Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 29 2013 - 2 Corinthians 3:1-18 – The glory of the New Covenant

Many years ago, my wife and I were wardens at sheltered housing for elderly Christians. There were many delightful Christian people there whom we remember still with thankfulness and affection. But there were some who were difficult and who seemed to have grown more awkward with age. This puzzled me. If someone had been a Christian for fifty or sixty years, or even more, should they not have grown so much more Christ-like? I was well versed in the doctrine of sanctification and, to my mind, this seemed to imply that the longer you had been a Christian, the more like Christ you should have become.

That was all a long time ago. I have grown much older now. I have been a Christian myself now for more than forty years. My wonder and concern is now that I am not more Christ-like.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul speaks of the wonderful nature of the ministry God has given him. His is New Covenant ministry. It is not a ministry of mere words which condemn and kill, but is a ministry of the Spirit who gives life. Paul speaks of the glory that accompanied the giving of the law. Moses met with God and his face shone with reflected glory when he came down from the mountain. But the ministry of the New Covenant has a far greater glory. The reflection of God’s presence in the face of Moses faded away. Christians are continually brought into the presence of the living God through the work of the Spirit. In consequence, their faces and lives are to shine with the glory of God – the glory of the risen Christ – as we are “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (3:18).

Paul paints a wonderful picture here, but it is also an enormous challenge, for it is a picture that is to be painted upon the canvas of our lives. Our lives are to be living letters, written by the Spirit of God; open letters that may be read by all (3:2). Paul reminds us that God is at work in us by his Spirit. His purpose is to transform us into the likeness of his Son.

Why then do I not become more Christ-like with every passing day? The process is not automatic. It is, indeed, the work of the Spirit within us, but it requires our active co-operation. We are to pursue holiness. We are to devote our energies to the matter of growing more like Christ. This requires us, by the help and power of the Spirit, to be active in rooting out all those aspects of our life and character that make us unlike Christ; to use an old-fashioned phrase, we are to mortify sin. But above all, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, for it is as we look to him and see his glory that we are transformed the more into his likeness. The Spirit he has given us is the Spirit of freedom; he enables us to break free from all those sins that have held us captive and to live as children of God, bearing his likeness.

Nor is this a solitary occupation. We are to spur one another along in following Christ and becoming conformed more closely to him. That is why Paul wrote this letter to his Christian friends in Corinth. We are to do the same for one another.

Lord, as I grow older, enable me to grow increasingly like Christ. Continue that work you have begun in me. Make me more of what I shall be when I see you face-to-face. As others read my life, may they be able to see that I have been with Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook