Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 ESV
In verses 7-11, Paul has been talking about the greater glory of the new covenant as revealed in the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and His sanctifying ministry in the lives of believers. Rather than having to try to live up to a God-ordained code of conduct in our own strength, we have been given a new nature, made possible by the Holy Spirit’s presence within us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul explained just what man’s relationship with the old covenant had become due to the work of the Holy Spirit.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:3-4 ESV
And Paul tells the Corinthians, “since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12 ESV). Unlike the glory that shown from Moses’ face after having received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai, our glory is internal and permanent. The Holy Spirit is a permanent resident in the life of the believer. His glory shines through us. Concerning the external glory on Moses’ face, the book of Exodus reveals, “When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the LORD” (Exodus 34:29 ESV). The glow from his face terrified the people, so he would cover it with a veil. And every time he met with God, he would remove the veil. But the day came when the glory on his face began to fade, but he kept wearing the veil, leaving the people with the impression that nothing had changed. Yet Paul insists, “We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away” (2 Corinthians 3:13 NLT). The old covenant, like the glow on the face of Moses, was intended to be temporary. It would not last and would one day be replaced by the new covenant and the permanent, indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Just as Moses covered his face with a veil, Paul says the minds of the Israelites were obscured by a veil so that their hearts were hardened. They believed the law was the key to their righteousness, even though they were incapable of obeying it. And it was their stubborn belief that the old covenant (the law) was the God-ordained means of being made right with Him, that kept them from accepting Christ when He came. They refused to believe that He was the answer to their sin problem.
But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. – 2 Corinthians 3:15 ESV)
Their stubborn adherence to self-righteousness prevents them from accepting the righteousness made possible through the death of Jesus Christ. And yet, Paul repeatedly insists…
Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. – Galatians 2:16 NLT
So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” – Galatians 3:11 NLT
So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. – Romans 3:28 NLT
Paul tells the Corinthians, “whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16 NLT). And it is the Spirit of God that makes this possible. He opens the eyes of the spiritually blind, those with veiled hearts, and allows them to see the life-changing truth of the gospel. And as a result, they “can see and reflect the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18a NLT). Like Moses, they can see the glory of God face-to-face and, not only that, they can reflect that glory to all those around them.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have access to God just as Moses did. We can come into His presence and He has also placed His presence within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. And we are being transformed by this daily encounter with the divine – from one degree of glory to another. Slowly, methodically and persistently, God is molding us into the likeness of His Son, and it is all because of His Spirit within us. There is no longer any law to live up to, but only the Spirit we must submit to. He is the one who gives us the capacity to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. He is the glory of God residing within us and shining through us. He is constantly transforming us. And because He never leaves us, our ongoing transformation is guaranteed.