From this the apostle turns in a peculiarly touching way to the saints at Corinth. His spirit felt that his last allusions to a triumph, in contrast with those who trafficked in truth (never then given out with genuine purity), might expose to unkind personality. He therefore, in disclaiming the need of human commendation in any form, lets out what grace forms in the heart before contrasting the law with the gospel.
11 Begin we again to commend ourselves? or* need we, as some, recommendatory epistles unto you or† from you? Ye are our epistle inscribed in our‡ hearts, known and read by all men, being manifested that ye are Christ's epistle ministered by us, having been inscribed, not with ink, but [the] Spirit of [the] living God, not on tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of [the] heart (or, hearts) §. And such confidence have we through the Christ toward God; not that we are competent from ourselves to reckon anything as of ourselves, but our competency [is] of God, who also made us competent [as] servants of [the] new covenant, not of letter but of spirit, for the letter killeth but the spirit quickeneth." (Vers. 1-6.)
* (not εἰ as A K L P, etc., which follows) μή B C D E F G etc. The Auth. V. here rejects Er. Compl. St. Be. for the reading of Colinaeus and the Vulg.
† The second συστατικῶν added in Text. Rec. following most MSS is rejected by the best witnesses.
‡ , half a dozen cursives, and versions too, exhibit the strange blunder of ὑμῶν for ἡμ "in your hearts."
§ καρδίαις "hearts" in apposition with pl., "tablets," is read by high authority ( AB C D E G L P, five and twenty cursives, etc.); the common reading καρδίας "of the heart," by F K, most cursives, and almost all ancient versions; etc.
It is plain that there was then, as now, the practice of giving and receiving letters in commending stranger brethren to the assemblies. And a valuable means of introduction as well as guard it is, provided we hold it in spirit, not in letter: otherwise we might fail doubly, in refusing those who ought to be received, where circumstances have hindered the requisite voucher, and in receiving those who, being deceivers, can supply themselves with any letter which may the more effectually mislead. The aim of all such provisions is to afford adequate testimony to the assembly of God, which is in no way bound to a form however excellent, if wanting, provided perchance other means of godly satisfaction leave no reasonable hesitation to those who judge fairly and in love. It is mischievous when that which God uses for our mutual comfort is perverted by legalism into an instrument of spiritual torture, as may be sometimes the lack of a commendatory note, or some kindred informality.
But the apostle turns, from the supposed imputation of seeking to commend himself, to foster in the Corinthian saints somewhat of the love which burned so warmly in his own bosom. If he, if an apostle, could be supposed to need a commendatory epistle, surely not Paul to or from the assembly in Corinth! As he adds, with as much beauty as affection, "Ye are our epistle," not in process of being "written," but this already done and abidingly (ἐγγεγραμμένη "in our hearts," whereas it was but becoming "known and read by all men," as was also their manifestation that they were Christ's epistle, "ministered" as a past fact (διακονηθεῖσα by us, "written" as it has been and was (ἐγγεγραμμένη "not with ink, but the living God's Spirit," not on tablets of stone, but on fleshy tablets - hearts, or of the heart.
It was a wonderful thing to call any company of saints in this world Paul's epistle, that which set forth his mind and heart, the fruit of his testimony in the Spirit to the world. Such he declares the Corinthian assembly to be, no mere tongue-work this, but "written in our hearts," yet without doubt intended for men generally to learn by, as he says, "known and read by all men." Such is the church, not a thing of creedism, or a subscription to paper-and-ink articles, however pure in their place, but an epistle to set forth livingly what the apostle taught and felt. Here he goes farther still; for even of those saints, who had caused him such shame and pain, but now consolation and joy, he does not hesitate to say that they were manifestly showing themselves to be Christ's epistle ministered by him. Paul might be the means, but Christ was the end; and just as God wrote the law on stone for Israel, so now does the Spirit grave Christ on the fleshy tablets of the Christian's heart, that the world may read Christ in the church. It will be noticed too, that this epistle says they are; it is no mere question of a duty, but of a positive relationship which is the ground of the duty. If we are Christ's epistle, as the apostle declares to the Corinthians, we should assuredly convey His mind and affections truly and without blot. The truth abides for us, which wrought on them; and so does the Spirit of the living God; and thus we are inexcusable in our failure. At least may we own and feel it, that grace may work in us as in those who had fallen so short!
