“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:28-29)
God’s purpose for man, his highest creation, is for him to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” In the beginning, when God created man, He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). We read further that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:28). God created man and woman in His own image so that He could have fellowship with them.
When Adam sinned against God by disobeying His Word, he was corrupted. God’s perfect creation was marred, and man was no longer the very image of God. Ephesians 4:22 states that man’s nature was made “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Romans 8:21 further states that, as a result of sin, all of God’s creation was put under the “bondage of corruption.”
In spite of this, God’s purpose for man remains the same. His desire for all men and women is that they might be “conformed to the image of His Son.” God has provided the means to accomplish this purpose through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour is conformed to His image. As believers we are conformed to Christ in three ways:
Positionally, we are conformed to the image of Christ the moment we accept Him as personal Saviour. This conformance is based on the fact that we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
Romans 6:3 teaches that we are baptized into the death of Christ. The word “baptized,” in this verse, does not refer to an external water baptism, but to a spiritual baptism which associates us with Christ in His work on the cross.
1 Peter 2:24 tells us that when Christ died upon the cross He “bare our sins in His own body.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that He was “made sin for us.” Paul goes on to say in Romans 6, verses 2, 6, and 8, that we “died with Christ,” and as a result of His death we “died to sin.” Our old sin nature was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed.”
In addition to being identified with Him in His death, we are also associated with Him in His resurrection.
“That like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:4-5)
Romans 6:8 teaches that since we died with Christ we shall also “live with Him.” Colossians 3:4declares that Christ “is our life.”
Finally, we are identified with Christ in His ascension. This fact is brought out in Ephesians 2:5-6which teaches that we were made alive with Christ, raised with Christ, and seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Philippians 3:20 proclaims that our conversation, or our citizenship, is in heaven.
As a result of being identified with Christ in His finished work on Calvary, God sees us “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-11). We are holy and righteous in God’s sight because of Christ’s righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares that we have been made “the righteousness of God in Him.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 says that Christ is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
Positionally, we are already conformed to the image of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and through Him we have access to and fellowship with the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
Even though positionally we are conformed to the image of Christ, practically, we do not always conform to the image of Christ in our daily walk.
We have been given a new nature which is conformed to His image, but we retain our old nature which is corrupt because of sin. We can choose to yield to either of the two natures. When we yield to the new nature, we are conformed to the image of Christ, “who is our life” (Colossians 3:4). When we yield to the old nature, it is impossible for us to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is why Paul admonishes us in Romans 12:2 to “be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Whereas positional conformance is a one-time occurrence, practical conformance must occur on a daily basis. There are three areas of concern if we are to be conformed to the image of Christ in our daily lives:
Colossians 3:1-4 admonishes us to set our “affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” The word “affection” refers to the mind. Our thoughts and interests are to be centered upon heavenly things rather than earthly things.
Philippians 2:5 encourages us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Having the mind of Christ involves having the same attitude that Christ exhibited while here on earth. Verses 6-8 emphasize Jesus’ attitude of service, humility, and obedience.
Ephesians 4:32 teaches us to have an attitude of kindness, tenderness of heart, and forgiveness; the same attitude which God manifested in sending the Lord Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.
Appropriation means utilizing or taking advantage of what Christ has already accomplished for us. Romans 6:11-13 indicates there are two things we must do to experience victory over sin in our lives: reckon and yield. Paul says to “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The word “reckon” means to count something as true. We must trust in the fact that we died with Christ on the cross and are therefore dead to sin. Our old nature was crucified with Christ, therefore sin no longer has dominion over us.
Paul further admonishes us to “yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead.” The word “yield” means to present yourself unto God. This is an act of faith whereby we put ourselves completely in God’s hands.
Victory over sin in our daily lives is possible, but it is not gained through our own strength or efforts. It is only accomplished when we put our complete trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to live through us. Paul’s personal testimony was,
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
As believers in Christ we look forward to the day when we will be perfectly conformed to His image. Titus 2:13 refers to this event as “our blessed hope.” While we remain upon this earth in our bodies of flesh, we retain our old sin nature and it is impossible for us to be completely conformed to the image of a holy and righteous God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:49, Paul states that “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Verses 51-53 further state that one day “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Our bodies, which have been corrupted by sin and subjected to physical death, shall be made incorruptible and immortal.
The event spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15 is the rapture; the day in which the Lord Jesus will return to catch His church up into glory. When this future event occurs, all believers will be perfectly conformed to the image of the Saviour. Philippians 3:20-21 declares that our bodies of humiliation will be fashioned like the body of His glory. 1 John 3:1-2 teaches that “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”
When we are finally with the Lord in glory, then God’s purpose for our lives will be completely fulfilled. We will truly be “conformed to the image of His Son.”