“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)
The Bible describes a Christian in many different ways. We are citizens of a new country, His sheep, branches of the vine. Perhaps there is no more amazing statement then to say we are a new creation. Paul is writing years after his conversion, after missionary journeys, yet he still has that sense of wonder that has happened to him and every believer. The apostle’s heart still seems to throb with wonder, surprise and the joy he experienced in Damascus, when his eyes were opened physically and spiritually. This note of surprise and wonderment spreads its way throughout the Bible (Isaiah 43:18).
There is a great promise, new things will be accomplished. The Bible speaks of a new man, a new song, a new creation, new heavens and new earth. In Revelation 21 we read of John’s great vision, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) On that final day the alterations in this universe will be beyond our imaginations. The truth is, even seeing the wonder of our universe now, will be lost in the glories of the new heavens and new earth.
There is going to be the new heavens and earth, but if we are believers, we are already God’s new creation. To be a Christian is to experience the new birth, regeneration. A Christian is not someone who has outward physical change, someone who has been air-brushed and looks better than reality. Ezekiel speaks of one heart, and a new spirit, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19).
The greatest change is the change of heart; we’re a greater wonder than ever the new heavens and earth will be. Are we believers? Have you known this alteration in your life? Old principles have been changed with new views of truth. Does God speak through the Bible to you? Your destiny is seen in a new light, a new aim of your life.
How has this change come about? “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18). All things are of God. Genesis tells us that the first creation came into being when God spoke. His divine power is the source of creation. The great tragedy is, since the Fall, all humanity is plunged into disaster. We are dead in transgression and sin. But God is still sovereign, His power is still at work. Every believer has experienced the creating power of God’s Word and grace in this life. It is God who commanded light to shine into darkness. What we could never do for ourselves, God has done (Ephesians 2).
If this is what God has done, on what basis has He done this? We are sinners by nature, hostile to God. Our sin cries out for judgement. How then can there be newness of life? God has reconciled Himself to us. The barriers that separated the sinner from a holy God have been removed.
Generally, when we speak of reconciliation, we speak of two parties coming together. Here, this reconciliation is all God’s work. Whilst we were at enmity with God, He worked reconciliation through His Son. How? By not imputing our guilt to us. That which we deserved has been imputed to another, “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 5:21). God has taken our sin and laid it upon the Son, and in Hs death all those who come to know Him are looked upon as having the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ rose from the dead, we how share in that newness of life. The risen Christ sends for His Holy Spirit and breathes life into those who were dead.
The challenge is how do I know whether I am a Christian, a new creation? Paul highlights just two evidences:
- This change has brought about in Paul a great change of attitude (2 Corinthians 5:12). Paul is obsessed by God, “For the love of Christ compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Now he has come to true soundness of mind and understanding. He is compelled by the love Christ has for him, a love beyond explanation, to proclaim the gospel. Does your love of God compel you to share the good news?
- Paul is compelled to live his whole life for Christ (v.15). Paul challenges us to consider where our first priority lies. Too many people today live for things which will ultimately destroy them. What is your first priority – work, family, possessions? These are all important but if we are living for them, then there is something wrong. We are called to live for Christ. Ever seek to maintain to put Christ first. Be like Paul who lived sacrificially.
As believers we have a change of attitude to the person of Christ and others. Paul says his view of Christ has changed (v.16). There’s a change in Paul’s thinking. How do you see Christ – just as a teacher, a moral person? Or do you see Christ in an altogether different light – as a God-Man, eternal God, the only hope for lost sinners, whose unfathomable love led Him to die so you have reconciliation with God?
Has there been a change not only to how you see the Saviour but to others? How do you see people? Do you see by nationality, skin colour or gender? Paul now views people according to this new light – those in Christ or out of Christ, those who were a new creation or those who were lost.
As you go out and stand in a queue, in a crowd, people watching, do you now look at people and think, “I wonder are they Christians or lost and need the gospel?” Paul became an ambassador for Christ, his greatest desire. Is that our desire – to be ambassadors, to proclaim the gospel? If we are those who know this wonderful change, may Paul’s experience challenge us.