A new creation is a continuing theme in both testaments of the Bible. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they were already part of that new creation. But how have we been made new? How are we different? And is there more to come?
I’ve been wanting to preach on today’s epistle lesson for several weeks, now. In the middle of the lesson Paul states:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17
It’s a verse worth memorizing because two key concepts appear together that are an important part of Paul’s teaching concerning our life as Christians.
The first of these concepts is that we are somehow “in” Christ Jesus (and in Paul’s letters this is baptismal language) and the second is that through the work of God we have been recreated and have become something new.
The theme of a new creation isn’t unique to Paul. It runs throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is something that is not yet, but it is also something that has already become.
What is still to come is a new heaven and a new earth which Peter calls the home of righteousness. In Isaiah 65, God says
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.Isaiah 65:17
In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John sees a vision in which God’s promise through Isaiah is fulfilled.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4
This is the new creation that we are waiting for, a place of joy and gladness and a close relationship with our God.
But God has already walked among us in the person of our Lord Jesus and he already dwells with us in the person of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Indeed, our Gospel lesson shows that there is a very real sense in which the kingdom of God is already present. Jesus, the Son of God, delivers a man who has been captive to a demon. He casts out the demon with the force of his command and the demon must obey. God reigns and his will is done through Christ Jesus.
To understand this, we can draw a little bit on history. On D-Day the allies landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy. There had been a lot of preparation and there were was still a lot of fighting to go, but D-Day was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
Jesus had come into Galilee preaching that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Shortly after, he began to demonstrate the saving power of God in the many mighty works he did to liberate people from Satan’s power.
Those works of salvation included his death and resurrection.eferring to Christ’s resurrection Paul wrote to the Colossians:
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the deadColossians 1:18
I was able to be present at the birth of all my children. Generally, when a baby is born, the head comes first. Once it has passed through the birth canal the rest of the body comes more easily. Christ, the head, opened the way for his body, the church, to leave the grave and enter the new heavens and the new earth. His resurrection was the beginning of new, transformed humanity, from which evil has been eliminated by death and resurrection. By calling him the firstborn from the dead, the apostle affirms that we also shall rise and become part of that new humanity, living in God’s new creation.
While there are many ways that the new creation will differ from that in which we live and not all of them are known, let me share just a few with you.
First, the people who live in that new world will all have been reconciled with God. In this world, many live as enemies of God, but God has acted to make peace and reconciliation possible. In our epistle lesson Paul says that this reconciliation was accomplished through the work of Christ.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV
Christ’s death reconciled God to us. He is the one who died for all, that all might live. He became sin for us so that in him, we could become the righteousness of God. And it is in his name that Paul urged his readers, and I urge you, to be reconciled to God so that the purpose of his death and resurrection will be fulfilled in you.
Second, all who live in the new creation have become one with God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, they will abound in righteousness as God does. They will share in his joy and because they live in and through him they will be incapable of death.
The old humanity multiplies bodily. We are born from the bodies of our mothers and fathers and therefore inherit the sins and evil that has infected mankind since the fall. But, the new humanity, multiplies spiritually. We have had a second spiritual birth that has given us a new kind of life, a new relationship with God, and we inherit from Jesus the righteousness of God.
We are, therefore, already a new creation. We were conceived by the Word of God and born through baptism. Bodily, we took our first breath of air at our birth. So also, in baptism we receive God’s Spirit or breath. As we need the air to live, so the new creature we have become lives only in the presence of God’s Spirit.
We also need nourishment. Peter points us to the milk of God’s Word that the spiritual life within us may flourish.
When’s the last time you saw a caterpillar? Those little guys seem to have only one job. They eat, and eat, and eat to prepare for the transformation that is coming. Likewise, we should be feeding regularly on the Word of God, for only it can prepare us for the transformation that awaits us. The caterpillar spins his own coffin, and appears to die, yet after a time he emerges as a butterfly. A radically different creature, yet the same.
So, we shall lie in our graves, apparently dead, yet our lives will continue in Christ Jesus, and the last day we shall emerge from our coffins radically different creatures, yet the same, and the transformation that began when we were born spiritually through baptism will be complete.
When you were first born you were welcomed into this world by your mother and various others. Then you will be welcomed into God’s new world by the one who gave you the new life you now live.
All of this is from God who reconciled us to himself in Christ Jesus. You had nothing to do with your bodily birth. Your spiritual birth was not your work either. God in his mercy, sent his Word and Spirit. Your spiritual life came through them and because he has done this work in you, you already something new. You are a human being that has been imbued with the Spirit of God. A new life has been given you. Christ lives in and through you. The old has passed away and the new has come. Therefore, rejoice and be glad and bless the Lord who is making all things new. Amen.