Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 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. 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. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-16 ESV
For Paul, the new covenant was permanent and irreplaceable. That brought him hope. It was not based on man’s efforts, but God’s grace. That brought him hope. It transformed men and women from the inside out. That brought him hope. Since his conversion, he had personally witnessed the transformative powers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had seen it dramatically change his own life. He had watched as those to whom me ministered, both Jews and Gentiles, were radically redeemed and reformed by God. And it gave him hope and provided him with boldness. In fact, his compares his own boldness with that of Moses. But he uses an interesting Greek word, parrēsia, which can mean “boldness”, but also, “openly, frankly, i.e. without concealment”. I believe this has more to do with what Paul is trying to say. He is using Moses as a comparison. In his day, when he had received the law from God, a residual effect of the experience was a visible radiance or glow to his skin that others could see. His time spent on the mountain in the presence of God’s glory had left a tell-tale sign, and it so disturbed the people, that Moses took to covering his face with a veil. But as Paul says, the time came when the glory began to fade, yet Moses continued to wear the veil. He not only hid his face, he hid the truth. He concealed the reality of what was happening to him. The fading of the glory on the face of Moses was a symbol of the inevitability that the glory of the old covenant would also fade. It was destined for replacement. It was designed for obsolescence.
Over in the book of Hebrews, the author, quoting the words of God recorded in the book of Jeremiah 31, writes, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hebrews 8:10 ESV). Notice that phrase, “write them on their hearts”. It is most likely what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3 ESV). The new covenant is not like the old. It is not based on a set of laws written on stone requiring the strict obedience of men. In other words, under the new covenant, the laws of God are no longer external and based on human adherence to work. They are internal and dependent on the indwelling Spirit of God to convict and conform the life of the believer to the will of God. It is not the law that has been replaced. It is the method by which man attempts to live according to it. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13 ESV). The means by which men were expected to maintain a right relationship with God was fading away. It was being replaced by something new and far superior. The old covenant was based on outward conformance to God’s laws. It did nothing to change the heart. It was pure legalism, and it was destined to fail. No matter how hard man tried, he could not stop sinning. He could not keep the law perfectly. But when Jesus came, He did. He was obedient, even to the point of death. He did the will of His Father without fail, including keeping the law. Why? Because His heart was right with God. His was an internal obedience. And His death on the cross ushered in the new covenant, what He referred to as the new covenant in His blood. When Jesus shared the Passover meal with the disciples just prior to His betrayal, arrest and trials, He said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:20 NLT). Matthew records that Jesus also said, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28 ESV). But many would fail to recognize the significance of Jesus’ death. Paul indicates that their eyes were veiled. He is referring to the Jews who, when reading the Old Testament writings concerning the law, were unable to see the truth about Jesus. Like Moses, their eyes were veiled. The truth was concealed from them. But Paul says, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16 ESV). Their eyes are opened. The Spirit of God gives them the capacity to see the truth regarding Jesus’ death and the wonderful reality of the new covenant that makes a right relationship with God possible – no longer based on human effort, but on faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And that truth provided Paul with boldness, an openness and frankness that made to good news of Jesus Christ available to any and all who would listen.