Our text in this hour is a single sentence from 2
Corinthians 3:18: "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." John MacArthur says
that is his favorite verse in all of Scripture. Years ago, he
wrote a little booklet for a series some publisher was doing
called "My Favorite Verse," and I edited it for him. That
sparked a keen interest in me with regard to this verse, and I
have had a special love for it ever since. You hear me quote
it or refer to it all the time. Let's take an in-depth look at that
text this morning.
Now the context (as always) is crucial. In the early part of
2 Corinthians 3, Paul has been contrasting the New Covenant
with the Old Covenant under Moses, showing why the New
Covenant is better. This was one of Paul's constant themes. It
is also one of the major themes of the book of Hebrews.
(That, by the way, is why I have some sympathy with those
who believe the apostle Paul wrote Hebrews. Hebrews is all
about the superiority of Christ and the superiority of the New
2 Corinthians 3:18 2
And that is exactly what Paul is talking about here. He
first comes to this subject in verse 6. There he is answering a
question he raised back in chapter 2, verse 16: "Who is
sufficient for these things?" And he gives an explicit answer
to that question in verses 5 and 6 of chapter 3: We, the
apostles of Christ, are sufficient for these things. "Not that we
are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us,
but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to
be ministers of a new covenant."
Now one of the distinctives of the apostle Paul's writing
style is the way he often broke off his main subject and
followed a different theme that was suggested by a word or a
phrase. So you have to read Paul's writings with very careful
attention to the context. Here he goes from the truth that it
was God who made the disciples adequate as ministers of the
New Covenant, immediately into a short discussion about the
superiority of the New Covenant.
And he contrasts the two covenants by these words: "[we
are] ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the
Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
"The letter" is Paul's expression for the Mosaic law
considered by itself, as a set of written commandments,
without any inherent efficacy or power to enable us to obey.
The law alone, apart from the Holy Spirit's application, is a
dead letter, he says. And since it is dead, it cannot itself be a
source of life. "The letter" can condemn, but it is incapable
Changed from Glory into Glory 3
of bringing salvation or giving life. Only the Spirit of God
can give life.
So "the Spirit" refers to the Holy SpiritCthe true giver of
life and the administrator of the New Covenant. Paul
repeatedly makes this contrast between "letter" and "Spirit"
throughout his epistles. Romans 7:6, for example: "Now we
are released from the law, having died to that which held us
captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in
the old way of the [letter]." In Romans 2:29. he says that true
circumcision " is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the
letter." Here in 2 Corinthians 3:6 he says, "the letter kills, but
the Spirit gives life."
Now, Paul is not teaching that the letter of the law or the
Old Covenant are badConly that they are incapable of giving
life. The law is holy, just, and good, as Paul himself says in
Romans 7, but it cannot give life to sinners. Quite the
contrary; it condemns those who sin. The law pronounces
doom. That's how it kills. It's not that the law is bad, but that
we are bad, and therefore the law is our judge and
executioner, not a source of life for us. And, as Paul teaches
throughout his epistles, it is therefore the worst kind of
heresy and the most dangerous kind of false hope to think
you can earn life for yourself by your own legal obedience.
But the Spirit does what the law cannot do, by granting
life to sinners. Romans 8:2-4:
2 Corinthians 3:18 4
the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus
from the law of sin and death.
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh,
could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of
sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might
be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but
according to the Spirit.
And so as ministers of the New Covenant, we have a better
message than the Old Covenant. It's a message of life and
salvation. The law was a message of death and
Now please, understand; Paul is not teaching that people
living under the Old Covenant could not be saved. Much less
is he teaching that people under the Old Covenant were
saved in a different way than people living under the New
Covenant. Abraham, and Moses, and David were saved by
grace through faith, just like Christians are today. And Paul
says so explicitly in Romans 4.
But what he is saying here is simply this: The New
Covenant makes clear what the Old Covenant kept veiled.
