Thursday, July 31, 2014

FROM GLORY TO GLORY (2 Corinthians Chapter 3)

2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

You may have read the story of the Emperor Who Had No Clothes.  Weavers provided for the Emperor new clothes which they claimed to be invisible to the unenlightened.  The citizens kept up the pretense, saying nothing though the Emperor’s nakedness was readily apparent.  When the Emperor once paraded through the city, a child—naively blunt--blurted out that the Emperor was naked.  The cry was then taken up by others.  The Emperor cringed, suspecting the assertion to be true.

Adam and Eve sinned against God and as an immediate consequence found themselves naked (Genesis 3:7a).  In a tragedy of unrivaled proportion they have left to us all a legacy of nakedness in sin (Cf. Romans 5:12).  Many “fig-leaf religions” (Cf. Genesis 3:7b) are devised in an effort to rectify the “nakedness” problem, but apart from Christ none of us can be properly dressed.  In a universal “what not to wear” reality, lost sinners---devoid of righteousness and naked in sin—are all consistently guilty of indecent exposure before God.

In what sense were Adam and Eve naked?  Had they somehow misplaced their clothing?  Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”  Two different Hebrew terms are translated “image” in the verse, both bear an element, in their definitions, of visible correspondence.  Adam and Eve had looked something like their glorious creator.  It was with some kind of glorious God-imparted covering that they were clothed, but their attire was lost to them when they fell. As someone has humorously put it…they looked at each other and declared “ICK, A BOD! (“Ichabod” is Hebrew for the “glory of the Lord has departed”).  In response to their fall, God promised a future Redeemer (who would one day come to restore that which was lost in the fall; Genesis 3:15), and provided for Adam and Eve a “prototypical“ by grace, via sacrifice, set of clothes (Cf. Genesis 3:21).

It is to this matter of restoration that our text speaks.  Sin has left us all naked before God.  We were created to know and worship our Creator, but sin has gotten in the way (Cf. Romans 3:23).  How are we to be restored?  Jesus has provided a means of restoration through His work on the cross (Cf. 1 Peter 3:18).  His shed blood is the only God-acceptable means for cleansing from sin.  By grace through faith sinners are made righteous.  This sin-cleansing work is in three tenses.  All three have to do with the restoration of that which was lost in the fall.  Justification represents freedom from the penalty of sin (Cf. Romans 5:1).  By faith a person is declared once-for-all righteous on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Sanctification is a progressive work by which the believer is set free from the practice of sin, and transformed by the Spirit into Christ-likeness.  That is the focus of our text: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  In salvation one’s face is unveiled to Christ (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6).  To behold Christ is to look in a mirror inasmuch as He indwells the believer.  We are being progressively transformed (Greek “metamorphoo,”: “to change into another form”) by the Spirit into Christ’s image (Cf. Romans 8:29).  This metamorphis occurs from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The transforming work is completed in the believer’s future glorification (freedom from the presence of sin).  Philippians 3:20, “(He) will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  By the Spirit of God we now long for the culmination of this work: “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life ” (2 Corinthians 5:4; Cf. Romans 8:18-24).  And so there we have the end result of Christ’s saving work—sin is purged from the believer and God-imputed glory restored.  “Glory” culminates God’s saving work (Cf. Romans 8:21, 9:23; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Colossians 1:27). Salvation is more than just salvation from sin and hell.  It is more than merely being brought to heaven.  It is being restored to glory to enjoy intimate and eternal fellowship with the God who has created us and who has lovingly worked to save us.  The Spirit is even now at work to transform us from one degree of glory to another, and He will continue in that work until there are no degrees left (Cf. Hebrews 7:25; Philippians 1:6).  “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress!”

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