2 Corinthians 3:7-11. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
The Old Covenant was glorious. The Ten Commandments were right, and good, and holy. But they were also death. When Moses came off of the mountain with the tablets of stone, he found the Israelites dancing around a golden calf. They were worshipping an image of God, rather than God himself (at least the first two commandments broken). And so, just like in Eden, the declaration spoken after the commandment was one of condemnation and death. The glory of the law was very short lived.
But then Moses appealed to glory of God’s grace. He begged God to spare the nation. God relented but said he would not stay with the nation – his presence would leave. What Moses did next is pure courage. He prayed to see the glory of God. He told God that he did not want to live without his presence. Exodus 33- 34 tells us the story. God would pass by Moses declaring his glory in his name:
Exodus 34:6-8. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.
Paul says that the New Covenant is even more glorious than the Old- Indeed, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. The Old Covenant was the glory of God WITH us. The New Covenant is the Presence of God WITHIN us. The first impermanent, the second permanent. It’s not just passing by us for a moment. It’s actually alive in us as the Spirit of Christ. Christ and his Spirit is the manifested glory of God. Our permanent glory.
God didn’t kill the Israelites that day. Instead he revealed his glory in his goodness. God’s glory is his goodness. It is his merciful and gracious nature. His steadfast love and faithfulness. His forgiveness.
But it is also his commitment to defeat sin. He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. This last phrase does not mean that God will punish children for their parent’s mistakes (in fact the word generation isn’t in the original Hebrew). The idea is that God will not rest until sin is eradicated from humanity.
God’s glory, the glory of the New Covenant, is that God’s perfect love and grace will collide with his perfect holiness and perfection. He will forgive and yet destroy every sin. This great glory of God was revealed on the day Jesus died. The most shame filled day in history was also the most glorious day. By his death, every sin is both forgiven and by his resurrection every sin is overcome.
Now, by his ascension, and indwelling we are partakers of this glory. A glory beyond the death inducing ministry of the law. A permanent glory. A sin crushing glory. A life giving glory.
“To live is Christ” is to have permanent glory. No more searching and striving for glory. No more grasping and panting after it. No more glory chasing. No more begging for glory from outside of us, even God’s glory. God’s glory, the glory of grace and holiness, is now inside of us forever as a person. A person who loves you and gave himself for you.
How have you been chasing after impermanent glory like a golden calf? How does union with Christ give to us a permanent glory or significance? Do you believe that all of your sins are forgiven and destroyed forever? If your answer is no, how does that belittle the cross of Christ and union with Christ?