“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” —2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
In this second recorded letter to the church of Corinth, Paul worked hard to show the believers the hope we have in Christ continually. The church at Corinth had just overcome an internal struggle with false teachers and a season of doubting Paul’s ministry.
While the text only refers to this conflict and its resolution, it’s clear Paul continued to point his friends to the true understanding of Christ’s death on the Cross and how it transformed them. They were momentarily tempted to succumb to the world, but God’s grace drew them back in, and Paul was there to celebrate with them.
In typical Pauline fashion, his celebration came with an ounce or two of teaching. His heart was for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to live in the freedom God grants to His new creations, but that freedom only comes with understanding.
If you have been a Christian for long, this verse is probably familiar. It is quoted often and is almost poetic. Sometimes I fear verses like this lose their meaning to us—not because we don’t agree with them or understand, but because the sheer repetition creates an opportunity for them to lose their power.
So, let’s slow down and read this verse like it is brand new to us. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Now, read, but not the whole thing. Just this phrase:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ . . .”
What does this phrase mean? Meditate on your answer for a moment. To be in Christ, we must have a personal relationship with Him. We personally know Him, He’s in our lives and actively pursuing us, and we respond to Him. To be in Christ doesn’t mean we are perfect or getting this right day to day, but our relationship with God is secured through Christ’s love for us. Now read this next phrase:
“. . . he is a new creation.”
What does this phrase mean? Meditate on your answer for a moment. When we come to know Christ, the transformation of our hearts makes us new creations. It does not just secure our spot in God’s family or give us a pass to heaven. It gives us a whole new life, purpose, and meaning.
Think of your favorite superhero. They often start as an average human with average human problems, and then something happens. They are bitten by a spider, find magical artifacts, or build iron suits that give them their powers. They, in turn, become new creations. They are no longer their former selves but a better, more superhuman self. As entertaining as these stories are, they pale in comparison to what is happening in our lives when the grace of God transforms us. Let’s read the next phrase and see why.
“The old has passed away . . .”
What does this phrase mean? Meditate on your answer for a moment. We are no longer who we once were. All of our old selves have passed away. All our former thoughts, actions, and beliefs have gone away so that a new, regenerated, grace-filled self emerges. The power Christ has to transform our lives trumps any of our superhero stories. Think of a friend or family member saved by God’s grace after years of addiction or immoral living. Seeing a person reject their past sins while fully embracing God’s love for them is one of the greatest pleasures of the Christian life.
“. . . the new has come.”
What does this phrase mean? Meditate on your answer for a moment. We are now ambassadors of Christ (verse 20) and the righteousness of God (verse 21). Could we ever have been that in and of ourselves? No. It’s only through the transforming power of Christ that we have become new. What a cause for celebration and a motivation to live in our new life abundantly.
My prayer is twofold today. First, I pray this devotion brings you great joy as you consider God’s transformation in your life. Second, I pray it challenges you as you serve the students in your care to see how God has and can transform them into new creations. What a blessing it is to watch God work in the lives of others. Don’t take it for granted. Love them well, serve them with joy, and show them what God is doing in their lives.
Christy Dyer-Gultom is a former NYC church planting missionary now living in Tennessee and writing about God’s blessings and callings in our lives through her blog, More Abundantly. She’s married to Edward and has an energetic one-year-old keeping her on her toes while growing another one due in August 2022.