"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." II Corinthians 5:17
Understanding what it means to be a "new creature in Christ" is absolutely essential for enjoying the abundant life of freedom that Jesus Christ has provided for every believer. Assurance, confidence and consistency will characterize our daily lives as we grow in an understanding of what God has provided for us in Christ.
IN CHRIST: While dispensationally it is possible to be "in Christ" either according to the prophetic program of Israel (“In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” Isaiah 45:25) or the mystery program of the body of Christ (“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:13), the term itself is actually a redemptive term, as I Corinthians15:22 demonstrates: "For as IN ADAM ALL DIE, EVEN SO IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE."
In the current dispensation of grace, when we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit instantly baptizes us "into Christ" and into His Body, the church. Being "in Christ" is often referred to as positional truth. The baptism of I Corinthians 12:13 is correctly viewed as an explanation of positional truth: "For BY ONE SPIRIT ARE WE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
There is a lot of religious confusion surrounding the topic of baptism; but in Scripture the main idea behind baptism is total identification. During this dispensation of Grace, this is something that happens to every individual believer the moment we trust Christ: We are totally identified with Jesus Christ.
It is in Christ that we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings" (Ephesians 1:3). It is in Christ that we are made complete (“And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” Colossians 2:10). It is in Christ that "in every thing ye are enriched by Him" (I Corinthians 1:5). In Christ we are made "new creatures." “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
We are no longer "in Adam." Now we are "in Christ." When we step out of Adam into Christ, Christ steps out of heaven into us and makes us into new creatures-members of the "one new man," the Body of Christ.
THE OLD CREATION: In order to understand our new identity as new creatures in Christ, perhaps we should start with Adam and the "old things" of which we once were a part.
Paul sets forth the story of the old creation in Romans 5 by beginning where the Bible begins, with the first man, Adam: "Wherefore, as BY ONE MAN SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD, AND DEATH BY SIN; AND SO DEATH PASSED UPON ALL MEN, FOR THAT ALL HAVE SINNED:
"For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. "Nevertheless DEATH REIGNED from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" (Romans 5:12-14). (Adam sinned when he was an innocent creature in the Garden; Adam was the only man in history to be created in fellowship with God; Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is the only man in history to be born in fellowship with God) You and I sin because we are born sinners and live in a sinful world. Not so with Adam and Eve)
What went wrong with the old creation is that the first man sinned. Paul mentions this repeatedly in Romans 5: 15-19:
"...THROUGH THE OFFENCE OF ONE (Adam) MANY BE DEAD...
"...IT WAS BY ONE (Adam)THAT SINNED ... FOR THE JUDGMENT WAS BY ONE TO CONDEMNATION...
"...BY ONE MAN'S OFFENCE (Adam) DEATH REIGNED BY ONE...
"...BY THE OFFENCE OF ONE (Adam) JUDGMENT CAME UPON ALL MEN TO CONDEMNATION...
"...BY ONE MAN'S DISOBEDIENCE (Adam) MANY WERE MADE SINNERS"
Every person born into this world is "in Adam." The whole race was affected by Adam's sin. Paul identifies at least three results that we all inherit from Adam:
"...by the offense of one JUDGMENT CAME UPON ALL MEN TO CONDEMNATION... (vs. 18)
"...by one man's disobedience MANY WERE MADE SINNERS... (vs. 19)
"...SIN HATH REIGNED UNTO DEATH...” (vs. 21)
"Condemnation," "death," "made sinners"-- that's what we receive from Adam. We are born with the same nature and destiny that Adam possessed after his fall.
Every grave marker in every cemetery is a testimony that God's Word is true. Because all of us have sinned, death works in us all. "Death reigns" as king over the old creation. And this is more than simply physical death, for Revelation 21:8 declares: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall HAVE THEIR PART IN THE LAKE WHICH BURNETH WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE: WHICH IS THE SECOND DEATH."
Adam's legacy is that in our very nature we are sinners. We sin because we are sinners--it's our nature to do so. Sin reigns-it is our master; we are its slave. The testimony of Scripture is clear: We are "the servants of sin" (Romans 6:17,21). In John 8:34 Jesus Christ declares: "...Verily, verily, I say unto you, WHOSOEVER COMMITTETH SIN IS THE SERVANT OF SIN.”
