Changed from Glory into Glory (Phil Johnson)

2 Corinthians 3:18   |   Sunday, March 15, 2015   |   Code: 2015-03-15-PJ

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.

You can't.

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

be seen.'"

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

dwells bodily."

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


"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

saw it.

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:


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:


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.