Soli Deo Gloria: To Glorify God Alone, by David Steele

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Soli Deo Gloria: To Glorify God Alone

BY DAVID STEELE    see David Steele / Wikipedia

It has been said that Soli Deo Gloria is “the glue that holds the solas together”; [1] the way we view God influences everything about us. It influences how we parent our children. It influences our work ethic. Our view of God influences the way we relate to our spouse. It influences the way we worship. Indeed, the way we view God influences the way we live our daily lives.

Defining the Glory of God

Before we dig deeper into Soli Deo Gloria, we need to define the glory of God. The term glory means “heavy or weighty”. The term implies “honor, splendor, or reverence”.

Wayne Grudem adds, “The glory of God is not exactly an attribute of his being but rather describes the unmatched honor that should be given to God by everything else in the universe…In another sense, God’s glory means the bright light that surrounds God’s presence.”[2]

Since the Hebrew term translated glory, means “to be heavy”, it conveys the idea that the one possessing the glory is overflowing with riches (Genesis 1:31  ), power (Isaiah 8:7  ), and position (Genesis 45:13  ). Additionally, glory in the New Testament implies “brightness, shining, radiance, amazing might, or a demonstration of power, praise, or greatness.”

The Glory of God in the Book of Isaiah

Notice several aspects of God’s glory that emerge in the book of Isaiah.

God’s glory is related to His majesty. “It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” (Isaiah 35:2  ).   

God’s glory is a canopy and provides a divine “Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy” (Isaiah 4:5  ).
God’s glory is capable of covering the whole earth. “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory”” (Isaiah 6:3  ).
God has a passion for revealing His glory. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5  ).
God will not give His glory to another. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8  ).
God expects His people to give glory to Him and praise His “Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands” (Isaiah 42:12  ).

Jonathan Edwards and God’s Glory

Jonathan Edwards beautifully summarizes God’s glory in his epic work, A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World:

“The great end of God’s works, which is so variously expressed in Scripture, is indeed ONE; and is most properly and comprehensively called, THE GLORY OF GOD.”[3]

This glory is all-consuming and soul-satisfying. This is exactly where we turn our attention to.

Describing the Glory of God

The Word of God clearly teaches that God created and chose Israel for His glory (Isaiah 43:6-7  ). Jonathan Edwards observes,

“It is wholly a promise of a future, great and wonderful work of God’s power and grace, delivering his people from all misery, and making them exceedingly happy; and then the end of all, or the sum of God’s design in all, is declared to be God’s own glory.”[4]

Additionally, God sent the Messiah so that He would be glorified. God sent the Messiah to be a light to the nations, open blind eyes, and bring prisoners from the dungeon: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6–7  ).

And God sent the Messiah to extend salvation to the very ends of the earth. John Piper reveals the depth of this stunning reality:

 “It is our unspeakable privilege to be caught up with him in the greatest movement in history—the ingathering of the elect ‘from all tribes and tongues and peoples and nations’ until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and all Israel is saved, and the Son of man descends with power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords and the earth is full of the knowledge of his glory…Then the supremacy of Christ will be manifest to all and he will deliver the kingdom of God the Father, and God will be all in all.”[5]

God sent the Messiah to reveal the glory of God (Isaiah 40:5  ; John 1:14  ). Piper continues,

“The exaltation of God’s glory is the driving force of the gospel…And grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.”[6]

Finally, God’s glory is revealed in the redemption of the elect.

Notice the shift that takes place in Acts 13:46-48  :

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

In Ephesians 1:3-6  , Paul unfolds the plan that God has for His people, including both Jews and Greeks: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Now that we are armed with some basic knowledge concerning the glory of God, we can move forward with a three-fold challenge.

Realize God’s Purpose in Creating the World

Our first challenge is to see God’s purpose in creation, which is to make His glory known. Consider a few passages the point to the public display of God’s glory:

“But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord,” (Numbers 14:21  ).
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14  ).
“And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3  ).

Jonathan Edwards adds, “The work of God promised to be effected, is plainly an accomplishment of the joy, gladness, and happiness of God’s people, instead of their mourning and sorrow; and the end in which God’s design in this work is obtained and summed up, is his glory…And he expresses the way in which we are to make God our end, in making his glory our end.”[7]

We not only realize God’s purpose in creating the world; we recognize God as the Creator who formed us.

