Turning your bible to 2 Corinthians Chapter 3 we come back to this text from verses 6-18 on the glory of the New Covenant again this morning, and I confess to you that I’m having a terrible time getting through this text. I knew I would, but it’s even exceeding my own expectations. There is so much here and there’s so many issues that arise out of this text that I want to address that we’re taking our time going through it. As we look at this text just to remind you that the Apostle Paul here is defending himself against some accusations that he is a false teacher.
He is saying that he is a true teacher for a number reasons; not the least of which is that he preaches the New Covenant as he notes in verse six, he is a minister or a servant of the New Covenant. As he defends himself by identifying himself with the New Covenant he then launches into a discussion which compares the New Covenant to the Old Covenant because the false teachers, the real false teachers who came into Corinth where the Judea, the circumcision party who were teaching the Old Covenant. So Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that a true servant of God, a true minister, a true preacher, a true prophet, a true apostle will preach New Covenant truth not Old Covenant and that is the essence of what launches him into this discussion.
Once he’s identified himself as a preacher of the New Covenant he then goes on to explain the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant; we’ve been sort of wandering through that field for the last four weeks and this is number five. Now let me give you a little bit of background just to bring you up to this text. Satan’s most effective deception is religion. That is why he is disguised as an angel of light and that is why his ministers are disguised also as angels of light. While in fact they are all demons of darkness and damnation they masquerade through religion.
Satan’s subtlest and most powerful impact is through designing religion that does not save, but damns people under the illusion that all is well between them and God. The world is obviously engulfed in that satanic deception, the world is engulfed in religion that does not save, religion that damns them to eternal hell. It is the satanic religion of ceremony or ritual or self-righteous works, it is the religion of performance, the religion of human effort, the religion of sacraments and it sends people into a Godless eternity deceived about their real condition.
As I’ve told you many times through the years there are only two religions in the world, just two. There is true Christianity, salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone, and there is one other religion and that is the religion of human achievement, human accomplishment, human effort, human ceremony and all religion in the world apart of true Christianity is really another form of that same one false damning deception. That a person can be made right with God through some external effort, through some moral activity, through some ceremony. That is a damning deception that engulfs most of the world.
This explains, for example, how the Pope can say that Buddhist worship the same God he worships, and should be considers as brothers. This explains how he can say that the Muslims should be considered as brothers and sisters who worship the same God he worships. This explains why Mother Teresa and her home for the sick and dying in Calcutta can have a picture of a Hindu God. Because it is all the religion of ceremony, it is all the religion of human achievement, self-achieved righteousness or righteousness achieved through sacrament, ceremony, ritual or whatever.
In fact the Roman Catholic Church and certain forms of Greek Orthodoxy and certain forms of high church Protestantism have more in common with non-Christian religions than with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are more akin to them because they are religions of external works and ceremony and sacrament and performance and ritual, they are more like non-Christian religions than true Christianity and that is why we’re not shocked when we see the Pope make some kind of comment that embraces people who are distinctively non-Christian.
While at the same time we who are distinctively Christian cannot embrace the pagan format of Roman Catholicism. Keeping the pure Gospel separate from all those forms of religion, even those which claim to be devoted to the God of the Bible is one of the preachers greatest tasks, it’s a task we cannot abandon. Paul faced that very task in Corinth. You remember that he had gone there and preached the Gospel and he had been there nearly two years and he founded a church. All was well ostensibly, at least on the theological side there was certainly some sin problems there, but all seemed to be well on an understand of the Gospel until some Jewish people came in there and said in order for you to really be a Christian you’ve got to not only accept Jesus.
But you’ve got to keep the Old Testament ceremonies and rituals. So it was salvation by Christ plus ceremony, ritual works and Paul is saying in this section that is not so. It is not the New Covenant and the Old Covenant that saves, it is the New Covenant alone that saves. The false teachers were teaching salvation by circumcision, which is a ceremony or by ritual or mechanics, by works, and therefore they had polluted the pure stream of Gospel truth. So Paul writes to inform the Corinthians that what he preached was the truth, the New Covenant.
What you see him doing here is what every faithful pastor has to do. You have to protect your people from the Satanic deceptions that come in the form of false religion, and Satan is subtle enough to even embrace them under the name of Christianity if he has to if it fits and suits his purpose, and try to slide them in with that subtlety. All those back in verse 6 who are truly made ministers are servants of the New Covenant, the covenant in Christ blood must take the responsibility that Paul exercises here and warn people about non-saving, deceptive, Satanic, damning religion no matter whether it has the label of
Christianity or not.
