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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 17
Verse 17. Therefore if any man be in Christ. The phrase, to "be in Christ," evidently means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in him as the branch is in the vine—that is, so united to the vine, or so in it, as to derive all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. Joh 15:2, "Every branch in me;" Joh 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." See also Joh 15:5-7.
To be "in Christ" denotes a more tender and close union; and implies that all our support is from him. All our strength is derived from him; and denotes further that we shall partake of his fulness, and share in his felicity and glory, as the branch partakes of the strength and rigour of the parent vine. The word "therefore" (wste) here implies, that the reason why Paul infers that any one is a new creature who is in Christ is that which is stated in the previous verse; to wit, the change of views in regard to the Redeemer to which he there refers, and which was so great as to constitute a change like a new creation. The affirmation here is universal, "if any man be in Christ;" that is, all who become true Christians— undergo such a change in their views and feelings as to make it proper to say of them that they are new creatures. No matter what they have been before, whether moral or immoral; whether infidels or speculative believers; whether amiable, or debased, sensual, and polluted, yet if they become Christians they all experience such a change as to make it proper to say they are a new creation.
He is a new creature. Marg., "Let him be." This is one of the instances in which the margin has given a less correct translation than is in the text. The idea evidently is, not that he ought to be a new creature, but that he is in fact; not that he ought to live as becomes a new creature—which is true enough—but that he will in fact live in that way, and manifest the characteristics of the new creation. The phrase "a new creature" (kainh ktisiv) occurs also in Ga 6:15. The word rendered "creature" (ktisiv) means, properly, in the New Testament, creation. It denotes
(1.) the act of creating, Ro 1:20;
(2.) a created thing, a creature, Ro 1:25; and refers
(b.) to man, mankind, Mr 16:15; Col 1:23. Here it means a new creation in a moral sense; and the phrase "new creature" is equivalent to the expression in Eph 4:24: "The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." It means, evidently, that there is a change produced in the renewed heart of man that is equivalent to the act of creation, and that bears a strong resemblance to it—a change, so to speak, as if the man was made over again, and had become new. The mode or manner in which it is done is not described; nor should the words be pressed, to the quick, as if the process were the same in both cases—for the words are here evidently figurative. But the phrase implies evidently the following things:
(1.) That there is an exertion of Divine power in the conversion of the sinner as really as in the act of creating the world out of nothing, and that this is as indispensable in the one case as in the other.
(2.) That a change is produced so great as to make it proper to say that he is a new man. He has new views, new motives, new principles, new objects and plans of life. He seeks new purposes, and he lives for new ends. If a drunkard becomes reformed, there is no impropriety in saying that he is a new man. If a man who was licentious becomes pure, there is no impropriety in saying that he is not the same man that he was before. Such expressions are common in all languages, and they are as proper as they are common. There is such a change as to make the language proper. And so in the conversion of a sinner. There is a change so deep, so clear, so entire, and so abiding, that it is proper to say, here is a new creation of God—a work of the Divine power as decided and as glorious as when God created all things out of nothing. There is no other moral change that takes place on earth so deep, and radical, and thorough, as the change at conversion. And there is no other where there is so much propriety in ascribing it to the mighty power of God.
Old things are passed away. The old views in regard to the Messiah, and in regard to men in general, 2 Co 5:16. But Paul also gives this a general form of expression, and says that old things in general have passed away—referring to everything. It was true of all who were converted that old things had passed away. And it may include the following things:
(1.) In regard to the Jews—that their former prejudices against Christianity, their natural pride, and spirit of seducing others, their attachment to their rites and ceremonies, and dependence on them for salvation, had all passed away. They now renounced that dependence, relied on the merits of the Saviour, and embraced all as brethren who were of the family of Christ.
(2.) In regard to the Gentiles—their attachment to idols, their love of sin, and degradation, their dependence on their own works, had passed away, and they had renounced all these things, and had come to mingle their hopes with those of the converted Jews, and with all who were the friends of the Redeemer.
(3.) In regard to all, it is also true that old things pass away. Their former prejudices, opinions, habits, attachments pass away. Their supreme love of self passes away. Their love of sin passes away. Their love of the world passes away. Their supreme attachment to their earthly friends rather than God passes away. Their love of sin—their sensuality, pride, vanity, levity, ambition—passes away. There is a deep and radical change on all these subjects—a change which commences at the new birth; which is carried on by progressive sanctification; and which is consummated at death and in heaven.
Behold, all things are become new. That is, all things in view of the mind. The purposes of life, the feelings of the heart, the principles of action, all become new. The understanding is consecrated to new objects, the body is employed in new service, the heart forms new attachments. Nothing can be more strikingly descriptive of the facts in conversion than this; nothing more entirely accords with the feelings of the new-born soul. All is new. There are new views of God and of Jesus Christ; new views of this world and of the world to come; new views of truth and of duty; and everything is seen in a new aspect and with new feelings. Nothing is more common in young converts than such feelings, and nothing is more common than for them to say that all things are new. The Bible seems to be a new book; and though they may have often read it before, yet there is a beauty about it which they never saw before, and which they wonder they have not before perceived. The whole face of nature seems to them to be changed, and they seem to be in a new world. The hills, and vales, and streams; the sun, the stars, the groves, the forests, seem to be new. A new beauty is spread over them all; and they now see them to be the work of God, and his glory is spread over them all, and they can now say—-
"My Father made them all."
The heavens and the earth are filled with new wonders, and all things seem now to speak forth the praise of God. Even the very countenances of friends seem to be new; and there are new feelings towards all men; a new kind of love to kindred and friends; a love before unfelt for enemies; and a new love for all mankind.
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