Thursday

15 February 2018

2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2

“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.” (v. 18)

Author of life divine

Psalm: Psalm 32


Background

Yesterday we finished by reflecting on secrecy; today’s final verse offers a counterbalance to that, with a charge to be ourselves an “open statement of the truth”. The two ideas need not be contradictory. The Christian life is to a great degree about balance and paradox; it is our hidden life with God which transforms our open life, visible to all.

This is a complex passage which, to be fully understood, needs to be read in conjunction with Exodus 34:29-35 and the earlier verses of this chapter, 2 Corinthians 3:1-11. Following Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai it appears that the skin of his face shone brightly, so he began wearing a veil over his face at times. The interpretation Paul gives to this (verses 7, 13), that the veil was worn not only to protect the people from the shining, but also from the fading of the shining is not made clear in Exodus, but it may be what Paul intends us to understand. He may be suggesting that Moses wanted to retain a mystical allure which set him apart from the people and demonstrated his close relationship with God – perhaps, if this is so, Moses needed to hear yesterday’s reading from the Sermon on the Mount! This interpretation fits with Paul’s implication (verse 13) that Moses acted somewhat timidly in hiding the fading of the glory, in contrast to the claim of verse 12 that “we act with great boldness”. We are able to do so because of the “hope” we have; earlier verses in today’s passage (verses 7-11) suggest this hope is the hope of glory.

However that may be, Paul moves swiftly on from this idea to apply the idea of the veil differently; in verses 14-16 the veil becomes a lack of comprehension which obscures the understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) for Jewish readers. Only, he claims in verse 16, when one “turns” to Christ – a word which denotes a penitent turning to God in repentance – is the veil set aside. This verse may also call to mind the tearing of the curtain in the temple at the moment of Jesus’ death (Luke 23:45), removing the barrier between humanity and the divine presence.


To Ponder

  • How might this reading lead you to Repentance and Renewal?
  • How aware are you of finding a balance day-by-day between your inner, hidden life of devotion and your outer life of witness?
  • How real in your day-by-day life as a Christian is an understanding and hope of glory (see verses 7-11)?

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers’ tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where her husband Andrew is superintendent minister. For Jill, the past 20 years have included all sorts of roles within Methodism – further afield (as a mission partner in the South Caribbean) and closer to home (with WFMUCW, MWiB, leading pilgrimages and as part of various committees and groups) and is currently the Vice-President of the Conference 2017/2018. When not engaged in these ways, Jill enjoys walking in the beautiful mountains of Scotland, gardening and writing; she blogs at www.northoftheborder.wordpress.com and "Thanks, Peter God", her book about the life of her son, Peter, who died in 2012, was published in 2016.