1 Corinthians 3:18
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 3:18)
We’re all born on the spiral, separated from God in a downward descent, ever more estranged from him, ever less like him, descending into ever greater destruction. Some, to be sure, are on a faster track than others, more rebellious, even defiant. And greater destruction, too, increasing dysfunction in the realm of the spirit. Then comes the big U turn — repentance and faith — and the Holy Spirit intervenes, halts the downward spiral and reverses our course so that from that time onward we’ve been spiraling upward. Or so it was intended.
Love…obey…know…yield…trust…intimate companioning…oneness of heart…likeness to Jesus…. Is there an order to some of the responses of a believer toward the Lord as he spirals upward? Each reinforces the other, flows from and into the other. Catch the wonder of it, here’s the way I listed them, at least for today:
The more I know him, the more I love him; the more I love him, the more readily I yield to him; as I yield to him and obey him, the more like him I become; the more like him I become, the greater capacity I have for love; the more I love him, the more intimately I companion with him; the more I companion with him, the better I know him….
Upward and upward toward ever greater oneness with him! What a grand spiral of ever greater likeness to Jesus and greater intimacy with him! That is the essence of 1 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Does it always happen that way? Is every true Christian on an automatic escalator, spiraling up, no matter how slowly? Or have some, as they say, stalled out? Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “We all are being transformed.” He gives two qualifications: (1) unveiled-face people and (2) focused-on-Jesus people are the one’s who experience a steady transformation at the core of their being. By the way, that’s what the word means — a change in nature, not just in appearance. In the preceding verses Paul explained how Jewish believers read Scripture but can’t understand it because there’s a barrier — a curtain has covered their “heart,” “mind,” “face” (Paul uses the three interchangeably). When they turn to the Lord, however, make the big U-turn, the Spirit sets them free from the sin bond and starts them on the upward spiral, says Paul. That first condition is clear — the sin-veil must be removed. The other condition, though clear throughout the New Testament, is not so clear in this passage. “Beholding” could also be translated, “reflecting,” as most modern translators seem to favor. Both are possible translations and both are biblical truths — “beholding” people “reflect” Jesus!
What a grand spiral of ever greater likeness to Jesus and greater intimacy with him! Which are you? Going up or going down? Why not stop and settle this question with God right now? Be free from the sin-bond, on the upward spiral, intimate companionship with Jesus!