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! (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
The glory Paul is talking about here is a little hard to pin down, especially in contemporary terms. He is speaking of one type of glory exemplified by the brightness on the face of Moses that he acquired from being in the presence of God on Mt Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments directly from God, and contrasting that with another glory exemplified by the Spirit of God in our lives, and making the point that the second glory is far greater than the first.
Now, I beg to differ here. How can anything in my life exceed the glory on the face of Moses that was so bright he had to veil his face or else people would literally be blinded by him? Think of how impressive that must have been! Move over Tony Robbins! Nevertheless, Paul says the new glory outshines the old, and he says it does in two ways.
First, the glory of the Spirit of God in our lives is lasting. It will last through this life and on into eternity. The brightness on the face of Moses, though it may have outshone ours for maybe week or two, in time, faded to nothing. And where is it today? Gone. Nowhere to be found. It was a residual glory from being around the actual presence of God, but it eventually faded. Moses had to leave God on the mountain. Whatever the people got from Moses were leftovers. In contrast, you and I have the Spirit of God in our hearts all the time. He’s never going away. And what people receive of God through us, by His Spirit, is the real thing. The children of Israel got leftovers; we have the main course, all the time.
Second, the end result of these two glories is vastly different. Moses’ glory — bright as it once was — ended in condemnation. That glory came with the coming of the law, but the law can’t justify anyone, because no one can completely obey it. Go after the law’s glory and you will end up being condemned by it. But the glory of the Spirit of God is that it produces righteousness in us. It changes us because it works on the heart. It’s an inside-out type of glory. We become more like Christ through His Spirit.
Now what’s the point of this for us today? I believe that even after receiving the Holy Spirit, we still tend to chase after that old covenant glory. We can still see the glory of the face of Moses where we see famous people, beautiful people, successful people, powerful people. We see this every time we’re in the supermarket, staring at the magazine covers at the counter, waiting to buy our groceries. Where we see human effort, or human attractiveness at its finest, there we find the face of Moses. And we can spend a lifetime, and lots of money, chasing this face, and, like Moses, have nothing to show for it in the end.
What we want to spend time on is that which will grow the Spirit of God in us. Fellowship with God through prayer and through reading and studying His word, learn the ways of the Spirit, invest time in growing our inner lives, and reach out to the poor and disadvantaged around us. These are just a few ways we can invest in that lasting glory.
The primary reason for this passage is to show us the superiority of the Spirit over the law — the difference between what we produce based on some external standard, and what Christ produces in us by His Spirit. The first we control and even manipulate; the second we have by faith and God controls it. It’s a glory He wants to produce in our lives by creating a lasting legacy of the Spirit of God in us that is brighter than the face of any Moses.
Day 8 Challenge:
In verse 7, Paul is saying that Moses wore a veil over his face after meeting with God because Israel feared the light of God’s glory. Moses’ veil was designed to allow the glory of God on his face to be seen only in a shadow like much of the Old Testament ceremonial law which foreshadowed Christ.
Yet, as we will learn, in the minds of the Israelites, this veil was quickly transformed into an outward righteousness whereby if the “right” ritual is conducted, then their righteousness is established by their doing. (Even if we add, “With God’s help,” it’s still us doing it.)
Outward righteousness is another word for self-righteousness. It is this outward righteousness by our conducting of ceremonies and liturgy that is the foundation of virtually every “religion” under the sun, including popularized “Christianity.”
It was a fading glory — a symbol of something that every one of us has experienced at one time or another — as we will be reminded as we answer the questions below.
- When was the last time you had a chance to show how much you can do with what you have? Was it not too long ago that you might have said, “I’ve been trained for that” … or “I’ve got the skills” … or “I’ve got the gifts” … or “Let me show what I can do.” If you are an athlete, you know what I am talking about. If you are in business, you do too. If you are human, you especially know what I am talking about.
- Who is making the impression? Who is getting all the credit? Who is being glorified?”
- How long does this attractiveness last? Is the impression sustaining? Is it transforming? Why or why not?
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