on 2-corinthians 3 :18
But we all, with open face - The Jews were not able to look on the face of Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, and therefore he was obliged to veil it; but all we Christians, with face uncovered, behold, as clearly as we can see our own natural face in a mirror, the glorious promises and privileges of the Gospel of Christ; and while we contemplate, we anticipate them by desire and hope, and apprehend them by faith, and are changed from the glory there represented to the enjoyment of the thing which is represented, even the glorious image - righteousness and true holiness - of the God of glory.
As by the Spirit of the Lord - By the energy of that Spirit of Christ which gives life and being to all the promises of the Gospel; and thus we are made partakers of the Divine nature and escape all the corruptions that are in the world. This appears to me to be the general sense of this verse: its peculiar terms may be more particularly explained.
The word κατοπτριζομενοι, catoptrizomenoi, acting on the doctrine of catoptries, which we translate beholding in a glass, comes from κατα, against, and οπτομαι, I look; and properly conveys the sense of looking into a mirror, or discerning by reflected light. Now as mirrors, among the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, were made of highly polished metal, (see the note on 1 Corinthians 13:12), it would often happen, especially in strong light, that the face would be greatly illuminated by this strongly reflected light; and to this circumstance the apostle seems here to allude. So, by earnestly contemplating the Gospel of Jesus, and believing on him who is its Author, the soul becomes illuminated with his Divine splendor, for this sacred mirror reflects back on the believing soul the image of Him whose perfections it exhibits; and thus we see the glorious form after which our minds are to be fashioned; and by believing and receiving the influence of his Spirit, μεταμορφουμεθα, our form is changed, την αυτην εικονα, into the same image, which we behold there; and this is the image of God, lost by our fall, and now recovered and restored by Jesus Christ: for the shining of the face of God upon us, i.e. approbation, through Christ, is the cause of our transformation into the Divine image.
Dr. Whitby, in his notes on this chapters produces six instances in which the apostle shows the Gospel to be superior to the law; I shall transcribe them without farther illustration: -
1. The glory appearing on mount Sinai made the people afraid of death, saying: Let not God speak to us any more, lest we die; Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 18:16; and thus they received the spirit of bondage to fear, Romans 8:15. Whilst we have given to us the spirit of power, and love, and of a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7; and the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father! and to this difference the Epistle to the Hebrews alludes, Hebrews 12:18-24.
2. Moses, with all his glory, was only the minister of the law, written on tables of stone; the apostles are ministers of the Gospel, written on the hearts of believers. Moses gave the Jews only the letter that killeth; the apostles gave the Gospel, which is accompanied with the spirit that gives life.
3. The glory which Moses received at the giving of the law did more and more diminish, because his law was to vanish away; but the glory which is received from Christ is an increasing glory; the doctrine and the Divine influence remaining for ever.
4. The law was veiled under types and shadows; but the Gospel has scarcely any ceremonies; baptism and the Lord's Supper being all that can be properly called such: and Believe, Love, Obey, the great precepts of the Gospel, are delivered with the utmost perspicuity. And indeed the whole doctrine of Christ crucified is made as plain as human language can make it.
5. The Jews only saw the shining of the face of Moses through a veil; but we behold the glory of the Gospel of Christ, in the person of Christ our Lawgiver, with open face.
6. They saw it through a veil, which prevented the reflection or shining of it upon them; and so this glory shone only on the face of Moses, but not at all upon the people. Whereas the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, shines as in a mirror which reflects the image upon Christian believers, so that they are transformed into the same image, deriving the glorious gifts and graces of the Spirit, with the Gospel, from Christ the Lord and Distributor of them, 1 Corinthians 12:5; and so, the glory which he had from the Father he has given to his genuine followers, John 17:22. It is, therefore, rather with true Christians as it was with Moses himself, concerning whom God speaks thus: With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord (την δοξαν Κυριου, the glory of the Lord) shall he behold; Numbers 12:8. For as he saw the glory of God apparently, so we with open face behold the glory of the Lord: as he, by seeing of this glory, was changed into the same likeness, and his face shone, or was δεδοξασμενη, made glorious; so we, beholding the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6, are changed into the same glory.
Thus we find that in every thing the Gospel has a decided superiority over the law and its institutions.
on 2-corinthians 3 :18
But we all - All Christians. The discussion in the chapter has related mainly to the apostles; but this declaration seems evidently to refer to all Christians, as distinguished from the Jews.
With open face - compare note on 1 Corinthians 13:12. Tyndale renders this: "and now the Lord's glory appeareth in us all as in a glass." The sense is, "with unveiled face," alluding to the fact 2 Corinthians 3:13 that the face of Moses was veiled, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look on it. In contradistinction from that, Paul says that Christians are enabled to look upon the glory of the Lord in the gospel without a veil - without any obscure intervening medium.
