Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
I remember the day we moved into our apartment. The building had just been built and we had the opportunity to be the first people to live in this brand-new apartment. It had never been occupied before. Not only were we the first occupants in the apartment we were among the very first people in the building. Everything was new and shiny because it had never been used before. Whether it’s a new apartment, new house, new clothes, new anything, I think it is safe to say the overwhelming majority of people like things that are new. If you like new things, then you are going to love the verse we are looking at today.
As you look at 2 Corinthians 5:17, there is one thing I want you to think about. What does it really mean to be a new creation in Christ? This verse declares that you are new, so you should understand what that means. To do this I believe it is necessary to consider the different parts of this verse. We are going to do what scholars call exegesis. This is just a fancy way of saying we are going to do a critical explanation or interpretation of the text.
What Does 'If Anyone Is in Christ, He Is a New Creation' Mean?
This is the first word we see in this verse. As a rule of thumb when you are studying Scripture, whenever you see the word therefore you should always ask what is it there for? Let’s do that with this one. When you read the prior verse you will get at least one indication of why this 'therefore' is there.
"Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer." – 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NKJV)
I hope you see this verse begins with therefore so you now know what you are supposed to do. (I will let you do that on your own.) To bring another understanding of this verse I also want to look at it in the New Living Translation (NLT).
"So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!" - 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NLT)
In this verse Paul is stating clearly that we should no longer look at other believers from a worldly or human point of view. When a person comes to Christ we cannot and should not look at them the same way. Our view of them should change. That is why the therefore is there.
The reason I like this word is that it does not single out one specific group of people. This idea or reality applies to every person who meets the condition. This is very similar to the 'whoever' we find in John 3:16. Whoever believes or anyone who believes In Jesus Christ has eternal life. The same is true here anyone in Christ is made new.
Is in Christ
This is the key condition of this verse. This is the one condition that must be met to make everything after it true. You must be in Christ. This word can mean a few things which are all tied together.
- You belong to Christ.
- You have been saved by the power of Christ.
- You are united with Christ.
Whichever one you choose to use they all lead to the same result, a new creation. As we consider the next part of the verse it will help us answer the question what does it mean to be a new creation in Christ?
He Is a New Creation
The word new in this part of the verse implies transformation and it is a word that implies contrast. I believe these are the two biggest things it means to be a new creation in Christ.
A New Transformation
If you are going to be in Christ, then Paul is saying something should be happening. When a sinful person gets connected to the saving and cleansing power of Jesus Christ, something has to change. You cannot have a true encounter with Jesus and have a true salvation experience and everything remain the same. The moment you are saved by the power of Jesus and you belong to him then the process of transformation begins. This is the first part of this newness represented here.
A New Contrast
The rest of this verse focuses on the new contrast that happens when a person is in Christ. I like the way the New Living Translation (NLT) words 2 Corinthians 5:17, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” There is a contrast that happens when a person is a new creation in Christ. You can actually call it a dividing line. There is a you that existed before Christ and a you that exists after Christ. These two should be different. When you begin to contrast the old you and the new you then the answer to what does it really mean to be a new creation in Christ becomes very clear.
7 Benefits of Being a New Creation in Christ
1. New Beginnings
Romans 3:23-24 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The word justified means you have been vindicated or acquitted. This means that in Christ you get a fresh start and a clean slate. You get a brand-new beginning. As some would say, it is just as if you have never sinned.
2. New Relationship
The benefit of the new beginning is a new relationship or new fellowship with God.
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." – Ephesians 2:13
We were all at one point far from God because of our sin. However in Christ that all changes. Being a new creation means you can now draw near. It gives you access to his presence.
3. New Identity
When you are in Christ you are given a new identity. You are no longer your own, you belong to Christ. Here is what God declares about you.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." – 1 Peter 2:9-10
4. New Destiny
It is clear that we were once enemies of God heading down a path of destruction. However, when you were found in Christ you became a citizen of heaven. That is now your new eternal home.
"For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" – Philippians 3:18-20
5. New Position
The beauty of being found in Christ is that your seat has changed. You are now seated in heavenly places.
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" – Ephesians 2:6
There are many implications of this more than I can explain in this article. The most simple way I can put this is because you are in Christ you have heavenly allies, heavenly access and heavenly influence.
6. New Power
Being a new creation in Christ also means you have access to new power. The Holy Spirit now works in you and through you helping you to live and be the person God desires you to be.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." – Acts 1:8
7. New Purpose
When you are in Christ you are now positioned to accomplish what God has created you to do.
"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." – Ephesians 2:10
Notice the progression of how this happens. God changes you or makes you new in Christ and when he does that you are now able to do the good works God has prepared for you. This only happens when you are that new creation.
The last thing I want to share with you to help you know what it really means to be a new creation in Christ is this. God makes you into something that never existed before. You are not just an upgrade of a previous model. You are a brand new model that the world has never seen before. I don’t know what your background is or what you were before you came to Christ. All I know is that whatever you were before, you are not now. You are a brand-new, never before seen edition that God wants to use to bring much glory to his name. I pray that you would live today like that brand-new edition that you are.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.