Second Easter Meditation from Lightfoot

TheActsoftheApostles

Here is a second paraphrase, this time of 2 Cor. 3 from Lightfoot. Reflect on it—-

Will it be thought that in thus contrasting ourselves with false teachers that we are beginning again to recommend ourselves (as we have been obliged necessarily to do)? Surely, no one will suppose that like certain other persons we require letters of recommendation from others to you, or from you to others. You are yourselves our letter written in our hearts (which we bear about with us not as material documents but inscribed upon our inward conscience which bears witness that our working and preaching among you is a sufficient recommendation)—a letter too which is recognized, and so is read by all men, for it is manifest that you are a letter in the hand-writing of Christ to all (his finger has traced the characters in your souls, his sign-named (?) is set upon you)—a letter which is borne about by us as ministers, from place to place, the characters whereof are traced not in ink but in the Spirit of the living God on no tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, I mean on men’s hearts.

But if this language betokens confidence, it must be remembered that we owe this confidence in regard to God (i.e. in our relations to Him, to Christ). It is not that we are competent before any judgment by own our own unaided efforts, as if it depended only on our own resources, but our competence has God for its source for he has ever made us competent as ministers of a new covenant, a spiritual and not a formal covenant, for the external form kills, but the inward Spirit gives life. Now if the dispensation of which death was a consequence, a dispensation of outward form written on stones was ushered in with glory, so that the sons of Israel would not look with steadfast gaze on the face of Moses, owing to the glory of his face, a glory which after all was fleeting and transitory, must we not a fortiori believe that the dispensation of the Spirit shall continue to be in glory, since if the dispensation which brings condemnation is glorious, a fortiori does the dispensation which brings righteousness (by our justification through Christ) abound in glory, nay the glory of the former covenant is no glory at all in this respect (comparatively) on account of the superior glory of the latter. For if the transitory was attended with glory, much more shall the enduring abide in glory [and this thought inspires us with hope].
Therefore, having such a hope (the expectation of this future glory), we use much plainness of speech and here as we just enforced the contrast between the two dispensations themselves by reference to the Old Testament history, may we carry the contrast further and apply it not only to the Christian dispensation itself, but also to the teachers and professors of Christianity.
Moses placed a veil over his face when he left off speaking to the people, and thus the brightness of his face faded away unperceived. By this was foreshadowed the future history of the race, it was a token that something would interfere with their spiritual vision, that they would not see to what the transitory ordinances of the Mosaic dispensation led; they would not discern how they were annulled in Christ. Nay we may apply this type of Moses in another way, a veil is over the face of the people of Israel, as there was a veil over the face of Moses. When they turn to the Lord, this veil will be removed, in the same manner as his was; and by turning to the Lord is meant communing with the Spirit, looking beneath the outward form of the Mosaic law, and discerning its inward meaning, and so of a necessity accepting the Christian dispensation as that to which the Mosaic pointed. And this communing with the Spirit will bring freedom. They will be relieved from the bondage of the law. For where the Spirit is, there is freedom. Now we all of us (we Christians) enjoy this freedom, for we all look with our face unveiled on the glory of the Lord, though at present only in a mirror and not as we shall see it hereafter, yet uninterruptedly, and not by snatches as Moses, and doing so we catch this reflection, a light is shone upon us; a gradual change is being wrought in us; we are advancing from glory to glory. Christ, the image of the invisible God, is being formed in us. And this is the result we rightly looked for, seeing that the Lord, whose glory we behold is the Spirit. Therefore, we have freedom to speak with much boldness.


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