The Corinthian Church and everyone else must completely reject all efforts to convolute the Gospel by works or my ceremony or ritual, and we’ve covered all that, that’s a review. Now, in making this point Paul shows how the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant and he wants them to see that the Old Covenant is now abrogated as it says in Hebrews 8, it is now set aside. The whole book of Hebrews deals with the New Covenant as it’s compared to Old Covenant and it’s reduced down in 2 Corinthians. So let’s go back to the larger text of this issue, Hebrews Chapter 9, verse 15. Listen carefully to this.
“And for this reason He,” that is Christ who’s referred to of course back in verse 14, “He is the mediator of a new covenant.” Now follow this, “in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant.” Did you see that? In other words the death of Jesus Christ provided redemption for transgressions committed by people who lived under the first covenant, that’s what he’s saying. There again you have the very clear indication that people under the Old Covenant, living in the Old Testament before Christ was ever born or before he ever died and rose again, people living at that time prior to Gospel events were saved by what Christ would do.
It’s a very, very important thing to understand. Christ, because of his perfect sacrificial death for sin became the mediator of a new and a better covenant. The only way a person could ever come to God was to have the penalty for his sin paid in full by death, this payment Jesus made by dying as the substitute for all who believe and repent of every age. He became the bridge, he became the mediator, the only mediator between God and man bringing them together forever.
Hebrews says he accomplished in one offering of himself what all the offerings of Old Covenant priest could never accomplish; they could only symbolize. It was his death that took the place for the redemption of the transgressions, the price was paid in full, sinners were reconciled forever to God. But notice this, what sins, whose sins, the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant. I don’t know how people can be confused on this, I don’t know how people can think that people in the Old Testament were saved because they kept the law or they were saved because they had in their hearts a Messianic hope. They may have tried to obey the law, and that’s a noble thing for them to do.
Obviously, if they had been saved they would therefore have seen the laws of path of life and they would have obeyed it gladly as much as they could in their falleness. But people who think that keeping the law or having some Messianic hope saves in and of itself miss the whole point. The only thing that saved those people was the provision of Jesus Christ on the cross; that’s why he says it was for the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Look at it this way the death of Jesus Christ was retroactive, it went back and it covered the past. Look at Romans Chapter 3, verses 24 and 25, you know of course that if I’m belaboring this point of the Gospel a little bit, I’ve belabored it for years and written a number of books on it because I can’t believe that church is confused about it. Nothing can be more important than getting the Gospel right, is that not true.
Romans 3: 24 and 25, “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation,” or a covering, “in His blood through faith.” Alright, justification is a gift by Grace through the redemption, provided in Christ, God put Christ on display as a covering for sins through His blood through faith. Now listen to this next line, “This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.” That is a crucial point. God passed over the sins of those who believed in him prior to the coming of Christ, but Christ had to come to make God’s passing over those sins a righteous act. Do you understand that?
God would have been unjust if he just ignored their sins, if he just passed over their sins whimsically. Somebody might have said what kind of Holy God are you; you just pass over their sins? Where is the sacrifice for their sins? Where is the satisfaction of justice? Where is the satisfaction of righteousness? Where is the requirement of the law? How can you just forgive those sinners? How can you just be merciful and gracious to those sinners, and until Christ came, follow this, until Christ came to make the perfect atoning sacrifice God could be assumed to have been unjust or unrighteous or have lowered his standard.
So says Paul here God was demonstrating his righteousness and he needed to demonstrate what a righteous God he was, because in the past he had overlooked the sins previously committed. People would say some Holy God you’ve got, he just decides whose sins he’s going to forgive and forgives them. Where is the justice? Where is the righteousness? Where is the holiness there? Where is the holy standard? Where is the soul that sinith shall die principle? So he puts Christ publically on display and we see that he’s a just God. In fact he’s so just and he’s so righteous and he’s so bound to his own inexorable law that sin cannot be forgiven apart from a perfect sacrificial death.
He is so committed to that law that he puts on the cross his own beloved son. Therein is the exhibition of the absolute justice and righteousness of God. So he demonstrates his righteousness by putting his son on the cross so that we will understand that passing over sin in the past was only temporary, the sacrifice for that sin was to come. Because the blood of Jesus Christ was not yet spilled until hundreds or even thousands of years after many Old Testament believers died; their salvation was so to speak on credit. It was on credit. By their repentance, and that’s always got to be there, and by their faith in God, that is to believe God for whatever God had revealed about himself.
