In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul writes: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Some scholars and church leaders refer to this process of transformation as progressive sanctification. Others describe it as spiritual formation, spiritual growth, or spiritual maturity. I prefer to use the term Christ-formation because it is more descriptive of what is taking place:
We are becoming more like Christ.
To become more like Jesus Christ includes two lifelong experiences. First, it involves taking on facets of his character that are most easily identified as the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s important to recognize that the fruit of the Spirit is singular, not plural. The first fruit of the Spirit is love; the by-product of this love is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The first fruit of the Spirit is love.
This understanding of love as the fruit of the Spirit takes us to the second experience of Christ-formation: the abundant life. As we internalize the reality of God’s love in increasing measure, we will begin to experience a different quality of life; a life characterized by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is the abundant life. The more we abide in Jesus’ love, the more like Jesus we will become and the more we will experience the abundant life.