It’s Still a Mystery

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 from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18

Some things in nature are a complete mystery to me. How can an insect that crawls on the ground be changed into one that flies? How can a black, fuzzy, rather ugly creature be transformed into a beautiful, fascinating creature with brightly colored wings? How can a destructive insect that can literally strip a tree of its leaves (at least a swarm of them can) become a dainty creature that can land on the petal of a flower blossom without defacing it? In short, how can a caterpillar become a butterfly?

I don’t understand the process, but I know the word for it. It is metamorphosis. That five-syllable, “eight-cylinder” word is used to describe what happens when a caterpillar spins a hard cocoon around itself and some days later emerges as a butterfly.

A lot of things in the spiritual realm are also a complete mystery to me. How can a person who is indifferent or hostile toward God become a deeply committed follower of Jesus Christ? How can a person who is a slave to destructive sinful habits become a person who is self-controlled, gentle, and compassionate? How can a fanatical, self-righteous Jew named Saul of Tarsus become the humble, self-effacing Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles?

Again, I don’t understand the process, but I know the name for it. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul calls it transformation (being transformed). The Greek word for transformation is metamorphoomai. You can readily see that our English word metamorphosis is essentially a transliteration of metamorphoomai. I find it somewhat fascinating and instructive that Paul uses the same word that describes the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly to describe the spiritual transformation in the life of a Christian. The process is just as mysterious, and the results are even more striking.

Actually the process of transformation that Paul describes very briefly in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is called sanctification. Here is another one of those “eight-cylinder” words, as I call them. It is a word that is not part of our daily vocabulary, and perhaps even sounds a bit pretentious. But it is an important scriptural word that we ought to become familiar with if we desire to pursue holiness. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us whereby our inner being is progressively changed, freeing us more and more from sinful traits and developing within us over time the virtues of Christlike character. However, though sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, it does involve our wholehearted response in obedience and the regular use of the spiritual disciplines that are instruments of sanctification.

Jerry Bridges

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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