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So What’s New?

The marketers of Nikon technology have done what clever advertisers often do. Whether intentionally or not, they have found a way of using words to tap into a  spirituality that is much greater than the product being sold.

I found this example of I AM changing everything” on a Singapore billboard.

Readers of the Bible may find an echo here. The New Testament declares that God himself has begun the process of making all things new.

Yet the Apostle Paul seems to push the envelope even further. In his second letter to the Corinthians he says that, for anyone “in Christ,” all things are already new (2Cor 5:17). But if this is so, then why do those who have trusted him keep making the same old mistakes over and over (Rom 7:18-19)? Could Paul be overselling his message? In what sense are all things new for a follower of Christ?

Is there an unspoken but obvious elephant in the idea here?

(Painted elephants similar to these can be seen around Singapore as part of a Christmas season art contest combined with a “save the elephants” campaign.)

One well known commentary explains that if a person is a genuine Christian… “He was before full of pride and wrath; he is now meek and humble.” Another says, “All things have become new. The affections, the motives, the thoughts, the hopes, the whole life.”

But if such words accurately reflect the meaning of 2Cor 5:17, then what do we do with Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians? In that letter he begins by indicating that he is writing to people who are “in Christ” (1Cor 1:2) even though, in many ways, their lives remain unchanged.

By Paul’s own admission those who are in Christ are caught up in contentions and divisions among themselves (1Cor 1:11-12). Their strife, envy, and divisions were lingering evidence of unchanged flesh (1Cor 3:3). They accepted sexual behavior among themselves that would have been considered scandalous even by pagans (1Cor 5:1). Showing their inability to settle matters as brothers and sisters they were taking one another to court in full view of the community they were trying to reach (1Cor 6:6).

This was just the beginning. Paul went on to say that these people were acting so badly toward one another that when they met together as the people of God it was not for the better but for the worse (1Cor 11:17).

The new that Paul called for in chapter 13 was being pre-empted by the old (1Cor 13:1-7).

So how do we explain then Paul’s words in his second letter that “in Christ”  “all things become new.”

Seems to me that one clue is found in the words that Paul writes just prior to verse 17. In verse 16 he indicates that he’s talking about a way of seeing that is “not according to the flesh” (2Cor 5:16). In other words this perspective cannot be seen clearly with our normal vision.

Paul’s implication seems to be that, even if our behavior is to the contrary (i.e. even if we are acting like “mere flesh” (1Cor 3:3), any one who is “in Christ” does have a new identity, new beginning, new future, and new relationship with God that puts everything—even bad, inconsistent behavior—in a whole new light.

The result is that, anyone “in Christ” is far more, eternally more, than what their present actions and attitudes may suggest.

The point is not that it therefore doesn’t matter whether we are marked by new behavior, motives, attitudes, and ways of relating to one another. Rather the point is that in God’s eyes, anyone who is truly “in Christ” is “a work in progress…” and has every reason to be dissatisfied with anything that is merely business as usual…

If you’re still with me, would like to hear what thoughts this brings to mind. Have you noticed the way culture uses allusions to spirituality in an effort to touch something deep in us? What about Paul’s words that “in Christ” old things are passed away, and that all things have become new? Could he also be suggesting that being “in Christ” may have a practical/functional meaning as well as a “positional” in-Christ meaning?

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53 Responses to “So What’s New?”

  1. poohpity says:

    I have been crying all night and into today because of the remorse I feel for my behavior lately. Before Christ, I would have tried to justify or blame my behavior on someone else. Now I know it is only me that speaks or types the words I do and I am so in the wrong.

    I am so sad for the hurt I have caused you, Steve and Gary, davids or anyone else. I know that everyone wants to feel important and wanted, that includes me but I have challenged the things that have been said in an effort to prick your pride and have found that it was me who ended up being prideful. Please forgive me. The Lord has so convicted me and I am so sorry.

    It would be so nice to have a gentle spirit like so many on here to convey messages to encourage, uplift and spur on to good works but instead I have caused anger, hatred and malice. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me.

  • davids says:

    Yes, believers are born again, they are new men/women. But even in other things people mature at different rates. Some people mature emotionaly at a young age, while others take a long time.

    Becoming in Christ does not automatically make one instantly mature spiritually. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, Paul talks about spiritual milk for those that are not yet ready for solid milk. He did not say that they were not in Christ, merely that they were still spiritual infants. But then we are all “works in progress”.