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2 Corinthians 3:12–16

“When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (v. 16).

The old covenant mediated through Moses had its own glory, but it was not a permanent glory. This was Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 3:7–11. In contrast, the glory of the new covenant is forever. It will never come to an end (v. 11). Because of this, Paul says in today’s passage, he is very bold in declaring the new covenant and all its glory (v. 12).

One might ask where the Apostle is getting these ideas that the glory of the old covenant was temporary and that the new covenant glory is so much greater. Evidently, the false apostles who were troubling the Corinthian church asked this question, or at least Paul anticipated this objection to his teaching. So, Paul turns to an episode from the old covenant’s inauguration to demonstrate that his teaching on the fading glory of the old covenant was revealed at the very beginning of the old covenant itself. The account to which he refers is found in Exodus 34:29–35, where we read that the face of Moses would come to reflect the glory of God whenever he was in the presence of God. Because of this, Moses would veil his face when he came back to the Israelites after speaking with the Lord, preventing them from seeing the full glory associated with the old covenant.

Paul says that Moses did this to keep the Israelites from seeing the glory of the old covenant because the glory was fleeting. Moses was not bold in declaring the glory of the old covenant, for he could not proclaim that which would finally end (2 Cor. 3:13). This had to be so because the hearts of the people were hard and they could not have handled seeing a glory that would eventually be superseded (v. 14). This hardness of the old covenant people—the Jews—as a whole continues, though many individual Jews do not have hard hearts but trust in Christ. Their hardness is a veil that now hides from them the glory of the new covenant whenever the old covenant Scriptures are read, much as Moses’ veil hid the glory of the old covenant from the Israelites at Mount Sinai (vv. 14–15). Their only hope is to have this veil removed, which happens when they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 16).

Paul’s tightly woven argument critiques the false apostles for failing to understand the temporary nature of the old covenant and points to the necessity of regeneration and faith in Christ to truly understand the revelation of the old covenant. Until people trust in Jesus, they cannot fully understand the Word of God.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Augustine of Hippo comments on today’s passage that “it is not the Old Testament that is done away with in Christ but the concealing veil, so that it may be understood through Christ.” In Christ, we do not cast the Old Testament aside, but we begin to understand its full significance. If we are not reading the Old Testament through the lens of Christ and the New Testament, we will misunderstand God’s Word.


For Further Study
  • Isaiah 52:11–53:12
  • Luke 24:13–35
  • Acts 8:26–40
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Glory of the New Covenant

From Glory to Glory

Keep Reading Right Now Counts Forever

From the August 2021 Issue
Aug 2021 Issue