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The Lord of Liberty

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Aug 5, 2018


by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:12–3:17

I. Introduction
A. Read 2Corinthians 3:12–18 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 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. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 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. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
 B. Last week we focused on the theme of being veiled or unveiled, from 2Cor.3:14-16.
 C. Today we will focus on v.17, which is a well-known verse, but often not considered in its context, which is the liberation of having the veil of our spiritual blindness removed by the Lord. 
 D. Background
  1. In order to counter the (Judaizing) false apostles who were stuck in the old covenant, Paul has been contrasting the old covenant with the new, showing that the new has outgloried the old and that the old was destined to fade away. The new covenant is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, who men must now turn to for salvation. 
  2. But the new covenant is also the covenant "of the Spirit" (v.6) and the "ministry of the Spirit" (v.8). Paul is anxious to identify the Lord Jesus (whom the Judaizers claim to believe in and preach, though they actually "preach another Jesus" – 2Cor.11:4) with the Holy Spirit, who is "the Spirit of the Lord" (v.7). Presumably, the Judaizers were not comfortable with the idea of the Holy Spirit and His coming at Pentecost (understandably so, since His coming was so closely associated with the opening of salvation to all peoples).
 E. It may seem strange to our Trinitarian ears to hear Paul say, The members of the Trinity are so closely identified with each other that at times the label of one is applied to another. For instance, Jesus is called "everlasting Father" in Isaiah 9:6. And so Paul here, wanting to show how closely interrelated the Lord Jesus is with the Spirit, says "the Lord is the Spirit." 
  1. In this age, the Lord Jesus is present with us by the Spirit. The HS = “the Spirit of Christ” -Rm8:9.
  2. Just as Jesus and the Father were one, so the Lord and the Spirit are one. 
  3. It is very important that believers have an understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We live in the age of the Spirit: By giving us His Spirit, God has well-equipped us for life in this age of struggle. It is our great loss if we know little about the One Jesus sent to be our Helper.
 F. The new covenant is spoken of in language distinct from the old covenant.
  1. We’ve already seen Paul refer to the old as a ministry of death, and imply that the new covenant is a ministry of life. We saw him speak of the old as having a little glory and the new as surpassing glory. We saw him say the old was passing away, while the new is perpetual. We saw Paul speak of the old covenant as a covenant with people veiled to the glory of God, whereas in the new covenant when someone comes to Christ the veil is removed and he can behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. 
  2. But Paul introduces two other distinctives of the new covenant here which are never used to describe the old covenant. 
   a. The Spirit
   b. Freedom
  3. “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) 
  4. We also see here that these two, the Spirit and the freedom, are connected. The Spirit of the Lord is the great Liberator of sinners. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!" (v.17) 
 G. ? Is there a difference between the Spirit and the Spirit of the Lord? I think so.
  1. They are the same person of the Godhead, but the Spirit’s role changes somewhat when Christ comes.
  2. The HS did many things in the OT: glory cloud, inspiration of Scripture, creation, empowered people to do stuff
  3. And during Christ’s time on earth, the Spirit empowered Him to do His work.
  4. But since Pentecost, the HS has been most known for furthering the work of Christ:
   a. Representing Christ to His people 
   b. Regeneration
   c. Abba Father 
   d. The paraclete 
II. Now let’s think about what Paul says that “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
 A. It shouldn’t surprise us to hear the Lord Jesus referred to as the Lord of liberty. 
  1. Luke 4:18–19 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 B. And notice even here that the freedom Jesus came to proclaim and create are connected to the HS. 
III. What is this freedom Jesus and the Spirit bring which Paul is talking about here? We must understand what it means, and what it doesn’t mean.
 A. There are many aspects to the freedom Christ gives, but the most obvious one here in this context is the freedom from spiritual blindness. The freedom of being able to see the truth & glory of God.
  1. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
  2. Paul is talking about the blessing of having our sinful blinders removed enabling us to see the glory of God! In this passage, liberty/deliverance & being given sight are basically the same thing.
 B. If you asked people what kind of freedom they long for, you would probably hear things like: 
  1. Freedom from having to work.
  2. Freedom from my tyrannical parents
  3. Freedom from an over-bearing boss. 
  4. Freedom from sickness.
  5. Freedom from the effects of aging. 
  6. Many think of freedom as freedom to do whatever they want – absolute freedom. Is it freedom to use addictive drugs? Many of us have had loved ones addicted to drugs. Is addiction freedom? 
 C. But Christ has given us a freedom that is so much greater than these that one can have full and joyful freedom even while experiencing toilsome work, tyrannical authority, sickness, the effects of aging and even slavery (1Cor.7:22 “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman...”). 
 D. Even in the church you sometimes hear notions of freedom like: political freedom, freedom of the will, freedom to sin, freedom from God’s moral law.
 E. But we can’t define true liberty by using our own imaginations. We have to go to the context of the passage – and the rest of the NT – to understand what this freedom means. And when we do, we find there the teaching about a deeper freedom, a  freedom that makes our notions of freedom, as much as they are blessings of God, look almost trivial. 
 F. And here the image being used to describe the freedom of Christ is going from blindness to sight.
  1. Think about the lack of freedom you have when you’re blind.
   a. You don’t know what’s going on.
   b. You can’t see beauty. You can’t see danger coming.
   c. You’re left with your own imaginations. 
   d. You’re always afraid to do stuff because you don’t know what’s out there. The world is a scary place.
IV. Conclusion
 A. I am one who experienced this freedom in a sudden way. Before I met Christ, I was really blind. But when my veil was removed, I experienced true freedom for the first time:
  1. The freedom of knowing that there is a Lord of all, and that He loves you and is ruling the universe according to what is in your best interests
  2. Freedom from emptiness in my soul
  3. Freedom from a deep and profound aloneness
  4. Freedom from meaninglessness 
  5. Freedom from purposelessness 
  6. Freedom from having to figure everything out on my own
  7. Freedom from shame and a deep sense of guilt
  8. I experienced the freedom of knowing that the story of my life and the story of the world have a happy ending. 
  9. "Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed Thee." (Charles Wesley)
 B. The Scriptures teach us what we are really enslaved to, what we really need to be freed from.
  1. The tyrants in our lives are not difficult job situations, they are not the tedious grind of working long hours at a frantic pace, they are not parents or bosses or corrupt politicians or diseases or unhappy marriages or housefuls of kids. Man’s real tyrants are not poverty and prisons and dictators and famines and epidemics and natural disasters. 
  2. Man’s real tyrants are sin and guilt and unbelief and ignorance of God and worry and the fear of man and self-righteousness and death and hell and Satan 
  3. Man’s biggest problem is a law that must be obeyed perfectly in order to achieve favor with God. 
 C. And in Christ we have been set free from all of this! This is real freedom! 
  1. There was never a tyrant like sin. There were never more cruel dominators than lust, pride, greed,  hate, and anger. There was never an evil master like Satan. There was never an oppressor like despair and gloom and hopelessness. There was never a debt like the guilt of sin. There never was a prison like hell. But Christ has set us free from all these things through the Lord Jesus Christ!
  2. The only true liberty is found in Jesus Christ. And it is such a potent liberty that even in the face of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Rom.8:35-37). Paul invented this word to express the truth he was trying to express: SUPERconquerors! If God is for us, who is against us? That’s freedom! 
  3. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."(John 8:36)