Transformation Is Not Guaranteed by the New Birth

By Dwight Hunt

The following is from Dwight’s commentary on Second Corinthians in the soon-to-be released one-volume Grace NT Commentary that GES is producing.

3:18. Unlike the diminishing glory that characterized the face of Moses after he met with the Lord, we all—all believers, not just one man, Moses—are being transformed as we gaze intently with unveiled face upon the glory of the Lord. We see His glory in God’s Word, here called a mirror (cf. Jas 1:22-25).

Paul says that as we look in God’s Word and see God’s Son, we are being transformed (metamorphoumetha). This is the same word translated transfigured in the Lord’s transfiguration when “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light” (Matt 17:2; Mark 9:2). Paul uses the same word in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” The word metamorphosis comes from this word. It describes a process of change like the change of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

When the believer studies and meditates upon God’s Word, progressive changes take place. The believer is transformed into the same image, that is, the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). If the Corinthians desired to become Christ-like, they would have to look intently at God’s Word.

As the believers see the beauty of the Lord Jesus in the Word they go from glory to glory. They go from one degree of glory to another. They experience an ever-growing glory. Paul is here describing the process of sanctification that takes place just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Of course, transformation is not the automatic result of the new birth. Transformation requires regular meditation upon the Word. The believer who fails to do this will remain a babe in Christ (compare 1 Cor 2:14-16 with 3:1-4).

Sanctification is not a matter of law-keeping. It isn’t even really a matter of following certain spiritual disciplines. It is the result of the transforming power of the Word of God. Receptive hearts (cf. Luke 8:11-18) which carefully meditate on God’s Words result in changed lives. As the Lord Jesus told Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

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