The New Covenant explains what was left mysterious under
the Old Covenant. That is why it is a better covenant. It
makes the way of salvation absolutely clear, because it
brings us face to face with Christ and reveals Him to us
Changed from Glory into Glory 5
The Old Covenant law brought people face to face with
their sin and kept a veil between them and the glory of God.
In the New Covenant, the veil is removed.
And that is the theme of this passage. Look at it,
beginning in verse 7. Paul is describing an event in the life of
Moses that is familiar to you from our study of the Ten
Commandments a couple of years ago. Remember that when
Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the law, he wanted
to see the glory of God. Exodus 33 describes what happened.
In verse 18, Moses says to God, "Please show me your glory."
And the Lord was eager to show Moses His goodness, and
mercy, and grace. So He said, "I will make all my goodness
pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The
LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will
show mercy on whom I will show mercy."
But there was one problem. Exodus 33:20: "'But,' [the
Lord] said, 'you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me
and live.'" So as an act of mercy to Moses, God hid him in a
cave, or a cleft in the rock, where Moses was shielded as the
Lord passed by. Verse 21: "And the LORD said, 'Behold, there
is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my
glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will
cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take
away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not
2 Corinthians 3:18 6
And you remember what happened? Exodus 34:30 says
that when Moses came down from the mountain, "behold, the
skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him."
That one, brief glimpse of the Lord's back made a visible
change in Moses' face. And because the people were afraid,
Moses put a veil on his face to hide the reflection of divine
glory until it faded away.
Now Paul uses that incident to teach us a great truth about
sanctification here in 2 Corinthians 3. Look at verse 7:
if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came
with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses'
face because of its glory, which was being brought to an
8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation,
the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory
10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to
have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.
11 For if what was being brought to an end came with
glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,
13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so
that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what
was being brought to an end.
Changed from Glory into Glory 7
14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when
they read the old covenant, that same veil remains
unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.
Here's what he is saying: The Old Covenant was glorious,
even though it kept so much behind a veil. The New
Covenant is much more glorious, and nothing is veiled. The
truth of the New Covenant is explicit, and open, and
unclouded by any symbols or anything hidden. The glory of
the New Covenant is on full display for all to see in the
Person of Christ.
How much more glorious is the glory of the New
Covenant? Look forward one chapter at 2 Corinthians 4:6: It
says that "God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has
shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.""
Moses saw God's back. We get to look at His face, in a
spiritual sense, because we have the knowledge of Christ,
and (Colossians 2:9) "For in him the whole fullness of deity
And here is what our verse is saying: We get to look at the
glory of God in the person of Christ face to face and with
completely unveiled faces. And as we do that, we are
gradually conformed more and more into a close likeness of
Him. It's not like Moses (who only got a brief glimpse one
time, and so His reflected glory gradually faded). We get to
2 Corinthians 3:18 8
look and look, so that the glory gradually transforms us. That
is precisely how sanctification works.
Now, let's unpack this. I used to teach English to junior
high-school kids, and one of the things I taught them to do
was diagram sentences. Kids these days don't learn to
diagram sentences any more; I sometimes wonder if I was
the last English teacher in America to teach diagramming.
My work of editing forces me to pay close attention to
sentence structureCgrammar, and phrasing, and the
relationships of subjects and verbs. And one of my secret
vices is that I actually like to diagram sentences. Because by
doing that, you lay bare what the sentence is saying.
And if you diagram this sentence, you'll see that the heart
of the sentenceCthe main subject and verbCconsists of these
words: "we all . . . are being transformed." And if you put
some of the meat back on those bones, you get this
expression as the main sense of this text: "We all . . .
beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed . . . from
one degree of glory to another." We all, beholding the glory of
the Lord, are being transformed from one degree of glory to
And what I want to do this morning is take that
abbreviated phrase, which is the very heart of our text, and
break it into its constituent parts. There are four key elements
in that phrase: the main subject; a participle that works like
Changed from Glory into Glory 9
an adverb; the main verb; and a prepositional phrase that
modifies the verb. So (even if those grammatical terms mean
nothing to you) you have these four phrases that we're going
to look at closely: 1. "We all" (the subject); 2. "beholding the
glory of the Lord" (that's the participial phrase modifying the
verb); 3. "are being transformed" (that's the main verb of the
sentence); and 4. "from one degree of glory to another" (that's
a phrase that describes how we are changed). So let's look at
those one at a time, starting with the subject of the sentence:
1. "WE ALL"
Now remember, he is making a contrast between the Old
Covenant and the New Covenant. When the Old Covenant
was given, one manCMosesCacted as a mediator between
God and the people. He alone got a partial glimpse of the
Lord's glory, and he was the only one who reflected that
glory. Moses alone, the lawgiver, beheld God, while all the
people waited below to hear about it secondhand. All they
got to see was a fading reflection of God's glory. And even
that terrified them, so it was hidden under a veil.
Under the New Covenant, you have a new principle in
force, and it is the priesthood of the believer. All earthly
mediators are done away with. The priesthood is abolished.
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace"
(Hebrews 4:16). We get to see the glory firsthand. All of us.
Every true believer.
2 Corinthians 3:18 10
Now let me say at the very beginning that this is all very
practical and applicable to each and every Christian. I'm
going to give you the practical application of all this right
now, at the beginning, and not at the end, like I sometimes
do. Here's what this is teaching: It is explaining the process
by which all Christians become more and more like Christ. If
you are looking for power to overcome some persistent sin in
your life; if you are seeking the means to grow spiritually, to
have your mind and heart and desires transformed, and to
allow the glory of God to be reflected in youChere is how
that happens: You don't need a priest to mediate for you or a
counselor to hold your hand and walk you through the steps
of sanctification. What you really need is to come face to
face with the glory of Christ, to know Him as He is revealed
in the Word of God. And the inevitable effect will be utterly
and completely transforming. You will begin to reflect the
light of Christ's own glory, and it will change you into the
likeness of Christ.
That's the very thing Paul is talking about in Philippians
3:10: "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."
That unveiled knowledge of Christ, and the privilege of
gazing at His glory firsthand is the birthright of every
Christian. It's a better privilege than Moses had, seeing the
backside of God after He passed by the cleft in the rock.
Changed from Glory into Glory 11
"We all, with open face [behold] . . . the glory of the Lord,
[and] are changed into the same image."
When the Old Covenant was given, Moses was alone on
the mountain. That is the way the people wanted it. They
were rightfully afraid of seeing the brightness of a glory that
would have killed them. So Moses spoke to God alone. And
even he did not get to look directly into the face of God.
The hiding of Moses in the cleft of the rock, as well as the
veil he wore afterward, both illustrate the clouded and
incomplete revelation of the Old Covenant. So much was
veiled in mystery. So much was left unexplained. The truth
was revealed, but only in pictures and symbols, in typology
and obscure prophecies, in rites and rituals and ceremonies
administered through an earthly priesthood, and kept
obscured in numerous ways that made the full truth hard to
But the New Covenant is different in precisely this way:
Christ "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel"
(2 Timothy 1:10). The truth we have is so much more full
and clear. Unless your mind is veiled by your own unbelief,
the glory of Christ is there for you to behold. "the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God [is there for you to see] in the face
of Jesus Christ" (that's 2 Corinthians 4:6 again). The full light
of God's glory is revealed for us in a new way in Christ. It's
not the shining brightness that can kill you, but a
manifestation of God that you can look at directly, because
2 Corinthians 3:18 12
it's in the face of Jesus Christ who is not only God, but also
manCthe perfect mediator between God and men.
Even the apostles didn't always understand this.
Remember that on the night of Jesus' betrayal, in the upper
room, Philip said to Jesus (John 14:8), "Lord, show us the
Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus answered, "Have I been
with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever
has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the
Father'?." According to Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is " is the radiance
of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature."
Colossians 1:15 says, "He is the image of the invisible God."
