2 Corinthians 3 – The Lifted Veil

Read 2 Corinthians 3

As Paul continues to address the need for forgiveness in the offense that has occurred, he grounds that subject in the life and work of Jesus Christ ushering in the New Covenant of reconciliation.  Any punishment or discipline that is necessary in this case, then, is not meant to exclude but to correct and to bring reconciliation; to be in line with the will of God who is continuing to build us up into the image of His Son.

In that transformation, God’s glory will be revealed in greater and greater ways.  Paul likens this to the ‘glory’ that shown on Moses’ face after he went into the tent of meeting.  In the Old Testament, no one was able to see God and when Moses’ face had the glow of God’s glory, the people were scared.  Seeing God meant that they would die.

However, Christ has ushered in the New Covenant, and with the New Covenant He has brought reconciliation and grace that we may once again be in relationship with God.  He wants to show us His face, He wants us to see His glory.  No veil is needed for those who have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  Indeed, at the moment of His death, the curtain in the temple separating the Holy of Holies, the place of God’s dwelling on earth, from the world was torn in two!  For the first time since the Fall in Genesis 3, the veil was lifted and we come before God.

The hope that this reconciliation brings emboldens Paul, and should embolden us as well.  We don’t need to veil our salvation or the grace that God shows us.  In fact, as God lifts this veil from our hearts through the hearing of His Word, we find the freedom that is granted us to shine forth the light and glory of God into all the world.



Day 353: Hebrews 8-10; Covenant and Redemption Through Christ

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.  For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.  Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.  They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’  But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Today’s reading continues the discussion of the Jesus as the Great High Priest and brings brings it around to several aspects of Israel’s belief system that are also integral in understanding the person of Jesus Christ.  The writer of Hebrews opens chapter 8 by making the point of the argument from the past three chapters.  We then move on from there to see that Christ’s coming is the reality which these Old Testament shadows were pointing to.  Like the Tabernacle and the Temple were earthly shadows of heavenly things, so too were the priests of Israel shadows of the true office of priest which was fulfilled in Christ.

More than that, Christ as the Great High Priest is also the mediator of the covenant.  This is not the old covenant though, as we have seen, but a new, vastly superior covenant.  Again, like all these things in the Old Testament, the covenant was the basis for all of that was to come in Jesus Christ, and it was then fulfilled in Christ.  More than that, it was not done away with but renewed and made new in Jesus Christ who is the mediator of the New Covenant in His blood, the one He instituted on the night He was betrayed.

Now, at the end of Hebrews 8, the writer talks about the Old Covenant being old and obsolete.  While in many ways this is true, we no longer have to worry about the stipulations of the Old Covenant, what we often call the Law.  This if often what we call the basis for Christian freedom, along with our freedom from sin and death in Jesus Christ.  We are called to live in a manner that is pleasing to God and that spreads the love of Christ to all those we meet, but we are to do it in response to the grace that we have received, not to try and earn our own salvation.

The writer goes on to talk about the Redemption that we have in Jesus Christ, saying many of the same things that we have been saying.  Here is a portion of chapter 9 that I would encourage you to reread… it talks about the redemption that we have in Christ Jesus through the shedding of Christ’s blood in a better way than I ever could!

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.  For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.  For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.  Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.  For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”  And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.



Day 336: 2 Corinthians 5-7; Ministry of the Body of Christ

It is interesting, as I read this letter, Paul keeps saying things and then making sure that he is clarifying what he is saying as not being something boastful, but rather to make sure that the recipients are understanding that the boasting that is happening is in Christ.  They are not saying anything that is happening is being done of their power, but through the work of the Holy Spirit, all of what is being accomplished is happening.  Paul is also making a great deal of effort to talk about the contrast between our hope for something beyond this world and the work that needs to still be done here.  The whole first part of chapter five is talking about the fact that, while we long to be with God, in our heavenly dwelling, we still need to recognize the fact that we are living in this earthly tent.  I think he is drawing on some of his other writings here when he is talking about walking by faith and not by sight.  At other times in the New Testament he talks about seeing God in the life to come, which will certainly make following God a lot easier.  For now though, we live and work in this world by faith in God through the Holy Spirit and we need to keep this in mind.

Paul goes on from here to talk about the ministry of the body of Christ here on earth.  As I was reading this I was thinking of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, how He prays for His disciples to be in the world but not of the world.  In many ways, they are to be what the people of Israel were to be in the world, the mediators between earth and heaven.  Jesus’ disciples and the Church were never meant to be people that withdraw from the world and don’t interact with it.  Neither are we supposed to be so intertwined with the world that we are unrecognizable from all those around us.  We are called to be “priests” of sorts, mediating between heaven and earth.  Paul puts a label on this as well: reconciliation.  This is really the crux of what Jesus came to do as well, in being justified through His blood, we are reconciled to God and put back in right relationship with Him.  Obviously that is not fully realized in the here and now, but it is the reality in which we live, reconciled in relationship to God.

He continues talking about this new reality, showing that not only are we reconciled in a sort of declarative way (like when someone is declared not guilty in a trial), we are made new in spirit as well.  In one of his more famous writings Paul says, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”  It isn’t a simple change of thought towards us from God, we are actually a new creation!  The old is gone… the NEW has come!

So what are we to do with this?  Paul talks about this in terms of the ministry of Christ on earth.  If this is the case, which it is, then it is to be our ministry on earth as well.  While we cannot do for other what Christ did for us, we are called to spread this good news to all people in Matthew 28!  This is the means by which we can participate in the ministry of reconciliation that Christ began here on earth.  Sure, there are a number of ways that we can do things in the social sphere to help those who are less fortunate, feed the hungry, stand up for the orphan and the widow as the people of God are supposed to do.  However, none of it really amounts to a hill of beans if we aren’t spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all that we meet.

Part of what Paul has to say today as well is a direct draw from the Old Testament.  Remember yesterday Paul was talking about the New Covenant and its superiority to the Old Covenant, yet we see here that Paul is drawing from the very basis of the Old Covenant as He talks about how believers should be living.  What is the Old Covenant?  “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”  This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the reconciliation that He brings.  In Him, the Holy Spirit has been sent and God indeed dwells among us, in our hearts, and God is indeed our God.  Moreover, we wait for the day when this covenant will be fully realized, when Christ comes again and God dwells among us physically and forever.