CHANGED INTO HIS IMAGE
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This article is about the brothers of Christ. I trust the reader will understand that I am not in any manner detracting from the supreme Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom God created all things, and to whom God has given all authority in Heaven and upon the earth. Having established the supremacy of Jesus Christ, you (like me) might enjoy noting the references in the Scripture to the “brothers” of Christ. This does not mean the brothers are exalted to the same level as the Lord Jesus, but it does indicate that Jesus desires to have brothers with whom to share His inheritance. Also, I would not be surprised if God the Father desires to increase his family.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
The above is a most remarkable verse. We note the foreknowledge of God, and it is directed toward specific people (“those”).
We are faced with the troublesome idea of “predestination.” God does predestinate. It is His right to do so. God is not bound with democratic principles or what we may believe is “fair.” He is the Potter and He shapes the clay as He wills. However, the entire Bible tells us that after God chooses us, it is only as we in turn choose God that God’s plan for us becomes effective.
“Conformed to the likeness of His Son” opens up some interesting areas of thought. Conformed to what extent? Totally? No doubt, yes, in that we are speaking of the handiwork of God Almighty. Conformed to the inward nature, the character of Christ? Beyond all doubt. The Bride of the Lamb is to be perfect. Conformed to the outward likeness? Some may stumble at this, considering the majesty of Christ. But I don’t. Abraham did not consider his own body when faced with the promise of God. For myself, I choose to look at Who is doing the predestining and the conforming. If God said it; I believe it; and that settles it. How about you?
Consider the majesty of Christ, and then make the effort to believe God can make the brothers like this:
Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. (Ezekiel 1:26-28)
Are you staggering? Now think about the Glory of almighty God in outer space. Have you ever considered the galaxies and the distances between them? The above is the likeness of Christ. Can God conform us to the likeness of Christ? If you can accept that, you will have no trouble with this:
And among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:13-16)
I don’t believe we will look like this tomorrow. But how about a billion years from now? Do you think God could make you look like that after a billion years? Why not?
I am not writing this article to get us puffed up above all semblance of
humanity, but to reinforce the concept of “brother.” We still will
be human, just as Christ always will be human. But it will be a transcendent
humanity. We will be life-giving spirits, being able to bring eternal life
and healing to the multitudes of people who will be coming forth as the
Kingdom of Christ keeps expanding forever
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
“The firstborn among many brothers.” First there was the Word, who created all things. Then God decided to make the Word the first Son of God and the Firstborn from the dead. After the Firstborn would come a company of brothers who also would be born of flesh and blood and who also would be raised from the dead as the same manner as was true of the Firstborn.
We must be born again spiritually, and then born again physically if we are to be a brother of Christ. We are to be made like Him in all things, except that He is to be Head over all.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
What is my point in emphasizing that we are not called of God just to be saved and go to Heaven to live in a mansion? God has predestined us to be like Jesus Christ in every respect except that He has been placed above us in authority and Glory. This means that if we have “accepted Christ” and are waiting to die and go to Heaven to do nothing for eternity, we are neglecting our salvation!
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
It appears from the Book of Hebrews that these Jewish believers had been saved and filled with God’s Spirit. But they were neglecting to press into the rest of God, that is, into the place in Christ where we have ceased from our own works and have pressed into Jesus to the point that we are living by His Life. We are thinking, speaking, and acting in agreement with His will for us. We are living by every Word of God that is directed to us specifically.
For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:2,3)
The Law of Moses was given to Moses at the hand of angels, and every aspect of it was binding. Every violation was accompanied by punishment. How shall we escape if we neglect to press into the fullness of the Life in Christ? I hope you can see from this how utterly unscriptural the present lawless-grace teaching is. The current doctrine of grace teaches that when we say “I believe in Christ,” God excuses us from all attempts to obey Christ and His Apostles, and we are now on our way to Heaven. This teaching is destructive of God’s intention to create brothers of His Firstborn Son.
“Such a great salvation”! We assuredly are ignoring it today, believing it is limited to our making a profession of belief in Christ.
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. (Hebrews 2:6)
Where is the writer of Hebrews going with the above statement? What is he trying to prove? He is pointing out that we have been called, not only to be “saved,” but to govern the new world of righteousness. When we are content to be “saved,” we are not pressing forward into the plan of God to make us in the likeness of Christ so we can be rulers in the coming Kingdom of God.
Have you heard any preaching recently about our governing the new world of righteousness that is approaching? Neither have I, so we must be ignoring God’s great salvation.
But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” (Hebrews 2:6,7)
Man has been crowned with glory and honor. Some translations say, “You made him lower than the angels for a little while.” This probably is the intent of the writer. We know that angels are appointed by God to help His sons. All things have been put under the feet of man, even though we do not see that authority exercised as yet.
