by William J. Stewart
There are two texts in the Bible which specifically use the phrase “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). That said, the concept is found in multiple places in the Scriptures. Other texts speak of the “new man” or being “renewed” (Ephesians 2:15; 4:23-24; Colossians 3:10), walking in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4), etc.. These images serve to contrast the religious from the irreligious, the righteous from the unrighteous, the good from the evil; but on the most basic level, it contrasts those who are in Christ from those who are outside of Christ.
GALATIANS 6:15— “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”
Judaizing teachers of Paul’s day compelled Gentile believers to be circumcised in obedience to Moses’ Law, and to keep other tenets of the Old Testament (Galatians 5:1-4; 6:12). Obedience to Moses’ Law will not make one a new creation. If such were the case, the Jews would have been fine already. Instead, the Jews were called from Moses to Christ (Galatians 3:22-25). Gentiles were called from wherever they were, not to follow Moses, but to follow Christ.
In Ephesians 2:11-18, Paul speaks of the Jews and Gentiles being brought together by the blood of Christ, making of the two “one new man” reconciled to God through His death on the cross. The “new man” Paul speaks of is a Christian. Gentiles were not called to Judaism and be the “new man.” Jews could not remain in Judaism and be the “new man.” Both were called to Christianity.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17— “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Let’s set this text into it’s context. In verse 16, Paul wrote, “we regard no one according to the flesh” In Christ, the common fleshly distinctions that are used to distinguish people are removed (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11). Ethnicity, gender, social status—none of these matter in Christ. In verse 17, we’re told “old things have passed away.” There is perhaps a twofold application. If we are in Christ we cannot continue in the wickedness of the world. Such things must be set aside. One cannot be in Christ and of the world at the same time. As much as this is true, an Old Testament / New Testament distinction is likely meant here as well. Verse 18 speaks of the gospel as the “ministry of reconciliation.” Paul contrasted the Old Testament and New Testament laws by using this same word “ministry” in 2 Corinthians 3. Notice:
|OLD COVENANT||NEW COVENANT|
|ministry of death (3:7)||ministry of the Spirit (3:8)|
|ministry of condemnation (3:9)||ministry of righteousness (3:9)|
|passing away (3:11)||remains (3:11)|
The gospel is the ministry of the Spirit, of righteousness, of reconciliation which remains. All need to be reconciled to God, for all have sinned (Romans 3:23). The wicked Gentile must turn to Christ to be saved. The good Gentile (ie. Cornelius, Acts 10) must turn to Christ to be saved. The faithful Jew must turn to Christ to be saved. The unfaithful Jew must turn to Christ to be saved. Jesus is the only way to be saved (John 14:6).
COLOSSIANS 3:9-10— “…put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…”
This text is about changing our thoughts and activities. In coming to Christ, we must be made in the image of Christ. Such is an inherent part of being the new creation. There are things we must “put to death” and “put off” (v 5, 8), and there are things we must “put on” (v 12, 14). In the parallel to this text, Paul says we must put off “the old man” and put on “the new man” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Both texts which speak about being “a new creation” use the phrase “in Christ.” The New Testament emphasizes being “in Christ” (87x). The phrase “in Him” appears about the same number of times. Consider Ephesians 1:3-14 as an illustration of how important it is to be “in Christ.”
- Every spiritual blessing is “in Christ” (v 3)
- We are predestined to adoption as
children of God “in Him” (v 4-5)
- We are accepted by the Father “in the Beloved” (v 6)
- “In Him” we have redemption and forgiveness (v 7)
- The mystery of God’s will has been revealed “in Himself” (v 9)
- All the saved are gathered together “in Him” (v 10)
- “In Him” we have an inheritance (v 11)
- The Jews first trusted “in Christ” (v 12)
- “In Him” the Gentiles also trusted, by the word of God, receiving salvation, the seal of the Spirit and the promise of heaven (v 13)
So, how do we get “in Christ”? Or let me rephrase the question—how are we saved? The religious world has tended over the past century towards a “sinner’s prayer” or “ask Jesus into your heart” approach. Neither of these are found in the Bible. What does the Bible say?
- We must believe Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:28; Hebrews 11:6)
- We must repent of sin (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 3:19)
- We must confess Christ before man (Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:37)
- We must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
- We must continue faithfully serving the Lord (Matthew 10:22; James 1:12)
Are you “in Christ”? Have you done what the Lord commands mankind to do to be saved? Are you “a new creation” in Christ?