Sunday, January 08, 2023

“A New Creation” [Matt's Messages]

“A New Creation”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 8, 2023 :: 2 Corinthians 5:17

This verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, is perfect for thinking about Christian baptism like we’re going to do with Ron in just a few minutes, and it’s also deeply connected to what we’re learning about right now in the Prophecy of Jeremiah.

Last week, we read what is probably the most important passage in the Book of Jeremiah. Chapter 31, verses 31 through 34. And they are super important because they introduce the key words, “A New Covenant.”

Jeremiah 31 says, “The days are “‘coming,' declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD” (vv.31-32).

A new covenant. An unbreakable one! A new covenant.

Now guess what the Apostle Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians? If you have it open in front of you, you might want to turn back a page to chapter 3, verse 6 to see what Paul is teaching on. He says, God “has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” He’s talking about the New Covenant!

And I wish I had time to take you through chapters 3, 4, and 5 to see his whole argument, but since I don’t, the big idea is that the New Covenant has changed everything through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, reconciling God and His people. And you and I are now ambassadors of that New Covenant imploring people to be reconciled to God through the New Covenant inaugurated in Jesus’ blood.

The New Covenant has changed everything. Just like Jeremiah foretold. And it is changing everything because when the promises of the New Covenant are fully fulfilled, it will mean a brand new world.

One Bible scholar I read this week said it this way, “For Paul, the new covenant, made possible by Christ's death, is the inauguration of the new creation.” (Scott Hafemann, pg. 244).

The New Covenant enacts the New Creation.
That’s why we have run to Revelation 21 for the last few Sundays. Because what God promises through Jeremiah starts to be fulfilled at the end of the exile, but it really starts to snowball when Jesus comes on scene, and then it isn’t fully realized until Jesus comes back a second time to make it all come true in the New Heavens and the New Earth–the New Creation.

The New Covenant enacts the New Creation. And that affects every single one of us who are “in Christ.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”


Ron and I looked at this passage together during his baptism class. I think it’s a great little summation of what baptism pictures in two big ideas–IN CHRIST and NEW CREATION. Let’s take them one at a time.


“If anyone is in Christ...”

That is one of the Apostle Paul’s all time favorite phrases, and it should be for you and me, too. “In Christ.” Paul uses it at least 80 times in his letters! “In Christ is Paul’s shorthand description of being identified with Jesus Christ and being in union with Jesus Christ. Our vital, living union with Jesus.

In a sister passage to this one, Romans 6, Paul says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Baptism symbolizes being “in Christ.” When Ron goes down into the water, he will be symbolizing that he was united with Jesus in His death, and when he comes back out of the water, he will be symbolizing how he is unified with Jesus in His resurrection life! Baptism symbolizes being “in Christ.”

It’s actually more important to BE “in Christ” than to symbolize it. Some people have gone through the symbol without actually being united to Christ in reality. But if you are united in Christ in reality, you should also symbolize it.

Are you in Christ? You either are or you aren’t. This is a binary choice. You are either IN Christ or OUT of Christ. There may be some confusion (on our side) about which you are, but it is either/or. We come into Christ through faith. We come into Christ by asking Christ to come into us. And our brother Ron has recently done that. I’ll let him tell that story. But he was outside of Christ, and He came into Christ. Just like he’s outside of the water right now, and will soon enter it.

How about you? Are you in Christ? It’s my privilege as a minister of the New Covenant to invite you, to implore you to be reconciled to God. Look at what Paul says in the next few verses. Verse 18.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-21 NIVO)

“In him we might become the righteousness of God.” You and I, if we are in Christ, have become the righteousness of God! If you are not yet in Christ you are outside of the righteousness of God. You are un-righteous before Him. And I implore you to be reconciled to Him through the New Covenant.

Let me ask you another question. Those of you who are in “in Christ,” have you gone public with that fact and symbolized it in the way that Jesus commanded His followers to symbolize it? Ron is a fairly new Christian, and he’s stepping out in faith to get baptized. Have you been baptized? Have you said to the world, “I am IN Christ!”? Christian baptism is for all Christians. It’s not just something you do if you feel like it.

