New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
One of the best things about losing weight has been the opportunity to buy new clothes. I’ve been ordering a couple new things from Amazon every other week or so. It has been fun. I’ve been able to pick out the styles and colors I like.
Since I’ve gone from a size 54 to a size 32, I started my shopping spree with pants, but I’ve started buying shirts, too. My shirts were just way too big, and buying shirts has given me a few new complete outfits.
There’s nothing like wearing new clothes. I feel special—I’m in a good mood, and I have a great day.
You enjoy new things, too, don’t you? Some you love getting a new car—there’s nothing like that new car smell. Some of you have enjoyed a new job—the new opportunities to accomplish so much. Some of you enjoy getting a new cellphone and playing with it and figuring it out. Some of you have enjoyed getting a new pet—starting to love it, train it, and make it feel at home.
Paul also liked new things—not new clothes or a new car or a new job—he liked the new life in Jesus.
Many people have needed new lives in Jesus.
- The Prodigal Son left home and wasted his inheritance “in reckless living” (Lk 15:13).
- Zacchaeus, by his own admission, defrauded folks (Lk 19:8).
- Peter, a man with great potential, denied he knew Jesus.
- Paul advanced in Judaism by doing many things contrary to the name of Jesus Christ.
But Paul found a new life, and he understood that “Life in Jesus changes everything.” Your life also changed when you came to Jesus: your attitude, your actions, your identity, and your eternal destiny all changed. Let’s look at that new life.
Scripture (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
“We regard no one according to the flesh.”
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, in part, to defend his ministry against false teachers who were openly opposing him. These heretics apparently emphasized their clothing and their overall outer appearance. Paul negatively mentioned “those who boast about outward appearance” up in verse 12.
No longer did Paul and those with him pay attention to the way one looked. The clothing one wore, whether or not one was circumcised (a major issue in Paul’s day), the color of one’s skin—none of it mattered. Instead, by implication, Paul said one’s soul is what really matters.
“Though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.”
The apostles and others once saw and knew Jesus in the flesh. Now, one can only have a spiritual relationship with Jesus.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
In the Old Testament, the phrase “new creation” often referred to life in the world to come. As a new creation, the Christian has life in the world to come.
Paul started verse 17 with “therefore.” The reason the Christian can be a new creation is that Jesus is no longer in the flesh. Because Jesus was resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, the Christian anticipates the life to come.
“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Instead of anticipating hell, one has a new life in Christ. Jesus is the Giver of life.
- “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10b).
- John 11:25-26a.
- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6a).
When one comes to Christ, he gains a new life which shall never end.
“All this is from God.” God is the One who sent Jesus to save mankind.
“Through Christ [God] reconciled us to himself.”
The idea of reconciliation is that Jesus satisfied God’s wrath. Instead of man’s trying to appease God, like in paganism, God himself makes reconciliation through Jesus’s sacrifice.
God gave Paul and the other apostles “the ministry of reconciliation”; they called men to reconciliation to God through Christ.
“We are ambassadors for Christ.” Paul and the other apostles acted as heralds from the King.
“God making his appeal through us.” God has entrusted to men the proclamation of the gospel.
“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” As an ambassador for Christ, Paul urged the Corinthians to rid themselves of sin, be cleansed from sin through Christ, and have a relationship with God.
This verse describes how God reconciled the world to himself.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” God laid all mankind’s sins on the perfectly sinless Christ.
“So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
There seem to be two ideas conveyed here:
- God, through Christ’s sacrifice, makes one righteous in his sight; he imputes righteousness to the one in Christ.
- God also expects Christians to live righteously before him.
“Life in Jesus changes everything.” How does that truth impact your day-to-day life? Because “Life in Jesus changes everything,” you have a:
Paul said, “We regard no one according to the flesh.”
You cannot regard people according to the flesh. Who someone is on the outside has no bearing on his or her soul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
I know you believe that, and I’m absolutely persuaded you practice that truth. However, I’d love to see you make a concerted effort to live that truth this week. What if you reach out to someone different from you? Find someone who is of a different skin color or ethnicity or political persuasion or something else that makes that person different from you. Treat that person with dignity and respect, and also find a way to emulate Jesus and serve.
You have a new life with God and his Son which will continue to grow and culminate when you see him face to face.
Therefore, you have no reason to fear death. Jesus died and was raised to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb 2:15). Revelation 14:13. The only reason you should ever fear death is if you aren’t right with God. Yet, if you are in Christ, Jesus has reconciled you to God, taken your punishment, and covered your sins.
Why would you fear death? Do you worry about your relationship with God? Fix it. Do you struggle with your faith? Get in the Book and grow a strong faith. If it’s something else, what steps can you take in Jesus to overcome that fear?
Through Jesus, you have been reconciled—brought near—to God. Are you fostering that relationship?
Spend serious time growing closer to God. As you make a real effort to draw close to God, you’ll be following in the steps of Jesus who spent 40 days in the wilderness growing his relationship with his Father.
As you spend time in the word of God, you will grow to know and love him more: “The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words” (Ps 119:57). Through your study of Scripture, make God your portion.
Pray to God and speak to him. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (Js 4:8). Spend serious time in prayer and draw near to God.
Paul said that God had made him and the other apostles ambassadors for Christ and that God was making his appeal through them. In the context of 2 Corinthians, being an ambassador for Christ is a special role for inspired apostles.
However, you have a duty to share your faith. When Jesus instructed his apostles to make disciples of all nations, the Lord told the apostles to teach the new converts everything he had commanded them (Matt 28:19-20). Since making disciples is part of what Jesus taught the apostles, every Christian needs to make disciples.
Share your faith with someone this week. Invite someone to worship, give someone a tract, work with World Bible School, set up or conduct a Bible study. Whatever you do, be an ambassador for Christ.
Part of the new creation you have in Christ is a new righteousness. “In [Christ] we . . . become the righteousness of God.”
As I said, there are two ways you “become the righteousness of God.”
One: If you are a Christian, God imputes the righteousness of Christ to you.
When God looks at you, he does not see your sin. Instead, he sees Jesus’s righteousness. You can rest in that assurance—no matter what sins you’ve committed in the past, God sees you as righteous because of Jesus Christ.
Two: You must live righteously.
Just because God looks at you and sees Jesus’s righteousness doesn’t mean you can live however you like. “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20).
You need to look at your life and see how righteous you are before God. Are you righteous? Do you need to remove sin from your life and add righteousness? Do you need our help? If so, come right now as we stand and sing.
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.