Sin has come and gripped us so tightly that it runs all of the old creation. Selfishness, anger, lying, self-centeredness, lust, stealing, malice, bitterness, greed, evil thoughts, pride, is a part of all of our lives. The Bible calls it sin and it so dominates the old creation that these things are thought of as normal human behavior. People do them all the time. We don't think anything of it because "that's the way people are."
Sin runs the old creation-it's the boss and no one escapes. In Adam we inherit condemnation, death and a sin nature which can only bring forth evil. This is our identity in Adam; it is who we are in the old creation.
THE NEW CREATURE: Paul is the only New Testament writer that uses the term "new creature". Jesus and His Disciples used the term “born again” to teach the change necessary for the sons of Israel to be prepared for the earthly Kingdom. For Christians, far more than preparation for an earthly kingdom is needed. Israel needed only renewal in kind (two births) like Adam; however, we are entirely new creatures.
In the old creation we were identified with Adam-his life, his way of thinking and acting, his independent attitudes; Adam was all and in all. When we come into the new creation, "Christ is all, and in all" (Colossians 3:11). Christ is now our life (“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:4). He is our mind (“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:5) and our walk (“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” Ephesians 5:2). It is Christ who is being formed in us (“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,” Galatians 4:19). We have "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27)-His actions, His attitude, His way of thinking. We have a whole new way of life in Christ: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME: AND THE LIFE WHICH I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH I LIVE BY THE FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
In place of Adam's condemnation we have Christ's righteousness (“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” II Corinthians 5:21); in place of Adam's death, we receive Christ's life (“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23); in exchange for Adam's slavery to sin we have glorious freedom in Christ (“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7: For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6,7).
Romans 6:3,4 declares: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” In Christ we are now empowered to "walk in newness of life." The "old things"---condemnation, death, slavery to sin-have passed away and now we have righteousness, life and freedom in Christ.
It is absolutely essential that we recognize our new identity in Christ, that we understand who God has made us in Christ. It is only as we recognize this glorious fact that our behavior can be changed.
We can never hope to "live the Christian life." It is an impossible task. Only Jesus Christ can live it. That is why Paul emphasizes "Christ in you.” The life of Christ has been placed in us so that He can live through us. We do not simply need a change in our behavior, we need a totally new identity. And this is exactly what we have in Christ.
As we learn to look at ourselves and our circumstances from God's perspective, we find the secret of Romans 12:2: "...Be not conformed to this world: but BE YE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND..."
The key to "transformed" behavior is "the renewing of your mind"-developing a totally new mind-set, a new perspective. Our behavior changes as we replace the old, inferior, worthless way of thinking with a new way of thinking-thinking like God thinks. This is the key to living as a new creature, to having the power of the living God working inside us.
LEARNING TO FLY: Paul talked about Christians being transformed by the renewing of the mind. This transformation process can be illustrated in nature by the life cycle of a caterpillar. “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:” (Job 12:7).
A caterpillar can teach human beings a lot about life. First of all, caterpillars are all legs and mouth! They spend their whole life crawling around using their mouths to destroy vegetation and fruit. Does that sound like anyone you know?
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that a caterpillar can not fly. No matter how hard they try, how much courage they possess, how much faith they have in themselves, a caterpillar can not fly! One major problem that a caterpillar must deal with is the law of gravity. Every time he crawls off the leaf of a plant, he is sure to suffer a serious fall. "The law of gravity gets him every time!" When it comes to flying, failure is his lot in life.
The solution to the caterpillar’s problem is fairly simple: If you want to fly, you have got to become a new creature!" How can that possibly be? It would take a miracle in the life of a caterpillar for him to be created brand new!
(I interrupt my caterpillar story for a moment to say that we are in just the same situation: Born as members of an old creation, we can't live lives that are acceptable to God. We are unable to escape "the law of sin and death." Try as hard as we may, give it all we've got, be as innovative as possible and we are still bound by sin's slavery. What do we need? To become new creatures; to get out of Adam and into the lord Jesus Christ. No one can do that by themselves. It is a miracle only God can perform.)
