2 CORINTHIANS - PAUL'S MINISTRY IN THE LIGHT OF THE INDESCRIBABLE GIFT
Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Overview Chart - Swindoll (right side of page)
Amplified: Since we have such [glorious] hope (such joyful and confident expectation), we speak very freely and openly and fearlessly. (Lockman)
ESV: Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, (ESV)
KJV: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
NET: Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, (NET Bible)
NIV: Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: With this hope in our hearts we are quite frank and open in our ministry. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Having therefore such a hope, we use great freedom and boldness of speech,
Young's Literal: Having, then, such hope, we use much freedom of speech,
THEREFORE HAVING SUCH A HOPE, WE USE GREAT BOLDNESS IN OUR SPEECH: Echontes (PAPMPN) oun toiauten elpida polle parrhesia chrometha, (1PPMI):
- We use: 2Co 4:2,3,13, Jn10:24 16:25,29 1Co 14:19 Col 4:4
- Boldness: 2Co 7:4 10:1 Ac 4:13,29-31 9:27,29 14:3 Eph 6:19,20 Php 1:20 1Th 2:2 1Ti 3:13
- 2 Corinthians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
A MORE GLORIOUS COVENANT
A MORE GLORIOUS HOPE
A SPEECH THAT IS BOLD
Keep the context of this chapter in mind - Paul is defending himself against accusations that he is a false teacher (see 2Co 3:1 2 3 4-note). As he defends himself by identifying himself with the New Covenant (2Co 3:5,6-note), he then launches into an explanation regarding the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant because (as inferred from the context) false teachers were promoting the Old Covenant as necessary for salvation.
Because of Paul's focus on the superiority of the New Covenant, John MacArthur has referred to 2Co 3:6-18 as a "shrunken version of the book of Hebrews", primarily because Hebrews repeatedly emphasizes that compared with the Old Covenant of Law the New Covenant of grace is a better covenant (He 7:22-note), with a better hope (He 7:19-note, He 8:6-note), better promises (He 8:6-note), a better sacrifice (He 9:23-note, He 12:24-note), a better possession (He 10:34-note), a better country (He 11:16-note), a better resurrection (He 11:35-note) and a better provision (He 11:40-note). As an aside, recall that in Hebrews the writer clearly teaches that salvation in the Old Testament was never based on keeping the Old Covenant laws and rituals and ceremonies, but instead was always based on Christ's death, burial and resurrection which provided the payment for [~redemption] the forgiveness (see aphesis and aphiemi) of OT saints which was given in a sense "on credit" (providing "retroactive redemption") to those who like Abram believed God (Ge 15:6, He 9:15-note where "He" refers to Christ, a truth also reiterated in Ro 3:25, 26-note, cp God's provision of the way of salvation in His protevangelium [first giving of the Gospel] in Ge 3:15 where "you...your" = Satan). See table below summarizing Paul's points of contrast between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant. (See related studies - New Covenant in the Old Testament; Why the New is Better; Abrahamic vs Old vs New)
The Bible in Basic English has a pithy paraphrase...
Having then such a hope,
we keep nothing back.
Warren Wiersbe introduces this last section of chapter 3 reminding us that...
The Bible is basically a “picture book,” because it uses symbols, similes, metaphors, and other literary devices to get its message across. In this paragraph, Paul used the experience of Moses and his veil to illustrate the glorious freedom and openness of the Christian life under grace. Paul saw in Moses’ experience a deeper spiritual meaning than you and I would have seen as we read Exodus 34:29-35. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary - New Testament. 1989. Victor or Logos or Wordsearch)
Therefore (3767) (oun) is a term of conclusion which should always prompt us to ask "What's it there for?" and thereby to encourage us to re-read the preceding context. In this case Paul arrives at his conclusion based upon the surpassing, never ending, permanent and irrevocable glory of the New Covenant based on grace not law or works. Recall that the false teachers in Corinth were attempting to discredit God's ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness (2Co 3:8,9-note) through His apostle. But Paul had a firm hold on the truth of the superiority of the New Covenant compared to the Old Covenant. His firm grasp of this glorious truth in turn "held him firm", and gave him a sure confidence on one hand to boldly proclaim the New Covenant Gospel of grace and on the other hand to irresistibly refute the false teachers who were trying to say one needed to adhere to the Old Covenant of Law (and works) in order to attain righteousness before and acceptance with God.
Having such a hope - The ESV, Amplified and NLT render it "Since we have such a hope." The UBS Handbook comments that when translating this passage into other languages...
The expression have… hope may have to be translated by an idiom: “we place our hearts in God regarding this matter.” (The United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series or Logos)
Such a hope: An absolute assurance that every glorious promise of the New Covenant will come to pass. What a dramatic contrast with the Old Covenant which had no hope for it was a ministry of death (2Co 3:7-note), a ministry of condemnation (2Co 3:9-note), a letter which kills (2Co 3:6-note).
Suggestion - Take a moment and do a simple study on hope by observing the following passages and recording what each teaches about hope (and don't forget to check the context). I guarantee it will "buoy" up any soul's flagging hope! Acts 23:6, 24:15; 26:6, 7; 28:20; Ro 5:2-note, Ro 5:4,5-note, Ro 8:20, 21-note, Ro 8:24-note, Ro 12:12-note, Ro 15:4-note, Ro 15:13-note, 1Co 13:13, 2Co 1:7, 2Co 10:15, Ga 5:5, Ep 1:18-note, Ep 2:12-note; Ep 4:4-note; Php 1:20-note; Col 1:5-note, Col 1:23-note, Col 1:27-note; 1Th 1:3-note; 1Th 2:19-note; 1Th 4:13-note; 1Th 5:8-note; 2Th 2:16; 1Ti 1:1; Titus 1:2-note; Titus 2:13-note; Titus 3:7-note; Heb 3:6-note; He 6:11-note, He 6:18-note; He 7:19-note; He 10:23-note; 1Pe 1:3-note, 1Pe 1:21-note; 1Pe 3:15-note; 1Jn 3:3-note
Having (2192) (echo) means to possess and here in the present tense means Paul continually had a firm grasp on the hope found only in the New Covenant. Stated another way, the truth Paul possessed, possessed him and protected him against the lies of the false teachers and the fiery darts of the Wicked One (Ep 6:16KJV-note). Beloved, this is why it is so critical for you to make it your daily practice to get into the truth of God's Word so that it might "get into you" and fortify your faith (Ro 10:17-note) to fight the good fight of faith (1Ti 1:18, 6:12 so that you might also be able to declare 2Ti 4:7-note at the end of your short time on earth). You are drinking God's "pure milk" (1Pe 2:2-note) and eating His soul nourishing "bread" daily (Mt 4:4) daily...aren't you?
