“We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). What does it mean to behold the Lord’s glory? Paul is speaking here of devoted, focused worship. It’s time that’s given to God simply to behold him. And the apostle quickly adds, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry” (4:1). Paul makes it clear that beholding the face of Christ is a ministry we all must devote ourselves to.
The Greek word for beholding in this verse is a very strong expression. It indicates not just taking a look, but “fixing the gaze.” It means deciding, “I won’t move from this position. Before I do anything else, before I try to accomplish a single thing, I must be in God’s presence.”
Many Christians misinterpret the phrase “beholding as in a glass” (3:18). They think of a mirror, with Jesus’ face being reflected back to them. But that isn’t Paul’s meaning here. He’s speaking of an intensely focused gaze, as if peering at something earnestly through a glass, trying to see it more clearly. We’re to “fix our eyes” this way, determined to see God’s glory in the face of Christ. We’re to shut ourselves in the Holy of Holies, with but one obsession: to gaze so intently, and to commune with such devotion, that we’re changed.
The Greek word for changed here is “metamorphosed,” meaning “changed, transformed, transfigured.” Everyone who goes often into the Holy of Holies and fixes his gaze intently on Christ is being metamorphosed. A transfiguration is taking place. That person is continually being changed into the likeness and character of Jesus.
Maybe you come often into the Lord’s presence. Yet you may not feel yourself changing as you spend time shut in with him. I tell you, you can know a metamorphosis is taking place. Something is surely happening, because no one can continually behold the glory of Christ without being transformed. Note the last phrase in Paul’s statement: “We all…are changed unto the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (3:18 italics mine). Now note the preceding verse: “The Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (3:17).
Do you see what Paul is saying here? He’s telling us, “When you’re beholding the face of Christ, there is freedom to be changed.” By being in his presence, we give the Spirit liberty to govern our lives, to do with us as he would. It’s an act of submission that says, “Lord, my will is yours. Whatever it takes, transform me into the image of Jesus.”