What does the Bible mean when it says in II Corinthians 4:6 that God has given us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Since no one really knows what the face of Jesus looked like, how do we see the glory of God in it?
Often times in the Bible the word “face” (sometimes “countenance”) is used to portray the attitudes or feelings of a person toward another person or a situation. A person’s countenance can be fallen or lifted up; it can be described as haughty or cheerful; it can turn towards another or turn away from another.
In a similar way, the countenance of the Lord is an image for who He is and the way He deals with people.
When the face or countenance of the Lord is “on us” or “upon us” it means that we are in a face-to-face communion and friendship with the Lord. This implies presence, acceptance, and pleasure along with the many blessings that a face-to-face Lord provides. In Numbers 6 the priest is to pray for the people: “The Lord make His face shine upon you” and “The Lord lift up his countenance on you.” Associated with this blessing is the grace and peace of the Lord. In Psalm 4 David prays, “Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord.” Associated with this lifting up of the Lord’s countenance upon us is light, goodness, and gladness.
Conversely, the Lord’s displeasure is described as “turning away” in passages such as Deuteronomy 23:14 or “hiding His face” as when David prays in Psalm 27:9, “Do not hide Your face from me.” It implies a lack of presence, communion, acceptance and friendship with the Lord.
So when Paul speaks about having the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, he is saying that it is through Jesus that the presence, communion, friendship, acceptance and pleasure of God for us is found and experienced. We know the glory of the Father through the glorious Son.
Our present experience of this glory in the face of Jesus is with an unveiled face, that is, it is a reality for us but it is a reflective reality as in a mirror (II Corinthians 3:18).
However, one day the mirror will be gone and we will see face-to-face (I Corinthians 13:12). In the new heaven and new earth our experience of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will carry us to unimaginable heights of blessing and grace. Our hope in the present is what awaits us in the future.
As you go through the grind of this week, remember to look in the face of Jesus—that’s where the glory of the grind can be found and experienced.