The word “transformation” occurs twice in Scripture with reference to Christians (Rom. 12:2, and 2 Cor. 3:18). 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 thy God.”
There are increasing numbers 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. Hence, at the end of this exhortation, the Apostle says, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil 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 desireth new; for he saith, The old is better.” 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. 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. This transformation is of the highest order. The Lord lead our hearts to apprehend the great contrast between the old man, however reformed by law, and the new man growing by grace into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In seeking to avoid being a man-pleaser, some fall into the opposite evil of becoming exceedingly displeasing. The apostle sought to “please all men in all things” in view of their profit . Nevertheless, when the truth was in question, he wrote, “Do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ”. On the one hand he sought in his walk and ways to commend himself “to every man’s conscience” , and on the other he laboured “to be agreeable” to God; on the right hand and on the left he was therefore well equipped for the fight of faith. He became all things to all men that he might save some, yet he upheld the truth of the gospel “not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth our hearts”. That is what will preserve us from falling on the one side or the other—being pleasing to God! We are exhorted “not to please ourselves,” but that every one please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself ; nay, blessed be His Holy Name, “I do always those things that please” the Father, He could say; and the Father said, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.” Enoch walked with God and was taken away before the flood; so the saints will be translated from the earth to be with the Lord before the flood of worldwide judgment—“the wrath to come.” But meanwhile may we so walk that Enoch’s testimony may be ours also, “for before his translation he had this testimony, that HE PLEASED GOD”.
The possession of Christ does wonderfully bind hearts together; and as affection one toward another is a spiritual instinct, so all that is learnt of Christ deepens it intelligently. Intercourse may test its reality sometimes, but as a whole develops it actively, and the more as sharing the same hostility from the world.
1911 336 Scripture says, “Let brotherly love continue“; and indeed it is so sweet, that the wonder is that we should ever let it drop. But we are such an unwise people, and the hardening influence of the world so much affects us, that even where there has been happy fellowship, coldness often creeps in. Sometimes brotherly affection will wither, just for want of a little expression, and our watchful enemy is only too glad to see it die down. Then, Christian, if you have love in your heart to your brother, do not hide it as a secret that must not be known. Refrain not from those small expressions of love, which will not only refresh thy brother’s heart, but keep love from dying in thine own. One can imagine how Satan may chuckle when he manages to estrange Christians from one another. Where you see this estrangement, you see the work of Satan; but where Christians are loving one another, you see the work of God’s Spirit, for “love is of God” (1 John 4:7). Do you see a Christian walking in the power of love? Then you see one who is under divine teaching, for Paul says of the Thessalonians that they were “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). God is glorified and Satan defeated when love triumphs amongst Christians.
Scripture distinguishes between “love” and “brotherly love.” They are expressed by distinct words in the original. Love is “agape,” and brotherly love is one word, “philadelphia.” “Philadelphia” is rather friendly love; and the Authorised Version has tried to convey this by the expression, “brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:7). But it is more than that. It includes kindness, but it is love; only, love in the form which it takes in the intercourse of brethren. Perhaps the best rendering is Mr. Kelly’s, which is “brotherly affection.”
Peter tells us to add to godliness, brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection, love (2 Peter 1:7). That is to say, dry godliness — if one may speak so — won’t do; we must have with godliness, the warmth of Christian friendship, brotherly affection. How stiffly, hardly, with what grinding and creaking, the machine sometimes moves; per haps won’t move at all, when a few drops of oil make it all right and smooth: so is love amongst brethren. Love surmounts the difficulties of the day, conquers coldness and apathy, and goes forth winning the hearts of the saints in order to serve them. Surely it is not without significance, in a book so full of symbols as the Revelation, that “Philadelphia” is the name of perhaps the most admirable of the seven churches. But then brotherly affection will not suffice alone, or it may degenerate into mere human sentiment, so there must be godliness; and with godliness, brotherly affection: then again, with brotherly affection, love: that is, love in its highest, broadest, noblest sense; love to God, love in the truth, love to the brethren shown in walking according to His commandments (2 John 1-6), love to poor fallen man. How perfect is Scripture!
Now love to the brethren is an evidence of divine life. First to ourselves, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14); secondly to the world, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). Thus, then, love amongst Christians is a positive testimony for God in the world. Do you desire to bear testimony for Christ, to preach the gospel? Good! it is a good aspiration. But all are not gifted for this. Yet there is a testimony which everyone can display — even the humblest: he is greatest who shows it most, and the most splendid gift is naught without it. It is love! Love “in truth,” manifested amongst believers, preaches Christ to the world. E.J.T.
“Thus we are a heavenly people; our life, blessings, inheritance, supplies, and home, are there; so that we are partakers of a heavenly calling, and are taught to look for the Savior to change our body of humiliation, fashion it like His body of glory, and take us there. The consciousness of this will produce heavenly-mindedness, and ways.”