The Vail Done Away in Christ

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WE cannot sufficiently admire the wisdom of God who has given us a detailed history of Israel, for it is written especially " for our admonition." It shows clearly and distinctly that man is unable to preserve his position before God when he is put under responsibility. Yet the whole history cannot produce this conviction in the conscience ; only the quickening power of the Spirit of God can show man his hopeless ruin brought about through sin. But once truly convicted of sin, he is able to profit by the teaching of the history of Israel as to the fruitlessness of the law. "He that is spiritual judgeth all things." (1 Cor. 2:1515But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (1 Corinthians 2:15).)
But their history teaches us yet more. It shows us in an especial manner the blinding power of traditional religion, even where it is connected with an originally divinely-appointed organisation. Such a system tends only to blind man as to his position before God. " Their minds are blinded : for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament." (2 Cor. 3:1414But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:14).) Their own history in the desert, the song of Moses in testimony against them (Deut. 32), the testimony of Samuel against the evil of the priesthood, the ministry of the prophets bringing low their pride (Hos. 6:55Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. (Hosea 6:5)), while strengthening the saints for the fight through His gracious promises, the captivity of Babylon and the deliverance, the renewal of the word of the Lord through John the Baptist (Luke 3:22Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. (Luke 3:2)), and that after a sad silence of 400 years, the ministry of the Lord Himself, and later that of His apostles with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, all was unavailing to remove the vail from the face of Moses. " Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart." (2 Cor. 3:1515But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. (2 Corinthians 3:15).)
The vail can be taken off the face of Moses only under one condition. Moses and Elias appeared with Jesus at His transfiguration on the holy mount, but disappeared at these solemn words, " This is My beloved Son : hear Him." (Luke 9:28-3628And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. 33And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. (Luke 9:28‑36).) Taught of God, we come to Jesus, and then learn to look back upon Moses. We must do this before we can look from Moses to Christ with intelligence and profit. If we know the Lord, the vail drops from the face of Moses, " which is done away in Christ." (2 Cor. 3:1414But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:14).) After the disciples had seen the Lord risen from the dead, He opened their understanding that they might know the Scriptures. " And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me." (Luke 24:4444And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44).) The conversion of Paul the Pharisee to the faith of Jesus presents us with a remarkable example of the removal of the vail in Christ. From the moment that the Lord appeared to him on the way, and that he saw that the Jesus of Nazareth, against whom he verily thought that he ought to do many things (Acts 26:99I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (Acts 26:9)), was in truth the Lord of glory, from that moment the vail was removed from the face of Moses as well as from his own heart. The same man, who was more zealous than all his contemporaries for the religion of his fathers, was made especially competent, after he had in his own heart learned the reality (the body of Col. 2:1717Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:17)), to show others the danger of keeping to the shadow when the body had been revealed. He too could clearly see the glorious end which previously had been proclaimed in the shadows of the law, viz., " Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth " (Rom. 10:44For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)), for the law and the prophets prophesied until John.
The vail was taken off in Christ in such a way that Paul could show the Jews through the history of the people of Israel the sovereign grace of God towards them as a nation, and at the same time prove that as a nation they never could hope to stand before God under the law, as they had imagined in their foolishness. Likewise, the apostle could throw down from their lofty station those who said, " We know that God spake unto Moses" (John 9:1919And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? (John 9:19)), and show that they had as little claim to the glory of God as the sinner of the Gentiles. " For He saith unto Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Rom. 9:1515For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Romans 9:15).)
