The Permanence of the New Covenant: Part 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.

The veil Moses wore over his face is now a veil over the minds of God’s ancient people. It is still there because of the fact that these people actually do not see that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. They do not see that He is the fulfillment of the whole Law. The blindness is still there in the form of wilful ignorance which keeps the Jews from rightfully understanding the Scriptures. The more men refuse His light, the more hardened their hearts grow. The eye is blinded by their refusal to see. The heart is blinded by truth it refuses to see.

As the missionary to the Gentiles, Paul was seeing many Gentiles trust the Lord, but the Jews—his own people—were rejecting the truth and persecuting Paul and the church. Apparently, it bothered Paul that not many turned to Christ when the gospel was preached to them. Paul’s common practice when going to a city was to preach to the Jews who would gather in the local synagogue (as he did in Corinth; 18:1-4{5]). But the Jews rejected his message of salvation (18:6-7{6]). At times Jews even pursued Paul to other cities to try to silence him (14:1, 19{7]). Paul most frequently found welcome with the God-fearing Gentiles (17:4{8]). But Paul knew that rejection of the Gospel by the Jews was part of God’s mysterious plan so that His free offer of salvation could extend to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:28{9]). God had let the Jews hearts become hardened and rebellious so that He could clearly show that He was a God of mercy to all people—both Gentiles and Jews had rebelliously rejected Him at one time (Rom. 11:29-31{10]). God, however, had mercifully included believing Gentiles as His people. In Romans Paul used the analogy of grafting a limb onto a tree. In the same way, God had broken off those unbelieving Jews and had grafted in a foreign limb—the Gentiles—into His tree of faith (Rom. 11:17-21{11]). Yet, Paul still refused to believe that God had completely abandoned Israel—God’s chosen people. One day, God would once again shower His blessings on the Jews (Rom. 11:32{12]).

15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.

When they read the Law, they actually think they are able to keep it. But in reading the Old Testament we do not find the confidence that you would expect in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Even David raised some questions. Job was in absolute bewilderment. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and wept when he faced death. However, in this day of grace in which you and I live, even the weakest saint who trusts Jesus has absolute assurance of his perfect acceptance with God.

This passage in 2nd Corinthians gives a short summary of Paul’s teaching on why the Jews had rejected the gospel. He was astonished that the Jews could not understand the One to whom the Scriptures were pointing: Jesus Christ. A real veil covered their minds and their hearts—the very center of their intellectual, social, and spiritual selves—so that they could not understand the truth. But in Christ the veil is miraculously lifted. Just as Christ had opened Paul’s spiritual eyes to the truth of Jesus, the Holy Spirit would also open believers’ eyes to how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures.

16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

It is the heart that must turn to God. When the heart turns to the Lord Jesus Christ, the veil is taken away. Man’s trouble is heart

trouble. He is blinded because of the sin in his life. When he is willing to turn from his sin and receive the Lord Jesus as his Savior, “the veil is taken away.”

When Moses turned to God, he removed the veil (Ex. 34:34{13]). In the same way, when a person turns to Christ—God’s only Son—the veil is taken away by Christ Himself. The veil represents the sin that clouds the person’s understanding about God’s great plan of salvation. The idea of turning implies repentance—a conscious rejection of one’s old ways and a turning to God and His ways. The image of turning to God in the Old Testament always involves turning away from false gods (2 Chron. 34:2{14]).

When anyone turns to the Lord and becomes a Christian, Christ removes the veil, giving that person not only understanding of the true meaning of the Scriptures but also eternal life and freedom from trying to be saved by keeping the Law. Christ saves the person not only from sin but from the ignorance that his or her sin has created.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Only the Spirit of God can lift the veil and help us see that Christ is the Savior. He alone can do that. He is the One and only One; and no sinner—Jew or Gentile—can turn to Christ apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” This statement is a bold declaration of the deity of the Holy Spirit: He is God. The Judaizers who had invaded the church at Corinth were depending on the Law to change men’s lives, but only the Spirit of God can bring about spiritual transformation. The Law can bring only bondage, but the Spirit introduces us into a life of liberty. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).

Christ’s death on the cross brought freedom for anyone who believes (1 Cor. 6:20{15]). He saves us from sin and the condemnation that results from trying to obey the Law (Rom. 8:1-4{16]). He frees us from the fear of death, the penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:17-18{17]). Jesus even saves us from the evil powers of the age (Gal. 1:4{18]). This passage cites another trap from which Christ frees believers: an ignorance of God’s plan of salvation. Christ saves believers from the same mental veil that covered many of the Jews to whom Paul was preaching (v. 14).

As a nation, Israel today is spiritually dead; but this does not mean that individual Jews cannot be saved. The church today needs to recover its lost burden for Israel. We are their debtors, because all the spiritual blessings we have came through Israel. “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The only way we can “pay off” this debt is by sharing the gospel with them and praying that they might be saved—“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).

You notice that Paul here is saying the very same thing which Simon Peter had said: “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Dear reader, if you do not see the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, the Spirit of God is not your Teacher because the Spirit of God takes the things of God and shows them unto us. The Spirit of God brings you into the place of liberty. He doesn’t put you under Law. He delivers you from Law and brings you to Christ. When He does—

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