I just noticed that the last 6 blog posts (including this one) all had words ending with “-tion”. Guess I am on a “-tion” direction, predilection, or inclination.

Some of the comments on the 1st Reformation post got me thinking about this question: what is the different between “reformation” and “transformation”? Clearly the prefix of the root word holds the key: “re-” means “again” so “reform” means “form again” and “trans-” has several meanings, including “across” or to “change thoroughly”, so “transform” means to “change its form thoroughly”.

While God is about reforming, I believe that God’s work is primarily about “transforming.” He didn’t just “reform” the dust of the earth to create man, he breathed into and transformed it into a living being. His work in salvation is not to clean us up and “reform” us into better people, he gives us a new heart and a new nature. Ezekiel 36:26 says “26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” God doesn’t just change the old heart, he gives us a new one. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Romans 12:1 is a great passage about presenting ourselves as living sacrifices which is our spiritual worship. However, we often stop there. Verse two continues: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We are not to be “con-formed” or “formed with” the world, but instead “change our form entirely” by the renewing of our minds.

So we can work on “reforming” ourselves, but are we really open to God doing transformation on our hearts? Are be being “formed with” the world, or are our minds “changing thoroughly”? Are we open to God’s spirit changing us? 2 Cor. 3:18 says “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.”

Rev. Alan Redpath said this: “He will transform you into His likeness. You do the beholding–He does the transforming.”

6 comments to Transformation

  • Madison K Ensign

    The word reformation makes me think of ancient Israel, and the pattern of falling away and repenting that they were known for in the Old Testament. Though they would return to the Lord, their repentance was short lived. I’m reminded of Psalm 78:34-35 which says,”When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly.They remembered that God was their rock,the Most High God their redeemer”. After this passage, it is noted that the people still were not “steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant” (vs. 37). They were not changed so thoroughly by God that it stuck.

    Without the Holy Spirit, people can’t be transformed into the likeness of God. Without His help, we are trapped in patterns of sinful living. We were held captive by sinful lusts and desires, and only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are we able to become like him.

    We are not the people of old because we are living under the beauty of the new covenant. We can be transformed into the likeness of Christ and receive new life in Him. 2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” As Christians, we must take hold of the gift God has purchased for us. If we don’t walk in the spirit, habits of backsliding and repenting will be our best bet. Now that we can be transformed, why settle for reformation?

  • Karina Brady

    I agree that we can reform ourselves, and that only God can transform people. God is and always has been in the business of transforming lives. It amazes me to read through scripture and see just how many people He has made “new creations”. He transformed the lives of Saul, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, and the many people He spoke to and did miracles among as He traveled, to name a few. He can change even the most hateful or stubborn people.

    These accounts encourage me to know that God does not want to leave me as I am. He wants to make me more holy, more blameless, more like Jesus every moment. He does this transforming work, but I have to be willing.

    It almost confuses me to think that He created us just so we could be “re-created”. But a physical birth does not guarantee a spiritual birth into God’s kingdom. We need this spiritual “re-creation” for that to happen. Transformation is what sets God’s people apart from the world.

  • Jules Schieferstein

    Thank you, Dr. O, for putting a word on what has been capturing my thoughts for the past several weeks. Two passages from Scripture about the transformation we have in Christ have been weighing on my thoughts for some time now. One is Romans 6:8-14 (where Paul writes of us being dead to sin, alive in Christ), and the other is Ephesians 2:1-10 (where Paul deals with a similar idea as Romans 6). As I progress through my own walk, and the Spirit makes me increasingly aware of my own failures and struggles, these passages have been encouraging to me as they remind of the power that my sin no longer has over me, and of the One who has rescued me from it.
    The idea that we were absolutely dead in our trespasses, lifeless, unable to help ourselves, has struck a chord with me in particular, but of course Paul shares the great contrast in these passages of the fact that the same life that Christ now has, we have as well. We have new, utterly transformed, life through Christ, and that sin that we wrestle with is now dead, powerless against the one who has given us a new heart, as Ezekiel spoke of. This transformation is of course, the Gospel, and it only grows sweeter to me the more I ponder on it, and the more that God reveals the depths of my own depravity, as it only shows the depths of His own grace and love through it.

  • Mitchell McIntyre

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the transforming work of God lately so this post was a good read for me. One of the things that strikes me so much is Colossians 2:13-14 which says “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This is an incredible work of transformation!!! First of all the fact that God can make what was physically dead alive is stunning but the deeper transformation of spiritually death to life is truly a breathtaking thing. Its not about reforming what we have (because what we have is dead) its about receiving transformation that we could never mimic on our own.

  • Michael Redmond

    Maddie I love your connection of Israel to the old covenant and their constant reformation and then our connection to the new covenant and our transformation. As Doctor O pointed out in 2 Corinthians 5:17, we have become new creations pointing to our transformation in Christ. We do not just simply change our behaviors and habits, but be completely transformed by the Holy Spirit we received through Christs sacrifice. We are new people, and we should act like it.

  • Micah Freire

    I think that you are completely correct when you say that the Holy Spirit’s work is a transformational work and not a reformational one. David prayed that the Lord would “create in [him] a clean heart…”, and I think this captures well the work of God in our hearts. I do believe, however, that reformation cannot be done solely by the individual, but must also include a supernatural work of God. The process of sanctification is something that we work towards while God accomplishes. He enables us to be “reformed” in mind and spirit. This is not to say that any human effort does not factor into the work of sanctification, but rather that it is still God’s power through us that is the agent at work in that process. I personally avoid the term “self-reforming” because it carries a connotation that suggests that God does the initial saving, but after that, it is up to the individual. I love how you quoted 2 Chorinthians 3:18! It is a beautiful reminder of the fact that our faces are now “unveiled”; we are given the opportunity to behold God’s glory, and properly worship Him, now that we can see clearly. All this comes from the spirit, and we can do nothing but be grateful for it!