The Heavy Veil
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 3:12-18)
This veil that hardens the heart and blinds the mind is a mindset of forcing everything through a legal interpretation of salvation. In addition it is insisting that external performance, behavior management and self-discipline is the way to get right with God. It is believing that God demands perfect obedience as a prerequisite before relenting to accept or love anyone.
An even more subtle form of this veil is a counterfeit gospel teaching that the perfect performance of Jesus along with a sufficient punishment of torture and death was inflicted on Him instead of on repentant sinners. This veil portrays an angry, offended God and blinds the eyes of millions who think they have escaped the legalistic mentality. Yet they are just as enmeshed in legalism as are those they scorn as legalists. The underlying problem on the part of both sides is the issue of believing that the problem of sin is a legal one that demands punishment by God or perfect obedience. Whether attempting to placate God with working hard to achieve a modicum of perfection, or insisting that Jesus' performance and/or punishment in our place satisfies the demands of God and/or His Law as a substitute for our performance, the fatal flaw on both sides is the notion that God is fixated on behavior, that He rewards the good performance achieved by religious people and demands His pound of flesh from someone before His wrath can be appeased so He can allow converted sinners to remain alive while going unpunished themselves.
Both the rigid legalist trying to work with formulas to perfect their behavior in order to achieve some standard of righteousness, along with those relying on a substitute performer acting as a fall guy to take the hit from God in their place, both are trapped under a veil of false presumptions about the nature of sin along with distorted perceptions of God's attitude toward sinners as well as the function of law.
Note how Paul declares that only in Christ is this veil set aside. Paul is not referring to some fictional penal substitute behind which we can hide in fear from an vengeful God bent on destroying us unless His demands are met. Paul is referring to the stunning truth that every human being has a full and completely perfect identity because they are already in Christ. Being in Christ has nothing to do with satisfying some legal demand but rather has everything to do with our true identity and value.
A major problem that many have is that they have come to believe that God's Law somehow has greater authority than even God Himself, forcing Him to comply with its demands over His own desires. Yet this too is a fabrication invented by our diseased imagination that religion teaches, that the Law (presumably apart in some way from God) must be satisfied either by us or by God or a substitute before sinners can be restored into harmony with God.
The real truth is that what we really need most is a willingness to embrace the stunning truth that our identity now is derived solely from our new Ancestor of Origin, the second Adam of the human race, Jesus our Messiah. He is now the only one with the authority to determine our identity and value, and what He says about us is true because God cannot lie and He is God.
Pitting the Law against Jesus is a distortion of reality, a disastrous one that has caused millions to go into despair and hopelessness. The Law of God is not something apart from God but is merely a description of what God is like and thus what we are designed to reflect as normal human beings. Jesus did not defeat or nullify the Law but restored it to it original function as a description of our identity as it originally was in the beginning. Jesus joined the human race to reunite all humanity back into harmony with the principles of life that humanity was originally designed to naturally live in order to bring glory to God and vindicate His reputation. Doing so will ensure that His kingdom can be forever established on the secure foundation of love alone. Yet it is this very reality that is obscured by the heavy veil of imagining that the Law is greater than God Himself causing us to worship the Law rather than reflecting our God who is pure love.
Now lets take a closer look at the context that Paul used to explain the problem of this veil.
...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; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory! (2 Corinthians 3:6-11)
The heavy veil of a fixation on rule-keeping instead of love-reflecting is what Paul calls the ministry of death. This should be a sobering wake-up call for all of us. At the same time, the wrong alternative is to pretend that the Law of God no longer exists or carries any validity. The core problem is defining our identity based on our performance. This false method of defining value and identity based on performance, doctrinal purity or measuring our worth based on anything other than how God defines us in Christ leads to death. Any assumption that we must become good enough to be saved, either directly or through some sort of legal maneuver, comes from the Tree that God warned Adam about, the Tree promoting a system based on rewards and punishments to manipulate behavior and determine value and identity. This has been our fundamental problem ever since our first parents chose to take humanity into the kingdom of darkness. But Jesus restores us back into His kingdom of life by reinstating the true measurement of identity in order to displace our false perceptions about what makes us valuable.
