I wrote in a previous post of the IMITATION OF CHRIST and hope to continue further, but first I feel I need to write on a related topic, especially as it is found in the writings of Paul.
Paul uses a number of words with the root MORPHE (form) which speak of a future (and I believe, present) condition in the life of the believer.
In Philippians 3:20 and 21, Paul says, “For our citizenship is in Heaven, from where we are also eagerly expecting the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will refashion the body of our humiliation, conformed (SUMMORPHOS) to the body of His glory …” He is speaking of a future change at the second coming of our Lord. At that time, we will be completely changed over and will be made like Christ. This is undoubtedly what the Apostle John is speaking of in 1 John 3:2, where he says “… we know that when He appears we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
Paul also uses the same word in Romans 8:29, where he says, “Because whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined conformed (SUMMORPHOS) to the image of His Son.” It appears that here Paul is also speaking of a future transformation. The context (Romans 8:28-20) places it within the “purpose” of God.
But Paul says (verse 28), “God is working all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This seems to imply a present work of God in our daily lives.
When Paul reprimands the Galatian believers for attempting to put themselves under the Old Testament Law, he calls them, “My children for whom I again am suffering birth pains until Christ is formed (MORPHOO) in you …” (Galatians 4:19). He seems to be expressing a present goal of Christ-likeness in them, which they are slow to attain. In other words, even though God’s purpose is to make us like Christ at His return, He is presently working out that change in our lives. He is working to make us like Jesus right now!
Paul tells the Roman believers that they are to “stop being conformed (different word: (SUSCHEMATIZO) to this age, but be being transformed (METAMORPHOO) by the renewing of the mind, so as to test and approve what the will of God is – the good and well pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). He says that this transformation process is through the renewing of one’s mind and that it should lead to a testing and approving of God’s will. In other words, it begins with the mind and is carried out in one’s actions.
Another passage that throws some light on the transformation process is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with face unveiled, contemplating (or reflecting) as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (METAMOPHOO) into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Spirit of the Lord.”
I believe that the way that we renew our minds is by gazing into the mirror of the Scripture. There we see ourselves in our needy state – not a very pretty sight. As Paul tells us in Romans 5: helpless, ungodly – sinners – enemies of God. Or the horrible list of negative qualities in Romans 1. But it is also in the Scriptures we see Christ. We see Him as the perfect Man who walked this earth. We see Him as the incarnate God who gave His life for us.
We see two “images” – ourselves and Jesus Christ. And those two are extremely out of focus with each other. But it is only as we see ourselves in comparison with Him that we can begin to bring ourselves into focus with Him. As John Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
It is as we study and meditate on the Scriptures, on their picture of us and their picture of Jesus that we move into the process of transformation, when we are continually becoming more and more like Him.
And our goal is to be “to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings, being conformed (SUMMORPHIZO) to His death” (Philippians 3:10).