Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
New Creation – it’s one of those Christian jargon words which is thrown around…
We many have, at the back of our minds, a sense of what it means… or maybe, we have never actually looked that closely at it, having heard about it once in a song, or in a sermon and accepted what we heard. Or maybe, you’re new to the faith, and have come across the idea of being a new creation, but don’t actually understand what this means.
Understanding the concept of being a “New Creation”
It is of utmost importance to realise that none of us can forge for ourselves a new identity.For our becoming “new” can only be found “in Christ” alone! Jesus says, in John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”
So for us to “be in Christ” is an open invitation for anyone of us to “abide” in Him. To “abide” means:
- To remain, continue, stay
- To have one’s abode, dwelling, residence.
- To continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship.
As the Bride of Yeshua, we are to abide in Him; a daily decision part to remain in Him, to actually live in Him, to continually develop our relationship with Him in prayer, study, worship and obedience, and to not become swayed by the things of this world. It is our obedience to His word and commands as we follow His example for living life. This is our part in the process of becoming a new creation – our obedience to His word allows the rest of the work to be carried out by the Holy Spirit.
The large majority of us becoming a new creation happens as a definitive response of the outworking of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we are transformed from our “old self” into the new creation, which is to become more like Jesus. For “clearly you are an epistle of Christ… written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)
So what are we being transformed into?
Romans 8:29: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
As the Spirit of God works in us, He removes the old man, the first man Adam, the natural body which is subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 5:12-21; Romans 8:2), and replaces us with a new man, the life-giving Spirit of the last Adam, a spiritual body, giving us the freedom to live a life no longer cursed by sin or death. We are a NEW CREATION!!
Romans 8:5-11: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
So what does this idea of a “new creation” replacing the old, or living by the Spirit and not be the flesh actually mean? An in-depth study of what Paul says in his letters to many of the Churches he wrote to, will shed light on what we can do, much more than I can cover in this posting!
Ephesians 4:17-5:21: This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest ofthe Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light… See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
It is in this letter to the Ephesians we find Paul’s most comprehensive guideline for what it means to “put off the old” and to live in the way of the “new man”, as wise people, not in foolishness. And not independently, but encouraging one another to seek to live according to the Spirit of God, and not according to our flesh.
In Galatians 5:16-26, also, we find details of what Paul would like to see, as we “walk in the Spirit” rather than fulfilling “the lust of the flesh” – that is the old man,
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The old has gone. Completely! God promised that when we turn to Him in full repentance, He will remove our sins, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). The old version of ourselves we can’t just “stumble upon” one day, because God has removed the old nature far away from us. We become His. As the Bride-to-be, according to the Jewish customs of the first century Israel which Yeshua would have known, we are already called by His name (Isaiah 43:7) and because of the character of God, the very essence of Who He is, He creates in us a new heart, softened to His direction and leading, softened to hear His voice, softened toward Him. God can’t leave the old man to take root in our lives, because what place does light have with darkness, or death with life (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)?
God changes ALL things, not just one or two areas of our lives, as He prepares the Bride for the Groom’s return.
So, how do we “put off” our old man, if God has sent His Holy Spirit to renew and cleanse us from him, and is transforming us into the image of His Son?
Colossians 3:1-10: If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
This means that we are walking a very different walk to those who are in the world. We have been called out of the world,
John 15:19: “Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Ephesians 5:8: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
Transformed From Glory To Glory
If we are to understand the “why” behind being a “New Creation”, we need to follow Paul’s train of thought in 2 Corinthians 5:17 back to some kind of starting place, which I would argue is right back at 2 Corinthians 4:8:
2 Corinthians 4:8 – 5: 19:We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
I want to focus specifically on what Paul is saying regarding our future hope, here:
“For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”
The whole purpose of our being made new is for that day when Jesus will return for His Bride, and will take us to be with Him in eternity, that we should not be found “naked” ie… the new spiritual self. In being made new, we are being prepared for His return, clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and adorned, like a bride ready to receive her Groom.
In 1 Corinthians 15:42-50, Paul gives us a distinct process of transformation, which also carries that sense of being spiritually ready for the coming of our Saviour,
The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption
We have so much to gain, in living in accordance with the Spirit, but for our humanity, our old man, which demands instant gratification, the rewards of life in the Spirit seem a long time coming. Paul understood this, which is why he often encourages his readers to “continue in the faith”, “Don’t lose heart”, “Don’t become worry”, “Fight the good fight”, “Run with endurance” “Stand fast in the Lord” and so on…!
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, our works are nothing in and of themselves, our works are made perfect in the faith that God has done a good work in us and will complete it until the day of Jesus return (Philippians 1:6). It is an ongoing process we live out day by day, recognising that our citizenship is in heaven, and as such,
Colossians 3:4: When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
What a great day of rejoicing that will be, when Jesus returns and finds us ready in our spiritual garments, reflecting His glory!
Philippians 3:20-21: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
For on that day, we truly will be a “new creation”!!
May we always walk worthy of God, who calls us into His own Kingdom and glory.
(1 Thessalonians 2:12)