And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV
Contemplating the glory of the Lord is experiencing the glory of the Lord. This verse tells us we can experience His glory. The Greek word katoptrizomai is translated “contemplate” or “behold as in a mirror”, which conveys the idea of a prolonged focus on something, as illustrated when we use a mirror. After providing a little background about the glory of the Lord, this teaching explains how we can contemplate the glory of the Lord and how it transforms us.
The Glory of the Lord in Scripture
The study the glory of the Lord in scripture is fascinating. Moses’ face glowed with the glory of the Lord. The Israelites saw the glory of the Lord in the desert. Moses could not enter the tabernacle because it was full of the glory of the Lord. Ezekiel and Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord in the temple. The glory of the Lord filled the temple at Solomon’s dedication. Peter and John witnessed the glory on Jesus during His transfiguration. The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord at night when the angel announced the birth of Jesus. Scripture says that Jesus revealed His glory in His first miracle at the wedding feast.
Experiencing the Glory of the Lord
Notes and commentaries tend to teach that the Word of God is what 2 Corinthians 3:18 is talking about. This is true in a sense because of the previous reference in the same chapter to the reading of the old covenant. However, this verse specifically identifies the glory as an experience. It also identifies the source of that experience, “…which is the Spirit”, or as some translations put it, “…which is of the Spirit.” This verse is talking about an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person with whom we can have a relationship. Contemplating the Lord’s glory is an encounter we can experience that can be initiated by us or the Holy Spirit. When we communicate specifically with the Holy Spirit and invite His presence, He often manifests Himself through His tangible presence. During this time, we remain in His presence in silence, just being with Him, and experience that glory. This is contemplating the glory of the Lord.
Glory Within and Glory Upon
In Romans 6:4, we read that Jesus was raised from the dead through the glory of the Lord. Soon after in Romans 8:11 we read that the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Therefore, the glory of the Lord lives in every believer. If you are born again, the glory of the Lord lives in you! While God is always present in us and everywhere, there are different levels of His presence. Sometimes He manifests His glory and we sense it in our spirit, our mind, and sometimes even in our body. A few Christians during their prayer time, and churches occasionally in their services, experience the glory of the Lord.
Those who have the Spirit within them can have the Spirit upon them. Scripture makes a distinction between the Spirit dwelling in the believer and the Spirit coming upon the believer when they receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. For instance, in Acts 1:8 Jesus told the believers that they would receive power when the Spirit comes upon them. The Spirit resides in every believer but does not come upon every believer. When it comes to the glory of the Lord, the same is true. Many believers who have the Spirit within have never experienced the glory of the Lord upon them. There are reasons for this: We have either not been taught along these lines, do not believe, are fearful of it, think we are not “spiritual” enough, or never been exposed to this.
New Covenant Glory
What is this glory? It is the manifested presence of God Himself. In the verses preceding our text in 2 Corinthians 3, we read about the former glory under the ministry of Moses when the Law was introduced. His face shone, but it was a glory that was fading. Inspired by the Spirit of God, Paul compares the former glory under the ministry of Moses as inferior to the ministry of the Spirit that we possess today. The former glory was a fading glory; the glory we minister by the Spirit now is ever-increasing!
How to Experience the Glory
How can we experience this glory? Through contemplation. That word may evoke associations with eastern religions. Always remember that Satan never comes up with anything new. He can only pervert the real thing that God has instituted. As an example, fear is a perverted form of faith. Meditation on the Word of God to build your faith is biblical. Worry is meditating on the lies of the enemy, which increases doubt and unbelief. The same is true with contemplation. Eastern religions major on the contemplation of demons, but that should not deter us from pursuing His presence through biblical contemplation.
We see in the Old Testament how Moses remained in the presence of God long enough until his face reflected that glory. Our text touches on the fact that we can experience that glory as well. Many teachers correctly point to the tabernacle of Moses as symbolic of prayer. We pass from the outer court (the realm of the flesh) to the inner court (the soul), and go to the Holy of Holies (spirit) where the glory of the Lord is. It is a progression. Sadly, many Christians never leave the outer court in their prayer life. Others progress to the inner court where the praise erupts and the goose bumps come and think they have arrived in the Holy of Holies. Getting this far is wonderful and commendable, but they have yet to enter the Holy of Holies. When you do, the manifested presence of God falls on you individually in prayer or corporately in a church service. His manifested presence is His glory. There is no mistaking it for anything else. There is such a holy hush, a powerful heaviness. The root word in Hebrew for “heavy” is the same for “glory”. In such an atmosphere, you don’t speak, you don’t sing; instead, you become silent. It is a sacred moment; you don’t dare to interrupt or quench that awesome Holy presence. God wants you to embrace the moment by soaking or basking in His tangible, manifested presence. This is the holy place of His glory, the experience our text is describing. It is contemplating the glory of the Lord.
Learn to yield to Him. Be still and know that He is God. It may take some time initially. As you persist in waiting on Him, His tangible presence will come on you more quickly and frequently over time. Sometimes His presence will come on you the moment you enter your prayer place, or happen suddenly in the middle of the day when you least expect Him. Start conversing with the Holy Spirit.
There is nothing like it. It is so awesome and wonderful. Basking and soaking in His presence (contemplation) brings you to the highest level of relationship, intimacy, and communion with the Holy Spirit. Contemplating the Lord transforms us into His likeness with ever-increasing glory.
The intimacy with God we reach in contemplation is our primary goal. God wants you to experience His glory regularly. However, this glory over time will begin to affect your ministry to others. The context of our scripture in 2 Corinthians 3 is not just talking about the superiority of the new covenant. It is talking about the superiority of our ministry of God’s glory under the new covenant, which is of the Spirit. The result is more power in your ministry. We do not seek Him to obtain ministry power. We seek Him. However, as we contemplate Him and experience His glory regularly, the people we touch will be affected by that same glory. The more we contemplate the glory of the Lord, the more His glory will manifest through us in power.