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, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
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(18) But we all, with open face.—Better, And we all, with unveiled face.—The relation of this sentence to the foregoing is one of sequence and not of contrast, and it is obviously important to maintain in the English, as in the Greek, the continuity of allusive thought involved in the use of the same words as in 2Corinthians 3:14. “We,” says the Apostle, after the parenthesis of 2Corinthians 3:17, “are free, and therefore we have no need to cover our faces, as slaves do before the presence of a great king. There is no veil over our hearts, and therefore none over the eyes with which we exercise our faculty of spiritual vision. We are as Moses was when he stood before the Lord with the veil withdrawn.” If the Tallith were in use at this time in the synagogues of the Jews, there might also be a reference to the contrast between that ceremonial usage and the practice of Christian assemblies. (Comp. 1Corinthians 11:7; but see Note on 2Corinthians 3:15.)

Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord.—The Greek participle which answers to the first five words belongs to a verb derived from the Greek for “mirror” (identical in meaning, though not in form, with that of 1Corinthians 13:12). The word is not a common word, and St. Paul obviously had some special reason for choosing it, instead of the more familiar words, “seeing,” “beholding,” “gazing stedfastly;” and it is accordingly important to ascertain its meaning. There is no doubt that the active voice signifies to “make a reflection in a mirror.” There is as little doubt that the middle voice signifies to look at one’s self in a mirror. Thus Socrates advised drunkards and the young to “look at themselves in a mirror,” that they might learn the disturbing effects of passion (Diog. Laert. ii. 33; iii. 39). This meaning, however, is inapplicable here; and the writings of Philo, who in one passage (de Migr. Abrah. p. 403) uses it in this sense of the priests who saw their faces in the polished brass of the lavers of purification, supply an instance of its use with a more appropriate meaning. Paraphrasing the prayer of Moses in Exodus 33:18, he makes him say: “Let me not behold Thy form (idea) mirrored (using the very word which we find here) in any created thing, but in Thee, the very God” (2 Allegor. p. 79). And this is obviously the force of the word here. The sequence of thought is, it is believed, this:—St. Paul was about to contrast the veiled vision of Israel with the unveiled gaze of the disciples of Christ; but he remembers what he had said in 1Corinthians 13:12 as to the limitation of our present knowledge, and therefore, instead of using the more common word, which would convey the thought of a fuller knowledge, falls back upon the unusual word, which exactly expresses the same thought as that passage had expressed. “We behold the glory of the Lord, of the Jehovah of the Old Testament, but it is not, as yet, face to face, but as mirrored in the person of Christ.” The following words, however, show that the word suggested yet another thought to him. When we see the sun as reflected in a polished mirror of brass or silver, the light illumines us: we are, as it were, transfigured by it and reflect its brightness. That this meaning lies in the word itself cannot, it is true, be proved, and it is, perhaps, hardly compatible with the other meaning which we have assigned to it; but it is perfectly conceivable that the word should suggest the fact, and the fact be looked on as a parable.

Are changed into the same image.—Literally, are being transfigured into the same image. The verb is the same (metemorphôthè) as that used in the account of our Lord’s transfiguration in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2; and it may be noted that it is used of the transformation (a metamorphosis more wondrous than any poet had dreamt of) of the Christian into the likeness of Christ in the nearly contemporary passage (Romans 12:2). The thought is identical with that of Romans 8:29 : “Conformed to the likeness” (or image) “of His Son.” We see God mirrored in Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and as we gaze, with our face unveiled, on that mirror, a change comes over us. The image of the old evil Adam-nature (1Corinthians 15:49) becomes less distinct, and the image of the new man, after the likeness of Christ, takes its place. We “faintly give back what we adore,” and man, in his measure and degree, becomes, as he was meant to be at his creation, like Christ, “the image of the invisible God.” Human thought has, we may well believe, never pictured what in simple phrase we describe as growth in grace, the stages of progressive sanctification, in the language of a nobler poetry.

From glory to glory.—This mode of expressing completeness is characteristic of St. Paul, as in Romans 1:17, “from faith to faith “; 2Corinthians 2:16, “of death to death.” The thought conveyed is less that of passing from one stage of glory to another than the idea that this transfiguring process, which begins with glory, will find its consummation also in glory. The glory hereafter will be the crown of the glory here. The beatific vision will be possible only for those who have been thus transfigured. “We know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1John 3:2).

Even as by the Spirit of the Lord.—The Greek presents the words in a form which admits of three possible renderings. (1) That of the English version; (2) that in the margin, “as of the Lord the Spirit”; (3) as of the Lord of the Spirit. The exceptional order in which the two words stand, which must be thought as adopted with a purpose, is in favour of (2) and (3) rather than of (1), and the fact that the writer had just dictated the words “the Lord is the Spirit” in favour of (2) rather than (3). The form of speech is encompassed with the same difficulties as before, but the leading thought is clear: “The process of transformation originates with the Lord (i.e., with Christ), but it is with Him, not ‘after the flesh’ as a mere teacher and prophet (2Corinthians 5:16), not as the mere giver of another code of ethics, another ‘letter’ or writing, but as a spiritual power and presence, working upon our spirits. In the more technical language of developed theology, it is through the Holy Spirit that the Lord, the Christ, makes His presence manifest to our human spirit.” (Comp. Notes on John 14:22-26.)

2 Corinthians


2 Corinthians 3:18

This whole section of the Epistle in which our text occurs is a remarkable instance of the fervid richness of the Apostle’s mind, which acquires force by motion, and, like a chariot-wheel, catches fire as it revolves. One of the most obvious peculiarities of his style is his habit of ‘going off at a word.’ Each thought is, as it were, barbed all round, and catches and draws into sight a multitude of others, but slightly related to the main purpose in hand. And this characteristic gives at first sight an appearance of confusion to his writings. But it is not confusion, it is richness. The luxuriant underwood which this fertile soil bears, as some tropical forest, does not choke the great trees, though it drapes them.

Paul’s immediate purpose seems to be to illustrate the frank openness which ought to mark the ministry of Christianity. He does this by reference to the veil which Moses wore when he came forth from talking with God. There, he says in effect, we have a picture of the Old Dispensation-a partial revelation, gleaming through a veil, flashing through symbols, expressed here in a rite, there in a type, there again in an obscure prophecy, but never or scarcely ever fronting the world with an unveiled face and the light of God shining clear from it. Christianity is, and Christian teachers ought to be, the opposite of all this. It has, and they are to have, no esoteric doctrines, no hints where plain speech is possible, no reserve, no use of symbols and ceremonies to overlay truth, but an intelligible revelation in words and deeds, to men’s understandings. It and they are plentifully to declare the thing as it is.

But he gets far beyond this point in his uses of his illustration. It opens out into a series of contrasts between the two revelations. The veiled Moses represents the clouded revelation of old. The vanishing gleam on his face recalls the fading glories of that which was abolished; and then, by a quick turn of association, Paul thinks of the veiled readers in the synagogues, copies, as it were, of the lawgiver with the shrouded countenance; only too significant images of the souls obscured by prejudice and obstinate unbelief, with which Israel trifles over the uncomprehended letter of the old law.

The contrast to all this lies in our text. Judaism had the one lawgiver who beheld God, while the people tarried below. Christianity leads us all, to the mount of vision, and lets the lowliest pass through the fences, and go up where the blazing glory is seen. Moses veiled the face that shone with the irradiation of Deity. We with unveiled face are to shine among men. He had a momentary gleam, a transient brightness; we have a perpetual light. Moses’ face shone, but the lustre was but skin deep. But the light that we have is inward, and works transformation into its own likeness.

So there is here set forth the very loftiest conception of the Christian life as direct vision, universal, manifest to men, permanent, transforming.