Beholding as in a glass - On the word "glass, and the sense in which it is used in the New Testament, see the note on 1 Corinthians 13:12. The word used here κατοπτριζόμενοι katoptrizomenoi has been very variously rendered. Macknight renders it, "we all reflecting as mirrors the glory of the Lord." Doddridge, "beholding as by a glass." Locke, "with open countenances as mirrors, reflecting the glory of the Lord." The word κατοπτρίζω katoptrizō occurs no where else in the New Testament. It properly means to look in a mirror; to behold as in a mirror. The mirrors of the ancients were made of burnished metal, and they reflected images with great brilliancy and distinctness. And the meaning is, that the gospel reflected the glory of the Lord; it was, so to speak, the mirror - the polished, burnished substance in which the glory of the Lord shone, and where that glory was irradiated and reflected so that it might be seen by Christians. There was no veil over it; no obscurity; nothing to break its dazzling splendor, or to prevent its meeting the eye. Christians, by looking on the gospel, could see the glorious perfections and plans of God as bright, and clear, and brilliant as they could see a light reflected from the burnished surface of the mirror. So to speak, the glorious perfections of God shone from heaven; beamed upon the gospel, and were thence reflected to the eye and the heart of the Christian, and had the effect of transforming them into the same image. This passage is one of great beauty, and is designed to set forth the gospel as being "the reflection" of the infinite glories of God to the minds and hearts of people.
The glory of the Lord - The splendor, majesty, and holiness of God as manifested in the gospel, or of the Lord as incarnate. The idea is, that God was clearly and distinctly seen in the gospel. There was no obscurity, no veil, as in the case of Moses. In the gospel they were permitted to look on the full splendor of the divine perfections - the justice, goodness, mercy, and benevolence of God - to see him as he is with undimmed and unveiled glory. The idea is, that the perfections of God shine forth with splendor and beauty in the gospel, and that we are permitted to look on them clearly and openly.
Are changed into the same image - It is possible that there may be an allusion here to the effect which was produced by looking into an ancient mirror. Such mirrors were made of burnished metal, and the reflection from them would be intense. If a strong light were thrown on them, the rays would be cast by reflection on the face of him who looked on the mirror, and it would be strongly illuminated. And the idea may be, that the glory of God, the splendor of the divine perfections, was thrown on the gospel, so to speak like a bright light on a polished mirror; and that that glory was reflected from the gospel on him who contemplated it, so that he appeared to be transformed into the same image. Locke renders it: "We are changed into his very image by a continued succession of glory, as it were, streaming upon us from the Lord." The figure is one of great beauty; and the idea is, that by placing ourselves within the light of the gospel; by contemplating the glory that shines there, we become changed into the likeness of the same glory, and conformed to that which shines there with so much splendor.
By contemplating the resplendent face of the blessed Redeemer, we are changed into something of the same image. It is a law of our nature that we are moulded, in our moral feelings, by the persons with whom we associate, and by the objects which we contemplate. We become insensibly assimilated to those with whom we have social contact, and to the objects with which we are familiar. We imbibe the opinions, we copy the habits, we imitate the manners, we fall into rite customs of those with whom we have daily conversation, and whom we make our companions and friends. Their sentiments insensibly become our sentiments, and their ways our ways. It is thus with the books with which we are familiar. We are insensibly, but certainly moulded into conformity to the opinions, maxims, and feelings which are there expressed. Our own sentiments undergo a gradual change, and we are likened to those with which in this manner we are conversant.
So it is in regard to the opinions and feelings which from any cause we are in the habit of bringing before our minds. It is the way by which people become corrupted in their sentiments and feelings, in their contact with the world; it is the way in which amusements, and the company of the frivolous and the dissipated possess so much power; it is the way in which the young and inexperienced are beguiled and ruined; and it is the way in which Christians dim the luster of their piety, and obscure the brightness of their religion by their contact with the "happy and fashionable world. And it is on the same great principle that Paul says that by contemplating the glory of God in the gospel, we become insensibly, but certainly conformed to the same image, and made like the Redeemer. His image will be reflected on us. We shall imbibe his sentiments, catch his feelings, and be moulded into the image of his own purity. Such is the great and wise law of our nature; and it is on this principle, and by this means, that God designs we should be "made" pure on earth, and "kept" pure in heaven forever.