Recognize God as the Creator Who Formed Us

Four indisputable truths describe this powerful calling.

1. First, He calls us by name (Isaiah 40:1  ). Jeremiah 30:22  affirms, “And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

2. Second, He calls us His possession. “The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:20-21  ).

3. Third, He calls us out of darkness. Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1st Peter 2:9).

4. Fourth, He created us for His glory. “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6-7  ). God’s purpose in creating the world was to showcase His glory. But the astounding thing is that God chooses to make known His glory through His people!

Respond Properly to God by Glorifying Him

How do we glorify God? The Bible calls us to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in every area of life (1st Peter 2:9). Additionally, we spread a passion for the great worthiness of His name. Isaiah 43:21  says, “The people who I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”

“In other words,” writes John Piper, “to extend the pleasure that God has shown in his own name he chooses a people to enjoy and praise and proclaim that name to all peoples.” The glory of God shined brightly during the days of the Protestant Reformation. In Nate Pickowicz’s excellent book, Why We’re Protestant, he demonstrates how the Reformers transformed marriage and family. They reformed education and society and government.

“Over and above all else, the Reformation was an effort to move religion away from a man-centered scheme of self-justification and self-salvation to the God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered religion of the Scriptures.”(8)

Calvin adds, “We never truly glory in God until we have utterly discarded our own glory…The elect are justified by the Lord that they may glory in him, and in none else.”[9]

Applying Soli Deo Gloria in Our Day

The glory of God impacts the way we live our lives. Every step, every word, every action, every decision, everything should be done for the glory of God. The glory of God impacts the way we spend money. When our focus is on God’s glory, His kingdom priorities extinguish the other things that have captured our attention. The glory of God fills us with joy and hope.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2  ).

The glory of God motivates me to take the gospel to the nations.

“Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:28  ).

The gospel reminds us that the glory of God and our everlasting joy are not at odds. John Piper observes, “The exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing.”[10]

May we strive with all our hearts to fulfill the purpose for which God created us, namely, to glorify God in all the earth. Soli Deo Gloria!

David Steele

References:

[1] David Vandrunen, God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 14.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 221.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World.

[4] Jonathan Edwards, Cited in John Piper, God’s Passion For His Own Glory (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1998), 193.

[5] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 165-166.

[6] Ibid, 157.

[7] Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust), 108-109.

[8] Nate Pickowicz, Why We’re Protestant, 122.

[9] John Calvin, Cited in David Vandrunen, God’s Glory Alone, 13.

[10]John Piper, God’s Passion For His Glory, 32.

“How do I Know if I Love Gifts more than the Giver?” by John Piper

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How do I know if I love the Gifts more than the Giver?

Interview with John Piper (2013)
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

(from a transcript)
Vicki from Chetek, Wisconsin, writes in to ask: “Often I hear that we are to love God for who he is, not for what He does for us — to love the giver more than the gifts. How can we know when we are doing this? When I examine my own heart, so much of what I know about God seems to be in relation to what I enjoy based upon his work as my creator, my redeemer, etc. I’m just not sure I know how to separate that out. Perhaps I make it too complicated.” Pastor John, what would you say to Vicki?

She is probably not making it too complicated, because it is complicated. But when we find that it gets complicated, we probably need to back up and look for a simple way to live, because God doesn’t mean for complication to paralyze us or to diminish our sense of enjoyment of him or his gifts. So I would affirm, first of all, she is right.

We Love the Giver Through His Gifts
Experiencing God and Jesus through their gifts is inseparable from experiencing God directly, because we are creatures, and we are creatures in bodies. And as embodied creatures, God has put us in a world to experience him indirectly. He is not his gifts. He is different from his gifts. And yet we experience him through his gifts.

And everybody knows that the love for a person and the love for their gifts are not the same. Yet we experience love through gifts, through touch, through sight, through Christmas presents under the tree.

And we also know — and this gets right to the heart of the matter — that if you love a person, for example, your wife, and she puts some thought into buying you a gift and puts it under the tree, and you open it on Christmas morning, you know that she will feel loved if you go bananas over this gift. If you lay the gift aside and say, “I really don’t care about this, just you,” well, that is going to get old, quickly.

