The New Creation
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.--2 Corinthians 5:17
What is new about a new creation. Everything! That's Paul's simple answer to this question: "All things are become new." A "new creature" suggests a new creation of God. Paul states as much in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (NIV).
A Sabbath Day Creation
This raises a seeming conflict. We read in Genesis 2:3, "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Since the new creature is really a new creation, it suggests that God did not fully rest from creative works on the seventh day. Jesus implies as much in John 5:17, "My Father is working still, and I am working" (RSV). The implication is strong: God has not ceased from working, even from creating a new creation.
In one of his many discussions with the Pharisees concerning Sabbath law, Jesus asked, "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" (Luke 14:5) God's possession, the human race, fell into the pit of sin and death early on the sabbath day of creation. The "new creation" is created specifically for the purpose of assisting in the pulling humanity out of this tragic pit.
A New and Living Way
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh"--Hebrews 10:19,20
"Who [God] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."--2 Timothy 1:9,10
The calling of the church of Christ was a new concept. Such an invitation had never before existed. Not only was the life which it promised--immortal life--new, but the way to obtain it was new. This calling was to the very nature of God himself. As it is written in 2 Peter 1:4, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
This is the way Jesus mentioned when he invited his apostles to follow him, even beyond the grave. "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:4-6)
Not only would this new life be through the following of a new way, but the new way would be based on new truths. Jesus said, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16). The law and the prophets promised prosperity for obedience; the new way promised persecution and death for its adherents. "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it," (Luke 9:23,24)
The standards of the Old Testament were three: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). The standards Jesus set forth were also three: to deny self, take up one's cross, and follow Jesus. To deny one's self was to go beyond justice. All the law of justice could demand was to love one's neighbor as himself (Leviticus 19:18). The new standards were to so love as to lay down life itself for the brethren (1 John 3:16). The old standard was to "love mercy," the new standard was to do mercy by being willing to even carry one's cross to the ultimate end of death. The faithful Israelite of old was to walk humbly with his God--carrying out the precepts of a perfect law. The gospel standard was to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, walking in a way of sacrifice.
It is these truths that are described as the seed which produces the "new creature." "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side." How this "word of the kingdom" is received by the hearer is what determines if it takes root in his heart, or if he is led aside by either persecution or the cares of this life, or whether he produces thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold (Matthew 13:19-23).
A New Mind Set
These truths form a whole new pattern of thought for the new creature. After urging the Romans to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, Paul wrote "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" (Romans 12:2).
As natural human beings, the easiest thing for us is to act like a human. Self-preservation is a strong instinct. The thinking patterns of this world have been taught since childhood--in the home, in the schools, in the work place, and by one's peers. The pressure to conform to these selfish precepts is steady and unrelenting.
The true Christian must break this thought pattern. He must undergo a metamorphosis, a complete "renewing" of his mind. Old priorities must give place to new priorities. Old concepts must be challenged. The question Peter and John asked the leaders of Israel must be honestly faced: "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye" (Acts 4:19).
These new thought patterns govern more than merely dictating a path of sacrifice. They encourage an active interest in all mankind, even the sinners. The Pharisees were often upset with Jesus' interest in the publicans and sinners. Sinners, to them, were a class to be despised. Their attitude was expressed in the parable of the prayer of the Pharisee and the publican, with the words, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican" (Luke 18:11).
The true Christian not only refrains from being disdainful to sinners, he is not even condescending to them. His concern is their restoration. He sorrows for their conditions. "Blessed are the merciful," Jesus said, "for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). Even in the Old Testament, such mourning over sinful conditions was the attitude exhorted. In one prophecy a man with a writer's inkhorn is commanded to place a mark on those "who sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst of [Jerusalem]" (Ezekiel 9:4). The attitude exhorted was one of extreme sorrow, not even righteous indignation, for the corruption which had invaded the priesthood.
The "renewing of the mind" requires that the mind be open to the new thoughts of the gospel. Paul praised the noble Bereans of his day because "they received the word with all readiness of mind" (Acts 17:11). They were not gullible in receiving this word for they "searched the scriptures daily, whether these things be so." Lydia, the first European convert, was praised because "she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul" (Acts 16:14). Paul encourages the Thessalonians to "despise not prophesyings," but adds that they were "to prove all things" and "hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:20,21).
Such new thought patterns come only from the word of God. Thus we have the admonition, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). While the word translated "study" in this passage is more correctly rendered "be diligent," such diligence requires a continuous study of the Bible. It is there that we replace our thoughts with those of God.
Becoming a new creature in Christ produces a new relationship with both God and his son Jesus Christ.
Sons of God: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12); "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14); "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:1, 2). This relationship is so close that we are encouraged to consider God in the most familial of relationships, calling him by the endearing term "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
Bride of Christ: "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. . . . And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:2,9). No more endearing relationship exists on earth than that of a loving bride and groom. The beautiful imagery in the Song of Solomon is an allegorical ode to this close love relationship.
Joint-Heirs: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17). As the only-begotten son of God, Jesus was heir to all of his Father's estate--the whole universe. As his bride, the church is a co-inheritor of this same estate.
While all of the human race are redeemed from the inherited sin of Adam by the redemption that is in Christ, "new creatures" have a special protection from personal sins for which they show repentance. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).
This advocacy brings about complete forgiveness of sins. "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6,7; see also Colossians 1:14).
That such forgiveness is promised for all sins except the "sin unto death" is guaranteed in 1 John 5:16, "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it."
New Prayer Privileges
It is of these new creatures that Jesus declared, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7). It is promised in Matthew 21:22 that "all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
While prayer is appreciated and used by many sincere individuals and many such testify to answered prayers, such positive assurances as those given in Matthew and John are only to such who "abide" in Christ. To abide in him is to take up residence there--to make Christ the home of the soul. Not only must they reside in Christ, but the words of their Lord must abide in them. His dictates must be absorbed and become a part of a new life style.
It is only when not so abiding that prayers go unanswered. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3).
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were placed on the earth with the promise of dominion. "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28). When God's plan for humanity is complete, they will realize that prospect. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" While this rulership will be for the benefit of all, its realization will bring its primary blessing to each one inheriting such a kingdom.
The church of Christ, the "new creatures," will also be kings (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:4,6). They will be "kings and priests" and "reign on [over, Greek epi] the earth." Their position will be honorable and glorious but it will not be primarily for their own benefit that they reign. Their objective is to "bless all the families of the earth" as the promised "seed" of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16,29). The new objective of the church is not egocentric but altruistic, reaching out to bless others.
This outward reach of love is the final result of the new character that forms the heart of these new creatures. Following in the footsteps of their Lord and Master, they copy his life of self-sacrifice in the interest of others. It is for this reason they are called. It is for this reason they are developed. It is for this reason they are made "new creatures." And it is for this reason that for them "all things are made new."