Such a hope - The Amplified has "such glorious hope, such joyful and confident expectation" which is a good description of how we feel when our eyes are fixed on Jesus, our minds are daily being renewed by His Word and we are filled with (controlled by) His Spirit. How is your "hope quotient" today?
Hope (1680)(elpis [word study]) is an absolute certainty of future good - in context of the New Covenant - the absolute, eternal forgiveness of sins as far as east is from west (Ps 103:12), abundant life now and eternal life in the future. Hope is the desire of some good with the expectation of obtaining it (eg, our future resurrection bodies - read Ro 8:18, 19-note, Ro 8:20, 21-note Ro 8:22, 23-note Ro 8:24 25-note). In the OT there are several Hebrew words translated "hope" but each has the idea of inviting us to look ahead eagerly with confident expectation, the same idea conveyed by elpis. Each Hebrew word for "hope" calls for patience, reminding us that the fulfillment of our hope lies in the future ("hold on...the best is yet to come").
BIBLICAL HOPE IS
Ultimately for every believer the best which is yet to come is not a concept but a Person, "the Lord Jesus Christ, our Hope" (1Ti 1:1YLT). Indeed as Paul exhorts, may we each be living...
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:13-note, Titus 2:14-note)
What are you fixing your hope on today? What you are looking (hoping) for will determine what you are living for.
Hope as the world typically defines it is a desire for some future occurrence of which one is not assured of attaining. The ancient world did not generally regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion. Historians tell us that a great cloud of hopelessness covered the ancient world. Philosophies were empty; traditions were disappearing; religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. People longed to pierce the veil and get some message of hope from the other side, but there is none outside of Christ.
Oh, what a blessed hope this is, — that, though we fall asleep, we shall surely wake again; and when we awaken, it will be in the likeness of the great Head of the family, and we ourselves shall be heirs of an inheritance in which there will be no sin and no corruption. That inheritance is kept for us, and we are kept for it; so the double keeping makes it doubly sure. Happy are the people to whom these verses apply. (1 Peter 1- Commentary)
Gabriel Marcel said,
Hope is for the soul what breathing is for the living organism.
A study of German concentration camp survivors found that those prisoners who were able to hold onto their sense of hope (‘things are going to get better’ or ‘we’re going to get out of here one day’) were much more likely to survive. Hope then was not optional but for these prisoners proved to be a matter of life and death.
Vincent writes that hope
in classical Greek, has the general signification of expectancy, relating to evil as well as to good. Thus Plato speaks of living in evil hope (“Republic,” i., 330); i.e., in the apprehension of evil; and Thucydides, of the hope of evils to come; i.e., the expectation or apprehension. In the New Testament the word always relates to a future good. (Vincent, M. R. Word Studies in the New Testament Vol. 1)
Seneca, Rome's leading intellectual figure, tutor of the depraved emperor Nero (who forced Seneca to commit suicide!) and contemporary of Paul tragically defined hope as “an uncertain good”, the antithesis of Biblical hope! What a difference the new birth in Christ makes in one's temporal and eternal perspective.
The cynical editor H. L. Mencken also inaccurately defined hope as “a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible.” His cynical definition does not even agree with the secular Webster's Collegiate dictionary which defines "Hope" much like the NT declaring that hope means "to cherish a desire with anticipation, desire with expectation of obtainment, expect with confidence."
Biblical hope is not "finger crossing", but is alive and certain because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Life without Christ is a hopeless end whereas life in Christ is an endless hope.
The book of Hebrews defines hope as that which gives "full assurance" (He 6:11-note). Thus we can have strong confidence that God is going to do good to us in future. The opposite of hope is despair, (hopelessness; a hopeless state; a destitution of hope or expectation) which is all that those without Christ as Savior can know, for Paul defines hope as "Christ Jesus, Who is our Hope" (1Ti 1:1). Recalling our Hope to mind is a sterling antidote for despair, according to the "prescription" of the psalmist who advocates preaching the following "sermon" to yourself when your hope ebbs low...
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope (Lxx = elpizo, a command) in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help (Lxx = soterion = salvation) of His presence.
The venerable "prince of preachers", C H Spurgeon has some sage comments on this "self sermon"...
As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows. These present troubles, are they to last forever? The rejoicings of my foes, are they more than empty talk? My absence from the solemn feasts, is that a perpetual exile? Why this deep depression, this faithless fainting, this chicken hearted melancholy? As Trapp says, "David chides David out of the dumps;" (Ed: The psalm is actually attributed to the "sons of Korah" Ps 42:1) and herein he is an example for all desponding ones. To search out the cause of our sorrow is often the best surgery for grief. Self ignorance is not bliss; in this case it is misery. The mist of ignorance magnifies the causes of our alarm; a clearer view will make monsters dwindle into trifles.
Why art thou disquieted within me? Why is my quiet gone? If I cannot keep a public Sabbath, yet wherefore do I deny my soul an indoor Sabbath? Why am I agitated like a troubled sea, and why do my thoughts make a noise like a tumultuous multitude? The causes are not enough to justify such utter yielding to despondency. Up, my heart! What aileth thee? Play the man, and thy castings down shall turn to liftings up, and thy disquietudes to calm.
Hope thou in God. If every evil be let loose from Pandora's box, yet is there hope at the bottom. This is the grace that swims, though the waves roar and be troubled. God is unchangeable, and therefore His grace is the ground for unshaken hope. If everything be dark, yet the day will come, and meanwhile hope carries stars in her eyes; her lamps are not dependent on oil from without, her light is fed by secret visitations of God, which sustain the spirit.
For I shall yet praise Him. Yet will my sighs give place to songs, my mournful ditties shall be exchanged for triumphal paeans. A loss of the present sense of God's love is not a loss of that love itself; the jewel is there, though it gleams not on our breast; hope knows her title good when she cannot read it clear; she expects the promised boon though present providence stands before her with empty hands.
For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. Salvations come from the propitious face of God, and He will yet lift up His countenance upon us (Nu 6:24, 25, 26). Note well that the main hope and chief desire of David rest in the smile of God. His face is what he seeks and hopes (with assurance) to see, and this truth will recover his low spirits, this truth will put to scorn his laughing enemies, this truth will restore to him all the joys of those holy and happy days around which memory lingers. This is grand cheer. This verse, like the singing of Paul and Silas, looses chains and shakes prison walls (Acts 16:25, 26).
He who can use such heroic language in his gloomy hours will surely conquer. In the garden of hope grow the laurels for future victories, the roses of coming joy, the lilies of approaching peace. (More notes on Ps 42:5)
A HOPELESS END
AN ENDLESS HOPE
Although the Old revealed spoke of the Hope of Israel and predicted His coming to save His people as well as Gentiles, there was no mention that the Messiah of hope would actually live within each member of His redeemed church. Paul explained that in the New Covenant, "God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col 1:27-note) The unsaved are born into the world but have "no hope and (are) without God in the world" (Ep 2:12-note, 1Th 4:13-note) and if they die without Christ, they will be hopeless forever! The Italian poet, Dante, in the Divine Comedy, put this inscription over the world of the dead: “Abandon all hope, you who enter here!” In other words, life without Christ is a hopeless end whereas life in Christ is an endless hope.
Jeremiah lamented that his "soul has been rejected from peace...(and) forgotten happiness" until he discovered the "secret" (Notice that he chooses to recall this truth to his minding which indicates that he had known it in the past -- this "dynamic of ready recall" is also vital to the sustenance of our spiritual lives, beloved. How often we need to recall what we know to be true about God and His dealings with us. As an aside, this is one of the great benefits of Scripture memorization - you are Memorizing His Word (see discussion) aren't you? Remember it is worth your investment of time and effort, for in contrast to the passing pleasures [He 11:25-note] of this passing world [1Jn 2:17-note], the only entity other than human souls which will not pass away is the Word of Truth [Ps 119:43-note, 2Co 6:7, Col 1:5-note, 2Ti 2:15-note, Jas 1:18-note]!). The passage below and Ps 42:5 might be a great place to begin memorizing, especially if you are a bit "hope deficient"...
"This I recall to my mind therefore I have hope.
The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning
Great is Thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
Therefore I have hope in Him."
(Lamentations 3:21, 22, 23, 24)
For more discussion of the great Christian virtue of hope, one that is probably the least understood and appreciated (appropriated) of the great "triumvirate" faith, hope and love. Most Christians have a reasonably good comprehension of faith and love, but far fewer understand the soul satisfying significance of our blessed hope. If you are one of the latter group, let me encourage you to take a few days and work through at least some of the Scriptures that elaborate on our blessed hope. I can assure you that your soul will be satisfied and your spiritual "sight" will be stimulated to "straighten up" (Lk 21:28) and to begin looking for His appearing, a perspective which should radically impact your living and specifically your choices. As you study Biblical Hope you will come to realize that we are indeed living in a time when the return of our Blessed Hope is imminent...
For we through the Spirit, by faith,
are waiting for the hope of righteousness.
See also Gal 5:5NLT
- The Blessed Hope: Part 1
- The Blessed Hope: Definition
- The Blessed Hope: Source of
- The Blessed Hope: Part 2
- The Blessed Hope: Stabilizing Effect
- The Blessed Hope: Sanctifying Effect
- Other resources on the Blessed Hope
We - Many commentators feel Paul is using the plural of himself, but one cannot be dogmatic.
Use (5530) (chraomai from chrao = to lend to) means to make use of, to employ, to make the most of. To behave toward someone in a certain way, in this case with boldness. The present tense speaks of Paul continually employing great boldness in his speech. Ultimately this bold speech is not Paul's strength or power but reflects the strengthening of his inner man by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31 = filled with Spirit > speak with boldness).
Great Confidence - Not just confidence but even great confidence. Phillips paraphrases it "We are quite frank." NET Bible translates it "we employ great openness of speech." The New Jerusalem Bible emphasizes boldness in speech rendering it "we can speak with complete fearlessness." Do we as believers really believe we have nothing to conceal but every reason for expressing fearless candor and great freedom in speaking to the lost about the glorious good news in the New Covenant? As alluded to above, one of the "effects" of being filled with the Spirit (Ep 5:18-note) is "altered speech" (Ep 5:19-note) and specifically in the context of our conduct among the lost, boldness in proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 2:4, 4:8 4:31 32 33 Phillip in Acts 6:5 8 10 9:27 28 13:46 14:3 18:26 19:8 Ep 6:19 20-note)
Vincent comments on Paul's bold, open speech noting that
The contrast is with the dissembling (the concealing of facts or intentions under some pretense) with which his adversaries charged him.
Confidence (3954)(parrhesia/parresia from pás = all + rhesis = speech, act of speaking) is literally all speech or speaking all things and thereby conveys the idea of freedom to say all. The basic idea in the word is freedom of speech, when the word flowed freely. It is that attitude of openness that stems from freedom and lack of fear ("shaking" fear - godly, reverential fear is always appropriate) means in essence the freedom to say all.
The Greeks used parrhesia of those who had the right to speak openly in the assembly. Other nuances of parrhesia include speaking with plainness, openness and confidence (Acts 2:29), speaking publicly or in the open (Jn 7:13, 11:54, 18:20) or even something done in public (Jn 7:26, Col 2:15-note)
Confidence - Boldness. Courage. Fearlessness in the face of danger. A state of mind marked by freedom from uncertainty, diffidence, or embarrassment. A trusting or reliance. An assurance of mind or firm belief in the integrity, stability or veracity of the truth and reality of the superiority and sufficiency and spiritually stabilizing impact in the New Covenant of grace.
John MacArthur says that Paul statement that we use great confidence...
is saying "I am so confident of New Covenant promise by faith in Jesus Christ, I am so confident that it fills the heart with hope that the old covenant never gives, it takes away the despair and the fear and the doubt and it places joy and peace and hope. I am so confident that I am courageous and outspoken and bold and without reluctance and without hesitation no matter what kind of severe reaction I get. I can't hold back, I can't hesitate."...So Paul says the New Covenant gives hope, is permanent, provides righteousness and gives life. (The Glory of the New Covenant Part 5)
When you are a part of a ministry of increasing glory, you can be bold in what you say; and Paul did not hide his boldness. Unlike Moses, Paul had nothing to conceal. (Ibid)
Writing to the saints at Thessalonica Paul declared that...
after we (Paul, Silvanus and Timothy - 1Th 1:1-note) had already suffered and been mistreated (hubrizo = insulted, treated injuriously with insolence, even with wicked violence and with reproach) in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak (Greek = parrhesiazomai = to be frank in their utterances, confident in their spirit and demeanor as they spoke) to you the Gospel of God amid much opposition (agon [English "agony"!] - intense struggle like the intense contest for victory in Olympic games with either physical or nonphysical force and against strong opposition). (1Th 2:2-note)
In classical writings slaves did not have the privilege of bold speech before their master. How different is the speech of believers, who as bondservants of Christ, servants of the Most High God, possess all the privileges of a son or daughter in the family and can speak endearments openly even such intimate words "Abba" (Aramaic for "father" and like our English "Daddy" or "Papa")"! (Used by Jesus in Gethsemane - Mk 14:36 and used by believers - Ro 8:15-note Ga 4:6) The hope of the New Covenant far from constraining believers, liberated them and enabled them to speak openly and with complete confidence before God because of their exalted, eternal position in Christ, God's beloved Son.
We speak not only with all confidence, but with all imaginable plainness; keeping back nothing; disguising nothing; concealing nothing: and here we differ greatly from the Jewish doctors, and from the Gentile philosophers, who affect obscurity, and endeavour, by figures, metaphors, and allegories, to hide every thing from the vulgar. But we wish that all may hear; and we speak so that all may understand.
We every where speak freely, concealing nothing, reserving nothing, suspecting nothing, but speaking out plainly: and we have no fear of dazzling your eyes, as Moses did those of the Jews.
When you are free to speak, then there is no fear and you have confidence. A believer can come with boldness (same word as "confidence") to the throne of grace (He 4:16-note) with openness and freedom and not be afraid. We have this boldness because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ (He 10:19-note). Therefore, we should not cast away our confidence, no matter what the circumstances might be. We should not have confidence in ourselves, because we are too prone to fail; but we should have confidence in Jesus Christ who never fails. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor or Logos)
THE TWO COVENANTS
|Written with ink
on tablets of stone
|Written with the Spirit
on tablets of human hearts
|The Letter (law) Kills
(3000 @ Sinai – Ex 32:28)
|The Spirit gives Life
(3000 @ Pentecost – Acts 2:41)
|Ministry of Death
|Ministry of the Spirit
(~glory of moon)
|Glory that surpasses
(~glory of sun)
|Remains in Glory:
|Reading of Old Covenant
|Turn to the Lord
Veil is removed in Christ
|Where Spirit of the Lord is
|Glory fading on Moses’ face
No Internal Transformation
|Glory going to glory on saints' faces
Continual Internal transformation by the Spirit
Amplified: Nor [do we act] like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze upon the finish of the vanishing [splendor which had been upon it]. (Lockman)
ESV: 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. (ESV)
KJV: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
NET: and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the result of the glory that was made ineffective. (NET Bible)
NIV: We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: We are not like Moses, who veiled his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing its fading glory. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Hand not even as Moses put a covering over his face to the end that the sons of Israel should not fix their gaze upon the termination of that which is passing away.
Young's Literal: and are not as Moses, who was putting a veil upon his own face, for the sons of Israel not stedfastly to look to the end of that which is being made useless,
ARE NOT LIKE MOSES, WHO USED TO PUT A VEIL OVER HIS FACE SO THAT THE SONS OF ISRAEL WOULD NOT LOOK INTENTLY AT THE END OF WHAT WAS FADING AWAY: kai ou kathaper Mouses etithei (3SIAI) kalumma epi to prosopon autou, pros to me atenisai (AAN) tous huious Israel eis to telos tou katargoumenou (PPPNSG):
- Ex 34:33-35
- Would not: 2Co 3:18
- At the: Ro 10:4 Ga 3:23,24 Eph 2:14,15 Col 2:17 Heb 10:1-9
- 2 Corinthians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Not like Moses alludes to the Old Testament description in Exodus where we read that...
When Moses had finished speaking with them (the sons of Israel), he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. (Ex 34:33, 34, 35)
Comment: Note that while Moses was speaking to God or to the sons of Israel, the veil was not covering his glorified, radiant face, a shining glory which could not be viewed directly because of its intense glow (Think of looking at the son [but don't do it for it will harm your eyes!]). As Alford says "the declaration of God's will to them (sons of Israel) was not in openness of speech, but was interrupted and broken by intervals of concealment, which ours is not." The glory on his face was a fading glory. In other words, the law which God had given to him had a transient glory. It was fading even then, and Moses did not want them to see the end of it. It was not that Moses wanted to hide the glory itself, but rather the passing of the glory.
Not like Moses - When Paul preaches the New Covenant, he doesn't put a veil over his face as Moses did when he was through speaking to the people. Every minister of the New Covenant (and we are all in some sense ministers, even if not formally preaching from a pulpit - our "pulpit" is wherever we find ourselves in our daily life) does not have to hide his face, for the glory of the Gospel will never grow dim or fade away. Paul needs no veil; he has nothing to hide.
Guzik explains that...
From reading the account in Ex 34:29-35, one might first get the impression that Moses wore a veil after his meetings with God so the people wouldn’t be afraid to come near him and that it was to protect them from seeing the shining face of Moses. But here Paul explains the real purpose of the veil: not so the shining face of Moses would be hidden, but so that the diminishing glory of his face would not be observed, because the glory was fading. The passing glory of the Old Covenant contrasts with the enduring glory of the New Covenant.
Put a veil - Paul uses the imperfect tense which vividly describes something which Moses did over and over -- he would take the veil off when speaking and put it back on when not speaking, and repeated these actions again and again.
Veil (2571) (kaluma from kalupto = cause something to be covered over and hence not visible) is literally a covering or veil but is used figuratively here to refer to something that functions as an impediment, hindrance, obstruction or obstacle.
This OT story conveys the picture that the Old Covenant was shadow rather substance; i.e., it was veiled in the sense that one could only get a glimpse of it (even as they could only glimpse the glory on Moses' face during the time the veil was removed). So in a sense the Old Covenant conceals, for even the prophets who wrote it did not fully comprehend the meaning (1Pe 1:10, 11, 12-note)
John MacArthur remarks that the Old Covenant...
was a veiled covenant, it was a fading covenant. Fading part was symbolic of the passing away. The veil also indicates the covered part of it. But there's nothing veiled and there's nothing fading about new covenant gospel. In fact, the Apostle Paul a number of places in his epistles talks about the mysteries being revealed (The Glory of the New Covenant Part 5)
Face (4383)(prosopon from prós = toward + ops = the eye or face) is literally the eye toward, the front part of one's head, the countenance (Latin ~ con = with + teneo = to hold, literally the contents of a body and then the outline which constitutes the whole figure, the face as expressing a person's character or mood).
One of the most notable uses of prosopon is found in the Septuagint translation of Numbers 6 in the famous Aaronic blessing...
The Lord make His face (Lxx = prosopon) shine on you, and be gracious to you (Nu 6:25).
Dwight L Moody commenting on the Aaronic Blessing said: Here is a benediction that can go all the world over, and can give all the time without being impoverished. Every heart may utter it: it is the speech of God: every letter may conclude with it; every day may begin with it; every night may be sanctified by it. Here is blessing—keeping—shining—the uplifting upon our poor life of all heaven’s glad morning. It is the Lord Himself Who brings this bar of music from heaven’s infinite anthems
Comment: Indeed when Jehovah-Jesus makes His face to shine upon us as we mediate on His glory and beauty in His living and active Word, we are benefactors of His grace and experience a change in our face...from one degree of glory to another!
Look intently (816) (atenizo from a = intensifies + teino = stretch, strain) means to fix one's gaze on something or stare at something (2Co 3:7-note, cp eyes "fixed on" Jesus in Lk 4:20). Gaze earnestly. Look straight at something. The sons of Israel could not look directly into Moses' face because of the intensity of the supernatural glory his skin reflected. Moses' face certainly would have made a "great endorsement" for beauty creams that promise to make your face radiant (but this of course would have been "false advertising" for the glory was from the from presiding in the presence of the Lord, not the putting of cream on one's face)!
Vincent comments that when one looks at Ex 34:30-35...
The true sense of the Hebrew is given by the Sept.: “When he ceased speaking he put a veil on his face;” not because the Israelites could not endure the radiance, but that they should not see it fade away. Whenever Moses went into the presence of God he removed the veil, and his face was again illumined, and shone while he delivered God’s message to the people. Then, after the delivery of the message, and during his ordinary association with the people, he kept his face covered.
The end (5056) (telos) speaks of a consummation, a goal achieved, a result attained, or a realization. "The end" (to telos) is an idiom which serves as a marker of the conclusion to what has preceded, in this case the termination of the glory on Moses' face.
Wiersbe notes that...
The word translated end in 2Co 3:13 has two meanings: “purpose” and “finish.” The veil prevented the people from seeing the “finish” of the glory as it faded away. But the veil also prevented them from understanding the “purpose” behind the fading glory. The Law had just been instituted, and the people were not ready to be told that this glorious system was only temporary. The truth that the covenant of Law was a preparation for something greater was not yet made known to them. (Ibid)
It is interesting that "in rabbinic tradition the glory of Moses’ face was undiminished right up to the day of his death when he was 120 years old." (Harris) (As someone has quipped "Who wants to follow a leader who is losing his glory?")
Fading (2673)(katargeo [word study] from kata = intensifies meaning + argeo = to be idle or inactive from argos = ineffective, idle, inactive from a = without + érgon = work) literally means to reduce to inactivity. To cause something to come to an end. The present tense indicates the glory on Moses was continually fading which serves as prophetic picture of the temporary nature of the Old Covenant, the old "worn out" order.
F W Grant has beautifully stated
The glory on the face of Moses must give way to the glory in Another Face.
Paul’s comparison is between the ministry of Moses, interrupted by intervals of concealment, and the gospel ministry, which is marked by frank and full proclamation.
The opposition is twofold: (1) Between the veiled and the unveiled ministry, as regards the mere fact of concealment in the one case, and openness in the other. (2) Between the ministry which was suspended by the veiling that its end might not be seen, and that which proceeds ‘from glory to glory,’ having no termination (Alford).
The face of Moses needed a continually renewed illumination: in the face of Christ the glory abides forever.
Greek : alla eporothe (3SAPI) ta noemata auton. achri gar tes semeron hemeras to auto kalumma epi te anagnosei tes palaias diathekes menei (3SPAI) me anakaluptomenon (PPPNSN), oti en Christo katargeitai (3SPPI);
Amplified: In fact, their minds were grown hard and calloused [they had become dull and had lost the power of understanding]; for until this present day, when the Old Testament (the old covenant) is being read, that same veil still lies [on their hearts], not being lifted [to reveal] that in Christ it is made void and done away. (Lockman)
ESV: But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. (ESV)
KJV: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.
NET: But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. (NET Bible)
NIV: But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: But it was their minds really which were blinded, for even today when the old agreement is read to them there is still a veil over their minds - though the veil has actually been lifted by Christ. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But their minds were hardened, for to this very day the same covering remains at the reading of the testament whose usefulness is over, it not being revealed that it [the covering] is being done away in Christ.
Young's Literal: but their minds were hardened, for unto this day the same vail at the reading of the Old Covenant doth remain unwithdrawn -- which in Christ is being made useless--
BUT THEIR MINDS WERE HARDENED: alla eporothe (3SAPI) ta noemata auton):
- 2Co 4:3,4 Ps 69:23 Isa 6:10 26:10, 11, 12 42:18, 19, 20 44:18 56:10 59:10 Jer 5:21 Ezek 12:2 Mt 6:23 13:11,13, 14, 15 Jn 9:39 40 41 12:40 Ac 28:26,27 Ro 11:7, 8, 9, 10,25
- 2 Corinthians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
But (alla) introduces a contrast.
