Liberty in Christ - 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Bondage versus Liberty – Liberty to be Transformed (Please read 2 Cor. 3:12-18)
Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech — unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. (2 Corinthians 3:12-13)
Living by the old covenant of law requires a "performance based life," which depends upon man's sufficiency. This produces spiritual bondage. Living by the new covenant of grace provides a "relationship based life," which depends upon God's sufficiency. This results in spiritual liberty. Moses was a great servant of the Lord. He is a wonderful example to us in many ways. However, in our present verses, we see him living by His own sufficiency, thereby exemplifying life under the law.
As Moses met with the Lord for the giving of the law, his face would shine. For the benefit of the people, he would place a veil over this shining glory: "Moses, who put a veil over his face." When this glory began to fade away (as it was designed to do), Moses kept the veil on "so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away." In this, Moses was in a caught in the bondage of secrecy. He did not want others to see the glory fade. He wanted others to think that his face was still aglow.
All of us are tempted at times to hide behind a veil of secrecy. This is particularly the case when we are trusting in our own sufficiency. When drawing upon our insufficient resources, we generally sense that we are not doing as well as we should be: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves" (2 Corinthians 3:5). So, we try to hide it. We want others to think that our spiritual walk is more glorious than it actually is. So we put on veils of pretense, self-righteousness, or self-justification.
The remedy for this bondage of secrecy, is living by new covenant grace.
We are new covenant servants: "God, who also made us sufficient as ministers [i.e., servants] of the new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
God makes us sufficient by sharing His fully adequate resources with us. "Our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5). This is our effective hope for avoiding the bondage of secrecy that overtook Moses. "Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech — unlike Moses."
Those who live by the grace of God, have such great hope. Our expectations are anchored in the Lord, not in ourselves. Thus, we can be bold, open, and candid. If we fail, we humbly confess our insufficiency. If we succeed, we openly credit His adequacy.
But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one 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 liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:14-17)
The new covenant of grace, which depends upon living by the Spirit of the Lord, produces liberty: "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The old covenant produces bondage in those who attempt to live under it, because it provides no resource, no power for meeting its demands. We looked at the bondage of secrecy that results from living by man's sufficiency. Spiritual blindness is another bondage that comes from living under the law.
The Israelites were blinded by a veil that resulted from hardness of heart. "But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament [that is, the old covenant].
" This hardness was related to self-sufficiency. John, the Baptist, held forth the righteous standards of God, and called the people to repentance for their sins. "And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Luke 3:3). John was aware that many held a self-sufficient reliance in their ancestry (their blood-line link with Abraham). "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father' " (Luke 3:8).
Jesus also encountered this same hardness of heart as He preached. They said, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free' " (John 8:33). Like the self-righteous Pharisee, these people thought they were better than others and had no need for repentance.
"He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous . . . the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men' " (Luke 18:9, 11). Many people today rely upon their religious heritage to give them an acceptable standing with the Lord. Their parents were good Christians, so they assume they are Christian.
Such hardness of heart leaves them blind. They cannot see as God sees. God tells them of their need, but they will not reach out to the Him for help. How tragic this is, because He alone is able remove their blindness. "When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away in Christ."
Let us look at the Liberty to be Transformed
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17) The old covenant of law produces spiritual bondage in those who attempt to live under it. The great heavenly remedy for that bondage, is the new covenant of grace, because it produces spiritual liberty. This liberty is a work of the Holy Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit." The life-giving Lord of grace is the Spirit of God: "the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Living by rules and regulations ("of the letter") has a deadening, binding spiritual effect on people. This is how the Pharisee's "ministered." "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders" (Matthew 23:4).
Jesus came to liberate people, to set them free. This is why Jesus ministered by the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty, those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18). As Jesus, the Son of God, humbly served the Father, the Holy Spirit empowered Him to rescue captives, to release the oppressed. Rescuing people from sin and unrighteousness is the fundamental, liberating work of Jesus. "And having been set free from sin, you became slave s(servants) of righteousness" (Romans 6:18). Now, we are free to grow in a life of righteousness. Our newfound freedom is not for personal indulgence or pleasure. It is for the serving the Lord. "As free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God" (1 Peter 2:16).
Now that we are free, we can use our freedom to lovingly minister to others. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).
Another wonder of Christ's rescuing, liberating work is that He wants to save us from self-dependent striving, to develop a life of godliness and loving service. He accomplishes this by the work of the Holy Spirit. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).
As we walk in humble dependence, the Holy Spirit imparts to us the life that is in Christ Jesus. This liberates us from the tendency to rely upon our fleshly human resources, which are inadequate (due to sin and spiritual deadness).
Finally let us look at Liberty by the Holy Spirit
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Living day by day under the new covenant of grace allows the Holy Spirit to liberate us spiritually. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Where the Holy Spirit is allowed to work, there is liberty to be transformed.
This transformation process is for every believer, who is willing to live by the terms of the new covenant: "But we all." The terms are simple: renounce self-sufficiency ("Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves" — 2 Corinthians 3:5a) and rely on God's sufficiency ("but our sufficiency is from God" — 2 Corinthians 3:5b). Those who reject human resources (the flesh) seek God "with unveiled face." They come humbly, without any veils of pretense or self-justification.
Coming to the Lord in this manner brings an ongoing blessing: "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord."
Three mirrors reflect the glory of Christ from heavenly places into the experience of the redeemed here on earth: the creation, the church, and the scriptures.
The universe declares His glory. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).
Also, the Lord can be seen living in His people. "For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus, also may be manifested (revealed) in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11).
These two mirrors are helpful, but they can be distorted by sin. The mirror that reflects the Lord's glory flawlessly is His word. "The law of the LORD is perfect . . . these (the scriptures) are they which testify of Me" (Psalm 19:7; John 5:39).
As we humbly seek the Lord in His word, we behold His glory in it. The wonderful consequence is we "are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory." From one area after another, from one degree to another, we are being changed into the likeness of the Glorious One we are beholding. This process is accomplished as only the Holy Spirit could do it: "just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Lord, You are my only hope and my sufficiency. You alone can liberate me from the bondage that results from trusting in myself. So, in line with Your word, I again look to You, to supply daily, what I need for godly living. O righteous Lord, I repent of the self-righteousness in my life. I want my heart to be tender before You. I do not want to stumble around in a veil of blindness. Lord Jesus, I humbly turn to You. God of all spiritual liberation, I praise You for setting me free from sin and serving my self. Now I ask You to work in and through me, by Your Holy Spirit, setting me free from self-striving in my service to You. Father, I long to be more like Your Son. Forgive me for neglect of Your word. Please draw me consistently to the Scriptures, that I might humbly behold the glory of Jesus. Thank You for the work of Your Spirit, who is able to transform me into a growing Christlikeness, and living in the liberty of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.