Rejoice, For The Veil Has Been Lifted!

Exodus 34:29-35 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34 Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Sermon Text: 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Good morning Church,

Let’s get some context for this sermon by backing up verse 4 and we’ll read through 18 to see how Paul compares that Old Covenant he made with Israel to the New Covenant that we are under today, which would be the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’ll read.

2 Cor. 3:4-18 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Law was only meant to bring the knowledge that a person is disobeying a holy God (Rom. 3:20). It condemns you to death.

7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,

It was going to be fulfilled with Jesus. Yet, it was so glorious at it’s presentation, that people saw it as intensely wonderful. And think about the kings later on who read this glorious Law to their people. And the Psalmist declares, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)

This Law was glorious, because it was given by God.

So, Paul says, if this law is so glorious,

8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory [to those who received it, the Israelites] has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it [the gospel].

We could go home right now rejoicing. But we won’t, let’s continue.

11 For if what was being brought to an end [the Law] came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Hence-forth! From now on! Forever He has fulfilled the law and will reign! There is no more condemnation for those who trust in Christ. This covenant is permanent.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, [Jews] when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.

If you don’t have Christ, you have a veil. Christ alone unveils unbelievers enabling them to see His glory. Not our works or our faith. Simply Christ.

15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

18 And we [those who are free, those who have believed in Christ] all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [that is Christ] from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

May God bless the reading of His Word. Amen.

There are so many elements of what Paul is saying here, but we are going to focus in on the last verse of chapter 3 which is 18.

I want to draw out 4 major themes from our text.

All unveiled faces, by beholding His glory, are becoming like Christ because of the Spirit.
1) All unveiled faces

First off, I want to point out the fact that Paul starts verse 18 by saying “and we all.” He’s not saying everybody, he’s saying, we. We know from the opening of the letter, that he’s speaking to the Church. Believers. The Body of Christ in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face…

Those who are able to see the glory of God. He’s drawing a line, there are two kinds of people, people with veils and people without.

Look at verse 7…

2 Cor. 3:7 …the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory…

The Israelites were literally unable to continue looking at Moses’ face! It’s not that they didn’t want to look. It says they were unable to to look. Moses was forced to veil his face because of the glory that was emanating from his being. Feeble humanity apart from Christ, apart from the the Spirit’s regenerating work, is unable to view even the smallest amount of God’s glory.

While the glory in Exodus is a physical glory that’s physically blinding the onlookers, in 2 Corinthians, Paul is using that as a spiritual analogy to compare the glory of the Old Covenant of Law to the New Covenant of grace. So he’s using a physical reality to talk about a spiritual one.

And if this New Covenant is so much more glorious than we can fathom, and the Israelites couldn’t even gaze upon the Old Covenant’s glory, then it makes perfect sense, that unregenerate people are not able to see the glory of Jesus.

Paul illustrates this in the previous chapter…

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who in Christ … and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

The glory of God is a stench to those who are perishing. It is the smell of death. Like a fire is to a piece of wood, it will consume it. But to us fire is warmth and food.

We as believers smell that sweet fragrance. We see Jesus as beautiful. So, we think, why can’t my friend see Jesus as beautiful?

Well, just imagine a person blindfolded in a large room. They can see absolutely nothing. Pitch blackness. And everywhere they walk they smash into things and crack their shins, bump their head and their eyes are poked. They wander around looking for the light switch, thinking, “Who made this room and put me in it?! Where’s the light?! Ooww!” Smash! Pain. Darkness. Emptiness. “This is not a good creator.”

But meanwhile you are standing in the room with no blindfold. You can see perfectly. Looking around at this beautiful castle-like, cathedral with murals covering the walls and ceilings, sculptures and antiques all around, all the trimmings are sculpted out of gold, the glistening chandelier is pure crystal and there are diamonds and rubies embedded in everything. It’s the most exquisite room you’ve ever seen. While you are enjoying this magnificent work of beauty, the other person is stumbling around in blackness cursing the designer.

This is what it’s like for us to have the veil removed. We are able to see the glories all around us. And like N.D. Wilson says, we are given the ability to enjoy the gifts that God has given us. Yes, He has given us the room, but He’s also given us sight to enjoy the room. He’s lifted our veil, and we are able to see the glory of God.