I. Note then, first, that the Christian life is a life of contemplating and reflecting Christ.

It is a question whether the single word rendered in our version ‘beholding as in a glass,’ means that, or ‘reflecting as a glass does.’ The latter seems more in accordance with the requirements of the context, and with the truth of the matter in hand. Unless we bring in the notion of reflected lustre, we do not get any parallel with the case of Moses. Looking into a glass does not in the least correspond with the allusion, which gave occasion to the whole section, to the glory of God smiting him on the face, till the reflected lustre with which it glowed became dazzling, and needed to be hid. And again, if Paul is here describing Christian vision of God as only indirect, as in a mirror, then that would be a point of inferiority in us as compared with Moses, who saw Him face to face. But the whole tone of the context prepares us to expect a setting forth of the particulars in which the Christian attitude towards the manifested God is above the Jewish. So, on the whole, it seems better to suppose that Paul meant ‘mirroring,’ than ‘seeing in a mirror.’

But, whatever be the exact force of the word, the thing intended includes both acts. There is no reflection of the light without a previous reception of the light. In bodily sight, the eye is a mirror, and there is no sight without an image of the thing perceived being formed in the perceiving eye. In spiritual sight, the soul which beholds is a mirror, and at once beholds and reflects. Thus, then, we may say that we have in our text the Christian life described as one of contemplation and manifestation of the light of God.

The great truth of a direct, unimpeded vision, as belonging to Christian men on earth, sounds strange to many of us. ‘That cannot be,’ you say; ‘does not Paul himself teach that we see through a glass darkly? Do we not walk by faith and not by sight? “No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see Him”; and besides that absolute impossibility, have we not veils of flesh and sense, to say nothing of the covering of sin “spread over the face of all nations,” which hide from us even so much of the eternal light as His servants above behold, who see His face and bear His name on their foreheads?’

But these apparent difficulties drop away when we take into account two things-first, the object of vision, and second, the real nature of the vision itself.

As to the former, who is the Lord whose glory we receive on our unveiled faces? He is Jesus Christ. Here, as in the overwhelming majority of instances where Lord occurs in the New Testament, it is the name of the manifested God our brother. The glory which we behold and give back is not the incomprehensible, incommunicable lustre of the absolute divine perfectness, but that glory which, as John says, we beheld in Him who tabernacled with us, full of grace and truth; the glory which was manifested in loving, pitying words and loveliness of perfect deeds; the glory of the will resigned to God, and of God dwelling in and working through the will; the glory of faultless and complete manhood, and therein of the express image of God.

And as for the vision itself, that seeing which is denied to be possible is the bodily perception and the full comprehension of the Infinite God; that seeing which is affirmed to be possible, and actually bestowed in Christ, is the beholding of Him with the soul by faith; the immediate direct consciousness of His presence the perception of Him in His truth by the mind, the feeling of Him in His love by the heart, the contact with His gracious energy in our recipient and opening spirits. Faith is made the antithesis of sight. It is so, in certain respects. But faith is also paralleled with and exalted above the mere bodily perception. He who believing grasps the living Lord has a contact with Him as immediate and as real as that of the eyeball with light, and knows Him with a certitude as reliable as that which sight gives. ‘Seeing is believing,’ says sense; ‘Believing is seeing’ says the spirit which clings to the Lord, ‘whom having not seen’ it loves. A bridge of perishable flesh, which is not myself but my tool, connects me with the outward world. It never touches myself at all, and I know it only by trust in my senses. But nothing intervenes between my Lord and me, when I love and trust. Then Spirit is joined to spirit, and of His presence I have the witness in myself. He is the light, which proves its own existence by revealing itself, which strikes with quickening impulse on the eye of the spirit that beholds by faith. Believing we see, and, seeing, we have that light in our souls to be ‘the master light of all our seeing.’ We need not think that to know by the consciousness of our trusting souls is less than to know by the vision of our fallible eyes; and though flesh hides from us the spiritual world in which we float, yet the only veil which really dims God to us-the veil of sin, the one separating principle-is done away in Christ, for all who love Him; so as that he who has not seen and yet has believed, has but the perfecting of his present vision to expect, when flesh drops away and the apocalypse of the heaven comes. True, in one view, ‘We see through a glass darkly’; but also true, ‘We all, with unveiled face, behold and reflect the glory of the Lord.’

Then note still further Paul’s emphasis on the universality of this prerogative-’We all.’ This vision does not belong to any select handful; does not depend upon special powers or gifts, which in the nature of things can only belong to a few. The spiritual aristocracy of God’s Church is not the distinction of the law-giver, the priest or the prophet. There is none of us so weak, so low, so ignorant, so compassed about with sin, but that upon our happy faces that light may rest, and into our darkened hearts that sunshine may steal.

In that Old Dispensation, the light that broke through clouds was but that of the rising morning. It touched the mountain tops of the loftiest spirits: a Moses, a David, an Elijah caught the early gleams; while all the valleys slept in the pale shadow, and the mist clung in white folds to the plains. But the noon has come, and, from its steadfast throne in the very zenith, the sun, which never sets, pours down its rays into the deep recesses of the narrowest gorge, and every little daisy and hidden flower catches its brightness, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. We have no privileged class or caste now; no fences to keep out the mob from the place of vision, while lawgiver and priest gaze upon God. Christ reveals Himself to all His servants in the measure of their desire after Him. Whatsoever special gifts may belong to a few in His Church, the greatest gift belongs to all. The servants and the handmaidens have the Spirit, the children prophesy, the youths see visions, the old men dream dreams. ‘The mobs,’ ‘the masses,’ ‘the plebs,’ or whatever other contemptuous name the heathen aristocratic spirit has for the bulk of men, makes good its standing within the Church, as possessor of Christ’s chiefest gifts. Redeemed by Him, it can behold His face and be glorified into His likeness. Not as Judaism with its ignorant mass, and its enlightened and inspired few-we all behold the glory of the Lord.

Again, this contemplation involves reflection, or giving forth the light which we behold.

They who behold Christ have Christ formed in them, as will appear in my subsequent remarks. But apart from such considerations, which belong rather to the next part of this sermon, I touch on this thought here for one purpose-to bring out this idea-that what we see we shall certainly show. That will be the inevitable result of all true possession of the glory of Christ. The necessary accompaniment of vision is reflecting the thing beheld. Why, if you look closely enough into a man’s eye, you will see in it little pictures of what he beholds at the moment; and if our hearts are beholding Christ, Christ will be mirrored and manifested on our hearts. Our characters will show what we are looking at, and ought, in the case of Christian people, to bear His image so plainly, that men cannot but take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.

This ought to lead all of us who say that we have seen the Lord, to serious self-questioning. Do beholding and reflecting go together in our cases? Are our characters like those transparent clocks, where you can see not only the figures and hands, but the wheels and works? Remember that, consciously and unconsciously, by direct efforts and by insensible influences on our lives, the true secret of our being ought to come, and will come, forth to light. The convictions which we hold, the emotions that are dominant in our hearts, will mould and shape our lives. If we have any deep, living perception of Christ, bystanders looking into our faces will be able to tell what it is up yonder that is making them like the faces of the angels-even vision of the opened heavens and of the exalted Lord. These two things are inseparable-the one describes the attitude and action of the Christian man towards Christ; the other the very same attitude and action in relation to men. And you may be quite sure that, if little light comes from a Christian character, little light comes into it; and if it be swathed in thick veils from men, there must be no less thick veils between it and God.

