“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are Passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
In the verses 14 and 15 the apostle had written of the wonderful love of Christ, that, when He died, we all died, in order, that we should no longer live unto and for ourselves, but unto Christ Who died for us and rose again. Henceforth, from now on, because of this love of Christ toward us, we know no man after the flesh. Indeed, once Paul knew Christ after the flesh. Once, when he persecuted the church, he was motivated by carnal reasons. But now, all this is past. Now we know Him no more after the flesh; Christ has shed abroad His love in our hearts.
Of this, the words of our text are a conclusion. From this it is evident that if a man be in Christ, he is a new creature. And, let us read the text this way: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, a new creation! old things are passed away; behold, they are become new!”
The word translated “creature” in English and “schepsel” in Dutch simply means “creation,” and it is the same word as that which appears in Genesis, that God created the heavens and the earth. To create is always presented in the Word of God as an act of God’s almighty, omnipotent will.
To create is not merely to make something out of nothing. Of course, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this definition; what the fathers meant with it we all understand. However, this definition, in the first place, does not apply to man, inasmuch as he was taken out of the dust of the earth. Secondly, it really does not tell us what it means to create. And, thirdly, it surely fails to do justice to the beautiful and very significant definition of this concept in Holy Writ.
God only can create. Man cannot create. He cannot call, speak things into existence. We can speak of things only after they exist. We ourselves are creatures, and therefore limited to and determined by the things that are made. God alone can create. That God creates means, in the first place, that He calls into being as an act of His almighty will. The Lord’s speaking (when God Himself speaks) is always powerful and creative. He speaks and it is, He commands and it stands. It was thus at history’s dawn: God said, “Let there be light,” or literally: “Light.” This same idea of creating must also be borne in mind to understand this text. And, secondly, when God creates, calls things into existence, He calls the things that are not as if they were. This we read literally in Romans 4:17. This, too, is of the utmost significance in the interpretation of the words of this text.
Whom does God create into a new creature? Who and what is man? In common with the animal world, man, too, is an animated, organized, living being; and he was created out of the earth. Man is body and soul. He was created physically, is composed of flesh and bones and blood, has a nervous system, etc. He also has a soul. The soul of the animal is in its blood. My soul is the seat of my natural life, the seat of all my thinking and willing and lusts and aspirations. My body and soul are wonderfully adapted to one another. In distinction from the animals, God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. Man is, therefore, created as God’s image bearer, is a personal, a moral-rational being. He is always prompted by his attitude toward God, either to love Him and subject all things to Him, or to do all things because he loves himself.
However, there is more. The object here of God’s creative work is man as old man. Sin did not affect man essentially. True, he lost much of his excellent gifts; he retains only remnants of these original gifts. Man must now struggle to attain unto the knowledge of things. Besides, his body, too, was affected. It is subject to death. However, he did not change essentially. He continues to be a moral-rational being, is able to think and will and desire, has the ability to develop the earth, use its powers, is able to propagate the human race. Sin, however, did affect man spiritually. His entire nature was changed, spiritually, from the service of the living God into the service of the devil. He is now a sinner, wholly corrupt and perverse, dead in sin and in trespasses, full of darkness and hatred of God and death.
Finally, what is the nature of this creative work of God? Indeed, the Christian is not a product of instruction. An instructed sinner always remains a learned fool. Neither is he the product of persuasion. A sinner can never be persuaded to leave his evil way. There is no amount of external activity that can ever transform a child of sin and darkness into one of life and light. The Christian is nothing less than a new creation. He is the product of God’s almighty grace. He is called into existence by God’s own omnipotent word. As God spoke at history’s dawn, “Light,” and there was light, so now God speaks light and life into the darkness and death of His elect sinner. And this Christian is a newcreature. Even as the Lord, at history’s dawn, called the things that are not as if they were, so the sinner becomes new; light and life now exist where only darkness and death reigned before. How wonderful is this new creature in Christ.
Christ is the source of this new man or creation. This is surely the idea of this text. When we read: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature,” we realize that the apostle means that he is a new creature because he is in Christ. This almighty, creative work of God, creating this new creature, always occurs in Christ—never outside of Christ.