This knowledge should enable us to have much more patience with unbelievers, because we know that there is a veil over their eyes and they are simply unable to see the glory of God.

But believer, this is cause for rejoicing.

All unveiled faces, by beholding His glory, are becoming like Christ because of the Spirit.
2) By beholding His glory

Back to our text.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord…

Beholding the glory of the Lord in this verse literally means, to gaze as one looking in a mirror.

That’s how we are beholding His glory. We are gazing upon it. It’s not a quick glance, like checking your hair in the mirror as you leave for work. It’s not like me where I view my face in the mirror about once a week. We are staring at it.

If you’ll notice, it doesn’t say that we are supposed to look at it, or that we are commanded to stare. It says, we are beholding his glory. Which means, His glory is always in front of our faces. We are seeing it. We are in the room with our eyes wide open.

Defining God’s Glory

And if we are, as believers, beholding God’s glory, specifically Christ’s glory, we should know what it is.

How do we define God’s glory? Can we even define it?

Since I’m not an expert theologian, I’m going to summarize an expert’s point of view on what the glory of God is. You can find this better explained on his website:

John Piper says that (this is not word-for-word)…

Defining the glory of God is impossible, because it is more like the word beauty than the word basketball.

We can easily describe a basketball to someone and they would be able to see one, and know that’s what we were describing. You can’t do that with the word beauty. We would have to physically point to beauty many times until we all came to an understanding of what it really was. The same with the word glory. So, how can we define it?

It’s important, so we need to try. We can’t just leave it for people to make up on their own. We’ve seen what that’s like. So, Piper takes the glory of God and contrasts it biblically with the word holy. He asks, What is the difference between the holiness of God and the glory of God?

Piper answers. The holiness of God is His being in a class by Himself in His perfection and greatness and worth, He is so distinct and separated that he is, as God, that which nobody else is. It is His quality of perfection that can’t be improved upon, that can’t be imitated, that is incomparable, that determines all that he is and is determined by nothing from outside Him.

Now when Isaiah 6:3 says that angels are crying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, what’s the next thing they say? The whole earth is full of His…what? You would expect him to say holiness. And he doesn’t say holiness. He says glory.

Intrinsically holy, intrinsically holy, intrinsically holy and the whole earth is full of His glory. So from this if we’re going to write a definition, I like Piper’s. He says, the glory of God is the manifest beauty of His holiness. It is the going public of His holiness. It is the way he puts His holiness on display for people to apprehend.

So write this down and remember this. The glory of God is the holiness of God made manifest.

David Wilkerson writes, “Simply put, God’s glory is a revelation of his nature and attributes!”

It’s not gold dust falling from the ceiling during an intoxicating time of free worship. It’s not an ecstatic feeling that overcomes you. Nor is it a kind of supernatural aura.

The glory of God is a revelation of God’s attributes, namely His holiness. It is the revealing of who God is.

So, there is a physical aspect to God’s glory, like when God shows up, Moses becomes a glowstick, but primarily to us, it’s a spiritual revelation. It’s seeing and knowing God. Which is Him revealing His nature and attributes to us.

Take a look at John 7:39 “…the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified…”

Fascinating! Jesus was there. People saw Him. But they didn’t have a true grasp who He was and what He was sent to do, because He hadn’t revealed His glory to them yet. It wasn’t until after his resurrection, and his glorification, that He truly revealed Himself to the people.

Look at this Jesus tells Mary that Lazarus is going to die for the glory of God. Then He tells her afterward,

John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

That is, you would see God revealed! Jesus is revealing Himself in His timing, little by little.

And this is how we, as people, give God glory. When we reveal to the world who God is by our worship, our lifestyle, our words, etc.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Whatever you do, reveal God. Put Him and His attributes on display. Show the world who God is.

So, now that we are believers, and the veil is lifted, we are beholding the glory of God, which is the holiness of God made manifest.

All unveiled faces, by beholding His glory, are becoming like Christ because of the Spirit.
3) Are becoming like Christ

Paul continues in verse 18.

We…are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

What image? The image we are all being transformed into together is Christ.

Look at chapter 4:4. Paul is speaking about the people with veils over their faces, but he reveals what “image” they can’t see.

2 Cor. 4:4 …to keep them from seeing … Christ, who is the image of God.

So, the image of God is Christ. And this is the image that we all are being conformed into together. This is discipleship; becoming like Christ and helping others to become more like Christ.

