The Physiognomy and Photography of Christianity
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. The open face. This is the antithesis of the covered face of Moses, and must therefore be Christ's (2 Corinthians 4:6). The idea is physiognomical, face reading. Men profess to comprehend each other's temperaments and dispositions by the study of their faces. Thus a man's face is his character, at least the key to it. In this face of Jesus Christ shines the resplendent glory of God; it is an index of the Divine mind and feelings towards a sinful world. The human face becomes a profound mystery apart from the soul within. Its wonderful expressions cannot be understood except on the supposition of an indwelling spirit. When the sky is overcast, suddenly, maybe, a beam darts through, shedding a glow of beauty over the spot upon which it gleams. The mystery of that ray could not be solved except by the existence of a sun behind. It is only in the same way that the character of Christ can be understood. Denied His Divine nature Christ becomes a profounder mystery than when regarded as God incarnate.

2. It is an open face in a glass. Once it was an open face without any intervening object, when "He dwelt among men and they beheld His glory." But now that His bodily presence has departed we have His face reflected in the gospel-mirror (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is through Christ we know God, and it is through the gospel that we know Christ. The sun, when it has set, is invisible to us. We then look up to the heavens, and there we observe the moon, which reflects the, to us, invisible sun. This moon is the sun's image. Again, looking into the placid waters of the pool, we observe in its clear depth the moon's reflection. God is imaged in Christ, and Christ is imaged in the gospel. Now, the superiority of the gospel over the Old Testament is represented by the difference between the glass and the veil. The veil obscures the face, the glass reveals it. In fact the mirror is of all instruments the one which gives the most correct representation of the original. The idea of a person conveyed by a mirror is immeasurably superior to that conveyed by the best painting. The face in the painting may represent a dead one, but the face in the mirror must represent a living one. If the mirror excels so much the best painting, how much must it excel a shadow! The Old Testament was only a "shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things." A person's shadow will give but a very indifferent idea of him. What, however, would be thought of the person who essayed to draw a picture of another from his shadow? Yet, this the Jews attempted to do in relation to Christ. So "to His own He came, and His own received Him not," because His appearance did not harmonise with their preconceived conceptions of Him drawn from His shadow. Men, therefore, should seek Him in the gospel mirror, where alone He can be seen as He is.

II. THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE TEXT. "But we all... are changed into the same image," etc. Here the apostle explains the effects of this transparent clearness of the gospel teaching. Beholding the Lord in the gospel transforms the beholder into His own image. This is in accordance with the analogy of natural photography. The light falls upon the object, that object again reflects it in its own form upon the prepared glass. The resplendent glory of God falls, so to speak, upon Christ in His mediatorial character; Christ reflects it upon the believing mind; the mind beholding Him in faith. The mind thus reflected upon by the incomparable beauties of Christ's character is transformed into the same image. The work is progressive, but the first line of it is glory, and every additional one the same — "from glory to glory."

(A. J. Parry.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.

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