New Creation in the New Year
“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).
This is perhaps one of the most often quoted verses in all the New Testament and with good reason. It is necessary to remind ourselves that we are “new creatures.” However, we all struggle with this thing called the “flesh” that is opposed to the things of God. Paul expresses this same struggle in his letter to the Romans. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-22).
As 2021 begins, perhaps we need to be reminded about the truths of our identity in Christ. This identity is an “already and not yet” reality. In his commentary on Ephesians Chapter 1, John MacArthur says, “A Christian…is a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. If he has no comprehension of those blessings, he needs to understand the position he already has in his Savior. To give such Christians the right understanding of their position and possessions is the foundational thrust of Paul’s Ephesian letter.” In Ephesians 1:2-7, it says that we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing, chosen from before the foundation of the world, holy and blameless, adopted, and forgiven. These six aspects of our identity in Christ as a “new creation” will be the focus of this article as we enter the new year.
We Are Blessed in Christ with Every Spiritual Blessing
God has already “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), meaning that he has given us everything we need to live the Christian life. We lack nothing. Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). Paul writes the church at Colossae, “And you have been filled in him” (Colossians 2:10), and to the Ephesians, “[I pray] that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). He writes to the church in Rome, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:5). John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
From these few verses, we come to understand that the “spiritual blessings” referred to in Ephesians 1 are not only a future hope but a present reality. We are blessed with “spiritual blessings” even as we dwell on this sin-cursed earth in sin-cursed bodies. In a way, Christians live a dual existence. The struggle with the flesh becomes the “norm,” and we can easily become comfortable in this world. Simultaneously, we experience our souls longing to be with Christ and to be done with the struggles of our flesh.
Another powerful aspect of these spiritual blessings is that, from God’s perspective, we are already seated with him in heaven with perfected souls. Aat this very moment, we are one hundred percent justified, one hundred percent redeemed, and one hundred percent forgiven. We are complete co-heirs with Christ, and nothing is standing between the Godhead and us.
We Are Chosen from Before the Foundation of the World
Ephesians 1:4 says, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” The Greek word for “chose” is “eklegomai,” which means, “to pick out, choose, to pick out for one’s self.” Paul goes on to say, “In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…” The word for “predestined” is “proorizo,” meaning, “to predetermine, decide beforehand.” According to these two verses and looking at the original language, we learn that God picked us out for himself before the world was formed to be holy and blameless. We also learn that God determined beforehand that he would adopt us as his children because of his love.
Why is this encouraging?
It is encouraging because salvation is not based on works. It is not based on what laws we obey or disobey. It is not based on how much we do for God or for others. Our salvation is based upon God and his faithfulness. He cannot lie. We are secure because God has determined beforehand to save us. God has made us into new creatures by his love and has adopted us to be his own.
“I sought the Lord
And afterwards I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him,
It was not that I found,
O Saviour true;
No, I was found by Thee.”
- John Chadwick
We are Holy and Blameless
The context of this phrase “holy and blameless” in Ephesians 1 is that of God choosing us for himself. God chose us for the purpose of being holy and blameless, which means there was nothing holy or blameless within us that God would choose us. John Calvin drives this point home by saying, “If God had foreseen in us anything worthy of election, it would have been stated in language the very opposite of what is here employed, and which plainly means that all our holiness and purity of life flow from the election of God.”
Throughout the Law, God commands Israel to be holy, which means to be set-apart and distinct. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). We see this command again in Leviticus 20:7, 20:26, 21:8, and Exodus 19:6. God’s standard is for us to be distinct from the world,and we fail every single day. We are often prone to be like the world, to want to blend in, and not let our Savior have the final say in how we live. Yet this is why God saved us. He saved us so that we could be set-apart and distinct from the world - to make him famous in how we live. C. S. Lewis wrote, “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”
In Christ, we are also blameless. Blameless, in a moral sense, means, “without blemish, faultless, unblameable.” At this moment, we stand before God as though we have never sinned. Not even once. Perhaps Paul knew this when he wrote “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1).
The evil one can bring all sorts of accusations against us to God, yet God sees us as distinct, blameless, and faultless. We can now, with confidence, draw near to the throne of God because of this (Hebrews 4:16).
We are Adopted
Russell Moore, in his book Adopted for Life writes, “Adoption tells us who we are as children of the Father. Adoption as a picture of the gospel tells us about our identity, our inheritance, and our mission as sons of God.” This topic of adoption is something I am personally passionate about. I am adopted twice: once into my biological family and again into the family of God.
The message of the Bible shouts adoption. Paul says in Ephesians, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We are no longer outsiders. God has welcomed us into his family.
Being a Christian does not encompass simply attending church on Sundays and reading the Bible, although those are both good things. Being a Christian entails taking on a new identity – having a new name. It redefines who we are. For us to be part of God’s family, he must remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. He must make us into new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
The result of being made new is belonging to the family of God. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:14-17). We belong to God. We belong in the family of God. What an incredible hope we have.
We are Forgiven
For us to be blessed with every spiritual blessing, holy, blameless, and adopted, we must be forgiven. All of these wonderful attributes that describe who we are as believers are contingent upon God’s forgiveness. The Greek word for “forgiveness” as used in Ephesians 1 is, “aphesis” which means, “release from bondage, imprisonment; the pardon of sins, letting them go as if they had not been committed.”
We are free.
Paul goes on to say that this forgiveness is all because of the “riches of God’s grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). God does not merely forgive us because he has to. On the contrary, he forgives us and lavishes his grace upon us joyfully. This forgiveness from God is free and full. He is compassionate and forgiving to his children.
Psalm 103 expresses the heart of God towards his children.
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14).
Be encouraged, Christian. You are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You are chosen from before the foundation of the world. You are holy and blameless. You are adopted. You are forgiven. Enter the year 2021 encouraged by these truths. “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).
Brittany Proffitt lives in southern Ohio and holds a BA in Religion. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.