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. (Rom 8:29)
What does it mean to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ? We can immediately dismiss any notion that it has something to with physical likeness.
Before we continue our investigation let us notice that those God foreknew are predestined to be conformed to His likeness. This is a promise, something which inadvertently will come through because it is a work of the Spirit. We make it much easier for ourselves if we immediately yield to His mighty work in us, and not harden our hearts like the Israelites in the wilderness. We are of course in this context talking about faith and not self-effort.
Faith encourages, no more than that, it compels us to live from a position of rest which denotes a being characterized by spontaneity. This is the Spirit perfectly leading us in our daily lives to be ourselves, our true image of Him where we do right because it is His life which is manifested through mortal flesh.
In my dealings with people I have never met anyone who has identical behavior, thought patterns or reactions. People have equally different gifts. They have different personalities and they can differ quite a lot on particular issues. I assume that is the intention with Christ’s body where every member has different functions. Despite our differences Jesus specifically prayed that we all should be one as He and His Father are one. I thus infer that being conformed to the likeness of Him has nothing to do with that we all are to act identical.
We can of course be tempted to judge this matter in behavior terms only. In order words to be transformed into His likeness means unisonely that all Christians are to be recognized by their good deeds and good works. There is a morsel of truth in this assumption, I believe. However, I do not think this either is the answer to our question plainly because Jesus quite firmly dismissed the idea that He was good. “Only One is good”, He answered his opponents. When the devil attempted to tempt Him to do something to prove that He was God’s son He adamantly refused to be defined by what He did. His identity was based on being.
Jesus ministry was categorized by many and stunning miracles. So far I have not come across anyone with this capacity to work miracles. There have been and are persons, though, who have had and have an extraordinary anointing on this field, but none of those can claim that everyone who came to them were healed from their ailments. So, this is it not either.
Jesus’ redemptive work was the trademark of His ministry. It thus makes sense to me that when we are searching for an answer to our question this might be an important key when it comes to recognizing what it means to be conformed to His likeness in this temporal realm. There is only one Savior, only one who deliberately died on a cross to save the world. However, if we are to carry our crosses it must mean that we somehow are co-saviours operating in the Spirit to those who are granted us. This of course includes to a certain degree, as most of us have experienced, both tribulations and suffering.
Who would have known that a man hanging on a cross would alter the whole course of the Universe? That a rather insignificant incident in a tucked away place would have such immense consequences? It is almost ludicrous to consider. Well, if God could use such an odd method to save the world, it wouldn’t be surprising if He would use rather insignificant and unusual means to make us co-saviours of our universe, would it? He is God, He can use anything to His glory. Perhaps we have some rather unrealistic and erroneous ideas on how we are to impact our surroundings?
Jesus was the firstborn of many sons. Sons denotes plurality and diversity. I attended a concert the other day, where the main attraction in one of his songs sang a duet with a female vocalist. Their voices were in perfect harmony and they perfectly complemented each other. However, the audience didn’t have any problems distinguishing the two voices. Together they spellbound the audience. Separately those two had great voices, but put together they reached levels of beauty they couldn’t have attained on their own. If he had sung duets with others the effect would have been the same, but with a different ring. In addition his voice was so strong that he would have lifted anybody to new levels of harmony and euphony. The universe is reverberating with duets of different rings where one of the singers always is the same.
He is eternal life, love, power and all the other wonderful things we associate with Him. When John in his first epistle asserts that as He is so are we in this world that plainly denotes that we also are those things which He is. This absolutely implies being conformed into His likeness. John also tells us that “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God.” The word “with” denotes in Greek a position which best can be described as being “face to face.” Into His likeness thus means that we are face to face with God. We are hence talking about the restoration of the intimacy of the Garden.
Kokichi Kurosaki puts it like this: “God created man in His likeness, a spiritual being capable of responding to His love and having koinonia with Him.”