2 Corinthians 3:18

Sermon preached on September 3, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

During our vacation I had the great pleasure of seeing some old friends, people that I hadn't been in touch with for years. Some were high school classmates, whom I hadn't seen for 35 years. I also had an opportunity to look up an old college roommate whom I hadn't seen in 20 years. It was a wonderful to see them. What was interesting was that some of them were easily recognizable while I wouldn't have recognized others if I passed them on the street. We had all changed, but some more than others. I found it interesting that with the ones that had changed the most their voices were exactly the same but their outward appearance was so different that when they weren't looking I stared at them a bit trying to recognize the person that I once knew. They probably did the same with me. I'm older, heavier and have some gray hair now. How I look reminds me of a line from the Robin Hood movie when he met a ugly lady who was pretending to be his childhood friend, Marion. He said,

"The years have been kind, my lady."

But he was lying. She looked terrible, not at all like the real maid Marion. We all change. Our appearance changes. With most of us it gets worse.

But spiritually, it's to be just the opposite. We are to be getting better and better. Or, to quote Paul literally—we are to be going from '
glory to glory'. Paul wrote,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

What a verse this is! It's one of the most glorious in the whole of Scripture—telling us about one of the great privileges that is ours in Christ.

You Christians behold God's glory with unveiled faces.

Philip E. Hughes writes,

"In the old dispensation only one man, Moses, gazed with unveiled face on the divine glory. Now, in the gospel age… this is the blessed privilege of all who are Christ's, whether great or small…"

The contrast that Paul makes here is between us—and the ancient Israelites whose minds were made dull, and their descendants who still do not see the glory of Christ when the old covenant is read. But, we, on the other hand, see Christ, and there see the glory of God. Hughes says,

"To gaze by faith into the gospel is to behold Christ…"

And to behold Christ is to behold God's glory. You'll remember that in John 14 that Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied, (verse 9)

"Anyone who has seen me
has seen the Father."

And in the very next chapter, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul wrote,

"For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us
the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ."

And in Colossians 1:15 Jesus is referred to as,

"the image of the invisible God…"

And in Hebrews 1:3 we read that,

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the exact representation of his being…"

We who know Christ have unveiled faces. Herman Ridderbos writes, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 220)

"But as Moses when he turned again to God laid aside the veil, so now the covering which at the same time signifies slavery and the lack of freedom is taken away in Christ. And this is owing to the fact that the Lord is the Spirit, and that where the Spirit of the Lord is slavish fear gives way to freedom and boldness in which one does not keep oneself at a distance from the glory of God as that has been revealed in Christ, but catches sight of and is transformed by it."

Christians, how greatly God has blessed you! In Christ you with unveiled faces gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Praise God for His grace to you.

Yet what a great responsibility it brings. This means that

you have a great duty to reflect God's glory.

Paul writes,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,"

There are two ways to understand the word that is translated 'reflect' by the NIV. First, it may mean that we reflect God's glory. Or, secondly, we behold God's glory, as in a mirror. The Greek word that Paul uses here can mean either one. It's hard to decide between the two and if you look at the various English translations and commentators you will find that some prefer 'reflect' and others prefer 'look at as in a mirror'.

But either way it's clear that we have a duty to reflect God's glory. One can't come in such close contact with God without being transformed by the experience and thereby reflecting God's glory. Moses' face shining shows us that. God shines on us and we are transformed by it and thereby reflect His image.

This is one of the great purposes for which we were created. In
Genesis 1 the first mention of man's creation is recorded this way, (verses 26-27)

"Then God said,
'Let us make man in our image,
in our likeness,
and let them rule over the fish of the sea
and the birds of the air,
over the livestock, over all the earth,
and over all the creatures
that move along the ground.'
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them."

Mankind was created to be a reflection of God, of His goodness, His love, His wisdom, etc,. Man was to rule over creation and in doing so show it what God was like.

When Adam sinned the image of God in Him was greatly defaced and marred. But through Christ people are once again able to gaze on God's glory, be transformed by it and reflect it.

But the great question is: How good a job do you do reflecting God's glory. What kind of mirror are you?

When I was in Nova Scotia recently we stayed at a
cottage and there was a full length mirror in the bedroom. I remember one day I stood before it and looked in it and thought that I looked a little bit skinner. I was surprised because I had been eating a lot of good food. I remember thinking,

"That's good. I must be losing some weight. All the physical work I've been doing here at the cottage must be burning some calories."

It was a great feeling. But a couple of days later we were visiting my sister at her house and I overheard Marg telling my sister that the mirror in the bedroom at our cottage is distorted and it actually makes you look thinner than you are. I butted in and said, "What? You're not serious?" I had no idea! Talk about deflating! In the very room we were talking there was a huge mirror on the wall and my niece mentioned to me that if you stood in front of it on one side, it made you look thinner, and if you stood on the other side, it made you look fatter. She was right. I went from side to side and my niece had a great laugh when I stood in front of the fat side. Those mirrors distorted what they reflected.

God doesn't want us to distort what He is like. Rather we are to be,

"transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,"

When people look at you they are to see Christ in you. (Colossians 1:27) Or, as Paul put it in verse 3 of this chapter, (2 Corinthians 3:3)

"You show that you are a letter from Christ,
the result of our ministry,
written not with ink
but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone
but on tablets of human hearts."

