Newness not old
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17–19
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
It is my privilege and joy for my job to be ministering the word both in public teaching and in private settings. It just so happens that in my conversations and teaching I continue to be encouraged myself with what I have been entrusted to teach! I have had a few conversations over the past month that are moving through my thoughts and that I wanted to share with you all.
We often have lots of feelings. Much of our life is a roller coaster between the highs and lows of our experience and even the various things that are going on inside of us. Sometimes we feel loved by God, and sometimes, he feels absent. Sometimes we know our sin deeply and are convicted, and sometimes we could care less. Sometimes we’re in awe of God our creator, and sometimes we’re just hungry. On the one hand, having all of these varied emotions displays the creative stamp of God in our lives: emotions are an aspect of our created existence, but at the same time, these varied uneven emotions display to us our fallen state. Just like while ideally anyone would always want to love their baby, it doesn’t mean that we always have the perfect love for our baby. It is easy enough to get angry when we miss out on sleep or they cry and poop at just the wrong time. In the same way, we don’t have the perfect feelings and virtues for our God and in response to our God.
So what must we remember? I suppose there’s lots of things. But for starters, it is helpful to remember that we only see things from our individual, human perspective. So although we might feel weak, distant, confident, or connected, our feelings don’t change who God is and what he has done and is doing. So Paul reminds us, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, the new has come. Paul is sharing one illustration of God’s perspective with us. What does creation mean? Does anyone get uncreated? Only in death, and death is the curse hanging over the old creation. Death will be the last thing in the old creation that is destroyed in the end, but even today, the work of Jesus Christ, his resurrection preaches its end! And Paul reminds us of what happened when God saved us: we were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. This is important because it indicates a transferal. What status were we in the old creation? We were sinners, yes, but we still could say we’re sinners today. But there is a huge difference. In the old creation, we were anathema! We were under the curse of condemnation. Any sin expects the just judgement of death, and God’s righteous wrath. There is a classic saying, ‘simul peccator et justus.’ Both sinner and justified. Because we are in Christ, our sin is of a different quality. This is because before God, our sin doesn’t condemn us to death. This is because in him we were sanctified, in him we were justified, in him we were washed. So we are no longer enemies, but sons and daughters. ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ In more plain language, we are not condemned because Christ was in our place. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. So as new creation, Christ is carrying the weight of our sins, and looks at us with the compassion of a father. There is a good meditation in the book Gentle and Lowly here. Those God the Father gave to Christ, Christ will never cast out.
But again here we’re seeing from the divine perspective. How do we know that we are Christ’s? What is our part? Although God saves us, our right response is repentance and faith in the gospel. How do we know? When God saves us, our perspective changes. God’s Spirit lives in those who are Christ’s. And his Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation. Remember Jeremiah 31:31-34. No longer do we need a teacher to teach us, the Spirit teaches us, he convicts us of our sin, the law of the new covenant is on our hearts, which is both conviction of sin, but also the knowledge of forgiveness. And in the New Testament this is called repentance and faith. We see in this the classic teaching of Compatibilism. I have a friend who is writing his dissertation on how Christology proves Compatibilism, and I had a nice conversation with him last week about it. Hopefully I’m not completely messing it up, but the question is how does human responsibility and God’s sovereign work coordinate? Typically, reformed teaching has responded by saying they are compatible. God’s sovereignty is compatible with full human responsibility. Now my friend’s dissertation gives us one of the most pertinent reminders we could have about this: that the union of God’s divine nature with human nature displays this. The one he’s focusing on is dyothelitism. Christ has two wills: the divine will and the human will (perhaps we could clumsily say that there is one person, the son of God, ‘activating’ those wills). The human and the divine will coordinate in a similar way: God’s divine work coordinates with our human work. God saves us but we also repent and believe. All human actions are real and responsible. But the difficulty comes when we have a hard time remembering that God is at work. Our sight is often too narrow. So we get so hung up on the immediate minutes in our lives and we don’t remember that God the Father has entrusted his own to Christ, who is never going to let us go.
Because of all these things, we learn to live with a different perspective. For freedom, Christ has set us free. So don’t submit to the yoke of slavery. We are regularly and easily tempted to regress into feelings of being in the old Adam, in the old creation. But this is submitting to the yoke of slavery. For the Galatians, they were reverting back to the works of the law, but this is emblematic of any life that rejects the new creation in Christ. We might live a life of complaining like the political commentators of our world. We might live a life of seclusion like the Qumran community. We might live a life of fighting for political power like the religious right or the Sadducees. We might repeatedly pray a salvation prayer thinking that only the most genuine prayer will save. We might live in the most depressed and suicidal state because we have sinned against a holy God. All of this smacks of the old creation. We have not truly known that we were washed. This illustration is wonderful: our girls came home from the park with the dirtiest feet the other night, so we sent them to the tub to wash their feet. What does a good washing do? Remove the dirt. We are now clean. But then what? We were sanctified: we were made holy. Then we are justified: declared right before God. It’s done. That’s the justus part. This is a deviation from the old covenant. The first two steps were very Levitical, but justified is so different. In Christ, there is no longer a need to offer sacrifices day by day. Christ is the final and ultimate sacrifice. We don’t need a regular sacrifice anymore. And to be justified proclaims this. We’re no longer daily needing to turn away God’s wrath through the blood of bulls and goats. Jesus’ death was the last sacrifice for sins. It’s what the Old Testament sacrifices looked forward to. Now that we are justified, there’s no going back. We don’t need to be re-washed, re-sanctified, and re-justified. It is finished. We are a new creation in Christ! Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. These are truths we can cling to and meditate on as we glory in our redeemer. May God’s work in us ever inspire us to endure.