A caterpillar is unique in nature in that it starts out as one thing and becomes quite another beautiful creature. Caterpillars are capable of building little houses called a chrysalis. Once complete, he crawls inside, shuts the door and goes to sleep. Then a miracle occurs. Even though we can’t see anything from the outside for several months, one day the chrysalis begins to move, cracks open and out comes not a caterpillar, but a brand new creature---a miracle happens and a beautiful butterfly emerges.
Now, remember, the same creature came out of the chrysalis but it was completely different. The caterpillar only crawls, spending its life chewing up plants and ruining fruit. The butterfly flies, sipping the nectar from flowers and pollinating them so that there will be more fruit.
Now this is just how we are. In Adam we were fruit wreckers in the Garden of Eden; spiritually dead toward God and bound in sin. One day we came to trust in Christ. Understanding from God's Word that He loved us and sent His Son to die for our sins, we stopped trying to save ourselves and simply trusted what He had done for us at Calvary for our forgiveness and salvation.
Thus all our sins were forgiven, God counted us righteous before Him and He gave us the gift of eternal life, making us alive in Christ. At that moment when we trusted in Christ, we became new creatures. The old condemnation, death and slavery were exchanged for righteousness, life and freedom in Christ.
All this happened when we trusted Christ. We didn't feel it, see it or sense it, but it happened. It is a real spiritual blessing that becomes ours in that moment. Now we need to learn to live like the new creature we are in Christ.
Let's think some more about a caterpillar. He's there on that twig again, but now he's a beautiful butterfly. He's the same guy in one sense, but he's different. He is a butterfly. Now he has to learn to think and act like a butterfly.
As he considers the change in his life, he is a bit unsure how to proceed. "This is all new to me; how do I do this? I really want to fly. I think I know how; I've certainly tried hard enough in the past." Thus he walks out to the end of the twig and jumps. To His disappointment and horror he again plummets straight to the ground.
"I just don't understand it! The law of gravity still holds on to me. I've got to try harder. Maybe I should take flying lessons---nothing seemed to be working. Down he again goes. The law of gravity still held him fast no matter how he tried to free himself.
Once again he sits in despair. What is wrong? He racks his brain for an answer. "I've got it! I’ll buy me a gas powered engine. That's what I need-more power!" But the results were still the same. The added power only made things worse, making the crash more devastating than ever.
As the caterpillar sits amid the latest wreckage, dejected, defeated and tired-to-the-bone from trying to fly and failing, his mind keeps questioning, "What's the matter with me? I thought I was a new creature---a butterfly. Butterflies are supposed to be able to fly, but everything I try fails. It's simply impossible for me to fly! The law of gravity is too much for me." The caterpillar pours out his frustration until someone comes by and reminds him that you are not a caterpillar, you are a butterfly! God has given you something brand new in your life: Look on your back! Those are wings. You are made for flying! "But what about the law of gravity?" the caterpillar asks. "Look! See how your wings are shaped? They are designed in a special way so when the air passes over their top a vacuum is created and it sucks you UP into the sky. Gravity still works but the new wings God has given you have a new law, the law of aerodynamic lift, and it overcomes the law of gravity. Try it!" "Well, I've never done this before. I know all about the law of gravity, but I'll trust the law of aerodynamics to overcome it." Out on the twig he goes. This time he simply spreads his wings and flaps them naturally in the breeze. Suddenly his feet leave the ground and he is flying. What has happened? He has quit thinking like a caterpillar and has begun thinking like the butterfly he really is.
Christian friend, so long as we continue thinking like an old creature, counting on our old ways, our human strength and ingenuity; as long as we put our "confidence in the flesh" we too are destined to fail. "The law of sin and death" will hold us fast.
It is when we begin to think like the new creatures we are in Christ that we begin to fly. Then Romans 8:2 will be a reality in the details of our life: "FOR THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS HATH MADE ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH."
Like the law of gravity, "the law of sin and death" drags us down no matter how we struggle against it. It is only "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" that sets us free. It sets us free from our old habits, our old ways so we can walk in newness of life. Whatever we may be struggling with, the answer is the same: Christ living in us. It is only through this totally exchanged life that we can begin to see the change in life we desire.
The Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit has come to live in us to enable us to walk in newness of life. Let’s see just how high the grace of God will let us fly!!!