A. Paul’s style in this section of the letter is a little strange.
1. Not only is he making a lot of points at the same time, but he’s using a lot of different images to do so.
2. I’ve been trying to pull out one thread at a time and examine it with you.
3. It’s tempting at times to ignore things in the text and just move on. But I feel like I’m impoverishing you if I do that.
II. 2Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
A. Let’s climb back into Paul’s shoes again for some background on this passage.
1. This verse is not just about Christians in general, this verse is autobiographical. This verse is what happened to Paul.
2. Paul had been a zealous man, taken up with the things of God — as he understood them. He was fascinated with and devoted to the way of Moses, the man who saw God face to face (Exod.33:11) and glowed with the glory of it (Exod.34:29-35).
3. But then Paul saw the Face. The scales fell off his eyes and he beheld the face of Jesus. This Face had such surpassing glory that no longer did the face of Moses glow for Paul. The Face of Jesus made the old covenant – which had so gripped Paul – lose its charm. Once he turned his eyes upon Jesus and looked full in His wonderful face, the things of the old covenant (and all the other “elementary things of this world” – Gal.4:3) grew strangely dim in the light of His glory & grace.
4. Sometimes we see something which transforms us forever, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. Soldiers see things in war which change them permanently.
a. Moses was transformed by seeing God in the burning bush.
b. Paul was transformed to such a degree that it took him three days just to process the change.
5. Even in this physical world, there are things which are very real but which can’t be seen: like radio waves and magnetic fields.
a. But there is also a spiritual world where there are many very real things which can’t be seen.
b. But mankind died to the ability to see that world when they fell into sin. Their eyes were veiled.
c. But God can remove that veil and enable people to see. We still don’t see perfectly but we see truly, just like a person who is looking through a dirty window can’t see perfectly through it.
1. And in this verse, 2Cor.3:18, Paul tells us that it is by seeing the glory of God that we are transformed into this same image of the Lord Jesus, becoming increasingly like Him.
2. Having "unveiled faces" – able to behold the glory of the Lord Jesus – believers in Christ are thereby being refashioned into His image.
3. This is not a one-time event: it is "from one degree of glory to another." It is a gradual process, a lifelong process.
III. I want to point out a few things in the passage which I think are noteworthy.
A. “All of us”
1. But now it’s no longer just Moses. It is “all of us.” This is one of the big changes from old covenant to new.
a. The new covenant is not aristocratic and elitist.
b. Acts 2:17–18 In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, sons and daughters, young and old, male and female servants.
2. None of us is so weak, so low, so ignorant, so sinful that the glory of God in the face of Christ cannot shine on us.
3. There is no caste system in Christianity. There is no upper class and lower class. There is no in group and out group.
4. In the old covenant, like in the early morning sunrise, the light fell upon the tops of the highest hills: Moses, David, Elijah, and a few others, while the rest lie remained in darkness, lightened slightly by the bright hilltops. But now in the new covenant, the noon has come, and the sun shines brightly on every crevasse so that every little wildflower gets it share — except for anything shielded from the sun by some barrier.
a. Christ reveals Himself to all of His servants. In fact, He reveals Himself to more lowly and more of those who are foolish in the eyes of the world, and more who appear weak, and more whom the world despises. (1Corinthians 1:20–29)
b. Redeemed by Him, we can all behold His face and be transformed into His image.
B. From glory to glory or From one degree of glory to another
1. I’m not sure that’s how most of us would describe it.
a. For me sometimes it seems like it’s from sorry to sorry, not glory to glory.
(1) Sky scrapers begin deep in the ground.
(2) Arrows go backward before they go forward.
2. Christian, do you know who you are? You are the masterpiece God is fashioning.
3. If you are in Christ, then God’s work in you has already begun and, though there is still much to do, the glory of Christ has already begun to shine through your life.
4. You say you don’t see it? That’s not necessarily bad. It’s not important to see it, just to believe it.
a. It is good to see changes taking place by the power of God. However, we’re not supposed to be taken with our glory, but with our need and with His glory.
