2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory…
1. We should substitute "reflecting" for "beholding." Christians are represented not as persons looking into a mirror, but as themselves the mirrors. They who uncover their souls to the influence of Christ reflect His glory, and by continuing to do so they attain to that glory. It is as if by some process the image of a person who gazes into a mirror should not be merely reflected for the moment, but permanently stamped upon it.
2. Recall the incident which suggested the figure. When Moses came down from the Mount his countenance shone so as to dazzle beholders; he acted, as it were, like a mirror to the glory of God. But Moses knew that the reflection would pass away, and therefore he put on a veil, that the people "might not see the end of it." Had they done so they might have supposed that God had retired from him, and that no more authority belonged to him, and therefore Moses put on the veil; but when he returned to receive new communications from God he met God with unveiled face. But, says Paul, the wrong-headedness of the Jews is perpetuating this veil. When the O. T. is read, there is a veil preventing them from seeing the end of the glory of Moses in Christ; they think the glory still abides in Moses. But when they return, as Moses used to return, to the Lord, they will lay aside the veil as he did, and then the glory of the Lord shall shine upon, and be reflected by, them. This reflection will not fade away, but increase from one glory to another — to perfect resemblance to the original. This is a glory not skin-deep like that of Moses, but penetrating the character and changing our inmost nature into Christ's image.
3. The idea, then, is that they who are much in Christ's presence become mirrors to Him, reflecting more and more permanently His image until they themselves perfectly resemble Him. This assertion rests on the well-known law that a reflected image tends in many circumstances to become fixed. Your eye, e.g., is a mirror which retains for a little the image it has been reflecting. Let the sun shine upon it, and wherever you look for a time you will still see the sun. The child who grows up with a parent he respects unconsciously reflects a thousand of his attitudes, looks, and ways, which gradually become the child's own. We are all of us, to a great extent, made by the company we keep. There is a natural readiness in us all to reflect and respond to the emotions expressed in our presence. If another person laughs, we can scarcely refrain from laughing; if we see a man in pain, our face reflects what is passing in him. And so every one who associates with Christ finds that to some extent he reflects His glory. It is His image which always reawakens in us a response to what is good and right. It is He who saves us from becoming altogether a reflection of a world lying in wickedness, from being formed by our own evil-heartedness, and from persuading ourselves we may live as we list. His own patient lips seem to say, "Follow Me; be in this world as I was in it." Our duty, then, if we would be transformed into the image of Christ, is plain.
I. WE MUST ASSOCIATE WITH HIM. Even one thought of Him does some good, but we must learn to abide with Him. It is by a series of impressions that His image becomes fixed in us. As soon as we cease to be conscious of Christ we cease to reflect Him, just as when an object passes from before a mirror, the reflection simultaneously goes with it. Besides, we are exposed to objects the most destructive to Christ's image in us. As often as our hearts are exposed to some tempting thing and respond to it, it is that reflection which is seen in us, mingled often with the fading reflection of Christ; the two images forming together a monstrous representation.
II. WE MUST BE CAREFUL TO TURN FULLY ROUND TO CHRIST. The mirror must be set quite square to that which it is to reflect. In many positions you can see many other images in a mirror without seeing yourself. And so, unless we give our full front, our direct, straightforward, whole attention to Christ, He may see in us, not His own image at all, but the images of things abhorrent to Him. The man who is not wholly satisfied in Christ, who has aims or purposes that Christ will not fulfil for him, is not wholly turned towards Christ. The man who, while he prays to Christ, is keeping one eye open towards the world, is a mirror set obliquely; so that he reflects not Christ at all, but other things which are making him the man he is.
III. WE MUST STAND IN HIS PRESENCE WITH OPEN, UNVEILED FACE. We may wear a veil in the world, refusing to reflect it; but when we return to the Lord we must uncover our face. A covered mirror reflects nothing. Others find Christ in the reading of the Word, in prayer, in the services of His house, in a number of little providences — in fact everywhere, because their eyes are unveiled. We may read the very same word and wonder at their emotion; we may pass through the same circumstances and be quite unconscious of Christ; we may be at the communion table side by side with one who is radiant with the glory of Christ and yet an impalpable veil between us and him may hide all this from us. And our danger is that we let the dust gather upon us till we see and reflect no ray of that glory. We do nothing to brush off the dust, but let Him pass by and leave no more mark on us than if He had not been present. This veil is not like a slight dimness occasioned by moisture on a mirror, which the warm presence of Christ will itself dry up; it is rather an incrustation that has grown out from our own hearts, thickly covering them and making them thoroughly impervious to the light of Heaven. The heart is overlaid with worldly ambitions; with fleshly appetites; with schemes of self-advancement. All these, and everything which has no sympathy with what is spiritual and Christlike, must be removed, and the mirror must be kept clean, if there is to be any reflection. In some persons you might be tempted to say that the mischief is produced not so much by a veil on the mirror as by a lack of quicksilver behind it. There is no solid backing to the character, no material for the truth to work upon, or there is no energetic thinking, no diligent, painstaking spiritual culture. Conclusion:
1. Observe the perfectness of this mode of sanctification. It is perfect —
(1) In its end; it is likeness to Christ in which it terminates. And as often as you set yourself before Christ, and in presence of His perfect character begin to feel the blemishes in your own, you forget the points of resemblance, and feel that you cannot rest until the likeness is perfect. And so the Christian goes from glory to glory, from one reflection of Christ's image to another, until perfection is attained.
(2) In its method. It extends to the whole character at once. When a sculptor is cutting out a bust, or a painter filling in a likeness, one feature may be pretty nearly finished while the rest are undiscernible; but when a person stands before a mirror the whole face is at once reflected. And in sanctification the same law holds good. Many of us take the wrong method; we hammer and chisel away at ourselves to produce some resemblance to Christ in one feature or another; but the result is that either in a day or two we quite forget what grace we were trying to develop; or, succeeding somewhat, we find that our character as a whole is more provokingly unlike Christ than ever. Consider how this appears in the moulding men undergo in society. You know in what class of society a man has been brought up, not by his accent, bearing, conversation, or look alone, but by all these together. The society a man moves in impresses on all he does and is a certain style and manner and tone. So the only effectual way of becoming like Christ in all points is to be much in His society.
2. Some of us lament that there is so little we can do for Christ. But we can all reflect Him, and by reflecting Him we shall certainly extend the knowledge of Him on earth. Many who do not look at Him, look at you. As in a mirror persons (looking into it from the side) see the reflections of objects which are themselves invisible, so persons will see in you an image of what they do not directly see, which will cause them to wonder, and turn to study for themselves the substantial figure which produces it.
3. The mirror cannot produce an image of that which has no reality. And as little can any man produce in himself dud of himself the character of Christ.
(M. Dods, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.