A New Creation
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
This past Tuesday evening as most of us were eating dinner, occupied with household chores or just relaxing after a hard day at work, the news of something momentous began to be dispersed among us. Within the hour several of us had gathered here at the building to witness Shannon Glover being baptized into Christ after having confessed Him as her Savior. What had started off as a normal and uneventful day ended in a celebration spiritually significant enough to cause joy in heaven as one sinner came to Christ in repentance. At the point of her baptism, Shannon became a new creation, taking on the identity of Christ and the new blessings and challenges that accompany salvation.
The New Testament emphasizes the need for all men, in like manner, to become new creatures. In 2Corinthians 5:17, Paul states that the man in Christ is indeed a new creation. The wording of this joyful proclamation takes our thoughts back to the Garden of Eden, A scene associated with man’s original creation. Our imaginings of what that first paradise was like may or may not be accurate, but the truth of one image is certain – it was a wonderful place. It provided man with a wonderful experience that was both physically and spiritually fulfilling. I believe, based upon the use of the word creationin 2Cor. 5;17, that there must be some similarities between the new creation of man in Christ and the experience of man in the lost paradise of Eden following man’s physical creation. Let’s then take a look a few of the comparisons that can be made.
UNBOUND FROM SIN
How long Adam and Eve enjoyed their Eden home before committing the sins described in Genesis 3:1-17 we have no way of knowing, but until that time they lived free of sin’s manipulations, free of sin’s curse, and free of its bondage. Likewise, those who have become a new creation in Christ can live in such a blessed state today. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 confirm this. He says that “if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves.” He goes on to say: “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Furthermore, “. . . that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.”
At this point it might be useful to ask, “what is meant by “old things have passed away; behold all things have become new?” Does a life unbound by sin mean that sin no longer exists, and does not have to be dealt with now that Christ has come? No doubt, many have arisen from the watery grave of baptism thinking that the hardest part of obedience was behind them, only to be surprised shortly thereafter by a fatal broadside from Satan. They are bewildered because they thought that their obedience to Christ had made them completely immune to sin’s temptations.
In Christ we have a relationship with the Father that makes us free from the bondage of sin which characterized us while alienated from Him. But this relationship does not remove us from the influence of sin. One commentator states, “For Paul, ‘the old’ which has gone, is the condition of alienation from God and its bondage to sin. ‘The new’ which has come is our relationship with God in Christ, a relationship which empowers us for a kind of living in which the continuing reality of sin can be overcome again and again. To be a “new creation” is not to be perfect or faultless, or immune from anger and pain, or insulated from the tough experiences of life. Rather, to be a ‘new creation’ is to live a life turned toward the God whose grace has reclaimed us in Christ.” (Brauch, Manfred T. Hard Sayings Of Paul. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity). 1989. p186).
It can be concluded, therefore, that just as Adam and Eve lived unbound from sin at least for a time in the Garden of Eden we can thus live unbound from sin in Christ Jesus today.
UNITED WITH GOD
Adam and Eve had an intimate fellowship with their Creator as they walked and talked with Him in the Garden (Genesis 3:8-11). As a new creation in Christ, a Christian has a relationship with God, the closeness of which has not been possible since Eden. Sin had not yet entered the picture when Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the garden during the cool of the day. Christ, through his sacrificial death on the cross, brought man back to God. We have been reconciled (changed from enmity to friendship), as our text (2 Corinthians 5:19, and also Romans 5:10) clearly points out. Even under the Law of Moses, during which time God communicated with man, there was not the spiritual peace or fellowship between God and man like that which existed in the Garden of Eden. (Ephesians 2:17,18) But it has now been made possible through Christ’s ministry of reconciliation or as John describes it– propitiation (1 John 2:2; 4:10). The only hope for a fellowship with God that is any closer awaits us in heaven (2Cor 5:1-9; 1Cor 15:50).
SINS NO LONGER COUNTED
What a burden it must have been living under the Old Law, where sin was never completely disposed of. Even though endless sacrifices were offered in behalf of his sins; even though he might consistently express a desire and ability to humbly admit his sin; even though he offered expensive sacrifices in an effort to please God, man’s sins – all of them, lingered unforgiven (Hebrews 10:1-4). Originally, in the Garden of Eden man was not living under such a curse. The reason, simply put, was because he had no sin (at least for a while). Up until the well known rebellion there were no sins to be counted against the first couple. Likewise, there are no sins to be counted against the person now who is a new creation in Christ Jesus. Our sins, once forgiven, are gone forever, no longer counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19).
RECONCILED TO GOD
Paul concludes his discourse on reconciliation with the following plea: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). God through Christ has performed the yeoman’s task of securing salvation for all men. All that is left in order for man to become this new creation is to follow through with obedience to God’s work of salvation. The way back to the Garden, scene of man’s first creation, has been secured. Will you not allow God to perform His work of re-creation in you?
The Apostle Paul established more churches than any other apostle or first century evangelist. He was chosen to write more New Testament books than any other inspired writer. More about Paul’s life is revealed on the pages of holy writ than any person other than our Lord. He is known even today as the all time most successful champion of the faith. Yet, he was constantly under pressure from false teachers and mis-guided brethren to defend his authority as an apostle. Most of the books which bear his name contain sections in which he speaks “foolishly” (2 Cor 11:16) i.e. defending his authority as an apostle of Christ and his right to instruct churches (a position and duty for which he was ironically rejected and persecuted).
First Thessalonians, possibly the first book written by Paul, contains one of these “foolish” self-defense sections. Chapter two and verse one points out that Paul’s work in Thessalonica had been declared a failure (in vain) by some and Paul is forced to respond to the unfair and false criticism. Within the course of his response the apostle points out not only that much had been accomplished for the cause of Christ in Thessalonica, but the successful work was carried out in such a way that revealed great teaching and leadership qualities on the part of Paul. Of course he was not bragging on himself as a great leader, but his innocent recollection of his behavior among them reveals such qualities. It is the purpose of this article to point out these qualities as worthy of our emulation as we seek to influence others for Christ within the context of the local church and do our part to help that work grow.