However, if a man breaks into your house with a gun, puts the gun to her head and says, “I want your gifts, or I’ll kill her.” Really? Are you kidding me? Take the gift, knucklehead. And the wife would know, of course, that her husband loves her ten thousand times more than he loves the gift. And yet if he belittles the gift, if he turns away from the gift, he is not loving her well. And so that is the way it is, almost all the time, with God in this world.

Spring-Loaded for Idolatry
Now here is the catch that is making life hard for Vicki, and making her feel discouraged about this, and it makes me discouraged too. Since the fall, we have got a major problem on our hands. Before the fall, before we humans were sinners, nobody experienced this problem. I think loving God and loving the things that God made were in perfect harmony. There was no idolatry in the world and no competition between God and his gifts, because we were not sinners.

In this age, God mixes pleasure and pain to provide us with revelation of his goodness and protect us from idolatry.

Now we are sinners, which means we are spring-loaded to turn gifts into alternatives to God. And so what does God do? Well, in this age between our fall and our perfection at the second coming, God uses pleasure and pain to provide us with revelations of his goodness and protect us from loving substitutes. He uses a mixture. He brings pleasures into our life in order that we might know him through those and he brings pain into our life in order to show us that he is more important than the things.

Mixed Pleasure and Pain
And there are texts that point to this truth of mixed pleasure and pain.

Romans 2:4 says, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness . . . not knowing that the God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” So there you have God giving good things to unbelievers to lead them to repentance.

Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” So he is lavishing us, day after day, with sunrises and sunsets to get attention for his glory. First Timothy 4:3, where marriage and food are created to be received with thanksgiving. First Timothy 6:17, Everything created richly for your enjoyment.

So there is a whole slew of texts that describe the goodness of creation, all of it to say, “You have a good God, a lavish, generous Father, turn to him. Love him. Be thankful to him.”

And then, because we are fallen, that is not all God does. He calls us to a life of self-denial. He says to Paul, the reason you were unbearably crushed and despaired of life itself was so that you might rely upon me (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). Romans 5:3, rejoice in tribulation because it works patience and patience works hope and hope doesn’t put us to shame, and so we are driven to hope in God because of tribulation. And Paul, in Philippians 3:8, says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And we have all the passages on fasting and self-denial.

“We should look at everything good that God gives us and see right into it and through it to him as a good giver.”

So I think the answer is that we should look at everything good that God gives us and see right into it and through it to him as a good giver.

We should remember that he is a person and that we should be willing to lose it all and say, “To die is gain,” because he is more important than any of these things. And he is going to give it all back to us in the age to come when we are suited and fit to receive it without any idolatry.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, and most recently Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship.

Desiring God.org

 

 

 

 

 

“Transformed from Glory to Glory” 2 Corinthians 3:16, a message from Will Pounds, missionary; pastor

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2 Corinthians 3:16-18 Transformed from Glory to Glory
by Will Pounds, Missionary, Pastor, Author

Every believer in Jesus Christ is an open letter, a walking living advertisement, for Christ. It is an awesome responsibility because the world is watching and judging Christianity by our attitudes and actions.

You may ask who is adequate for such a responsibility? The apostle Paul declared, “It is He who is all–sufficient who has made me sufficient for this task.” He always thought of God as making him adequate to live and minister the Christian life. Only the Holy Spirit can change our human nature, therefore God calls us to an intimate relationship with Himself. The new covenant we have with Christ produces in us a greater splendor that will never fade. He calls us to an ever-growing intimate love relationship with Himself that never fades away.

The Christian looks upon the unveiled, the unhidden glories of the Lord, and are transformed into the same image from glory to glory. It is through faith that we look upon Him and are changed y the Holy Spirit.

Where do we get our vision of Him? It is as we are occupied with Him in His Word. As we study the Bible we understand and comprehend what He is like.

Who are those individuals in the Bible who have seen the glory of the Lord and been transformed?

GLORY OF GOD IN THE OLD COVENANT

Seeing God in the Old Testament was a serious matter. The angel of the Lord often mediates him. Those who saw the angel of the Lord understood the sight as practically the same as to seeing God. The message is clear, “No one can see Me and live.” One old saint said with a pure heart, “Then let me see Him and die.”

