“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1,2).
“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 by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
The word “transformation” occurs twice in Scripture with reference to Christians (see above). Every believer tries to be reformed, but very few apprehend the great moral difference between reformation and transformation. As a rule believers rejoice that they are saved, and aim to be up to the language of Micah 6:8, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Your God.”
There are increasing numbers [of believers] who have accepted the truth that by the grace of God they have been transferred from Adam to Christ, and that they are clear of the old man in God’s sight; yet they have no true understanding of what it is to be “transformed.” Reformation is improvement, and refers to what already exists; but transformation means a change of being. This, it is feared, is little known.
In Romans 12:2, we are exhorted not to be “conformed to this world,” but to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This means a new mind, something altogether new; so that you are not to walk before men according to this world, but according to the mind of Christ, your life [Col. 3:4;1 Cor. 2:16]. Hence, at the end of this exhortation, the Apostle says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).
It is not a question as to whether the order of this world is good or not, but you are not to be conformed to it any more: you are to be “transformed” according to a new mind, and thus be able to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Everyone who knows anything of his own heart must know that he has tastes and desires connected with this earthly scene, and the more they are gratified the stronger they become. But as he walks in the Spirit he finds that what he likes most in the natural order of things is the very thing he must avoid: “No man . . . having drunk old wine straightway desires new; for he says, The old is better” [Luke 5:39]. Very slowly do we learn to be altogether non-conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind.
As to the transforming of 2 Corinthians 3:18, the blessedness of it is that it is by beholding the Lord Jesus’ glory with unveiled face that we are transformed into the same image; that is, we are brought into moral correspondence with Himself [see Rom. 8:28,29]. It is not merely a new course outside and apart from the world as in Romans, but here we are in conscious union with the risen Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
It is true that every convert does not enjoy the light of His glory, because many are dwelling more upon the work than upon the Person who did the work. The fact is, the nearer you are to Him in glory the more assured you are of being in the righteousness of God, and that you are there without a cloud; and it is as you behold the Lord Jesus there, you are gradually transformed into moral correspondence to Himself. Many have been misled by thinking that by reading the Bible you become like Christ–transformed; but you will find diligent students of the Word, who may never say anything incorrect in doctrine, yet who never seem to grow in grace and walk in spiritual reality.
When we learn that we are united to Him who is in glory, we can come forth in the new man to manifest His beauty and grace here on earth [John 15:1-5]. This transformation is of the highest order.
May the Lord lead our hearts to apprehend the great contrast between the [conduct of the] old man, however reformed by law, and the new man growing by grace into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
J.B. Stoney (1814 -1895) was a Brethren preacher and author in Ireland. Biblical quotes are updated with introductory quotations from NKJV. Bracketed words and references added. – JBW.