Obviously the progressive revelation means that at any point in Old Testament history God had revealed more and more and more. What did a person have to believe to be saved; they had to believed whatever God had revealed at that point and they had to believe that God was merciful and gracious and would forgive their sin, and they had to believe that they had nothing in themselves by which that sin could be forgiven. They had to know in their heart and their mind that God somehow, someway would provide an atonement for their sin. So what was required for the salvation of an Old Testament person to believe God? Abraham believed God and it counted to him for righteousness.
To repent of sin and cast one’s self on the mercy and grace of God who alone could forgive that sin and to know in your heart that God would provide a proper sacrifice. On that basis, the basis of repented faith God granted them salvation on credit. Because of Christ death to come God was patient until the sacrifice was made and he passed over the sins of truly repentant, believing folks, until the time when Christ could come and take care of their sin.
Since the Old Covenant ceremonies and sacrifices, now listen to this, only symbolized the one sacrifice of Christ which does save we can conclude then that salvation’s always been by grace, always been by faith, and always been through what Christ did in the New Covenant. So Paul is therefore saying why in the world would you people want to believe you need observe the Old Covenant as a part of your salvation. Paul uses the occasion then to defend himself against the false teachers and to show that the New Covenant is better than the old. Now, let’s look at the text again.
The fact that the New Covenant is better is evidence in a number of ways. First of all it gives life, we covered that in verse 6. Secondly, it produces righteousness, we covered that in verses 7, 8 and 9. Thirdly, it is permanent, we covered that as well in verses 10 and 11. The superiority of the New Covenant and thus of New Covenant preachers is indicated by the truth that the New Covenant gives life, provides righteousness and is permanent. Now let’s pick it up with point number four. The New Covenant brings hope, verse 12. Having, therefore, such a hope we use grave boldness in our speech. The New Covenant brings hope. You know if there was one thing true about the Old Covenant it was that no sacrifice was ever final, is that not true.
You always had to another one, but the New Covenant had a finality, and absolute finality. It provided real hope, sin has really been dealt with, the hope of life eternal is crystal clear. Our hope is so sure, it is so established, it is so irrevocable, it is so final that Paul says we preach it with boldness. Now what is hope? Well, it’s very simple, it’s the belief that all the promises of the New Covenant will come to pass, and what does the New Covenant promise, total and complete, permanent and forever forgiveness.
Removing your sins as far as the east is from the west would be certainly a part of it. God did that as well in the Old Testament, but he did it in the Old Testament, follow again, based upon the New Covenant accomplishment. The New Covenant brings life abundant, and life eternal, the hope of Heaven, the promises are all going to come to pass. Great as the glory of the New Covenant is it’s not yet manifested. It has hope in it, the New Covenant brings us not just a present, but it brings us a future. It brings us a glorious future. It was ratified in the past at the cross, it is applied in the present at faith, but its fullness is experienced in the future. So we have entered into a New Covenant, the fullness of which we have not yet experienced, is that not true. Absolutely.
Look at Romans Chapter 8, we live in hope says Paul. This New Covenant has a hope capacity. You see the old Covenant had sort of a hopelessness in a sense, the Old Covenant just sort of killed you with your sinfulness, it relentlessly hammered and hammered and hammered and hammered on the sinner. The New Covenant comes and brings hope. In Romans Chapter 8, verse 18 Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”
In other words he’s saying here we don’t mind suffering in this life, because we have hope for the glory that is to be revealed. We are anxiously awaiting for the revealing of the sons of God, the glorious manifestation of the sons of God hasn’t happened. “The creation was subjected to futility not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself also would be set free from its slavery to corruption to the freedom, to the glory of the children of God.” But we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now, not only this, but we also groan ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit. Even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
Here it is, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” We’re save in hope; Paul is saying that inherent in the New Covenant is hope, a glorious, exhilarating, wonderful anticipation of the glorious manifestation of the children of God. Later in Romans Chapter 15, verse 13 he gives a benediction. He says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” See we live in hope.
I went into the hospital yesterday, spent about an hour with Herb Clingen, Herb had another mild stroke and they were doing some test on his heart and trying to figure out if they had any…if there was any effect on the heart, any damage to the heart from this latest stroke. We were just chatting about the difficulty of life when you hit the age of 80 and all of that, and with joy and exuberance and happiness in this heart he talked about the possibility and reality of death, which for him holds no fear because it ushers him into the presence of Jesus Christ. That’s what it is to live in hope, that’s what it means to live in hope.
