Thursday 18 February 2021

Bible Book:
2 Corinthians

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)

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 Thursday 18 February 2021

Psalm 84


In the verses leading up to this passage Paul has been contrasting his own ministry with that of others who are not genuine apostles and who depend on written testimonials. Paul’s ministry is based on the Spirit and its outcome is written on human hearts. In stark terms verse 6 stated that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. Recalling that the old covenant was written on tablets of stone, Paul starts to note continuities and contrasts between it and the new covenant of which he is a minister. The 'hope' (v. 12) with which our passage begins is that the glory of the new and permanent covenant will far outshine the glory associated with the old.

People used to cover their face as a sign of mourning. Our hope outweighs any mourning, so we never need such a veil, but rather we enjoy freedom. While Exodus suggests Moses covered his face when it was shining after he’d met with God to stop the people feeling afraid (Exodus 34:30), it suits Paul here to surmise that he did it so that they would not notice that it faded with time. While, in Paul’s view, Moses was hoping his tactic would help the people believe, hardened minds (we’d say 'hearts') prevented it; compare Isaiah 6:9-10. To this very day (v. 15) those who don’t know Christ fail to recognise that the covenant is old when they hear the Old Testament being read.

 We should probably think of 'the Lord' in verse 17 as having those inverted commas as Paul explains how he interprets those words from the story of Moses in relation to Christian conversion. The memorable verse 18 redirects the readers’ attention away from the past when they turned to Christ to what they will finally become in him, namely sharers of his image. It is uncertain whether Paul is speaking of seeing God’s glory as though through glass (and therefore clearly) or as though reflected in a mirror (which in those days did not provide the unblemished quality of today's silvered mirrors), but the overall idea that the more we look at Christ the more we become like him is not in doubt.

 Verses 1-2 return to the original theme of Paul’s own ministry, and he may be defending himself against criticisms he considered unjust. The key thought is that Paul commends himself, not by emphasising his own importance in any way, but simply by telling the truth.


To Ponder:

  • If you are a Christian, how would you define your hope to somebody who does not yet know Jesus Christ?
  • If you have a memory of first encountering Jesus and turning to him, is there any sense in which you would describe that as 'the removal of a veil'? Or might you use a different picture to explain what it meant for you?
  • Do you find it possible to live in the freedom of the Spirit, or do you find you need some kind of law or rules to keep you on the right path?
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