Posted by George Crowder, 4 Mar 2020
George Crowder considers the requirement for purity before we can come to God.
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, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was 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 transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
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. 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. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
How can we come to God?
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.(Matthew 5:8)
When Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he saw God. It had an extraordinary effect on him. Some of God’s glory rubbed off, and his face shone brightly.
Strontium aluminate is a phosphorescent material. It absorbs radiation and then emits it slowly at a lower intensity. After a few hours in daylight, it glows in the dark. It’s not something that usually happens to human skin, although some sunscreens are phosphorescent.
Moses’s face shone so brightly that it was blinding. It was like looking at the sun, or at car headlights. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says that the old law is like that. Like a bright light in a cellar, it shows up all the dirt and muck that has accumulated in our hearts and lives. It shows God’s perfect goodness and righteousness, and so it shows our evil ways and rebellion against him. We can’t look at it, because it is too painful.
Lifting the veil
Jesus blesses the pure in heart with the sight of God. Yet, in the same way as the merciful who receive mercy were shown mercy first (verse 7), it is a cycle that begins with his gracious intervention. Those who see God will be made pure in heart, by seeing him.
If the old law can have this effect on Moses and the people of Israel, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit affect Paul and the church of Corinth? God’s glory revealed in the law made Moses’s face shine. How much more will God’s glory revealed in Christ make the ministry of Paul and the life of the church shine?
Moses’ face dazzled the people, so he had to wear a veil until it wore off. Paul used Moses as a picture to explain his ministry to the church in Corinth. A veil covers the heart of those under the old covenant, because their hearts are not pure. ‘Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.’ Then something wonderful happens, ‘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.’
When we come to Christ the barrier between us and God is removed; the veil on our hearts is lifted. All our proud rejection of God’s rule that stops us from saying yes to God. All our self-centred thinking that blocks out God’s voice. All our bitterness that blackens God’s name because we feel we deserve better. It’s all lifted.
Like a blindfold being removed we can suddenly see God in his glory, his holiness, his beauty, his love, his mercy, his grace and his power. We are free to gaze on his glory. As John Piper wrote, “The ultimate good of the gospel is seeing and savouring the beauty and value of God.” [John Piper, God is the Gospel, (Leicester: IVP, 2005), 56]
A transforming vision
Just as the glory of God made Moses’ face shine, so, as we gaze on the glory of God we are changed; we are transformed into his likeness. This is the new covenant. It is not a law engraved in stone, that sets a standard we can never attain. It is the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts, changing us so we reflect the image of God.
Jesus took away the veil — our rejection of God — by taking it on himself, as if it were his, and bearing God’s judgment on it. We get a new start, a new relationship with God based on what Christ has done for is. This is the new deal, the new agreement, the new covenant. A new relationship with God based on the word of Christ. The pure in heart will see God.
As we hear the beautiful truth of the new covenant from the whole of scripture, the Spirit writes a letter of Christ on the hearts of his people. As we see his goodness and love shine out of our church family, we are looking into his face and seeing his glory, and so he changes our hearts to love him more.
Questions for Reflection
1. What thrills you about seeing God?
2. How has God purified your heart?
3. How has God changed you to love him more?
God of glory and grace,
you brought us to behold the beauty of your holiness with unveiled faces
through the new covenant in the blood of Christ:
transform us into his likeness with ever increasing glory
that our hearts may be pure,
and our lives reflect your holiness,
by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus,
George Crowder is the northern Regional Director of Church Society and vicar of St John's, Over.
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