A verse that is often quoted with regard to this doctrine of being a “new creation” in Christ (but one that is not very well understood) is II Corinthians 5:17. This verse says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” Let’s examine this verse so we can get the true meaning. First, we must consider the context of the passage in order to reach an accurate interpretation.
The content of II Corinthians 5 is the results of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the placing of the believer into union with Christ. This union with Christ is neither seen nor felt. It is our union with Christ that gives us the potential for a personal sense of destiny, knowing that we have a place prepared for us in Heaven. It is in light of this doctrinal truth Paul tells us in verse 17 that we are “new creations in Christ and that old things have passed away and behold all things have become new.”
Contrary to popular belief “all things becoming new” is not a reference to a person’s lifestyle or “bad” habits. We know this from the original language and from many other passages of Scripture. Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, his lifestyle does not automatically change. If there needs to be change, then the only legitimate change must come from the spiritual growth based on the Word of God, not on some religious taboo. As a matter of fact, this passage refers to what God does for us, not what we do for God.
Becoming a new creation is a matter of God’s grace. Therefore, all human effort is eliminated. The reason a person becomes a new creation is that he is in union with Christ. This union means that the believer shares Christ’s destiny and His inheritance.
The first word of verse 17 in the King James Version of the Bible is “therefore”. In Greek the word is “hoste” and can be better translated “conclusion”. Paul looks back at the context of the passage and draws a conclusion based on previous doctrinal information. The conclusion is “if (first class condition meaning if and it is true) any person is in Christ (baptism of the Holy Spirit) that person is a new creation.” Creation (“creature” in the King James) is the Greek word “ktisis” and refers primarily to the creative act in process. It is the believer who is being acted upon by God. This act of creation is when God, at salvation, creates a human spirit in the believer. In order to better understand what Paul is teaching we will use the term “a new spiritual classification” since this describes more precisely what occurs at salvation. This creative act by God creates something in the believer that previously did not exist. It is “new”, it is “spiritual” in nature and the believer becomes a different “classification” (Royal Family of God). (I Corinthians 2:9-14; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19)
Prior to salvation a person is merely God’s creation, but not a part of God’s family. Becoming a part of God’s family is a matter of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. This act of faith places the person into union with Christ and he instantaneously becomes a child of God. No longer is this person merely a creation of God, he is now a “new” creation of God, which is a different classification spiritually. Before salvation a person is spiritually dead (separated from God). However, after salvation a person is spiritually alive (reconciled to God). (John 1:12)
|Children of wrath||Children of God|
|Children of darkness||Children of Light|
|Separated from God||In union with Christ|
|Alienated from God||Near to God|
|Under the authority of Satan||Under God's authority|
|Spiritual death||Everlasting Life|
|Without Hope||Full of Hope|
|Minus God's righteousness||Possesses God's righteousness|
|Enemies of God||Reconciled to God|
This new spiritual classification is unique to the age in which we live. The Church Age (often called the Age of Grace) is the period from Pentecost to the Rapture of the Church. During this age the believer fulfills a unique role as the Bride (Body) of Christ. For this reason every believer in this age is placed into union with Christ and is permanently indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. This is a class of believers that did not exist prior to The Church Age. (Ephesians 5:23-34; Revelation 22:17)
Becoming a new creation in Christ sets up a potential for every believer. This potential is experiential sanctification. Positional Sanctification is a theological term for being permanently set apart to
God. Experiential Sanctification is a theological term for being temporarily being set apart to God. What is the difference?
First of all, every human being (before salvation) has the potential for positional sanctification by believing in Christ. When a person becomes a believer in Christ he is permanently set apart to God (one of the 33 plus things that occur at salvation). His position “in Christ” never changes regardless of spiritual advance. Once you are placed into union with Christ you can never be “out of union” with Him. This, of course, guarantees an eternal inheritance for every believer. (John 10:28; I Corinthians 12:13)
Secondly, the believer can be set apart to God experientially, as a result of the control (filling) of God the Holy Spirit. This is the potential in the life of every believer. Just like salvation, experiential sanctification is a matter of personal choice. When a believer chooses to allow the Holy Spirit to guide his life, he can be set apart to God on a regular basis. By using God’s system of naming your sins and walking in the Light the believer can fulfill God’s plan, purpose and will as a new spiritual class. (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18)
“Old things” is actually one word in Greek. It is the word “archaios”. “Archaios” literally means, “that which existed in the beginning”. It is a reference to something that is ancient (really old), something in the past. It does not, therefore, refer to the believer’s bad habits or lifestyle. It refers to something that is thousands of years old.
What exactly passes away at salvation that would fit into the meaning of the Greek word? The context makes the meaning very clear. It is a reference to an old condition – spiritual death. Thousands of years ago our original parents, Adam and Eve, sinned and the result was spiritual death. Spiritual death passed to every member of the human race as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. It is spiritual death that Paul has in view when he uses the word “archaios”.
“Passed away” in Greek is “parerchomai” and means “to go”, “to pass”, “to come to an end”, “to disappear” or “to neutralize”. In our passage, therefore, it means that spiritual death has gone, passed away or come to an end. At salvation, spiritual death comes to an abrupt end. Once you are placed into union with Christ spiritual death disappears forever from you. Never again will you be spiritually dead. You can reject the Christian Way of Life and turn your back on God and His
Word, but you can never be spiritually dead again. This is grace! (Romans 6:23)
Once again, let’s go the original language to get a precise meaning. For example, “all things” is not in the original Greek. The truth is that at salvation, all things do not become new for the believer. After years of spiritual growth and application of Bible doctrine some things become new, but certainly not at salvation.
Again, we get the proper meaning when we get a proper translation. “Behold, they have become new” is the proper translation. They refers to those who are “in Christ”. Even the word “new” in Greek gives us further insight on this phrase. There are two words in Greek for “new”. The first is “neos” and means new in time, young or that which is recent. The second word is “kainos” and means new in form, new in quality or different in nature. It is this second word, “kainos”, that Paul uses to describe the new creation. The believer receives a new nature (a human spirit). This nature is from God and is spiritual. Receiving this nature is not a matter of reformation of a particular lifestyle or behavior. Receiving this nature is strictly a matter of God’s grace provision. The transforming power of God the Holy Spirit places you into union with Christ and sets you apart to God for all eternity.
In case there is any doubt about the true meaning of this passage, verse 18 clarifies it. II Corinthians 5:18 says, “All things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” The “all things” are from God, not man and it is God that reconciles mankind to Himself by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. This eliminates any thought of religious “tabooism” or asceticism. You do not give up anything to become a new creation in Christ nor do you start something. You are a new creation because you are “in Christ” and for no other reason. Salvation is a matter of faith alone in Christ alone and has absolutely nothing to do with good works or human merit. Jesus Christ has already done all the work on behalf of us all. His substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross paid the penalty for sin and set up the potential of everlasting life for every member of the human race.
Everlasting life is a gift from God to any person that believes in Jesus Christ as Savior. Everlasting life is strictly a matter of God’s grace, which eliminates all forms of human works (church membership, being good, baptism, giving money, etc.). Believing means that you are no longer depending upon yourself or your good works to gain everlasting life in Heaven, but you are depending upon God. (Jn.3:16)