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…
This passage contains evident reference to an incident occurring in the life of Moses. He had tarried on the mount for forty days, in some mysterious manner within the immediate radiance of the Divine glory, holding some very near, yet very secret, fellowship with God. We might expect to find an influence from such converse resting on Moses' spirit ever after, and we could not wonder if some traces of it were left upon his very face. Such was the case. Unknown to himself, the skin of his face shone, and when the people of Israel saw it they were afraid to come near him. Partly to shadow the glory from them, and partly, as St. Paul tells us in this chapter, that they might not see the glory fade and die away, he covered himself with a veil. This glory on the face of Moses had two great lessons in it for the Jews and for us.
1. That the vision of God has a transforming power on human souls.
2. And that this glory of Moses was a symbol of the passing and preparatory character of the Old Testament dispensation. St. Pauls argumentative use of his reference to Moses may be thus traced. He is exalting his office as a minister of the new covenant. He argues that if a glory was shed upon the ministration of the Law, a Law Written in letters and graven upon stones, much greater must be the glory which rests upon the ministration of the Spirit, which ministration is permanent. Being the minister of this more glorious covenant, St. Paul says he may speak and act with boldness, without disguise. He need not spread a veil over his face, as Moses did, in order that the sons of Israel might not see the end of that fading brightness. And this reminds him that, when he wrote, the minds of Israel were still blinded, a veil was on their hearts, so that they imagine the glory lies still on Moses and his system; they cannot see that the older covenant has done its work, that the Law has given place to love. When their hearts turn to the Lord Jesus, the veil is rent away; they have the vision of the Lord the Spirit; their bondage gives place to freedom. "We all, while with face unveiled we behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are ourselves transformed continually into the same likeness; and the glory which shines upon us is reflected by us, even as it proceeds from the Lord the Spirit." Two questions invite attention.
1. How is the vision of God granted to us?
2. What influence does the vision of God exert?
I. HOW IS THE VISION OF GOD GRANTED TO US? Man can never find rest for head or heart save in God. The deepest longing of every human soul is the vision of God. Idolatry is the expression of the desire to find and see God. Humanity in all ages is knit together as one man in this cry for God. Illustrate by references to Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Job, Isaiah, Stephen, and the Apostle John, who says, "We know that, when he doth appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." These, indeed, are all cases of good men, but the universal efforts to make a religion show that all men are alike in this, they would behold the glory of God. The vision is given us:
1. By the inner ministration of the Spirit. This is the meaning of the "open face, unveiled." St. Paul had just said, "We use great plainness of speech;" that is, in our ministry we can speak with freedom and boldness, without any disguise or veil, because we are ministers in the power of the Spirit. So, he would say, we all need no veil, we have openness, to behold the glory of the Lord in the leadings of the Spirit; for "where the spirit of the Lord is, there is [this] liberty;" veils are removed, hindrances are taken away, we can "behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord."
2. By the outward mirror of the Christ. "Beholding as in a glass." God's actual glory can be seen by no created eye; it must be reflected - it can only be seen as mirrored. We cannot look on the sun; we can see its image in a pool, we can find its reflected glory in the tinted flowers, and in the glorified clouds of the sunset. So our pained, strained, spiritual eyes rest delightfully upon the "Man Christ Jesus," who is the "Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of the Father's person." The infinite excellences of the Divine character are exhibited in Christ in a form comprehensible by men. What the virtues and moral excellences of God are we could never know, but Christ shows them to us as if they were the graces and virtues of a man. Illustrate thus God's holiness, justice, mercy, and love.
II. WHAT INFLUENCES DOES THIS VISION OF GOD EXERT? "Changed into the same image." Moses could not see God and be the same man that he was. It changed his soul somewhat into the Divine likeness, even as his face lost its natural expression and shone with the glory. The sight of God is ever a transforming sight. It is seen to be so in the case of the transfiguration. The disciples saw our Lord's very raiment white and glistering, and glory all overspreading his frame. When a man sees God there is an inner change, of which that is the symbol Illustrate by the way in which a close and trustful friendship makes the friends grow alike. As the Christian man maintains his daily relations with Christ the mirrored God, as he "dwells in the secret place of the Most High," he finds a transforming and transfiguring work is being carried on: the mind of God is coming to be his mind; the work of God is coming to be his work; the very life of God is coming to be his life. And this further result comes. They who are changing into the likeness of God are gradually reflecting the glory of God out upon men. They are becoming themselves, in turn, mirrors of God, glasses in which men may behold the glory of the Lord. We hardly know which is the more gracious and surprising - the change that is wrought in us by the constant communion of God and our souls, or the infinite condescension which permits us, in our earthly lives, to be light bearers for God, mirrors to reflect the glory and attraction of his saving grace, so that men may be won to him. Conclude by showing
(1) that the heart must be a veiled heart which resists the ministration of the Spirit;
(2) that from such a veiled heart must ever be hidden the glory of the redeeming God. - R.T.
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.