“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” – 2 Corinthians 3:7-11
“Glory” or “glorious” is used 10 times in these five verses. What is Paul trying to convey to us? So often I hear people bemoan to me their desire to live at the time of the Israelites, when God revealed His glory to His wandering people in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I sometimes reflect on the majesty to which those Israelites could look, having a visible manifestation of their Creator traveling in their midst. At first glance, this time of wandering in the desert seems like a mighty and powerful experience with their redeeming God; it seems like God was much closer to them than He is to us today.
But in the Greek verse 10 uses two key prepositions: with and in. “For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.” Paul goes on to explain that the ministry we have, that of the Spirit and not of Moses, is infinitely more glorious than the ministry of the Israelites in the desert. Think of it this way: If Moses’ ministry could be compared to light, it would be comparable to a car with headlights. At night, with the high beams on, it illuminates a large area, and much can be traversed. This is ministry with glory.
To continue with the light analogy, Paul states that the glory we now have and received from the Spirit is in glory. In other words, it’s in its own sphere of light, as if the car no longer was traveling at night with headlights glaring but in the light of the day, able to see forever. We live in a whole new relation to God’s light, a closer and deeper relation, one that is ultimately far more powerful than watching a pillar of fire: because the fire is inside us now.
This is the glory we live out every day with our friends and coworkers. God is no longer only manifest in external signs, because powerful as those signs may be, we are not ultimately changed by that which remains outside us. Christ came to be in us, to change us: from creatures who are evil besides the glory of God into beings of eternal radiance.
The Weight of Glory, essay by C.S. Lewis