This chapter is one of my favorites! But I will be brief…I think! I can remember pouring over this chapter some years ago. I was preparing to preach several revival messages. This ended up being one of them.
What first caught my attention was the idea at the end of the chapter: And 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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18. However, I had to understand all of chapter two in order to understand how we were to be transformed. What I discovered has changed my life forever.
Though this chapter speaks much of Moses, I think it’s important to push all the way back to creation. There we understand how things were meant to be. God had created out of nothing! Part of that creation involved mankind. God said that man was created in His image. Whatever all that entails, we know it meant that man was to be with God…in His presence and walk in His ways. This involved worshiping and serving the Creator in the Garden.
But you know, God’s creation fell into ruin because they sinned against God. Because of Adam and Eve, the entire human race would now be subjected to a sin nature. That doesn’t mean we can blame Adam for our sin because he represents exactly what any of us would have done. Knowing myself, I probably would have been much quicker than they were.
The consequence of sin was separation from God…from His presence. Sin also badly damaged man’s likeness of God because God does not sin. The marring of the image would get much worse when man was no longer in God’s presence. It was the presence of God that kept man like God. A humorous side note: is that why parents purchase a picture of Jesus to put in their kid’s dorm room when they move off to college? I bet that picture didn’t last the day in most dorm rooms!
Now we can begin talking about this chapter. Paul speaks of the letter of death. I’ve heard it said that law never made anyone better. In other words, you could obey a law but it does nothing to change your heart. Our sin nature requires us to pick up rocks and throw them at sign that says “Don’t throw rocks.” Even if we don’t, the sign beckons us to do so. We want to do it. The law is trying to make us not do what we want to do.
So how do we change or as this chapter calls it “transform”? Well the letter of the law can’t do it. How about being in the presence of God? Well that will certainly do it but we can’t (or couldn’t) come into the presence of God and survive. Yet there were ways prescribed by the Lord on how to approach Him. In this chapter we know that Moses visited with God in the tent of meeting. While in God’s presence his face would shine but Moses would put a veil over his face because of that fading glory.
Moses nor the high priests could remain in God’s presence. There was no way back in the Garden of Eden. There was no way to go and stay behind the curtain of the holy of holies. Or we would be like Aaron’s two sons or Uzzah—dead! That means we can never be transformed back into God’s image because no one can go into His presence and remain there.
Yet…yet, something amazing happened at the cross. The reason we cannot approach God is because of our sin. But Christ came to pay the penalty of sin for us…in our place. That death sentence Adam and Eve got for their rebellion was taken by Jesus the second Adam. But this Adam would not fail like every human being that has ever lived.
So what does that mean for us? It means we now have access behind the curtain that was torn in two. We now have a way back to the Garden of Eden—the transforming presence of God. Not just briefly then fade away but continually and forever because Christ dealt with our sin and sin nature. By repentance and faith we are now new creations. We have a new nature because we are forgiven and counted righteous in Christ. And just as Christ was raised to live forever so too we will as well. Eternal life awaits us because our sin has been ransomed by Jesus.
Eden will be God’s new Kingdom but way better. But for now we are being transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord. And how does this happen? By being in the presence of God! And how are we in the presence of God? The indwelling Holy Spirit is the presence and power of God. God is in us and with us transforming us back to the image of God—the image of Christ. And this time because of the cross, the Spirit and presence of God will remain in us and will therefore transform us.
In other words, our “want to” was changed because we died with Christ. The old man is dead. We now want to be like Jesus. We are slowly becoming more like him as we behold him in the Word and walk in the power and presence of the Spirit. That glory will not fade because Christ will never fade. Our future and transformation is certain because Christ is certain.
I will end with this beautiful Eden-like picture of what is to come:
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. – Revelation 22:1-5