That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Romans Chapter 13 when he said, “Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed.” What aspect of your salvation the fullness of it. In Galatians Chapter 5 and verse 5 we read further about the hope that is in the New Covenant, “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” Listen I’m saved, but I look at my life and I frankly live in hope don’t you? I understand Paul in Romans 7 who says, “I do what I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I want to do, and I’m a wretched man and now who is going to deliver me from the body of this death?” Right?
I know what it’s like to be a totally redeemed, fully redeemed person living in unredeemed flesh and having this endless warfare and I have this great hope that someday the war will be over and I will be fully and completely righteous. So through the Spirit we by faith are waiting for the hope of righteousness to be fulfilled. In Ephesians Chapter 1, “I pray that the eyes of your heart,” verse 18, “may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” He says I want you to understand what you have to hope for, I want you to understand your eternal reward, the glories of Heaven, righteousness, being made like Christ. I want you to see that, look ahead, view that.
Someday it does not yet appear what we will be, but someday we will be like him when he appears for we will see as he is. That’s our great hope and we are saved in hope. We have what Paul says in Ephesian 4:4 is “one hope of your calling.” That hope of course is to become like Jesus Christ. Peter certainly anticipated this as many other scriptures do. But listen to 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
What is our hope; to obtain an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you. That is our great hope. “Fix your hope,” he says in verse 13, “completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Set your hope on the grace you’re going to receive when Jesus comes. Verse 21, “Your faith and your hope are in God.” So Paul says, back to our text verse 12, “Having therefore such a hope,” as the New Covenant, “we use great boldness in our speech,” or literally we continue to use much openness, public exhibition of frankness, no reserve, no timidity, no hesitation, no reluctance.
We preach New Covenant truth fearlessly without any hesitation. Now you know that the New Covenant was a severe jolt to the Jewish people, you know that. It was a severe jolt, but he says because the New Covenant is so replete with hope we preach it fearlessly no matter what kind of a jolt it is, and no matter what the consequences might be to us, which of course were painful to say the least. Take the word boldness for a moment, parrhsía in Greek, means courageous, it means outspoken. He is saying I am so confident of New Covenant promise, by faith in Jesus Christ, I am so confident that it fills the heart with hope that then Old Covenant never gives, it takes away the despair and the fear and the doubt, and it places joy and peace and hope.
I am so confident that I am courageous and outspoken and bold, and without reluctance and without hesitation no matter what kind of severe reaction I get. I can’t hold back, I can’t hesitate. Contrast, Paul’s boldness, his openness with Moses demeanor at the event that is behind this passage. Remember the Exodus 34 event when Moses was in the mountain getting the law and saw the glory of God that we talked about last week? “We use great boldness in our speech, and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face,” that’s interesting. He put a veil over his face, Moses didn’t have that boldness. There was something about the law that was blinding, burning, searing, you couldn’t look at it without it destroying you and Moses had to cover it.
Paul is casting his own approach against the backdrop of that particular issue that he drew from Exodus 34, Moses was reluctant, he would speak and then he would cover his face immediately so that the blazing glory of God that came to him in the giving of the law didn’t burn people. It was like looking into the sun it would scorch their eyes. It was a burning covenant, it was a devastating, injurious and harmful one though glorious. So Paul says the New Covenant gives hope. It’s permanent, it provides righteousness, it gives life. Number five.
It is clear. Now I want to take you back to the story of Moses. Let’s go back to Exodus 34 for a minute. Paul uses as I said this account as an illustration; so we have to keep intersecting with it. Back in Exodus 34 and for you that haven’t been here, Paul is showing the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant and he uses an illustration or an analogy on the life of Moses when he went up into the mountains to receive the law of God and saw the glory of God, and then he came down to speak to the people of the glory of God was on his face.
That’s the background. Paul draws a number of conclusions from that…a number of spiritual conclusions from that marvelous illustration, look at verses 33 and following. “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.” Remember now he spoke to them with the shining glory on his face and they would have to look to the side, they could see the glow, they couldn’t look at it straight on. But when he was done speaking in order that he might have some kind of normal life he would put a veil over his face to shade the glory so that he could move among the people and not have this blinding glow; “put a veil on his face.
