NEW CREATION IN CHRIST IS GOD'S WORK ONLY
NEW CREATION IN CHRIST
The word of God is full of meaning. The Bible is exceedingly sententious. People multiply words to express their meaning, but the LORD is amazingly concise. It seems as if he writes in shorthand (summary form) and gives us a lot in fewer words. Many books have been written, but few are as precious as silver. But God’s Book is priceless in every page. The worth of its sentences is impossible to determine by human intellect.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Here we have two great truths: the believer’s position –he is “in Christ,” and the believer’s character – he is a “new creature.” There are three stages of the human soul in connection with Christ. The first stage is “without Christ,” and this is the state of nature. The next stage is “in Christ,” and this is the state of grace. The third is “with Christ,” and this is the state of glory. Without Christ, this is where we are all born and nurtured, and even though we hear the gospel, and the Bible is in all our homes, and even though we use a form of prayer – but until we are born again, we are without God, without Christ and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. A person may be without food, though he stands at the feasting table –unless he reaches out with his hands and receives what is being provided. A person may hear Christ being preached every Sabbath/Sunday, and still be without Christ – unless he reaches out with his hands of faith and receives Christ. To be without Christ is a most unhappy condition. It is an inconvenient to be without gold, it is miserable and uncomfortable to be without health, it is shameful to be without a friend, it is despicable to be without reputation – but to be without Christ is the worst lack of all. May the LORD help those who now in that state –may they no longer be in that position of being without Christ.
The next state is that indicated in the verse, “in Christ,” and I will say a lot more on this as we go along and in the next few days. “In Christ” leads to the third state, which we can never reach without this second one. To be with Christ is the angels’ joy, it is the heaven of heavens, it is the centre of bliss, the sun of paradise. Let us all seek after it, and in order to have it, let us strive with all our heart and mind to be in Christ now, that we may be in Christ in the day he appears.
I have never heard of any person being in another person, except be in Christ. We may follow certain leaders, political or religious, but we are never said to be included in them. We interpret being “in Christ” using the word. We were all in the first Adam. Adam stood for us. Had Adam kept the command, we would have all been blessed. He ate the forbidden fruit and fell, and we all fell in him. Origin sin falls on us because of the transgression of our covenant head and representative, Adam the first. But all believers are in the same sense in Christ, Adam the second, the only representative Man before God, the heavenly Man, the LORD from heaven. Now, as in Adam we all fell, so all who are in Christ are in Christ perfectly restored. The obedience of Christ is the obedience of all his people. The atonement of Christ is a propitiation for all his people’s sins. In Christ we lived on earth, in Christ we died, in Christ we rose, and he has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places. Faith captures and apprehends that blessed truth – and therefore by faith we are in Christ Jesus.
Noah’s Ark was a model of Christ. The animals that were preserved from the flood passed through the door into the ark, the LORD shut them in, and they floated in perfect safety. We are in Christ in the same sense. Christ is the ark of God provided against the Day of Judgment. We, by faith, believe him to be capable of saving us. We come and trust him, we risk our souls with him, believing that there is no risk. Giving up every other hope or shadow of hope, we trust in what Jesus did, is doing, and is in himself, and therefore he becomes to us our ark, and we are in him – in the ark.
The LORD Jesus represents us as being in him as the branch is in the vine. The branch derives all its nourishment, its juice, its life, its fruit-bearing power, from the stem in which it is united. It would be of no use if the branch is placed next to the trunk of the tree, it would be useless even to tie it next to the stem side by side – it must be actually in it by union. There must be sap-streams flowing at the proper season into it, life-floods gushing into it from the parent stem. In the same manner there is a mysterious union between Christ and his people, not to be explained but to be enjoyed, not to be defined but to be experienced, in which the very life of Christ flows into us, and we by virtue of what comes out of him into us, become like him, and bring about a bunch of good fruit into his honour and to God’s glory. Friends, I hope many of you know what this means. May you be one with Jesus, bonded to him, united to him never to be separated for ever.
