2Cor. 3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (NRSV)
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [or reflect] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)
“But we all, with unveiled face, reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord. Are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” (John Chrysostom)
Moses had spent time in God’s presence and when he returned to his people they struggled with the fact that his face reflected the glory of God. They could not look at him and asked him to please wear a veil so that the glory of God could not be seen. This he did and it symbolized the fact that their very hearts were veiled and unwilling to accept the presence of God in their midst. Their hearts remained veiled to the God and the Law.
The arrival of Christ in the New Testament changed all of this. The gospel is the good news about Christ and it is available to all. The NRSV translation has more of a focus on the glory of God being reflected in the mirror of the gospel. In ancient times metals were polished until they had a beautiful sheen. They were then used to reflect light into a room. If one held a shiny mirror to the gospel then it would be reflected to all who drew near. Those willing to accept Jesus as the Messiah would see the glory of God reflected in the mirror and the resulting light would light up the room and their very lives. The image of Christ incarnate in the gospel would be reflected on those who drew near, and the nearer, the greater the clarity of the reflection.
At the same time there are other translations, including those of the Church Fathers who believed that the this meant that the people themselves were the mirrors. Their own faces were created to reflect the very image of God. If the mirror is veiled, there is no reflection. However, with the coming of the gospel the veil has been removed. Now all have the potential to reflect that which they are facing. Therefore if we stand face to face and nose to nose with God, we will reflect his glory, and the closer we draw toward him, the clearer the image or the reflection becomes. As the world looks on we are transformed into the image before us.
No matter which way you look at the translation of this verse there is a clear message to all of us who have been privileged to have access to the gospel.
1) We are supposed to spend time with the Word, allowing the Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit to illumine our lives.
2) This illumination is to be transformational. The spiritual life is not static. We are always to be continually drawing closer to him so that we are being transformed from glory to glory!
3) We are to be reflections of Christ in this world.
Our calling is to live lives of reflected glory.
I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who has been going through some dark days at the hand of “good Christian people.” He said that even in the secular business world he had never seen the type of nasty behavior he had now witnessed among those people who claim to be living lives of reflected glory. I wonder whether it’s possible to behave in that manner and to be living a life of reflected glory? It seems to me that you would have to either put the veil back on, or turn your head from the reflected glory of the Lord.
I’m afraid it’s too easy to turn aside from the glory of the Lord. It happens just a little at a time. We don’t spend time in the Word. We don’t consciously ask the Lord to draw us closer to him. We become prideful in our spiritual state and refuse to recognize that there is always more. We don’t understand our calling to be Christlikeness.
Phineas Bresee, founder of the first Church of the Nazarene used to say, “nothing to the right, nothing to the left, straight ahead, Jesus only!” Only in this way can we be reflected glory in our world.
Lord, may I be a reflection of you today in all things. Amen.