(The following is the fourth in a series of excerpts from Pastor Stam’s classic work on True Spirituality. Since this book never appeared as a series in the Searchlight, many of even our long-time readers may not be familiar with these selections.)
ALL THINGS BECOME NEW
“So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17, New Tr.).
An appreciation of the truth contained in the above passage will prove to be one of the greatest possible helps to the believer who desires to live a truly spiritual life.
We have thus far considered birth and resurrection as descriptive of the impartation of life to believers by the Spirit, but even these two terms fail to tell the whole story. A third, that of creation, must be added to complete the description.
As with new birth and resurrection, the term creation is also used in more than one connection. It is used, for example, in connection with the new heaven and the new earth (Isa. 65:17). There is a general sense, too, in which the saved in any age may be considered a new creation, and even a more particular sense in which redeemed Israel of the future is called a new creation (Psa. 102:16-18; Isa. 65:18) but as with the other two terms we have considered, this term is given unique significance in the great Pauline revelation concerning Christ and the members of His Body. Indeed, it is Paul alone who, by the Spirit, uses the exact phrase new creation, and exclusively in this connection.
THE NEW CREATION IS THE BODY OF CHRIST
The above rendering of II Corinthians 5:17 by J. N. Darby, in his New Translation, is doubtless more accurate than that of the Authorized Version. The idea in this passage is not merely that believers in Christ have individually become new creations (though this is also true) but that they now belong to a glorious new creation which God has brought into being in Christ. Likewise, the latter part of the verse does not mean merely that the old sinful habits have passed away from the life of the individual believer, to be replaced by a new manner of life (however this may, or should, be true) but that with the forming of the new creation an entirely new order or program has been ushered in.
That this is the correct meaning of this passage is evident from Paul’s remarks in general with reference to the new creation, as well as from the context here in II Corinthians 5. Especially is it evident from the preceding verse, which reads:
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (Ver. 16).
The whole passage in II Corinthians 5 has to do with knowing Christ henceforth in a new and different way, no longer after the flesh, but as the Head of a new creation, and with knowing men too, no longer after the flesh, but as belonging either to the old creation or to the new creation in Christ.
The Ephesians Epistle has a great deal to say about this important truth. After reminding us, in Ephesians 2:11,12, that as Gentiles we were aliens from God and from His covenant people, the apostle goes on to say:
“BUT NOW in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
“For He is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us:
“…to make [Gr., create] in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:13-15).
In the third chapter the apostle, proclaiming the revelation “which in other ages was not made known,” declares that believing Gentiles now are:
“…Joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of [God’s] promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings” (Eph. 3:6, New Tr.).
This “new creation,” this “one new man,” this “joint body,” formed of Jews and Gentiles made one in Christ, is called “His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).
THE NEW CREATION THE COUNTERPART OF THE OLD
God’s new creation in Christ is the counterpart of the creation of the Adam of Genesis 5:2. Before God gave the woman to the man, his name was called Adam (Gen. 2:18-20). Then God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, took a part out of his side, formed the woman from it and gave her back to the man to become “one flesh” with him. “And He called their name Adam” (Gen. 5:2).
In like manner the Church which is Christ’s Body was brought into being through His death and taken out of His wounded side, so to speak, to be made one with Him in His resurrection life. And, as in the case of Eve, we are given His name. Speaking of the members of the Body, the apostle says:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members…so also is Christ” (I Cor. 12:12).
We repeat, however, that the “new creation,” the “new man,” is the counterpart of the Adam of Genesis 5:2. Christ Himself was not created, as Adam was, for we read in I Corinthians 15:45,47:
“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was1…a quickening [life-giving] spirit.”
“The first man is of the earth earthy; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.”
ITS BEGINNING IN HISTORY
When the utter failure of both Jew and Gentile had been demonstrated, God concluded both in unbelief that He might show mercy to all (Rom. 11:32):
“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16).
Thus the new creation, the Body of Christ, had a definite beginning in human history. It was brought into being, historically, with the fall of Israel and the dispensation of the grace of God through Paul.
The “old things” which “passed away” at that time (II Cor. 5:17) were the conditions and requirements of the Old Covenant. So completely have these “old things” of the “Old Covenant” passed away that God takes the basic requirement of them all, circumcision, and says concerning it:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).
