Have “Old Things Have Passed Away?”
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2Cor. 5:17).
Introduction. This is an important passage for each one of us to carefully consider. It reveals a wonderful gift God gave to each of us when we obeyed the gospel. We truly are a new creation! The same power God used in the material creation (Gen. 1) has worked in us for a spiritual creation. In addition, God has given us the standard to assess how well we are buying up the opportunities that were bought for us on the cross. In the first creation, God gave Adam and Eve the power and the right to take dominion and subdue the creation, but only through their choices and efforts. Sadly the promised dominion never reached the greatness God desired for them because they chose sin. This new creation offers the same opportunities for dominion or failure.
The Holy Spirit used the term “in Christ” about 90 times in Paul’s letters. It was used to describe the close spiritual relationship of fellowship and brotherhood we share with Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and King. God did not make us a new creation until we were in Christ, because that is where the power of the blood placed us after we were forgiven. While faith (Mk. 16:16), repentance (Acts 2:38), and confession (Rom. 10:9-10) all play a vital role, they are just steps leading us closer to the goal of entering Christ. God made it clear that the power of entering into a close fellowship with Christ is fully vested in the water of baptism.
The Holy Spirit used the apostle Paul to reveal the power of baptism to us. In three different passages He revealed that through baptism we enter Christ: “For as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism.” (Rom. 6:3). “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27). There is no other way to enter Christ than to be buried with Him (immersed) in the symbolic watery grave of baptism.
We need to be baptized into His death because even though believing, repenting and confessing, we are still “dead in your trespasses,” and defiled in the eyes of God. When we were “buried with Him in baptism,” “through faith in the working of God,” “our old man was crucified with Him” and after we “died with Him,” we were “made alive together with Him.” As we are raised up out of that water, we are “raised with Him to walk in newness of life.” (Col. 2:11-13; Rom. 6:3-7).
Baptism as our death, burial and resurrection places us “in Christ.” While in that water, God made us a “new creation”! Just as the gospel is based on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection so also is baptism. In baptism we join Jesus on His cross by being crucified with Him, we join Jesus in His death by dying with Him, we join Jesus in His grave by being buried with Him, and finally as we are brought up out of the water, we join Jesus in His resurrection. This is exactly why we are raised to walk in a new life with Him. (1Cor. 15:1-3; Rom. 6:3-7). Just as the power of God raised Jesus from physical death, God raised us with Him and we come out of that water spiritually alive.
After God “has made alive together with Him,” we are both “in Christ” and “a new creation!” Now by the power and grace of God all the “old things have passed away.” But what we do next is critical. It will only be by our own choices that we will either “go on to perfection” or “shrink back to destruction.” (Heb. 6:1; 10:39). God demanded that we “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” This can only begin when we “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” As we do this we are “renewed in the spirit of your mind,” and begin to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-23; Col. 3:2).
Like Naaman who was cleansed by the power of God exerted as he dipped seven times in the Jordan river (2Kings 5:), we are a “new creation” by the power of God exerted while in the water of baptism. It was a gift given to us by our “faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Col. 2:12). Peter said much the same thing in his second letter. It was “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Pet. 1:3) God placed His divine power in the ordinances of the gospel. Along with the power itself (Rom. 1:16), the gospel also revealed the “exceedingly great and precious promises.” But both the power and the promises demand action from us. It is only “through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” To complete it all we must be “adding on your part all diligence.” The old things will only completely pass away and the new things can only fully come when we “add on our part.” Clearly when we “add to our faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love,” “all things become new.” (2Pet. 3:2-12).
The day we are baptized should be the day we “present your bodies a living sacrifice.” (Rom. 12:1-2). “Old things pass away” when we are no longer “conformed to this world,” and “no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1Pet. 4:2). In identifying our lusts and no longer living in them, we cease being conformed to this world. We then “put to death your members which are on the earth,” “put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth,” and “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,” (Col. 3:1-17)
We must then “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The Holy Spirit chose the Greek word “metamorphosis” to describe the transition from old to new. Just as a caterpillar enters the cocoon and begins its transformation, so also does the Christian as he “renews” his mind. The difference between the butterfly and the caterpillar is a perfect illustration of the difference between the old man and the new man. Just as there are very few things the butterfly once did as a caterpillar, so also there are very few things the “new man” does that he did as “the old man.”
But this transformation can only occur “by the renewing of your mind.” When our mind is renewed, old things pass away, and everything becomes new. Even the things we continue to do such as marriage, family, and job have been “transformed.” As a husband and wife, parents and children, employer and employee, everything is transformed by the love of God and the humility of Christ. (Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1-9). Hence, whether reformed from the old, or removed completely is revealed as we “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” A caterpillar crawls and eats plants while the butterfly flies and feeds on nectar. The is a great illustration of our old man passing away and all things becoming new as we put on the new man.
As we prove the “good, acceptable and perfect will of God,” we learn where our will and His will move in different directions. Jesus taught us to pray, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and strongly warned that “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21). God’s will must become our will, just as Jesus said in the garden, “not My will, but Yours, be done,” (Lk. 22:42). We must never forget that though being a new creation gives us the opportunity to change, we must take dominion over our will and make it possible.
Conclusion. The power of God worked mightily within us while lying in the water of baptism. In that instant, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead was at work within us - from spiritual death to eternal life, and from sin’s vile stain to the purity of holiness through the power of the blood of Christ. We leave that water both “in Christ” and “a new creation.” For the rest of our time here, we will be transformed as we renew our minds. After putting off the old man, we must “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” (Col 3:10).
- “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2Cor. 3:18)