The Looking Glass
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to II Corinthians, chapter 3. This is the last in our series of discussions on the things related to what a believer may lose. We would like for you to keep that in mind so you will realize that we are trying to tie up some of the loose ends and bring this series to a fitting climax with the secret of this maintenance of liberty to which we have been referring.

You will remember that quite some time ago, we talked about the security of the believer, reminding you that the believer is secure in the love of God. We reminded you that that was not to be thrown aside lightly and considered a license for sin. We reminded you that, though the believer is secure in the love of God, and to that I think everyone will agree, there are a number of things which the believer can and will lose.

The believer, we learned, can lose his fellowship with God. The believer can lose the rewards that God has prepared for him for faithful service. The believer can lose the joy of his salvation. The believer can lose his liberty in Christ. The believer can lose many of the material blessings, his health, etc., that are rightfully his in this life.

We have been discussing the liberty that belongs to the believer. We turned, you will remember, to chapter 5 of the Galatian letter, where we were told that we as believers should stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. In that same passage, we found that if we do not stand fast in that liberty, we will fall from grace. When we speak about falling from grace, we are not speaking about losing our salvation. We are speaking about losing our liberty. We said that we could lose the liberty that is ours from the yoke of the law—the law that binds us down, and gives us such a legalistic aspect of living that there is no real joy in our salvation.

Then we said that it would be possible for us to lose our liberty in relation to things. God has given us all things which to enjoy, but some Christians do not know how to enjoy those things because they have lost their liberty in Christ.

Maintaining Our Liberty

I have asked you to turn to II Corinthians, chapter 3, because I want you to see how it is possible to maintain or enjoy the liberty to which I refer without doing violence to any of the commands of God or to any of the precepts which God has laid down for the life of the believer. Notice, please, verse 1:

II Corinthians 3:

1Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
4And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
8How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
9For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
10For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
11For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
12Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
13And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
14But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
15But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
16Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

I would like for us to notice particularly the last two verses of this chapter:

II Corinthians 3:

17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

We are primarily interested in these two verses, and I would like for us to glance hurriedly over the preceding verses in this chapter that we might have the background of these particular two verses.

Paul's Apostleship Defended

The Apostle Paul was being criticized for his apostleship. He was not one of the original twelve, and everywhere he went, people were questioning his authority. Sometimes they said, “Who gave you authority? Where is your letter of authority?” He said, “I do not have one. The only individual who commissioned me to preach is God. I didn't get my authority from any man. But if you are talking about letters, I have got more than one. I have got a lot of them. You are my letters. You are my letters of recommendation. You are my letters of commendation because of your lives, and the power of the gospel which I have preached has taken effect in your lives. That should be proof enough for anyone that I have been sent from God.”

He went on to say that those letters were not written with pen and ink, but they were written in the fleshly tables of the heart by the Holy Spirit. And so we are introduced right there in verse 3 to the Holy Spirit, the Individual about whom we want to be speaking in relation to liberty today.

He went on to tell us that the Holy Spirit had made him an able minister of a new testament. Now you will notice I said a new testament, not the New Testament—not the 27 books in our New Testament portion of the Bible, but a new testament. A new covenant would be another word for it.

Contrasting The Old And The New Covenants

So Paul describes here the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant, and he compared himself, and contrasted himself, with Moses. He said, “When Moses went up on the mountaintop and got the words of the old covenant from God, the glory of God was reflected in Moses' face. Moses put a veil over his face so that the people could not see the glory of God on his face.” He says it was primarily so that the people could not see the glory of God fading away from his face. He did not want them to see the glory of God diminishing, lest they would have less confidence in the old covenant. He went on to say that the Spirit of God through Moses ministered that old covenant, and it was glorious indeed; but its glory faded into insignificance in the light of the new covenant of which the Apostle Paul became minister.

The new covenant was more glorious than the old because the old covenant appealed to the flesh. It said to the flesh, “You do it,” and the flesh realized it could not do it. The new covenant did not appeal to the flesh. It appealed to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. That is the reason that it is more glorious.

