2 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NKJV) But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?
2 Corinthians 3:11 (NKJV) For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
2 Corinthians 3:13-16 (NKJV) unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
(* link too More Glorious than the Ministry of Death #1)
As discussed in part I of this series, when one turns to the Lord fully, the veil is taken away from the heart; that person can now by faith experience the ministry of the Spirit of God. As verse 11 proclaims, this ministry of the Spirit is more glorious in its effect on the follower of Jesus Christ, than what Moses experienced by being in the presence of God.
The reason for this is that the ministry of the Spirit works from within the Christian, rather than merely affecting us temporarily from the outside. Let us consider just one chapter ahead of our text.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV) Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
It is extremely important to remember that, in Christ’s atonement on our behalf, not only is the sin account made completely clean, but we are also given a deposit of the Holy Spirit inwardly (Ephesians 1:13-15). Therefore, we understand we are holy in His sight and can boldly come into His presence, as well as having Him seated in our humanity, by the Spirit.
This means, not only can we overcome the old man patterns of sin in our life, but we also can obey His commands and walk in submission to Christ, as He leads by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20). This is what is being referred to as “the inward man being renewed day by day”. This is where we begin to see the exceedingly more glorious of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as it extends to our entire triparate being.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Interestingly, this truth is communicated in the clearest atonement passage, from the Old Testament.
Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
The glory of God’s presence in the ministry of death, produced power results in Moses’ physical, mental and emotional life, even though it was only outward and perishing. How much more a glorious shine on the lives of every sincere follower of Christ, when the ministry of the Spirit of God will not pass away and is inward in us?
Let us consider one example of many in Acts of the Apostles: the man Stephen. Stephen was a normal, faithful Christian man. His love for Jesus Christ was apparent by what was observed concerning his life. Filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, as well as sings and wonders (Acts 6:5, 8), he was dragged into a dispute, which led to him being brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin (religious congress) to testify concerning accusations against him. This led to him being the first martyr of the Church.
Consider how the ministry of the Spirit affected him further. In Acts 6:10 it is revealed that his detractors “were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke”. As he was brought before the council, we find the more glorious ministry of the Spirit affected even his outward appearance, “And all who sat in the council looking steadfastly at, saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).
We also observe the more glorious ministry of the Spirit, in how Stephen died manifesting the life of Christ (more on that in part III). Let us consider again, how we lay hold of the ministry of the Spirit: by turning toward the Lord (II Corinthians 3:16).
As we discovered in part one, there was a veil on Israel’s heart collectively, when the word of the LORD was read. This veil is a symbol of self-will. This veil is removed, when one turns to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. This two-fold action is one of absolute surrender, as Romans 10:9 reveals “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your hear that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved”.
Although some ministers would like to create two categories of Christians, those who are saved and those who are saved who have taken Him as Lord, this is gross exegetical error. If Christ is not Lord of your life, through repentant absolute surrender to trusting and obeying Him, He cannot be your Savior.
By that understanding, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away”, we must understand that all men, in addition to Israel, have a veil on their heart. II Corinthians 4:3 reveals this truth. So what occurs in us when the veil is taken away? How does the ministry of the Spirit begin in us?
I. HIS WORD BECOMES ALIVE & ACTIVE IN OUR UNDERSTANDING
It is no secret that the symbol of having a veil on their heart meant they could not understand the word of God, therefore it was not living and active to them or anyone, in whom their heart is still veiled. Therefore, when the veil is removed, as a person turns to the Lord, their human spirit is enlivened by God’s Spirit, for the purpose of understanding the word of God, His gospel.
I Corinthians 2:14 gives us insight into this truth. “But the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned”. This can be seen in the lives of Christ’s disciples themselves. Consider how clueless they often were, when Christ would give them scriptural truth, how often he had to admonish them for little faith or a lack of understanding.
It was not until Christ had appeared to them in the upper room, the day of His resurrection and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart (Mark 16:14), breathed on them saying “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22-23), that they were able to understand the word of God (Luke 24:45). This is when the ministry of the Spirit began in them. It was magnified when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as they began to walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
The ministry of the Spirit begins when one turns to the Lord in absolute surrender and can understand the spoken and written word. This is where we begin to behold the Lord Himself.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV) Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Let me state, we must hold the word of God, the Bible, as no mere earthly book. Inspired by the Holy Spirit it is not a Christian textbook, but a doorway we step into to meet with Christ, who is the WORD (John 1:1-5). Therefore, understanding God’s word is not about knowing facts, figures, or biblical information, but about KNOWING HE WHO IS THE WORD, in relationship. When we understand this, the ministry of the Spirit can then begin to be more glorious in our triparate being.
II. BEHOLDING THE MESSIAH WE ARE TRANSFORMED
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Interestingly, we are reminded that this is for all believers with “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding, as in a mirror”. It is very interesting that the Holy Spirit chooses to use the allusion of a mirror.
In James 1:22-23 we are commanded to be doers of the word of God and not hearers only, for a man who hears God’s word and does not do God’s word, is like a natural man that looks at himself in a mirror and forgets what he looks like, as soon as he walks away. This is analogous to our “beholding as in a mirror” concerning the more glorious ministry of the Spirit.
As we behold Christ, as in the mirror of the written or spoken word of God, should we commit to doing what we see and seek to walk it out, we will be “transformed” into what we are beholding. This does not mean we become Christ, but that His character begins to be seen through our lives. This is seen in many places in the New Testament (Matthew 5:6; II Corinthians 4:7-11, 5:17; Colossians 1:27; Galatians 2:20; 5:22).
In this beholding we see His glory and that in us which is still unchanged. In this revelation, we long for transformation, that Christ may be seen in us. This conviction must be at the foundation of our beholding, with great humility, or we may leave beholding, in carnality. This is a real danger because the transformation is to come forth in shining forth, that is more glorious than that of Moses.
In our Part III we will look to the ultimate glorious goal of the ministry of the Spirit.