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 second CORINTHIANS 3:18

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."


 A Preacher in his Study






The "key" to this verse is its central phrase "the glory of the Lord."

No doubt about that!

The first half of the verse builds up to "the glory of the Lord" ... and the last half flows downward like a life-giving stream, consequential to the Lord's awesome glory!

Originally Christianity was indeed Christ-centered! Theocentric the scholars called it, God centered!

In so-called contemporary Christianity things have become more man-centered!  Anthropocentric!

God has been lowered some and man has been elevated a lot ... or so it seems!

Well, our verse here in 2nd Corinthians 3:18 restores all that to its original God designed position!

God first ... man last!

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The real purpose of the Christian life is clearly stated: to behold the glory and beauty and majesty of God!

Sounds like David, doesn't it? "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." Psalm 27:4

And that, the glory of the Lord, is the only thing the Holy Spirit will use to change us!

To change us into the image, the acquired image of Jesus Christ!

No, we do not become gods ... we are made or transformed into the likeness of the character of God!

Paul says so in Romans 8:29. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."


To God be the Glory!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Paul's inspired present participle "beholding as in a glass" is interesting.

Its location, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, says: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The object of our "beholding" obviously is "the glory of the Lord!"

That's what Moses wanted to see you remember. In Exodus 33:18 he prayed: "And he said, I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory." God immediately answered: "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." Exodus 33:18-19

Ezekiel literally saw this glory too! "As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake." Ezekiel 1:28

But today, we see the glory of God in the Face of the Lord Jesus Christ! At least that's what  Peter teaches. This even occurred at Jesus' Transfiguration. "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 1st Peter 1:16-17

As we believers focus on the glory of the Lord, in Jesus Christ ... some precious things happen! Things this verse, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, delineates.

But now that we've established the Object of our gaze, back to our participle ... "beholding as in a glass."

"Katoptrizo" combines the intensive prefix "kata" and a form of the verb which gives us our word ophthalmologist. To gaze ... with wide open eyes ... at Something marvelous! What a definition! Its being a present participle here means that it is describing us ... as we focus on Jesus' glory! And that this looking is a constant thing, a habit. Yes, linear on-going action is being revealed. Furthermore, the middle voice in which it is framed suggests taht as we look, we will be impacted, influenced, overwhelmed!

This verbal is an hapax legomenon. It is found nowhere else in all the Bible! That makes it quite special.  The Holy Spirit is here conveying unique Truth!

This whole expressing give new meaning to "looking unto Jesus!" See Hebrews 12:2.

Or Colossians 3:1. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."

Or Hebrews 3:1. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." The verb "consider" (in Greek = "katanoeo")  means to think deeply or to ponder or meditate upon Him! Here it's an imperative too, expressing an order or command from God!

Even at the Transfiguration we mentioned earlier, it is said of Peter, Janes and John: "And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only." Matthew 17:8 and Mark 9:8

Jesus ... the glory of God!

Jesus ... Focus of our love and attention and praise and adoration!

Jesus ... the Need of everyone's soul!

Jesus ... the Fulfillment of all our desires!

Jesus ... the Sustainer of the universe!

Jesus ... our All in All!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The verse we are studying is short. Yet it is pivotal!

In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 Paul writes: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Note that we are said to behold the glory of the Lord "with open face!"

The preposition "with" is indicated by the case of its object, which is dative.

Then the noun "face" is translated by "prosopon" which means the front of the head or the countenance as well as one's face. It is a combined form of "ops," meaning "to look" ... and "pros," meaning "to or toward." Hence, "looking toward" someone or facing them!

Looking unto Jesus!

The adjective "open" is interesting also. It is "anakulupto" and fuses "ana" (which can reverse a word's meaning) and "krupto," meaning "to conceal" something! The word means "uncovered!" It is similar to our borrowed English word apocalypse.

In 2nd Corinthians 3:14 Paul mentions "the same vail untaken away." Here in "untaken away" we have "me" (no, not) plus "anakulupto" (unveiled).

By our looking at Jesus' glory with "open face," Paul is contrasting the dispensation of the Grace of God with that of the Law. Moses compared to Jesus! Jesus is better, more glorious!  Read with me: "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away."

Did you just notice that when folks "turn to the Lord" the veil is removed and they can see His glory? That verb "turn" is "epistrepho" and means "to twist or turn" ("strepho") upon or toward ("epi") something or Someone!

Yes, it is possible today by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to look at Jesus with unveiled faces, with open faces!

True, not like we shall some day see Him ... in person and literally Face to face, but nonetheless still seeing the outskirts of His Glory!

Enough to change us, praise the Lord!

Let us be as "open faced" as we possibly can when it comes to Jesus and the glory of God!

                                                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Who can do this?

This "beholding" the glory of God?

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2nd Corinthians 3:18

Moses longed to do so!

So did David!

And Paul!

But whom do we know that might have such privilege?

Our Text declares: "We all!"

That is, all we who are saved!

And even old sinners can be born again ... then they can adore such a wonderful Saviour! Remember, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

"But we all!"

The technical expression used here is "hemeis de pantes."