This veil of death that blinds us and prevents us from enjoying the life Jesus came to restore to us is in stark contrast to the head-covering that Paul mentions elsewhere designed to restore us back into harmony with our original intent to enjoy eternal life.
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)
When we tie this to the previous passage we can see a connection between the word of God and how the Spirit gives us life. The Spirit does not make arrangements to defeat or circumvent the Law of God but rather re-instills into the core of our being an awareness of our true identity and worth. Because it is an principle that our words and actions reflect what we believe deep in our heart, what the Spirit does is renew our thinking and heart beliefs resulting in corresponding fruit in our actions and attitudes. God knows that until this root cause is dealt with, no amount of education about the Law will help us live in harmony with the Law. Only by healing and restoring our heart by living in His love can our lives be salvaged and returned to reflecting God's character as we were originally designed to do.
The helmet of salvation significantly is located over the head meaning it has everything to do with the transforming our mind. It is our thinking and imagination that is the root of our problem with sin, not our behavior. Sinful behavior is inevitably whenever lies are believed, for lies result in distrust and fear which lead us to seek other ways to live apart from resting in God's love for us.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Salvation does not mean getting us into heaven to escape the pain and suffering in this world. Salvation is rather about healing the damage and displacing the lies from our thinking and our hearts so that the truth as it is in Jesus can be reinstalled as our default operating system internally. This is the job of the Holy Spirit, to transform all of our thinking about who God is and also our beliefs about our own identity. When we believe the truth that our identity comes solely from Jesus and nowhere else, believing the truth about who we really are will result in the fruit of the Spirit manifesting in our lives and we will no longer obsess over how well we keep the Law.
The good news of salvation that transforms us and restores the image of God in us is the truth that God is only love and is not dualistic in nature like we so many have assumed. In addition the good news includes the truth about ourselves as being defined by Jesus our new human ancestor Adam. By taking over from the first Adam Jesus gained the right to define what it means to be human for every person. We are now no longer defined by the sin of our first father Adam and mother Eve but now are defined by the human Jesus who demonstrated what it looks like to act like ourselves as normal reflectors of the likeness of God. This is the definition of righteousness.
The prophets of old were given glimpses into this truth that would only be made clear by Jesus. Isaiah prophesied accurately how Jesus would have to take things into His own hands to resolve the problem caused by humanity's identity crisis.
He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle. (Isaiah 59:16-17)
Lest we continue to be deceived by dark thinking about what constitutes God's vengeance and fury, we must remember that Jesus is the only perfect exhibition of the truth both about what God is like as well as what it means to be a normal human being. With this perspective we can perceive that when God thinks of vengeance it is totally different than how we think of vengeance. The same applies to fury, wrath and all the other terms that often confuse us about God and lead us to think He is more like us than like Jesus.
He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being.... (Hebrews 1:3)
This breastplate of righteousness mentioned in Isaiah 59 is something Jesus wore naturally; it was not something He achieved by working hard to live a perfect life or produce a perfect score that could then be swapped out with our imperfect scores so we could sneak into heaven. Remember that a breastplate covers the heart, and this is significant in the use of this metaphor and can just as well be perceived as being the heart itself. Righteousness simply means being right, functioning mentally and emotionally in harmony with the principles of life as God designed it. Because roots produce fruit and operate on the foundational principle of cause and effect, the righteousness of Christ is not an external achievement but rather the natural example of how a heart right with God expresses itself.
The helmet of salvation that Jesus wore was not something that changed Him but rather was the protection of solid truth in His mind that He maintained during His entire life on earth. He did this through an unbroken reliance on and connection to His Father. This protective truth surrounding the head to preserve truth in the mind was how Jesus lived His whole life As a human being Jesus was a reflector of the God He believed in just as all of us reflect what we imagine God to be like. The difference for Jesus was that by clinging constantly in dependence on His Father's love for Him, Jesus demonstrated that any human can live a perfect life of harmony with God's character simply by imitating His example of total reliance on God instead of their own ideas, desires or opinions.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14:10)
Jesus then, is the template provided for every human being to displace the heavy veil of all alternative attempts to win God's favor or gain salvation. Abiding in the love of God, trusting the heart of God and allowing the Spirit full access to our heart results in a transformation that prepares us to live safely in the fiery presence of God's passionate love. No amount of rule-keeping has any affect to prepare us to live in God's presence, for it will only harden the heart and set us up to resent the kind of love the Father has when we see it in its true character. The heart hardened by resistance to God's love views that kind of love as scandalous, repulsive and even immoral. Tragically those who work the hardest to get themselves right with the Law usually damage their own heart to react in anger when the true nature of God's character is fully revealed.
