C.S. Lewis on Christ-Likeness


Excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection’. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.

What is unique about “the life of Christ”? As God’s eternal Word, the very Word he expressed to create the universe, the life he shares with us is eternal.

But you might say, “It can’t be truly eternal because we had a beginning, so it’s only eternal from this time on.” That would be true if we were considering created life, however, the Christ-life we receive by grace through faith is not created, but “eternally begotten of the Father,” because Christ is eternally begotten of the Father. And yes, it’s a mind-bending, Scriptural concept, courtesy of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in AD325. But, just because it was a Roman Catholic council doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not Scriptural; they got a lot of things right.

The difference between “beget” and “make” eluded me until I read Lewis’ explanation:

To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue.

Each of us is a product of God’s creation, but when we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ’s person and work, he begets in us his Holy Spirit, making us a new creation, a hybrid, if you will, of the Creator and the created. It’s a subtle rebirth, though, without sci-fi-esque flashes of light, or even a skipped heartbeat. And as with all births, it’s just the beginning of our becoming Christ-like.

Even though God’s Holy Spirit lives within each believer, our becoming isn’t completely miraculous; he gives us the power to change who and what we are, but the doing is all ours. If we slough off, expecting him to do all the work, our becoming will stall. When we quit doing what’s necessary to live in the material world, we die. The same goes with our spiritual development; we “take a licking, but keep on ticking,” physically, that is. I like the analogy of a zombie: a fictitious, walking dead person. When once we sin, our spirit becomes dormant and our baser nature takes over, unless or until we are made alive in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Praise God for his infinite grace, by which he awaits our transformation into his Son’s image. When we blow it—note: that’s not if, but whenif we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). That’s a promise you can take to the eternal bank.

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