We may be in Christ also, just like the stone is in the building. The stone is built into the wall and is part of it. The stones and the cement become one rock, one wall, one building. That is what it is to be in Christ: it is to trust him for salvation as Noah trusted the ark. To be in Christ is to derive real life from him as the branch does from the stem. It is to be united to him as the stone leans on the foundation and becomes an integral part of the whole building.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.”
“In Christ,” has a weight of meaning in it. One might ask, “How do I come to be ‘in Christ?’” Well, our union to Christ is wrought in us by faith, when a person gives himself to Christ to sink or swim, when he inclines his soul completely on the LORD, when he depends on Christ and on Christ alone, not on good works or ceremonies but on Christ Jesus – then such a man is in Christ. Also he is in Christ when he loves Jesus, when the heart having trusted is moved with deep and warm affection to the Crucified Saviour, so that the soul clings to Christ, embracing him with fervent love, and Christ becomes the bridegroom, and the heart becomes his spouse, and they are married in a union which no divorce can never separate. When love and faith come together, then there is a blessed sweet communion. These two become the double channel through which the Holy Spirit’s influence flows forth daily, making the believer to grow up more fully unto Christ Jesus into all things. The mature the believer becomes, the nearer to the glory, the closer to the promised perfection, the more completely will he think and act, live and move, in Christ his Master, being one with Jesus in all things. Every believer is in Christ. Every true Christian is in Christ.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.”
It is written that if anyone be in Christ he is a “new creature.” What does it mean by a believer being a new creature? This can suggest that the believer must have been subjected to a radical change. There are many changes that a person may undergo, but they may be far from being radical enough to be referred to a new creation.
Saul is also among the prophets: hear how prophesies – if the prophets speak the secrets of God, Saul does the same. Is Saul not converted? The word tells us that God gave him another heart! Yes, another heart, but not a new heart. A man may be changed from one sin to another, from reckless profanity to mocking formality, from daring sin to hypocritical pretention to virtue – but such a change is very far from being saved, and not at all like the work which is called ‘new creation’. Ahab went and humbled himself after he murdered Naboth, and God turned away his vengeance for a while from Ahab, but that temporary humility of Ahab was not a sign of a renewal of his nature. It was like the changes of the sea, which today is smooth, but tomorrow will be ravenous, vicious and cruel – being unchanged in its nature, fickle and unstable. Ahab may humble himself, but he is still Ahab, and as Ahab he will go down into hell.
Conversion is sometimes described in the word as healing – but the idea of healing does not meet the radical character of the word “new creation.” Naaman went to the river Jordan full of leprosy, and he washed himself, and came up after the seventh immersion completely healed of leprosy – but it was still the same flesh and the same Naaman, and he was no means a new creature. A woman with the issue of blood for twelve years, was marvellously and miraculously healed from that infirmity and loosed at last from that bondage – but she was still the same woman and not a new creature. There are many changes and great moral changes as well which are wrought in the lives of many, but those are not salvation and they don’t give new creation. I have seen a drunkard become sober. I have known people of corrupt habits become disciplined and well ordered – but the changes have not amounted to the new birth or new creation. The same sin has been within them, ruling them, though it has put on different attire and used another voice. Yes, you may be washed from outward leprosies, and you may be healed from your visible infirmities but this will not suffice you – for if you are in Christ, you must have more than this.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away – behold, all things have become new.”
