Transformation- Romans 12:2

In Romans 12:2, Paul tells us to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In this post, we will examine just what kind of transformation Paul is referring to, as well as how that transformation takes place. He begins by commanding us (imperative mood here) not to “conform any longer to the pattern of this world”. The word translated as “conform to the pattern of” is the Greek syschematizo, from which we get the English word schematic, also here in the passive voice. The passive voice means that the action is done to the subject, that as we grew up in the world, we were conformed by others to the world’s pattern, molded and shaped into the world’s ways, or “conformed” to it. Just what “pattern” of the world is Paul referring to? We find the answer to this in his use of the word mind in the second part of the above quotation. The Greek word “mind” here is nous, which is the noun form of the verb noeo, which means “to perceive or understand”. According to Paul, we were molded and shaped into the world’s way of thinking, into a way of perceiving and understanding reality apart from God and in opposition to Him. Paul is commanding us here not to think that way any longer, which means we have the ability to do so, for he wouldn’t command us to do something which we are unable to do. Paul here commands not only in reference to what we are not to do, but also commands us regarding what we are to do. And what we are to do is “be transformed by the renewing of our mind”, by changing our way of perceiving and understanding reality. The word “transformed” here is metamorphoo, also here a present passive imperative (just like conform), from which we get the English word metamorphosis. Metamorphoo is defined as “a change of the essential character and nature of a thing, which is shown through its external appearance”, it is an inner transformation which produces an outward, visible result, and the transformation here is in our minds, in our way of perceiving and understanding reality. This is also in the passive voice, which means the transformation is done to us by another, and it is also a process, a process of having our minds “renewed”. The word renew here is anakainos, and refers to putting to use that which has not been used before, and you can only “renew” that which already exists. Here we see the use of anakainos and metamorphoo together, and in their combined usage Paul is telling us something rather specific here. We find here that we both “have been” transformed and “are being” transformed, and that this transformation is in our “minds”. As believers, we have been given the “mind of Christ” (1Corinthians 2:16), our way of seeing and perceiving reality has been changed at the moment of salvation. In terms of the use of metamorphoo here, we have undergone “a change of our essential character and nature”, and this internal change will produce outward and visible results . We “have been” transformed in our nature and we “are being” transformed in our behavior, transformation is both a one time thing and a process, and the process is accomplished by the renewing of our minds, by the putting to use of the mind of Christ which already exists within us. And what is our part in all of this, how do we facilitate this transformation? In the same way we were conformed to the pattern of this world. Others conformed us to the pattern of this world as we exposed ourselves to their way of thinking, to their hollow and deceptive philosophy (Colossians 2:8), which saturated our minds and conformed us to it. We must now let another (the Holy Spirit) conform us to the pattern of Christ, and we do so by exposing ourselves to the Word of God (through personal study, the preaching and teaching of others, etc.), allowing it to saturate our minds and conform them to the pattern of Christ. This is how our minds are to be renewed, and how we will be “transformed”, how the reality of the inward change in character and nature which is ours in Christ will produce outward and visible results. We will perceive and understand all of reality differently, and that change in perception and understanding will produce a change in the way we speak and the way we act, we will be “conformed into His likeness from glory to glory, which comes from the Lord” (2Corinthians 3:18).

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