God no longer says: “IF ye will obey My voice indeed…THEN ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me…” (Ex. 19:5). “All things have become new” (Ver. 17) and in this new order “All things are of God,2 Who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (Ver. 18). With us there is no continual “if.” We, the members of “Christ’s Body,” are assured that we are the treasure of God’s heart because we have been made one with Christ, His beloved Son (Eph. 1:6). Immediately upon believing we are given the position of fullgrown sons (Gal. 4:1-7; Eph. 1:5,6)3 with our standing based on grace, not law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 3:23-25; 4:6,7). This is a truth which the figure of the new birth does not convey.
ITS ORIGIN IN THE PURPOSES OF GOD
But while the new creation had its beginning in human history with the fall of Israel and the dispensation of the grace of God through Paul, it was planned by God long before this.
As we have seen, the doctrine of the new birth contemplates only a new beginning. The doctrine of our resurrection with Christ goes farther, reckoning with the past unregenerate state of the individual as well as with the new life which he receives upon believing, for resurrection presupposes a former life and death. But the doctrine of the new creation in Christ reaches back far beyond our unregenerate state, back beyond the creation of Adam, who brought sin into the world, back even beyond the creation of the old universe, which was ruined by sin, to the eternal purpose of God.
It was in eternity past that God purposed that when the sin of Adam’s children had risen to its height, when Israel had joined the Gentiles in rebellion and both had “set themselves against the Lord and against His Anointed,” He would form a new creation of reconciled Jews and Gentiles, joined to each other and to Christ, the Second Man, the Last Adam. That this was His eternal purpose is clearly taught in the epistles of Paul, as we shall presently see in connection with—
THE NEW CREATION AND CHRISTIAN CONDUCT
God’s eternal purpose in the new creation was, among other things, that sinners, made in the image of fallen Adam, might be conformed to the image of Christ, God’s sinless Son; that they might bring forth good works instead of evil, and live to the glory of His grace. The accomplishment of this purpose will be consummated, of course, after this life is over, but it is evident from those passages which deal with it, that God would have us enter into the joy and power of our union with Christ now by faith. This will readily be seen from the following representative passages:
“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Rom. 8:29).
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him,4
“In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it;
“That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,
“That He might present it to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
“…[Ye have] put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
“And [are being] renewed in the spirit of your mind;
“And…[ye have] put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24).
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:
“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:9-11).
Perhaps the reader has already noticed that believers have “put on” the new man and are exhorted to depart from evil in the light of this fact. God would have us put on the new man experientially in the light of the fact that positionally we have already put him on by faith in Christ. It will be noticed that in the latter passage quoted above our position in the Body is unquestionably referred to, for the passage goes on to say: “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew,” etc.
THE NEW CREATION AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
How helpful the knowledge of these things should prove in the lives of those who truly desire to live pleasing to God! To think that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world! To think that God has fully accepted us in His beloved Son! To think that He has already—and eternally—united us with Christ! To think that our oneness with Christ has also made us one with one another! To think that God has given us a place at His right hand in Christ—a position we may now occupy by faith! To think that He deals with us as fullgrown sons, on the basis of grace, rather than law! To think that He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ—blessings we may now appropriate by faith! What could serve as a greater incentive to “walk worthy of the Lord” than the knowledge of these things?
We do not mean to imply that a mere intellectual knowledge of these facts will afford us any help to live truly spiritual lives, any more than mere intellectual knowledge could save us. It must be a knowledge based on faith in the Word of God, in-wrought by the Spirit, Who wrote the Word.
We must not forget, to begin with, that the Body of Christ, the new creation, is formed of believing Jews and Gentiles by the work of the Spirit:
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles…” (I Cor. 12:13).
Furthermore, we can understand and enjoy the glorious truths concerning our position in Christ only by faith, as the Spirit opens our eyes to understand the Scriptures. This is why the apostle prays so earnestly:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe…” (Eph. 1:17-19).
Surely the apostle speaks here of “knowing” these things experientially, not merely intellectually. Thus we must ever look to God to make these truths real to us by His Spirit, that the knowledge of faith may become the knowledge of blessed experience.
- Not “was made.”
- I.e., declared to be of God. Essentially “all things” necessary to salvation were always “of God,” but this was not yet revealed to be so. Under the Old Covenant and right on through until Paul, men were always instructed to do something to find acceptance with God. Now God declares that He Himself has accomplished all that is necessary and offers salvation “to him that worketh not, but believeth” (Rom. 4:5).
- The terms “adoption of sons” and “adoption of children” (Gr., Huiothesia) in these passages should have been rendered “placing as sons.” The word Huiothesia alludes to the ceremony by which the lad, having come to years, was officially declared to be a fullgrown son.
- The words “in love” probably belong to the next verse. There is no punctuation to determine this in the original.