He went on to say that just as Moses had a veil over his face, the Israelites have a veil over their hearts. That is the reason that when you talk to the Israelites about the Lord Jesus Christ, they are not able to understand what you are talking about, and they are not able to grasp the truth of salvation by grace through faith. But if any one of those Israelites turns to the Lord Jesus Christ, that veil is taken away from his heart, and he is able to see with an anointed eye the plan of salvation in all of its simplicity, and all because the Holy Spirit works in the life and the heart of the believer.

The Holy Spirit In Relation To Liberty

He wants to emphasize for us in these last two verses the Holy Spirit in relation to liberty. We have read twice these two verses the way they are in the King James translation of the Word of God, but I want to suggest another rendering which I think is more accurate, and which I believe conveys more of the truth that we need to know. There isn't anything particularly wrong with the way these verses are presented here, but they do not present the whole story in the manner in which they are translated.

Notice in verse 17, the King James version says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” I would like to suggest to you: “Now the Spirit is Lord, and where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty.” Notice the difference in the way I am reading it and what is implied in it. Look at it again. “Now the Spirit is Lord, and where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty.” Verse 18:

II Corinthians 3:

18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

What do we mean in verse 17, “Now the Spirit is Lord, and where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty”? The Holy Spirit has come to dwell in the heart of every believer who is born again. That is well emphasized in the Word, and we have gone over it a number of times, but the Holy Spirit's indwelling is vastly different than the Holy Spirit's infilling. You might keep that in mind. The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of every believer, but the Holy Spirit does not control every believer. The Holy Spirit is not master of the life of every believer.

Notice the word Lord in these two verses that we are emphasizing, and notice the manner in which the word Lord is spelled. It is spelled with a capital “L” and the other letters are small letters. We have told you that when you find the word Lord spelled in that manner, it is the translation of the Hebrew word Adoni in the Old Testament and the translation of the Greek word Kurios , which is translated “Master” in the New Testament. It speaks of the lordship of the person involved. It speaks of the mastery of the person involved. So you might just as well read this passage of Scripture, “Now the Spirit is Master, so where the Spirit is Master, there is liberty.”

Let me ask, for purposes of clarification, a question which I trust each of you will consider from a personal standpoint, and that is, “Is the Holy Spirit the Master of your life? Is the Holy Spirit the Master of your experience? Is the Holy Spirit in complete control of your life?” This is the question every one of us must face. “Is the Holy Spirit filling us?”

Commanded To Be Filled With The Spirit

I would suggest to you that this is not something you may take or leave. It is not something that you can say, “Well, I wish I were controlled by the Holy Spirit, but I don't guess it is too important.” Or it is not something that you can dismiss with a shrug of your shoulders and say, “Well, I'm not as yielded to the Spirit as I should be.” Why aren't you?

The Word of God in Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 18, gives a very definite command: “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” That is the command. Be controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is your responsibility to be controlled by Him, and it is your responsibility to see that there is nothing in your life that would keep Him from having absolute control. It is His desire to master your life, and it is your responsibility to see that your life is mastered by the Holy Spirit of God.

Liberty In The Spirit

If the Holy Spirit is the Lord of your life, if the Holy Spirit is the master of your life, if the Holy Spirit is controlling your life—then there will be liberty. There is no way to escape having liberty if the Holy Spirit is the Master of your life.

Did you notice what I said? There is no way to escape having, or possessing, liberty. Some of us take liberty. That is never good. In ordinary, everyday living, (not speaking of the spiritual now, but of the natural) we recognize that people take liberty. Sometimes drastic things happen because people take liberty. Lift that to a higher realm now and put it on a spiritual plane, and recognize that you and I dare not take any liberty from a spiritual standpoint. But if the Holy Spirit of God is the Master of our lives, He will cause us to live and walk and act in the liberty of the Spirit. How is that brought about? Look at II Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 18:

II Corinthians 3:

18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Liberty Through The Word Of God

Did you notice what this verse of Scripture is saying? Listen carefully now. Though the Holy Spirit is the Master of your life, the Holy Spirit never leads into any liberty—notice what I am saying—that is unrelated to the Word of God. Any liberty that you are exercising which is not found in the Word of God was not brought to your attention by the Holy Spirit, and was not made possible for your enjoyment by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads into liberty only through the Word of God.

