“If Anyone Is In Christ, He Is a New Creation”
(2 Corinthians 5:14-21 – June 20, 2021)
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 – 14For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16Therefore, 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. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Dear Reconciled of God in Christ:
Some people are good at making old things like new. They restore old rickety cars and tractors, old dilapidated houses, and old worn out furniture, to such a condition that they look brand new. Sometimes, people wish the same could be done for their bodies. They say: “I wish I could turn in this old model for a new one!” If there really were a fountain of youth, think of what would people would pay to use it, to become young and feel like new again!
In our text, we hear an amazing truth and promise that ought to give us great joy each day as Christians: “If Anyone Is In Christ, He Is a New Creation.” Whether or not we feel like it, as believers in Christ God has made us brand new again! As it says: 1) Old things have passed away, and 2) All things have become new.
1) Old things have passed away
“Old things have passed away.” Think of the change that has taken place in our lives as Christians. Before God made us His new creation in Christ, our sins separated us completely from Him. We had inherited the old, sinful nature from Adam; and with Adam, we had lost the holy image of God. We were under Satan’s control. We had lost paradise. We could no longer walk with God, or even rightly know Him. We were spiritually dead before God in our sins, completely unable to please Him. Indeed, we had only hatred toward God, because we saw Him as our Judge for doom (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 8:7-8).
And with minds at enmity toward God, we could only regard His Son, Jesus Christ, the same way. As the apostle Paul admits here, he once regarded Christ “according to the flesh” – that is, from the perspective of the sinful nature. Before Paul was made a believer in Christ, as a Pharisee he proudly thought he earned God’s favor by his exceptionally good behavior. It was as if, by outward obedience to God’s law, he could give himself a new heart, and rise above God’s righteous judgment. From such a self-righteous point of view, Paul did not regard Christ as the Savior he needed to rescue him from sin and death. Rather, he considered Jesus to be a mere man; and therefore a blasphemer, for Jesus claimed to be equal to God. Paul thought Jesus died on the cross for His own sins, not for the sins of people like Paul.
By nature, we too could only regard Christ “according to the flesh.” In our sinful pride, we wanted to be our own savior from our guilt. We thought we could clean up our old rickety life of sin by self-improvement. We wished we could remove the dilapidation and death that results as the wages of our sin. As impossible as it was, we trusted our own goodness and strength somehow to restore ourselves, to make ourselves like new and to save us – rather than trusting in Christ. But this course only leads the sinner to despair, as death and God’s judgment draw nearer.
So before we were created anew in Christ, we could only regard God and His Son “according to the flesh,” the sinful nature. And the same was true in the way we saw other people. We did not think of others as God’s creation, so precious in His sight that He would sacrifice His Son to save them. No, the sinful mind sees others from a worldly point of view. It leads us to judge the worth of people by social status, wealth, race, education, civic involvement, contributions to society, and so on. The sinful mind leads us to judge others in a selfish way, as it says: “How do I compare to him? How can I get ahead at her expense? How can I ever forgive that person?”
So with the old, worldly view we lived under, as we regarded Christ and others “according to the flesh,” we were breaking all of God’s commands. We did not love and trust Him above all. Nor did we love our neighbors as ourselves. We may have hoped we could somehow make our life like new again by our efforts; yet we remained spiritually dead, hopelessly lost, and condemned in our sins before God.
But now our text says: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Does this mean that as Christians we have finally rid ourselves of that old sinful nature? No, we will be the first to admit that each day we struggle against our sinful flesh (Galatians 5:17). We confess with Paul in Romans 7:22-23: “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Yes as Christians, we still struggle with the sinful nature. So what does it mean that “Old things have passed away,” and “All things have become new”? How can God call us His “new creation” in Christ?
2) All things have become new
To begin with, “All things have become new” for us because God has chosen to reconcile us to Himself. Out of His heart of love and mercy, God has taken it on Himself to make peace with us, even though we had made ourselves His enemies by our sin. It is not that we had somehow made ourselves new before God, so that He should be compelled to receive us in peace. Rather, He established peace with us by His gracious forgiveness, paid for by the blood of His own Son. Romans 5:8 says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So “all things have become new,” because God took it on Himself to give us a new relationship with Him, through the forgiving and restoring work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
As it says: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.” How can God not charge us with any sin or guilt? Because on the cross, Jesus had the sins of every sinner counted against Him. As the perfect Son of God dwelling among us in our flesh, He was the only Person who kept God’s Law perfectly. Yet on the cross, He became the only condemned sinner before God. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus received the full punishment of God’s wrath against sin which we all deserved. So at the cross, God’s justice was satisfied. “It is finished” (John 19:30). There are no more sins to be paid for. God no longer imputes our sins to us. Instead, He counts to us the perfect life of Jesus for our righteousness.
Therefore in this time of grace, God looks at sinners through the rose-colored lenses of Christ’s atonement. As God looks at us, He no longer sees our sins; He sees only Christ’s righteousness on us. He no longer sees in us His enemies; He sees in us His friends. He sees in us those whom He loves infinitely, for the sake of Jesus.
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” This reconciliation of sinners by God to Himself is all-inclusive. “The world” means you, me, and everyone. God has left no one out. Every single person’s sins are paid for. God offers to everyone a new relationship with Him in Christ. He offers to all the gift of eternal life in Christ. From God’s perspective, the reconciliation is complete. So it is in all earnestness that He sends His Gospel invitation into all the world, saying to one and all: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
God’s gift of reconciliation goes out to all the world; but those who reject His gift will not benefit by it. Sinners who die in their unbelief perish – not because God withheld His forgiveness and love from them, but because they rejected the forgiveness and love He offered them in Christ.
Who can give a new heart to a sinner, to replace his heart of stone? Who can create life in one who is spiritually dead? It is God alone who gives us new life. By His powerful Gospel, Christ turned Paul from being an enemy and a persecutor of His Church into being an apostle of His gracious message of reconciliation. By the same powerful Gospel, Christ has brought you and me to repentance, faith, and new life.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Now by God’s gift of faith in Christ, we have been given a brand new life. In Baptism, we have died with Christ to the Old Man; we have died to sin. God has poured out His Holy Spirit on us, and raised us up according to the New Man, to walk in newness of life as His own children in Christ.
Therefore, no longer are we controlled by our sinful nature or the devil; but we are led by the Spirit of Christ in us. As Paul says: “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.” His great sacrifice for us, His gracious gift of salvation won for us, leads us to see all things from a brand new perspective. No more do we regard Christ according to the flesh; but “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
And when it comes to our relationships with other people, again Paul says: “From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.” Now, we can see everyone around us in a new way, as those for whom Christ died to redeem them by His blood. We want our family, friends, neighbors, and even our enemies, to know and receive God’s gracious gift of forgiveness, reconciliation, and new life in Christ.
This side of heaven, we may be able to make some things like new again – cars, tractors, houses, furniture… But God has made all things new for us in Christ. He has brought us to the fountain of youth – yes to the very fountain of eternal life! And one day, in the new heavens and new earth He is preparing for us (2 Peter 3:13), we will be perfectly restored in body and soul.
Let us share His life-restoring Good News! For “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.