Boldness of Speech; the Two Ministries; from Glory to Glory
2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:…

Dwelling on the superior excellence of the gospel, it was natural for the apostle to speak of his hopefulness (such hope) and of the effect thereof on his ministry. He had spoken of his trust (ver. 4), and now he expresses the hope which filled his soul from "the intervening vision of the glory of his work" (Stanley) and its future results. He uses "great plainness of speech" - unreservedness, without disguise, boldness (the last conveying his meaning most fully). The "able ministers of the new covenant" were also bold, having no reason for concealment, but every reason for openness and candour. From the beginning of the Spirit's dispensation this boldness had characterized apostolic preaching. St. Peter, who had shown such cowardice in the high priest's palace, evinced the utmost fearlessness at Pentecost. It was a spectacle of wonder to the Sanhedrim. "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John... they marvelled;" and what was the explanation of their courage? "They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." Immediately thereafter we hear of prayer offered by the Church that "with all boldness" they may speak God's Word. Boldness, at that time, was a virtue in request, and not one of the apostles failed to meet its requisitions. At this point the contrast between the Law and the gospel presents a new aspect. Moses had veiled his face, "that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished." The veil concealed the evanescence of the brightness and was symbolic of that judicial blindness which fell upon Israel. "Their minds were blinded," or hardened, so that their perceptions were not in accordance with facts; impressibility was lost, feeling was callous. "Until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament." The punishment continued. What were the old Scriptures but a sealed book to most of the Jews in the apostle's day? and now, after eighteen centuries, how palpable to us the confirmation of his words in the ignorance and the delusions of the Jews touching the spiritual import of their sacred books! "Until this day" has a meaning for us it could not have had to St. Paul's contemporaries. Time has done nothing or next to nothing to remove the darkness enveloping Jewish mind. Shrewd, intelligent, sagacious, in everything else; distinguished on nearly every arena of commercial and professional life; often foremost among men in matters as widely separated as music and statesmanship; - they yet present the strangest of contrarieties in adhesion to prejudices almost two thousand years old, and that too while evincing an adaptiveness to every form of civilization and to all the modifications going on in the current activities of the age. Find them where you may, they are pliant to circumstances, Not a national mould can be mentioned in which their external character cannot be cast, and yet, while this plasticity is such that we have Russian, Italian, German, Spanish, French, English, American, Jews, and withal the individual nationality apparent, there is the same religious blindness of which St. Paul wrote long ago. Their land, homes, institutions, the objects that come before us when we think of Judaea and Galilee, have passed from their grasp; but they hold fast to the shreds of their ancient beliefs, nor can any power relax their hold. Now, surely, this is inexplicable on the ordinary grounds of human experience. No law of the mind, no law of society, can explain the phenomenon. Such a spectacle as the Jews present of retaining their attachment and devotion to a skeleton religion, from which the soul has departed, is unique in the world's history. St. Paul solves the enigma; it is providential, it is punitive; "until this day the veil is untaken away." Two statements follow:

(1) the "veil is done away in Christ;"

(2) but, though done away in Christ, "even unto this day, when Moses [his writings] is read, the veil is upon their heart."