Nor is it only that our fellowship with Christ will, as a matter of course, show itself in our characters, and beauty born of that communion ‘shall pass into our face,’ but we are also called on, as Paul puts it here, to make direct conscious efforts for the communication of the light which we behold. As the context has it, God hath shined in our hearts, that we might give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. Away with all veils! No reserve, no fear of the consequences of plain speaking, no diplomatic prudence regulating our frank utterance, no secret doctrines for the initiated! We are to ‘renounce the hidden things of dishonesty.’ Our power and our duty lie in the full exhibition of the truth. We are only clear from the blood of men when we, for our parts, make sure that if any light be hid, it is hid not by reason of obscurity or silence on our parts, but only by reason of the blind eyes, before which the full-orbed radiance gleams in vain. All this is as true for every one possessing that universal prerogative of seeing the glory of Christ, as it is for an Apostle. The business of all such is to make known the name of Jesus, and if from idleness, or carelessness, or selfishness, they shirk that plain duty, they are counteracting God’s very purpose in shining on their hearts, and going far to quench the light which they darken.

Take this, then, Christian men and women, as a plain practical lesson from this text. You are bound to manifest what you believe, and to make the secret of your lives, in so far as possible, an open secret. Not that you are to drag into light before men the sacred depths of your own soul’s experience. Let these lie hid. The world will be none the better for your confessions, but it needs your Lord. Show Him forth, not your own emotions about Him. What does the Apostle say close by my text? ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.’ Self-respect and reverence for the sanctities of our deepest emotions forbid our proclaiming these from the house-tops. Let these be curtained, if you will, from all eyes but God’s, but let no folds hang before the picture of your Saviour that is drawn on your heart. See to it that you have the unveiled face turned towards Christ to be irradiated by His brightness, and the unveiled face turned towards men, from which shall shine every beam of the light which you have caught from your Lord. ‘Arise! shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee!’

II. Notice, secondly, that this life of contemplation is therefore a life of gradual transformation.

The brightness on the face of Moses was only skin-deep. It faded away, and left no trace. It effaced none of the marks of sorrow and care, and changed none of the lines of that strong, stern face. But, says Paul, the glory which we behold sinks inward, and changes us as we look, into its own image. Thus the superficial lustre, that had neither permanence nor transforming power, becomes an illustration of the powerlessness of law to change the moral character into the likeness of the fair ideal which it sets forth. And, in opposition to its weakness, the Apostle proclaims the great principle of Christian progress, that the beholding of Christ leads to the assimilation to Him.

The metaphor of a mirror does not wholly serve us here. When the sunbeams fall upon it, it flashes in the light, just because they do not enter its cold surface. It is a mirror, because it does not drink them up, but flings them back. The contrary is the case with these sentient mirrors of our spirits. In them the light must first sink in before it can ray out. They must first be filled with the glory, before the glory can stream forth. They are not so much like a reflecting surface as like a bar of iron, which needs to be heated right down to its obstinate black core, before its outer skin glows with the whiteness of a heat that is too hot to sparkle. The sunshine must fall on us, not as it does on some lonely hill-side, lighting up the grey stones with a passing gleam that changes nothing, and fades away, leaving the solitude to its sadness; but as it does on some cloud cradled near its setting, which it drenches and saturates with fire till its cold heart burns, and all its wreaths of vapour are brightness palpable, glorified by the light which lives amidst its mists. So must we have the glory sink into us before it can be reflected from us. In deep inward beholding we must have Christ in our hearts, that He may shine forth from our lives.

And this contemplation will be gradual transformation. There is the great principle of Christian morals. ‘We all beholding . . . are changed.’ The power to which is committed the perfecting of our characters lies in looking upon Jesus. It is not the mere beholding, but the gaze of love and trust that moulds us by silent sympathy into the likeness of His wondrous beauty, who is fairer than the children of men. It was a deep, true thought which the old painters had, when they drew John as likest to his Lord. Love makes us like. We learn that even in our earthly relationships, where habitual familiarity with parents and dear ones stamps some tone of voice or look, or little peculiarity of gesture, on a whole house. And when the infinite reverence and aspiration which the Christian soul cherishes to its Lord are superadded, the transforming power of loving contemplation of Him becomes mighty beyond all analogies in human friendship, though one in principle with these. What a marvellous thing that a block of rude sandstone, laid down before a perfect marble, should become a copy of its serene loveliness just by lying there! Lay your hearts down before Christ. Contemplate Him. Love Him. Think about Him. Let that pure face shine upon heart and spirit, and as the sun photographs itself on the sensitive plate exposed to its light, and you get a likeness of the sun by simply laying the thing in the sun, so He will ‘be formed in, you.’ Iron near a magnet becomes magnetic. Spirits that dwell with Christ become Christ-like. The Roman Catholic legends put this truth in a coarse way, when they tell of saints who have gazed on some ghastly crucifix till they have received, in their tortured flesh, the copy of the wounds of Jesus, and have thus borne in their body the marks of the Lord. The story is hideous and gross, the idea beneath is ever true. Set your faces towards the Cross with loving, reverent gaze, and you will ‘be conformed unto His death,’ that in due time you may ‘be also in the likeness of His Resurrection.’

Dear friends, surely this message-’Behold and be like’-ought to be very joyful and enlightening to many of us, who are wearied with painful struggles after isolated pieces of goodness, that elude our grasp. You have been trying, and trying, and trying half your lifetime to cure faults and make yourselves better and stronger. Try this other plan. Let love draw you, instead of duty driving you. Let fellowship with Christ elevate you, instead of seeking to struggle up the steeps on hands and knees. Live in sight of your Lord, and catch His Spirit. The man who travels with his face northwards has it grey and cold. Let him turn to the warm south, where the midday sun dwells, and his face will glow with the brightness that he sees. ‘Looking unto Jesus’ is the sovereign cure for all our ills and sins. It is the one condition of running with patience ‘the race that is set before us.’ Efforts after self-improvement which do not rest on it will not go deep enough, nor end in victory. But from that gaze will flow into our lives a power which will at once reveal the true goal, and brace every sinew for the struggle to reach it. Therefore, let us cease from self, and fix our eyes on our Saviour till His image imprints itself on our whole nature.

Such transformation, it must be remembered, comes gradually. The language of the text regards it as a lifelong process. ‘We are changed’; that is a continuous operation. ‘From glory to glory’; that is a course which has well-marked transitions and degrees. Be not impatient if it be slow. It will take a lifetime. Do not fancy that it is finished with you. Life is not long enough for it. Do not be complacent over the partial transformation which you have felt. There is but a fragment of the great image yet reproduced in your soul, a faint outline dimly traced, with many a feature wrongly drawn, with many a line still needed, before it can be called even approximately complete. See to it that you neither turn away your gaze, nor relax your efforts till all that you have beheld in Him is repeated in you.

Likeness to Christ is the aim of all religion. To it conversion is introductory; doctrines, devout emotion, worship and ceremonies, churches and organisations are valuable as auxiliary. Let that wondrous issue of God’s mercy be the purpose of our lives, and the end as well as the test of all the things which we call our Christianity. Prize and use them as helps towards it, and remember that they are helps only in proportion as they show us that Saviour, the image of whom is our perfection, the beholding of whom is our transformation.

III. Notice, lastly, that the life of contemplation finally becomes a life of complete assimilation.

‘Changed into the same image, from glory to glory.’ The lustrous light which falls upon Christian hearts from the face of their Lord is permanent, and it is progressive. The likeness extends, becomes deeper, truer, every way perfecter, comprehends more and more of the faculties of the man; soaks into him, if I may say so, until he is saturated with the glory; and in all the extent of his being, and in all the depth possible to each part of that whole extent, is like his Lord. That is the hope for heaven, towards which we may indefinitely approximate here, and at which we shall absolutely arrive there. There we expect changes which are impossible here, while compassed with this body of sinful flesh. We look for the merciful exercise of His mighty working to ‘change the body of our lowliness, that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory’; and that physical change in the resurrection of the just rightly bulks very large in good men’s expectations. But we are somewhat apt to think of the perfect likeness of Christ too much in connection with that transformation that begins only after death, and to forget that the main transformation must begin here. The glorious, corporeal life like our Lord’s, which is promised for heaven, is great and wonderful, but it is only the issue and last result of the far greater change in the spiritual nature, which by faith and love begins here. It is good to be clothed with the immortal vesture of the resurrection, and in that to be like Christ. It is better to be like Him in our hearts. His true image is that we should feel as He does, should think as He does, should will as He does; that we should have the same sympathies, the same loves, the same attitude towards God, and the same attitude towards men. It is that His heart and ours should beat in full accord, as with one pulse, and possessing one life. Wherever there is the beginning of that oneness and likeness of spirit, all the rest will come in due time. As the spirit, so the body. The whole nature must be transformed and made like Christ’s, and the process will not stop till that end be accomplished in all who love Him. But the beginning here is the main thing which draws all the rest after it as of course. ‘If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.’

