Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind, a change not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. It is the same with making a new heart and a new spirit-new dispositions and inclinations, new sympathies and antipathies; the understanding enlightened, the conscience softened, the thoughts rectified; the will bowed to the will of God, and the affections made spiritual and heavenly: so that the man is not what he was-old things are passed away, all things are become new; he acts from new principles, by new rules, with new designs. The mind is the acting ruling part of us; so that the renewing of the mind is the renewing of the whole man, for out of it are the issues of life, Prov. 4:23.
The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on of this renewing work, till it be perfected in glory. This is called the transforming of us; it is like putting on a new shape and figure. Metamorphousthe —Be you metamorphosed. The transfiguration of Christ is expressed by this word (Mt. 17:2 ), when he put on a heavenly glory, which made his face to shine like the sun; and the same word is used 2 Co. 3:18 , where we are said to be changed into the same image from glory to glory. This transformation is here pressed as a duty; not that we can work such a change ourselves: we could as soon make a new world as make a new heart by any power of our own; it is God’s work, Eze. 11:19 Eze. 36:26, Eze. 36:27 . But be you transformed, that is, "use the means which God hath appointed and ordained for it.’’ It is God that turns us, and then we are turned; but we must frame our doings to turn, Hos. 5:4 . "Lay your souls under the changing transforming influences of the blessed Spirit; seek unto God for grace in the use of all the means of grace.’’ Though the new man be created of God, yet we must put it on (Eph. 4:24 ), and be pressing forward towards perfection.
Now in this verse we may further observe,
1. What is the great enemy to this renewing, which we must avoid; and that is, conformity to this world: Be not conformed to this world. All the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus must be nonconformists to this world. Me syschematizesthe —Do not fashion yourselves according to the world. We must not conform to the things of the world; they are mutable, and the fashion of them is passing away. Do not conform either to the lusts of the flesh or the lusts of the eye. We must not conform to the men of the world, of that world which lies in wickedness, not walk according to the course of this world (Eph. 2:2 ); that is, we must not follow a multitude to do evil, Ex. 23:2 . If sinners entice us, we must not consent to them, but in our places witness against them. Nay, even in things indifferent, and which are not in themselves sinful, we must so far not conform to the custom and way of the world as not to act by the world’s dictates as our chief rule, nor to aim at the world’s favours as our highest end. True Christianity consists much in a sober singularity. Yet we must take heed of the extreme of affected rudeness and moroseness, which some run into. In civil things, the light of nature and the custom of nations are intended for our guidance; and the rule of the gospel in those cases is a rule of direction, not a rule of contrariety.
2. What is the great effect of this renewing, which we must labour after: That you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. By the will of God here we are to understand his revealed will concerning our duty, what the Lord our God requires of us. This is the will of God in general, even our sanctification, that will which we pray may be done by us as it is done by the angels; especially his will as it is revealed in the New Testament, where he hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son.
First, The will of God is good, and acceptable, and perfect; three excellent properties of a law. It is good (Mic. 6:8 ); it is exactly consonant to the eternal reason of good and evil. It is good in itself. It is good for us. Some think the evangelical law is here called good, in distinction from the ceremonial law, which consisted of statutes that were not good, Eze. 20:25 . It is acceptable, it is pleasing to God; that and that only is so which is prescribed by him. The only way to attain his favour as the end is to conform to his will as the rule. It is perfect, to which nothing can be added. The revealed will of God is a sufficient rule of faith and practice, containing all things which tend to the perfection of the man of God, to furnish us thoroughly to every good work, 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Tim. 3:17.
Secondly, That it concerns Christians to prove what is that will of God which is good, and acceptable, and perfect; that is, to know it with judgment and approbation, to know it experimentally, to know the excellency of the will of God by the experience of a conformity to it. It is to approve things that are excellent (Phil. 1:10 ); it is dokimazein (the same word that is used here) to try things that differ, in doubtful cases readily to apprehend what the will of God is and to close in with it. It is to be of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, Isa. 11:3 .
Thirdly, That those are best able to prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, who are transformed by the renewing of their mind. A living principle of grace is in the soul, as far as it prevails, an unbiased unprejudiced judgment concerning the things of God. It disposes the soul to receive and entertain the revelations of the divine will. The promise is (Jn. 7:17 ), If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine. A good wit can dispute and distinguish about the will of God; while an honest, humble heart, that has spiritual senses exercised, and is delivered into the mould of the word, loves it, and practises it, and has the relish and savour of it. Thus to be godly is to surrender ourselves to God.
When this is done, to serve him in all manner of gospel obedience. Some hints of this we have here (v. 11, v. 12), Serving the Lord. Wherefore do we present ourselves to him, but that we may serve him? Acts. 27:23 , Whose I am; and then it follows, whom I serve. To be religious is to serve God. How?
(1.) We must make a business of it, and not be slothful in that business. Not slothful in business. There is the business of the world, that of our particular calling, in which we must not be slothful, 1 Th. 4:11 . But this seems to be meant of the business of serving the Lord, our Father’s business, Lu. 2:49 . Those that would approve themselves Christians indeed must make religion their business-must choose it, and learn it, and give themselves to it; they must love it, and employ themselves in it, and abide by it, as their great and main business. And, having made it our business, we must not be slothful in it: not desire our own ease, and consult that, when it comes in competition with our duty. We must not drive on slowly in religion. Slothful servants will be reckoned with us wicked servants.
(2.) We must be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. God must be served with the spirit ch. 1:9 ; Jn. 4:24 ), under the influences of the Holy Spirit. Whatever we do in religion it is pleasing to God no further than it is done with our spirits wrought upon by the Spirit of God. And there must be fervency in the spirit-a holy zeal, and warmth, and ardency of affection in all we do, as those that love God not only with the heart and soul, but with all our hearts, and with all our souls. This is the holy fire that kindles the sacrifice, and carries it up to heaven, an offering of a sweet-smelling savour.—Serving the Lord. To kairo douleuontes (so some copies read it), serving the time, that is, improving your opportunities and making the best of them, complying with the present seasons of grace.
(3.) Rejoicing in hope. God is worshipped and honoured by our hope and trust in him, especially when we rejoice in that hope, take a complacency in that confidence, which argues a great assurance of the reality and a great esteem of the excellency of the good hoped for.
(4.) Patient in tribulation. Thus also God is served, not only by working for him when he calls us to work, but by sitting still quietly when he calls us to suffer. Patience for God’s sake, and with an eye to his will and glory, is true piety. Observe, those that rejoice in hope are likely to be patient in tribulation. It is a believing prospect of the joy set before us that bears up the spirit under all outward pressure.
(5.) Continuing instant in prayer. Prayer is a friend to hope and patience, and we do in it serve the Lord. Proskarterountes. It signifies both fervency and perseverance in prayer. We should not be cold in the duty, nor soon weary of it, Lu. 18:1 ; 1 Th. 5:17 ; Eph. 6:18 ; Col. 4:2 . This is our duty which immediately respects God.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6362