In the New Covenant God does not condemn men he changes them. This change is a metamorphosis. It is like the process in which a caterpillar is changed into the butterfly. God is the process of making an even more radical change in us.
All of us who have an awareness of ourselves and know ourselves in the light of the Holy Scriptures, will readily admit that we need to be changed. Man had a glorious beginning, but has undergone a tragic fall. He began with the image of God clearly evident in his being. God purposefully created him in His own image and likeness. But man was not content to be like God, under the temptation of the Enemy of God he decided that he wanted to be a god. In the sin of attempting to be a god, man had the image of God in him tragically marred. As you observe sinful man, sometimes it is almost impossible to observe any likeness to God. The image of God is hidden beneath the crust of selfishness and corruption.
But God was not content to leave man in his sin. His love compelled Him to reach out to the sinful man in the new covenant. Under the terms of this agreement, God undertakes to restore the image in those who come to Him in repentance and faith of theLord Jesus. Paul states this divine work so helpfully in our text. Consider it with me!
I. THE GOAL OF THE CHANGE IS THE IMAGE OF THE LORD OF GLORY
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changing into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." "Are changed" translates the word from which our word "metamorphosis" comes. It is the same word translated "transfigured" in the Gospels when referring to the experience of Christ upon the mount. The Apostle makes clear that the goal of this transformation is that we be changed "into the same image." "Same" points back to the expression "glory of the Lord." This draws our attention to the exalted and glorified Christ. What does this involve?
It obviously involves building in us the moral qualities the character that is revealed in the Lord of Glory. It is making us to be like Him in His walk. John later wrote about us "walking even as he walked." His kind of love and humility, and goodness should become obvious if we are to be made in His image. His attitudes and values should mark our walk.
However, there is another emphasis suggested here. The focus in this passage is not upon Jesus of Nazareth, the man who went about doing good at a particular point in history. Rather the focus is upon the present exalted and victorious Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavens. It is this likeness that He is now seeking to impart to us. You cannot separate the character from the victory, but the end of the process is more than just character. God is seeking to change us from the defeated, humiliated, broken victim of sin and evil, into an exalted son who can reign with the Prince of glory. The goal is our own glorification with Christ, our reign with Him.
II. THE PROCESS OF THE CHANCE
The tense of the verb calls attention to this important aspect of the change. The change is a process. We are now being changed into the same image. Some very important aspects of this process are suggested in these verses.
The processbegins at conversion. Until there has been a radical turning in the life of man, the process cannot begin. "Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." Sin has a veil over the understanding of man that keeps him from seeing the glory of the Lord. He walks in blindness and darkness. But when under the call of the Lord, he turns to the Lord, something begins to happen. But when "it" points us back to the word "heart" in the previous verse. "The veil is upon their heart," Man can attempt to remove this veil, can attempt to come to know God on his own terms; but, he will never succeed. The veil is removed when he turns to the Lord in repentance for sin and faith toward God. This is what conversion means. Only the converted can be transfigured!
The Lord to whom we turn is “Spirit”. His presence is known to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Wherever He is known, there is “liberty.” This means that there is a freedom from the condemnation of sin and a freedom from the law. Until a man has been set free by the work of God, he cannot begin to be changed in the manner set forth in this text. “But we all” – with these words Paul includes all of the Christians. We who are true Christians, who have truly been converted, are involved in this process.
The process is accompanied by a progressive revelation of the glory of the Lord. “With an open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord.” The “open face” means one from which the veil has been removed. Such a person is now able to see the glory of the Lord. But the glory is being seen in a mirror. The person is not able to look upon the full manifestation of His glory. The mirror is the Gospel of the Lord which is inscribed in the Bible. Once we become Christians, we are then able to perceive and contemplate upon the glory of the Lord as it is revealed in the Scriptures. Unsaved men may study this book diligently, but they will fail to see the glory of the Lord. They will have a veil over their eyes as they read this book. This is why many of them admit that they do not enjoy reading and studying the Bible. Only those who have had the veils removed can see the glory that is here. This is one of the things that mark those who are being changed. They are beholding His glory as in a mirror with an open face.
The process continues gradually. The change is not a once-in-for-all experience. We are “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” The New International Version catches the spirit of this when it translates it, “with ever lasting glory.” There is probably a deliberate contrast intended here. Paul has already explained the relationship between the fading glory on the face of Moses and the Old Covenant. It was just the pattern of the old to fade instead of growing brighter. But under the new covenant, there is a glory that appears upon the face of those who know Him. The longer they know Him and the more they know Him, the brighter the glory. It never fades or vanishes. They are changed from glory to glory.
This is the continuing aspect of our salvation. God has not only written our names down in heaven, but He is also making us fit for heaven. He is changing us from a sinful people of earth into a glorious people of heaven. He is removing the marks of the first Adam and replacing them with the glory of the last Adam.
THE POWER FOR THE CHANGE IS THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Old Covenant showed man what the image of God looked like, but it did not give him the power to become like Him. He was left with guilt and frustration. The New Covenant is the age of the Spirit. Those who become participants in this new agreement with God receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He lives in them as the agent of change. We are assured by Paul that this change is “by the Spirit of the Lord.” A better translation may be “which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” You cannot separate the Lord from the Holy Spirit; where the Spirit is, the Lord Jesus is. They are one God.
The Holy Spirit, since He is Spirit, has the capacity to get inside the spirit of man. He is not limited to what He can do without. Rather He is free to influence man right down in the part of Him where desires are formed and decisions are made. It is this capacity that fits Him to make the changes in us. He is free to create within us holy desires and then to impart to us the supernatural strength to carry out those holy desires. This is His work.
He is also in us as the Spirit of revelation. It is His assignment to make known the things of Christ in us. He so reveals the glory of Christ to us that we are moved to surrender our lives to Him in love and devotion.
An emphasis needs to be given to the Lordship of the Spirit. He does the work of transformation best in the lives where He is in control. This is what it means to know the "fullness" of the Spirit. This is also referred to as walking in the Spirit. It is yielding control of our lives to Him day by day and walking in dependence upon Him. It is obeying His voice. Those who so live will know His transforming power in their lives!
Are you ready for the Lord to make some changes in your life? The more changes He makes, the more you will want Him to make. There is just something about it, the more you become like Him; the more aware you are of your shortcomings. If you are content with your life as it is, you are in a desperate need of some changes.
God is at work in your life. His work will be accomplished best if you give to Him your full cooperation. Can He have it?
Remember all of this happens where the Spirit is Lord! Surrender your will to His will today, and the process will continue until the Day of Christ.