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.' (Matthew 7:22-23)
This is the surprising outcome of choosing the heavy veil of forced conformity to the law rather than being transformed from the heart by an intimate knowledge of the God revealed in Jesus Christ. The outcome will be shocking for those people, but it is inevitable unless they repent and change the way they perceive reality and God. The only way to be reintegrated back into the kingdom of life is through restoration in a healing relationship with our Creator.
From these metaphors it might appear that wearing a helmet would be much more cumbersome and heavy than wearing a veil. Or maybe that is in the nature of our thinking backwards about nearly everything since sin distorted our perceptions. According to Paul, this obscuring veil is a result of clinging to what he calls the ministry of death, while the helmet of salvation leads to life. Personally I think I would rather be wearing a helmet instead of a veil if I were expecting to be caught in a fire-fight with enemies. And this may well be why Scripture uses these metaphors, for while a helmet provides protection as well as transformation of the mind, a veil over our face blinds us to the reality of what is really going on around us while leaving us vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.
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 3:17-18)
The glory of God that can only be seen clearly in the right spirit is the truth about love as revealed by Jesus' reflection of Him. By focusing on God's love instead of the Law, our hearts and minds are transformed to reflect the same glory we are absorbing, and the natural outcome of focusing on God's love produces a life in harmony with the Law that describes what love looks like in action.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:1-8)
I have come to realize that when Paul uses the term according to the flesh he is referring to all external ways of measuring identity and worth. This is in contrast to his phrase according to the Spirit which is his way of referring to the true identity and value we all have received based on how Jesus redefined what it means to be human different than how our first Adam defined it. This distinction between identity based on performance, looks, education or anything else and identity based on Jesus is why Paul said, Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16 NAS95) Christ was not perfect because of His performance of a good life; He was perfect because He reflected a perfect Father. The first is viewing Him according to the flesh, the second is according to the perspective of the Spirit.
With this in mind it is much easier to appreciate many things Paul teaches about what it means to be in Christ. Embracing the truth about our real identity along with the truth about the kind of God we are to reflect is how our mind and heart become renewed to produce the fruit of the Spirit of God living in us. This is how our lives come to fulfill the Law without overtly attempting to align ourselves with its rigid descriptions of perfection. The only way to be harmonized with perfection is to allow the heart to be so ravished by the perfect love of God that it results in righteousness occurring naturally. Any other method attempting to align ourselves with the Law only throws a blanket over our head, a heavy veil plunging us into the darkness of deception about reality, about God and about our true identity.
Putting on the helmet of salvation/healing is the only way to be brought into harmony with the Law. The entire list of armor we need listed in Ephesians 6 constitutes the key factors needed for bringing us into harmony with God, and it begins with truth – the truth about ourselves as well as the real truth about God. Without coming to complete honesty about ourselves as well as our condition of selfishness and blindness, it will be impossible for the rest of the armor to operate effectively.
Just as important as being honest in admitting the real truth about our deep-seated selfishness and deceived condition, is embracing the truth that our selfishness and malfunctions have nothing to do with our identity; they are the result of being hijacked by spirits of evil that convince us we are evil like they are. We do need to take responsibility for our cooperation with the evil ones that overtake our thinking, but it is important to reject any notion that these spirits define who we are at our core. This applies to everyone else around us as well. Our only identity and our true value can only be perceived in what God says we are in Christ. Embracing this truth is how we put on the helmet of salvation having power to heal and transform our thinking and to synchronize us with the heart of the One we are to reflect.
So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)