Jesus says that we should baptize all disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And that includes you and me. It changes how we look at each other, doesn’t it? In this section, Paul is saying that he treats people differently when he knows that they are in Christ or not.

Look back up at verse 16. “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. [We don’t know them like we used.] Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. [We think about Him differently now on this side of the Cross. So of course, we think differently about anybody who is IN Christ. V.17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

We treat Ron differently now because He is not outside of Christ, but inside. He is one of us. He is family. We are IN Christ together. I’m sure Ron’s a little nervous today to tell his story, because he doesn’t know us very well, and we don’t know him very well yet. But we don’t regard him like we used to. He’s part of the family now! He’s IN CHRIST. Ron, you’re with family here. Welcome to the family. Because of the New Covenant, you are in Christ. And because you are in Christ, you are a “New Creation.”

That’s the second big idea in verse 17.


Verse 17 says again, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The Greek is a little more ambiguous. It’s more like this: “If anyone is in Christ...NEW CREATION!” It might mean that this person is a new creation. God has done a work of creating something new inside of him. I believe that’s true. Or it might mean that something bigger than that. If anyone comes into Christ, there is a sign of the new creation.
The updated 2011 NIV says it this way, “...if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come”!

Boom! New creation! Every time we look at a new Christian, we see the New Covenant enacting the New Creation. We are looking at a foretaste of Revelation 21 and 22. If you are a Christian, turn to the person next to you and tell them, “I am a foretaste of Revelation 21 and 22!” That’s how we should think about each other. Every time we are looking at another Christian, we are looking at the New Creation. A New Creation that is a foretaste of the New Creation because of the New Covenant.

V.17 “...a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

The exclamation mark there signifies the underlying Greek word “idou” which means, “Check this out!” “Look!” The old word is “Behold!”

This is amazing. “The old has gone, the new has come!”

Now, that almost sounds like a new Christian is not at all like they used to be. They are perfect; they never sin; they have arrived, the old has gone(!), the new has come(!). If that’s true, then Ron should not be baptized because he’s not perfect yet. And I shouldn’t be involved in baptizing him either. Because I am not perfect yet. 

But I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying. Paul knows that we are not yet what we will be one day.  But he does know that a real change has happened. A new birth has happened inside of us. Something new has been created in our hearts.

That’s the promise of the New Covenant, isn’t it? Remember what we read last week in Jeremiah 31, verse 33? “This is the [new] covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Jer. 31:31-34 NIVO).

That’s a New Creation! The old has gone. The new has come. A new heart. A new mind.  A new knowledge of God. A new deeper closer relationship with God. A new slate, a new standing, a new forgiveness, a new righteousness. On the inside! The old has gone (the old covenant, the old slave-driver of sin, the old allegiance to the Prince of this World). The old penalty, and position, and power of sin has gone.

And the new has come. A new creation! That’s what Christian baptism signfies.

I like how the New Living Translation paraphrases this. It says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor. 5:17 NLT).

Welcome, Ron, to your new life.

Christian baptism symbolizes being IN CHRIST and being A NEW CREATION. And this is God’s work. The very next words in verse 18 are, “All this is from God.” God is the One who includes us IN CHRIST through faith. God is the One who creates a NEW CREATION in us that says good-bye to the old and in with the new. 

And our response to God’s work is to live it out. We are to believe that we are in Christ with all of the blessings and benefits and privileges that go along with that. And we are are to live as New Creations. New lives that are changed because of the New Covenant at work in our hearts.

In the first few centuries of the Christian Church, baptismal candidates did this very dramatically.

“When...the time for baptism...arrived, the candidate would be called upon to renounce the Devil and all his pomp. Facing westward, the direction in which the sun went down, he would exclaim, ‘I renounce thee, O Satan, and all they works!’ Then he would deliberately spit three times in the direction of darkness, signifying a complete break with the power of evil and all their former claim on his life. Next, turning towards the sunrise, he would say, ‘And I embrace Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ!’ This would be followed by immersion...” (The Mark of Jesus, pg. 33-34).

The old has gone, the new has come! Ron is spitting in Satan’s face and symbolizing through his baptisms that he is in Christ, a New Creation. Ron, would you come up here and tell us your story?