"And such confidence have we through the Christ toward God." Christianity not only excludes despair but gives assurance, and this on the firmest ground with God, even Christ, whose work puts the believer into the same acceptance, nearness, and favour as our Lord enjoyed through His own personal relationship and perfection as man. This is the meaning, aim, and effect of a Saviour such as He is: less than this would be to slight Him and His work, and the new creation and relationships which are the fruit of it. But here the apostle speaks of confidence as regards his ministry, which is no less true and flows from the same grace. For it is all the expression of God's love in Christ to us and to Christ in the delight of His glorification of God; and in the power of one so able to give it effect as the Holy Spirit. Therefore the apostle could not doubt, but cherishes a confidence, measured by God's estimate of what was due to Christ whom He had sent to testify and prove His love, and now had glorified on high in witness of the perfection of His work. But along with it goes the most earnest disclaimer of any intrinsic competency, while owning it given of God to serve in new covenant order, but even here of spirit, not of letter. For literally it remains to be applied to the houses of Israel and of Judah, though the blood is shed and accepted, on which its efficacy rests. But this only the more suits the genius of Christianity, where the principles stand out in the light, and the truth is told plainly as here: "for the letter killeth, but the spirit [that is, the mind of God couched under the forms which unbelief never seizes] quickeneth." And this is universally true; for if the letter were more glaringly perilous of old, there is always the danger of deserting the spirit for it, even under the gospel.
The apostle proceeds next, in a long parenthesis (7-16) to contrast the respective services of the law and of the gospel, the ever rising debate wherever Christ is named and known. And no wonder, for sovereign grace is not natural to the heart, though it alone reveals God fully. The believer himself never keeps grace fresh, pure, or even true, save as consciously in God's presence, with Christ before him. As in Christ thus, it is simple and appreciated as the one principle and power which suits either God on the one hand, or those He saves on the other. Grace alone puts each in the place which befits them. But the effect or assumption of the mind even in the believer to take up grace and reason it out, apart from present dependence, is as bad or worse than misuse of the law; for conscience answers to the law when it condemns every evil way, but faith is needed for grace. Outside God's presence it is but allowance of sin. In His presence grace deals with sin far more overwhelmingly than law, as is evident in the cross of Christ. Only there can the believer enjoy grace safely, happily, and holily: and there is no possibility of having peace in His presence but through grace - grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
"But if the ministry of death in letter,* graven on stones, came in with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently toward the face of Moses for the glory of his face, that was to be done away, how shall not the ministry of the Spirit more be in glory? For if the ministry of condemnation [have]† glory, much more doth the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For even that which hath been glorified, hath not‡ been glorified in this respect on account of the surpassing glory. For if that to be done away [was] with glory, much more what abideth [is] in glory. "
It is of moment to notice that the apostle reasons here on Exodus 34 not on Exodus 20 as in Hebrews 12 It is a question, not of law pure and simple, when God's voice shook the earth, with a sight of terror which caused even Moses to be full of trembling; but of law when given the second time, accompanied by the mercy which not only forgave but accepted mediation. It was a mixture of law with grace, and precisely what people now conceive to be Christianity. But this is what is designated the ministry of death in letter, engraven on stones. For on the second time, not on the first, it was introduced with glory (ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ and then, not before, was there any difficulty for the sons of Israel steadily to gaze at his face. Only then are we told that the skin of the face of Moses shone (Ex. 34), and that the Israelites were afraid to come nigh him. It was the glory of Jehovah which caused his face thus to shine, an effect entirely peculiar to the second occasion. Nevertheless this is styled "the ministry of death." The mercy which had spared Israel did not alter its character, nor did the glory which shone in the Mediator's face. How different is that which the Spirit now ministers in a dead, risen, and glorified Christ! The reflection of glory in Moses' case was but a passing fact: it was neither intrinsic nor permanent, but to be done away. Not so Christ's. Here all that is the fruit of His work abides. It has everlasting value. It is no question of letter, nor of graving on stones, but of a divine Saviour yet a man, who has glorified God atoningly as to sin, not in living obedience only but up to death, the death of the cross, and is thereon glorified in heaven, yea, in God Himself, and gives the believer, once a wretched, guilty, and lost sinner, now washed, sanctified and justified, a righteous title to stand in perfect grace, to be with Him in glory, one with Him even now by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. This is the gospel, this the ministry of the Spirit which abides and is assuredly abundant "in glory."
* γράμματι (sing.) B D F G, Pesch., Arm.; γράμμασιν (plur.) in much the more numerous copies, and versions, and all the fathers.
† τῃ δ A C Dp.m. F G, Syrr., etc.; but ἡ δ most MSS., versions, etc.
‡ οὐ the best MSS. and versions and Fathers; οὐδέ Text. Rec. following many cursives. etc.
But the law requires righteousness, and man being a sinner cannot yield it. The law is necessarily, therefore, a ministry of death (ver. 7), and the more brightly God's goodness shines, the worse it is for the sinner, for he is only the more proved worthless and guilty. In the gospel righteousness is revealed to faith, not required: for Christ Himself is the righteousness of the believer, and the work was done and accepted before God sent out the gospel of His grace to man. The Spirit, therefore, testifies to a man at God's right hand, who suffered once for sins on the cross, and declared that by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. Hence the Holy Spirit, as He sealed Christ the righteous One without blood when on earth, now seals us when washed from our sins in His blood, and rests on us as the Spirit of glory and of God. (Ver. 8.) We are put, therefore, in association with Christ on high and await His coming to bring us there. The law, on the contrary, not only hills but condemns; it brings sense of guilt on the conscience, and God as a judge of the evil actually done. Hence it can only be a ministry of condemnation (ver. 9), as well as of death, whatever the glory that marked its enactment; whereas the gospel is the ministry of righteousness already accomplished in Christ and the portion of the believer; and that righteousness abides unchanged and glorious in Christ above. Hence the ministry of the Spirit is also that of righteousness.
As the righteousness is a fact of free grace in One who loves no perfectly, so has the glory the same attraction, unlike the glory which alarmed Israel, even in the face of Moses. The light which shines from Christ glorified speaks of the efficacy of His sacrifice; the brighter the light, the clearer the proof that our every sin is cleansed away by His blood. It is the light of divine glory, doubtless, but flowing from redemption. His title to be in heaven is not His person only, but the work which God His Father gave Him to do, that as surely as we know Him in the Father, we should also know that we are in Him and He in us. Most wondrous! yet the simple truth of Christ and the Christian. But what is so wonderful as the truth? Yet Christ accounts for it all, and His work brings us who believe into it all. Such is grace in the ministry of the Spirit by righteousness.
And as the glory of God's grace in Christ completely dims by excess of brightness His glory in the law (ver. 10), so also does the transitory or temporary character of the latter proclaim its incomparable inferiority to the former which abides (ver. 15), as indeed it ought; inasmuch as it flows from and expresses the will of God, while the other only condemns and executes sentence on the evil of man already fallen and disobedient.
A few details may be useful in helping the reader to appreciate the remarkably compressed phraseology of these verses. ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ means that the law was introduced in or with glory, rather than that it existed in glory. The verb is changed when we come to the Spirit and His ministry, subsisting in glory. It is an error, however, to suppose that the future ἔσται is one of time; it is rather of inference. There is no allusion here to the coming glory. The apostle points emphatically to what the Spirit is ministering now. It is hard to express, but important to bear in mind, the abstract nature of the contrast, τὸ καταργούμενον and τὸ μένόν the present participle of character, apart from time, not of actual fact.
Lastly, it is at best oversight to affirm that διὰ δόξης and ἐν δόξῃ present a mere variation of expressions without a difference of meaning. Never does scripture thus change words without a fresh thought and a distinct purpose. ἐν δ is admirably adapted when connected (not with ἐγενήθη but) with μένον to set forth permanence of glory; διὰ δ a mere accompanying condition of what was to pass away. Rom_3:30; Rom_5:10, prove difference, not sameness, of force, whatever Winer may say (Moulton's edition, pp. 453, 512), or the commentators misled by such laxity, as Alford, Hodge, etc.
This leads the apostle in the Spirit to apply the incident of Moses with and without a veil, as before of the glory of his face. He glories that in the gospel all is open. It is no longer the unhappy though wholesome detection of sin in man, but the plain revelation of good from God in Christ, and this righteously through His cross, yea, gloriously in His place at God's right hand in heaven: the ground of our association with heaven now, and of glory there not in spirit only but in body at His coming. In Judaism man could not bear to hear the truth, which was the sentence of death to flesh; in Gentilism all was doubt or deception. In the gospel we can speak plainly: it is God's good news of His Son. There is no reason or motive for reserve, but just the contrary. We cannot be too open. So the love of God who gave such a treasure would have it. Leave darkness to Rabbis and philosophers, who love it rather than light.
"Having then such hope we use much openness of speech: and not as Moses used to put a veil on his own face, that the sons of Israel should not look stedfastly unto the end of that to be done away, But their thoughts were darkened [lit. hardened]; for until this very day the same veil at the reading of the old covenant abideth unremoved [lit. unveiled], which in Christ is done away.* But unto this day when Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart. But whenever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken off." (Ver. 12-16.)
* Or, It not being unveiled (that is, revealed) that (or, because) in Christ it is done away.
Christianity is no system of restraint on evil in the first man, with ordinances suited to the flesh in the world, and God afar off in the dark, but founded on the grace of Christ, who, after establishing righteousness by the cross, is gone up into heavenly glory, and is ministered by the Holy Ghost in power. Hence the unseen, the future, and the everlasting converge on the believer now; and having such a hope one can be thoroughly outspoken: there are the strongest motives for openness in every way, in contrast with the dimness, distance, and reserve of the law. Not only did God in Christ come down to man, but, now that his evil has been judicially and conclusively dealt with in the cross, man can go up - nay, has already sat down at His right hand - in the person of our Saviour and Head. The accomplishment of redemption, as it closed the ministry of death, opened the way and became the basis of the ministry of the Spirit, to abide in glory. The previous state of concealment, where man had such reason to dread the sight of glory according to the law, is set forth in Moses putting a veil on his face when he spoke with the children of Israel outside.† whereas he in variably put it off whenever he went in before Jehovah.
† I am aware that the late Dean Alford affirms in his Greek Testament (ii. 645, 5th ed., 1865) that "a mistake has been made with regard to the history in Exo_34:33-35 which has considerably obscured the understanding of the verse . It is commonly assumed that Moses spoke to the Israelites, having the veil on his face; and this is implied in our version -'Till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.' But the LXX (and Heb.) gave a different account: καὶ ἐκειδῃ κατέπαυσεν λαλῶν πρὼς αὐτούς ἐπέθηκεν ἐπὶ τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ κάλυμμα He spoke to them without the veil, with his face shining and glorified; - when he had done speaking, he placed the veil on his face: and that not because they were afraid to look on him, but as here, that they might not look on the end, or the fading of that transitory glory," etc. But the mistake is in Dean A. following the Septuagint and at most the letter of the Heb. in verse 33, so as to contradict or neutralise the plain force of the context, and especially verse 35. The meaning ought never to have been questioned, that, while Moses talked to the people without, he covered This face, but removed the veil when he went in to speak with Jehovah. Verse 30 is clear that, because his face shone, the people were afraid to come nigh, and he therefore put on the veil which he took off when he went in before Jehovah till he came out. The Vulgate, like the Sept., sacrifices the sense to the letter; and the two have misled many.
