Last time, we ended with a text that talked about the process of human metamorphosis.
"And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed [metamorphosis] into his glorious image" (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT).
This led us to the next question: "What can you do to cooperate with the Spirit's work of your transformation?"
For various reasons, some may think that there is no need to cooperate with the Spirit in the process of being changed into the image of Christ. There's nothing they have to do.
Here’s a helpful, quick, and painless lesson in some Greek grammar in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
The action word (i.e., the verb) “we are changed” is in the Greek middle voice. If it was the active voice, you need to change yourself. If it was the passive voice, you don’t need to do anything.
The middle voice means that we are to participate, or cooperate, in the action of being changed.
Paul Barnett writes about this text in his commentary of 2 Corinthians:
“Paul makes it clear that we must understand our transformation to be the will of God for us and that we should actively cooperate with him in bringing to reality the eternal destiny for which we were predestined.”
The degree to which we “actively cooperate” with the Spirit manifests itself in how much we become like Jesus Christ in our lives.
The natural question is, “How do you cooperate with the Spirit?”
In partial answer, my premise is that Paul provided the followers of Jesus in Corinth with substantial direction in his references to the Holy Spirit in the two letters to those Christians: 1st and 2nd Corinthians.
As we read these two letters, the words “spirit” and “spiritual” occur more than 70 times.
Sometimes “spirit” refers to the human spirit – that element of our humanity that is merged with our physical bodies.
At other times “spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit, who is also called the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ. It is to these references we will particular attention.
It is also important to recognize how the Bible uses the word “spiritual.”
“Spiritual” is not some vague and plastic word that can be shaped to mean anything we want. In Listening to the Spirit in the Text, Gordon Fee rightly states that:
“… spirituality is defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God (or Christ). One is spiritual to the degree that one lives in and walks by the Spirit; in Scripture the word has no other meaning, and no other measure.”
Let’s look at some parts of the Corinthian letters where there are clusters of references to the Holy Spirit.
The first of these clusters of “Spirit” texts is 1 Corinthians 2. Take a few moments to read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.
Here are four ways in which the Spirit engages with the mind and thoughts of followers of Jesus:
1. The Spirit reveals God to us (2:6-10), in contrast to the “wisdom of the age” which is unable to reveal God.
In verse 9, Isaiah 64:4 is quoted. In that context, the ancient prophet declares that there is nothing in the world that compares to the one true God. How can we know God beyond the limits of creation?
Paul is telling us that now, the Spirit reveals God to us in unprecedented ways.
Cooperating with the Spirit means that growing insights of God’s person are available to you. Not actively cooperating will mean those insights of God are not so available.
2. The Spirit lets us in on what God is thinking (2:11-12).
A person’s thoughts are unknowable unless they are made known by words or actions. Paul puts it this way: “who … knows the thoughts of a [person] except the [person’s] spirit within him [or, her]?”
“In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
For the person in Christ, the Spirit of God has come to indwell. So, the indwelling Spirit of God communicates the thoughts of God.
As you cooperate with the Spirit, you gain a growing understanding of what God's thoughts are.
3. The Spirit provides us with discernment (2:13-14).
As you cooperate with the Spirit, you are enabled to interpret and express Spirit-truths in Spirit-words. In this way, the Spirit empowers you to understand beyond “human wisdom.”
Failure to cooperate with the Spirit results in a person missing out on divine discernment, and possibly considering it "foolishness."
4. The Spirit equips us to make right decisions (2:15-16).
By cooperating with the Spirit, you align yourself with God’s person and thoughts. In turn, the Spirit leads you in making “judgments about all things” – and that means making right choices for life.
This text is inviting you to cooperate with the Spirit in the realm of your mind and thinking.
What are some practices that enable you to do this? Let us know by clicking here.
This is one aspect of cooperating with the Spirit in the process of your metamorphosis toward becoming more like Jesus.
Photo credit: Photograph of A. Rodin's "The Thinker." Source unknown. If you know the source, please write and let me know.
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