2 Corinthians 3:18—Beholding and Reflecting the Lord with an Unveiled Face

Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

In a previous post, we saw that according to the Bible true Christian transformation isn’t brought about by an improvement in behavior or by acting in a way we think is more Christ-like. Instead, it’s the result of God’s life operating and growing within us. 

Second Corinthians 3:18 tells us we’re being transformed as we behold and reflect the Lord like a mirror. As we behold Him, more of Christ is infused into us, resulting in a spiritual “metabolic” process: our old, natural element is replaced with more of Christ, and we spontaneously live according to Him.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at 2 Corinthians 3 with help from notes from the Recovery Version to see the things that can hinder us from being able to behold the Lord and how we can deal with them.

The believers are like mirrors

First, let’s read 2 Corinthians 3:18:

“But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.”

Here, the apostle Paul likened us believers to a mirror. A mirror is a surface that both beholds and reflects what’s in front of it. But if the mirror is covered, or veiled, it can’t behold or reflect anything. It has to be unveiled. 

In the same way, if we believers are to behold the glory of the Lord—that is, to see Him and gaze upon His beautiful and glorious Person—we must have an unveiled face. So what does it mean to have an unveiled face?

What is a veil?  

To see what it means to have an unveiled face, we first have to see what a veil is. For this, let’s read 2 Corinthians 3:15: 

“Indeed unto this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.”

Here, the apostle Paul was speaking of the Jewish people, who revered the writings of Moses in the Old Testament. It wasn’t the writings of Moses themselves, but what the Jewish people thought they knew about them that became a veil on their heart. Because of this, they couldn’t see that the writings of Moses revealed the Lord Jesus. 

We know this from the Lord’s own word in Luke 24. This chapter gives the account of the resurrected Jesus meeting and conversing with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. Verse 27 says:

“And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He explained to them clearly in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Jesus made it clear that the writings of Moses and even the entire Old Testament were concerning Himself. These writings revealed not a religion for people to follow but a wonderful Person, Jesus Christ. 

Yet the Jewish people couldn’t see this, because Paul said that they had a veil on their heart. Many verses in the Bible reveal that our heart is composed of our mind, emotion, will, and our conscience. Our heart is the organ with which we love God, people, and things. Our heart is also the gateway of our being, determining whether we’re open or closed to particular people and matters. 

Our heart is central to our relationship with God, so the condition of our heart is crucial. If we have a veil on our heart, how can we see God? How can He infuse Himself into us? To have a veiled heart is a serious matter.

What veils do we have?

What about us today? We may think that we know who Jesus is, so Paul’s word in 2 Corinthians 3 doesn’t apply to us.

But we need to realize that in principle, a veil can lie on our heart at any time. Sinful things are certainly a problem between us and God, and we need to take care of those things. But from the example Paul used of the Jewish people, we can see that even things related to God and His Word can be a problem to us. Anything that arises from our own preconceived notions or assumptions about the Word is a veil that covers our heart and prevents us from beholding the Lord.

For instance, we may have certain ideas about how we should worship God, how to please God, or how to live the Christian life. These ideas can preoccupy us and prevent us from seeing the Lord. 

Not only so, things that seem harmless or unrelated to our Christian walk, such as our personal philosophy or cultural traditions, can also become a veil that covers our heart.

Since this is the case, what can we do? How can we have the veils removed from our heart?

Turning our heart to the Lord

The answer to this question is twofold and involves both our heart and our spirit, our deepest part. 

In relation to our heart, 2 Corinthians 3:16 says:

“But whenever their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

What an encouraging word! Note 1 on this verse in the Recovery Version tells us:

“This indicates that when their heart is away from the Lord, the veil lies on their heart. When their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Actually, their turned-away heart is the veil. To turn their heart to the Lord is to take away the veil.”

So we need to ask ourselves, is our heart turned away from the Lord or turned to the Lord? 

Whenever we sense that we can’t see the Lord, we must turn away from whatever is occupying us and turn our heart to the Lord. We don’t want to hold onto or treasure any of our own concepts or views; we simply want Him, and we want to see Him as He really is. 

To turn our hearts to the Lord, we can pray something like this:

“Lord Jesus, I love You. I don’t want to hold onto any of my own thoughts or assumptions about You. I just want You. I want to behold You, Lord. So I turn my heart to You right now.”

And the Word of God assures us that whenever we turn our heart to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Exercising our spirit

Next, in relation to our spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:17 says:

“And the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

In order for us to experience the freedom mentioned here, it’s crucial for us to realize who Christ is today and where He is. This verse tells us that the resurrected Lord, Christ, is the Spirit. 

And where is the Spirit of the Lord? Second Timothy 4:22 says:

“The Lord be with your spirit.”

The day we believed in Him, the Lord as the Spirit came into our spirit and now dwells there.

Since the Lord is in our spirit, we must exercise, or use, our spirit to contact Him. This is how we can experience freedom from everything that preoccupies us.

We can exercise our spirit by praying to Him, reading His Word, and calling upon His name.

Beholding and reflecting the Lord

When our heart is turned to Him and our spirit is exercised, we experience what is written in 2 Corinthians 3:18: 

“But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.”

Note 3 on unveiled face in the Recovery Version says:

“In contrast to the veiled mind, the veiled heart (vv. 14-15). That our face is unveiled means that our heart has turned to the Lord, so that the veil has been taken away, and the Lord as the Spirit has freed us from the bondage, the veiling, of the law, so that there is no more insulation between us and the Lord.”

How good it is to be unveiled! When we have no veil on our heart and no insulation between us and the Lord, we can behold the Lord.

This verse also speaks of reflecting. Note 4 explains:

“To behold the glory of the Lord is to see the Lord ourselves; to reflect the glory of the Lord is to enable others to see Him through us.”

The result of beholding the Lord 

As we behold the Lord, something marvelous happens within us. Note 7 on being transformed in 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains:

“When we with unveiled face are beholding and reflecting the glory of the Lord, He infuses us with the elements of what He is and what He has done. Thus we are being transformed metabolically to have His life shape by His life power with His life essence; that is, we are being transfigured, mainly by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2), into His image. Being transformed indicates that we are in the process of transformation.”

By the Lord infusing us with the elements of what He is and what He’s done, a spiritual metabolic process takes place within us: we’re being transformed into the same glorious image of the Lord. As a result of this ongoing process, we will express God, and God’s plan for us will be fulfilled. 

As we take the time to gaze upon the Lord and behold Him, His thoughts, feelings, and intentions will gradually become ours, and we’ll reflect Christ to people around us. Let’s all practice turning our hearts to the Lord, spending time in fellowship with Him and exercising our spirits every day so we can experience this wonderful, life-long process.

If you live in Australia, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here so you can read all the notes on the verses mentioned in this post.

Subscribe to receive the latest posts