2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (ESV)
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
“A New Creation” is a term that Paul, the author of this letter, uses to describe the Christian, who is now “new,” as opposed to who he or she once was before becoming a Christian, which was “old.” Paul also used this concept of “old and new” back in the third chapter of this letter. He used the terms “ministry of condemnation” and “ministry of death” in order to reference the old covenant, and he used the terms “ministry of righteousness” and “ministry of the Spirit” in order to reference the new covenant.
Just a quick side note – Please do not be confused in thinking that these descriptions by Paul, regarding the old, are derogatory in nature. They are not. These terms are meant to convey what the primary purpose of the old covenant was for: to reveal or to provoke sin, which then leads to both condemnation and death. Therefore, Paul labeled the old ministry by these terms.
In the same vein, here in verse 17, Paul now describes believers in the same way. He describes believers as “a new creation.” Their old self has passed away. In other words, those who are in Christ are no longer an old creation, but they are now a new creation.
Look at what Paul also wrote to the Church in Ephesus…
Ephesians 4:17-32 (ESV)
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
In Ephesians 4, Paul is referencing what is true for the Christian, who is now “new,” where the old has passed away. The “old” was, as Paul said, the “former manner of life.”
In his letter to the Church in Colossae, Paul also flushed out the same concept regarding the old vs the new…
(As you read, I want you to take a mental note as to what is referred to in the present tense, the past tense and the future tense.)
Colossians 3:1-17 (ESV)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Skipping to verse 12…
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Paul clearly spells out in his letters to the churches, that those who are in Christ are to do what is right in all areas of life, BECAUSE they are now a new creation.
Was Paul wrong, when He wrote in Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) to believers?
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”?
No, because doing good works is what the Christian ought to do. Good works is what the Christian was created in Christ Jesus for…
It’s why James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote about the importance of works and how they relate to one’s faith in his epistle…
James 4:14-18 (ESV)
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Our works verify the faith that we claim to have.
They prove our “newness.”
The question we must ask ourselves is:
If the life I lead reveals the creation that I am of, then which creation am I of… the new or the old?
If you are a new creation, then praise God!
Now… live your life accordingly!
As Paul says in Philippians 1:27 (ESV)…
“…let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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