2 Corinthians 3:18
“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.”
In the passage before us Paul gives the Corinthian believers something astounding to consider. He writes that the face of the believer is unveiled, as they are contemplating the glory of the Lord which they see as if looking in a mirror. In Paul’s day mirrors were of polished brass, he’s saying that believers are a polished mirror image of Jesus. we learn a lot about what we look like to others by spending time before a mirror. In the same way, we learn a lot about ourselves as we spend time alone with God with His Word.
When using a mirror we can continually make changes to our appearance as it suites us by studying our features. In walking with God, He will continually make changes to our character as it suites Him by studying our heart.
We are created in His Image and Likeness
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
The Hebrew word for likeness here is Demuth, which appears more than two dozen times in the Old Testament. It means “likeness,” or simply a “copy.” Demuth comes from the verb dāmâh which means “to be like,” or “to resemble.”
Every person on earth has been made in God’s image and likeness. Since the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God’s image within people has been tarnished and distorted by sin. This was the reason for God sending Jesus to take away the sin of the world. This is what caused the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders of Revelation five to sing: “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10) The word “redeemed” in verse nine means “to purchase.” We were literally “bought back” with the price of the blood of Jesus! God did this to restore the brightness of His image and likeness within us in all its glory.
Keep in mind that Christ returns for a Church that is holy and without blemish. Consider: Ephesians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,” And Ephesians 5:27 “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
The Process takes Time and Practice
As we contemplate the beauty and majesty of Christ in prayer and sustained thinking on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit transforms us into the very likeness and appearance we are seeing. The word “transformed” in this passage is the Greek word “metamorphoumetha,” from which we derive our English word metamorphosis. Paul is telling the Church that as we look intently into the face of Christ in our fellowship with him, walking in the light of his Word, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us into the very image we are contemplating! The very one we are pursuing takes possession of us.
James elaborates on the necessity of practicing God’s written Word as a lifestyle to bring about transformation when he says; “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25 NIV2011 Andrew Murray says it well when he writes “Prayer is not merely coming to God to ask something from him. It is above all fellowship with God and being brought under the power of his holiness and love, till he takes possession of us and stamps our entire nature with the lowliness of Christ, which is the secret of all true worship.”2
The Fellowship with Fire
The greatest benefit we receive from a lifestyle of prayer is the privilege of spending time alone in the Presence of God. It is in His Presence that we are influenced by the power of His love and His holiness. It is in our growing friendship with God that His character influences ours from the inside out. When we stand close to a fire we feel its heat, and if we stand there long enough our body will begin to heat up as well. All we have to do is stand close to the fire and the fire does the rest. Just as our body temperature gradually changes by remaining so close to the fire, so to, will our character be gradually changed by staying so close to God in His Presence. Keep in mind that Paul is saying that it is the Holy Spirit that does this work of transforming us into the image of Christ. If we will simply and consistently remain in His presence for longer periods of time enjoying His fellowship we will be transformed.
“Ever-increasing glory” or from glory to glory is a continuous work of God. As we intentionally draw closer to Him getting to know Him ever more intimately, gradually the influence of the beauty we are seeing will continue to pull us even closer. While we are growing more intimate with Him, He is gradually transforming us into that very image we are seeing in Him. Our character is being changed from one level of glory to another just as our body temperature increases from one degree to the next by staying close to the fire. We The Church are the very image of Christ because we are His body. A person need only look at our body to know what we look like. In the same way, the world need only look at the Church to know what Jesus looks like. The apostle John talks about this transformation when he says “…as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Just as people can tell who’s been spending time near the fire by the heat they feel, so to, they can tell who’s been spending time alone with God by character they see.
Live in the Power of Why
Why were we redeemed? Why does the bible continuously emphasize community? Why are God’s people called a kingdom of priests and a holy nation? (See Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9) It is empowering to know how passages such as these unlock the inherent power and purpose of God that is within His redeemed. Learn to live on the simple facts of redemption as the Church is instructed to in the New Testament. Learn how Jesus and his apostles understood and used the Old Testament Scriptures to transform the world in their generation. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what the Scriptures are saying about God’s ongoing Plan throughout history and your place in His plan.
Trust God to continue the good work He has begun in you, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”3 spend time in His presence and with others who do the same. As the fire burns brighter and hotter, so will you as you continue contemplating the glory of the Lord. Be Intentional, Be Transformed, and Be Encouraged! –JSP
- James 1:22-25 NIV2011, The Holy Bible New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA)
- Andrew Murray, The Prayer Life, (by Moody Press ninth printing1989) 48
- Philippians 1:6
- Image is from “Christlike Ministries NWA Blog” https://christlikeministriesnwa.com/2014/01/28/transformed-by-beholding/