(A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 04-29-07 2 Corinthians 3:12-16
Proposition: Only in Christ is the veil of our separation from the Father removed and we have hope, boldness and a softened heart. .
- IF you lived during the times of the Old Testament, and you were desperate to get close to God, how would you go about getting access to Him?
* Say your livestock all died of a disease, and you were left desperate for some livelihood and you wanted to seek God’s help?
* Say you were a widow with no family to care for you and no savings and no welfare?
* Say you were a Moabite, and you were convinced about the God of Israel from some stories relatives told you about their niece, Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi? And you wanted to get close to this God who redeems broken families? How would you go about it?
* Say you were a young Israelite and just had a desire to know God?
- WELL, first of all, if you were a Moabite, you would have to convert to Judaism…and even then, you couldn’t get any closer to God than the very outer court of the Temple.
- BECAUSE in Old Testament times, God chose to have His name and His presence rest in one place….between the wings of the cherubim above the Ark of the Covenant either in the tabernacle then later in the Temple in Jerusalem.
- GOD chose only one place to meet with His people, because He knew if He allowed Israel to worship Him wherever and whenever they wanted, pretty soon they would be making up their own gods, their own religions, their own ways to be saved…and things would be a mess.
- SO, He chose to reveal His presence in the form of a cloud that rested between the wings of the cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant.
- BUT there was a problem!
- IF you were trying to get close to God, the Ark of the Covenant was in the most inaccessible part of the tabernacle.
* Women were not allowed past their court yard. That was as close as they got.
* Gentiles were not allowed past their court yard.
* Only male Jews were allowed as far as the altar to offer sacrifices for their sin.
* Only male Jewish Levites were allowed into the Holy Place, past the altar of sacrifice and past the bronze laver, which was for ceremonial washing.
* The Levites could go into the holy place, and be fairly close to the presence of God…..to tend to the lamp stands, the tables of shew bread, and the altar of incense…but even they were separated from the presence of God by a veil, a curtain about the thickness of a man’s hand that separated even the priests from direct access to God.
- ONLY one man in all the nation of Israel, in all the priesthood, for that matter in the known world had access to God under the provisions of the Old Testament covenant.
* It was the High Priest.
* And he could only go into the Holy of Holies once a year, where the presence of God was.
* And on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would…
- Wash himself because nothing unclean could have access to God.
- Put on carefully prescribed and consecrated clothing, which could not be worn outside of the tabernacle because just being in the presence of God made the clothes holy.
- Offered prescribed sacrifices first for his own sin, and then for the sins of the nation.
- Carried the blood of the sacrifices into the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was and sprinkle the blood on what was called the Mercy Seat for the forgiveness of the nation.
- And tradition tells us that when he went in he wore a rope around his ankle so that if he died in there he could be pulled out because anyone else going in after him would die.
- HARD for you and me to even comprehend, because in America we have access to everything and everyone….even the president if you had the right connections.
- BUT God, who always begins with the end in mind, began His self-revelation in the Old Testament by graphically teaching us that because of sin we are separated from Him….and left without access.
- SO, in the Old Testament covenant, only the priests had limited access to God, and you and I would have had to make do with them telling us what it was like….because there would be no way we would ever get close.
* Our understanding about God depended on the instruction of the Levites and Scribes.
* Our forgiveness depended on what the High Priest did for us with the blood of the sin offering.
* Our petitions and needs would be presented on our behalf by the priests at the altar.
* And on rare occasions God would speak to the nation through prophets in whom He placed His Spirit.
- AND the veil in the tabernacle represented that one thing that separated the people, even most of the priests, from the presence of God.
- FOR everyone except the High Priest, the presence of God was inaccessible behind the veil.
- THIS is why it is no small thing that Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that at the very moment Jesus died on the cross,
“Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:50-51)
- THE veil was made of a woven fabric, the thickness of a man’s hand.
- TEARING it was no small feat.
- IT was torn from top to bottom so no one could claim it was done by any human effort.
- BUT more important, it heralded what God had been planning from before the beginning of time…that His Son would died on the cross to remove the separation between God and humanity and provide access to God.
* Jesus was fully man, so that He would completely represent us before God.
* He was fully God, so His blood sacrifice would be without sin and completely acceptable to the Father for the forgiveness of our sins.
* Jesus, in His physical body fulfilled every provision of the Old Covenant….
- His blood met the requirement of a life given to forgive sins on the bronze altar.
- His purity met the requirement of our cleansing at the bronze laver.
- He met the requirement of the lamp stands by being the Light of the world.
- He met the requirement of the shew bread by being the Bread of Life.
- He met the requirement of the altar of incense by glorifying the Father in His life and death.
- In more details than one sermon can provide, Jesus fulfilled every provision of the old covenant…which was all about one thing, access to God.
- HEBREWS 9:11-12 says of Jesus,
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12)
ii. ACCESS PRODUCES HOPE AND BOLDNESS
- WHAT does all of this mean for you and me?
- THE veil that separated humanity from God has been removed by Jesus death and resurrection, and now through Jesus every one of us in this room has unrestricted access to God.