Glory of God like a consuming fire

Moses is unique in the Old Testament. In Exodus 24:15-17 we are told Moses went up to the mountain and the cloud of glory covered the mountain. “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai . . . and He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.”

God met Israel on the mercy seat in the holy of holies (25:21-22). It was there a holy and righteous God came down to where man was for fellowship.

Moses longed to be in the presence of God

Moses enjoyed deeply personal communion with Yahweh. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). There is universal agreement among scholars that Moses is expressing intimacy with God and not literally in His face. He is preparing his readers for the deeply personal conversation that follows. In Exodus 33:18-23 Moses makes it very clear that sinful man cannot see the glory of God and live. “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (v. 20, cf. v. 23). It is not a contradiction, but a clarification. What happens when Moses came into the presence of God is amazing.

Moses reflected the presence of the glory of God in his face

In Exodus 34:29-35 we are told that after Moses fasted on the mountain forty days and nights that “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him” (v. 29). “The skin of his face shone” and the people were afraid to come near him (v. 30). His face had a general irradiation and illumination about it. His whole face was irradiated in a strange and wonderful way, unusual manner in which those familiar with him had never seen it irradiated before. Moses face was transfigured. The word is used in Hebrew for a sunrise. This was new spiritual illumination for Moses, so mighty, so powerful that it irradiated his countenance. His spirit was in a new fellowship with God. His whole person being was mastered, captured, and illuminated by fellowship with God. Moses had a supreme consciousness of God. It would be needed for the job before him.

He called the people together and communicated to them what God told Him on the mountaintop. “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him” (vv. 33-35).

Did you notice what happened when the glory faded? While Moses spoke to the people they saw the glory shining from his uncovered face. However, as soon as he had finished speaking, he covered his face with a veil. When he went into the holy of holies to speak with the Lord he again removed the veil (Ex. 34:34). It would appear from Paul’s language that this was Moses customary procedure. “Moses used to place a veil over his face” (2 Corinthians 3:13). The glory was interrupted; it wasn’t permanent.

It is suggested that “the veiling of Moses’ face was a condemnation of the people” because of their rebellious hearts. For Moses and the people the glory of the Lord was renewed each time he went in the holy of holies. Moses veiled his face so that the people could not see the slowly fading of the glory that once was there. It was an intermittent glory. What a contrast is the revelation that came in the person of Jesus Christ who is full and final. There is no change, no fading of glory with Christ. He is eternal; He changes not. The one is a footprint to glory; the other is the pinnacle of glory. Moses enjoyed a “fading glory” (2 Cor. 3:7). That does not imply that it was not a true experience, but it was temporal. It had to be renewed daily.

It spoke in type of what would one day become a permanent abiding presence of God in the life of His people.

THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE LIFE OF JESUS

A permanent glory of God in His life

The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he said the God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelieving men so they cannot see the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Indeed, He existed in the very “form of God” (Phil. 2:6). He is the very essence of God which cannot be changed. Jesus is essentially and unalterably God.

A glimpse of His glory

It was at the Mount of Transfiguration that we see a quick glimpse of the permanent indwelling glory in God in Christ. According to Matthew 17:2-8 this is where Jesus manifested His glory before Peter, James and John. Years later the apostle Peter told about that experience when “they saw His glory” (Lk. 9:32; cf. 2 Peter 1:16-17). The apostle John refers to the same experience in John 1:14, 18.

“Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, but it was Christ alone who was transfigured with heavenly radiance before the eyes of Peter, James and John. It was His face that shone as the sun and His garments that became white and dazzling. It was Him alone that the voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.’ And thereafter the disciples saw no one, save Jesus only. It is He who abides. The glory in which Moses and Elijah appeared was not their own but Christ’s glory––the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (Jn. 17:5). Just as in the wilderness the glory, which shone from Moses’ face, was the reflected glory of Yahweh, so too on the mount of transfiguration the glory with which he was surrounded was the glory of the same Yahweh. Christ’s alone is the full, the abiding, the evangelical glory. To turn to Him is to turn to the Light of the world. To follow Him is not to walk in darkness, but to have the light of life (Jn. 8:12)” (Hughes, NIC Commentary on Corinthians, pp. 114-15).