And, while this complete assimilation in body and spirit to our Lord is the end of the process which begins here by love and faith, my text, carefully considered, adds a further very remarkable idea. ‘We are all changed,’ says Paul, ‘into the same image.’ Same as what? Possibly the same as we behold; but more probably the phrase, especially ‘image’ in the singular, is employed to convey the thought of the blessed likeness of all who become perfectly like Him. As if he had said, ‘Various as we are in disposition and character, unlike in the histories of our lives, and all the influences that these have had upon us, differing in everything but the common relation to Jesus Christ, we are all growing like the same image, and we shall come to be perfectly like it, and yet each retain his own distinct individuality.’ ‘We being many are one, for we are all partakers of one.’

Perhaps, too, we may connect with this another idea which occurs more than once in Paul’s Epistles. In that to the Ephesians, for instance, he says that the Christian ministry is to continue, till a certain point of progress has been reached, which he describes as our all coming to ‘a perfect man.’ The whole of us together make a perfect man-the whole make one image. That is to say, perhaps the Apostle’s idea is, that it takes the aggregated perfectness of the whole Catholic Church, one throughout all ages, and containing a multitude that no man can number, to set worthily forth anything like a complete image of the fulness of Christ. No one man, even raised to the highest pitch of perfection, and though his nature be widened out to perfect development, can be the full image of that infinite sum of all beauty; but the whole of us taken together, with all the diversities of natural character retained and consecrated, being collectively His body which He vitalises, may, on the whole, be a not wholly inadequate representation of our perfect Lord. Just as we set round a central light sparkling prisms, each of which catches the glow at its own angle, and flashes it back of its own colour, while the sovereign completeness of the perfect white radiance comes from the blending of all their separate rays, so they who stand round about the starry throne receive each the light in his own measure and manner, and give forth each a true and perfect, and altogether a complete, image of Him who enlightens them all, and is above them all.

And whilst thus all bear the same image, there is no monotony; and while there is endless diversity, there is no discord. Like the serene choirs of angels in the old monk’s pictures, each one with the same tongue of fire on the brow, with the same robe flowing in the same folds to the feet, with the same golden hair, yet each a separate self, with his own gladness, and a different instrument for praise in his hand, and his own part in that ‘undisturbed song of pure content,’ we shall all be changed into the same image, and yet each heart shall grow great with its own blessedness, and each spirit bright with its own proper lustre of individual and characteristic perfection.

The law of the transformation is the same for earth and for heaven. Here we see Him in part, and beholding grow like. There we shall see Him as He is, and the likeness will be complete. That Transfiguration of our Lord {which is described by the same word as occurs in this text} may become for us the symbol and the prophecy of what we look for. As with Him, so with us; the indwelling glory shall come to the surface, and the countenance shall shine as the light, and the garments shall be ‘white as no fuller on earth can white them.’ Nor shall that be a fading splendour, nor shall we fear as we enter into the cloud, nor, looking on Him, shall flesh bend beneath the burden, and the eyes become drowsy, but we shall be as the Lawgiver and the Prophet who stood by Him in the lambent lustre, and shone with a brightness above that which had once been veiled on Sinai. We shall never vanish from His side, but dwell with Him in the abiding temple which He has built, and there, looking upon Him for ever, our happy souls shall change as they gaze, and behold Him more perfectly as they change, for ‘we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

3:12-18 It is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great plainness, or clearness, of speech. The Old Testament believers had only cloudy and passing glimpses of that glorious Saviour, and unbelievers looked no further than to the outward institution. But the great precepts of the gospel, believe, love, obey, are truths stated as clearly as possible. And the whole doctrine of Christ crucified, is made as plain as human language can make it. Those who lived under the law, had a veil upon their hearts. This veil is taken away by the doctrines of the Bible about Christ. When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God's commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Christians should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of Christians shine also.But we all - All Christians. The discussion in the chapter has related mainly to the apostles; but this declaration seems evidently to refer to all Christians, as distinguished from the Jews.

With open face - compare note on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Tyndale renders this: "and now the Lord's glory appeareth in us all as in a glass." The sense is, "with unveiled face," alluding to the fact 2 Corinthians 3:13 that the face of Moses was veiled, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look on it. In contradistinction from that, Paul says that Christians are enabled to look upon the glory of the Lord in the gospel without a veil - without any obscure intervening medium.

Beholding as in a glass - On the word "glass, and the sense in which it is used in the New Testament, see the note on 1 Corinthians 13:12. The word used here κατοπτριζόμενοι katoptrizomenoi has been very variously rendered. Macknight renders it, "we all reflecting as mirrors the glory of the Lord." Doddridge, "beholding as by a glass." Locke, "with open countenances as mirrors, reflecting the glory of the Lord." The word κατοπτρίζω katoptrizō occurs no where else in the New Testament. It properly means to look in a mirror; to behold as in a mirror. The mirrors of the ancients were made of burnished metal, and they reflected images with great brilliancy and distinctness. And the meaning is, that the gospel reflected the glory of the Lord; it was, so to speak, the mirror - the polished, burnished substance in which the glory of the Lord shone, and where that glory was irradiated and reflected so that it might be seen by Christians. There was no veil over it; no obscurity; nothing to break its dazzling splendor, or to prevent its meeting the eye. Christians, by looking on the gospel, could see the glorious perfections and plans of God as bright, and clear, and brilliant as they could see a light reflected from the burnished surface of the mirror. So to speak, the glorious perfections of God shone from heaven; beamed upon the gospel, and were thence reflected to the eye and the heart of the Christian, and had the effect of transforming them into the same image. This passage is one of great beauty, and is designed to set forth the gospel as being "the reflection" of the infinite glories of God to the minds and hearts of people.

The glory of the Lord - The splendor, majesty, and holiness of God as manifested in the gospel, or of the Lord as incarnate. The idea is, that God was clearly and distinctly seen in the gospel. There was no obscurity, no veil, as in the case of Moses. In the gospel they were permitted to look on the full splendor of the divine perfections - the justice, goodness, mercy, and benevolence of God - to see him as he is with undimmed and unveiled glory. The idea is, that the perfections of God shine forth with splendor and beauty in the gospel, and that we are permitted to look on them clearly and openly.

Are changed into the same image - It is possible that there may be an allusion here to the effect which was produced by looking into an ancient mirror. Such mirrors were made of burnished metal, and the reflection from them would be intense. If a strong light were thrown on them, the rays would be cast by reflection on the face of him who looked on the mirror, and it would be strongly illuminated. And the idea may be, that the glory of God, the splendor of the divine perfections, was thrown on the gospel, so to speak like a bright light on a polished mirror; and that that glory was reflected from the gospel on him who contemplated it, so that he appeared to be transformed into the same image. Locke renders it: "We are changed into his very image by a continued succession of glory, as it were, streaming upon us from the Lord." The figure is one of great beauty; and the idea is, that by placing ourselves within the light of the gospel; by contemplating the glory that shines there, we become changed into the likeness of the same glory, and conformed to that which shines there with so much splendor.