The christian position is in the fullest contrast with that of Israel, to which tradition and human thoughts of unbelief would ever in principle reduce us. It suits reason and conscience guided by it, and our estimate of self as well as of God, where Christ and His work have no distinctive and commanding place. Hence not only do the utmost extremes meet here, popish and puritanical, but also that via media, which pleases the moderate men of all parties, rationalist or nonconformist, who on the one hand rightly venerate the law as clothed with God's authority, but on the other see not the wholly new position grace has placed us in by redemption, answering to Christ glorified on high, who has sent down the Spirit that we might enjoy it to the full, and walk accordingly. For we find our privilege Godward typified in Moses unveiled, not with the veil on. We behold Christ and His work in the ritualistic system, which conveyed to the Israelite only precepts to kill a lamb, a goat, or a bullock, with the blood brought in before God, and to sprinkle themselves with the water of separation, or the like. The law made nothing perfect. It (and not the speculative thought of the Greek, nor the political wisdom of Rome) was the true nursery of man in his nonage, the divine pro-paedeutic, shutting up to the faith about to be revealed.
Israel through unbelief slighted grace when shown to them abundantly, and forgot the promises which God had made to the fathers, which faith would have remembered and felt the need of. They therefore doubted not for a moment their ability to keep His law, and so maintain their place with Him. Granted that this was their deepest ignorance, both of God as a judge according to law, and of themselves as guilty and powerless sinners; and that scripture reveals their ruin under law, that the Gentile should avoid the snare and find their resource, strength, and blessing, all and only in Christ by God's sovereign grace. How awful then the darkness which has deliberately put Christendom back into the self-same position of law, as the rule of people to live by, after the proclamation of God's mercy! This is what not only the multitude believe but the doctors have taught, Protestant no less than popish; this is the prevalent doctrine, alike Presbyterian and Prelatical, Methodist or Congregational. It is the mind active and exercised on what God used as a probationary system, but as unable to look to the end of it as the Jew of old, rebellious against its transitory character, and blind to the surpassing glory of what is now revealed in Christ.
It is solemn to reflect on those once the people of God, now Lo-Ammi, in zeal for their forms rejecting Christ who gives them their real meaning and chief, if not only, value. But so it is and must be. How could the infinite gift of the Son of God, and then the witness of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, in virtue of redemption, have, if refused, any other consequence than utter ruin for those who have despised God? It is the rejection of God's fullest grace and heavenly glory, not merely of the law which demanded and defined a man's duty. God would be a partner to His own utter dishonour if He passed by the refusal of His Son dying in love for man's sin, or despite to the Spirit of grace who testifies of it and Him. This the Jews did formally, before God swept them from their land by the Romans, not because the scriptures are not express as to Christ and His work, but because of their own unbelief. "But unto this day, when Moses is being read, a veil lieth upon their heart." (Ver. 15.)
It is humbling however to know that their hardening is but the shadow of a guiltier and incomparably wider unbelief which is settling down on Christendom, not profane only but even religious after the flesh, into more and more dense delusion and self-complacency in resistance of the Holy Spirit and an ignorant contempt of Christ's glory as of our own portion in and with Him. So proceeded the Jew with his darkened thoughts till divine judgment fell on their temple and capital. Their (it was no longer God's) house was left to them desolate; yet do they persist in their most ruinous infatuation, to be punished with a yet more awful tribulation, not (thank God) for ever but till they say, as they will ere long, Blessed He that cometh in the name of Jehovah, and own in their rejected Messiah their Lord and their God. "Whenever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken off."* (Ver. 16.) Alas! it is not so with Babylon as with Jerusalem. For the Gentile city of confusion there will be exterminating judgment without Lope of recovery. It behoves then all the faithful to beware of the evils which end in such strokes from God; it becomes them to inquire whether they may not have fellowship with her sins, which dishonour the excellent name which He called upon them. To the law and to the testimony: if men speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in (or morning for) them.
