The New Creature of God
2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Most of us like things that are new, especially useful things. We like new cars, houses, clothes and so forth. The word "new" is used many times in the New Testament to describe various aspects of the gospel. We read of the new covenant, the new man, the new commandment, the new and living way and the new heavens and new earth.
It is good news that the gospel shows us how to have "a new beginning". Jesus called it being "born again" (John 3:1-5). When we are born again, we become God's "new creations". In this we come to possess several things as a result of God's grace.
We Have a New Position
"Therefore if any man is in Christ..."
The phrase "in Christ" contrasts with what we were before our faith came and did its work. Our old position was "without Christ" People of earth are very different in numerous ways. We are male and female, red, yellow, black and white. We are rich and poor, tall and short, and we speak different languages and have different customs. But these are not our greatest differences. These differences will all cease to be factors at all in eternity. But the greatest difference will still matter; some of us are "in Christ" and some of us are not.
Before becoming Christians we were without Christ, God and hope (Ephesians 2:12,13; cf. vss 1-3). But now those who have obeyed the gospel are "in Christ". and therefore in a state of having received God's grace. The "old man" of sin has been discarded, crucified, and buried (Ephesians 4:22-24; Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:3,4; Colossians 2:12). In his place, a "new man" has risen.
This happened when we by faith obeyed the gospel in baptism. It did not happen before that moment (Galatians 3:26,27 and the previously cited passages). Jesus Christ then came to live in us and through us as our Savior, Example, Guide, Master and Helper.
God wants everybody to have this new position "in Christ" and therefore has opened the door for everyone. Paul describes our redemption in Ephesians 2:4-10 and uses the term "in Christ" many times in his inspired writings. If our position when we leave this world is "in Christ", then our eternal state will be "with Christ", an eternal state of glory (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
We Have a New Character
"...he is a new creature..."
One who becomes a "new creature" is not "new" in the sense of time, but in the sense of quality. He/she is of a different character than the old person. Also, the word "creature" suggests a divine creation. Even as God created Adam and Eve, it is He who creates "new creatures" from old sinners. But God does no forming "from the dust of the ground" in the new creatures He makes. Rather, the Lord accomplishes a change of state. "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18,19).
Like God's first human creatures, Adam and Eve, God's "new creatures" are created in perfect fellowship with God. They are created in His image and are created to do His will (Colossians 3:9,10; Ephesians 2:10). Lots of things are made new when all this happens. We receive a new life; we live by a new standard; we have a new purpose; we have a new perspective; are called by a new name and look forward to a new home.
We Have a New Life
"...the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come..."
The old man loved sin and sinning. He ignored the consequences of sin; at least the consequences that could be ignored. He also thought little about his soul and his spiritual needs. But the new man's attitude toward sin is different. He hates it, and the hatred ought to grow. Sin has lost much of its allure, and only in times of forgetfulness or carelessness does it effect him as it once did (1 John 3:6-9).
Sometimes the old man would mock the gospel and spiritual things (1 Corinthians 1:18). But the new man realizes how important these things are (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12). It is his hope and confidence. It has become his own story as he lives to be identified as a faithful disciple of Jesus.
The old man had disregarded his need for salvation; but the new man wants salvation not only for himself, but also for others. This love for others reflects Christ's own love for us (John 13:35).
The old man had a very distorted picture of himself, life and the future. His plans therefore were inadequate because they provided nothing but defeat in eternity. But the new man places his priorities on spiritual things which enhances his life and relationships here and provides him with a certain hope in eternity (Colossians 3:1).
A new beginning in Christ. You've begun life at least once. If you have never done so, it is time to begin again. If you have already made a new beginning, live your new life with the new focus which comes to light in the gospel.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.4; April 1999