What Is Transformation in the Bible?

Did you know the Bible speaks of something called transformation? It’s found in these two New Testament verses:

2 Corinthians 3:18: But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.
 
Romans 12:2: And do not be fashioned according to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect.

So what does it mean for us as believers to be transformed? How can we experience transformation in our Christian life?

The definition of transformation

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, transformation means “a complete or major change in someone or something’s appearance, form, etc.” But what does this mean for us as Christians? Should we change our behavior to be more “Christ-like,” or live by a new set of rules and regulations? By looking closely at the two verses above, we find that transformation in the Bible actually means something completely different to what we might think.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for transformation is metamorphosis. The definition of metamorphosis is “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.”

A caterpillar is born already possessing the life that will cause it to become a butterfly. Although an outward change does occur during metamorphosis, it’s the result of an organic change from within. A caterpillar doesn’t put on a butterfly costume or strive to act like a butterfly. As long as it eats, a caterpillar can trust in the metabolic process to assimilate those nutrients into its body and cause it to grow. Eventually, it undergoes metamorphosis and becomes a butterfly.

Transformation in our Christian life

When we prayed to receive Christ as our Savior, we were regenerated, or reborn, with the divine life of God within to become children of God. This life operates within us to transform us into the image of Christ.

However, like a caterpillar, we also need to eat in order to be transformed. In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall by no means hunger, and he who believes into Me shall by no means ever thirst.” The Lord wants us to take Him as our spiritual food every day. This is the way for us to grow and be transformed.

As we eat and drink of the Lord Jesus, we’re supplied to grow in His divine life. This growth is the process described in 2 Corinthians 3:18 of being transformed little by little, from one degree of glory to another, into the image of Christ. In the New Testament Recovery Version, note 8 in this verse on “same image” tells us:

“To be transformed into the same image is to be conformed to the resurrected and glorified Christ, to be made the same as He is (Rom. 8:29).”

By taking Christ in as our food, we receive and assimilate more of His element into us. Thus, we experience a transformation that’s not merely outward, but one that results from being spiritually nourished, and from God’s life operating in us.

What transformation is not

Transformation is not a change brought about by simply doing good or improving behavior. For example, an undernourished woman who looks sickly and pale may try to improve her appearance by applying makeup. Although she might appear healthier, it’s only cosmetic—something outward.

If this woman were instead to eat healthy, nourishing food, a noticeable, lasting change would occur. Her complexion would improve, and her body would be strengthened. Eventually, her healthy appearance would be the result not of something she did outwardly, but a change from within as a result of an organic, metabolic process.

Attempting to behave like Christ is like applying makeup: our inward condition remains the same, but we try to cover it up by doing good deeds or improving our conduct. As a result, what people see is not Christ Himself lived out of us and expressed in our lives, but spiritually undernourished people striving to imitate Him.

Genuine transformation is different. An inward change occurs in our being as we take Christ in as our spiritual food and drink. As we eat, we allow the divine life within us to operate, and our “appearance” gradually improves until we spontaneously begin to express Christ more in our daily lives.

How we cooperate to be transformed

We can’t transform ourselves by simply making up our minds to do so. But as Romans 12:2 tells us, we can “be transformed;” that is, we can cooperate with the Lord to allow this process of transformation to take place in us.

To cooperate with this metabolic process of transformation, we need to take Christ in as our food and our drink. Here are some ways we can do this:

  • By calling on His name throughout the day, saying, “Oh, Lord Jesus,” or “Lord Jesus, I love You.”
  • By singing with our spirit to the Lord
  • By praying over what we read in the Bible. (You can order a free copy of a study New Testament here.)
  • By giving thanks to God.
  • By praising God.
  • By preaching the gospel or speaking about Christ to others.

These are some of the ways we can eat Christ as the living bread and to drink Him as the living water. As we do this regularly, we’re strengthened spiritually and are spontaneously transformed more and more into the image of Christ.


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