Christ is the Head of His church. Negatively, this means that there is no life or possibility of life in us. We have no life. We are completely devoid of it. And we can never attain to it. We can never merit it nor pay our sins and debts. And we can never call ourselves out of life into death, nor call ourselves into the life of God’s covenant.
Christ is the Head of the church. It is for this reason that the apostle uses the name, Christ, in this text. The name, Christ, means: Anointed. Christ is the name of the Servant of Jehovah, as He was anointed, ordained and qualified by the Triune God, even eternally, to be our Head, our Representative, our Chief Prophet, Only High Priest, and Eternal King. Christ is Jesus, God’s eternal Son, anointed in our flesh and blood, to do what we could never do, represent us in death and in life, to restore and lead and translate dead sinners into the blessedness of God’s eternal kingdom and covenant.
This Christ is the Head of the church. He is our judicial, representative Head. He represents us in the awesome satisfying of the righteousness and justice of God. He pays our debt, bears God’s infinite wrath in perfect obedience, merits for all His own everlasting life in heavenly immortality. He is also our Head organically. We receive this everlasting life, not only because of Him, but also through Him. He Himself is glorified. And He is glorified as our Head. He is not simply received up into heaven to take His place among and next to all the saints who preceded Him. He passes them, is lifted up above them, to the very pinnacle of glory, at the right hand of God, receives the Spirit beyond measure, is glorified as the lifegiving Head of all His elect own.
Hence, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Indeed, He is the power station, our spiritual reservoir, and we are the light bulbs. His life and light are transmitted to us by God’s almighty and irresistible creative word. God speaks the living Christ into our hearts. God speaks, as the Triune God, through His Spirit; He speaks, explosively, Christ in us, in our hearts, Christ as the life-giving Head and Principle of His church. And the result of this wonderful grace of God is that Christ, in His grace, is called into our hearts, sets up His throne there, unites all His own with Himself, and now we live in and out of Christ Jesus, our Lord. And this is revealed to us and confirmed in our consciousness through the preaching of the gospel, when we are called, consciously, out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.
Old things are passed away. This expression, as well as the expression, “All things are become new,” must be understood in the absolute sense. True, the child of God-is very imperfect. And he knows this. Yet, the child of God is viewed here from the principle of the new man, from the viewpoint of his being a new creature.
So, old things are passed away. All old things! The inner fellowship with sin and darkness is gone. We have died to sin (sin has not died within us, but we have died to sin). The old man, the old creature, has passed away. This is also true objectively. The world is no longer our permanent home; the sphere of sin and our covenant with iniquity and darkness are passed away. Our old and former friendships and associations, lusts and aspirations are all passed away.
Behold, all things are become new! The apostle exclaims this in spiritual ecstasy. We read: “Behold, they are become new. And this word, “new,” does not mean “new” in the sense of another (there is also a word in the Greek which means “new” in the sense of another), but in the sense that it never existed before.
Do we grasp this ecstasy on the part of the apostle? Is it any wonder that he is filled with ecstasy? Notice: all is become new within us! The love of Christ constrains us, now controls our entire being and nature. We have a new will, a new mind, a new thinking, new lusts and desires, new plans and purposes; we are prompted by something we never had before—the love of God and the love of Christ, the love of the brethren and the love of the neighbor.
And, secondly, new are all things all about us. The objects of our pursuits here have become new, absolutely new. We now have new associations, new fellowships, new purposes, a new city, the heavenly Jerusalem. Everything is so different. We live in a new and wonderful world.
Of course, all this is true only in principle. This new life is ours only in principle—we have this new man in an earthly house of this tabernacle. And this remains as such until the day of our death, so that the cry of lamentation is heard from our lips, as we read it inRomans 7:24. We love this new life, seek it, and would be delivered of the old man of sin. We reach out to the perfection that is above. But, be it in principle, we are new creatures. The joyful future now beckons unto us. This new creature will soon be delivered out of this earthly house and then nothing will ever again disturb the perfect and heavenly fellowship with God. Then the word of God, II Corinthians 5:1, will be fulfilled: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”