The Permanence of the New Covenant: Part 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

18 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 by the Spirit of the Lord.

This is a very wonderful passage of scripture. Paul has been talking about the veil being on the heart, then when we turn to Christ—that veil is taken away. Now as believers we are looking on the Lord Jesus Christ—but even as believers our eyes are veiled when there is sin in our lives. But when that sin is confessed, and we are in fellowship with him, we look to Him. Then we, with “unveiled face,” beholding (not reflecting as another version translates it) as in a mirror the glory of the Lord—the idea is not reflecting in order to transform, but rather that of beholding untiltransformed. Then we can reflect His image. The word translated “transformed” can also be rendered transfiguration (Matt. 17; Mark 9). It describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside. Our English word metamorphosis is a transliteration of this Greek word. Metamorphosis describes the process that changes an insect from a larva into a pupa and then into a mature insect. The change comes from within. I feel that a more accurate translation is: we “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The idea is that we can become more like Him as we behold Him in the Scriptures.

Just as Moses took off his veil when he went into the presence of God, so too, all Christians can behold God’s glory without any veil covering them. Unlike the Jews who had to rely on priests to mediate between them and God, Christians through Christ’s saving work on the cross have direct access to the Father (Eph. 2:18{19]).

Under the new covenant all believers can reflect the glory of the Lord. In contrast, under the old covenant only Moses had access to the Lord’s presence and thus could reflect His glory. But now all Christians can be like Moses. Thus, when Christians, who are given access to the Father through Christ’s work, look at God’s glory, they begin to reflect His holy character in their lives. As a result of this encounter with God, they are forever changed. Through Jesus Christ, we may enter into the very holy of holies (Heb. 10:19-20{22])—and we don’t have to climb a mountain.

Keep in mind that Paul was contrasting not only the old covenant with the new, but also the old covenant ministry with the ministry of grace. The goal of old covenant ministry is obedience to an external standard, but this obedience cannot change human character. The goal of new covenant ministry is likeness to Jesus Christ. Law can bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24), but only grace can make us like Christ. By the Law I do not mean the Old Testament, but rather the whole legal system given by Moses. The result of Old Testament ministry is bondage; but the result of new covenant ministry is freedom in the Spirit. Legalism keeps a person immature and immature people must live by rules and regulations (Gal. 4:1-7{23]). God wants His children to obey, but not because of an external code (the Law), but because of internal character. Christians do

not live under the Law, but this doesn’t mean we are lawless! The Spirit of God writes the Word of God on our hearts, and we obey the Father because of the new life He has given us within. Legalistic teachers and preachers may get their listeners to conform to some standard, but they can never transform them to be like the Son of God.

The glory that the Lord imparts to the believer is more excellent and lasts longer than the glory Moses experienced. By gazing at the glory of God with unveiled minds, all of us Christians can be more like Him.

The Bible reveals the truth about Christ, and the Spirit of the Lord works within us, transforming us morally as we understand and apply it. Through learning about Christ’s life, we can understand how wonderful God is and what He is really like. As our knowledge deepens, the Holy Spirit works within us to help us to change and become more like Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Becoming Christlike is a progressive experience (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19; Phil 3:21; Gal. 6:15{20]). Being transformed into Christ’s likeness is a continual process, through which the Holy Spirit works within us—step-by-step—to bring us closer to God’s perfect way of living. It occurs little by little as the Holy Spirit points out more areas of our lives that need to be submitted to God’s will; and we, then, freely submit to God. The Holy Spirit works through the preaching of God’s Word, the reading of Scripture, our prayer life, and the wise guidance of other mature believers, to lead believers on God’s wonderful path of righteousness.

God works according to His timetable. The Holy Spirit brings about change in our lives and hearts through a slow process. So never give up if you don’t see the spiritual progress you desire. The Holy Spirit works in His own ways and His own timing.

It is true that the Word of God is the mirror that we are to look at, and we are beholding Him—just looking at Christ. That is the reason we need to stay in the Word of God and behold the Lord Jesus. As you behold Him, you are transformed. In other words, the Word of God does more than regenerate you (we are regenerated by the Spirit of God using the Word of God.) “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pe. 1:23). Also the Word of God transforms us. Oh, this is so important! I wish I had spent more time looking in the mirror, beholding Him more. We see Him, my friend, in the Word of God. He is not a superstar; He is not just a man. In the Word of God we see the unveiled Christ. Oh, how wonderful He is!

Do you want to be Christlike? Then spend time looking at Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

I need this. I hope you, too, sense a need of seeing Jesus Christ on the pages of the Word of God, so that you might grow more like him.

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