Jesus is the light that shines out of darkness, “the one who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Our future is full of His glory

First John 3:1-2 tells us that “when He appears we will be like Him,” and “we will see Him just as He is.” Philippians 3:20-21 reminds us of that glorious day when Jesus appears and He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

In 2 Thessalonians 1:10, 12 we have a fore taste of that glorious day.

THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER

Stephen reflected the glory of God in his face

Acts 6:3, 5, 8, 15 tells us one of the first deacons in the early church was a Spirit-filled believer. Stephen stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin and confronted false witnesses against him and Luke tells us he had the “face like the face of an angel” (v. 15). It was not that he had a child’s or feminine appearance, but he was a believer under the control of the Holy Spirit who radiated the presence of Christ in his face. These demonic filled men who were radiating the opposite kind of spirit “were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (v. 10). When they could not with integrity win their argument they resorted to satanic means to condemn him (vv. 11-15). This Spirit-filled man preached to this “stiff-necked,” proud, stubborn, unspiritual religious leaders.

“Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the son of Man standing at the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:55-56). They could stand it no longer so they “cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him” until he was dead. (Vv. 57-60). In his death Stephen reflected that same attitude as Jesus (Acts 7:51-60).

This Spirit-filled man saw the same person Moses saw. Stephen looked away from everything else in order to focus his gaze on the one thing that mattered. He neglected everything else to focus his attention on one thing.

What would we have seen in the face of Stephen if we had been there? Barclay says it is, “A look of astonishment and amazement, a look of scrutiny ending in recognition, a look of wonder, a look of expectation and hope, a look of sheer, piercing authority.”

Stephen was no odd ball. He was no supra Christian. He was a normal Spirit-filled believer in Jesus Christ. He was what every one of us ought to be every day of our lives.

The normal Christian life

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Weymouth translates, “We mirror the glory of the Lord.” With unveiled faces we looking as in a mirror, catch the light and reflect the glory of the Lord. We reflect as a mirror does and we do it with unveiled faces. As believers we have a clear view of our Savior with an open face. Paul says, “I have a clear view of God as He has revealed Himself to my heart in Jesus Christ, and what have I myself seen? I saw in Him the glory of a life in total abandonment to the sovereign will of His Father in heaven.”

I love the way Allan Redpath words a clear explanation of this glory the apostle Paul is trying to communicate to believers:

“I have a clear view of Jesus. I have seen Him, felt Him, and I have known Him in a far deeper way than simply by the outward physical appearance; I have felt the reality of His life begin to burn in my heart. I have seen in Christ the glory of a life that is totally submitted to the sovereignty of God. That glory has begun to take hold of me, and I have begun to see that this is the one life that God expects of any man He made in His own image. I have seen the marks of the cross upon Him, and by His grace the marks of the cross have been put upon me and I am no longer my own; I am bought with a price, redeemed by His precious blood. Yes, I have seen Him–not in the outward physical sense only, but in the inward sense of a deep spiritual reality. I have had a clear view of Jesus and my life will never be the same again” (Blessings Out of Buffetings, p. 44).

Paul reminds us the message of the Old Covenant was hidden in the shadows, and types. Its truth was always veiled. “Their minds were hardened” (2 Cor. 314-15). It was a veil of rebellion. Charles Hodge reminds us, “The veil which hid the meaning of the Old Testament remained unremoved, because it is done away in Christ, whom the Jews rejected. The Old Testament Scriptures are intelligible only when understood as predicting and prefiguring Christ . . . The knowledge of Christ . . . removes the veil from the Old Testament.”

Moses wore a veil to conceal what “was fading away” (v. 13; Exodus 34:34). That does not mean, however, that the glory on Moses’ face wasn’t real. It was temporary, though real, and passed away. It is “a type of the dimming of the glory of the old dispensation by the brightness of the new,” writes A. T. Robertson. It is the surpassing glory in Christ. He is the “Sun of Righteousness” who throws a shade on Moses. It is the difference between the Son and the servant.