Colossians 2:9 says, "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells
bodily." First John 5:20 says, "Jesus Christ. He is the true God
and eternal life."
So in Christ is revealed more glory than Moses ever saw,
and every Christian has the inexpressible privilege of seeing
that glory in all its fulness, without a veil, without the hand
of God to shield us from the viewCface to face and close up.
We all get to see it, not just Moses; not just the apostles; but
every individual believer.
And that brings us to the second phrase we want to look
Changed from Glory into Glory 13
2. "BEHOLDING THE GLORY OF THE LORD"
"We all, with unveiled face, [behold] the glory of the Lord."
We all get to look at the glory. True, it is revealed in a
different way than Moses saw it. It's not a physical
manifestation of glory. It's not a literal radiance you can see
with your natural eyes. It's not something that will make your
skin glow. But it's something even better. It's the glory of
truth in the fullness of the New Testament revelation. It's the
same glory, although we see it differently from how Moses
We actually see it in a better way. The glory of God in the
Old Testament was manifest as a literal shining radiance so
bright that no one could look directly at and live. In Christ,
that glory is manifest in human form. It is a better
manifestation of glory, because it takes into account our
human weaknesses, and reveals the fullness of God's glory to
us in a way that is accommodated to the limitations of our
That is one of the great benefits of the incarnation. In the
person of Christ, we can look at the glory of God without
any kind of veil on our face.
In other words, the glory we behold is not that totally
incomprehensible, ultimately incommunicable radiance of
the full divine perfection manifest in a raw physical
luminescence. It is the glory we behold in Christ. It's the
same glory John describes at the very beginning of his
2 Corinthians 3:18 14
gospel (John 1:14): "We have seen his glory, glory as of the
only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Now, John himself had personally witnessed the physical
manifestation of Christ's glory, first on the Mount of
transfiguration and then in his vision of Christ in Revelation
1. But notice how he describes Christ's glory in that verse I
just quoted. He says nothing about physical radiance or a
visible glow. What he emphasizes is the glory that is "full of
grace and truth."
The glory we behold is not a bodily perception. We don't
see it with our physical eyes, of course. It's not a physical
manifestation at all. But it is the same the glory of His grace
and truth that John was talking about. It is a glory that is
visible only to those who have eyes of faith. However, it is
real glory, and its effects are also real.
Paul says we behold that glory with "with unveiled
face"Cwithout any kind of veil or interference. And if you
are reading any version other than the ESV, he says we see it
"as in a mirror"Cas the brightest possible reflection. (Why the
ESV leaves that idea out, I don't know. It's clearly in the
Greek. We see as if in a mirror.) The apostle Paul uses a
similar expression in 1 Corinthians 13:12: "Now we see in a
mirror dimly." There his emphasis is on the dimness of the
vision. Mirrors in the first century were usually made of
polished metal. They didn't give a perfect reflection. And in
1 Corinthians 13, that's the point he is trying to make. But
Changed from Glory into Glory 15
here in our text the sense seems to be different. He's
remarking about how clearly we see, compared to what Old
Testament saints could see. He's emphasizing the fact that we
see without a veil.
Here the imagery of the mirror seems to be on the
intimacy of it. James 1:23 speaks of "a man who looks intently
at his natural face in a mirror." That's the ideaClike looking
closely into a hand mirror. It is personal. It is individual. It is
unimpeded. It is direct. You can bring a mirror right up to
your face in order to look as closely as possible.
And that's what he's saying here in 2 Corinthians 3. He is
contrasting the secondhand reflection of glory the Old
Testament saints saw. That was indirect. It was covered up
by a veil. It was mysterious and frightening.
By contrast, New Testament Christianity is open and
explicit. It is more comfortable, and more personal, and more
intelligible. Under the New Covenant, truth is not overlaid
by types and ceremonies and symbols that are hard to
understand. It is not mediated through priests and rituals. Its
distinguishing mark is its frank openness to everyone. It is
direct, and intelligible, and it comes to us in words and deeds
that we can easily understand. It is manifest for each one of
us to see and handle and study intently and personally, the
way you look into a mirror.
The mirror in which we see that glory reflected is
Scripture. James compares the Word of God to a mirror in
2 Corinthians 3:18 16
James 1:23-25. And he says the one who is a doer of the
word and not a hearer only "looks into the perfect law, the law
of liberty, and perseveres." That's where we see the glory of
Christ, because it is Scripture that reveals Christ to us. We
see Him directly, and get to know Him intimately,
individually. And thus we become partakers of His glory,
because that clear vision of His glory transforms us.
Now listen carefully, because this is the whole point: Paul
is describing the true character of the Christian life: it is
about contemplating and reflecting Christ. This is what
sanctification is all about. This is how sanctification occurs.
This is the power that drives our progress as Christians. It is
not through a mechanical, legal obedience, where we try by
raw human effort and our own free-will ability to reform
ourselves. But what conforms us to the image of Christ is
seeing Him and receiving Him as He is revealed to us in
And that brings us to the third key phrase of this text.
Number 1. "We All"; number 2. "Beholding the Glory of the
Lord"; and now, number 3:
3. "ARE BEING TRANSFORMED"
We all, by beholding the Lord, are utterly transformed.
All of us, individually, as we behold the glory of the Lord by
faith "are being transformed into the same image"Cinto the
exact likeness of the Lord Himself.
Changed from Glory into Glory 17
Moses' experience left him ultimately unchanged, as far as
the reflection of God's glory on his face was concerned. It
was a receding, fading glory, Paul says. In verse 7 he says
the reflection of God's glory on Moses' face "was being
brought to an end." It finally faded away completely and
ultimately left no trace.
But the glory of the New Covenant is a better glory,
because instead of receding, the reflection grows stronger
and brighter. The luster that made Moses' face glow was
external and only skin deep. The light we see in Christ is
inward and completely transforming. It is permanent, and
ever-increasing. It totally and completely changes us in the
most thorough way.
Look at this expression "we all . . . are being transformed"
Paul uses the Greek word metamorphoo. It's a complete
metamorphosisCa change that occurs from the inside out.
This is the same word used to describe what happened to the
physical appearance of Jesus at His Transfiguration.
Matthew 17:2: "he was transfigured before them, and his face
shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light." This
is totally different from what happened to Moses at Sinai.
Moses' shining face was a dim and fading reflection of a
glory that did not belong to Him. Christ's shining wasn't just
a skin-deep reflection; it represented the unveiling of His
true nature. The brightness came from within and totally
2 Corinthians 3:18 18
transfigured Him. It was a metamorphosis, not a cosmetic
In the same way, Paul says, we are completely
transfigured by the vision of Christ's gloryCchanged from
glory into gloryCa real and lasting glory.
By the way, paul employs this same Greek word
(metamorphoo) in Romans 12:2: "be transformed
[transfigured from the inside out] by the renewal of your mind."
And you renew your mind by filling it with an understanding
of Christ's glory. Romans 12:2 uses two contrasting
expressions: "conformed to this world" and "transformed by the
renewal of your mind." The word "conformed" is the Greek
word suschematizoCwhich speaks of a cosmetic change
brought about by external pressure, like being forced into a
mold. "Transformed" describes a transfiguration that works
from the inside out and brings a real and lasting change, not
a superficial or cosmetic permutation.
Now, there are two principles at work here, and I want to
show them to you. The first one is this: you reflect what you
see. That's what happened to Moses. That is why his face
And it's true in a limited way even in the physical realm. I
see a reminder of this truth every time I look closely into
Darlene's eyes. Husbands, try this: look intently into your
wife's eyes, just for a moment. (Try it; don't be afraid.) Now
if you look right into the retina of your wife's eyes, you'll see
Changed from Glory into Glory 19
a tiny image of your own face reflected back. (Do you see
it?) Let that be a reminder to you of why husbands ought to
be pure and godly examples to their wives. Our wives reflect
what they see. And that's true not just in the physical sense of
that reflection in the retina; it's true spiritually as well. Your
wife will begin to reflect your character as well. It is your
duty as her spiritual head to be a godly leader, and as head of
your household, you will give account to God for how
faithfully you fulfill that duty. Your whole family will reflect
what they see in you.
