Commentary on "John's Letter to the Chosen Lady"
Day 6: Thursday, September 17, 2009
I’d like to present several corroborating scriptures on speaking “face to face.”
… I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25).
Here, Paul is saying that he will remain in this body, as opposed to departing and being with Christ, because “to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” His desire is to continue with them for their “progress and joy in the faith.” Elsewhere, he writes,
Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm (2 Corinthians 1:24).
What a statement – Paul and Timothy (and all the apostles, by extension) are working for the joy of the believers. This theme is repeated throughout the New Testament. Jesus says to his disciples during his discourse after the Last Supper:
These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).
And John writes:
These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete (1 John 1:4).
Back to the topic of being together and speaking face to face, there is something very meaningful about seeing and communing face to face. In the Old Testament, although Moses did not see God’s face, he talked with God “face to face” (Exodus 33:11), an amazing and indescribably wonderful privilege given to a man who was “faithful as a servant in all God’s house” (Hebrews 3:5). In the New Testament, God promises us who believe that we will see his face, which is an inexpressibly wonderful position of intimacy with God.
In Acts 20, the Ephesian elders were grieved as they said goodbye to Paul as he headed to for the last time to Jerusalem. The scripture records:
And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship (Acts 20:37-38).
There is an amazing statement in 2 Corinthians that captures some of the significance of face-to-face encounters for Christians – it’s that we see something of the Lord in each other. Fellow believers provide strength and encouragement because we see something of the Lord Jesus in them. Contrasted to Moses, who veiled his face, we reflect God’s glory to others from our faces as we behold the glory of the Lord:
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 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 from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This passage from 2 Corinthians clarifies how we become able to relate to one another and to God face-to-face. It is only when we turn to the Lord Jesus for life and liberty and leave the shadow of the law behind that we begin to see face-to-face. "Moses", or the law, was only a shadow of reality. When we turn to Christ and accept Him as the fulfillment of the law and as our Savior, we receive the Spirit of the Lord and begin to live in liberty. This is how we are transformed from glory into glory. We have the life and Spirit of Jesus indwelling us. The shadow of the law is gone, and we become born again into the life of God.
The faces of fellow believers reflect Jesus to us, and we find great encouragement in their company, in face-to-face fellowship. In some way, such fellowship is a small taste of the face-to-face fellowship we will enjoy with Jesus. Our face-to-face fellowship now is to be received with thanksgiving and as a reminder of the glories that will come when He comes!
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