But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.” So it was just the idea that he would wear the veil, after he had given the message he’d come out from speaking with God where he was unveiled, he would in an unveiled way speak the message so that they would see the glory of the law of God as he gave it then he would cover his face.
So Paul says, look at verse 13 he says, “We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face.” What is he saying here? Concealment was inherent in the fading glory of the Old Covenant. It was too penetrating, it was too devastating, it was too deadly. A constant exposure to it was blinding, but there was more than that. You could also extrapolate off of that and get the feeling that what Paul is saying is the whole Old Covenant was basically shadowy, it was basically veiled. You could only get a glimpse of it and then the veil came on, it was types, it was pictures, symbols, mystery illustrated by the veil. Moses communicated the glory of the Old Covenant with a certain obscurity.
He put a veil over his face to hide the glory so as not to blind the people. He used the veil because the glory on his face was great, it was brilliant. He wasn’t trying to hide the reality that it was a fading glory, he wouldn’t be that dishonest. Why would he want them to believe a fading glory wasn’t fading, they knew it was fading. He didn’t keep the veil on all the time; only when he had come from seeing God and receiving the glory. When he spoke with God the glory came back, he was probably unveiled with he spoke as I said, and then put the veil on until the glory faded away. But there was a certain concealment and that’s what Paul is saying. Moses just put a veil on it.
There’s an element of the Old Covenant that conceals is that not true? Remember now, what Peter said that the Old Testament prophets wrote and then they searched what they wrote to find out what they meant by what they wrote. There was a mystery there. A good parallel to it is we studied the book of Revelation, we’ve been doing that for months and months, and we go through the book of Revelation and we do the best we can to understand what is to come in the future. But honestly there is so much in that book we make a valiant effort at, but only the people who live in the time it happens are really going to comprehend it fully.
So what do we do; we search and search and search. Jim Stetsinger was telling me two weeks ago that John Calvin wrote a commentary on every book in the New Testament, except the book of Revelation, he said I can’t understand it. It’s a very difficult thing to understand and even when we understand and great portion of it there are parts of it that only the people alive at the time are going to understand so we look at it like the prophets looked at what they wrote and wondered what it meant. The Old Covenant had a certain covering, a certain concealed element that the New Covenant does not have. It was a veiled covenant, it was a fading covenant. Fading part was symbolic of the passing away.
The veil also indicates the covered part of it, but there’s nothing veiled and there’s nothing fading about New Covenant gospel. In fact the Apostle Paul a number of places in his epistles talks about the mysteries being revealed, right. Now Paul says the reasons the Jews of Moses day couldn’t gaze intently was…the reason Moses put the veil on rather was so that the people wouldn’t have to keep looking at him because they couldn’t gaze intently without being blinded. The term there, look at verse 13 again, might not look intently, see that term that means to stare with a fixed gaze. It’s used that way in Luke 4:20, it’s also back in verse 7 where we first looked at it; we won’t go into it in detail.
There was nothing wrong with the Old Covenant, it had a glory, it was God’s glory. But it had a certain fading element, it wasn’t the permanent Covenant. The New Covenant was, and it was veiled, and there’s more to its obscurity. Verse 14, “But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains uplifted, because it is removed in Christ.” They’re minds were hardened, look at verse 15. “To this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart.” What is that veil, it’s basically unbelief. They didn’t grasp the proper glory of the Old Covenant because of their unbelief.
Because of their unbelief the whole meaning was obscure to them. There’s a certain obscurity in it anyway, unbelief makes it all obscure. Hebrews 3:8, “Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” Hebrews 3:15, “Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts.” Chapter 4, verse 7, “Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts.” They did, their minds were hardened it’s porosis, obtuseness, intellectual blindness. Moses, you remember came down a mountain, attempted to show them the glory of God, representative in the Old Covenant by the glory on his face, and he was rejected.
Instead of recognizing the glory they were willfully dull and willfully unbelieving and it was still so in Paul’s time until this day he says, until this very day at the reading of the Old Covenant, which was done by the way every Sabbath in the synagogue according Luke 4:17-21, they went in the synagogue and the Old Covenant would be read, the same veil remains unlifted. The Old Covenant is still obtuse, it’s still obscure, they still don’t understand the purpose of it, they think it’s supposed to save them and it’s not. They think that it’s less of a moral standard than it is, they underestimate its righteousness, its attempt to reveal sin, it’s ineffective; instead of revealing their sin it is used as a means to demonstrate their righteousness.