But there's a second, even more important principle at
work here. Not only do you reflect what you see; you
become like what you worship. You take on the
characteristics of whatever you worship. This is a principle
taught everywhere in Scripture, but nowhere more clearly
than in Psalm 115:4-8. Listen to that psalm. It describes the
folly of being an idol worshiper:
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not
6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not
7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who
trust in them.
2 Corinthians 3:18 20
If you want to become spiritually deaf and dumb and blind
and lifeless, there is no more efficient way to get in that
situation than worshiping a stone idol. Or any kind of idol,
for that matter. Worship money, and you will become
materialistic. Worship entertainment, and you will become
trivial and worldly. Worship power and prestige, and you
will become cold and calloused. Worship yourself and you
become hopelessly selfish.
But if you truly worship Christ, you will be transformed
into His likeness. Study Him intently, and the process is
accelerated. In fact, did you realize that the process of
glorification will not be finally complete until you come face
to face with Christ in his gloryCand just one look at Him in
heaven will finally change you into the perfect reflection of
his character and glory? That's what the apostle John
describes in 1 John 3:2 "Beloved, we are God's children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that
when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him
as he is." That is the same thing David wrote about in Psalm
17:15: "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness."
The vision of Christ's glory is what changes us from what
we are into what we will be. It's not by might or by power.
It's not through the sheer force of human willpower. It's not a
work we can do for ourselves, by self-reformation. But as we
see Christ's glory, it has a powerful transfiguring influence,
Changed from Glory into Glory 21
and it changes us so that we become a reflection of the image
of Christ. We "are being transformed into the same image,"
taking on the character and moral likeness of the One we
worship. That's the only kind of sanctification Scripture
knows anything about.
And this theme resonates through the entire New
Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:49, Paul writes, "Just as we
have borne the image of the man of dust [that's Adam], we shall
also bear the image of the man of heaven [that's Christ]."
Romans 8:29: Believers are chosen and "predestined [by God]
to be conformed to the image of his Son." Ephesians 1:4: "he
chose us . . . before the foundation of the world, that we should
be holy and blameless." How are we brought to that state? By
a process of sanctification that entails the pursuit of
Christlikeness. Romans 13:14: "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." We
are clothed with ChristCrobed in His righteousness and
adorned with His glory. In His high-priestly prayer (John
17:22) Jesus prayed, "The glory that you have given me I have
given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in
them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one." The
transformation will be utterly comprehensive. According to
Philippians 3:21, Christ "will transform [even] our lowly body
to be like his glorious body." First John 3:2 again: "Beloved, we
are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet
2 Corinthians 3:18 22
appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like
him, because we shall see him as he is."
Now there's a fourth key phrase that rounds this out. "We
all . . . beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed."
And here's the fourth key phrase:
4. "FROM ONE DEGREE OF GLORY TO ANOTHER"
The King James Version uses an expression that used to
mystify me: "From glory to glory." You could paraphrase it
this way: "From one level of glory to greater and greater
glory." Paul's emphasis here is on the ever-increasing
permanence of the New Covenant glory. Moses' temporary
radiance was a skin-deep reflection of glory that faded; ours
is a glory that permeates and transfigures us foreverCand it
keeps lifting us to higher and higher levels of glory.
It is a glory that grows. It comes in transitions and
degrees. It may sometimes seem slow and halting. In fact, a
lifetime is not enough for the transforming work to be fully
completed. But it progresses steadilyCdespite whatever
spiritual setbacks or failures we may feel.
God is conforming us to the image of His Son. That is His
eternal purpose for us. Again, according to Romans 8:29,
that is the purpose and the ultimate end to which He has
predestinated those who believe: "For those whom he
foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of
Changed from Glory into Glory 23
his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many
And if you back up just one verse, this is what the familiar
promise of Romans 8:28 is all about: "we know that for those
who love God all things work together for good, for those who
are called according to his purpose. For those whom he
foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of
his Son." This is why we know all things work together for
our good: because we know what His purpose is for us, and
all things work together to that end. Even the trials and
setbacks of life are employed by God for this purpose: they
conform us to the image of Christ. When you sin, and are
disgraced and shamed by your sinCthe ultimate result is that
God uses even that to purge from your life whatever is not
Christlike. Hebrews 12:10: "he disciplines us for our good,
that we may share his holiness." Verses 12-13: "Therefore lift
your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make
straight paths for your feet." And verses 5-6: "Do not regard
lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by
him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises
every son whom he receives.." Its all part of the process of
conforming you to the image of Christ. Submit to it, by
taking the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the glory of
Christ, and you will be changed from glory into glory.
Nothing can stop the progress. Romans 8:30 goes on to say
2 Corinthians 3:18 24
that all who are chosen by God and called and justified will
be glorified. It is a certainty.
God made us to share His gloryCto reflect His glory; to
be adorned and graced with a glory that mirrors His own
glory. That is exactly why he created Adam in His own
image. But Adam sinned, and forfeited the glory for himself
and all his offspring. Sin has marred the image of God in
man, and ruined the glory that originally belonged to
I think most people feel that deficiency in their souls. We
know instinctively that we are devoid of glory. We've lost
the glory we were created with, we feel the shame of it, and
we sense the utter futility of regaining that glory for
ourselves. That's probably the main reason why people are so
obsessed with self-esteem.
But self-esteem isn't the answer; Christ is. He is the
perfect embodiment of divine glory in human formCGod
Himself in human flesh. Therefore He represents an even
greater glory than the glory that was lost by Adam. He
transforms us by that glory, so that the glory is revealed in
us. As Paul says in Romans 8:18: "I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the
glory that is to be revealed to us."
Now, I want to close with this: I'm always conscious of
the fact that there are probably people in our midst who do
Changed from Glory into Glory 25
not have a saving knowledge of Christ. If you're here and
have never embraced Christ as your Lord and Savior, notice
what the context of this passage says about you: Describing
the unbelieving Israelites in verse 14, Paul says, "Their minds
were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant,
that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it
taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies
over their hearts."
That same thing is true of every unbeliever. Their hearts
are blind to the glory of Christ. They can't even comprehend
the glory of Christ, much less be transformed by it. Look
down at chapter 4, verses 3-4: "Even if our gospel is veiled, it
is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of
this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep
them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God."
What's the solution? Chapter 3, verse 16: "But when one
turns to the Lord, the veil is removed." You must come to
Christ in faith, or you will never see His glory.
Now you might think, Let me see the glory, and then I'll
believe. Scripture says when you believe, you'll see clearly.
You might think seeing is believing; Scripture teaches that
believing is seeing.
Again, we're not talking about a glory that is visible to the
physical eye. The visible, shining brightness you can see
even with the carnal eye is actually an inferior manifestation
2 Corinthians 3:18 26
of glory, for all the reasons we have been talking about: It's
external, and therefore its effects are temporary.
But notice what Paul says down in chapter 4, verse 18,
"We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are
unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things
that are unseen are eternal."
That's why it is so important to see the glory of Christ
with the eyes of faith. It's actually a more clear and more
eternal kind of vision. Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the assurance of
things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." We endure
by "seeing him who is invisible."
So if you have never trusted Christ, I urge you to turn to
Him in faith. Christ Himself makes this promise in John
6:37: "the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." If
you are weary from the weight of sin and sensing your own
utter spiritual poverty, call on the name of the Lord, in your
heart right now. Romans 10:13 says, "For 'whoever calls on
the name of the LORD shall be saved.'" And that process will
begin by which you will be ultimately transformed into the
perfect likeness of His great glory.