Answer: The church is to be developed into the character likeness of her Lord Jesus. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29 NASB) God pre-determined that He would create this group to be associated with Christ and set the requirements for membership in the group to becoming a copy of Christ.
To be developed the Christ’s likeness, the church must follow in Jesus footsteps. Jesus wrote, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:24 NASB) To be Jesus’ disciple, we must deny ourselves or give up our earthly lives in sacrifice just as Jesus did at Jordan. The apostle Paul describes this in Rom. 12:1 (NASB): “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
This sacrifice means we give up hope for an earthly resurrection in Christ’s earthly kingdom as well as all our earthly hopes and ambitions and instead, strive for a heavenly or spiritual reward. This is consistent with Jesus words in Matt 16:25 (NASB): “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
In additional to the sacrifice of our earthly life in the doing of God’s will, the second step is putting on the character of Christ. The apostle Paul describes this in Rom. 12:2 (NASB): “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” This character transformation begins when God accepts our consecration and begets us with HIs holy spirit, similar to what happened when He poured His spirit upon Christ at Jordan. This begettal begins in us a new, spiritual mind which Paul calls a “New Creature.” (2 Cor. 5:17 NASB) We have “this treasure [New Creature] in earthly vessels [our fallen human bodies] so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Cor. 4:7 NASB) God’s holy spirit working with this new mind is what brings about for our growth into the likeness of Jesus.
However, we have a role to play in our growth into the likeness of Christ. We must “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16 NASB) The word of Christ teaches us how to become like our Lord. We must as the apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NASB), “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (6 ) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We must develop the various qualities of Christ’s character – faith, virtue or moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, cheerful endure, godliness or reverence, brotherly love and divine or agape love. We must “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5 NASB)
As the church sacrifices their earthly lives and are developed spiritually into a copy of Christ, they are tested and proven regarding their faithfulness to God and their consecration. The apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” Jesus was tested in the same way regarding his faithfulness to God during his first advent. (Heb. 5:8-10) If we prove faithful unto death as Jesus did, we will share in Christ’s spiritual reward. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:17 NASB)
For more information, please see the booklets and videos listed below.
Bringing Life and Immortality to Light
Buried With Him in Baptism
Born of the Spirit
Elect According to the Foreknowledge of God
Can a Man Be Justified with God?
The Grace of Jehovah
The Sarah Feature of the Abrahamic Covenant
Doctrine of Character Development