Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious …
… whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (verses 7-8, 16-18)
That’s what Moses asked the Lord to show him while on the mountain receiving the commandments of law chiseled on tablets of stone. “Now show me your glory,” he asked boldly (Exodus 33:18). The Lord did it, hiding Moses in a cleft of the rockface, covering him with his hand as he passed by, then letting him see his back as he proclaimed his name, full of compassion, grace, and mercy. Glory!
When Moses came down from that mountain, his face fairly shone, reflecting the very glory of the Lord himself, so much so that the Israelites were startled with fear. “They could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory.” He subsequently veiled his face, as the glory faded, but the impact of the Lord’s presence was tangible and real. Glory!
This shining reality is so much in Paul’s mind as he writes this passage that he uses the word eleven times over. What rivets his attention is the comparison between the glory of the old and the glory of the new. If the Old Covenant came with such startling imprint of the divine presence, how much more so does the new reality of the Spirit’s presence in Christ overflow. Glory!
Not only so, but this is a glory that doesn’t fade over time. Instead, it is “ever-increasing” – or, as Paul literally wrote, “from glory into glory.” That’s substantial. Further, it’s not just a reflection on the face, as light in a mirror, but rather a transformation that reshapes our very being into the likeness of Christ himself. Imagine. What glory!
It’s the word “transformed” that anchors this remarkable process. Paul uses the Greek word that comes into the English language as “metamorphosis,” like the transformation that reshapes a lowly caterpillar into a glorious butterfly. Powerfully, this word is only used four times in the whole of the New Testament. The other time Paul himself uses it is when he urges us to resist being squeezed by this world into its own mold – instead, he says, be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), a renewing that is brought about by the same Spirit of Christ who brings us ever-increasing glory, over and above what shone on Moses’ face.
The other two times the word is used in the New Testament, it’s used of Jesus himself, as he likewise stood on a mountain, flanked by Peter and James and John, with the voice of the Father reverberating over him, declaring, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:2). He shone in their presence. We call it the “Transfiguration,” but the word used by both Matthew and Mark is the identical word used by Paul: “transformed.”
This is what the Spirit is working in our own lives. Transformation. Into Jesus’ likeness. Ever-increasing. From one degree to another. Unfading. Unveiled. Remarkable.
Lord Jesus, you who are Lord of all, the divine Son, beloved of the Father, well-pleasing in every way – I marvel at your glory. Praise your name. Thank you that beyond my own doing – purely from grace – you are working transformation in me by your own Spirit, shaping me more and more into your likeness. I marvel at your goodness. I submit to your purpose. Praise you for your glory.
Memorize: The truth of this passage is so remarkable, it’s hard to take in. Commit verse 18 to memory – whether it comes easily or not, work at it, allowing it to permeate your mind. Repeat it often. Trust the Lord’s working. Receive. Give thanks.