In the previous post we looked at a summary theme of the word of God: from glory to glory. Specifically, our concern was this theme as a summation of the Christian life. In Christ we move from the beginning with the glory of regeneration to our final hope in the glory of our glorification. And we left off answering the question of its relevance to us here and now, in the already but not yet, concluding that we have been redeemed that we would be sanctified – that this sojourn from glory to glory is about our being transformed into the image of God’s Son.
So, how are we to pursue sanctification? What has God provided that we might be sanctified? Look back to 2 Corinthians 3:18:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This one verse contains so much truth concerning the Christian life. Particularly, it reveals three aspects of our sanctification.
– 3 Aspects of Our Sanctification:
1. The Procedure of Sanctification – Beholding a Better Vision
How are we to pursue sanctification? 2 Corinthians 3:18 declares, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image.” As mentioned earlier, at regeneration God does a gracious work of unveiling our eyes by His illuminating Spirit through the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-6). Now that the veil has been lifted we may behold the glory of the Lord and by that vision we are transformed. There is a direct connection between beholding the glory of God and being sanctified. We mentioned the glory of God above but it is referring to something specific here. 2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that “the glory of God” is “in the face of Jesus Christ.” What this is saying is that we are to behold Christ that we may be transformed.
Thomas Chalmers, in his sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, said that it is insufficient to say to someone or to yourself, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15), and think that is the end of sin. Rather, that affectionate vision of the world must be replaced with a better vision. He writes:
The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy?
Chalmers gives the solution to the problem – the gospel:
But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God…. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy.
How are we to pursue sanctification? How do we put off sin and put on holiness? How do we become more like Christ? We must behold a better vision – Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. We behold Christ in His works in the world (creation), in His work of redemption on behalf of sinners, in His work in the world through the church, and in His word as we read it, obey it, and share it with others. Struggling with sin? Look to Jesus. Desire the world? Fix your eyes upon Christ, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Want to change? It is a battle but eternal worth the fight (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Behold a better vision and become like Christ.
2. The Product of Sanctification – Becoming Like Christ
The result of beholding Christ in all His glory is that you will be “transformed into the same image.” When you take your eyes off the world, sin and self and perpetually gaze at the Savior you will be transformed into His image. Beholding is becoming. John Owen, in The Glory of Christ, wrote:
It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.
On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.
When we behold the glory of God in Christ we become like Him “from one degree of glory to another.”
3. The Producer of Sanctification – Bestowed by the Spirit
We must behold Christ to become like Him. We must, as Paul wrote, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” We must strive for holiness. Yet at the end of the day we must proclaim with Scripture that whatever holiness or victory over indwelling sin exists it is “by the grace of God.” Though we work, it is “God who is at work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that our hearts and eyes being unveiled, our beholding of the glory of God in Christ, as well as our being transformed into that same image “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As we set our gaze upon Christ’s person and work, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the very image of the One we behold. All this is “to the praise of His glory” (Eh. 1:12,14).
Let us all, for the glory of God and for our good behold a better vision in the glory of God in the gospel and become more like Christ.