Just as the glory of the old covenant was veiled to the Israelites at the time it was inaugurated because of their hard hearts, the glory of the new covenant is veiled or hidden until one is converted to Christ (2 Cor. 3:12–16; see Ex. 34:29–35). The consequences of believing in Jesus, therefore, include the ability to see Him in the Scriptures. However, that is not the only effect of believing in Jesus, and Paul unfolds further consequences of faith in Christ in today’s passage.
Paul says that the Lord to whom we turn for the removal of the veil hiding the glory of the new covenant is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17). Yet, as we know that the Lord to whom he refers is Jesus, what can he mean? Does Paul mean the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit? The answer to this is no, for he refers also in the same verse to a different person, “the Spirit of the Lord”—namely, the Holy Spirit (v. 17). What the Apostle is doing here is giving us insight into the unified work of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, two distinct persons who nevertheless are of the same essence. The Son and the Spirit are so fully united in their work that the work of the Spirit in giving life to people is the work of the Son and the work of the Son in giving life to people is the work of the Spirit. The Son of God is the source of life mediated in and through the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Paul says elsewhere that “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). Charles Hodge writes, “The Lord who is the Spirit means, the Lord who is one with the Spirit, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; who is where the Spirit is, and does what the Spirit does.”
The Lord who is the Spirit gives freedom where the Holy Spirit is present (2 Cor. 3:17). In context, Paul must be referring to freedom from the condemnation associated with the old covenant ministry. The new covenant provides freedom because it is the “ministry of righteousness” (v. 18) that gives the righteous status we need before God’s judgment seat, resulting in the glorious truth that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Moreover, we get something in addition to freedom from condemnation—transformation into Christ’s image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). This is our sanctification and finally our glorification, when we are made fully like Jesus. The old covenant could not provide this, but the new covenant gives it freely. So, any attempt to live under the old covenant, as the false apostles in Corinth were trying to do, is to move backward and away from the glory of God.