Only in and through Christ have we the power to see Christ in the Old Testament. Only in Christ risen and glorified, only in him as sending the Holy Ghost, can we understand the relations of Moses to the gospel. "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures" - a post-resurrection matter altogether and coincident with the preliminary gift of the Holy Ghost during the forty days. Yet, while asserting that Moses has been unveiled, and that his testimony to Christ, as the end of the Law to every believer, has been made clear and simple, nevertheless, the veil remains. The idea would seem to be, "The veil remains not taken away in the reading of the old covenant, it not being unveiled to them that it (the old covenant) is done away in Christ" (note in Lange's 'Commentary'). But was there not room for hope? Already, in thousands of cases, the veil had been removed. A blinder and more rabid Pharisee than St. Paul lived not in Jerusalem, and he had had the veil taken away. The work was going on. One day it would be completed and Israel would know her Messiah. "When it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." We, in the present day, read this third chapter of the Second Corinthians in a fuller light than even our immediate ancestors. The events of the nineteenth century have shown us how near the Jews are to the heart of Providence. Taken as a body of people, they are advancing in wealth, in culture, in certain elements of social power, at a rate beyond the average progress of races. Christian thinkers cannot look at these facts without seeing much more than material prosperity. Providence is the historic antecedent of the Spirit. The prophets of God in our age are not Elijahs and Elishas, but events that revolutionize thought and silently change the hearts of nations. But this turning to the Lord (ver. 16) must be explained as to its Divine Agent, and the nature, thoroughness, and growing excellence of the work be set forth. Its Divine Agent. He is the Holy Ghost. Not only did Christ teach that he depended on the Holy Spirit for his anointing as the Messiah, and that the unction proceeding thence was the strength and inspiration of his earthly work ("The Spirit of the Lord is upon me"); not only did he refer everything to the fulness of the Spirit in him ("I do nothing of myself"); not only did he wait for its baptismal descent upon him before entering on his ministry, and' acknowledge his presence in his miracles and teaching ("If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God," etc.; "The words I speak unto you, I speak not of myself"); but, in the most solemn hours of his existence, death just at hand, he taught the disciples to expect the Spirit as his gift, stating what would be his offices as Remembrancer, Convincer, Witness, Glorifier, and in all the Comforter. This was to be their outfit for discipling all nations, for victory over themselves as to all self-seeking and self-furthering emotions, for triumph over all opposing forces. This was to be the means of realizing him as their glorified Lord, so that they should know him no more after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Now, we must not fail to notice that we are indebted to St. Paul for a very full portrayal of the actual work of the Spirit in the Church. One may call him the historian of the Spirit, the thinker who, under God, discerned his blessed operations in their variety and compass, the writer who put them on record for the illumination of the Church in all ages, the man who laid bare his own soul in extremities of sorrow and in moments of supreme happiness so that we might have his theology of the Holy Ghost in its experimental results. From him, then, we have not only the completest doctrinal instruction on this most vital subject, but likewise the flesh-and-blood view superinduced upon the anatomy of theological truth; witness this third chapter: yet this is only one among his many-sided presentations el this topic. Observe, however, this chapter fills a special place in his system of teaching. Step by step he had been approaching a point at which he could demonstrate the pre-eminent excellence of the gospel. Charity had been delineated once and forever; the resurrection had been argued on a method and in a manner unusual with him; so too the economy of the Church as a society divinely planned. In this third chapter all his prominent ideas coalesce in one great master truth, viz. the dispensation of the gospel as the ministry of the Spirit. The phrase, "ministry of the Spirit," is itself remarkable. It includes, in a certain sense, the ministry of Moses, while differentiating the old covenant from the new. It takes in all ministries, apostolic, ordinary, and the numerous kinds of the ordinary. If we have lost some of these as they existed in St. Paul's day, how many have we gained as original to later times and generic to circumstances called into existence by England and America in the eighteenth century - the century of a constellation of epochs in the firmament of history? "Now the Lord is that Spirit." Everywhere, in everything, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Dispenser of its manifold influence. "Being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." It is the doctrine of Pentecost. It is the miracle and grandeur of Pentecost. Yet St. Peter does little more than state the fact. The doctrinal elaboration waits for St. Paul, and these two Epistles furnish the opportunity. Nature, thoroughness, and growing excellence of the Spirit's work. It is liberty. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Liberty from the pedagogy of the Law; liberty from the tyranny of the carnal intellect; liberty from that national domination which in the case of the Jews offered such a solid resistance to the gospel; liberty from Gentile idolatry; liberty from every agency that wrought evil in the soul of man. "if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." But it was the glorified Son who was to make men free by communicating the Holy Ghost. It is a revelation of God in Christ and Christ in the Spirit of the consciousness and conscience of men, and therefore thorough. It addresses his consciousness as one who has the capacity to think, feel, judge; and it addresses his conscience as to how he should think, feel, judge, as touching his obligations and as enforcing them by an immortality of reward or punishment. By the truth of the gospel, by the Spirit accompanying that truth and rendering it effective, consciousness is enlightened, cultivated, enlarged. The man sees much in himself he never saw before. And his moral sense or conscience, that mightiest of the instincts, is instructed and guided so as to represent the Spirit. It is in the soul a Remembrancer, a Convincer, a Witness, a Glorifier of Christ, a Comforter. And under this twofold development which is