Studies in 1 & 2 Corinthians
17. 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 - The Spirit Brings Freedom
Paul’s boldness in Christ
Once Paul understood the change, he was strengthened and encouraged: “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 prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away” (verses 12-13).
Paul did not hide. He was bold in preaching the new way — salvation through the crucified Christ. But despite his boldness, and the clarity of the message, many people did not accept the gospel:
“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” (verses 14-15).
Many people today, Jewish or not, do not seem to understand. They keep reading the Bible with old covenant eyes. The only solution is Christ. Only in him can the “veil” be removed. “Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (verse 16).
The basis of our relationship with God
What does it mean to “turn to the Lord”? It means to see Jesus as the basis of our relationship with God. It means seeing our identity in him, not in the Law of Moses. Christ becomes central. We obey his law, the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). When we put him first in our identity, he will help us see the covenantal change more clearly.
“The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (verse 17). We have freedom in Christ — but what kind of freedom? We still obey — Paul makes that clear in Romans 6. But in this context of 2 Corinthians, what kind of freedom is he talking about? It is freedom from the ministry that brought death — freedom from the old covenant. There is a lot of continuity, but there is some important change as well.
An unfading glory
Not only do the covenants change from old and temporary to new and permanent, Christians themselves are changing: “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (verse 18).
Moses had only a fading glory, and his covenant had only a fading glory. It could give only temporary blessings. But we, with the eternal Spirit living within us, are being changed into a permanent glory — a glory that does not need to hide, a glory that looks to the heart instead of the stone tablets.
“Therefore,” Paul says in the next verse, “since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:2). We persist through hardships and other distractions. “We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God” (v. 2). We preach the gospel honestly, not deceitfully. We do not practice bait-and-switch, promising earthly riches when they may not come.
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD