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.
We are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ from one degree of glory to another.
I don’t know about you but this is both a comforting and uncomfortable thought for me.
First, it’s comforting to know that my transformation into Christ is a progressive reality. It is slow and steady. Not a burst. Not a moment in time. God is patient. Thank you God.
But, second, it is uncomfortable to think that I am supposed to be becoming more and more glorious, because most days it sure doesn’t seem like I’m glowing brighter than the day before.
But this is what pastors and theologians call progressive sanctification. Gradual and slow change into the likeness of Christ as we more and more behold (worship, fall in love with) Christ and his glory on the cross.
But why does it have to be progressive and slow? Why not just zap us with complete sanctification, holiness, and glory all at once?
Well in one sense he has. In Christ, you are already FULLY justified, sanctified, and glorified.
Romans 8:30. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
1 Corinthians 6:11. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
So, yes, you have been zapped.
What we’re left with now is believing our new reality. Trusting in our justification, sanctification, and glorification. This faith is what takes time and grace. The faith to let the Christ in us live through us.
Our transformation into the image of Christ is progressive and slow because it’s by faith. Yes, it’s by grace. Yes, it’s all of God. He has already changed you and lifted the veil. But it is also by faith. Change happens by our beholding.
This is no small thing. I believe it is crucial to being alive in Christ. Because faith is what allows us to maintain our humanity. Our freedom. Our love. We are not forced. Yes, we are changed and we have a new desire. We have a new love motivation. We have abounding grace. But we also have a choice. Our faith, added to God’s grace, is what lets us image God. And since God has invited us into this relationship of interdependence, it’s going to take time. It’s going to be slow. It’s going to be from one degree of glory to another.
By the way this was also true of Jesus (the one we are imaging). Jesus was empowered by grace, but he also had to have faith. He also had to behold the glory of the Lord in order to progress in his sanctification. Like every human, he had to grow and mature. He had to move from glory to glory. His ultimate glory being his obedience on the cross, his resurrection, his glorification in Heaven.
Hebrews 2: 10. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 5:9. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
Unlike every other human he is the one by whom all things exist and he became the source of eternal salvation. In these two ways he is the unique Son of God. He is the source and goal of all things. The beginning and the end. We are not.
But in the middle, in every other way, he is like us so that we can become like him.
“To live is Christ” means present and complete transformation because we are in Christ. And because Christ is in us it means we are slowly and progressively being changed from one degree to the next by grace through faith. This was true of Christ and so it is true of us as well.
Have you ever wrestled with the paradox of being fully sanctified and yet progressively sanctified at the same time? How does union with Christ explain this? Do you ever get discouraged with your Christian growth? How can it comfort you to know that it’s going to be a process, even as it was for Jesus himself?