Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ESV
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
It can be too easy to forget how different the followers of Christ are from worldly-minded people. We live among them, work with them, generally eat the same kind of food, and engage in many of the same activities, like watching movies or ball games, going on vacations, raising children, and so on. A Christian man and a worldly man can admire the same car in the showroom and talk about its performance and ride. A Christian woman and a worldly woman can talk about which dresses look good on each other in the store. So much about our lives is made up of just plain matters of life without any ethical or moral issues that we unconsciously downplay the radical change that the Lord has made in us. Added to this is the factor of our remaining sin, and the forgetfulness can descend into confusion. We all want friends, to have a pleasant life, and so we drift along, as we buy groceries or get the oil changed in our cars. We can too easily forget to think and act at all times like followers of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is writing to people who were not evaluating everything according to Christ, and he seeks to lead them back to a Christ-structured, gospel formed way of thinking and life. Then they will be able to resist the seductive arguments of the false teachers who were troubling them. The apostle has just stated the radical difference that the Christ’s death and resurrection produces. Now, he presents two consequences, one negative and one positive, of the compelling power of Christ’s love. Both present a distinctively Christian outlook.
I. The negative consequence (5:16)
Paul speaks of a reversal from the former way of evaluating other people, including Christ. (Remember that Jesus is fully human as well as God, and so falls within this purview.)
A. The reality of Christ and the gospel requires a new way of evaluating people. Notice the connecting word “so”, which can be translated also as “therefore”, “for this reason”, “so then”, or “consequently”.
1. The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus are more than just historical events, like “I woke up today and had breakfast”, though they are fully historical. They are events of significance, actions through which the living God produced saving and worldview altering changes in the human situation.
2. Here the focal point is on how we regard, view, appraise, or value people. In other words, the gospel changes our way of thinking. What the Lord Christ accomplished by his death and resurrection alters the way we look at all things, including people. This is the repentance aspect of conversion, and like faith, it has ongoing, progressive influence.
Apply: In our daily life, we need to bring a gospel outlook. The way we act in our family, our workplace, and our gathering must be influenced by the reality of Christ’s death and resurrections and ours in him. So, you’re with your family or hanging out with your friends at night. How is the gospel influencing your interactions and what you’re doing? You must deliberately take the Lord and the gospel with you into those situations. When you dine at a fine restaurant, there is usually as place to check your coats. You and I must never put the Lord and the gospel in the coat check, while we seek our own “pleasure”, like speaking in a nasty or grouchy way to a family member, or by spreading salacious gossip to our friends.
B. The reversal in evaluation involves Christ and all people. We no longer regard people or any individual from a worldly point of view.
1. We don’t make mechanical and superficial judgments about people because of things like physical appearance, educational aptitude, ethnic background, financial portfolio, social status, or other matters by which people are commonly accepted or rejected. All those things were means by which we used to use other people for our own benefit. For example, Jesus spoke about this in regard to whom a person invites to dinner (Lk 14:12-14).
2. We no longer look at Jesus from a worldly point of view. Paul, as a Hebrew Pharisee, would have had a rather low opinion of Jesus, to use a massive understatement (Ac 26:9). People today have their own worldly opinions of Jesus, looking at him as a legend, a liar, or a lunatic (to borrow from Josh McDowell). Even to religious people, Jesus might be a mere example, a martyr, a good teacher, a revolutionary, a mystic—anything but Supreme Lord and Only Savior! True Christians fall to their knees before him in joyful worship and full humility (cf. Ph 2:9-11). The cross and resurrection demand that we regard Jesus as the Lord of Glory and Wonderful Savior. We say that in everything Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has the supremacy (Col 1:18)! People who are in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus look at him from a gospel point of view.
Apply: I wonder… what is your view of Jesus? Not just on Sunday morning or when you’re trying to be a good little Bible study boy or girl—but how do you regard him all the time? Does Jesus think that you’re convinced that he has the name that is above every name, that he is supreme in your life? He’s the Judge (Ac 10:42), so it’s his verdict about you and me that counts, not yours and mine.
II. The positive consequence (5:17)
Paul speaks of the way of evaluating all people. Here is the positive aspect of repentance. We have not merely put of the old way of evaluation; our minds are transformed in conformity with the new way of evaluation. We prize this new way!
A. The essential matter of “in Christ”
1. This phrase or its equivalents is one of the central parts of Pauline theology. It conveys the idea of personal union with Jesus Christ, and so we are members of his body. We stand before God in him and share in his benefits.
2. To be in Christ speaks of our secure position before God, since we have Christ’s righteousness. It means to be accepted in him by God, to have eternal life, to be a joint heir with him of eternal glory, to have his fullness, to be set free, and to know God.
3. What Paul is about to say refers only to those who are in Christ by grace through faith (cf. Eph 1:11-13): “if anyone is in Christ….” This is how we enter into the position that the apostle is about to mention.
B. Through his death and resurrection and ascension Christ accomplished the new creation. His death put in motion the end of the old creation. His exaltation to life and glory began the new creation. When we believe in Jesus Christ we enter his new realm. This is something positional that ought to be affecting our condition. Only any day, you might not “feel new” or “act new”, but on the basis of the written word, you must know that you are new.
1. The new creation language is a fulfillment of God’s promises through Isaiah (Is 42:9; 43:16-21; 48:6; 65:17; 66:22). Paul speaks of Christ’s people using new creation language (Gal 6:14-15; Eph 2:10; 4:24). As is clear from the last two references, the reality of the new creation changes our way of life.
2. The theology of the New Testament is a theology of newness. It stretches from the “core” idea of union with Christ (Rm 6:3-4; 7:6) to completion (Rev 21:5). There is the new wine of the new age (Mk 2:22; Lk 5:37-38), the new covenant (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24), the new humanity (Eph 2:15; 4:24; Col 3:10), the new song (Rev 5:9), the new name (Rev 2:17; 3:12), and the new commandment (Jn 13:34-35; 1 Jn 2:8). Everything leads to the new wine of the heavenly marriage feast (Mk 14:25), the new heaven and the new earth (2 Pt 3:13; Rev 21:1), and the New Jerusalem (Rev 3:12; 21:2).
Point: You and I must regard ourselves and others in Christ as participating in this newness.
C. A summary statement from two angles
1. The old (order) passed away (aorist tense) – All the relationships and conditions that governed our lives formerly have passed away—the flesh, the law, sin, worldly standards and death.
2. The new (order) has come (perfect tense) – New relationships and conditions are ours—Christ, life in the Spirit, adult sonship, freedom, and inheritance. The Spirit begins a total life restructuring according to Christ.
Apply: Our life in Christ has an exclamation point! The Spirit is saying through the apostle, “See this! Look at this! It’s time to celebrate! Life! Love! Peace! Goodness! Joy! Fullness!” It’s time to take a deep drink from the Spring of Living Water and be satisfied!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]