The true character of Moses' ministry as the mediator of the old covenant could only be known by a man in Christ after the vail had been removed from the face of Moses. A man who thus is under gracq can not only see the glory of this grace under the vail on the face of Moses, but also understand, through the removal of this vail, the true character of the law as the ministration of death and judgment. " Do we make void the law through faith ? God forbid ; yea, we establish the law." (Rom. 3:3131Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Romans 3:31).) The man in Christ fully owns the authority of the law ; he owns that for the man in the flesh the law can only mean death and judgment, and thus establishes the authority of the law. " The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good." (Rom. 7:1212Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Romans 7:12).) For the man in Christ the law has been established, because Christ has magnified it both in life and death. " Jehovah is well pleased for His righteousness' sake ; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable." (Isa. 42:2121The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable. (Isaiah 42:21).) Christ was " made under law, to redeem them that were under law." (Gal. 4:4, 54But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4‑5).) The introduction into the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free-the liberty of worship -gives us a true insight into the bondage from which they had been set free, and into the curse from which they had been redeemed. Those who know these things would not like to frustrate the grace of God, nor make the death of Christ of none effect by going back to the law for help, for they have learned that nothing but the fullest grace could meet their needs. The vail has been removed from the face of Moses, and now grace shines out in clear, bright rays.
To the man in Christ the removal of the vail from the face of Moses is of special importance, because that which was before an insupportable yoke becomes thereby a living reality. See how Peter speaks of it : " Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear ? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." (Acts 15:10, 1110Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Acts 15:10‑11).) When Peter knew the Lord this whole system, with its heavy yoke of carnal ordinance, was imbued with living power. The moment the vail fell from the face of Moses all the solemn commandments about sacrifices, priesthood, order, fat, etc., became " living oracles " ; they all spoke of Christ. The law itself was a prophecy. The shadow received-now that the body, Christ, had appeared—a meaning and an interest, while by itself it had been uninteresting and insupportable. The shadows can now with profit be used to show the reality, i.e. the manifold riches of the graces of Christ, for " the body is of Christ." (Col. 2:1717Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:17).) But to impose them again as duties would be to deny Christ, or to imitate them as examples would be to put those far off again who " were made nigh through the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:1313But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13).)
In Christ, the true Rock cleft for us, the glory of God is manifested and His name proclaimed, " if so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious " (1 Peter 2:33If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:3)); and here is this grace, " I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious." (Ex. 33:19, 2219And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Exodus 33:19)
22And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: (Exodus 33:22)
.) "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4, 54To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4‑5).) This is the easy yoke and the light burden which Jesus lays upon those who follow Him, and this is their true honour and glory. They are justified, sanctified, and a royal priesthood, therefore able to show forth the praises of Him who hath called them " out of darkness into His marvellous light." Every dimness regarding Moses is gone ; the law is now apprehended as that which only ministers condemnation ; and instead of making it of none effect by accommodating it to man, it is now seen to reveal the total ruin of man.
The prophetic character of the law is not only made plain, but also rejoices the heart, showing us in beautiful types " the good things to come " which we already enjoy in Christ. Yet the types remain far behind the reality ; they are only shadows, not the things themselves, just as a portrait representing a beautiful scene remains far inferior to the scene itself. The vail is done away in Christ, and Moses shows himself as the herald of grace-grace in electing love, grace which quickens the sinner dead in trespasses and sins, grace which opens the eyes to see the glory of Christ in His Person and in His work, grace which is the way of God bearing the misery of the people, in short, " grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:2121That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21).)
There are two things of deepest importance for us. We read : " Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:33Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3).) A man thus quickened feels the power and knows the blessing of the commandment : " Look unto Me, and be ye saved." (Isa. 45:2222Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22).) He that is born of God finds alone rest by looking away from himself to Christ. For him Jesus the crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God. But when led on through the Holy Spirit in the teaching of the cross, he understands too the truth about the substitution of Christ, viz., that God " bath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin ; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him " (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)), then is the one who is born of the Spirit capable of viewing the thing from another standpoint. He can then turn his looks back from Christ to himself, from that which grace has made him in Christ to that which he finds himself to be through painful experience. Christ becomes for him the true light, and he himself " light in the Lord." The man, new born, is thus able to solve the contradictions which he finds in himself, and to justify God in His ways of grace.