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…
I. THE CONTEMPLATION OF CHRIST. "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord."
1. The object beheld. "The glory of the Lord," "He is the Lord of all" — of all men, of all creatures, of all things. He is the rightful Proprietor of the universe. The primary meaning of glory is brightness, splendour; and the secondary meaning is excellence displayed, according to its subject, and the nature of the object to which it is ascribed. In which of these senses is glory here ascribed to the Lord Christ? In the latter, not in the former sense. It is not the glory of His might, nor the glory of His majesty, nor even the glory of His miracles, of which His personal disciples were eye-witnesses; but the glory of His moral perfections. God is "glorious in holiness," and "the glory of the Lord" is His moral excellence, comprised and displayed in all His moral attributes. The former are displayed in His works; the latter shine brightest in His Word. In a word, the glory of the Lord was the manifestation of His Divine philanthropy — "of the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward men."
2. The medium in which His glory is beheld. "Beholding as in a glass," or rather, as in a mirror. What, then, is the mirror which receives the image, and reflects back on the eye of the beholders, the glory of the Lord? What, but the gospel of Christ. And Christ is at once the Author, the subject, and the sum of the gospel. It derives all the glory it possesses and reflects, from the glory of the Lord. It receives its being, its name, its character, and its efficacy from Him. It originates nothing; all that it is, all that it says, and all that it does, is from Him, about Him, and for Him. And the image of Him which the gospel receives as the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, it reflects back as from a burnished mirror, in all its lineaments, and fulness, and glory, and distinctness. The glory of the gospel of Christ, as a mirror, contrasts strikingly with the law as "a shadow of things to come." The good things to come were seen by the Old Testament saints in the types and ceremonies of the law. The view was dim as well as distant; indistinct, uncertain, and unsatisfying. But the sight of the glory of the Lord in the mirror of the gospel is near and not distant, luminous and not dark, distinct and not obscure or uncertain, and transforming but not terrifying.
3. The manner. "With open face." The face is said to be open when it is guileless, ingenuous, and benevolent, and not sinister, crafty, or malicious; or, when the face itself is fully exposed, and not covered. This last is obviously the meaning of the expression employed. With open, that is, with unveiled face. Those who apply it to the face of the Lord make a slight transposition of the words to make the sense more apparent. Thus: "We all, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord with unveiled face." His face is unveiled, and His glory is thus undimmed. It shines forth in all its splendour. If the "unveiled face" be understood of the beholders, according to our version, then the reference is to the more immediate context in the fifteenth verse, and the contrast is between them, and "the veil which is upon the heart" of the unbelieving Jews. Now, all this serves to show that, while the most obvious reference may be to the veil over the face of Moses as contrasted with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, it is not to the exclusion of the veil upon the heart of the Jews as contrasted with the open, unveiled face of the beholders of the glory of the Lord. "Which veil is done away in Christ?" Indeed, both veils are now removed, and done away in Christ: — the obscurity caused by the former is removed by the luminous exhibition of the gospel of Christ, and the blindness of mind caused by the latter is removed by the ministration of the Spirit.
4. The beholders. Who are the persons indicated by, and included in the "we all" who thus behold the glory of the Lord? Is it all we apostles only? or even all we whom He hath "made able ministers of the New Testament"? The expression includes all who are subjects of the new covenant, who are under grace, and in a state of grace, "all who have turned to the Lord" (ver. 16). Not only do all who turn, or are converted to the Lord, possess, exercise, and maintain their Christian liberty, but they are all "light in the Lord." The light of the glorious gospel of Christ, the medium of spiritual vision, is not only held up as a mirror before their eyes, as before the eyes of the world; but the organ of spiritual vision is opened, unveiled, and directed to the image beheld there, radiant with beauty, and reflecting back the glory of the Lord on the eyes of the beholders.
II. CONFORMITY TO CHRIST. The change thus produced is —
1. Spiritual in its nature. All the glory seen on the summit, and around the base, of Mount Sinai, was of a material and sensible kind. Moses saw the glory of the Lord with his bodily eyes; the shekinah, or symbol of the Divine glory, made the skin of his face to shine. It is otherwise with the glory beheld, with the medium, the manner, and the organ of vision here — all is spiritual, and not material in its nature. The gospel reveals, and holds up to view, the things of the Spirit. And spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. They do not act as a charm. Nothing can possibly affect, impress, or influence us mentally, any longer than it is in our thoughts; or, morally, any longer than it is in our memory and in our heart. The gospel of Christ operates according to the attention and reception given to it, and the use we make of it.
2. Transforming in its influence. It is a law in nature, and a truth in proverb, that "like produces like." The man who is much at court, naturally and almost unconsciously catches the air, impress, and polish of the court, so that he become courtly, if not courteous in spirit, in address, in manners and deportment. In going to the house of mourning, which it is better to go to than to the house of feasting, we almost insensibly catch the spirit of sympathy, and feel the spirit of mourning creeping over us. The heart softens; the countenance saddens; the eye moistens. Constituted as we all are, how can it be otherwise? Looking steadfastly and intently at such moral excellence we admire; admiring we love; loving we long to imitate it; imitation produces likeness to Him in mind, in disposition, in will, in walk, and way. Do we thus behold the love of Christ? "We love Him, because He first loved us." Do we behold Him as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world"? We become "dead to sin, and alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
3. Glorious in its progress. The glory of Moses' countenance became more and more dim, by distance of time and of place from the scene and sight of glory, till it entirely disappeared. But the glory of the Lord remains the same, and the glory of the gospel reflecting it remains the same, and the more steadfastly and earnestly we behold it, the more will we be changed into the same glorious image. The expression employed is an evidence that grace and glory are not only inseparable, but in substance identical. So far from differing in kind they are so essentially the same, that the sacred writers sometimes use the words interchangeably. Paul here uses "glory" for grace in speaking of the glorious transformation of believers from grace to glory; and Peter uses "grace" for glory in speaking of the glory " that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ." And the reason is no less plain than the lesson is instructive and important. The partaker of grace is "also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed."
4. Divine in efficiency, "Even as by the Spirit of the Lord," or as the margin has it more literally and properly. "Even as by the Lord the Spirit." It is His prerogative, and it becomes His spiritual dominion to open and unveil the heart, to enlighten the eyes of the understanding, to fix them on the glory of the Lord, to quicken the spirit, and thus to make His subjects "a willing people in the day of His power." This subject sets before us the privilege of gospel hearers, and the honour of gospel believers, and the doom of gospel despisers.It shows —
1. The privilege of gospel hearers. All who have the Word of God, who read or hear the gospel of Christ, are "not under the law, but under grace." They are more highly privileged than were the Jews who were under the law, or the Gentiles who have not the law, and know not God.
2. The blessedness of gospel believers. They are the blessed people who know the joyful sound; they walk in the light of God's countenance.
3. The doom of gospel despisers. They make light of the gospel of Christ; despise the Saviour it presents, and the salvation it proffers, and turn away from "the glory of the Lord."
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.