2 Corinthians 3:18 ‘But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit’.
Paul reveals to the Corinthians his two-fold ministry — the ministry of the new covenant (3:6) and the ministry of reconciliation (5:18). Transformation and reconciliation! No wonder he felt his need of mercy in order not to faint.
This is a chapter of contrasts:
Ministration of death with Ministration of the Spirit
The law demanded death as the ultimate penalty for failure. The man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day is a sad example of this. But although the law made demands, it could not empower people to meet them. The ministry of the Spirit however brings the believer into a sphere of life and liberty. The law said, ‘thou shalt not steal’. The gospel says, ‘Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth’ Ephesians 4:28
Ministration of condemnation with Ministration of righteousness
The law also demanded righteousness from men. Many people started have their day with good intentions to do all that the law required, only to discover that they had failed again and were condemned in the sight of God. No wonder the Hebrew writer describes the system of law as ‘weak and unprofitable’. The ministry of righteousness however provides men with the righteousness of God obtained at Calvary and points them to the Lord in glory as their guarantee that He and His work are accepted. In Christ I am not condemned: I am accepted!
Vanishing glory with Abiding glory
In the original account of Moses veiling his face, the reason is given that, ‘they were afraid to come nigh him’ Exodus 34: 30. Sinful men could not even bear to look on the glory of God reflected in Moses’ face. Paul gives a further insight: the purpose of the veil was to conceal from the people the fact that the glory was fading from Moses’ face (v.13). In contrast, the new covenant subsists in glory (v.8), surpasses in glory (v.10), abounds in glory (v.10) and abides in glory (v.11). And the great reason for this is that the glory of God is now seen in the face of Jesus Christ (4:6).
Veiled glory with Unveiled glory
This is not an easy verse to understand but it helped me greatly when I discovered that we do not need the mirror!
κατοπτριζόμενοι means neither "reflecting," nor "seeing in a mirror." though this last be etymologically the source, but "beholding," without reference to the mirror, as in so many words which thus cast their primitive shell.
(William Kelly, Notes and Translation of Second Corinthians).
We now look to the Lord in glory and as we behold him, and become more settled as to our position in Christ, we move from the glory of the old covenant to the glory of the new. A life that is settled in the righteousness of God can enjoy the life and liberty of the Spirit and be free from the death and condemnation of the law. But unknown to us, yet seen by others, the more we look at the Lord in glory, the more we will reflect Him. We will reflect what we look upon.
Psalm 63:1, 2 ‘My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh languisheth for thee, in a dry and weary land without water: To see thy power and thy glory, as I have beheld thee in the sanctuary.’