The Bible in a Year – 17 October

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

17 October. 2 Corinthians chapters 1-4

There is one theme that St Paul keeps coming back to throughout his letters, expressing it in different ways.  That theme is that if you think it is enough to rely on “keeping the law” to be in a right relationship with God, you have missed the point.

In chapter 3 (headed in the New Revised Standard Version as “Ministers of the New Covenant”), he explains that the Kingdom of God is something so counter-cultural, so different from the idea of “keeping the law”, that such people don’t even realise it’s there.  It’s as if the very fact that God gave us commandments to keep is like a veil or curtain that stops people seeing the truth behind it, which is that being in a right relationship with God is a matter of loving faith.  Or to use an English idiom, they cannot see the wood for the trees.  The trees are the individual commandments; the wood is the Kingdom in all its beauty.

But what can remove the veil, if endless study of religious laws and faithful attempts to keep them cannot?  “Turning to the Lord”, is Paul’s answer, that is to Jesus Christ.  The removing of the veil reminds Christians of Good Friday, when the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom as a sign that the sin and death that separated humanity from God can no longer do so because Christ has removed their power.

We need a new way of living in a post-veil world, and the Holy Spirit is key to that. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (3:17).   We will not get far if we treat the ethical teachings of the New Testament like another set of ten commandments, written on stone to bind us to particular actions (or the avoidance of them).  Rather they are to be “written on our hearts” as the ways in which the Holy Spirit sets us free to act out the love of Christ to others.  In doing so, Paul says, we will be transformed “with ever increasing glory” (3:18. NIV) into the likeness of God.  What an amazing thought!

Do you sometimes fail to see beyond the veil because you are concerned about whether all your actions are right?  Ask the Holy Spirit to remove the veil from your eyes!