Its ceremonial purpose was to symbolize the redemptive plan and Christ, and of course they rejected Christ so they rejected not only the moral part of the law by lowering the moral standard they rejected the ceremonial part by missing the purpose and the point of it. They were so ignorant that the apostles had to preach all around Jerusalem that Jesus Christ must, needs, have suffered and died to fulfill Messianic prophecy. They had no clue. Their ignorance and their unbelief in the meaning of the Old Covenant made them therefore ignorant of the New Covenant.
Because they didn’t properly understand that the Old Covenant was to drive them to sin in its moral area, to drive them to see their need of a savior in the ceremonial area, because they missed all of that they couldn’t comprehend the New Covenant. So the Jews of Paul’s day refused to see Old Covenant purpose and therefore they couldn’t see New Covenant purpose. They did not understand the purpose of the law so they didn’t understand that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. They were true descendant’s friends of their doomed forefathers. They really were true descendants of their doomed forefathers who had killed the prophets and stoned everybody that God sent to them, they had rejected.
Back in John 5:46 Jesus says if you believe Moses you would believe me, for he wrote about me. If you don’t believe Moses, you don’t understand Old Covenant, you’ll never understand New Covenant. That’s why today we find it very difficult to witness the Jewish people, they don’t comprehend the New Covenant; do you know why, because they don’t comprehend the Old Covenant. They think they do, they don’t. They don’t know that it was designed to drive them to despair about their sin and to portray through the symbols and the pictures the redemptive plan of God that points directly to none other than Jesus Christ. But since they don’t understand the Old Covenant they can’t understand the New Covenant.
The veil of ignorance obscures the meaning of the Old Covenant to the hardened heart. It was meant to lead them to Christ, they just didn’t see it, they didn’t comprehend it. In fact even the disciples demonstrated this kind of ignorance. Jesus said to them on the road, men so foolish, men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory; if you only knew what was taught in the Old Testament you’d understand this? In the beginning with Moses and with all the prophets he explained to them concerning himself in all the scriptures. They couldn’t understand the new because they couldn’t comprehend the old, and Paul is demonstrating that here.
He says the veil is still over them even this today. Jesus said in John 5:38, “You search the scripture, because you think that in them you have eternal life and it is these that bear witness of whom, me.” Some Jews yes, throughout history and at this time some Jews had seen the full glory of the Old Covenant, some new that had pointed out the sinfulness of sin and the need for a redeemer. That is definitely true, there were some Jews, there was Simeon wasn’t there in Luke Chapter 2, and there was Anna, and there were others in the remnant.
But for the most part the sad, sad, sad statement of verse 13 the sons of Israel who couldn’t look intently at the end of what was fading away in Moses day, because their minds are hardened are no different than the people this very day who at the reading of the Old Covenant have the same veil unlifted, they can’t understand it either. Whenever Moses is read the veil lies over their heart. Intellectual hardness, failure to comprehend the Old Covenant, rejecting the Old Covenant, not understanding the Old Covenant, therefore cut off from the significance of the New Covenant. Hebrews 10:28, “Anyone,” listen to this, “who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy.”
Anybody, “who sets aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy?” But, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, vengeance is mine, I will repay. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you think it’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a living God by violating the Old Covenant, it’s nothing compared to the one who violates the new.
Paul says there are Jews in this day who violate the Old Covenant with their blindness and are therefore now also violating the new. The Old Covenant was a shaded, veiled, obscure, mysterious, hidden covenant in part. Paul says a proper understanding, even of its hidden nature that it was fading and that it had veiled statements that would be fulfilled. Typical, symbolic statements that would be fulfilled, the Messiah, a proper understanding of that would lead to a proper acceptance of the New Covenant. The New Covenant crystal clear. Belief in Moses Law would have prepared them for belief in Christ.
Again, I go back to the public and in Luke 18, “beating on his breast Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” How rare is that in the New Testament to find someone who really was struck at the core of his heart by the law of God and truly repentant. The Jews of Paul’s day and even today misunderstand the Old Covenant so they reject the New Covenant. They’re satisfied with ceremony, they’re satisfied with ritual, they’ve taken the ceremonial part as I said last time and used it to save them from their failure to keep the moral part.
Moses, by the way, grieved over this blindness in his day, he saw it. It was true in his day; the people were blinded, their hearts were hardened, they did not understand what God’s purposes were, they did not believe, they lacked faith and trust in God. In fact in Chapter 32 of Exodus verse 32 Moses said, “Now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from thy book which thou hast written!” Moses was so upset, he was so grieved over the sin and darkness of his people that he said Lord if you’re not going to save them from this just blot me out.