Why did Moses keep the veil over his face after the glory had faded away? Moses was afraid the Israelites would see the glory had faded. He knew the brightness was caused by his time with Jehovah, and would fade away when he was absent from His presence. He did not want the people to know the fact. He hid his faded glory with a veil. He wore a façade, a mask. He wouldn’t let people see what was actually going on. It was a veil of pride.

Lest we be too quick to condemn Moses, what kind of veils do we wear to cover our unbelief? Have we not used pride, hypocrisy, double-entry spiritual bookkeeping (double standards), self-righteousness, sensitivity or touchiness, selfishness, impatience, hostility, denominational bigotry and politics?

Christ removes the veil

How do we remove the veil? “It is removed in Christ” (v. 14, 16-18).

Verse 16 is very significant because the unmistakable implication that the Lord (Yahweh, LXX Kurios) before whom Moses went in Exodus 34:34 is one and the same Lord (Christ) to whom the people are invited to trust. Christ is the only Mediator between God and man in both the Old and the New Testament. Philip Hughes notes, “Israel must turn to the Lord, the same Lord to whom Moses turned in the tabernacle and in whose presence the veil was removed from his face so that he beheld with unimpeded vision the divine glory.”

On verse sixteen Charles Hodge says, “By Lord here, as the context shows, we are to understand Christ. He is the Lord whom Moses saw face to face on Mount Sinai, and to whom the Jews and all others must turn if they would enjoy the light of salvation.” He continues, “It is plain that the Lord here means Christ” in verse seventeen. “This is clear not only because the word Lord, as a general rule, in the New Testament, refers to Christ, but also because the context in this case demands that reference. In v. 14 it is said that the veil is done away in Christ, and in v. 16 that it is removed when the heart turns to the Lord, and here that the Lord is the spirit. The main idea of the whole context is, that the recognition of Jesus Christ as Lord, or Jehovah, is the key to the Old Testament. It opens all its mysteries, or . . . it removes the veil which hid from the Jews the true meaning of their own Scriptures. As soon as they turn to the Lord, i.e. as soon as they recognize Jesus Christ as their Jehovah, then everything becomes bright and clear. It is plain, therefore, that the Lord spoken of is Christ.”

The Holy Spirit is interchangeably called in the New Testament the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9f). Christ dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to use a veil; we have free access to God through the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

If Christ is present in the Mosaic Law, it is living and life-giving; however, if He is absent from it, it is dead and death dispensing. “Christ is therefore that spirit which animates the law or institutions of Moses, and when this is recognized, the veil which hides their meaning is removed” (Hodge).

A gradual transformation of all believers

When we allow Christ to remove the veil something beautiful takes place. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (v. 18).

“By turning unto Christ we become partakers of the Holy Spirit, the living and life-giving, because He and the Spirit are one, and Christ dwells in His people, redeeming them from the law and making them the children of God, by His Spirit” (Hodge).

“We all,” says Paul. “We all,” in whom the indwelling Spirit of the Lord has set free. Moses alone reflected the glory in the Old. By contrast every believer reflects the glory of God in the New. He uses the perfect tense, “We all with unveiled faces which remain unveiled.” Apart from Christ, Moses was a minister of condemnation. The bear Law itself declared all men guilty and condemned. “The wages of sin is death.” However, “Where the Holy Spirit is sovereign, there is liberty.” It is the Holy Spirit’s work to apply Christ to the believing heart.

The prospect before us is for “all” believers. “We all” signifies all believers without exception. This experience is common to all born again believers. It is referring to every sinner saved by grace––the weakest, poorest, most sinful, most defiled. You cannot argue with a changed life. As we humble ourselves before Him we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Moses was the only man in the old dispensation to gaze with unveiled face on the glory of God. However, this is now the privilege of all who belong to Christ. The unbeliever, including the unbelieving Jewish person, remains in darkness. To everyone who has turned in faith to Christ the veil, which shuts off the glory from his apprehension, has been removed forever.

“You see,” writes Redpath, “we all, with open face––the veil removed, rent in two by His cross––draw near in full assurance of faith, and we see Him.”

What a privilege is ours in this glory of abiding, without intermission. We enter into His presence and behold that glory uninterrupted. “The unveiled face” is a perfect participle indicating the veil, once lifted, remains lifted. On the other hand, “beholding as in a mirror” is present participle showing that the beholding is continuous and free from interruption.

