The Imitation of Christ
“Be imitators of God, as beloved children.”- Ephesians 5:1
God the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten person of the Trinity,” partly because there tends to be less said about His person and work in the creeds and confessions of the church than is said about the Father and the Son. This, in turn, may be due to the tendency of the Spirit to “stand in the background,” to point away from Himself to the person and work of God the Son (John 15:26). Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit’s work is vital to our salvation, particularly in regeneration — the exchange of our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh — and sanctification — our conformity to the image of Christ. For the next week, we will concentrate on the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives with the help of Developing Christian Character, a teaching series by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
Scripture reveals that we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27) and therefore originally endowed with the ability to reflect our Creator’s character and glory. Unfortunately, when we fell in Adam, we rejected the noble calling to image the Almighty to all creation, bringing upon ourselves the curse of sin and death (chap. 3). We did not lose God’s image entirely (9:6), but we retained a marred image that is incapable of reflecting His perfect righteousness. The civic good and beauty that even the worst human beings produce show us that the image of God has not been destroyed completely, but even the best deeds of fallen creatures cannot measure up to the Lord’s standards. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” and “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” before God (Isa. 53:6; 64:6).
We are not without hope, however. Men and women who trust in Christ receive the power of the Spirit to live in holiness and in thanksgiving for their redemption (Acts 1:8). Still, even Christians must war against sin in their lives because we are prone to break God’s law until our glorification (1 John 1:8–9). Besides the power to live righteously, the Holy Spirit has given us a pattern in God’s Word to show us what righteousness means. This pattern is none other than God the Father Himself (Eph. 5:1), particularly as we see Him revealed in God the Son (John 14:9). The Holy Spirit works in the heart of every believer to make us holy, and the kind of fruit He produces is exemplified most clearly in Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:22–23).
The Apostle Paul’s teaching on our sanctification is ultimately a call to the imitation of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Therefore, we should pay close attention to the words and actions of Jesus if we want to understand what a life of true holiness looks like. Insofar we are as able, we are to pattern ourselves after the image Jesus has given us in loving repentant sinners, serving other people, confronting unrighteousness, and so on.
Passages for Further Study