2 Corinthians 3:13-14

2 Corinthians 3:13-14

A Christological Termination of Moses

In this post, I want to circle back the wagons and zero in on a couple of truths: one in v. 13, the other in v. 14. These are truly remarkable and absolutely key when we consider the glory of the Mosaic Covenant being surpassed by the overflowing glory of the New Covenant. Paul, in speaking about the veiled glory of Moses, takes us back to Exodus 34:33-35 (read it). In Exodus, we’re told that Moses would not veil his face when talking face-to-face with the LORD. It was only when he brought back God’s Word to the people that he needed to cover his face. The face of Moses was so refulgent of the glory of God, its shine was too much for the Israelites to take in unscathed. In v. 13, however, Paul doesn’t focus on the veil as necessary to cover a glorious face. He employed the image of the veil in that way in v. 7. He now takes Moses’ veiled face as necessary lest the Israelites see the outcome or end of “what was being brought to an end” (i.e., the Mosaic Covenant). Geerhardus Vos says, “According to Paul, the purpose for this [veil] was that the Israelites should not see how that glory gradually disappeared from his face.”[1]

This truth reminds us of what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about the Mosaic Covenant: it was “administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances” (WCF 7:5; cf. also the Larger Catechism, Q/A 34). Types and shadows. That was the way the Mosaic Covenant was administered. It was an important, organic adumbration of what was to follow. The types and shadows are not the substance, but they point to the substance, which is Christ. The Mosaic Covenant was never intended to be the terminus of God’s redemptive revelation. In fact, when we read v. 13 more carefully, we notice that the very start of the Mosaic Covenant was the very start of its conclusion. What’s remarkable with Paul’s words is the imagery of Moses that he portrays. As Moses descends to bring God’s Word, he descends to his own end. As the glory of the Mosaic Covenant is just beginning to shine brightly before the Israelites, its shine begins to fade away. Like a match that once struck loses its light, so the glory of the Mosaic Covenant once established gives way to the Glory One of Israel, the Light. Christ is the terminus to which Moses pointed. Christ is the focal point. Christ is the center. Although Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, Christ is The Faithful Son (Heb. 3:1-6). The Mosaic Covenant terminates with Christ, which leads me to the second observation.

Now in v. 14, Paul, in speaking about the hard-heartedness and veiled minds of the Jews in his own day (a truly lamentable reality; cf. Romans 9:1-5), reminds us all that the veil will remain unlifted unless Christ removes it. It is only through Christ that the veil is taken away. The Mosaic Covenant is not properly understood unless it be understood as passing away. The Mosaic Covenant is not rightly understood unless it be Christologically understood! The essentially transitory nature of the Mosaic Covenant spoke of the essentially permanent nature of the New Covenant in Christ, because the prophet Moses himself spoke of The Prophet Jesus Christ (John 5:46; cf. Deut. 18:15-22; John 1:45; 6:14). This is also the message to the Hebrews (chs. 8-10). Christ is the key to understanding all of Scripture (Luke 24:13-27). Christ is the terminus of all of Scripture. It’s no wonder, then, that anyone who esteems Moses too highly will be prevented from seeing the glories of the Christ through whom to interpret Moses and all of the Word of God. This is why it’s always right to ask when reading the Bible (regardless of the passage), “What does this passage teach me about Christ?” Look for Christ in all of Scripture. Read Scripture Cross-eyed. Read Scripture Christ-eyed. That’s the way the Word of God (the Son) intends for the Word of God (the Scripture) to be read and understood.


[1] Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: Anthropology, ed. Gaffin, p. 81.