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A Transforming Look at Jesus

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To grasp Paul’s point in this verse we need a little background that is recorded in Exodus 34:29-35. Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive from God the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. When he returned, unbeknownst to him, his face glowed. It was obviously connected with being in God’s presence. The sight frightened the Israelites; remember, they were earlier frightened by the voice of God (20:19), and that was before their sin with the golden calf! Moses nevertheless summoned them and rehearsed all that God had commanded him. When he finished speaking, he put a veil over his face.

The text in Exodus indicates that this process was repeated. Whenever Moses went in to speak with God he would do so unveiled. He then came out with face aglow and related God’s instructions to the people, then put the veil back on. Paul says the purpose of the veil was to prevent them from gazing intently at the end of what was fading away: Moses’ glow and the communication from God (the old covenant) that it reflected (2 Corinthians 3:13).

Despite this provision, their hearts were hardened (v. 14).  Often they were hardened toward Moses’ instructions, even though they knew He was speaking for God. And they certainly missed the internal indications of something greater that was coming (cf. John 5:39-46). These “veiled” references to Jesus in the Law of Moses (for example, in the Passover provisions or in the day of atonement rituals) are revealed in the gospel (vv. 15-16). If the gospel is veiled, it is because Satan has blinded the hearer to the truth (4:3-4).

Our text, verse 18, is the application. It emphasizes two things.

First, the gospel, the new covenant, is infinitely superior to the old. It gives us a full view of the Lord, enabling us to see Him without a veil. That makes it far more glorious than the Law. In Paul’s words, the Law, despite all its glory, had no glory in comparison to the gospel (vv. 7-11). Evidently some of the Corinthians had trouble turning loose of it, just as some in our day still try to hold on to its provisions.

Second, the goal of the gospel is transformation. Our opportunity to see the Lord’s glory is so that we can be “transformed into the same image.” God offers salvation and reconciliation, but what He seeks is transformation, people becoming like His Son (Romans 8:29). When we do that, it glorifies both Him and us. Our text says that transformation is an ongoing process. And it is one that requires much attention and effort on our part: beholding, not just occasionally glancing at, the glory of the Lord. Are you using every opportunity to learn about Jesus? Are you putting into practice what you learn, becoming more like Him?

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