Have you ever felt as though evil was stronger than good? Be honest with yourself. Has it ever seemed to you that the enemies that we face make believers look puny, even pathetic? Have you ever compared the accounts of God’s power in Scripture to the apparent weakness of believers in the present and wondered what was going on?
When false teachers push truth-tellers to the side lines, it can become easy to wonder what has happened to the fire-sending God of Elijah. When God’s Word is disdained, it can become tempting to wish for the thunderous voice of the God of Moses. We know that we serve the very same all-powerful God that they did—but at times it is that very knowledge that can cause us to struggle with our own apparent weakness.
We are not the first generation of believers to struggle in this way. The first generation of Christians in Corinth struggled with the apparent weakness of the Apostle Paul. He wasn’t much to look at—and for that matter, he wasn’t much to listen to either. He was constantly being beaten, constantly in want, constantly being chased from one place to another. If his message was really all that he said that it was, why did he constantly look like a loser to the outside world and even to them? It didn’t seem to make sense.
The giving of the old covenant was indisputably glorious. Soon after raining down plagues on the stubborn Egyptians, God displayed His power on Mt. Sinai in a visible and unmistakeable way, causing the very mountain itself to tremble. When Moses came down from speaking to God, his appearance was so glorious that the Children of Israel couldn’t even look at him. It would be difficult for most of us to think of something more impressive than that. Paul could.
Mt. Sinai was only a temporary arrangement. It was fulfilled, done away, in Christ. It had a glory whose very brilliance demanded a barrier between it and the people for whose benefit it was given. Even though the law was good, righteous, and perfect, in the end it brought nothing but condemnation to a people who could not keep it. If God was ever to fulfill the promise of redemption given to Adam and Eve as they were cast out from the Garden, He would have to provide something better.
He has. The light that shone from Moses’s face, impressive as it was, could not give sight to the hearts of those who couldn’t face that light without a veil. The light of the Gospel, the light that shone so brightly through the scarred and broken earthen vessel of Paul’s earthly ministry, does just that. God, who brought light out of darkness at the creation of the world, has spoken light into our darkened hearts. He is, through the application by the Spirit of the work of the Son, transforming our inner being in a way that the law, outwardly glorious as it was, never could.
This gospel power may not look like much to eyes accustomed to the shadows of this fallen world—but that is entirely beside the point. Conversion is the in-breaking of the new creation. It is the beginning of a reality that is so glorious that it would altogether destroy the old creation if it were not temporarily veiled in earthen vessels. The shaking mountain was the shadow—the power of the gospel is the reality to which the shadow pointed.
If you are a believer, the power that raised Jesus from the dead, the power that will produce a new heaven and a new earth, is already at work in your heart. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is even now working for us, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The brokenness that troubles us so much is only temporary. Our weakness is not the end of the story. The glory at work in our lives, no matter how broken or boring they may seem to us now, infinitely surpasses anything that God’s people experienced under the old covenant. God’s strength, as Paul himself once had to be reminded, is made perfect in weakness.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Though I have not provided specific verse references, the above is based on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, particularly II Corinthians 3-4; 11