* Calvin in his comment on this verse indulges in a whimsical conceit, which is the more singular as it is meant for correcting other Greek and Latin writers who were in this nearer the truth than himself. "Locus hic male hactenus versus fuit: putarunt enim tam Graeci quam Romani subaudiendum nomen Israelis, quum de Mose loquatur Paulus. Dixerat velamen esse impositum Iudaeorum cordibus, dum legitur Moses. Continuo addit, Simulatque conversus fuerit ad Dominum, velamen ablatum iri. Quis non videt de Mose hoc dici, hoc est, de Lege?" (I. Calv. Nov. Opera Omnia, vii. 233, Amst. 1667.) It is quite true that the Jews in shutting out Christ lost the truth of scripture, its aim and scope; but the heart of Israel is the true subject, and not Moses as representing the law.
"Until this very day," says the apostle, "the same veil at the reading of the old covenant abideth unremoved, which in Christ is done away." (Ver. 14.) So it was and so it is, but it is graver still and no less sure, that the same veil rests on the hearts of the baptised at the reading of the latest revelation of God, when they refuse to submit to the righteousness of God, and their eyes and hearts are turned away to self, or to the church so called, from the only true Light. They do not truly acknowledge the Son, nor own the present efficacy of His work. The veil will envelop the heart for them (perhaps we may say) no less than for Israel; and what greater danger can there be than that such darkness should prevail where Paul is read no less, yea, far more, than Moses? Is it not that, though it be for the Gentile the day of grace, their thoughts are increasingly darkened? Those born of God will no doubt come out of Babylon; for His grace will work, and it may be in ways we little anticipate, to extricate souls that they may await His Son from heaven. But there is no revival, no restoration, for corrupted Christendom. It is salt that has lost its savour, fit neither for land nor for dunghill, only to be cast out, or burnt with fire, recompensed at last as the great city recompensed during her unrighteous career. For strong is the Lord God that judges her.
The central portion of the chapter, from verse 7, contains not only the remarkable allusion to Moses veiled and unveiled, but the contrast between the ministry of letter in the law with that of the Spirit. The parenthesis being closed, he forthwith recurs to that contrast of letter and spirit which preceded it. "Now the Lord is the spirit, but where the Spirit of the Lord [is, there is] liberty." (Ver. 17) Scarce any scripture shows more instructively than this the necessity of understanding the mind of God, in order even to present it correctly in form. For it is an utter mistake to give "the spirit" in the first clause a capital letter, which would imply the Holy Ghost to be meant; and where would be the sense, where so much as the orthodoxy, of identifying the Lord with the Holy Ghost?* To me the meaning, without doubt, is that the Lord Jesus constitutes the spirit of the forms and figures and other communications of the old covenant. These, if taken in the letter, killed; if in the spirit, quickened. "The Lord" was their real scope; and now this comes out into the fullest evidence. Faith sees in Him contrast with Adam, analogy with Abel; the light of which shines even on Cain and Lamech. Yet more manifestly do we see types of Him in Joseph and Moses, and in that vast system of sacrifice and priesthood which, coming in by Moses, furnished those shadows so abundantly. Unbelief never laid hold of the coming One, faith always did; though it might not apprehend the bearing of all, nor perhaps fully of anything, till He actually died and rose. But "the Lord is the spirit," and the new testimony is so precise, that there is no excuse for misapprehending the old longer. "The true Light now shineth," and "we who were once darkness are now light in the Lord." In the light we walk, and we ought to walk as children of it; and an immense help it is to our souls intelligently to apprehend the Lord in every part of the word. It is this which gives the deepest interest, and truest solemnity, and living power, to every part of the Old Testament. Thus only have we communion with the mind of God with positive and growing blessing to our own souls. Now that He is revealed, all is plain.