Even the most startling changes will not suffice unless they are total and deep. The Ethiopian might change his skin, the leopard might suddenly lose his spots – yes, these would be strange wonders, but the leopard would remain a leopard and the Ethiopian would remain black at heart. The improvement would not amount to new creation. So a man may give up all the outward lust and every crying sin which he used to indulge in, but unless the change goes deeper than the outward life, he is not saved – he is not a new creature, and therefore, he is not in Christ Jesus. Even the metaphor of resurrection, which is often applied to conversion, does not go so far as the language expressed in the word. Jairus’ daughter is placed upon her bed, and she dies. The LORD Jesus comes and says to her, “Talitha cumi,” and she opens her eyes, she rises, she lives, she eats – still she is not a new creature. Her mother receives her as the exact same child. Even Lazarus, who has been dead and is supposed to stink after four days of burial, rises when he is called from the grave by Jesus, is the subject of a remarkable miracle – but even his, scarcely amounts to new creation. He is the same Lazarus restored, not a new creature, but the same creature made lively from the temporary sleep of death. I hope you see how penetrating the word “new creature” is – absolutely a new creation. It is a root and branch change. It is not an alteration of the walls only, but of the foundation too. It is not a change of the design in a cloth, but a change of the very fabric which makes the cloth itself. Regeneration is a change of the entire nature from top to bottom in all senses and all respects. The same is true about the new birth. So it is to be in Christ and to be renewed by the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away – behold, all things have become new.”
The word says that we are new creatures through being in Christ. How does that happen? We have seen people fight against the teaching that men are saved by a simple faith in Jesus Christ. That is the gospel, and nothing else is the gospel, and those who don’t believe such truth know nothing at all about God’s gospel. This is the very soul and essence of the gospel, by which a church stands or falls. We are saved by a simple faith in Jesus, but some people argue that there must be a noticeable moral change in a man before he can be reconciled to God and made to qualify to be with God forever. But, friends, if the word be true, that those who are in Christ are new creatures, what greater change than this can be desired? I don’t believe there are any words that can explain/express a greater or more thorough and more radical renewal, than that which is expressed in the term, “a new creature.” It is as though the former creature has been utterly destroyed and put away, and something completely new was formed from the breath of God, just as in the days when the world was formed out of nothing – and the morning stars sang together over a new-made universe. That is the product of being in Christ, to be a new creature. Moralists want more than this. Pretenders of perfection and religious spiritualists strive after bizarre/strange holiness, which they never attain – they bind heavy burdens upon men’s shoulders which they also cannot lift with their fingers.
How is this “new creation” done? The man who is in the first Adam, being translated into the second Adam, becomes legally a new creature. As in the first Adam he is judged and condemned, his punishment is put upon his substitute – but as viewed in the second representative Man, he is legally, and before the bar of God’s justice, a new creature. But this is not all: he who believes in Christ, finding himself completely pardoned as the result of his faith in the precious blood of Jesus, loves Christ, and loves the God who gave Christ to be his redemption, and that love becomes a master passion. We all have heard of the expulsive power of a new affection – this new affection of love for God coming into the soul, expels love for sin. It enters into the heart of man with such royal majesty around it that it puts down all his proneness towards evil, and his preconceptions about the Most High God, and with a real and divine power, it reigns within the soul.
I suppose the manner of this great change is somewhat like this: At first the man is ignorant of his God. He does not know God to be so loving, so kind, so good as he is. Therefore the Holy Spirit shows the man Christ, allows him to see the love of God in the person of Christ, and by so doing brightens the understanding. Though the sinner thought nothing about God before, or his stray thoughts were all dark and terrible, but now he learns the infinite love of God in the person of Christ, and his understanding gets clearer views of God that it never had before. Then, in turn, the understanding acts upon the affection. Understanding God to be so good and kind, the heart, which was hard towards God, is softened, and the man loves the gracious Father who gave Jesus to redeem him from his sins. The affections being changed, the whole man is on the way towards a great and radical renewal, for now the emotions find another ruler/leader. The passions, which were once as wild as vultures at the sight sin, now turn with loathing from it, and are only stirred by holiness. The believer grows passionate against evil, as passionate as he once was against the right. Now he desires and thirsts for fellowship with God. The passions, like a rudder, have changed the direction of the emotions, and meanwhile the will is led in a blessed captivity, wearing silken fetters. The heart desires to do what God wills, yes, it desires to be perfect – for to will is present with us, eve though how to perform what we will we do not find. Friends, being in Christ brings such a massive change. It is a thorough and complete change, affecting all the parts, powers, emotions and passions of our humanity. Grace does not reform us, but recreates us. It does not trim away here and there an evil swelling, but it implants a holy and divine principle which goes to instant war with all indwelling sin and continues to fight until corruption is subdued, and holiness is enthroned.
That regeneration/rebirth, which is wrought in baptism, as some believe, is just a figment without the shadow of foundation. Friends, I hope many of you know what it means to “be in Christ.” Believe me, you must know it personally for yourself – let no man deceive you. The sprinkling of an infant makes no change in that child whatsoever – it is, I believe, just a vain ceremony, which is not commanded by God, nor supported by the Word. As many churches practice it, it is completely harmful and superstitious, and if there is any effect behind it, it must be an evil effect on those who wickedly lie to God, by solemnly promising and vowing that the unconscious will keep God’s commandments, and walk in them all the days of his life – which they cannot do for the child, just as they cannot even do so for themselves. There has to be another regeneration than this, which is not the work of any man, but the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone can regenerate the soul, who alone can give light to the spiritually blinded eye and sensation to the spiritually dead heart.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away – behold, all things have become new.”
Let not the priests of this day and age mislead you. You must be born again. This is an inward work, a spiritual work, and only this can save your souls. If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature – that is, he has experienced a radical change. There is divine working here. “A new creature.” Creation is the work of God alone. It has to be so. If any one doubts it, let us ask them to make the effort to create the smallest object. The potter works with the clay, and shapes it in any manner he likes, he fashions the container – but he is not the creator of it. The clay was there, all he did was change its shape. If any person thinks he can be the creator, let him produce just a single grain of dust. Yes, let such a person bring from nothing a grain of dust. It cannot be done. As the word of God declares a believer to be a new creature, then it’s clear that the believer is the work of God, and the work of God alone – “Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The inner life of a believer is the sole work of the Most High, and no one can pretend to have put even a finger to help the Creator. In creation, who helped God? Who prepared the clouds for him? Who measured the hills to assist God’s skill, or helped him dig the channels for the sea? Who assisted in rolling the stars along? Who took a torch to light up the lights of heaven? From whom did the Almighty take advice, and who gave him instructions? If there is any who can stand with God in the making of the world and the entire universe, then someone may claim to be able to convert souls - but until that happens, the new creation is God’s sole domain, and in it his attributes, and his attributes alone, shine splendidly. It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. The supreme will of God creates men heirs of grace.
Friends, it was more difficult, if such terms are ever applicable to God, it was more difficult to create a believer than to create the world. What was there to begin with when God made the world? There was nothing – but nothing could not stand in God’s way. It was at least passive. But, friends, in our hearts, while there was nothing that could help God, there was a lot that could and did oppose him. Our stubborn will, our deep-rooted preconceptions, our firm love of sin, all these, opposed the great God and aimed at impeding his designs. There was darkness in the first creation, but that darkness could not obstruct the incoming light. “Light be!” was the eternal order, and light was. But how often has his voice spoken to us and our darkness has refused his light? We loved darkness rather light, because our deeds were evil – and it was only when he put his garments of his Omnipotence, and come in the glory of his strength, that at last our souls yielded to his light, and the rotten darkness of our natural indecency made way for his glorious radiance. Yes, it was great to create the universe, but greater to create a new creature in Christ Jesus.
There was chaos when God began to make this world fit for man – terrible confusion, rampant disorder. But the Spirit of God moved on the face of the deep, and brought order speedily, because chaos could not resist the Spirit. But the disorder of our souls was strong in resistance to the order of God. We would not have his ways not yield to his commands – but even as we could we set our faces like a rock against the will, power and majesty of God. But he has restrained us, but has made us the creatures of his mercy. Unto him, then, be glory, majesty, strength,dominion and power! To him be the praise, now and forever, world without end!