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. (Hebrews 2:8)
Before God can give us the authority designated for the sons of God, He must teach us many things. The first lesson is that of stern, uncompromising obedience to the Father and Christ. We cannot live according to our own plans and desires and at the same time govern the works of God’s hands. We must live in absolute dependence upon Christ just as Christ lives in absolute dependence upon the Father.
All of the creation is to be governed by Christ and His brothers. This is our appointed destiny. For this reason we are not to enter a waiting mode, living our life as usual while waiting to die and go to Heaven; or worse yet, waiting for an unscriptural “rapture” to take us to Heaven.
Every day there is a lesson to learn. Every day we must be prepared to confess the darkness that is in us and to turn away from it. Every day there is an opportunity to choose to do God’s will or to do something displeasing to Him. Every day we are to listen carefully to the Lord Jesus that we might be thinking, saying, and doing, what He wants us to think, say, and do.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
Although to man has been given rulership over all the works of God’s hands, we do not see this occurring at the present time. But we do see the Lord Jesus, as representative Man, crowned with glory and honor. He pleased the Father by suffering death on behalf of His brothers, and the rest of mankind.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
“In bringing many sons to glory.” Is this what God is doing? Is He actually bringing many sons to glory, not just His Firstborn? God made His Firstborn perfect in obedience and understanding by subjecting Him to much suffering. Thus, the author of our salvation is well able to be our King and Priest.
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Hebrews 2:11)
The Lord Jesus is fully human and fully divine. He is working with the Holy Spirit to make us fully human and fully divine. He has given to us of His divine Nature. He will not be satisfied until we are like Him in every respect, and one with each other and with God through Him.
We may shy away from the thought of being this much like our Lord. Our reticence certainly is understandable. But Christ is more pleased when we believe fully what God has said concerning us, and when we give ourselves to spiritual growth just as did the Apostle Paul, who always was pressing forward that he might know Christ to a greater extend.
He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” (Hebrews 2:12)
I believe I saw the Lord on one occasion. Audrey and I were in the audience at Fremont First Assembly, in Fremont California. Judson Cornwall had finished preaching, and we all were praising God with uplifted hands. Suddenly I saw the Lord Jesus. He was standing. I was looking at His left side. He turned toward us and lifted His hands. He kept turning with His hands upraised. Then I knew He was turning toward the Father. The Scripture came to me: “In the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:13)
I don’t know about you, but from the Scripture I seem to sense a gladness in the Lord Jesus that He is going to have brothers. Do you get that feeling? The same seems to be true in the verse below:
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
I think sometimes we may be excited about being a brother of Christ, but what about how He feels? From reading some of these verses, I have come to believe that He is more excited than we are. Do you think this could be true?
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14,15)
Think of it! Christ became a human so He might be subject to physical death, and by this means destroy the devil. Now we need not fear death. If we have confessed our sins and turned from them, death has no sting for us. We are alive with Christ at the right hand of the Father—now and for eternity.
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17,18)
It is interesting, isn’t it, that for us to be made like Christ, He first had to be made like us. He was made like us in every way so that we might be made like Him in every way. When we experience fiery temptations, it is helpful to know that Christ understands what we are going through. He also was tempted just as we are.
It truly is a colossal thought that as immature as we are, we are on our way to becoming like our elder brother and an integral part of our elder brother.
It is my impression that God’s people are being shortchanged today. Most of them seem to be hearing only that Christ died for our sins so we might be forgiven. A smaller number might hear about the life in the Spirit of God, or how our tribulations benefit us.
But how many are hearing Sunday after Sunday that we have been predestined to be conformed to the inner and outer image of Christ, that we might be His brothers? That the trials and tribulations we are experiencing are to prepare us to govern the works of God’s hands?
If we are diligently following the Lord Jesus, line upon line we are being transformed. Command upon command we are learning the ways and will of God. We are being taught each day to listen carefully to the Lord Jesus. When something in us that is not in the image of God is pointed out to us, we immediately are to confess that sinful practice and turn away from it. We are to live in an attitude of repentance and confession accompanied by exceedingly great joy.
Let us not stumble at the greatness of the promises of God, being fully persuaded that what God has said He will do to a far, far greater extent than we can imagine in the present hour.
Great things in the Kingdom are afoot in the present hour. If you and I keep pressing forward in Christ, we will come to the day when the accuser and his angels are hurled down from heaven. It won’t be long after that until our elder Brother returns and we are caught up to be with Him forever.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10).
(“Changed Into His Image”, 3578-1, proofed 20211002)