2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
When the Apostle Paul said this, I suppose he was thinking of himself. What a different man he had become since he was a Christian! I do not wonder that he thought himself almost a new creation by the Almighty Maker. How many old things had passed away; how many new things had come! His whole manner of thought had been revolutionised. Before, he was on the highway to position and honour in the Jewish Church; now, he was reviled as an apostate. He had entered a new world of thought and life. But notice the stress laid by the apostle, here and elsewhere, on that little preposition "in." It is to be in Christ which makes one a new creature. So he says, "My wish is that I may be found in Him"; and in another place, "When God revealed His Son in Me." It is one thing to be with Christ, and another thing to be in Him. If we had been with Christ when He was walking the streets of Capernaum or Jerusalem, we might not have thought much about it. Nicodemus was with Him, and had a long conversation with Jesus, but does not seem to have come again. Judas was with Jesus during all His ministry, and then betrayed Him. We are all of us with Jesus, in a certain sense, by being taught about Him from childhood, by growing up in the midst of Christian society. But we are not necessarily in sympathy or union with Him on that account. Our purposes may be very different from His. Contiguity is not union. How often parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, live together, side by side, for years, in utter ignorance of each other's inmost thoughts, sorrows, experiences, and hopes. They do not understand each other at all; for it is mutual love, not proximity, which leads to mutual knowledge. Nor is it enough even to be strongly attached to others, and clingingly devoted to them. That does not necessarily produce real union. We may cling to them externally, yet never be in them, never get a glimpse of the real secret of their lives. It was the sort of feeling with which a snail sticks to the rock, or a barnacle to a ship's bottom — because they need something strong and solid to cling to. To cling to another for our own comfort is not to be in him. So some persons cling to Jesus-for their own salvation. Weak in themselves, they need something to hold them up. They may cling merely for their own sake, only to be saved. They have not entered into the mind or the heart of Christ at all. Nor is it enough to have a great deal to say or to do about Christ in order to be in Him. You may spend your life in talking about Him, using His Name on all occasions, and yet be in no real union with Him. Men may fight for Him, die for Him, and not be in Him. The crusaders who went to Palestine to die under the banner of the Cross were, many of them, in no sympathy with Him. To be in Christ we must love Him. But love means much more than blind affectionate instincts, or clinging attachments, or sudden emotions. Love looks up to receive a higher influence, to be inspired by a purer life. Love must elevate us, or it is not really love. If any man loves, he is in the person he loves. He has entered into his soul, and has something of his spirit. If any man loves Christ, he is in Christ, because he has something of Christ's spirit, and is a new creature. He has something added to him, or developed out of him, that was not there before. There is nothing sudden, nothing artificial about this. This change is as natural as that by which the blood renews the body; the body seeming to continue the same, but always becoming different. It is a growth, and all growths are gradual. Conversion is always sudden, for it is simply turning round. But regeneration is gradual, for it is a growth. Paul was converted in a moment on his way to Damascus. He changed his mind about Christianity. He began a new life. But it took him a long time to become a Christian. Thus, if we are in Christ, we grow into new convictions. Not into new speculations or beliefs, for these may change suddenly, or may not change at all. Belief puts us with Christ, but not in him. A creed is like a carriage, which may take us to the place where our friend is, but cannot put us into communion with him. But if we are in Christ, we have new convictions. Spiritual things become more real to us. God becomes to us more real. So, also, if we are in Christ, we grow into new affections. A change of heart, as it is called, does not mean any new faculty or power of loving implanted in us, which we had not before. It means having new objects of love. What we did before merely from a sense of duty, we now do with pleasure. So, again, the Bible is a new book if we are in Christ. If you stand outside of the Cathedral of Milan, or the Minster of Cologne, and look on the vast windows of the choir, they seem dark and dingy. But go inside and let the light stream through them, and they turn into emeralds, and sapphires, and rubies, and are gorgeous with the forms of saints and angels. So enter into a book, sympathise with the spirit and aim of its author, and you can understand it. We call the Bible a supernatural book. I call it the most intensely natural book ever written. It is a revelation of human nature, showing its motives and workings. It is like a watch with a transparent dial, through which we look and see the movement. Again, if we are in Christ, life becomes new. Nothing prevents life from seeming old, stale, flat, and weary, like having an object — something we are interested in, something we love to do. The higher and better this object is, the more of interest it adds to our life. There is no end to the joy and freshness of existence, if we can have Christ in our hearts, and be in His heart, by drinking His spirit. And if any man be in Christ, death is new. Death has lost its terrors.
(Jas. Freeman Clarke.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.