Law and Conscience (5)
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3.18
The glory of the Law
In its setting, our text is speaking about looking into the Law of God, and encountering in that Law the very Presence of God Himself, His glory – just like Moses did on Mt. Sinai. The Law of God reflects the glory of God, and, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we learn to see that glory, even more powerfully than Moses did, and to be transformed by that glory.
One would think that would be reason enough to hold the Law of God in high regard.
Again, Paul is saying that, as we look into the Law of God, the Spirit of God works to transform our souls. Taking the raw material – which is our old life, now redeemed – He uses the glory of God in the Law (and, indeed, in all His Word) to shape, sculpt, and transform us into the very image of Jesus Christ. We begin to be more like Jesus as the Law and Word of God, in the strong hands of the Holy Spirit, does its work in our soul – mind, heart, and conscience.
Thus, we are liberated by the Law of God from the old person we used to be – with all our foolish, selfish, and corrupt notions and sentiments, and all our wayward priorities and practices – into someone who begins to refract the character, values, habits, and works of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.17-24).
Put another way, the Law of God, as the Spirit writes it on our hearts and embeds it in our minds, becomes the rule book of the conscience whereby we can become what we’re looking for, all we can be, by being made increasingly like Jesus.
What would Jesus do?
Back in the late 19th century Charles Sheldon made a large impact inviting readers to ask, “What would Jesus do?” in any situation, as a way of following Him more consistently. In our own generation, we have seen that slogan and passion revived. The idea of doing what Jesus would do, of being like Jesus, appeals to believers in every walk of life.
And well it should.
In their heart of hearts, Christians want to be like Jesus. This is a very good thing, of course. We’re tired of the old sinful person we were. We chafe against the continuing presence of the law of sin in our hearts. We want some relief from the daily barrage of temptations that so often lead us astray. We want to see more of the love of Christ coming through us to the world.
If only we could be liberated from all this sin and sadness, to become more like Jesus!
Well, we can. Paul tells us that the answer to the cry of our heart, our longing to be like Jesus, lies in the glory of God which He has encoded in His Word, including His Law. The Law of God is the law of liberty because it frees us from self and the world to be like Jesus.
Conditions of this freedom
There are some conditions, of course.
First, Paul says, we must hope that this glory and transformation can occur within us (2 Cor. 3.12). That is, we must believe that we can meet God in His Law, that is, that we can encounter His glory in the holy, righteous, and good teachings of His commandments, precepts, statutes, and rules. For many of us, this will mean a serious change of mind, since looking into the Law of God is not something we’ve ever taken very seriously. We must ask God to increase such hope within us, for without that hope and expectation, we will never see in Scripture what God intends, and we will be content with only the surface teachings of His Word.
Then, second, we must be very bold to come before God in His Law and linger there, waiting in patient meditation for the Spirit of God to do His work. Recall the importunate widow who kept knocking and calling on the reluctant judge to do his job (Lk. 18.1-8). We must wait patiently and prayerfully for the Law to reveal the glory God has hidden within it (Prov. 25.2), expecting that we will experience the very face of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4.6)!
Then linger in the Presence of God’s glory. Study the contours of Jesus’ face, as the Law radiates His love and shapes your soul to refract that love and glory to others. Look into His eyes as He looks into yours. The Puritan theologian John Owen reminded us that every Christian has some vision of Jesus in mind. Say the name, Jesus, and every Christian will think of something, will see something in their mind. Our desire, as Owen writes in Christologia, should be ever to improve that vision or image, so that we may see Jesus more clearly with the eye of faith and thus be transformed more into His likeness. In his Treatise on Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards wrote, “By the sight of the transcendent glory of Christ, true Christians see Him worthy to be followed; and so are powerfully drawn after Him; they see Him worthy that they should forsake all for Him. By the sight of that superlative amiableness, they are thoroughly disposed to be subject to Him, and engaged to labour with earnestness and activity in His service, and made willing to go through all difficulties for His sake.”
That glory of Jesus awaits us in His Word, beginning with His Law.
From the Presence of Jesus and His glory we must go forth for and unto God’s glory. We must come away from our encounter with God’s glory in His Law, fully determined to be like Jesus, think and feel like Jesus, and do what Jesus would do, to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10.31-11.1). As we thus go forward in faith, the Lord meets us in His Spirit, fills us with His Presence and power, works out our salvation in us, and makes us able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think (Phil. 2.13; Eph. 3.20).
And so, in the daily course of our lives, we are liberated from our old selves into the new selves which are being made according to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is why God wrote His Law on our hearts when He sent His Spirit to dwell in us, so that, by His inward power and working, we might become more like Jesus, and, in every situation in our lives, we might do what Jesus would do.
This focus on seeking Jesus in God’s Word, beginning with His Law, is a powerful determinant of a good conscience. The more we see Jesus and do what Jesus would do, the more we firm up the convictions and priorities of our soul to know, love, and serve Him always.
1. Meditate on Ephesians 4.17-24. How can the Law of God help us in this process? Why?
2. How would you counsel a new believer to be very bold in coming to the Word and Law of God? Bold for what?
3. We are transformed into the image of Christ “from glory to glory.” What does that mean?
Next steps – Transformation: Meditate on 2 Corinthians 3.12-18. How do you experience this in your life? How would you encourage a believing friend to experience this transforming glory?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.