Perhaps you are saying, “I didn't even see the Word of God mentioned in those two verses. You did. You just didn't recognize it because we do not often refer to it in that manner. Notice verse 18:

II Corinthians 3:

18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord…

The word glass there is another word for the Word of God. How do we know that?” Well, let's turn back to the epistle of James for a moment. The epistle of James, chapter 1, verse 22:

James 1:

22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

In these few verses of Scripture you can see that the Word of God is identified with a mirror. A natural man looks into a mirror and goes away and forgets what he saw in the mirror. So it is with the man who looks into the perfect law of liberty, sees something, and does absolutely nothing about it.

So we are reminded, as we go back to II Corinthians, chapter 3, that the Holy Spirit never leads into liberty exclusive of the Word of God, but He uses the Word of God to bring about that liberty in our lives.

Reason For A Difference In Liberty

The question that arises in the minds of many is, “Why is there a difference in liberty? Why is it that this man over here seems freer in the things of God than this man over there? Why is it that this man enjoys liberty that this man over here does not enjoy?”

There are two reasons for that. You notice in the chapter at which we looked that the Israelites had a veil over their faces when they looked into the perfect law of liberty. Because they had that veil over their faces, they could not see clearly. In verse 18 we are told that we must look into the perfect law of liberty with an open face, an uncovered face, with nothing between us and the mirror.

But do we? Not always. Turn with me to I Corinthians, chapter 13, and notice verse 9:

I Corinthians 13:

9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Now notice particularly this verse:

I Corinthians 13:

12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Notice verse 12 again:

I Corinthians 13:

12For now we see through a glass, darkly;[a dim glass, a cloudy glass] but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Here the apostle is reminding us that sometimes the image which is reflected to us when we look into the perfect law of liberty is a cloudy image. Have you ever looked into a mirror and for various reasons only seen a dim reflection? You did not see yourself as clearly as you might. Well, that is the way it is with a number of us when we look into the Word of God. The reflection for various reasons is not as clear as it might be. And so our liberty is not as real as it could be.

Beholding The Image Of The Lord

Go back with me to II Corinthians, chapter 3, and notice verse 18:

II Corinthians 3:

18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Notice the word beholding . We talk about looking glasses today, and that is all we need for human care—looking glasses. Take a quick look and go on your way. Everyone does. What we need, spiritually speaking, is beholding glasses. We need to take time to behold in the mirror of the Lord that which will cause us to change our appearance. I wonder how many of us spend the time we need to spend in beholding the image of the Lord. Have we a looking glass or a beholding glass on our spiritual vanity?

Do you remember what the Spirit of God said in I Peter, chapter 3?

I Peter 3:

1Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

We are primarily interested in verses 3 and 4 of this paragraph. Did you notice how outward adorning and inner adorning are compared and contrasted? Let's not jump to conclusions today. Let us not read that third verse and think that God rules out all outward adorning. He doesn't. You are obligated to make yourself as attractive as you can for the testimony that you bear to the Lord. But the Holy Spirit of God draws our attention to it in these two verses by comparison and by contrast.

Changed By The Word Of God

Are you as interested in the hidden man of the heart in verse 4 as you are in the outer man in verse 3? Are you? Are you as interested in getting some attractive ornament for the inner man of the heart as you are in getting some attractive ornament for the outer man? Isn't it amazing that most of us would not dream of appearing in public unkempt, but we appear every day before the Lord spiritually unkempt because we have not spent enough time before the beholding glass?

I would like for you to notice the last thing in verse 18:

II Corinthians 3:

18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

There is a simple statement of fact that many of us are prone to forget. That is that if we spend some time with the mirror, if we spend some time beholding in the mirror, gazing into the mirror, the Holy Spirit of God in a secret process of operation will change us into the image of Christ. I cannot explain that, and I never tried to. I cannot explain how sitting under the ministry of the Word of God will gradually change the inner man of the heart, but it will. The Holy Spirit, who is Lord of our lives, will minister the Word of God so that we will be moved into the wide liberty of the Word of God.

You do not ever need to be afraid of exercising any liberty that is given to you in God's Word. When you find some liberty in the Word of God, rejoice in it, and hold fast to it.


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