New Creation (Part One) – 2 Corinthians 5:17

As we continue in our study of 2 Corinthians, we come to the conclusion of Paul’s argument thus far, to one of the most powerful and crucial verses in all of Paul’s writings. He tells us, in verse 17, that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”. Paul prefaces this statement with the word “therefore”, showing us here that this statement is the conclusion he reaches from all he has explained to us thus far. The “if” here is what is known as a first class conditional statement in the Greek. What this type of conditional asserts is more along the lines of the English “since”, and the “if” here refers not to whether or not those in Christ are “new creations” (since all are), but as to whether or not someone is “in Christ”. All who have placed their trust in Christ as Lord and Savior are, in fact, new creations. So how are we to understand just what Paul means by the term “new creation”? We must begin with the fact that the term “creation” here is the Greek ktisis. It must be noted that this term is only used with God as its subject in both the Greek Old and New Testaments. The type of creation here is one that can be done only by God. So how can this be reconciled with Genesis chapter 2, which tells us that on the seventh day God rested from all His work of creation? If we turn to this verse, we find that it actually reads “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating He had done”. The key thing to mention here is the presence of the phrase “He had done”, which only says that God was finished with the work of creation up to that point, but does not eliminate the possibility of further creation in the future. So what type of creation is this in 2 Corinthians, what exactly does God do in those who have believed? More than one, and we will begin with the first through a return to Genesis. We find , in Genesis 1:26, that God originally created Adam in His “image and likeness”. Many ancient Hebrew commentators have observed that these two terms express both God’s intention and action in creating human beings, that God’s intention was to create man in His image, and His action was to create man in His likeness. This concept implies that the image of God in man somehow included a volitional element, that man was given a free will and the image somehow included the submission of this will to the will of God. It was God’s intention that man would live in submission to the will of God, and God created man so that this was so. Man’s will was submitted to God, who “walked with him in the Garden in the cool of the day”, a picture of man walking in fellowship with his creator, man’s will submitted to God’s. This concept is further implied the Hebrew words used for image and likeness. The Hebrew “image” here is selem, and “likeness” is demut. The word selem refers to a representation of something or someone, to man as God’s “representative”, as one who is given responsibilities to implement and is accountable for how those responsibilities are carried out. These are given to Adam in verse 28, to “fill the earth and subdue it”, and to “have dominion” over the other creatures. The word demut refers to a “similarity”, and refers to the fact that man is “similar” to God. We learn what this truly means in Genesis 3:22, which tells us that, after the fall, “man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil”. The “likeness” of God given to man refers, then, to the freedom God has given to every human being to decide for themselves what they will accept as truth, whether they will submit to what God says is true, or determine what is true for themselves. What we also notice here is that man has kept the “likeness” but lost the “image”. If we recall from earlier the idea that God’s intent in creating man in His “image” (as His representative) was that man would live with his will submitted to the will of God, and it was only as he did so that he could fulfill his responsibilities, that we can see that man in his fallen state (as verified many times in the New Testament) is no longer able to live as the image of God, as God’s “representative” to and over creation, since in his fallen condition man has no desire to submit his will to God’s. We then see why we find Jesus referred to as the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus came as a man and lived how man was intended to live, with His will submitted completely to the will of the Father, as God’s “representative” in every way, and through Jesus, the image of God is restored in man. Man is a “new creation” in Christ in that he is redeemed from his fallen state, enabled and given the desire to submit his will to God’s, and to live as the image of God which God intended man to be from the very beginning, as God’s representative to the created order.

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