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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Fruit and Looking to Jesus; 2 Corinthians 3

09/03 Fruit and Looking to Jesus; 2 Corinthians 3; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170903_fruit-looking-to-jesus.mp3

We have been looking at the fruit of the Spirit, Christian character that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of every believer. Las week we looked at the whole fruit; that all of these characteristics of the Spirit controlled life will be growing in a balanced symmetrical way in the follower of Jesus.

Sovereignty and Means

Last week I also mentioned that although it is the Spirit’s work to produce the fruit in our lives, we are also commanded to do things that facilitate his work in our lives. We can say that God sovereignly works in our lives, but he often chooses to do his work through means; often ordinary means. The Bible tells us that Jesus ‘upholds the universe by the word of his power’ (Heb.1:3), and we are told that ‘in him all things hold together’ (Col.1:17). Jesus tells us not to worry about what to eat or drink, he tells us that we are of more value than the birds, ‘and yet God feeds them’ (Luke 12:24). But when we look at the birds, we see them spending time flying around in search of food. And the clear teaching of the New Testament is that ‘If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat’ (2Thess.3:10). They are commanded to ‘do their work quietly and earn their own living’ (v.12). So God sustains, but he sustains through his appointed means. He can sustain supernaturally, as he did on occasion, sustaining the Exodus generation with bread from heaven in the wilderness, and commanding the ravens to bring bread and meat to Elijah east of the Jordan (1Kings 17). God can sustain supernaturally, but normally he sustains us naturally. We work and earn wages. He gave us the ability to work. It is he that ultimately causes the crops to grow. He gives us the breath in our lungs. He causes our digestive systems to draw sustenance from the food we eat. He causes our cells to carry these nutrients to the parts of our bodies that need them. He sustains us, but he sustains us through his ordinary appointed means like working and eating.

This is the same with the fruit of the Spirit. God the Spirit produces the fruit in our lives, but he chooses to do this through his appointed means. God gives us means of grace. Today and next week I want to look at two of the primary God appointed means God employs to produce his character in our lives. Today we will look at 2 Corinthians 3:18 and the chapters that surround it.

Spiritual Transformation through Beholding

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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.

This passage says that spiritual transformation comes through ‘beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled face.’ This transformation is ‘into the image of our Lord’. First, I want to look at the context to see if it is right for us to link this transformation to the fruit of the Spirit that we have been studying in Galatians. Then I want to ask what it means to behold and how it is that we behold.

Transformation and the Fruit of the Spirit

First, to show that this is talking about the fruit of the Spirit, we need to look at the context. Verse 17 links this to the Spirit of the Lord producing freedom, and verse 18 reminds us that this transformation comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. So there is a direct link to the Holy Spirit in this passage. The transformation we are talking about comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, so the Spirit produces this transformation in us, just as the Spirit produces fruit in Galatians 5.

But if we back up and look at the broader context, we see from the beginning of this chapter that Paul is defending his ministry by pointing to fruit in the lives of the believers he has served.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Paul is saying that the authentication for his ministry is the transformed lives of the Corinthians. He says that they are a letter of commendation ‘written with the Spirit of the living God on the tablets of their human hearts.’ This is the New Covenant transformation that was promised in the Old.

In chapter 4, he describes how this transformation takes place, and what hinders this transformation. He describes this transformation in verse 10 as ‘so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies’ and again in verse 11 ‘so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.’ The Spirit’s transformation displays the life of Jesus in us. As we studied love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, we saw that it really is a picture of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit puts Jesus on display in our bodies, in our interactions with others.

Verse 16 reminds us that the Spirit’s fruit grows gradually. It says ‘our inner self is being renewed day by day.’ This is inner character; fruit that grows slowly, one day at a time.

In chapter 5, he points us to our eagerness to ‘make it our aim to please him’ (v.9). In verse 14-15 he says ‘the love of Christ controls us …that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him…’ The Spirit controlled life is a life lived to please Jesus. Then he says in verse 17

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God…

A new creation in Christ. The old life controlled by the flesh is gone. The new life, the Spirit controlled life is here.

I think it is safe to say that this transformation in 2 Corinthians that comes from the Spirit is the same thing that Paul talks about in Galatians 5 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Freedom in the Spirit

How does he say this comes about? What is the means of grace he points us to that God works through to produce this fruit in us?