By contemplating the resplendent face of the blessed Redeemer, we are changed into something of the same image. It is a law of our nature that we are moulded, in our moral feelings, by the persons with whom we associate, and by the objects which we contemplate. We become insensibly assimilated to those with whom we have social contact, and to the objects with which we are familiar. We imbibe the opinions, we copy the habits, we imitate the manners, we fall into rite customs of those with whom we have daily conversation, and whom we make our companions and friends. Their sentiments insensibly become our sentiments, and their ways our ways. It is thus with the books with which we are familiar. We are insensibly, but certainly moulded into conformity to the opinions, maxims, and feelings which are there expressed. Our own sentiments undergo a gradual change, and we are likened to those with which in this manner we are conversant.

So it is in regard to the opinions and feelings which from any cause we are in the habit of bringing before our minds. It is the way by which people become corrupted in their sentiments and feelings, in their contact with the world; it is the way in which amusements, and the company of the frivolous and the dissipated possess so much power; it is the way in which the young and inexperienced are beguiled and ruined; and it is the way in which Christians dim the luster of their piety, and obscure the brightness of their religion by their contact with the "happy and fashionable world. And it is on the same great principle that Paul says that by contemplating the glory of God in the gospel, we become insensibly, but certainly conformed to the same image, and made like the Redeemer. His image will be reflected on us. We shall imbibe his sentiments, catch his feelings, and be moulded into the image of his own purity. Such is the great and wise law of our nature; and it is on this principle, and by this means, that God designs we should be "made" pure on earth, and "kept" pure in heaven forever.

From glory to glory - From one degree of glory to another. "The more we behold this brilliant and glorious light, the more do we reflect back its rays; that is, the more we contemplate the great truths of the Christian religion, the more do our minds become imbued with its spirit" - Bloomfield. This is said in contradistinction probably to Moses. The splendor on his face gradually died away. But not so with the light reflected from the gospel. It becomes deeper and brighter constantly. This sentinient is parallel to that expressed by the psalmist; "They go from strength to strength" Psalm 84:7; that is, they go from one degree of strength to another, or one degree of holiness to another, until they come to the full vision of God himself in heaven. The idea in the phrase before us is; that there is a continual increase of moral purity and holiness under the gospel until it results in the perfect glory of heaven. The "doctrine" is, that Christians advance in piety; and that this is done by the contemplation of the glory of God as it is revealed in the gospel.

As by the Spirit of the Lord - Margin, "Of the Lord of the Spirit." Greek "As from the Lord the Spirit." So Beza, Locke, Wolf, Rosenmuller, and Doddridge render it. The idea is, that it is by the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of the law, the spirit referred to by Paul above, 2 Corinthians 3:6, 2 Corinthians 3:17. It is done by the Holy Spirit procured or imparted by the Lord Jesus. This sentiment is in accordance with that which prevails everywhere in the Bible, that it is by the Holy Spirit alone that the heart is changed and purified. And the "object" of the statement here is, doubtless, to prevent the supposition that the change from "glory to glory" was produced in any sense by the "mere" contemplation of truth, or by any physical operation of such contemplation on the mind. It was by the Spirit of God alone that the heart was changed even under the gospel, and amidst the full blaze of its truth, Were it not for his agency, even the contemplation of the glorious truths of the gospel would be in vain, and would produce no saving effect on the human heart.


1. The best of all evidences of a call to the office of the ministry is the divine blessing resting on our labors 2 Corinthians 3:1-2. If sinners are converted; if souls are sanctified; if the interests of pure religion are advanced; if by humble, zealous, and self-denying efforts, a man is enabled so to preach as that the divine blessing shall rest constantly on his labors, it is among the best of all evidences that he is called of God, and is approved by him. And though it may be true, and is true, that people who are self-deceived, or are hypocrites, are sometimes the means of doing good, yet it is still true, as a general rule, that eminent, and long-continued success in the ministry is an evidence of God's acceptance, and that he has called a minister to this office. Paul felt this, and often appealed to it; and why may not others also?

2. A minister may appeal to the effect of the gospel among his own people as a proof that it is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. Nothing else would produce such effects as were produced at Corinth, but the power of God. If the wicked are reclaimed; if the in temperate and licentious are made temperate and pure; if the dishonest are made honest; and the scoffer learns to pray, under the gospel, it proves that it is from God. To such effects a minister may appeal as proof that the gospel which he preaches is from heaven. A system which will produce these effects must be true.

3. A minister should so live among a people as to be able to appeal to them with the utmost confidence in regard to the purity and integrity of his own character, 2 Corinthians 3:1-2. He should so live, and preach, and act, that he will be under no necessity of adducing testimonials from abroad in regard to his character. The effect of his gospel, and the tenor of his life, should be his best testimonial; and to that he should be able to appeal. A man who is under a necesity, constantly, or often, of defending his own character; of bolstering it up by testimonials from abroad; who is obliged to spend much of his time in defending his reputation, or who chooses to spend much of his time in defending it, has usually a character and reputation "not worth defending." Let a man live as he ought to do, and he will, in the end, have a good reputation. Let him strive to do the will of God, and save souls, and he will have all the reputation which he ought to have. God will take care of his character; and will give him just as much reputation as it is desirable that he should have; see Psalm 37:5-6.

4. The church is, as it were, an epistle sent by the Lord Jesus, to show his character and will, 2 Corinthians 3:3. It is his representative on earth. It holds his truth. It is to imitate his example. It is to show how he lived. And it is to accomplish that which he would accomplish were he personally on earth, and present among people - as a letter is designed to accomplish some important purpose of the writer when absent. The church, therefore, should be such as shall appropriately express the will and desire of the Lord Jesus. It should resemble him. It should hold his truth; and it should devote itself with untiring diligence to the great purpose of advancing his designs, and spreading his gospel around the world.


18. But we all—Christians, as contrasted with the Jews who have a veil on their hearts, answering to Moses' veil on his face. He does not resume reference to ministers till 2Co 4:1.

with open face—Translate, "with unveiled face" (the veil being removed at conversion): contrasted with "hid" (2Co 4:3).

as in a glass—in a mirror, namely, the Gospel which reflects the glory of God and Christ (2Co 4:4; 1Co 13:12; Jas 1:23, 25).

are changed into the same image—namely, the image of Christ's glory, spiritually now (Ro 8:29; 1Jo 3:3); an earnest of the bodily change hereafter (Php 3:21). However many they be, believers all reflect the same image of Christ more or less: a proof of the truth of Christianity.

from glory to glory—from one degree of glory to another. As Moses' face caught a reflection of God's glory from being in His presence, so believers are changed into His image by beholding Him.

even as, &c.—Just such a transformation "as" was to be expected from "the Lord the Spirit" (not as English Version, "the Spirit of the Lord") [Alford] (2Co 3:17): "who receives of the things of Christ, and shows them to us" (Joh 16:14; Ro 8:10, 11). (Compare as to hereafter, Ps 17:15; Re 22:4).

Some by we here understand all believers; others think it is better understood of ministers: but the universal particle all rather guideth us to interpret it of the whole body of believers, of whom the apostle saith, that they all behold the glory of God with open face; that is, not under those dark types, shadows, and prophecies, that he was of old revealed under, but as in a looking glass, which represents the face as at hand; not as in a perspective, which showeth things afar off. We behold him in the glass of the gospel, fully opened and preached; and this sight of Christ in the gospel is not a mere useless sight, but such a sight as changeth the soul into the image and likeness of Christ,

from glory to glory; carrying on the souls of believers from one degree of grace to another; or making such a glorious change in the heart, as shall not be blotted out until a soul cometh into those possessions of glory which God hath prepared for his people. And all this is done

by the Spirit of the Lord, working with the word of God in the mouths of his ministers, but so as the Spirit hath the principal agency and efficiency in the work.

But we all with open face,.... We are not like Moses, who had a veil on his face; nor like the Jews, who have one on their hearts: "but we all"; not ministers and preachers of the Gospel only, but all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, greater or lesser believers, who are enlightened by the Spirit of God, and are converted to Christ: "with open face"; which may regard the object beheld, the glory of Christ unveiled, that has no veil on it, as Moses had on his face, when he delivered the law; or the persons beholding, who are rid of Jewish darkness; the veil of the ceremonial law, and of natural darkness and blindness of mind; and so clearly and fully, comparatively speaking,

beholding as in a glass; not of the law, but of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it; not with the eyes of their bodies, but with the eyes of their understandings, with the eye of faith; which sight is spiritual, delightful, and very endearing; throws a veil over all other objects, and makes souls long to be with Christ: the object beheld is

the glory of the Lord; Jesus Christ: not the glory of his human nature, which lies in its union to the Son of God, and in its names which it has by virtue of it; and in its being the curious workmanship of the Spirit of God, and so is pure and holy, and free from all sin; and was outwardly beautiful and glorious, and is so at the right hand of God, where we see him by faith, crowned with glory and honour; and shall behold him with the eyes of our bodies, and which will be fashioned like to his glorious body; but this sight and change are not yet: rather the glory of his divine nature is meant, which is essential and underived, the same with his Father's; is ineffable, and incomprehensible; it appears in the perfections he is possessed of, and in the worship given to him; it was manifested in the doctrines taught, and in the miracles wrought by him; there were some breakings forth of this glory in his state of humiliation, and were beheld by the apostles, and other believers, who saw his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father. Though the glory of Christ as Mediator, being full of grace and truth, seems to be chiefly designed; this he has from God, and had it from everlasting; this he gives to his people, and is what makes him so glorious, lovely, and desirable in their eye: and whilst this delightful object is beheld by them, they are

changed into the same image; there was a divine image in man, in his first creation; this image was defaced by sin, and a different one took place; now in regeneration another distinct from them both is stamped, and this is the image of Christ; he himself is formed in the soul, his grace is wrought there; so that it is no wonder there is a likeness between them; which lies in righteousness and holiness, and shows itself in acts of grace, and a discharge of duty. The gradual motion of the change into this image is expressed by this phrase,

from glory to glory: not from the glory of the law to the glory of the Gospel; or from the glory of Moses to the glory of Christ; rather from the glory that is in Christ, to a glory derived in believers from him; or which seems most agreeable, from one degree of grace to another, grace here being signified by glory; or from glory begun here to glory perfect hereafter; when this image will be completed, both in soul and body; and the saints will be as perfectly like to Christ, as they are capable of, and see him as he is: now the efficient cause of all this, "is the Spirit of the Lord". It is he that takes off the veil from the heart, that we may, with open face unveiled, behold all this glory; it is he that regenerates, stamps the image of Christ, and conforms the soul to his likeness; it is he that gradually carries on the work of grace upon the soul, increases faith, enlarges the views of the glory of Christ, and the spiritual light, knowledge, and experience of the saints, and will perfect all that which concerns them; will quicken their mortal bodies, and make them like to Christ; and will for ever rest as a spirit of glory on them, both in soul and body: some read these words,

by the Lord of the Spirit, and understand them of Christ, others read them, "by the Lord the Spirit", as they very well may be rendered; and so are a proof of the true and proper deity of the Holy Spirit, who is the one Jehovah with the Father and the Son. The ancient Jews owned this;

"the Spirit of the living God, (say (k) they,) , this is the Creator himself, from him all spirits are produced; blessed be he, and blessed be his name, because his name is he himself, for his name is Jehovah.''

(k) R. Moses Botril in Sepher Jetzirah, p. 40. Ed. Rittangel.

{5} 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.

(5) Continuing in the allegory of the covering, he compares the Gospel to a glass, which although it is most bright and sparkling, yet it does not dazzle their eyes who look in it, as the Law does, but instead transforms them with its beams, so that they also are partakers of the glory and shining of it, to enlighten others: as Christ said unto his own, You are the light of the world, whereas he himself alone is the light. We are also commanded in another place to shine as candles before the world, because we are partakers of God's Spirit. But Paul speaks here properly of the ministers of the Gospel, as it appears both by that which goes before, and that which comes after, and in that he sets before them his own example and that of his fellows.

2 Corinthians 3:18. The ἐλευθερία just mentioned is now further confirmed on an appeal to experience as in triumph, by setting forth the (free, unrestricted) relation of all Christians to the glory of Christ. The δέ is the simple μεταβατικόν, and forms the transition from the thing (ἐλευθερία) to the persons, in whom the thing presents itself in definite form. For the freedom of him who has the Spirit of the Lord forms the contents of 2 Corinthians 3:18, and not simply the thought: “we, however, bear this Spirit of the Lord in us.”[181] Flatt and Rückert are quite arbitrary in attaching it to 2 Corinthians 3:14.

ἡμεῖς] refers to the Christians in general, as the connection, the added πάντες, and what is affirmed of ἩΜΕῖς, clearly prove. Erasmus, Cajetanus, Estius, Bengel, Michaelis, Nösselt, Stolz, Rosenmüller are wrong in thinking that it refers merely to the apostles and teachers.

The emphasis is not on πάντες (in which Theodoret, Theophylact, Bengel find a contrast to the one Moses), but on ἡμεῖς, in contrast to the Jews, “qui fidei carent oculis,” Erasmu.

ἈΝΑΚΕΚΑΛ. ΠΡΟΣΏΠῼ] with unveiled countenance; for through our conversion to Christ our formerly confined and fettered spiritual intuition (knowledge) became free and unconfined, 2 Corinthians 3:16. After 2 Corinthians 3:15-16 we should expect ἀνακεκαλυμμένῃ καρδίᾳ; but Paul changes the figure, because he wishes here to represent the persons not as hearing (as in 2 Corinthians 3:15) but as seeing, and therewith his conception has manifestly returned to the history of Moses, who appeared before God with the veil removed, Exodus 34:34. Next to the subject ἡμεῖς, moreover, the emphasis lies on ἈΝΑΚΕΚΑΛ. ΠΡΟΣΏΠῼ: “But we all, with unveiled countenance beholding the glory of the Lord in the mirror, become transformed to the same glory.” For if the beholding of the glory presented in the mirror should take place with covered face, the reflection of this glory (“speculi autem est lumen repercutere,” Emmerling) could not operate on the beholders to render them glorious, as, indeed, also in the case of Moses it was the unveiled countenance that received the radiation of the divine glor.

τὴν δόξαν κυρίου] said quite without limit of the whole glory of the exalted Christ[182]. It is the divine, in so far as Christ is the bearer and reflection of the divine glory (Colossians 1:15; Colossians 2:9; John 17:5; Hebrews 1:3); but κυρίον does not (in opposition to Calvin and Estius) apply to God, on account of 2 Corinthians 3:16-17.

κατοπτριζόμενοι] beholding in the mirror. For we behold the glory of Christ in the mirror, inasmuch as we see not immediately its objective reality, which will only be the case in the future kingdom of God (John 17:24; 1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:3 f.; Romans 8:17 f.), but only its representation in the gospel; for the gospel is τὸ εὐαγγ. τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 4:4, consequently, as it were, the mirror, in which the glory of Christ gives itself to be seen and shines in its very image to the eye of faith; hence the believing heart (Osiander), which is rather the organ of beholding, cannot be conceived as the mirror. Hunnius aptly remarks that Paul is saying, “nos non ad modum Judaeorum caecutire, sed retecta facie gloriam Domini in evangelii speculo relucentem intueri.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:12, where likewise the gospel is conceived of as a mirror, as respects, however, the still imperfect vision which it brings about. κατοπτρίζω in the active means to mirror, i.e. to show in the mirror (Plut. Mor. p. 894 D); but in the middle it means among the Greeks to look into, to behold oneself in a mirror. To this head belong Athen. xv. p. 687 C, and all the passages in Wetstein, also Artemidorus, ii. 7, which passage is erroneously adduced by Wolf and others for the meaning: “to see in the mirror.” But this latter signification, which is that occurring in the passage now before us, is unquestionably found in Philo (Loesner, Obss. p. 304). See especially Alleg. p. 79 E: μηδὲ κατοπτρισαίμην ἐν ἄλλῳ τινὶ τὴν σὴν ἰδέαν ἢ ἐν σοὶ τῷ θεῷ. Pelagius (“contemplamur”), Grotius,[183] Rückert, and others quite give up the conception of a mirror, and retain only the notion of beholding; but this is mere caprice, which quite overlooks as well the correct position of the case to which the word aptly corresponds, as also the reference which the following εἰκόνα has to the conception of the mirror. Chrysostom and his successors, Luther, Calovius, Bengel, and others, including Billroth and Olshausen, think that κατοπτρίζεσθαι means to reflect, to beam back the lustre, so that, in parallel with Moses, the glory of Christ is beaming; ἡ καθαρὰ καρδία τῆς θείας δόξης οἷόν τι ἐκμαγεῖον καὶ κάτοπτρον γίνεται, Theodoret. Comp. Erasmus, Paraphr., and Luther’s gloss: “as the mirror catches an image, so our heart catches the knowledge of Christ.” But at variance with the usage of the language, for the middle never has this meaning; and at variance with the context, for ἀνακεκαλ. προσώπῳ must, according to 2 Corinthians 3:14-17, refer to the conception of free and unhindered seeing.

τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφ.] we become transformed to the same image, i.e. become so transformed that the same image which we see in the mirror—the image of the glory of Christ—presents itself on us, i.e. as regards the substantial meaning: we are so transformed that we become like to the glorified Christ. Now, seeing that this transformation appears as caused by and contemporaneous with ἀνακεκ. προσ. τ. δόξ. κ. κατοπτρ., consequently not as a future sudden act (like the transfiguration at the Parousia, 1 Corinthians 15:51 f.; comp. Php 3:21), but as something at present in the course of development, it can only be the spiritual transformation to the very likeness of the glorified Christ[184] that is meant (comp. 2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 4:19; Galatians 2:20), and not the future δόξα (Grotius, Fritzsche, Olshausen would have it included). Against this latter may be urged also the subsequent καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος, which has its reference precisely to the spiritual transformation, that takes place in the present αἰών, and the sequel of which is the future Messianic glory to which we are called (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 8:30); so that the present spiritual process, the καινότης ζωῆς (Romans 6:4) and ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς (Romans 7:6)—the spiritual being risen with and living with Christ (Romans 6:5 ff.)—experiences at the Parousia also the corresponding outward ΣΥΝΔΟΞΑΣΘῆΝΑΙ with Christ, and is thus completed, Colossians 3:4.

] is not to be explained either by supplying ΚΑΤΆ or ΕἸς, or by quoting the analogy of ΠΑΡΑΚΑΛΕῖΣΘΑΙ ΠΑΡΆΚΛΗΣΙΝ and the like (Hofmann), but the construction of ΜΕΤΑΜΟΡΦΟῦΝ with the accusative is formed quite like the commonly occurring combination of ΜΕΤΑΒΆΛΛΕΙΝ with the accusative in the sense: to assume a shape through alteration or transmutation undergone. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 424 C. The passive turn given to it, in which the accusative remains unaltered (Krüger, § lii. 4. 6; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 164 [E. T. 190]), yields therefore the sense: we are so transformed, that we get thereby the same image.

ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν] i.e. so that this transformation issues from glory (viz. from the glory of Christ beheld in the mirror and reflected on us), and has glory as its result (namely, our glory, see above). Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:16, also Romans 1:17. So in the main the Greek Fathers (yet referring ἀπὸ δόξης, according to their view of ἈΠῸ ΚΥΡΊΟΝ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς, to the glory of the Holy Spirit), Vatablus, Bengel, Fritzsche, Billroth, and others, also Hofmann. But most expositors (including Flatt, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald) explain it of ascending to ever higher (and at length highest, 1 Corinthians 15:51 ff.) glory. Comp. ἐκ δυνάμεως εἰς δύναμιν, Psalm 84:7, also Jeremiah 9:2. In this way, however, the correlation of this ἈΠΌ with the following (ἈΠῸ ΚΥΡ. ΠΝ.) is neglected, although for ἈΠῸΕἸς expressions like ἈΠῸ ΘΑΛΆΣΣΗς ΕἸς ΘΆΛΑΣΣΑΝ (Xen. Hell. i. 3. 4) might be compare.

καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος] so as from the Lord of the Spirit, people, namely, are transformed, μεταμόρφωσις γίνεται. In this there lies a confirmation of the asserted ΤῊ ΑὐΤΉΝΔΌΞΑΝ. Erasmus rightly observes: “Ὡς hic non sonat similitudinem sed congruentiam.” Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; John 1:14, al. Lord of the Spirit (the words are rightly so connected by “neoterici quidam” in Estius, Emmerling, Vater, Fritzsche, Billroth, Olshausen, de Wette, Ewald, Osiander, Kling, Krummel; comp. however, also at an earlier date, Erasmus, Annot.) is Christ, in so far as the operation of the Holy Spirit depends on Christ; for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:9 f.; Galatians 4:6), in so far as Christ Himself rules through the Spirit in the hearts (Romans 8:10; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 3:18. ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες κ.τ.λ.: but we all, sc., you as well as I, all Christian believers, with unveiled face (and so not as Moses under the Old Covenant), reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, sc., of Jehovah (see reff.), which is the glory of Christ (cf. John 17:24), are transformed into the same image, sc., of Christ (see reff.), from glory to glory (i.e., progressively and without interruption, and so unlike the transitory reflection of the Divine glory on the face of Moses; cf. Psalm 84:7, and on chap. 2 Corinthians 2:16 above), as from (not “by” as the A.V.) the Lord the Spirit; sc., our progress in glory is continuous, as becomes the work of the Spirit from whom it springs (John 16:14, Romans 8:11). The meaning of κατοπτρίζεσθαι (which is not found elsewhere in the Greek Bible) is somewhat doubtful, (i.) The analogy of 1 Corinthians 13:12, of Philo, Leg. All., iii., 33 (a passage where Exodus 33:18 is paraphrased, and which therefore is specially apposite here), and of Clem. Rom., § 36, would support the rendering of the A.V., “beholding as in a glass” (i.e., a mirror). This is also given in the margin of the R.V., and is preferred by the American Revisers. But such a translation is not appropriate to the context, for the Apostle’s thought is not of any indirect vision of the Divine glory, but of our freedom of access thereto and of perception thereof. It seems better therefore (ii.) to render with the R.V. (following Chrysostom) reflecting as in a mirror. And so the image conveyed is “that Christians having, like Moses, received in their lives the reflected glory of the Divine presence, as Moses received it on his countenance, are unlike Moses in that they have no fear, such as his, of its vanishing away, but are confident of its continuing to shine in them with increasing lustre (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6 below); and in this confidence present themselves without veil or disguise, inviting enquiry instead of deprecating it, with nothing to hold back or to conceal from the eager gaze of the most suspicious or the most curious” (Stanley). The words Κυρίου πνεύματος will bear various renderings: (a) the Lord of the Spirit, which is not apposite here, (b) the Spirit of the Lord, as the A.V. takes them and the Latin commentators generally, (c) the Spirit, which is the Lord, the rendering of Chrysostom, which is given a place in the R.V. margin, and (d) the Lord, the Spirit, πνεύματος being placed in apposition to Κυρίου, neither word taking the article, as the first does not after the prep. ἀπό. We unhesitatingly adopt (d), the rendering of the R.V., inasmuch as it best brings out the identification of Κύριος and πνεῦμα in 2 Corinthians 3:17. It is worth noticing that the phrase in the “Nicene” Creed τὸ πνεῦματὸ Κύριον τὸ ζωοποιόν is based on the language of this verse and of 2 Corinthians 3:6 above.

