To Be Like Him
Romans 8: 29: "For God knew His own before ever they were, and also ordained
that they should be shaped to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the eldest
among a large family." (New English Version)
"For" -- this verse and the following emphatically confirms the truth of verse 28.
The word, "foreknow," occurs five times in the New Testament,
and here in this verse and in 11: 2, and in 1 Peter 1: 20.
It denotes the foreknowledge which existed in God "before the foundation of the world".
Foreknowledge is the first of four major ideas in verse 29, and means that God loved man
before man loved God. (cf. 1 John 4: 19)
As a father knows and loves his child before his child comes to know and love him,
so God deals with His children.
The Lord knows His own.
He knows the prisoner to be freed.
He knows the sinner to become righteous.
He knows the doomed to be blessed.
And He knows the dead who will come alive in Christ.
The word, "foreknow", means to know in advance.
The addition of the prefix, "fore," does not change the meaning "to know,"
it only dates it.
The kind of knowing referred to in the clause, "whom He foreknew," need not be in doubt
in view of passages such as the following:
"The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous." (Psalm 1: 6);
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth." (Amos 3: 2);
"I know my sheep, and am known of mine." (John 10: 14);
"The Lord knoweth them that are his." (2 Timothy 2: 19).
This knowing is defined and occurred in eternity.
All of time was spread out before the omniscient mind of God, and throughout its extent
God knew everyone who would be His own in advance.
For in eternity, before all-time and all that occurs in time was finished and complete, God knew.
God's foreknowledge cannot be restricted to any point in time.
It covers all time in one act.
And, as for those whom He thus knew and chose in Christ, it is further said of them that
"He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son."
Being conformed to the image of His Son blends two words that have kindred meanings.
1. The word, "conformed," means, "to bring to the same form with," some other or thing.
Here it is used of the believer who is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
It is not as a penny bears the subscription of a king or a president.
There is something more required of us than having in some dark corner the name of Jesus
tattooed into the skin of our profession.
And it is not a cold morality that is conformity to the image of Christ.
A statue may present the very image of a statesman or a president, but that statue is blind,
motionless, and has no life.
We are not to be mere dead pictures of Christ.
We are to be like Him because He lives within us.
Nor is it enough to act publicly as Christ would have acted.
Some are always asking, "Would Christ have done this?," or "that"?
And then, they answer according to their own imaginations or desires.
They see some Christian who is not bound by the "touch not, taste not, handle not,"
of the old Mosaic spirit, and they cry out about him, "Would Christ have done such a thing?"
If he laughs too much, tells jokes, etc., "Ah," they say, "did Christ ever act that way? "
So, they think that by putting on a mask, they shall become the very image of Jesus.
We might put on a garment without a seam, and we might put sandals on our feet,
and we might ride through the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus did, but this imitation of Jesus
is not to be in mere externals.
We are to be conformed to the very image of Christ!
We are to be conformed to Christ in holiness and sanctification.
Every true child of God is predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ,
that is, to be holy as He is holy.
Our affection and disposition are to be influenced by the same Spirit.
"Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8: 9; Philippians 2: 5)
We are to be like Christ in humility. "Though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor."
We are to be like Christ in diligence. He said, "I must be about my Father's business."
We are to be like Christ in love. "... to love the Lord thy God with..."
We are to be conformed to Christ in suffering.
If we're ever conformed to Christ, we must bear His cross.
When the sufferings of this present time come to the Christian, it is not only because
evil powers of destruction attack him.
He is not given up to the ploy of hostile powers, but what happens to him is only
what God for ordained for him.
Christ was also at one time placed under these powers of destruction, but now, ever since
the time of His resurrection, He has entered into glory.
In both of these respects we are predestinated to be conformed to His likeness,
united with Him in the same death and in the same resurrection. (Romans 6: 5)
We are so apt to see in the sufferings of the present only an obstacle to God's will
and purpose, thinking that God's purpose can apply only to the glory.
But Christ's path went through suffering to glory.
Therefore, God has also predestinated those who are "in Christ" to do the same way.
God has predestinated us to "suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him."
(Romans 8: 17)
We are to be conformed to Him in glory.
If we be cross bearers, we shall be crowned wearers.
At present we are conformed to His death. (Philippians 3: 10)
And we shall be conformed to the body of His glory. (Philippians 3: 21)
When God's purpose is finally realized, we shall share Christ's glorious body in God's likeness.
This conformity will be perfectly realized as stated in 1 John 3: 2:
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:
we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
2. Now, let us look at the second word, "image".
Image is a word that has eschatology implications.
"Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image
of the man of heaven." (1 Corrinthians 15:49)
Conformed to the image of His Son defines the destination to which the elect in Christ are appointed.
Paul has in view the conformity to Christ that will be completely realized when we will be glorified
with Christ. (Verse 17)
The final and complete conformity will be in resurrection glory.
(1 Corinthians 15: 49; 2 Corinthians 3: 18; Philippians 3: 21; 1 John 3: 2)
The word, "image," means, "a derived likeness".
Near to the meaning here is that the child is the image of his parents.
The image of Jesus in the Christian is not accidental but derived, as the likeness of the child
is derived from its parents.
Through the new birth we become children of God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2: 13),
and so we inherit His image.
Jesus is the Son of God, and now we are sons and heirs who are able to say with Him,
In Ephesians 1: 4 will read that God "has chosen us in Him that we should be holy
and without blame before him," and that "before the foundation of the world, according to
the good pleasure of his will, that in him we might be predestinated unto the adoption of children
by Jesus Christ to himself."
So, we are heirs of eternal glory.
Think of it -- our destination -- has seen in the Book of Revelation.
We see the choir of angels and all creation restored to its true purpose.
And in Revelation 7, we see such a multitude "which no man can number composed of
all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, and they stand before the throne of God
and of the Lamb and are adorn with white rainment and carries psalms of joy."
(Revelation 7: 9)
"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them,
nor any heat.
For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them
into living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
(Revelation 7: 16f)
And in Revelation 5: 9 we read that they sing "a new song" about Him "who is worthy
to open the book of judgment because He was slain and has redeemed men for God..."
And they used their voices so that the Word may be heard in the wholly renewed world of God.
And we read that "these are they which follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth."
(Revelation 14: 4)
So, if this is the destiny to which we are to be conformed, and if this is to be our service
and our future, then our present service must be singing the "new song" of Christ
who is living in our hearts.
We are to be witnesses of verses 28-29, and we are bearers of that mighty voice from heaven .
We are witnesses of the fact that in Christ we are so united to Him that He becomes
the inner motive power and dominant passion of our lives. (Galatians 2: 20)
This was so true to Paul that he could say, "To me to live is Christ." (Philippians 1: 21)
We are being conformed to the image of His Son.
He is altogether lovely!
I Shall Be like Him
"When I shall reach the more excellent glory,
And all my trials are passed,
I shall be like Him, O wonderful story!
I shall be like Him at Last.
We shall not wait till the glorious dawning
Breaks on the vision so fair,
Now we may welcome the heavenly morning,
Now we His image may bear.
More and more like Him,
Repeat the blest story, over and over again,
Changed by His Spirit from glory to glory.
At last I shall be completely like Him.
I shall be like Him,
I shall be like Him,
And in His beauty shall shine,
I shall be like Him,
Wondrously like Him,
Jesus, my Saviour divine."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White