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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.

Notice first, that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom, not bondage. This is not a legalistic pursuit of moralistic personal character, but a spiritual pursuit of the character of Jesus and the Father produced in us by the Spirit. This is not obligation and debt but transformation and delight. In the Spirit we find true freedom. This is freedom to look and to enjoy.

Unveiled Faces

The freedom comes with unveiled faces. What does this mean? Paul is contrasting the New Covenant, of which he is a minister, with the Old Covenant, of which Moses was the minister. In 3:3 he contrasts the tablets of stone, the document of the Old Covenant, with the tablets of human hearts. In 3:6 he says the Old was of the letter, and it brought death; the New is of the Spirit and it gives life. Verse 9 contrasts the ministry of condemnation with the ministry of reconciliation. Verse 11 contrasts the temporary and fading with the permanent

Beginning in verse 7, he contrasts the glory of the shining face of Moses after coming down from meeting with God, with the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit. He has in mind Exodus 34, where Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the second copy of the covenant documents that Israel had broken. He asked God to show him his glory, and God responded:

Exodus 34:6 “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God revealed his character to Moses. Steadfast love, patience, merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, just. God’s glory, God’s character.

Exodus 34:29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.

God’s character, God’s glory changed the face of Moses. Being in the presence of God changed him. After speaking God’s words to Israel, he would put a veil over his face to keep them from seeing the glory fade. Paul picks this up in 2 Corinthians 3.

2 Corinthians 3:13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

The veil Paul is talking about is the hardness of mind and heart; an unbelieving heart that fails to see Christ as Lord. The veil is removed only through Christ.

In the next chapter Paul explains.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul says that the veil is a Satanic blinding of the minds of unbelievers to keep them from perceiving the truth of the gospel. This spiritual blindness is only overcome through the plain proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, as Creator God speaks light into the dark hearts of unbelievers overcoming their spiritual blindness. This is the unveiled face that beholds the glory of the Lord. This removal of spiritual blindness, this shining the light of the knowledge of God in Jesus, is another way of talking about the new birth. When we were dead, God made us alive in Christ Jesus by grace. When we were blind, God said ‘Let light shine’.

Transformation by Beholding

So a primary evidence of the new birth or regeneration or being saved is being able to see Jesus with new eyes, being able to see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord. Being able to perceive with spiritual eyes the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus. This is what Paul is talking about when he says back in

2 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.

Just like Moses asked to see the glory of God, and God revealed to him his character, so we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus, who is God in the flesh. We see the glory of God in the gospel. We behold the glory of Jesus in the gospels as his character is portrayed through his interactions with sinners. We see the glory of God in his plan of salvation unfolding as the Son of God is born in a cave in Bethlehem. We see the glory of God culminate at the cross, where the innocent Jesus is condemned to die in the place of guilty sinners. We see the glory of a holy and just God as he pours out his wrath on the substitute, so that through his death we might live. We begin to treasure this God who is

Exodus 34:6 “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

In the face of Jesus we see the glory of God who is

Galatians 5:22 …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…

And when we see it, when God gives us eyes to see Jesus, we are transformed. Beholding the glory of the Lord, beholding Jesus and the gospel, we are being transformed. Just like Moses didn’t know it, but others could see it, when we spend time gazing at Jesus, meditating on the good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified, treasuring Jesus, we are being changed. Often others will notice before we do.

2 Corinthians 4 tells us that this transformation is often accompanied by suffering. 4:16 tells us:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are being renewed day by day, even in the face of suffering as we look to the things that are unseen.

2 Corinthians is not the only place we see this means of transformation. 1 John says:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image.

Gaze on His Beauty

So what is the means of grace that the Spirit of God chooses to utilize to bring about the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer? ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord we are being transformed!’ Transformation by beholding. The Spirit’s fruit grows, Jesus is put on display in my body as I look!

Ask God for eyes to see! Ask him for eyes to see Jesus for who he is. Ask him to break your hardness and resurrect your deadness and overcome your darkness with the marvelous light of his glorious gospel!

This is the one thing the Psalmist pursued

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

One thing I ask. One thing I seek. To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. To see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the image of God. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.

So look! Take time to look. To behold. To enjoy. To savor. To treasure. And as you spend time with Jesus, you will be transformed.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 4, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment