Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The Apostle Paul wrote several letters to the Church at Corinth. He was deeply concerned that the Believers in Corinth were abandoning their faith. In addition, a group of men had come to Corinth who presented themselves as apostles. They were false teachers who were challenging, among other things, Paul’s personal integrity and his authority as an apostle.
Among other topics in this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul emphasizes that we must "regard no one according to the flesh". In other words, that what our lives are in this world should be secondary to our reconciliation with God in the spirit, so that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Jesus; who for our sake, died and was raised to sit at the right hand of God, the Father.
So, Paul points out that if we are reconciled to God (reunited with Him in spirit), then we are also in Christ, and a new creation. Our old lives have passed away, and we now have a new purpose and mission. No one was better qualified to testify about becoming a new creation than Paul, who was formerly Saul, of Tarsus. In his former life he had ravaged and persecuted the Church, making it his zealous mission to imprison both men and women, followers of "The Way", and to ultimately destroy the new faith in Jesus as Savior and Messiah.
But on that road to Damascus, God got a hold of Saul, and in a bold and dramatic event revealed that Saul had not been persecuting men in his zeal to find favor with YHWH, but had actually been persecuting Jesus, the Son of God. We all know the story ... Saul spent three days in Damascus, blind both physically and spiritually, while God revealed exactly who he had seen on that road. During those three days, Saul died to himself, and was raised to a new life to become one of the most influential messengers of God.
I want to make sure we see that in this particular Scripture, Paul makes it clear that the promise of a new life is available to anyone! It doesn’t matter what class, what race, what nationality, what language, or what level of intelligence. Anyone can be a new creation in Jesus Christ!
But this promise is contingent on one thing... we must be in Christ. This is not a promise for those who are in themselves, or in the religion of men, or in someone or something else. This is for those in Christ; for those who are grafted in to Him, joined to Him by faith in Him as their Savior.
And we must understand that Jesus Christ changes those who come to Him by faith, and who are in Him. The saved are not “just forgiven.” They are changed into a new creation [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit], with new responsibilities. The old things have passed away; those things that were our previous moral and spiritual condition. We must never return to them.
It is incumbent upon us to recognize that living as a new creation is not something God does for us, but works in us, using our will and our choices. So, we must both receive the gift of being a new creation, and be challenged to live the life of a new creation. But it is God’s work in us that we must submit to. This reminds us that at its root, Christianity is all about what God has done for us, not what we can or should do for God. Paul is careful [in today's verse] to give the credit to God, not to us.
I love this quote by the great theologian Charles Spurgeon: “Beloved, if you have no more religion than you have worked out in yourself, and no more grace than you have found in your nature, you have none at all. A supernatural work of the Holy Ghost must be wrought in every one of us, if we would see the face of God with acceptance.” If we truly become a new creation, it is expressly due to what God has done in us; we can claim no part in it.
Behold, the new has come. We are not only mended, but we are made new; becoming a willing partner in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. You see, God loves working with His creation. He enjoys partnering with us, and through us, to see His perfect will be done. But He can't achieve His plan while we are in our flesh. We must be in Christ and a new creation, regenerated in a spirit of obedience, and willing to glorify Him with our lives. Thank You, Lord, for the work You have done in me, and the work You will continue to do as I grow in this relationship towards You!