The Greatest Thing Happening Today2 Corinthians 2:5 – 3:18Theme: The glory of the Gospel.This week’s lessons teach us about what God is doing in the world today.
LessonWhat you have here in this last portion of 2 Corinthians 3 is the culmination of that great doctrine of the image of God introduced way back in the very beginning of the Bible in the first chapters of Genesis. That doctrine has four stages. Back in the beginning of Genesis, we are told that God made the man and the woman in God’s image. That is the first stage. Theologians have some difficulty talking about what that means, but it certainly means that the man and woman were made like God as personalities and like God in moral righteousness.
The image of God was in the man and the woman. That was their glory. It is what made them different from the animal creation. That image of God was lost in the fall. That is the second stage. There is some difference in theology about what actually happened. Was the image utterly effaced, blotted out, so there is no image of God anymore at all? Or was that image of God defaced, so that it is still there, in a remnant form, but certainly not what God intended it to be?
I tend to think, as I read Scripture, that the image was defaced, terribly defaced, so much so that you cannot recognize the character of God in fallen men and women at all. But, nevertheless, there is still something there that makes them different from the animals, and something that has value even in the fallen state. But that is a second thing: the image of God in man, man made in God’s image, the image of God defaced as a result of sin.
The third stage is the image of God revealed again in the Person of Jesus Christ. When Christ came, there was the image of God that we had lost for thousands of years, ever since the fall of Adam. Nobody had seen what it was to be in the image of God, to actually reflect that image in the midst of this kind of a world. But Jesus Christ did. In him we have the example of what men and women ought to be.
In this last portion of 2 Corinthians 3 we find the final stage of the doctrine. Those who by faith are united to the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect revelation of the image of God, now by that same power from within are transformed once more into his image. That is glorious. That is happening today. And that is, along with these other things, the greatest thing happening in the world. When sinful men and women, those who in themselves do not know anything about God and are unable to serve him, find themselves able to do so, they are reflecting God’s glory. When such sinful men and women by the grace of God are lifted up, and purified of their sin, and set on a new way, and by the work of God within, progressively, day by day are changed into the image of Jesus Christ, they begin to reflect his glory in the world.
Is that true of you? Are you one who has known the forgiveness of God? That is where it all begins. If you do not know whether you have been forgiven by God, you will never sense forgiveness from other men and women. If you have the forgiveness of God, there is a sense in which, whether you are accepted by other men and women or not, it does not matter at all, because you are right with God. Do you know that? Do you know the newness of life about which Paul is speaking? Has that Gospel been a ministry of life to you? Is there something in you now that was not there before? Is God working in you day by day to transform you into his image, the image of Jesus Christ? This comes from the Lord. That is what Paul said.
Paul, in speaking of his ministry, wrote, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ…” (2 Cor. 2:14). Later on in the letter Paul goes on to explain that his competence comes from God. That is because it is God who had made him a minister of the new covenant. And finally, at the end of chapter three Paul states that such transformation comes from God as well.
That is where it comes from. You need to spend time with God. You need to study the Word. That is where you find him. It is when we study the Word that the radiance and glory of God is transferred to us. We become ministers of righteousness, ministers of life unto life in the midst of this dying world.
What are the four stages of the doctrine of the image of God?
How are we transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ?
Key PointYou need to spend time with God. You need to study the Word. That is where you find him. It is when we study the Word that the radiance and glory of God is transferred to us.