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2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Because he died in Christ to the old way of sin and to worldly ways of evaluating people and measuring success, Paul was no longer able to regard anyone according to the flesh as he once did (2 Cor. 5:14–16). More, however, must be said. In itself, dying to old fleshly or worldly ways of thinking does not mean that anyone will automatically start regarding others in a new way according to the Spirit. Dying in itself would just mean the end of an old pattern of thinking and not necessarily the beginning of a new way of thinking. Something else must occur, and Paul tells us what that is in today’s passage.

The Apostle notes in verse 17 that all those who have died in Christ have not merely died; they have also become “a new creation.” Of course, the Apostle is alluding to the reality of the resurrection, which he has not mentioned explicitly in the immediate context. It is implicitly present, however, because the Apostle cannot talk about the death of Christ without also having His resurrection in view. Without the resurrection, our Lord’s death would have no more significance for salvation than the death of any other person. Christ had to be raised for the sake of our justification and for His justification as well. In raising Jesus from the dead, God was declaring that Christ’s atoning death was acceptable in His sight and that Jesus was completely righteous and had never Himself sinned. Death can hold permanently only those who deserve it—namely, the unrighteous. But death could not hold Jesus because He was not Himself a sinner. He was the prophesied Holy One whom God would not allow to see corruption (Acts 2:24–28). Jesus was publicly declared perfectly righteous in His resurrection, and this resurrection was also for the sake of our justification (Rom. 4:25). Because Jesus was declared righteous when He was raised from the dead, all those who are in Him by faith alone are also declared righteous in the resurrection. As we will see in a few days, Paul discusses the mechanics of our justification in more detail in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Our being raised with Jesus has implications not only for our legal status of righteousness (justification) but also for our own personal holiness (sanctification). Our union with Christ also changes our being, and we begin to more and more die to sin and live in holiness (Rom. 6). We are made truly new creatures with the mind of Christ, able to view things according to God’s standards (1 Cor. 2:16).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

In Christ, we have a legal and positional righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus is put on our record, and we are declared righteous even though we still sin. However, we do experience true renewal and transformation in Christ as well. We are made new creatures with the ability to please God.


For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 30:6
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
  • 1 Peter 1:1–2

Waiting for the Lord

Transformation from God

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From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue