Wednesday, November 16, 2005
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
-2 Corinthians 3:4-18
Sometimes when I read Paul I get frustrated. “The law” especially in our culture is viewed in such a negative light. We see the law as rules and regulations; some disconnected policy with which God uses to keep us in line. If this is what the Torah (law, writing of Moses) is all about then why did the Psalmist say; “Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes. With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth. I delight in the way your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways” (psalm 119)? Why is the Torah such a thing that someone would delight in it? Do we delight in law?
The Jews did not see the Law as distant or disconnected at all… it was good news. The law was given as instruction for how to live the best possible life, to “enjoy long life” (Deuteronomy 6:3). The law is not just there to keep us in line but to make us free. In this understanding God is not the “pilot of the ship,” as so many see Him, He is the healing force in our lives. In the words of Daniel Migliore, “To know God as spirit is to experience God as a liberating rather than coercive power” (Faith Seeking Understanding, page 225).If you’re not careful you could easily interpret Paul saying ‘the laws are obsolete, they’re bad. We should toss them out and just live in the spirit of the Lord.’ The problem with this is that we don’t know how to live in the spirit of the Lord. The heart of the law is not simply that it be followed, not that we earn something through it, not that we be confined by it but that we are freed in it. The heart of the law is freedom. What we can forget, while reading Paul, is that God gave the law and it was no mistake.
We are all free already. There is a distorted way of thinking that says the law is what frees us. What we must understand is that living the law doesn’t free anybody. The laws can actually bind you and enslave you. Christ has freed us; He’s the only one who can. Christ lifts up the Veil that blinds us from the heart of the law, the freedom that we already have. When we follow the law with a veiled face there is no freedom, no liberty. We will struggle to follow the law and miss why we’re following it. We’re not following the law to be freed but to live out our freedom. And we must always rediscover what living the law is for us, we must reinterpret the law again and again.
“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The spirit of the Lord is everywhere, in and through everything, God is everywhere. Therefore freedom is everywhere… we are free already for Christ made us free. We must allow God to lift up the veil so that we can live in that freedom. When the veil is lifted the law becomes transformative, not just in how we live but in our hearts. “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” Live the way Jesus showed us to live, live the Torah, live in the freedom that is yours.
When God was getting ready to send his people into the Promised Land He said, “The land is yours; everywhere your foot treads.” Freedom is ours, we’re free, we just have to claim it and live in it. May our feet tread on freedom.