18. But we all] i.e. we Christians, in contradistinction to the Jews.

with open face] i.e. unveiled. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7.

beholding as in a glass] Either (1), according to the more ordinary meaning of the word, ‘beholding as in a mirror,’ or (2) with Chrysostom, ‘reflecting as in a mirror.’ The latter rendering makes the rest of the verse more intelligible, and has the additional recommendation that the glory on Moses’ face was a reflected glory, which we may suppose grew more and more intense the longer he gazed on God with unveiled face. The former interpretation sets Christ before us as the mirror of the Father’s glory. See next note.

the glory of the Lord] i.e. of Christ, Who is the beaming forth (ἀπαύγασμα) of God’s glory, Hebrews 1:3, cf. John 1:14, and His image, ch. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (and note) and Colossians 1:15. Also John 17:24.

are changed into] This word is rendered transfigured in Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2, and no doubt the idea of the gradual beaming out of the inner glory which dwelt in Christ, producing a metamorphosis (this is the actual word used) which excited the wonder and awe of those that beheld it, was in St Paul’s mind in this passage. He uses the word in another place, Romans 12:2, where the idea of the Transfiguration and that suggested in this passage are combined, in order to express the marvellous inward change which takes place in the man who offers his heart to the transforming influences which flow out from Christ.

the same image] These words are emphatic in the original. It seems impossible to interpret them of any other but Christ (ch. 2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘into the same image as Christ.’ He, as man, beholding the glory of God, with infinitely more fulness than Moses under the Law, turns to speak with us. We behold Him, not, as the Jews, with veiled heart, but with unveiled face, and as we gaze, we reflect back more and more of His image (cf. 1 John 3:2), until it be fully formed in us. Galatians 4:19.

from glory to glory] i.e. from one stage of glory to another. Cf. Romans 1:17, and note on ch. 2 Corinthians 2:16.

even as by the Spirit of the Lord] Three renderings are given of this passage. The first, which is the Vulgate rendering and is given in the text, needs no explanation. It is open to the objection that it inverts the order of the words in the Greek. The second is the natural grammatical rendering, ‘as by the Lord of the Spirit.’ The third, which is found in the margin of the A. V. and is adopted by St Chrysostom (who, however, interprets the passage of the Holy Spirit), ‘as by (of, A. V.) the (or a) Lord, the (or a) spirit,’ seems to give the best sense. For it refers us back to 2 Corinthians 3:17 and to the former part of the chapter. The change that takes place in us is a spiritual change (see 1 Corinthians 2, and notes on 2 Corinthians 3:6). It is not affected by formal enactments, which at best can but condemn, but it is the work of a Lord who works within, Who sends forth the beams of His light that they may transform, not the outer surface, but the heart, that so the man may reflect back undimmed thence the glorious Light that has shined on him. And so the man into whose heart the Light of Christ has entered progresses from one stage of spiritual glory to another, until at last (Romans 8:29) he becomes fully conformed to the image of the Son of God.

2 Corinthians 3:18. Ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες, but we all) we all, the ministers of the New Testament, in antithesis to Moses, who was but one person.—ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ) our face being unveiled with regard to men; for in regard to God, not even Moses’ face was veiled. The antithesis is hid, 2 Corinthians 4:3.—τὴν δόξαν, the glory) divine majesty.—Κυρίου, of the Lord) Christ.—κατοπτριζόμενοι) The Lord makes us mirrors, κατοπτρίζει, puts the brightness of His face into our hearts as into mirrors: we receive and reflect that brightness. An elegant antithesis to ἐντετυπωμένη, engraved [2 Corinthians 3:7, the ministration of death—the law—engraven on stones]: for things which are engraven become so by a gradual process, the images which are reflected in a mirror are produced with the utmost celerity.—τὴν αὐτὴν) the same, although we are many. The same expression [lively reproduction] of the glory of Christ in so many believers, is the characteristic mark of truth.—εἰκόνα, the image) of the Lord, which is all glorious.—μεταμορφούμεθα, we are transformed) The Lord forms by quick writing (2 Corinthians 3:3) His image in us; even as Moses reflected the glory of God. The passive retains the accusative; as in the phrase, διδάσκομαι υἱόν.—ἀπο δόξης εἰς δόξαν, from glory to glory) from the glory of the Lord to glory in us. The Israelites had not been transformed from the glory of Moses into a similar glory; for they were under the letter.—καθάπερ, even as) an adverb of likeness: comp. 2 Corinthians 3:13. As the Lord impresses Himself on us, so He is expressed to the life by us. He Himself is the model; we are the copies [images].—ἀπὸ Κυρίου πνεύματος) from [by] the Lord’s (viz. Christ’s, 2 Corinthians 3:14) Spirit. This refers to 2 Corinthians 3:17, but where the Spirit of the Lord, etc. If there were an apposition Paul would have said, ἀπὸ Κυρίου τοῦ πνεύματος. Elsewhere the Spirit of the Lord is the mode of expression; but here the Lord’s Spirit, emphatically. Ἀπὸ is used as in 2 Corinthians 1:2, and often in other places.

Verse 18. - But we all. An appeal to personal experience in evidence of the freedom. With open face; rather, with unveiled face; as Moses himself spoke with God, whereas the Jews could not see even the reflected splendour on the face of Moses till he had shrouded it with a veil. Beholding as in a glass. This is at least as likely to be the true meaning as "reflecting as a mirror," which the Revised Version (following Chrysostom and others) has substituted for it. No other instance occurs in which the verb in the middle voice has the meaning of "reflecting," and the words, "With unveiled face," imply the image of "beholding." They are, in fact, a description of "the beatific vision." An additional reason for retaining the translation of our Authorized Version is that the verb is used in this sense by Philo ('Leg. Alleg.,' 3:33). The glory of the Lord. Namely, him who is "the Effulgence of God's glory" (Hebrews 1:2), the true Shechinah, "the Image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). Are changed into the same image. The present tense implies a gradual transfiguration, a mystical and spiritual change which is produced in us while we contemplate Christ. From glory to glory. Our spiritual assimilation to Christ comes from his glory and issues in a glory like his (1 Corinthians 15:51; comp." from strength to strength," Psalm 84:7). (For the thought, comp. 1 John 3:2.) As by the Spirit of the Lord. This rendering (which is that of the Vulgate also) can hardly be correct. The natural meaning of the Greek is "as by the [or, from] the Lord the Spirit." Our change into glory comes from the Lord, who, as St. Paul has already explained, is the Spirit of which he has been speaking. No such abstract theological thought is here in his mind as that of the "hypostatic union," of the Son and the Holy Spirit. He is still referring to the contrast between the letter and the spirit, and his identification of this "spirit" in its highest sense with the quickening life which, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we receive from Christ, and which is indeed identical with "the Spirit of Christ."

2 Corinthians 3:18All

Contrasted with Moses as the sole representative of the people.

Open (ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ)

Rev., correctly, unveiled, as Moses when the veil was removed.

"Vainly they tried the deeps to sound

E'en of their own prophetic thought,

When of Christ crucified and crown'd

His Spirit in them taught:

But He their aching gaze repress'd

Which sought behind the veil to see,

For not without us fully bless'd

Or perfect might they be.

The rays of the Almighty's face

No sinner's eye might then receive


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