“The point that Paul is making,” says A. T. Robertson, “is that we shall not lose the glory as Moses did. But that is true if we keep on beholding or keep on reflecting (present tense).” We are being transformed “into the likeness of God in Christ (1 Cor. 15:48-53; Rom. 8:17, 29; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2).” This is the effect of the turning to the Lord. We are transformed into the image of the Lord by beholding it.

Have you looked into His lovely face and seen a clear view of Jesus? Paul is not referring to a passing momentary glance. He is talking about gazing upon Him.

The word “beholding” is in the present tense meaning a continuous beholding that is free from interruptions. The Christian steadfastly looks into the face of Jesus and reflects the glory of His face like a mirror reflecting light, and at the same time is continuously being transformed into the same image of Christ. We are being conformed to the image of Christ as we contemplate the glory of God on the face of Jesus. It is the process of sanctification. A mirror reflects only what it sees.

“The object which we behold is the glory of the Lord, i.e. as the context evidently demands, of Christ. The glory of Christ is His divine excellence. The believer is enabled to see that Jesus is the Son of God, or God manifested in the flesh. This is conversion. Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15. The turning unto the Lord mentioned in the preceding verse is recognizing Christ as Jehovah . . . It is the highest state of the human soul. It is eternal life. 17:3. Hence our Lord prays that His disciples may behold His glory, as the consummation of their blessedness. John 17:24. And as the apostle John says of all who receive Christ, that they beheld ‘His glory as of the only begotten of the Father,’ John 1:14” (Hodge, 2 Corinthians, p. 77).

The process of transforming us into the image of Christ is nothing less than the restoration of the image of God which was marred through the fall of man in Genesis three.

When we look into the face of Jesus Christ we are permitted to see the true image of man without the effects of depravity, and the radiance of God’s glory in the same person. What wondrous grace that see the true man and true God in one.

Even more wondrous is the reality that we are now being transformed into the new person as creatures in God’s image. The seal of the Spirit is the “image of Christ.”

The design of the gospel says Calvin, is “the image of God, which had been defaced by sin, may be repaired within us.” “The progress of this restoration is continuous through the whole of life, because it is little by little that God causes His glory to shine forth in us.”

Philip Hughes writes: “In justification, through faith into Christ the sinner is accepted in Christ (cf. 5:17) who Himself is the pure and perfect Image of God, and that divine image is freely imputed to the believer. In sanctification, through the operation of the Holy Spirit who enables the believer constantly to behold the glory of the Lord, that image is increasingly imparted to the Christian. In glorification, justification and sanctification become complete in one, for that image is then finally impressed upon the redeemed in unobscured fullness, to the glory of God throughout eternity” (Second Corinthians, p. 120).

We can paraphrase v. 18: “We are all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transfigured to the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord by the operation of the Holy Spirit.” This is the way we become like Him. The measure in which we are filled with the Spirit is the measure in which we are thus occupied with Christ.

“We, all of us, with unveiled faces, mirror the glory of the Lord. You see, in the life of a man who has seen Christ––the glory of God in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, the glory of God in a life submitted to the sovereignty of His Father––inevitably truth begins to dominate character, and life of Jesus Christ begins to be reproduced in and through him.” Redpath continues, “that which you see becomes a very part of your life and character––’ . . . reflecting as does a mirror.'”

If the light is not getting through your focus is not on Him. As you behold Him he will transform you into His likeness. “You do the beholding––He does the transforming. There is no short–cut to holiness.” This is a lifelong journey that will not be completed until we are one day in heaven. In the meantime He imparts to your life the sweetness and loveliness of His character.

Weymouth translates, “But all of us as with unveiled faces we mirror the glory of the Lord are transformed into the same likeness, from glory to glory, even as derived from the Lord, the Spirit.”

It is “from glory to glory.” It doesn’t fade. It is not superficial. It penetrates to the spiritual nature of the inner man. It passes from this world to the next. It is glory added to more glory, glory upon glory.

