Summary: 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, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
THE HOPE OF GLORY
Opening this passage at 2 Corinthians 3:12, we are compelled to ask: What is the “hope” that Paul speaks of here? The context seems to suggest that it is the ‘hope of glory’ (cf. Colossians 1:27). In 2 Corinthians 3:7-11, the Apostle has been speaking of the passing glory of the ministry of Moses, and the much greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit (cf. Hebrews 3:3).
What is amazing as Moses came down from Mount Sinai, is that he was blissfully unaware that his face was, literally, ‘sending out horns of light’ (Exodus 34:29). There was no doubt an echo here of the dazzling brightness of the earlier Sinai encounter, consequently causing alarm to Aaron and to all Israel with him (Exodus 34:30). How unready we are to encounter even reflected holiness when we are stricken with our own sense of guilt!
So Moses calmed them, and ‘told them in commandment all that the LORD had told him in the mount’ (Exodus 34:31-32). After that he put a veil upon his face (Exodus 34:33), thus setting a precedent for his future encounters with God, and with the people (Exodus 34:34-35).
The Apostle Paul goes some way to explaining the significance of the veil over Moses’ face. It was to prevent the people of Israel from gazing “at the end of the glory that was being set aside” (2 Corinthians 3:13). It was because of the blindness of their eyes, and the hardness of their heart (2 Corinthians 3:14-15).
Hearing the word of God with unchanged heart does no good to the hearer: in fact, it can be downright dangerous, as it calls for a responsible response. In fact, it is only in Christ that the metaphorical veil is removed (2 Corinthians 3:16). This is the work of the Holy Spirit, in quickening us in Christ, in giving us a new heart, and in setting us free (2 Corinthians 3:17).
The Gospel of John teaches us that Jesus’ glory is native to Himself: ‘We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14). When Christ returns, we also will reflect this glory (1 John 3:2). It is a glory which is nurtured in the meantime when we spend time with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Because of this “hope”, Paul and his companions “act with great boldness” (2 Corinthians 3:12). The Apostle cites the mercy of God as their source, and they therefore refuse to be discouraged (2 Corinthians 4:1). Preaching the gospel is not a contest: and refusing to use worldly means even to good ends, it is by their handling of the word of God, and manifestation of the truth that they commend their ministry to every man’s conscience (2 Corinthians 4:2).
So if the gospel is veiled, says Paul, it is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3). While Christians are being transformed into the image of the glory of the Lord, from one level of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18); these others are blinded by the god of this world “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Apostle Paul emphasises, as should every preacher: “we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
With “great boldness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12), Paul and his companions continued fearlessly on in their ministry, “for it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). May we, too, be transformed - transfigured indeed - into the same image of the glory of God, from one level of glory to another, as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). Amen.