Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV
Paul continues his use of Moses as a comparison. Moses, as a result of his exposure to the glory of God during his time on top of Mount Sinai, actually glowed when he came back down the mountain. God's glory rubbed off on him, so to speak. And when the people saw Moses’ face, they were terrified. They had never seen anything like it before in their lives. So Moses covered it up with a veil. But in time, the glory or glow began to fade. But rather than let the people in on the secret, he continued to wear the veil and hide the fact that his glorification was impermanent.
But Paul’s point is that Moses’ temporary glory was symbolic of the temporary nature of the Old Covenant. It too, would come to an end. It would be replaced with something far better. The glory Moses received was external in nature. His skin glowed. But like a bad sunburn, over time it began to fade. The New Covenant, made possible by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, provides us with a different kind of glory. Because of the work of the Spirit in our lives, we have had the veil removed. And that act has accomplished two very important things. It has freed us up from having to pretend as if we are something we are not. For Moses, the veil became a cover-up, a means of hiding reality. At one time, we too were stuck trying to act as if we were spiritual through external acts that led those around us to believe we were something we were not. We veiled our lostness with self-righteousness. But then the Spirit opened our eyes. And that's the second significant thing that happened when the veil was removed. We were able to see Christ in all His glory. For the first time we were capable of recognizing Jesus for who He is and able to accept what He had done for us. The removed veil signifies our acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and the Spirit-endowed ability to see the freedom made available to us through Jesus.
Paul says, “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. We have the Spirit of Christ present within us. This does not mean that the Spirit and Jesus are one in the same. It simply means that they share their divinity and to have one is to have the other. The Spirit allows us to have the mind of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the love of Christ, and the nature of Christ. And His presence within us frees us up from having to try to earn favor with God through acts of self-righteousness. We now depend solely upon the righteousness of Christ that was imputed to us by God. We share in Christ's righteousness, so when God looks at us, He sees us as perfectly righteous, just as His Son was.
But Paul’s main point in these closing verses seems to be that we are able to see the glory of the Lord in the lives of one another. It is an internal, eternal glory that emanates not from the outside, but from the inside. It begins in the heart and flows out of us so that others can see it and experience it. It shows up as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It manifests itself in the gifts of the Spirit, resulting in the building up the body of Christ. We can see each other being transformed into the same image, the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another – progressively and proactively – by the Spirit within us. “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
We are to reflect the glory of the Lord. We are to literally glow with His glory. In the very next chapter, Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT). We have the light of Christ shining in our lives in the form of the Holy Spirit. We have the capacity to see the glory of Christ because we have had the veil removed from our eyes. We can see Him when we read the Word. We can see Him working in the lives of those around us. And Paul goes on to say, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7-8 NLT). That light within us is to shine out of us. Others should be able to see the glory of Christ reflected in our actions, attitudes, speech and conduct. Our changed lives are to be living proof of the transformative power of Christ’s work on the cross and the Spirit’s presence within us. We are being transformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another. And one day, we will be like Him – glorified, perfectly righteous, completely sinless, and enjoying the unbroken pleasure of His presence.