Your lives are to be letters from Christ. Or as Martin Luther put it, (Sermon on the Feeding of the 4000, Mark 8:1-9. A Sermon by Martin Luther; Taken from His Church Postil, 1523. from volume IV:202-210 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983)

"so should we also do good unto our neighbor, freely and gratuitously, out of pure love… you should thus…be a Christ to your neighbor."

As you learn about Christ and His glory you are to be transformed into the image of Christ and reflect His glory. You are called to be like God and to reflect His glory.

Jesus taught us about this in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, (Matthew 5:14-16)

"You are the light of the world.
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp
and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way,
let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven."

The idea was that the praise and glory for us shining would go to God, not to us, because we are merely reflecting His glory. Later in Matthew 5 Jesus said, (verses 43f)

"You have heard that it was said,
'Love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you:
Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore,
as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Again, the idea is that we are to be like God. In our interactions with our fellow man we are to be like our Father in heaven. We are to reflect His glory.

The third great truth we see here is that

you are being transformed by beholding Jesus.

When Moses came down from the mountain his face glowed. His contact with God had changed him.

So, too, our contemplation of God is to change us, in a much more radical way. A veil was put over Moses' face, in part, because the glory was fading. But our transformation is not like that. The radical nature of our transformation is laid out in
verses 7-11. We read,

"Now if the ministry that brought death,
which was engraved in letters on stone,
came with glory,
so that the Israelites could not look steadily
at the face of Moses because of its glory,
fading though it was,
will not the ministry of the Spirit
be even more glorious?
If the ministry that condemns men is glorious,
how much more glorious
is the ministry that brings righteousness!
For what was glorious has no glory now
in comparison with the surpassing glory.
And if what was fading away came with glory,
how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!"

It is worthy of note that the verb that is used in verse 18 is the same one that is used to describe the transfiguration of Christ (Matt 17:2, Mark 9:2). He was transformed. Moses and Elijah were with Him—transformed. We, too, are being transformed, into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, or, more literally,

"from glory to glory"

There is a two-fold reference here. On the one hand this refers to us growing in grace daily. Philip Hughes writes,

"to contemplate Him who is the Father's image is progressively to be transformed into that image. The effect of continuous beholding is that we are continuously being transformed 'into the same image', that is, into the likeness of Christ—and increasingly so: 'from glory to glory'."

Herman Ridderbos points us also to the end of all things. He writes, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 220)

"'we all,' with unveiled face, that is, in the liberty given by the Spirit, may reflect the redeeming radiance of the glory of God revealed in the gospel, in order thus to be transformed according to the same image from (the now already manifested) glory to (the still to be expected) glory…"

Ridderbos seems to be echoing 1 John 3:1-2 where we read,

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! …
Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."

You are being transformed from glory to glory.

The last point of doctrine I want you to notice here is that

this is all from Christ.

Paul writes, this ever increasing glory, this glory to glory,

"comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

Philip Hughes comments,

"In origin, process, and consummation this whole work of redemption is 'of the Lord the Spirit'—that is, 'of the Lord who is spirit'."

Who removed the veil? It was God. Who enables us to see Him—and, instead of being destroyed by it, we are transformed by it, from glory to glory—it's God! It all comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. He is doing it for us. All praise, glory and honor belong to Him.

Now let's get very practical. What does this all mean for us?

First of all, for Christians, it means that you need to take this very seriously.

Christians, go from glory to glory.

Let others see this ever increasing glory in you. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy? (1 Timothy 4:12f)

"set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love,
in faith and in purity.
Until I come,
devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture,
to preaching and to teaching.
Do not neglect your gift,
which was given you
through a prophetic message
when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters;
give yourself wholly to them,
so that everyone may see your progress."

Timothy was to live so that everyone would see His progress. That's to be true of you as well. You are to be going from glory to glory. Study the Word. See Christ in it, be transformed by Him. Make progress every day.

What kind of mirror are you? How well do you reflect God's glory? I once came across an old mirror and the silver on the back of it was just about all off and most of the mirror didn't work, there were parts that were all black. It was so poor that we threw it away.

Remember what Jesus said in
John 15 about the branch that bears no fruit. He cuts it off and throws it into the fire.

Don't let that happen to you. This verse is a great warning. In many ways the Corinthian church was a mess. There was divisions among them. They tolerated sin. Some of them abused the Lord's Supper. Some were afflicted with sickness and some with death because of their sin.

Christians, take the Christian life seriously. Live the commandments. Display the fruits of the Spirit in your life—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Be like God in ever increasing glory.

As John wrote in
1 John 4:16f,

"God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in him.
In this way,
love is made complete among us
so that we will have confidence
on the day of judgment,
because in this world we are like him."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. Do you understand what we are taught here? Christians have unveiled faces. They see the glory of God and they are being transformed from glory to glory. They are going to be raised from their sin and degradation and are going to be made like God and dwell with Him in glory forever and ever. Why? It's not because they're better than you. It's not because they're more worthy than you. It's from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

There's only one alternative to that. If you don't with unveiled face see the glory of God and be transformed by it from glory to glory—you'll tremble with dread. We read about it in
Isaiah 2:19.

"Men will flee to caves in the rocks
and to holes in the ground
from dread of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth."

You will be cast out of His presence and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to take the veil of unbelief from your face. Ask Him to save you, transform you and take you from glory to glory. He surely will.