The UBS Handbook notes that...
The significance of the word But with which verse 14 begins should not be ignored. Paul hastens to add after 2Co 3:13 that Moses is not to be blamed; rather the peoples’ hearts were hardened. Knox makes the contrast even sharper, saying “but in spite of that….” (The United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series or Logos)
Minds hardened - This is another way of describing unbelief. The reason they did not understand the glory of the Old Covenant, God's intended purpose of the Law, was that they refused to believe! The martyr Stephen used great boldness in proclaiming to his Jewish audience that...
You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. (Acts 7:51)
Comment: Throughout the centuries, Israel had refused to submit to God and obey the truths He had revealed to them. Their ears did not hear the truth, their hearts did not receive the truth, and their necks did not bow to the truth. As a result, they killed their own Messiah, in Whom a genuine faith brings "the end to the Law for righteousness"! (Ro 10:4NLT-note) The Jews (except the believing remnant) sought only the physical circumcision which was impotent in regard to gaining favor with God or achieving righteousness (right standing before God). In fact, their minds were hardened and they placed great emphasis on the physical ritual of circumcision, failing to comprehend that the external act was always meant to be symbolic of an internal "circumcision", which was evidenced by a desire to please God and to obey Him out of love not out of legalism! (see discussion of Circumcision - external of the foreskin & internal of the heart). Their minds were hard and their hearts were cold toward God and the glorious truths He had "veiled" in the Old Covenant.
Jesus alluded to the hardness of the minds of His Jewish audience
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses (author of the Pentateuch, the first 5 books, the "Torah" or law), you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (Jn 5:45, 46, 47).
Comment: Jesus was not saying that one could be saved by believing the Old Covenant Law per se but that one was saved by believing in the Messiah Who was clearly and repeatedly portrayed in prophecies (see Messianic Prophecy) and in the ceremonies, feasts, sacrifices and rituals that were present (albeit in "veiled" form to those with hard hearts and minds) even in the Torah (E.g., see Dt 30:14 even quoted by Paul in Ro 10:6,7-note, Ro 10:8-note).
MacArthur comments that...
Moses, you remember, came down the mountain, attempted to show them the glory of God representative in the old covenant by the glory on his face, and he was rejected instead of recognizing the glory, they were willfully dull and willfully unbelieving. And it was still so in Paul's time until this day, he says, until this very day. At the reading of the old covenant, which was done, by the way, every Sabbath in the synagogue, according to Luke 4:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, they went into the synagogue and the old covenant would be read. The same veil remains unlifted. The old covenant is still obtuse, still obscure. They still don't understand the purpose of it. They think it's supposed to save them and it's not. They think that it's less of a moral standard than it is. They underestimate its righteousness. Its attempt to reveal sin is ineffective. Instead of revealing their sin, it is used as a means to demonstrate their righteousness. Its ceremonial purpose was to symbolize the redemptive plan in Christ. And, of course, they rejected Christ so they rejected not only the moral part of the Law by lowering the moral standard, they rejected the ceremonial part by missing the purpose and the point of it. They were so ignorant that the Apostles had to preach all around Jerusalem that Jesus Christ must needs have suffered and died to fulfill Messianic prophecy. They had no clue. Their ignorance and their unbelief in the meaning of the old covenant, made them therefore ignorant of the new covenant. Because they didn't properly understand that the old covenant was to drive them to sin in its moral area and to drive them to see their need of a Savior in the ceremonial area, because they missed all of that they couldn't comprehend the new covenant... They don't comprehend the new covenant. Do you know why? Because they don't comprehend the old covenant. They think they do, they don't. They don't know that it was designed to drive them to despair about their sin and to portray through the symbols and the pictures the redemptive plan of God that points directly to none other than Jesus Christ, but since they don't understand the old covenant, they can't understand the new covenant. The veil of ignorance obscures the meaning of the old covenant to the hardened heart. It was meant to lead them to Christ, they just didn't see it (The Glory of the New Covenant, Part 5)
Adam Clarke explains their minds were hardened...
By resting in the letter (the Law), shutting their eyes against the light that was granted to them (Ed: cp fact that good news was available to them through the example of God's crediting of righteousness to Abram's account when he believed God in Ge 15:6), they contracted a hardness or stupidity of heart. And the veil that was on the face of Moses, which prevented the glory of his face from shining out, may be considered as emblematical (as a picture or symbol) of the veil of darkness and ignorance that is on their hearts, and which hinders the glory of the Gospel from shining in.
Mind (3540)(noema from noéo = perceive in turn from noús = mind) is literally the result of the activity of the "nous" or mind, that part of man which thinks. Noema means that which is thought (a thought), perceived with the mind (a mental perception), understood, pondered, or considered.
BDAG divides noema into two main categories...
1. That which one has in mind as product of intellectual process = thought, design, purpose, intention.
2. The faculty of processing thought = the mind or the understanding
Paul uses noema again in the next chapter...
And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world (Satan --1Jn 5:19 Ep 2:2 Jn 12:31 14:30) has blinded the minds (noema) of the unbelieving (disbelieving, lacking in faith, not trusting) so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2Co 4:3, 4)
A T Robertson draws our attention to the order of events: (1) They refused to believe and so (2) Satan got the power to blind their thoughts. That happens with wilful disbelievers. (Woe!)
We must pray for God "open their eyes ("spiritual eyes" of their heart and mind) so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in" Christ (Acts 26:18).
M J Harris: The veiling, where it exists (cf. 2Co 3:14, 15), comes from the unbelief of “those who are perishing” (cf. 1Co 1:18; 2Co 2:15), whose minds have been blinded by the god of “the present evil age” (Gal 1:4), who wishes to prevent them from seeing the gospel-light that focuses on Christ’s glory as the image of God.
Were hardened (4456) (poroo from poros = small piece of stone, a kind of marble, and thence used of a callus on fractured bones; see related word porosis) means to make hard as stone and used figuratively to describe that which has become callous or insensitive to touch. The effect is to cause the person to have difficulty understanding or comprehending.
In the New Testament, poroo is used only in the spiritual sense referring to the devastating effect sin and unbelief exert on one's heart or mind. In this passage Paul describes the sons of Israel as possessed of a closed mind, mental obtuseness and intellectual blindness.
