2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
I. Paul's "Appeal".
A. This summons is a "parakalesis" as distinct from a "command".
B. This summons is addressed to "brethren", effectively taking it out of the range of the message of "justification by faith".
C. This summons is rooted in a legitimate perception of what Paul calls "the mercies of God".
D. This summons is "to" a sacrifice characterized by three major qualities.
E. This summons includes a very specific follow-through.
1. The follow-through involves a rejection of what Paul's translators call "this world" and what Peter calls "the former lusts" (1 Peter 1:14).
a. Paul's word, translated "conformed" is only used by him in this text and Peter is the only other writer in the New Testament to use it (and he only used it in 1 Peter 1:14).
1) Paul's use appears to be more "umbrella generic" (broader, less specific) because he does not specify any particular meaning for "conformity to this age".
2) Peter's use appears to be much more specific: he refers to "the former lusts".
b. The word was not widely used even outside of the paucity of use found in the New Testament. The main perception the lexicographers seem to have is the production of an external likeness. In astronomy (according to Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon), the word was used to indicate a heavenly body showing up "in the same location" as a former heavenly body. It did not mean that it "looked the same" but that it filled the same position in the heavens. In grammar the word was used of expressions that contained the same structure of word forms (again, Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon). And, again, it was not the same words, but the same "forms" (something with which English readers have little experience since English does not depend heavily upon "forms" as did Greek and Latin).
c. The arena of "conformity" is what Paul's translators call "this world". The problem here is that the typical term for "world" is "kosmos" (used in the New Testament 187 times and translated "world" 186 of them) and the comment in the OnLine Bible is that the translators "obscured the distinction" between "kosmos" and the word Paul used in this text. The word Paul used is a "time" oriented word that was used by Paul five times in Romans and four of them have to do with "how long" God should get the glory for the things He has done ("forever"). Thus, Paul is revealing his concern that humanity goes through cycles of "how longs" in which certain characteristics dominate and "this" cycle of "time" is the one with which he is most concerned in his "conformity" issue. This strongly suggests that Paul's main area of concern is that his readers will be adapted to "life in the wrong time cycle". In other words, it makes a great deal of difference whether a person is "conformed" to a cycle of time that will ultimately pass away and leave those conformed to it hanging in the breezes of a period in God's Plan that is ill-suited to eternity, or whether a person is "conformed" to a cycle of time that will endure and leave those "conformed" to it adequately capable of functioning in it. This concern is very likely the basis for Paul's other exhortations in other places which focus upon "setting our affections on things above" (as in Colossians 3:2), or John's exhortation to "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" because "the world is passing away" (1 John 2:16-17) and Peter's "seeing then that these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be?" (2 Peter 3:11). The issue is this: adapting to a set of characteristics that will not endure means a certainty of significant loss. We are to be minimalists is making provision for living through the present, passing stage of the Grand Plan and maximalists in preparing for Life in its Final Stage.
2. The follow-through also involves the embracing of a process called "transformation by the renewal of the mind".