The "but," the Greek conjunction "de," means "to the contrary." Paul has just mentioned a crowd that had not focused on the glory of the Lord. They were blinded. They had veils over their eyes.

BUT ... thank God!

BUT there are some who can see!

They once were blind, but now can see!

Paul himself is in that blessed group!

The Redeemed, Blood-Washed Born-Again children of God!

BUT we can behold Him ... partially now and fully when we get to Glory!

Then let's consider the pronoun "we."

"Hemeis" in Greek is the nominative plural form of the personal pronoun "ego." Paul is here including not just one Believer somewhere who has this great opportunity! But WE all do!


From the newest convert to the oldest saint!

By "we" the Apostle was including every one of the Christians there by his side in that Roman prison ... to each of the Believers who was a part of the Colossian Church at that time ... to each of us today who is truly saved!

"We" can behold the glory of the Lord!

Through the Word of God!

And by the ministry of the Holy Spirit ... Who points to that Glory incessantly!

"We" are so privileged!

Then, to rest his powerful point ... Paul adds the word "all."

This adjective, "pas" in its basic form, means "every" one or "each" one or the "whole" group! Nobody is omitted!

Each Christian we know is able, by God's power, to concentrate and focus and dwell on the glory of the Lord!

I realize preaching on three monosyllables might be considered trivial by some. But, when the subject is this important, the "key" to the whole victorious Christian life, it is essential!

Put this conjunction, pronoun and adjective together now ... and digest them with the rest of the verse. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Now, let's savor that truth today!

If we practice this "beholding Christ Jesus" technique as a way of life ... we will be so changed that ...!

I am forgetting!

The "changes" that are promised must be discussed another time!

But, of course, as you ponder the verse for yourself ... you and the Holy Spirit, you will clearly see what I mean!

Then, Lord willing, we shall discuss it more tomorrow!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Now we come to the "effect" portion of this great verse. So far we have only studied the "cause" side!

That's right!

We have a cause and effect sequence here.

It's a promise from God too!

I'll print the "cause" side in red ... then the "effect" portion in blue, to better illustrate what I mean.

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The Believer in Jesus, if he or she maintains an "open face" and obediently consistently "beholds" the glory of the Lord ... then some things are said to occur!

That person will be "changed!"

This verse is saying that one can't look long at Jesus without being dramatically impacted or influenced or absolutely altered ... for the better!

The word the Holy Spirit directed Paul to use is "metamorphoo." In the passive voice as used here it means "to be transformed!" Or "to be transfigured!" Or even "to be altered into another form!"

If one should concentrate on the Glory of the Lord, as if It were a mirror or looking glass, the brightness and essence of that Sight would eventually overwhelm him and fashion him more and more into a  godly maturing Christian!

But let's take a minute and carefully study how the Holy Spirit uses this verb for "changed." Four instances are available for us in the New Testament, two dealing with the "Transfiguration" of Jesus!

Matthew 17:2 --- "And (Jesus) was transfigured before them: and His Face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light."

Mark 9:2 --- "And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them."

Then go to Romans 12:2. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

The first two instances involve the miraculous bodily changes that were pronounced upon Jesus by His Father at His Transfiguration, revealing to us all the Glory and Honor which have eternally been His! He is God!

Then the third instance impacts our minds! Here is mental or cognitive change that is made possible by the power of the Word of God when energized by the Holy Spirit!

Physical, then mental ... now here in our current Text, the spiritual life is included also!

2 Corinthians 3:18 --- "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

As we can see by the four verses surveyed, "metamorphoo" can involve either outward visible change ... or inward intrinsic change, or both!

The etymology dictionaries say "metamorphoo," which in Greek is just the prefix "meta" plus the stem "morphe," actually signifies a "change of form" in a given object or person!

Our key verb here is also a present passive in the indicative voice. What is being taught us is fact! It will happen if we meet the criteria! And it is an on-going process! We keep beholding Christ's Glory ... and then we are continually transformed in that submissive process!

One more thing ... in science the "change" from a worm (caterpillar or larva) to a cocoon (chrysalis or pupa) to a beautiful butterfly (then a moth) is called, as you well know, metamorphosis!

Here we have a beautiful Bible illustration placed in the world of nature by the Lord God Almighty, our Creator!


                                                                                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The "change" that takes place in a Christian's life, the "metamorphosis" that occurs when we more and more behold our Lord's Glory, is a distinct and concrete thing.

Paul the Apostle, under Holy Spirit guidance, writes: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2nd Corinthians 3:18

Notice the words I've capitalized.

We are powerfully changed into "the same image" as Christ!

I would never be so bold as to assert that fact ... apart from the authority and clear teaching of the Word of God!

This is overwhelming in its implications!

The noun "icon" here is spelled in Greek "eikon." It means a "likeness" of something or someone. It is used 23 times in the Bible.

In Matthew 22:20 Jesus used the word. Looking at a Roman coin, He asked: "Whose is this image and superscription?" This verse alone gives you an accurate assessment of the word "icon." It is like the very character of Christ is stamped on us ... as we concentrate on His Glory!