The aorist tense indicates that the hardening is a past completed action and the passive voice indicates the hardening is the effect of an "outside agent", in context the judicial hardening of the sons of Israel by God Who is perfectly just in all His ways (see below - Jn 12:40).
The writer of Hebrews uses a different verb skleruno (word study) (render stubborn, to make hard or stiff) to describe the same hard hearted problem of the Jews (Heb 3:8-note, He 3:15-note, He 4:7-note) and it is in the context of the danger of a persistently hard heart that he issues the exhortation in Hebrews 4:11-note and then explains (in a famous verse usually extracted from this context) that this Word of Truth is like a two-edged sword (He 4:12-note, He 4:13-note).
Friberg writes that poroo is a medical technical term (Hippocrates) cover with thick skin or callous; of body organs thicken.
Liddell Scott explains the literal meaning is "to petrify, turn into stone"
Porosis - 5x in 5v in NAS - Mark 6:52 Mk 8:17; John 12:40; Ro 11:7; 2Cor 3:14. The only use in the non-apocryphal Septuagint is Job 17:7 describing the "dimming" of one's eyes as a result of grief.
John quotes Isa 6:10-note (where it was actually issued as a command to the prophet Isaiah) giving an example of divine judicial hardening, the penalty for continual rejection God's Word of Truth and Life (see discussion)...
John 12:40 "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM."
MacArthur comments: Although God predestined such judgment, it was not apart from human responsibility and culpability (see Jn 8:24).
Barclay on the related word porosis explains that
Porosis comes from poros, which originally meant a stone that was harder than marble. It came to have certain medical uses. It was used for the chalk stone which can form in the joints and completely paralyze action. It was used of the callus that forms where a bone has been broken and re-set, a callus which is harder than the bone itself. Finally the word came to mean the loss of all power of sensation; it described something which had become so hardened, so petrified that it had no power to feel at all. That is what Paul says the heathen life is like (Ep 4:17, 18, 19-note) (Ed: And in the present context this is the condition of the majority of the sons of Israel even to the present time)...
The terror of sin is its petrifying effect. The process of sin is quite discernible (Ed: I think perhaps "quite indiscernible" is a better description of the deceitfulness of sin and its hardening effect [see note] Heb 3:13). No man becomes a great sinner all at once. At first he regards sin with horror. When he sins, there enters into his heart remorse and regret (Ed: But not genuine repentance or turning from that sin! - cp "sorrow of the world" ["Sorry I got caught" type sorrow!] in 2Co 7:10b). But if he continues to sin there comes a time when he loses all sensation and can do the most shameful things without any feeling at all. His conscience is petrified (Cp "seared...conscience" 1Ti 4:2 - see illustration below). (Ed note: This is because all men in Adam are totally depraved and have an inherent sin nature from Adam to commit sins). (Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964)
A T Robertson notes that poroo
is late verb from poros, hard skin, to cover with thick skin (callus), to petrify.
In Romans Paul in addressing the spiritual fate of the sons of Israel asks...
What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen (the remnant, see "partial hardening" of Israel below in Ro 11:25) obtained it, and the rest were hardened (passive voice as in 2Co 3:14 indicating the hardening is the effect of an "outside agent", specifically God Who is perfectly justified in so doing in light of their repeated rejection and incessant wanton spiritual harlotry) (Ro 11:7-note)
Comment This verse describes a judicial act of God for refusal to heed the Word of God (cp God's hardening in Ex 4:21 7:3 9:12 10:20, 27 11:10 14:4, 8, 17; [Ryrie explains "Seven times Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God first hardened it, though the prediction that God would do it preceded all."] Dt 2:30 Jn 12:40), in response to their hardened hearts (Ex 8:15, 32 9:34 10:1 2Chr 36:13 Ps 95:8 Pr 28:14 Mt 19:8 Mk 3:5 Ep 4:18 Heb 3:8, 15 4:7). Thus divine hardening is not the cause of their rejection of the Gospel, but a punishment for it. This hardening (even as here in 2Co 3:14) was (is) the result of Israel's persistence in resistance to the Word of Truth, just as Pharaoh’s heart was hardened because he resisted the truth. We would expect a pagan idol worshipping despot to harden himself against the Lord, but we would not expect God’s chosen people to do so. Nevertheless, most of the sons of Israel were hardened because they deserved it and it was a just recompense for their sin of rejecting the light they had received. Remember that all of the ceremonies (festivals, temple services and sacrifices, etc - see 3rd column entitled "Shadows of Messiah in Tabernacle") were like "giant pictures" pointing to the coming Messiah and Redeemer. (eg, compare Ex 12:11 with 1Co 5:7).
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening (porosis) has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in (Ro 11:25-note)
Comment: Notice that The current hardening of Israel in rejecting Messiah has two components. First, it is a partial hardening so that some Jews, represented by the believing remnant (the "Israel of God" Gal 6:16) will be enabled to see the glory of the New Covenant. Second, the hardening of Israel has a limit so that when the fullness of Gentiles has come in the blindness of Israel will be removed "in Christ" (cp Zech 12:9, 10 descriptive of the time of the Second Coming of Christ - notice how it will be made possible for their blind eyes to be opened to recognize their Messiah).
It is interesting to read a parallel description of Jesus' Jewish disciples where heart is substituted for mind...
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. (Mk 6:51-52, see a similar use of poroo in Mk 8:17)
John MacArthur: The disciples’ minds were impenetrable, so that they could not perceive what Christ was saying (cf. Mk 4:11, 12). This phrase conveys or alludes to rebellion, not just ignorance
William MacDonald: The thought seems to be that even after seeing the power of the Lord in the miracle of the loaves, they still did not realize that nothing was impossible for Him. They shouldn’t have been surprised to see Him walking on the water. It was no greater a miracle than the one they had just witnessed. Lack of faith produced hardness of heart and dullness of spiritual perception.
Charles Ryrie: they were spiritually insensitive to the truth concerning the deity of Christ that His miracles were continually demonstrating.
