The Glory Of His Countenance
This exposition of 2 Cor. 3 and 4 is greatly amplified by the use of the references to Ex. 31:18; 34:1-7; 34:28-35; Deut. 10:4; and Jud. 7:15-23. A careful reading of these passages will repay the earnest Christian. Ed.
The covenant of the law provides the apostle the ground upon which the precious truths of these two chapters are based. The stone tables of the law are compared to the fleshly tables of human hearts; the glory which shone in Moses’ face is replaced by a greater glory; the veil which Moses used to cover his face, as a type of Israel’s blindness, becomes the portion of all unbelievers; and Moses’ veiled condition is contrasted with the unveiled condition of those who have been enlightened. All this leads up to the glory which shines in the face of Christ Jesus.
An Unveiled Epistle:
Although, as far as we know, our Lord wrote nothing during His ministry on earth, here we see how He regards those whom He has brought from death to life. “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:… manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ…” (2 Cor. 3:2-3). By His Spirit He has written upon our hearts His lovely Name and all that that Name stands for, and, as an epistle is primarily a means of communication, so we are to consider ourselves an open letter from our Lord to be read by all. We are to display Christ as we live before men. What our Lord has to say to those for whom He died, He wishes to say through us. So if we are His living epistles, we shall bring Him before the thoughts of those about us.
The tables of stone, written by the finger of God, were a proof to Israel that Moses had been with God in the mount. In like manner, the believing Corinthians were a demonstration to all men that Paul was an “able minister of the New Covenant” even as Moses was of the Old. They were his living credentials. In them, was fulfilled the prophetic word by Jeremiah in which God promised that He would write His law in their hearts. (Jer. 31:33). The same “Finger of God,” His Holy Spirit, Who wrote on those tables of old, had written in their hearts, thereby constituting them “the epistles of Christ.”
A Veiled Prophet:
It was written of Moses that he was known of God “face to face,” (Deut. 34:10). He spent much of his time in the immediate presence of his Lord, seeing and hearing those writings which God had to show and to teach him. Moses could never have been the great man of God that he was, had not this been the case.
During his long communion with God, Moses received the law from God’s hand, but, until he rejoined the people in the plain below, “he… wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.” The effect of Moses’ reappearance among the people was that “… they were afraid to come nigh him,” so he veiled his face while he was among them. The glory which shone in the face of Moses was associated with a “ministration of death,” the law, which was temporary. Although Israel was not aware of it, the advent of the law placed the nation under condemnation. The apostle Paul testified to this as it applied to him personally when in Rom. 7:9 he says, “ when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” However, in contrast to this, the “glory that excelleth” (vs. 10) is the eternal, life-giving grace of God.
A Veiled Nation:
Moses’ veil hid the reflection of the glory of God from Israel in the wilderness. The veil is still there, hiding the true interpretation of the writings of Moses from them and fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus. Does He not challenge them with these words, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.
And ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life,” (John 5:39-40)? Not until the veiled heart of Israel turns to the Lord, an event which will one day surely come to pass, will they see that Blessed Face and recognize Him as the long-expected Christ of God. The preaching of “Christ crucified” is still “… unto the Jews a stumbling block,” (1 Cor. 1:23).
That salvation for the Jew is bound up with his seeing the Christ of God in Jesus of Nazareth is clear from 1 John 5:1, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God …”, for that faith can only come by the Holy Spirit. When, at Caesarea Philippi, Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” The Lord answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven…” (Matt. 16:16-17).
A Veiled Gospel:
But what was, and is, true of Israel is also true of every individual who still remains in unbelief! Here we see the reason why men fail to see the beauty of our Lord Jesus. Paul explains that if there were still any who had not been enlightened it was not that he had concealed anything from them. He had used “great plainness of speech” in preaching Christ Jesus the Lord, in Whom all darkness is abolished. Darkness was on the part of those unto whom due to the blindness of unbelief he preached. He says, “If our gospel be hid (veiled), it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them.”
A Veiled Saviour:
As the Lord Jesus Christ walked among men, His glory was veiled, veiled by the flesh of the Man of Nazareth. Only those whose eyes had been opened by the Spirit of God could see anybody in Him but a son of man. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…? And they were offended at Him.” (Mark 6:3). They sought to stone Him, giving as their reason “… because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God!” (John 10:33). Later, they crucified Him for the same reason. (John 19:7).
Yet there were those who “… beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father …” (John 1:14). John: who wrote these words, was one of those “… eyewitnesses of His majesty” when, on the holy mount, “… His face did shine as the sun,” (2 Pet. 1:16, Matt. 17:2). For a brief moment His glory was unveiled. This was no reflection, as was the light which shone in the face of Moses, but a revelation of the inherent glory of Him who is the Light of The World.
The Unveiled Christ:
“Nevertheless when it (the veiled heart, whether of Jew or Gentile) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” (vs. 16, 17). Omitting what appears to be a parenthesis, (Chap. 3:14-17) we read verse 13 and 18, “And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look… but we all, with open (unveiled) face beholding, as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Thus the apostle directs our eyes to the glory of His countenance.
The sight of our Saviour, dying for us on the cross, brought life to our dead souls and sight to our blinded eyes. Being enlightened, we look into the face of our risen Lord and our eyes find rest. Solomon wrote long ago, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” (Ecc. 1:8) The eye which is filled with the vision of our Beloved Lord Jesus has found abundant satisfaction. After a sight of the beauty of the Lord all other sights are not worth looking at; for the glory of His face, shining into our hearts by the operation of the Holy Spirit, is able to transform our lives from glory to glory, from one degree of sanctification to a greater one, so that we may become more like Him.
It is His will that those who bear His Name shall also bear His character.
The contemplation of His face is to be the occupation of a lifetime, and to continue until that day when, with a body of glory, we shall see Him face to face. In that day we shall be like Him, fully conformed to His image, and with Him for all Eternity. How significant it is that the blessing of the Lord to Israel emphasized this aspect of His grace! (Num. 6:24-27).
The blessing of the Lord, which maketh rich, is imparted to us as we look into His face. So it was at the first in salvation, so it is now, and so it ever shall be until we see His face literally in glory.
The Unveiling Of Blind Eyes:
Paul could never forget that day on the Damascus road when, in spiritual blindness, he encountered “… a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun,” and heard the voice of the One Whom he was persecuting, (Acts 26:13). Is it not likely that the source of that light was the face of the One Who spoke? The message by Ananias to him on that occasion was: “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard … delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God…” (Acts 22:14-15; 26:17-18).
Truly it can be written of Paul, as it was of Moses, that he was “ … faithful in all His house, as a servant,” (Heb. 3:5). Some of the experiences involved in the execution of Paul’s commission are recorded in verses 8 to 18 of the fourth chapter: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,” (vs. 7). No doubt Paul had in mind those “… empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers,” with which the men of Gideon were equipped when they fought the host of Midian, (Judges 7:16). As those pitchers were made to be broken, that the light of the lamps might shine out, so Paul would have us realize that what matters most in our lives is that the light within us, placed there by God’s hand, must shine out in this dark world. The more the world sought to break the frail vessel which was Paul, the more the excellency of Christ shone out, demonstrating how our Lord’s words in Luke 14:26-33 work when actually lived out as they are intended to be. To Paul, it was not the earthen vessel that was important but the treasure within, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, which he had been commissioned to shed abroad.
The apostle’s secret of endurance is revealed in the beautiful words: “For which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal,” (vs. 18).