C. Being transformed by beholding the glory
1. In the Christian faith we talk about sanctification, growing in our faith, becoming more like Christ.
2. How does this happen? How do we grow in godliness? How do we fight against sin?
3. This passage gives us the key: beholding the glory of God.
4. This means that sanctification is not by effort. Not by will power.
5. It is a matter of drawing near to Jesus, of looking to Him, of opening our hearts to Him.
6. Instead of trying to crawl up the mountain on hands and knees, we need to be lifted by fellowship with Christ.
7. Part of us would prefer self-improvement. That way, we can feel good about ourselves. That way, we feel like we’ve accomplished something.
a. But God doesn’t want us to feel like we’ve accomplished something: that’s self-focused. God wants us to feel like He’s done it all — by grace.
8. And efforts toward self-improvement do not go deep enough. That kind of change is merely outward. The change we need is within.
9. Looking upon Jesus unleashes a power which will help us run the race with joy and perseverance.
10. Let’s give up on self-effort and fix our eyes upon Jesus, so He can remake us into His image.
D. So how do we go about beholding His face?
1. The first part is knowing you need it.
2. The second part is knowing & believing His face is there for you to behold.
3. The third part is knowing that only He opens the eyes.
4. And so we humble ourselves and desperately beg.
5. And then we seek His face. We seek Him in His word and in His precious promises. We seek Him in His people, in prayer, in the means of grace (such as public worship and the Lord’s Supper). We seek Him by considering His great love and His gracious treatment of us.
E. But don’t take this as a formula: pray, read the Bible, go to church, fellowship with God’s people.
1. God has not given us a formula, He’s given us a Redeemer!
2. These are activities in which Christ can be sought and found. But the activity itself doesn’t do it.
a. You can be praying and not looking upon Jesus.
b. You can be singing in worship and not looking upon Jesus.
c. You can be reading the Bible and not looking upon Jesus.
F. Just because it’s not self-improvement doesn’t mean it’s easy. Our hearts are resistant and we need to be ruthless in dealing with our resistance.
1. The most important activity of life is to look upon Jesus.
2. We need to be urgent about it. We can’t be content without it.
a. If we don’t frequently cry out to God to open our eyes and show us His glory, then it shows we are unaware of the fact that our spiritual vision is poor.
b. Remember the bleeding women who pressed through the crowd and touched the garment of Christ? (Luke 8:43-48) After years of languishing, she knew she needed it. She wasn’t going to let Jesus get away without getting to Him.
(1) We too need to press through the crowd of worries, cares, burdens, and temptations in order to touch the robe of the Master and behold His glorious face.
3. And there is a lot more going on here than just our own smallness of faith and earthlimindedness.
a. There is nothing Satan is more afraid of than people looking unto Jesus. There’s nothing he wants to disrupt more than that.
b. So, he is ready to conduct an all-out assault on our connection with Jesus.
c. We can’t take it lightly. We must fight for it.
G. Part of the reason we are reluctant is because of pride. When the light shines on us, it exposes our uncleanness. We see our unworthiness. We see our weakness. We see our corruption.
1. But we also see our Savior’s love for us in spite of all that.
2. And we see our lives here in light of our eternal hope.
H. That’s why we should be running to God instead of running from God.
1. That’s why we should be looking for Him instead of looking to avoid Him.
2. What! Christians avoiding Christ? Absolutely. I’ve been there myself.
3. But when we avoid Him, we miss out on all that is best in life. It is so foolish!
A. The Christian life is a life of beholding Christ, and as a result, reflecting Christ.
B. We become like who we look at. We become like who we pay attention to. We become like who we focus on. We become like who we admire, who impresses us.
C. When they look to Him, the beauty of Christ’s face becomes reflected in the faces of His people.
D. One of the greatest joys of my life has been seeing Christ in the faces of His people.
1. Seeing His peace. Seeing His joy. Seeing His hope. Seeing His love.