* It is not denied that the Spirit is Lord, which seems to me conveyed in verse 18. Still this, if put in the form of a proposition. would be expressed by τὸ πνεῦμα κύριός ἐστιν and not in the reciprocal form which would exclude the Father and the Son from the same title. The fathers, therefore, who regarded this clause as an assertion of the Holy Ghost's divinity, were as wrong grammatically as exegetically. Neither words nor context can admit of this interpretation. The late Dr. Hodge amazes one, on the other hand by saying that Christ is the Holy Spirit, in the same sense as the Lord says, "I and the Father are one." There is not the least reason that the Spirit should mean the same thing in both clauses, especially as the phrase differs ("Spirit of the Lord"), which we have already traced in the burning, yet weighty, words of the apostle.
But there is more than this, for "where the Spirit of the Lord [is, there is] liberty." Here the truth requires that there should be a capital, for the apostle means not merely the true inner bearing of what was communicated of old, but the presence and power of the Holy Ghost now; and He is not a spirit of bondage unto fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind; not a spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of the Son, whom God had sent into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Hence the effect is liberty, not alone because it is the Son that makes us free, but the Spirit of life in Him risen from the dead, after the mighty work in which God, sending Jesus in the likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. Thus all was condemned that could be condemned, and we by grace are delivered - free indeed. "Where the Spirit of the Lord [is, there is] liberty," as opposed to Gentile license as to Jewish bondage.
It is liberty to do the will of God, "for sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace." Yet do we yield ourselves slaves for obedience; and having got our freedom from sin, and become slaves to God, we have our fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life. We are no longer in the flesh, and are clear from the law, so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter. "Where the Spirit of the Lord [is, there* is] liberty." It is not yet the liberty of the glory of the children of God; it is the liberty of grace before glory dawns at Christ's coming.
* ἐκεῖ in Text. Rec. is supported by many MSS., but not A B C D, etc.
But we are creatures, though a new creation in Christ, and we need an object that we maybe kept and grow, and be formed and fashioned spiritually according to God, while here below. Without the cross of Christ all this were vain; yet are we not called simply to be at the foot of the cross, or to behold no object but Jesus Christ crucified, as men misuse the passage. Not so; "but we all beholding† the glory of the Lord with unveiled face, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from [the] Lord [the] Spirit." Such is the present business, we may say, of the Christian. It is alike the duty and the privilege of all Christians, not the perquisite of a favoured few who attain to it. It is not a state reached in a moment by an act of faith, but a gradual process, which ought to characterise every Christian all the way through. At the coming of Christ we shall be conformed to His image - that of the Son, the First-born among many brethren. Meanwhile thus does "the Lord the Spirit" (for such, I suppose, is the meaning in the last clause) work in us from glory to glory, as all that Christ is glorified on high becomes more familiar and real to our souls by faith. We need, most assuredly, the lowly grace which came down as a servant, obeying to the uttermost, even to the death of the cross, if we would have the mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus. But, blessed and indispensable as it is thus to know His love, faith in the Christian does not rest there, nor ought it, but, holding all this fast, to look on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face, and thus be changed, according to the Same image, from glory to glory. For the Spirit, though Lord equally with the Father and the Son, does not work independently of Christ, but by presenting Him to us, from first to last.
† κατοπτριζόμενοι means neither "reflecting," nor "seeing in a mirror." though this last be etymologically the source, but "beholding," without reference to the mirror, as in so many words which thus cast their primitive shell.
It is scarcely needful to add, that one rejects the translation of the closing phrase, which pleases Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer, etc., "Lord of the Spirit," as being clearly against the truth of scripture - a serious fault in a Subject of this kind. So Macknight, who paraphrases it, "the Lord of the covenant of the Spirit," but those who expect either spiritual intelligence or sound scholarship from that divine, must be bitterly and uniformly disappointed. Dr. Thomas F. Middleton, in his able "Doctrine of the Greek Article," mistakes the margin of the Authorised Version, which agrees with my view against its own text. So Luther, Beza, etc., had rendered it. The reader may compare ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρός (Gal_1:2; Eph_6:23), and analogous phrases in many other passages.