It is the Lord Christ Himself who is the transforming power,” says Alfred Plummer.” There are three conditions operating. “There is the turning to the Lord; every veil that might hide Him must be removed; and it is His glory and no other that is reflected. When these three things are secured, by continual reflection of the Lord’s glory Christians are transfigured into the very image of Him whose glory they have caught and retained, and step by step the likeness become more and more complete––’unto the full measure of the maturity of the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13).”

Beholding His glory we are changed into the same image. We shall be like Christ, because we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). The conformity to the image of Christ begins here and it continues from beholding His glory. It is the vision of that glory which has this transforming power. Since the present vision is imperfect, so the transformation is imperfect; but when the vision is perfect, the conformity will be perfect (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2).

Hodge says with conviction, “Only they are Christians, who are like Christ.” The transformation of the believer is carried forward without intermission, from the first scarce discernible resemblance, to full conformity to the image of Christ when we meet Him at His Second Coming.

The glory is “the glory of the Lord” and we behold it “as in a mirror.” “To gaze by faith into the gospel is to behold Christ” who is “the image of God” (4:4). In Col. 1:15 He is “the image of the invisible God.” In Heb. 1:3 He is “the effulgence of the Father’s glory and the impress of His substance.” When we see the Jesus we see the Father. To behold the glory of the Father is to behold the glory as the only begotten from the Father (Jn. 14:9; 1:14).

Hughes explains, “To contemplate Him who is the Father’s image is progressively to be transformed into that image. The effect of continuous beholding is that we are continuously being transformed ‘into the same image’, that is, into the likeness of Christ––and increasingly so.”

The transformation is “from glory to glory.” There is no prospect of this glory fading or diminishing. So as we gaze upon Christ it increases more and more until the coming in person of the Lord of glory Himself. When Christ comes the glory will be revealed to us in all its fullness (Rom. 8:18). However, until Christ comes, we behold it by faith “as in a mirror” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). The apostle John reminds us that when Christ appears, we shall behold Him face to face and our transformation into His image will be complete. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

I keep being asked what the secret to living the Christian life is. There is no secret. Shout it from the house top. When we who mirror the glory of God as we reflect on Christ who is the Father’s image we become more and more like that image. We become like Christ.

Moses reflected in a temporarily manner the glory of the LORD which he had seen, so we constantly reflect in our faces the radiance of Christ. That glory has only just begun; it will continue throughout eternity!

Clement of Rome thought, “Through Him (Christ) we behold as in a mirror His faultless and most excellent visage; through Him the eyes of our hearts were opened; through Him our foolish and darkened mind springs up unto His marvelous light.”

The main emphasis Paul is making is the transformation in the Christian as he contemplates the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ. It is by beholding the image of Christ, rather than by reflecting upon it, that the Christian becomes changed into it. The glory seen in Christ creates a similar glory in the Christian. Therefore, the Christian advances from one stage of glory to another. That which makes this glorious transformation possible is “the Spirit of the Lord.” This transformation is effected daily in the lives of those who have no veil between them and the Lord. The Christian life is a life of contemplating and reflecting Christ.

Alexander Maclaren reminds us, “the only veil which really dims God to us––the veil of sin, the one separating principle––is done away in Christ, for all who love Him; so as that he who has not seen and yet has believed, has but the perfecting of his present vision to expect, when flesh drops away and the apocalypse of the heavens comes. True, in one view, ‘We see through a glass darkly’; but also true, ‘We all, with unveiled face, behold and reflect the glory of the Lord’ . . . It is that His heart and ours should beat in full accord, as with one pulse, and possessing one life. Whenever there is the beginning of that oneness and likeness of spirit, all the rest will come in due time.”

This life of contemplation is therefore a life of gradual transformation. Do I write to someone who is impatient? You want it now! Our transformation in Christ comes gradually. “We are changed” is a continuous operation. “From glory to glory” is a well-marked course of transitions and degrees. Don’t be impatient, but yield in submission to Christ.

We all reflect as in a mirror. . . What are we reflecting? Are there any veils getting in the way?

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2018
Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry heard in over 100 countries from 1972 until 2005, and a weekly radio program until 2016. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist missionary, and teaches seminary extension courses and Evangelism in Depth conferences in Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, India and Ecuador. Wil also serves as the International Coordinator and visiting professor of Bible and Theology at Peniel Theological Seminary in Riobamba, Ecuador.