* If you lack understanding about God, you can ask Him yourself. You don’t have to have someone else teaching you.
* If you need forgiveness of sin, all you have to do is ask. The Bible is clear that you don’t need someone else doing that for you.
* If you need relief from some oppressive situation in your life, the Bible says you can present your need before His throne through the blood of Jesus Christ and come boldly.
* If you lack wisdom in your life, the Bible says, Go before God and ask.
* If you need peace, the Bible says that He will give you the kind that the world knows nothing about.
* If you are having a hard time finding love, the Bible says that God is love and will add it to your life as evidence of His presence in you.
* If your life is just a mess, the Bible says He will run to meet you if you take the first step towards Him.
* And now He doesn’t limit Himself to a specific tabernacle, church or temple…you can call on Him any time and anywhere.
- THE Bible is very explicit about this new unrestricted access to God in the New Testament.
- NOW there is no separation now based on Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor.
- NOW, in 2 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul contrasts this subject of access to God between the Old covenant and the New….and in verses 12-16 he also uses the analogy of a veil.
- IN this case it is a veil over Moses’ face.
- YOU see, back in Exodus, a veil was put over Moses’ face because he had been with God on Mount Sinai…and the glory that shone from his face from the encounter with God would have been painful for a people who were sinful and in rebellion against God.
- SO, to spare the people, Moses separated himself from them with a veil….to cover the glow of the presence of God from the view of the people.
- LET’S pick it up in 2 Corinthians 3:12-13,
“Therefore having such a hope….” (2 Corinthians 3:12-13)
- OF course there is hope now. We all have unrestricted access to God.
- AND the hope of the Bible is not the wishful thinking kind. It is based on the unchanging character of God and His promises.
* We have hope because our sins have been forgiven.
* We have hope because through Jesus Christ we have eternal life.
* We have hope because through Jesus Christ God gives us a full life here and now.
* We have hope because through Jesus Christ our lives have meaning and purpose.
- LET’S go back to what Paul is saying in verse 12,
“Therefore having such a hope we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and 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.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-13)
- MOSES had to wear a veil to keep the glory of God from bringing pain and judgment to the rebellious people….so the veil separated the glory of God from the people for their own sake.
- THE English Standard Version says of verse 13,
“…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.”
- WHAT is it that is being brought to an end?
* The glory of God? No! We learned that last week from the previous verses.
* The Law of God? No! Jesus Himself said that He had not come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it.
* The First Covenant? No! The New Covenant is Jesus fulfilling in every last detail the terms and promises of the Old Covenant. The New fulfills the Old. It doesn’t abolish it.
- SO what is being brought to an end?
- RESTRICTED access to God characterized in the Old Covenant.
- THROUGH Jesus Christ, God has made Himself now totally accessible to every one of us and we can be bold in our speaking of Him and living full of His love and glory.
- GOD is not withholding Himself any longer, so we have hope and can be bold and let Jesus shine through our lives.
iii. ACCESS AVAILABLE ONLY IN CHRIST
- SO what in the world could keep anyone separated from God?
- THE same thing that characterized the Jews of the Old Testament.
- RESISTANCE and HARDENING.
- LOOK at verse 14, as Paul explains why the Jews of the Old Testament were separated from the presence of God….and for the most part have remained separated.
“But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:14)
- THERE is a fundamental hardening of the mind against God….and it is threatening to choke the life out of this country.
- AND the consequence of hardening your mind against God is that the veil that separates you from God stays in place.
- THE only one who can remove the veil from your hardened mind is Jesus.
- YOU have no hope outside of Him.
- IN the very next chapter the apostle Paul puts the same theme this way,
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
- THERE is a way out.
- AS God to take the blinders off your mind so that you can be free to believe…and have access to Him through Jesus Christ.
iv. ACCESS softens THE HUMAN HEART
- ONE last thought on this subject of access, from verses 15-16,
“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” (2 Corinthians 3:15-16)
- REALLY the main difference between these two verses and verse 14 is the location of the veil.
- IN verse 14 the veil is over the mind because of hardening against God.
- IN verse 15 the location of the veil that separates us from God is the heart.
- IT explains why the Bible makes no sense to some.
- THERE is a veil over the hearts, and they are waiting to understand before they turn to the Lord.
- BUT this verse says to turn to the Lord, who will then remove the veil, and you will understand and be able to believe.
- TURN to the Lord!
- IF you feel separated from God.
- IF you feel like you have no access to God, the problem is not on His end.
- HE sent His Son to remove the veil…the one in the temple that separated people from Him and the one in your heart and mine that still keeps us from Him.
- IT is time to turn to Him and receive access to the Father.
* Ask Him to take the veil off your mind.
* Ask Him to take the veil off your heart.
- EVEN if you are not entirely buying this service or this message, what do you have to loose?
- YOU were created for relationship with God.
- YOU are going to be miserable until you are in relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
- ASK Him to remove the veil and see what He will do for you!
JESUS DRAW ME CLOSE