You know Paul had that same attitude in Romans 9:3 he said, “I could almost wish myself accursed for my people Israel.” The nation of Israel unregenerate to this day still has the veil over its heart, still does not comprehend the use of the Old Covenant, still does not see the necessary clear, unveiled meaning of the New Covenant. As I said a true belief in the Old Covenant would have removed the veil so they could see the true meaning of the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is superior, because it gives life, provides righteousness, is permanent, brings hope, and is clear and not hazy. Number six and I won’t get all the way through his, but we’ll at least introduce it. It is Christ-centered. Go back to verse 14 for a moment, end of verse 14, “the veil is removed in Christ. Because it is removed in Christ.” Without Christ, listen to this, without Christ the Old Testament is unintelligible without the new. But when you come to Christ then all the meaning is clear, the veil is lifted. When someone comes to Christ the veil is removed, spiritual perception is no longer impaired and everything becomes clear. Verse 15 says, “To this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart.” How sad.
According to Acts Chapter 13, verse 27, Acts 15, verse 21 the Jews were faithful in their synagogues and in their gathering places to read the Law of Moses. It says in Acts 13:27, “Those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him.” They read the thing every Sabbath and they haven’t got a clue what it means. They read it, they don’t understand it, because their hearts are hard. That is what’s the hard heart, simply this; that they think they can save themselves. In other words a hard heart says I’m going to keep the ceremonies and that will save me, I’m going to do the righteous works and that will save me.
A broken and a contrite heart says I can’t, the law of God breaks me, shatters me, destroys me. I come as a penitent sinner, meek and mourning over my sin, crying and hungering for righteousness, and pleading for mercy and forgiveness. That’s a broken contrite heart. A hard heart takes the law of God and says I see the standard and I’m going to keep that standard, I’m going to muster up my strength and I’m going to keep that and God will be pleased, and I’m going to do all those ceremonies and those ceremonies will cover whatever failures I have. I’ll be saved by moral commitment, and I’ll be saved by ceremonial observance. That’s just exactly every religion in the world does, isn’t it? All of them.
That’s where the Jews were, and so here they were reading that Moses, the Mosaic Law and didn’t understand it. Reading the Old covenant had no idea. 15-21 of Acts Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, and since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath. They went over and over it and over it and they never, ever bowed to it in the despair of their own sinfulness and pled for mercy from God on the merits of the work of Jesus Christ.
So he says in verse 15 that to this day whenever Moses is read and that’s every Sabbath a veil lies over their heart. Nothing wrong with the covenant, the problem is with the heart, the unwillingness to be broken, the unwillingness to confess sin, acknowledge sin, and be repentant. Again, I say folks and I’ve said this through the years it is absolutely beyond belief to me that anybody, anywhere, anytime could ever concoct any kind of cult of salvation that does not include repentance. It is so bizarre, it is unthinkable. It is the fabric of salvation, it is the nature of salvation, it is the essence of salvation, it is everything that salvation is.
It is the whole point of the hardness of the hearts of the people of Israel that they would not be broken. Where there is a broken and a contrite heart there is therefore a proper apprehension of the meaning of the Old Covenant and a casting of ones’ self on the mercy and grace of a forgiving God whom even the Old Testament believers knew was a forgiving God. The prophet had said who is a pardoning God like him. Then verse 16, “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Whenever a man turns to the Lord the veil is taken away, Paul uses that terminology to refer to what happens when we come to Christ in faith. When Moses went in to see the Lord he removed the veil, because he wanted a direct vision of glory.
He was enjoying what the people couldn’t enjoy. You say well how did Moses survive that, I don’t know. How was it that the people couldn’t look on the face of Moses who had a mediated glory and Moses could look at the glory of God unmediated, I don’t know. You say maybe he didn’t really look right into it, maybe he didn’t. In fact, Exodus 33 says I can show you the full glory, but I’ll let my back parts be visible to you. So he saw a certain kind of toned down glory, but it was such a great glory that he was exposed to that it got all over him. That is not said of the people so whatever glory Moses saw was a greater glory, because it transferred itself to him, then what the people saw in him which didn’t transfer itself to them.
So when following the same illustration Paul says like Moses when a man goes in to the presence of the Lord, that is to say when he turns to Christ, he takes the veil away and he sees the direct glory. When sinners turn to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ the veil is gone, it’s gone, and we see. Go down to verse 6 of Chapter 4, “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” My what a truth. When we come to Christ, when we come to the Lord Jesus the veil is off, the glory is clear, the knowledge of the glory of God shines in our hearts, and the face of Jesus Christ.