The simple truth is, all believers are on the path of sanctification. Once a person is saved. Once the veil has been removed and a person can see the glory of God, they are becoming more like Christ. It’s a fact. We simply cannot help it.

We see new things all around us. We see creation and the Word and people differently. We see God in a new way. In a more glorious way. He is lovely and perfect to us now, and He wasn’t before. We are given the knowledge of the best thing, and we are given the gift to choose that best thing. Before we weren’t able to choose Christ, now we wouldn’t choose otherwise, because our desires have changed.

In fact, this process is evidence of true conversion. When someone says they have been born again, and then nothing changes in their life. That is evidence that they haven’t seen the glory of God and they are not being made into the image of Christ.

Has your child ever gone and played with an annoying, snotty kid? How do they act for the next week? Like that snotty kid. Right? They were with them one afternoon and it takes a week for their beholding to wear off.

There is a principle at work here. That is, what you behold you become like. And since, with unveiled faces, we ARE beholding the glory of God, logically and factually we ARE becoming like Christ. We are becoming holy.

Then, Paul qualifies his statement. He says that we are not all being made perfect at the same speed. We aren’t all magically perfect at conversion. It not a microwave, it’s a crockpot. It’s a slow process, happening over time. Or “Pole Pole” as they say in Swahili, which is slowly by slowly.

Think of a tall staircase. All believers are on the stairs, but we aren’t all on the same stair at the same time. That’s why, even though on some level, we are becoming like Christ, Paul still tells us in Romans that we must continually renew our minds. We must continue up the stairs, or the world will entice us and pull us down. The further up the stairs you are, the farther the world is, and the less grip it has on you.

Paul, the same guy who wrote our text writes to the Romans,

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

How do you renew your mind? How do you not be conformed to this world? By beholding Christ.

We are also called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are called to fight the fight of faith. The more we become like Christ in this world, the more joy we will have, the better witnesses we will be for Christ, the more rewards we will receive in Heaven, and God’s glory will spread throughout this earth. And as Piper says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”

So, now that we are believers, and the veil is lifted, we are beholding the glory of God, which is the holiness of God made manifest, we are becoming holier and holier.

4) Because of the Spirit

In the end of verse 18 Paul states plainly. “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

What does? All of it. Your unveiling, your beholding, and your transforming. This is not something that preachers just tack onto the end of sermons to make them spiritual. This is what the Bible says. The Spirit is our source. If you’ve been a Christian for more than a minute, you know that it’s literally impossible to do these things on your own. To be like Christ. To love God, and especially, love people. We need help.

I want to show you here, how pervasive the Spirit’s work is, and how we frequently just skim over it.

Jesus says the Spirit is coming to glorify Jesus. Connect these things! The Spirit is coming to reveal the holiness of God.

John 16:13-14 When the Spirit of truth comes … 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit’s job is to glorify Jesus. To make Him known. And one way he does that is through our sanctification.

II Thess. 2:13 …God chose you … to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but … by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

So, we can clearly see that this is not just an addition to the end of a verse, like the closing of a letter. It is a primary theme throughout the NT. The Spirit’s role is to point to Jesus and glorify Him. And one way he does that is by regenerating and sanctifying scumbags like us that had no hope. So that when the world sees you they say, “Wow! That guy was a scumbag, and now He’s nice. He’s like Jesus. Something is different about them!” And ultimately, God is made known in this world.

Let’s Get Practical

We know that the Spirit IS working in us to make us like Christ, AND we are also commanded to work out our salvation. We are commanded to obey Christ’s teachings. We are made holy and we are commanded to be holy. The Spirit is working, yet we have a responsibility. We are called to follow Jesus, and become like him, and we are told that beholding His glory makes us more like him. So, how do we intentionally behold God’s glory as believers?

Here are some more explicit and obvious ways that we can intentionally behold his glory. There are probably more, but I’m just going to give you some examples.

Ways We Behold His Glory

Beholding His glory is gazing upon Him as in a mirror. As Piper puts is, seeing and savoring the beauty of our Savior.

1) In Creation

Remember what we just read in Isaiah 6:3 “…the whole earth is full of his glory!

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God…

We see God’s glory all around us in the things God has made. So, go for a hike in the woods, climb a mountain, walk your neighborhood, etc… Enjoy God’s good creation. And behold His glory.

For the unbeliever it’s a little different. The Bible says that the knowledge of God is revealed to them in creation, but they have just enough knowledge for them to be condemned.

Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

They can see truths about God. They can see God’s glory. Paul says, “what can be known about God is shown to them.” But they can’t see Him yet as glorious, as wonderful. It is only the aroma of death. The veil prevents them from beholding the beauty of God.

2) The Word of God / Jesus

The revealed Word of God is Jesus. Jesus is literally the Word of God.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory…

When we read the written Word of God, we are beholding Jesus. His attributes and His nature are being manifested to us, and the Spirit reveals Jesus’ glory to believers through the Word. This is again, why unbelievers can read the Word without success, because it is the Spirit who unveils the gloriousness of the glory.

When we gaze upon the Word we gaze upon Jesus’ glory. That’s why it is so important to read and meditate on the Word.

I’ve been saying this in DG, but grace is conferred to us tangibly when we read the Bible. Whether you have a good day or bad day, whether you feel it or don’t feel it; God is revealing His glory to you in that. We are beholding, we are meditating on Jesus, the Word, and through that, the Spirit is transforming us.

3) Preaching

Also in Chapter 4 Paul says that we proclaim….

2 Cor. 4:6 “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Preaching is primarily how people receive that light of knowledge. When the Word is preached, God’s attributes and nature are being exposed and taught, therefore God’s glory is beheld.

Preaching is proclaiming the Word of God, that is Christ.

4) The Lord’s Supper

We behold Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

Back in Exodus ch 19-24, God established the Old Covenant with Israel. As God is covenanting with His people we read in Exodus 24:11 that “they beheld God, and ate and drank.” This was a foreshadow of what was to come.

Then, in Luke 22:14-23 Jesus informs His disciples that He is about to die on the cross and establish a New Covenant, and while He was doing this, the disciples were also eating and drinking and beholding God, for…

Hebrews 1:3 He [Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature.

Then he commands all believers to do this to remember Him and the work He did. And each time we do, we behold His glory.

5) Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer, Fasting, Meditating on Scripture, Evangelism, Worship, etc…

Hebrews makes a case for this.

Heb. 10:19-20 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…

We have the ability now, to enter into the Holy of Holies through the Spirit. What was the Holy of Holies? It was where God’s presence dwelt on earth. Now, when we draw near to God through the spiritual disciplines, we enter into God’s presence and behold His glory.

In Conclusion

Paul is saying that the gospel we have in Jesus Christ, this New Covenant, is far more glorious than any other covenant in history. If the old Law was so glorious, and it was the ministry of death, then how much more glorious is this gospel of freedom! But it’s only freedom and hope and life to those who have the veil removed.

Unbeliever, I hope there is one question burning in your soul. How can I have this veil removed?

The answer is Christ. In Him only can the veil be lifted and the gift of faith and repentance be given.

2 Corinthians 3:14 that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says that faith is a gift. So, cry out to Christ. Repent and place all your hope and trust in Him. Plead for the gift of faith, and to have the veil removed, and to be able to see Christ as beautiful. Then God promises He will save you.

All you believers, rejoice! for the veil has been lifted! And now we are able to see God’s glory as glorious. We are becoming like Christ. We will be glorified with Him in heaven, worshipping for eternity. Even now, we are being made like Christ through the work of the Spirit. What a promise we have in Christ!

All unveiled faces, by beholding His glory, are becoming like Christ because of the Spirit.
Bottom line. You become what you behold.

  • What is it that you are beholding the most?
  • How much time each day do you give to beholding Christ? How much to the world?
  • Are you displaying evidence that the Spirit is working in you?
  • Would the people around you say that you are noticeably becoming more like Christ? What would your family say?

We’re going to be given the opportunity to behold Christ now in His suffering at the Lord’s Table. Use this time to examine your hearts.

If you’re an unbeliever, cry out to God and ask for His mercy. Throw yourself at the King’s feet and relinquish command of your life. Acknowledge that He is the King and you are not. Commit to following Him right now. Repent and trust the Savior.

If you’re a believer, confess your sins and come clean before God. Behold His glory. Let the Spirit work. Ask Him to give you strength to commit your whole being to Him. Commit to spending time each day beholding His glory.