2 Corinthians 3:18

‘“we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror,
are transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as from the Lord, the Spirit”’
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

The Christian life begins with something to see, with an ‘unveiled face’, and it’s glorious! We all begin life with our faces veiled, in spiritual darkness. Paul wrote in an earlier letter to the Corinthians, ‘the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit… they are foolishness to him… he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned’(1 Corinthians 2:14). Jesus said something similar: ‘“unless one is born anew, he can’t see God’s Kingdom… born of the Spirit”’(John 3:3-8). Here Paul describes the same thing as our faces being ‘unveiled’ to see with spiritual eyes. Nevertheless, it’s Jesus who’s ‘“the way”’(John 14:6) to receive this new birth / spiritual vision, since He’s the ultimate source of ‘life… the light… in the darkness’(John 1:4-5), as the prophets had foretold: ‘the eyes of the blind will be opened’(Isaiah 35:5, cf. Luke 4:18). Paul sums this up here as ‘God… shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’(2 Corinthians 4:6). In fact the risen Jesus sent Paul to the Corinthians, and others like them, in order to share Jesus’ message with them, to ‘“‘open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light’”’(Acts 26:18).

There are several things for us to notice.

One is the ‘“‘remission of sins… by faith’”’(Acts 26:18)‘seeing the glory of the Lord’ in the gospel or ‘Good News’(1 Corinthians 15:1ff.). In our spiritually blind/dead state this ‘Good News is veiled… in those who are dying… the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them’(2 Corinthians 4:3-4). However, ‘whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away’(2 Corinthians 3:16) – the unveiling and turning in ‘faith’(Ephesians 2:8) being simultaneous and interdependent.

Alongside that we start to develop an eternal perspective, looking to our eternal ‘“‘inheritance… by faith’”’(Acts 26:18), discerning spiritually that ‘we are… joint heirs with Christ’(Romans 8:16-17)! However, for now we ‘“see… these”’(1 Corinthians 2:9) things only as ‘in a mirror, dimly’(1 Corinthians 13:12), as with much about God more generally. Even so, He has revealed something of this eternal glory to us ‘through the Spirit’(1 Corinthians 2:10). No doubt Paul would pray for us like he prayed for others, ‘that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’(Ephesians 1:17-18). So we’re to set our mind’s on these ‘things that are above, where Christ is’(Colossians 3:1).

It’s especially helpful to focus on Him, since Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’(Colossians 1:15), ‘the radiance of His glory’(Hebrews 1:3), and the eternal ‘Word… God’(John 1:1) who was made ‘flesh… full of grace and truth’(John 1:14). He’s the perfect ‘“image”’(Genesis 1:26&27) of God in man for us to contemplate and emulate. There’s much to consider, especially recorded in the gospels, but also in scripture more generally. Whilst beholding Him there, we can examine and adjust ourselves, like ‘in a mirror’(James 1:23), so that alongside ‘seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror’, we can reflect on ourselves in the light of that, and be ‘transformed’(Romans 12:2) ‘into the same image’. In that way we can ‘become… lights in the world’(Philippians 2:15) by reflecting Him, ‘“the light of the world”’(John 8:12, cf. Matthew 5:14).

Here Paul draws a comparison between ‘the face of Moses’(2 Corinthians 3:7), which literally ‘shone’(Exodus 34:29ff.) after he’d been in the presence of God on ‘“Mount Sinai”’(Exodus 34:2ff.), and our ‘new covenant’(2 Corinthians 3:6) glow, which should come with ‘much more glory’(2 Corinthians 3:8), since it’s of ‘the Spirit’(2 Corinthians 3:3ff.). This ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’(Romans 8:2ff.) can liberate us from the tarnish of ‘sin’(Romans 6:22), since He ‘is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’(2 Corinthians 3:17).

However, this spiritual polishing through contemplation happens gradually. We’ll go from some degree of ‘glory to glory’ fully realised at the end of time, when Jesus ‘is revealed… for we will see Him just as He is’(1 John 3:2), ‘face to face’(1 Corinthians 13:12).

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