Phillip Hughes writes of this, “Further light is thrown on this passage when we consider what took place on the occasion of the transfiguration of Christ. On that mountain height Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, but it was Christ alone who was transfigured with heavenly radiance before the eyes Peter, James and John. It was his face that shown as the sun and his garments that became white and dazzling. It was of him alone that the voice from the cloud said this is my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased. Thereafter,” writes Hughes, “the disciples saw no one save Jesus only. It is he who abides in the glory in which Moses and Elijah appeared was not their own, but Christ glory, the glory with which he had with the father before the world was.
Just as in the wilderness the glory which shone from Moses face was the reflected glory of Yahweh, so too on the mount of transfiguration the glory with which he was surrounded was the glory of the same God. Christ alone is the full, the abiding, the evangelical glory. To turn to him is to turn to the light of the world, to follow him is not to walk in darkness, but to have the light of life.” So he says whenever a man turns to the Lord the veil is taken away at once by God. True understanding floods the soul, the gospel becomes clear, the veil is removed. So Paul again in this most intricate argument points up the illustration from Exodus.
Listen to Romans 10:4, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Christ is the purpose of the law for righteousness to the one who believes. The New Covenant is a superior covenant. It’s a better covenant, it’s a far better covenant, and it’s a comparable covenant. For all of the reasons that Paul has given us it gives life, the other one was a killer. It provides righteousness, the other one simply exacerbated our sinfulness. It is permanent, the other one was fading. It brings hope, the other one was hopeless. It is clear, the other was shaded and veiled in pictures and types, and the New Covenant is Christ-centered.
“The veil,” he says in verse 14, “is removed in Christ,” and then verse 16, “whenever a man turns to the Lord the veil is taken away.” What a marvelous, marvelous passage. Now listen, we’re going to stop at this point, but some people have been asking me a question, what is the Holy Spirit’s role in all of this, and most particularly what was the Holy Spirit’s role in the Old Covenant? Were people regenerated? Were they renewed? Were they born again? Were they filled with the Holy Spirit? Were they empowered by the Holy Spirit? What was the Holy Spirit’s role? Notice, verse 17 introduces that. So next Sunday as we conclude with our sixth message, I hadn’t anticipated that many, but it works out good. We’re going to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Covenant as well as the New Covenant.
When I stop to think about God’s grace and mercy to me and I know you must feel the same way, I’m absolutely overwhelmed, what a covenant. Now you tell me what fool would ever preach sacramental religion, what fool would ever preach anything other than the gospel of Jesus Christ which has the power of God under salvation to everyone who believes, the Jews first and also the Greek. What fool would ever want to embrace some damning heresy, some damning deception when you have this great reality. Beloved I just warn you don’t allow yourself to be swept up in any religion that is involving itself in salvation by morality or salvation by sacrament, ritual, ceremony. Please don’t ever assume that anybody you know who’s in that is a Christian.
When I said several weeks ago that the accord, that evangelical Catholic accord demanded that evangelical Christians confess the sin of evangelizing Roman Catholics and ask for forgiveness. When I said that in that service a man came to me afterwards and his wife in tears saying they were so horrified, because were it not for someone who came to them with the true gospel of Jesus Christ when they were bound in Catholicism they’d be on their way to hell today. Don’t you for a minute assume that there is any salvation for anybody or ever has been any through works, righteousness or ceremony? I don’t care what the ceremonies are or what the moral works are or religious works.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We will preach that message to those who are irreligious, and those who are religious, to those who are in pagan systems of religion and those who are “Christian systems of religion,” hopefully until everyone understands the path of true salvation, amen. Let’s bow in prayer. We’re so grateful our God that you have lifted the veil and that you’ve let us see the glory of Christ. We thank you that you’ve given us life, you’ve provided righteousness, that what you’ve done for us is permanent and forever. That you’ve filled us with hope, that you’ve drawn us into the very vision of Christ and we gaze at his glory.
Nothing is veiled anymore, we with unveiled face behold the glory. Father, we’re not many noble and not many mighty and we’re certainly not the profound. We’re the common and the base, but we understand what the religious elite of the world don’t understand. We see the glory that is veiled to them. Such mercy overwhelms us and we thank you and praise you for it in Christ name, amen.
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