Insensitiveness to Sin -- A little girl in London held up her broken wrist and said, “Look, Mommy, my hand is bent the wrong way!” There were no tears in her eyes. She felt no pain whatever. That was when she was four years old. When she was six, her parents noticed that she was walking with a limp. A doctor discovered that the girl had a fractured thigh. Still she felt no pain. The girl is now fourteen years old. She is careful now, but occasionally looks at blisters and burns on her hands and wonders, “How did this happen?” She is insensitive to pain! Medical specialists are baffled by the case. It is called ganglioneuropathy. There is another insensitiveness which is deadlier and more dangerous— insensitiveness to sin! Paul said of this malady: “Having their consciences seared as with a hot iron” (1Ti 4:2).
FOR UNTIL THIS VERY DAY AT THE READING OF THE OLD COVENANT THE SAME VEIL REMAINS UNLIFTED: achri gar tes semeron hemeras to auto kalumma epi te anagnosei tes palaias diathekes menei (3SPAI) me anakaluptomenon (PPPNSN):
- 2 Corinthians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
The reading of the Old Covenant - As was and is still done in Jewish synagogues ("temples") around the world each Sabbath (cp Acts 13:14, 15).
Warren Wiersbe addresses the question of "Why did most of Israel reject her own Messiah?"...
The reason? There was a “spiritual veil” over their minds and hearts. Their “spiritual eyes” were blinded, so that when they read the Old Testament Scriptures, they did not see the truth about their own Messiah. Even though the Scriptures were read systematically in the synagogues, the Jewish people did not grasp the spiritual message God had given to them (2Co 3:14, 2Co 3:15-note). They were blinded by their own religion. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary - New Testament. 1989. Victor or Logos or Wordsearch)
Reading (320) (anagnosis from aná = emphatic, again + ginosko = know <> know again) means to read something written, especially public reading of Scripture as in the present context (cp Acts 13:15 1Ti 4:13 Neh 8:8)
Old (3820)(palaios from palai = in the past, long ago) antique, not recent, not new, old in the sense of worn out and decrepit. Palaios means in existence for a long time, and in a number of contexts conveys the sense of being obsolete, antiquated or outworn. Worn out from use is the idea in (Mt 9:16, 17 Mk 2:21, Lk 5:36) Palaios brings out the idea of “worn out”, the result of the wear and tear of time, the old as outworn and clearly is not something to be desired.
Palaios is a clear contrast with kainos (fresh) used in 2Co 3:6.
Covenant (1242)(diatheke from diatithemi = set out in order, dispose in a certain order <> from dia = two + tithemi = to place pictures that which is placed between two Thus, a covenant is something placed between two = thus an arrangement between two parties) literally conveys the idea of a testament, as in one's last will and testament.
The same veil - Clearly this is not the literal veil Moses wore. However even as Moses' veil prevented the sons of Israel from seeing the fading glory of the Old Covenant, so too today a figurative veil blinds the eyes of most Jews so that they cannot see "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2Co 4:6) in the New Covenant.
Adam Clarke feels that the unlifted veil is an allusion...
to the conduct of the Jews in their synagogues: when they read the law they cover their whole head with a veil, which they term the חליי tallith, veil, from חלל talal, to cover; and this voluntary usage of theirs, the apostle tells us, is an emblem of the darkness of their hearts while they are employed even in sacred duties.
Remains unlifted - Even as the veil of Moses obstructed the view of the glory of his face (a picture of the glory of the Old Covenant), the Jews remain ignorant of the spiritual meaning and intention of their own law, which is like an impediment, hindrance, obstruction or obstacle so they cannot see the glorious truth of the New Covenant.
Unlifted literally reads "not (me = negation) uncovered (anakalupto = uncover)" a spiritual transaction that can only transpire when the "spiritual veil" is drawn back by the Holy Spirit Who opens their calloused hearts (cp spiritually circumcising their hearts - Ro 2:28, 29-note) to the truth of the Gospel of grace in the New Covenant (2Th 2:13, Acts 16:14, cp Jn 6:44).
Vincent comments on the same veil...
The expression their minds were hardened is carried out figuratively. There is a veil over their minds when the law is read, as there was over Moses’ face. They cannot yet recognize the end of the Mosaic ministry.
BECAUSE IT IS REMOVED IN CHRIST: hoti en Christo katargeitai (3SPPI):
- 2Co 4:6 Isa 25:7 Mt 16:17 Lk 18:31, 32, 33, 34 24:25, 26, 27, 44, 45, 46 Jn 8:12 Jn 12:46 Ac 16:14 26:18 Eph 1:17 18 19 20
- 2 Corinthians 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Because (hoti) is used to explain how the "veil" is "drawn back" from a "hardened mind".
NLT paraphrases this "And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ."
Removed in Christ - This is Paul's way of describing what happens when one believes in Christ -- the "veil" comes off the Word of God. That which they were not able to understand in their natural, unregenerate state (1Co 2:14) suddenly became understandable for they now had an indwelling Teacher, the Spirit of Christ, to teach them (Jer 31:33, 34, cp Jn 14:16 26, 15:16, 17, 26 16:7, 8; cp 1Jn 2:20 27). Paul amplifies the removal of the veil explaining in the next verse that this occurs when a person turns to the Lord. (2Co 3:16)
Removed (2673)(katargeo [word study] from kata = intensifies meaning + argeo = to be idle or inactive from argos = ineffective, idle, inactive from a = without + érgon = work) literally means to reduce to inactivity. To cause something to come to an end. When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away (comes to an end).
In Christ - In the doctrines that teach about the good news found only in the truth about Christ. Only as the Jew came to be in Christ (by grace through faith) was the (spiritual) veil set aside. Paul reiterates this same truth using slightly different wording in 2Co 3:16.
Clarke comments that "It is only by acknowledging Christ that the darkness is removed, and the end and spiritual meaning of the law discerned.
Matthew Henry writes that "It is the duty of the ministers of the Gospel to use great plainness or clearness of speech. The Old Testament believers had only cloudy and passing glimpses of that glorious Saviour, and unbelievers looked no further than to the outward institution. But the great precepts of the Gospel (eg, believe, love, obey) are truths stated as clearly as possible. And the whole doctrine of Christ crucified (1Co 1:18, 23 2:2), is made as plain as human language can make it. Those who lived under the law, had a veil upon their hearts. This veil is taken away by the doctrines of the Bible about Christ.