nations in righteousness and justice. BUT THERE IS SURPASSING GLORY. In comparing the New Testament era in which we live with Old Testament times the Westminster Confession says that this era “is one of less outward glory,” but we must not forget the converse of that. It may have less outward glory but it has more inward glory. That is what Paul is talking about here. Let us see the glory.

I The Vision of Glory

According to verses 7-11, the giving of the law was very glorious. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Moses’ face reflected the glory of God to the extent that the children of Israel could not keep looking at it. But the law was a ministry of death and condemnation. Paul refers to the letter of the law apart from the grace of God or the Spirit of God. Obviously people were saved by grace through faith in the Old Testament, but the law alone could only condemn, even so, it was glorious because it was from God. The giving of the law was very important to the Jews. Their whole religion revealed through Moses was their glory. Paul says the gospel is much more glorious. The key is in verse 9 where Paul says the gospel is a ministry of righteousness instead of a ministry of condemnation. As a result the old religion of Israel will pass away and be replaced by the gospel. Plainly put the law demanded a righteousness they did not have. The Gospel provides a righteousness we do not have. Jesus is our righteousness. Allow me to illustrate. You wake up one morning look in the mirror and don’t like what you see. Although clothes do not make the man you decide to go find a new dress or suit. Passing by the stores in the mall you discover one with a sign in the window that says we love you and want you to look your best. You go in and the clerk picks out the perfect garment. You try it on. You look perfect. The clerk says you look marvelous. I have good news for you. This garment will never wear out. It will last forever, and we love you so much that there is no charge. It’s free. This is exactly what God has done for you. The mirror you looked in was the law showing your sin. The store is the Gospel. The garment is the righteousness of Christ. The clerk is God and you will forever look perfect in his sight. Let’s get it right. Salvation through Christ means you are forever perfect in God’s sight, covered in the righteousness of Christ. Now this is glory. Inward glory, but greater glory that you can see every day and that is revealed through the preaching of the Gospel.

II The Veil of Glory

A peculiar part of this story is Paul’s reference to the veil over Moses face in verses 12-16. Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Comparing this passage with Exodus 34 we can be pretty sure that the procedure was that Moses approached the people and declared the Word of God to them with a shining face. But his custom was to cover his face as soon as he was finished so that they could not see the glory fading. This was a picture of the fading glory of the Old Covenant. The application is clear. The Jews of Paul’s day were clinging to the glory of the Old Testament. It was fading. They needed to see the glory of Jesus as the fulfillment of their ancient faith. They needed to embrace a surpassing glory in Christ. He came unto his own and his own received him not. Jesus said all things written about him in Moses and the prophets and the Psalms were being fulfilled. Now we can understand Paul’s switch in the metaphor when he says the veil is on their hearts because they did not understand that Christ was the fulfillment, and the old must pass. Thus the Apostle says in Christ the veil is removed. Are we like them and can we make the same mistake? Of course! Consider a familiar story from the Old Testament. David defeats Goliath. The young shepherd boy challenges the Philistine Giant alone. No one else will chance it. With a stone and a sling he brings down the enemy of God. Isn’t that glorious. Of course it is! But Paul is saying here that the glory of the Gospel in our lives is greater. Do you want to see the glory of God? Look at those who are faithful to their calling in spite of danger or faithful to their spouses in spite of disappointment. Look at those who overcome adversity, trials and besetting sins. Look at the teenager who finds obedience to parents in the tumultuous adolescent years. Look at the child who learns obedience despite a willful spirit. Look at the old ones who are willing to admit they have been wrong for sixty years. Stop looking at the visible and look at the invisible.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen.  The veil is gone.

III The Visit of Glory

The Righteousness of Christ imputed to believers means the work of the Holy Spirit is assured. Consequently as Paul says in verses 17 and 18, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Christ and the Holy Spirit are the same God. When the veil is removed what we see in the mirror is Christ. God’s word is the mirror. The original Greek suggests that the veil is removed once for all, but the beholding is a continuous process. We are justified, but our sanctification goes on and on and on and on. Only as you get into the word does your face begin to resemble the reflection of God’s glory, Jesus.  John 1 says and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. An old Princeton Seminary Professor, Archibald Alexander wrote a book called “The Glory in The Grey.” Find the glory here and find it now. In one meditation he reminds us of Naaman, the Syrian General, who had leprosy and was advised by Elisha to go bathe 7 times in the Jordan. His opinion was that the rivers in Damascus were much cleaner and nicer and why should he do such a stupid thing? But he yielded and was healed. You see, the glory is in the gray. It’s in the dirty Jordan. It’s in your everyday triumph over sin and evil. It’s in the nitty-gritty of the Word applied to your precise situation with victory. This is the glory of God we celebrate as we come together to worship each Sunday.