From glory to glory - From one degree of glory to another. "The more we behold this brilliant and glorious light, the more do we reflect back its rays; that is, the more we contemplate the great truths of the Christian religion, the more do our minds become imbued with its spirit" - Bloomfield. This is said in contradistinction probably to Moses. The splendor on his face gradually died away. But not so with the light reflected from the gospel. It becomes deeper and brighter constantly. This sentinient is parallel to that expressed by the psalmist; "They go from strength to strength" Psalm 84:7; that is, they go from one degree of strength to another, or one degree of holiness to another, until they come to the full vision of God himself in heaven. The idea in the phrase before us is; that there is a continual increase of moral purity and holiness under the gospel until it results in the perfect glory of heaven. The "doctrine" is, that Christians advance in piety; and that this is done by the contemplation of the glory of God as it is revealed in the gospel.
As by the Spirit of the Lord - Margin, "Of the Lord of the Spirit." Greek "As from the Lord the Spirit." So Beza, Locke, Wolf, Rosenmuller, and Doddridge render it. The idea is, that it is by the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of the law, the spirit referred to by Paul above, 2 Corinthians 3:6, 2 Corinthians 3:17. It is done by the Holy Spirit procured or imparted by the Lord Jesus. This sentiment is in accordance with that which prevails everywhere in the Bible, that it is by the Holy Spirit alone that the heart is changed and purified. And the "object" of the statement here is, doubtless, to prevent the supposition that the change from "glory to glory" was produced in any sense by the "mere" contemplation of truth, or by any physical operation of such contemplation on the mind. It was by the Spirit of God alone that the heart was changed even under the gospel, and amidst the full blaze of its truth, Were it not for his agency, even the contemplation of the glorious truths of the gospel would be in vain, and would produce no saving effect on the human heart.
1. The best of all evidences of a call to the office of the ministry is the divine blessing resting on our labors 2 Corinthians 3:1-2. If sinners are converted; if souls are sanctified; if the interests of pure religion are advanced; if by humble, zealous, and self-denying efforts, a man is enabled so to preach as that the divine blessing shall rest constantly on his labors, it is among the best of all evidences that he is called of God, and is approved by him. And though it may be true, and is true, that people who are self-deceived, or are hypocrites, are sometimes the means of doing good, yet it is still true, as a general rule, that eminent, and long-continued success in the ministry is an evidence of God's acceptance, and that he has called a minister to this office. Paul felt this, and often appealed to it; and why may not others also?
2. A minister may appeal to the effect of the gospel among his own people as a proof that it is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. Nothing else would produce such effects as were produced at Corinth, but the power of God. If the wicked are reclaimed; if the in temperate and licentious are made temperate and pure; if the dishonest are made honest; and the scoffer learns to pray, under the gospel, it proves that it is from God. To such effects a minister may appeal as proof that the gospel which he preaches is from heaven. A system which will produce these effects must be true.
3. A minister should so live among a people as to be able to appeal to them with the utmost confidence in regard to the purity and integrity of his own character, 2 Corinthians 3:1-2. He should so live, and preach, and act, that he will be under no necessity of adducing testimonials from abroad in regard to his character. The effect of his gospel, and the tenor of his life, should be his best testimonial; and to that he should be able to appeal. A man who is under a necesity, constantly, or often, of defending his own character; of bolstering it up by testimonials from abroad; who is obliged to spend much of his time in defending his reputation, or who chooses to spend much of his time in defending it, has usually a character and reputation "not worth defending." Let a man live as he ought to do, and he will, in the end, have a good reputation. Let him strive to do the will of God, and save souls, and he will have all the reputation which he ought to have. God will take care of his character; and will give him just as much reputation as it is desirable that he should have; see Psalm 37:5-6.
4. The church is, as it were, an epistle sent by the Lord Jesus, to show his character and will, 2 Corinthians 3:3. It is his representative on earth. It holds his truth. It is to imitate his example. It is to show how he lived. And it is to accomplish that which he would accomplish were he personally on earth, and present among people - as a letter is designed to accomplish some important purpose of the writer when absent. The church, therefore, should be such as shall appropriately express the will and desire of the Lord Jesus. It should resemble him. It should hold his truth; and it should devote itself with untiring diligence to the great purpose of advancing his designs, and spreading his gospel around the world.
on 2-corinthians 3 :18
3:18 And, accordingly, all we that believe in him, beholding as in a glass - In the mirror of the gospel. The glory of the Lord - His glorious love. Are transformed into the same image - Into the same love. From one degree of this glory to another, in a manner worthy of his almighty Spirit. What a beautiful contrast is here! Moses saw the glory of the Lord, and it rendered his face so bright, that he covered it with a veil; Israel not being able to bear the reflected light. We behold his glory in the glass of his word, and our faces shine too; yet we veil them not, but diffuse the lustre which is continually increasing, as we fix the eye of our mind more and more steadfastly on his glory displayed in the gospel.