brought into unity by the Spirit of truth and love, the work of grace extends to all the man's faculties. The intellect, the moral sensibilities, the social affections, lift up the physical man into themselves, and grow together into the spiritual man. Not an appetite, not a passion, not an attribute, of body or soul is left neglected. The ideal is "body, soul, and spirit" consecrated to Christ, living, working, suffering, so that" whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus." And its growing excellence is seen in this, that in harmony with its freedom and its development of spiritual consciousness and conscience, it has an unveiled face. The eye is open and unhindered. Nothing intervenes between it and the glory of the Lord. True, it sees only in a mirror; it sees by reflection; it sees the image merely - the image of God in Christ, the image of humanity in Christ, the God Man, the one perfect Man of the human race. We see him in the New Testament, in the Gospels and Epistles, in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Apocalypse, the acts of Providence future and final. We see him in all his relations and aspects - the babe of Mary, the boy of Nazareth, the carpenter's son, the public Man, Teacher, Benefactor, Healer, Helper, Friend. Every page of the New Testament is as a burnished surface whereon he is presented to the eye of faith as a manifestation of God's righteousness and love, while he exhibits also the guilt and condemnation of man. "The glory of the Lord" is thus brought to view amidst the scenes and circumstances that instruct us in daily life. It is on a level with our comprehension. It finds the same kind of access to our sympathies that human qualities have in ordinary intercourse. "I beseech thee, show me thy glory," was the prayer of Moses, and the Lord answered and made all his goodness pass before him. What Christ's glory was in Moses, in the Psalms and prophecies, in his incarnation and atoning death, in his glorification; what it has been, is now, and will be; - all this we have in the Scriptures of the Spirit and in his Divine offices to sanctify the Word. If we behold as in a mirror, is the image distorted, confused, inoperative, ineffective? Nay; it is with "open face" that we look, and the result is we "are changed into the same image from glory to glory." Faith is the organ of vision, and faith is essentially transforming by its power to make what is an object of thought and fueling the most effectual of subjective influences. It takes the object from the outer world, separates it from the limitations of sense and intellect, disconnects the object from whatever is darkening and enervating, and secures to it fulness of activity. Faith is the purest, truest, noblest, form of belief. It is belief of things unseen and eternal, revealed to us by God and testified unto by the most honest and faithful witnessess the human race could furnish. To give us a Peter, a John, a Paul, as testifiers, the world was under providential training for many centuries and especially its elect race, whose ancestor, Abraham, inaugurated the career of the nation by an act of faith the most pathetic, the most sublime, the most illustrious, in the annals of mankind. It is not only a belief of things invisible as disclosed by a Revealer and assured by witnesses, but likewise a belief created, directed, and sustained in personal consciousness by the agency of the Holy Ghost. Hence its power to conform us to the Divine image as displayed in Christ, and hence also its progressive work. Not only are we changed, but we are changed "from glory to glory." "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith," so that we realize more and more clearly the consistency of the Divine righteousness in our justification, and the righteousness formed in our souls by the Spirit. We know why we are pardoned and by whom renewed, and, as we advance into new stages of experience, the past work of grace is rendered more and more intelligible. Current experiences leave much unexplained. Infancy, childhood, youth, in religious life are not fully comprehended till the interpretative light of manhood is thrown back upon them. "From glory to glory;" this is true of every Christian virtue. At flint we are timid in confessing Christ before the world; the cross is heavy; self-denial is often very painful; the remains of the carnal mind are yet strong enough to resist when some onerous task is put upon us; but in time we gain strength, and in time are able to run and not weary, to walk and not faint. It is "from strength to strength," as the psalmist sang long ago. Take the virtue of patience; what years are needed to acquire it in any large degree! St. Peter says, "Add to your faith, virtue," etc.; keep up the supply, and exercise all diligence in building up one virtue by means of another. Again, "Grow in grace;" if growth stops, grace stops. "From glory to glory." Temptations that had to be fought against, and sometimes ineffectually, twenty years ago, trouble us no longer. Infirmities are less infirm. Mysteries that used to perplex have ceased to disturb. People whose presence was an annoyance can be borne with. Irritations, recurring daily, have lost their power to ruffle the temper. Many a crooked way has been made straight, many a rough place smooth, many a darkened spot bright, to our steps. "From glory to glory." Grace has worked its way down into our instincts and begun their fuller development. Thence comes the white light so grateful to sighs and so helpful. It is reflected upon the intellect, the sense organs, the outward world, and dissipates the occasional gloom that falls upon us when Satan's "It is written" obscures our perceptions, or when the logic of the sense intellect gathers its mists about our pathway. Blessed hours of illumination are those which attend the later stages of grace penetrating the depths of instinct. Doubts are over; for we know whom we have believed. "From glory to glory." Gradually our hearts are detached from the world, and, while its beauty and love and tenderness are none the less, they are seen as parts of a higher life and a remoter sphere. Afflictions, once "grievous," yield "the peaceable fruit of righteousness;" for the "afterward" has come, and what an "afterward"! To be reconciled to the cross of pain; to glory in the cross of the Divine Sufferer; to die to self as we die when the Man of sorrows becomes the Christ of our instincts; to say, "Thy will be done" with no half way utterance, but from the heart, and submit not only willingly but gladly to whatever it may please Providence to ordain; - this indeed is proof that we have advanced "from glory to glory." - L.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

WEB: Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech,

The Superior Glory of the Christian Over the Mosaic Economy
Top of Page
Top of Page