And just in case you're having trouble with this concept, read Romans 8:29 again. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Amazing! We are all some day going to be likened to the image of Jesus!

Elsewhere, when teaching about head coverings in 1st Corinthians 11, Paul said that man is now ... "the image and glory of God!" Here's the verse: "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God."

So also is Christ said to be the Image of God! "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." 2nd Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15

Here's another way Paul worded our becoming like Christ Jesus. "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." Colossians 3:10

And there is a difference between a mere shadow and an image! The latter is more distinct than the former obviously. "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." Hebrews 10:1

One lexicon says that "eikon" includes more than just "likeness," but also "representation" and "manifestation!"

This certainly gives a whole new meaning to the old song: "Let others see Jesus in you!"

Or maybe even more the hymn Fanny Crosby wrote: "More Like Jesus I Would Be!"

More like Jesus would I be, let my Savior dwell with me;
Fill my soul with peace and loveómake me gentle as a dove;
More like Jesus, while I go, pilgrim in this world below;
Poor in spirit would I be; let my Savior dwell in me.

If He hears the ravenís cry, if His ever watchful eye
Marks the sparrows when they fall, surely He will hear my call:
He will teach me how to live, all my sinful thoughts forgive;
Pure in heart I still would beólet my Savior dwell in me.

More like Jesus when I pray, more like Jesus day by day,
May I rest me by His side, where the tranquil waters glide.
Born of Him through grace renewed, by His love my will subdued,
Rich in faith I still would beólet my Savior dwell in me.



                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The Bible has a lot to say about spiritual growth.

The new-born Christian is but an infant in his new life! He or she needs the "milk" of the Word and much special care and encouragement.

But ... as time passes and the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we all indeed grow in the Lord!

As "proof" let me cite a few verses:

1st Peter 2:2 --- "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."

Proverbs 4:18 --- "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

2nd Peter 3:18 --- "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."

1st John 3:13 --- "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father."

Our Text verse even "hints" at such spiritual growth. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2nd Corinthians 3:18

Look at the words "from glory to glory."

The implication is that the Lord's ineffable and unapproachable Glory shines so brightly ... that we can only sense it and understand it and comprehend it and reflect it and be changed by it ... incrementally! A little bit at a time! In steps or degrees!

And then finally, when we shall see Him at His next Appearing, we shall be ... "like Him!"

"We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." 1st John 3:2

Such gradations of spiritual growth are expressed in Scripture in clear terms.

And our "glory to glory" phrase here is one of them.

For example, here is a "faith to faith" statement. "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:17

And here's how Peter put it: "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." See the growth here in 2nd Peter 1:5-8

Paul: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Even James describes this growth: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:2-4

Folks, keep looking at Jesus!

Concentrate on His awesome Glory!

If we do that ... we shall be changed!

From glory ... to glory ... to glory ... to glory ... to glory ... until some great day we shall be morphed into His very image!

(I am NOT saying we become gods! I am saying we shall be made like unto Jesus, reflecting His glory and character!)

Only one thing remains to be said: glory!

Glory to God!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The last phrase in the verse reveals the Power Source behind this whole transformation!

I will capitalize the words we are discussing today.

2nd Corinthians 3:18 --- "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The Holy Spirit is the Impetus behind this dramatic change!

The conjunction that is rendered "even as" is spelled "kathaper" and is only found 13 times in the whole New Testament! That's quite unusual for a conjunction! It is an "emphatic marker of comparison" says one Greek Lexicon. It means "just exactly as," yet is a subordinating conjunction! The Holy Spirit has again placed Himself in a position subservient to That of Christ Jesus! Listen to Jesus in John 16:13 --- "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of himself ...." Then, of Whom does He speak? The next verse tells us. "He shall glorify Me" says Jesus!

We've just discovered a point of doctrine in a conjunction!

Now the preposition "by" translates "apo." This term literally means "out of" ... as if the Holy Spirit gives of Himself to make this dramatic change possible! At least that's what the grammar textbooks teach. Yet the Holy Spirit's potential filling of every true Christian does not diminish His capacity one iota! He is still fully God and fully Holy Spirit!

And the Name "Spirit of the Lord" is of course the inspired Designation for God the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity!

Here the Holy Spirit, Who is omnipotent, being God ... chooses to transform us not by an arbitrary miracle or some independent means, but by (and only by) our beholding and admiring and adoring the glory of the Lord Jesus!

This could be said, knowing human nature as presented in the Bible, the only way anyone ... born-again saints included ... can ever behold the glory of the Lord constantly and incessantly is through the motivating Power of the Holy Spirit!

He always points us to Jesus!

Of course the Godhead works so uniformly and perfectly that it is hard to tell sometimes just Who is precisely at work in a given situation ... God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit.

After all, He is one God!

THE only One!

Any way metamorphosis is studied, spiritually as it concerns the Believer in Christ or scientifically as it concerns a little caterpillar ... one is compelled to admit there is a power behind such astounding change that is absolutely awesome!

Let us today thank God for many things ... His Glory being among them!

His life changing Glory!

                                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell





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