Why am I here? What exactly is the point of all of the trials of this life? Why do I still sin? Should I just give up or is there hope for me to become who I ought to be in Christ? Sanctification has been the topic we have been looking at for the past few weeks as we have studied the Letter to the Colossians. It is a topic that should not only be of interest, but of primary interest to all Christians. After all, we have been saved, not just to avoid hell, but to be conformed to the image of Christ. As an addendum to our study of Colossians, we took a little detour into 2 Corinthians in our evening service to see what the Apostle Paul says there, is the source of sanctification.
From Glory to Glory – AUDIO
Amazingly, the Apostle does not say that we need to move on from the Gospel to maturity, but that the Gospel itself is the source of sanctification for the saint as much as it is of salvation for the sinner.
2 Corinthians 3:15-18 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Sanctification was a problem for the Corinthians Believers. They were riddled with gross sin. In fact, just about the whole first letter to them was strong correction. Having seen the sinfulness of sin from Paul’s rebuke, they were beginning to move toward the holiness that they were called to. This moving toward holiness, was the purpose of the second letter. Paul says to them in 2 Corinthians 7:1 “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” What promises are these that the Corinthians had? The Gospel, the promise of Christ’s atoning death and righteous life credited to their account as they embraced Him by faith. If God has done this for us, what is our proper response? “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is accomplished by what the Apostle tells them in the third chapter.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” There is freedom from bondage to the Law with its ceremonies and obligations as well as its penalties, but there is also freedom to become who we are in Christ! This is really accomplished by what he says in verse 18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The glory of the Old Covenant was pretty spectacular, even though the Law was the bringer of death. Moses came down the mountain glowing from his encounter with God. It was a terrifying glory that had to be covered with a veil. But the glory of the New Covenant eclipses that glory as Christ frees us by becoming our righteousness.
We behold that glory in the mirror of the Gospel. That is where we see Christ most clearly. There we come, with not a veil to obscure His glory, there we see Him as the Creator and the Sacred Victim who bought our freedom and established as holy, blameless and above reproach before the God whom we have alienated and made ourselves enemies of through our sin. What a glorious glory! It is our duty as Christians to make a habit of beholding the glory of the Lord in that mirror. The Greek here is important. “Beholding as in a mirror” is one word in the original. It is in the middle voice which means that it is something we do to ourselves. It is a present tense participle, which means that it is something that continually describes us. We are to be mirror-lookers, constantly beholding the glory of the Lord, as followers of Christ. That is done by spending real time in the Word, reading good books that expand the Gospel to us and by sitting under sound preaching regularly.
One such book that I recently came across was written in 1639 by the Puritan, Richard Sibbes. Here, in 100 pages, he unfolds these two verses (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) to demonstrate the depth of the concept I am writing about here. That book is called, The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law. (There is a modern language version out called Glorious Freedom, published by Banner of Truth.)
As we do what we are called to do, in our beholding, God does His part, by His Spirit, to transform us. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” We behold, He transforms. Again, the Greek tells us that this transformation is passive, that means that the Spirit does it to us. It is in the present tense meaning it happens as we are beholding and it is in the indicative mood meaning it is a statement of fact. We behold and He transforms. He does it from “glory to glory.” that is, little by little. Not all at once, but incrementally. He does that to teach us to depend on Him. To build strength in our faith.
So, the Gospel is the key to our sanctification. We need to make sure we are laboring to know it better, to grow in our knowledge and appreciation of it. We do that by continually digging in its deep, rich mines and beholding the glory of the Lord in it. Not by programs or gimmicks, but through the Gospel. As the Apostle told the Colossian Believers, “You are COMPLETE in Him!”
I encourage you to listen to the audio of the lesson and then look for some more resources to help you behold the glory of the Lord. I especially direct you to the works of the Puritans as a most worthy source.
From Glory to Glory – AUDIO