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Christianity 101 - Session 2

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Christianity 101 – Session 2

 God’s Marvelous Mirror

2 Corinthians 3:18

The Christian life is lived by the supernatural power of God. According to Romans 8:10-13, as we have seen, living this life requires the resurrection of a spiritually dead body. God’s Spirit alone can perform this miracle. But how does the Sprit of God do this? How does He bring this power to bear upon a Christian individual? This leads us to a second vital secret of Christian experience.

Looking into the Mirror

2 Corinthians 3:18 discloses that secret to us. Here we encounter the truth of spiritual transformation.[1] Here the Apostle speaks of seeing glory of the Lord and of doing so as in a mirror. The context here[2] makes it plain that the mirror is the Scriptures.[3] That is, God’s word is His “marvelous mirror”. However, this “mirror” clearly reflects Jesus Christ.[4] Taken as a whole, the inspired Scriptures are a powerful divine testimony to the superlative excellence of the Son of God. They bear vibrant witness to every aspect of His glory. Comprehending the Scriptures, therefore, requires seeing them as a reflection of Jesus Christ. They are like a mirror that the Holy Spirit holds up to the person and work of God’s Son. With the perfection of divine inspiration the Scriptures capture the glory of our Lord and Savior in all its countless facets – and they reflect that glory back to those who have eyes to see it. When this process occurs, spiritual transformation takes place.

Our Unveiled Face

This transforming process requires, however, not only a mirror, but also a “beholder”. Of the person who is beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, the Apostle gives us one simple but vital description. The “beholder” performs this action with unveiled face. But the Old Testament background is indispensable for understanding what Paul had in mind. In the Exodus narrative under discussion[5] Moses had just come from an audience with God on Mt. Sinai. But he was unaware that his face was shining. Because of the people beholding his “glory”, Moses put a veil on his face in the presence of the people. However, when speaking with God, he “unveiled” his face.[6] In other words, Paul understood the Christian’s transforming encounter with God’s mirror as an encounter with the God of Scripture. Going into the Word should be like going into the presence of the Author of the Word. Through the Scriptures, so to speak, we come face-to-face with the Lord as Moses did on Mt. Sinai. The unveiled face, therefore, suggests a complete openness and exposure to the glory of the Lord of the sort that Moses himself experienced when going into the divine presence. Needless to say, we must not “hide” our face from God in any sense at all. Being less than open to His Word obviously hinders the Spirit’s work of transformation.  But although “openness” to God is implicit in Paul’s text, this is not Paul’s main point here.

The Believing Heart

In utilizing Moses’ veil as a metaphor applying to the present time[7], Paul shows us[8] the veil’s close connection to the unbelief of the children of Israel. Because “their [Israel’s] minds were blinded, Paul tells us, “the veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament”. From another perspective, Paul notes, “when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart” yet “when [their heart] turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away”. Paul’s point is that Israel in unbelief cannot genuinely appreciate or understand its own Scriptures. Only when their heart turns in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ will they truly comprehend those writings. Until then, the Scriptures and their heart remain veiled so that they fundamentally misunderstand God’s Word. But for the Christian, this is not so. Instead, when the Christian comes to the mirror of God’s Word, he does so with unveiled face. In other words, the Christian comes to this mirror already having that faith in Jesus Christ which Israel so tragically lacks. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, is a prerequisite for beholding…the glory of the Lord. As a result, it [faith] is also a precondition for experiencing the Spirit’s transforming power. Though it takes only a moment of faith to believe in Christ and be eternally saved, we need to continue to believe in Him to experience the process of growth and change.[9] To state it simply, we must always approach God’s mirror with faith in Jesus.

From Glory to Glory

Paul’s final point in this verse is that Christian transformation does not take place all at once. Unlike the experience of eternal salvation that is settled forever in a moment of time, the Christian’s involvement with the mirror of God’s Word is lifelong.[10] Furthermore, the goal is nothing less than an increasing conformity to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Like Moses, therefore, we go repeatedly into the presence of God whenever we come to His Word. When we do so with true openness and faith, the Holy Spirit not only shows us our Savior’s glory, but also uses what He shows us to change us so that more and more that glory is reflected in our lives. As we move toward our ultimate goal of full likeness to God Son,[11] God’s Spirit moves us onward toward that final glorification from one state of transformation to another: from glory to glory. Thus developing likeness to our Lord and Savior is precisely what Christian growth means. Furthermore, this work is certainly NOT our work, but rather the work of the Holy Spirit: by the Spirit of the Lord. [12] In short, Christian growth [transformation] is the work of God. That is, God does more than just enable us to live a resurrected life. He also miraculously changes us. As a result our words and actions increasingly reflect our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.[13]


[1] This truth is obviously implied in the statements of Rom. 8:10-11. If our frail mortal bodies are to “come alive” as vehicles for God’s life within us, spiritual transformation will have to occur.  The Greek word used in 2 Cor. 3:18 is the word μεταμορφόω metamorphoo = to change inwardly in fundamental character or condition. It is the word from which we get the English word metamorphosis.

[2] 2 Cor. 3:12-16.

[3] Specifically, the Old Testament (vs. 14). However, the New Testament was still being completed (even as Paul was writing) and is also Scripture in the fullest sense of the word. It follows that the Bible as a whole is the instrument that God uses to change us.

[4] Cf. Ps. 45:1-2, John 1:14, 18; John 5:35, Luke 24:27, 44-45.

[5] Exodus 34:29-35.

[6] Ex. 34:32-34a.

[7] 2 Cor. 3:13-16

[8] In 2 Cor. 3:14-16. Cf. Rom. 10:30-33, 11:20 related to Israel’s present unbelief.

[9] Cf. Gal. 2:20, Luke 8:12-13. 1 John 5:13.

[10] Other Scriptures also teach this. For example, 2 Pet. 3:18, Heb. 5:12-14. Christian living is a process of growth. The goal is Christian maturity. This certainly is NOT AUTOMATIC (Cf. 2 Pet. 3:17).

[11] Cf. Rom. 8:28-30.

[12] This same thing is true in Rom. 8:11. Only the Spirit of the Lord can create resurrection life in our spiritually dead bodies before we are physically raised (or changed) at the coming of Christ.

[13] The experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) provides us with a prototype of the Christian’s experience with God’s Word. Jesus, Himself, was the Teacher, but obviously the Holy Spirit was active in the hearts of the two men who listened (Luke 24:32-35). In 2 Cor. 3:17, the work of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit are not sharply distinguished. It is correct to say, therefore that the work of transformation in the Christian’s life is the work of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through His graciously effective Spirit.

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