The old covenant is described as a ministry of death. It was a glorious covenant because it contained many beautiful laws. But it ministered death to those who tried to keep those laws because they couldn’t do it. For that reason Paul called the old covenant “the ministry of condemnation.”
The people who lived under the covenant had a veil over their hearts. And I have to say with sorrow, but also with hope, that for many years I too read the Bible with a thick veil on my heart. I was no better off than the people in Old Testament times because of the veil. I saw the letter and nothing else. I didn’t see the Spirit. So the letter was like a veil. I couldn’t see God’s intention behind the letter. I saw just the lifeless demands of the law–demands that no one has ever been able to fulfill.
Now I understand why Paul called the old covenant, condemnation and death. I tried to live by the law, and I taught others to live by it. But we always felt like failures. We could never do it! So we felt condemned, and we lived with a continual feeling of guilt.
A great many believers are terribly discouraged with trying to live the Christian life because they have the old and the new covenants mixed up. They know that under the new covenant we are not under the law, but they still try to live according to the law. When they find they can’t do it, they feel condemned.
It makes me sad to see so many people trying to live the Christian life but finding they are unable to. But it also gives me hope. Yes, hope! Now that may seem like a paradox. But in my own life it was only when I came to the end of self-effort–when I saw that I couldn’t do all the things that Christians are supposed to do–that I gave up and turned to the Lord. When a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. When we stop trying to do it ourselves and rest in Jesus, trusting Him in us to live the Christian life, we are no longer blinded by the veil. We get ourselves in focus and see clearly. Listen to Paul’s words, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord . . .” If you remove the veil from your face and look in a mirror, you will see the glory of the Lord! In other words, when you remove the veil of the law from your life and look into a mirror to see who you really are, you will behold the glory of Christ in your own face.
Juan Carlos Ortiz