2 Corinthians 3:18 ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος.
How are we transformed into “the same image from glory to glory”? What is the key to it taking place? It lies within the present middle participle κατοπτριζόμενοι (beholding, gazing upon). This word, in the middle, has traditionally meant, “To look at something as in a mirror, to contemplate something, to gaze upon, to behold.” Sadly, this verse is often read or interpreted as follows, “But we all, with unveiled face.... are being transformed…” The participle κατοπτριζόμενοι (beholding, gazing upon) is often missed or forgotten altogether from the reading. This is one of the most commonly used verses to prove that all Christians are being sanctified, and the part which heavily stresses the Christian’s responsibility is, as I said, often missed or forgotten. Surprisingly, this participle is perhaps the most crucial part of the verse as regards Christians in sanctification. If we are to be sanctified, and when we are sanctified, it is by beholding, contemplating, or gazing upon as in a mirror the glory of the Lord. Then and only then is the Christian transformed into the image of Christ.
When a Christian is struggling with assurance and we want to give them biblical counsel, we often say, “Look to Christ”, or “Read your Bible”. Wouldn't it be more fitting to say “Are you gazing upon, beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus?” As one writer said concerning this word κατοπτριζόμενοι, “This beheld glory of the Lord is not something that Christians experience only passively. On the contrary, they behold Christ’s glory as an exercise that is active and coincides with the process of sanctification.” (emphasis mine) The present participle used here shows that the beholding of His glory is continuous and free from interruption.
Transformation into the image of Christ is the result of continually beholding and gazing upon His glory. As one writer said, “We become like that which dominates our thoughts and affections.” It is significant that the participle κατοπτριζόμενοι (beholding/gazing upon) is in the present tense; so is the verb μεταμορφούμεθα (are being changed/transformed). This tells us that the transformation or change in the believer will be consistent with the beholding or contemplation. The two are inseparable. The more we behold the glory of the Lord, the more we will be continually transformed into His image. The less we behold His glory, the less we will be transformed.