2 Corinthians 5:16-19
Reflection: Take time to read the passage. Circle or take note of words, concepts, or truths that stand out to you.
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Paul’s words to the believers in Corinth literally say, “If anyone is in Christ, new creation!” Thus the translator is left to supply the subject and verb. The common choices are “he is a new creation” and “there is new creation.” Paul has been talking about how we are radically changed by our relationship with Christ. In vs. 15 he has just pointed out that we no longer live for ourselves. That’s a radical change. Then in vs. 16, he remarks upon the change in how we view the world and regard people. Another quite radical change. These lend support for the view that Paul was intending to say that if anyone is in Christ, then he is a new creation.
On the other hand, Jewish writers of that day spoke of the coming of a Messiah that would bring about an end to the old order and introduce a whole new age. Isaiah wrote, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” Paul also saw Christ’s death and resurrection as “the divider of history”. So, perhaps he was truly intending to say that if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.
I love both options and I am glad that both are true. I am new. God is doing a new thing. Maybe Paul didn’t want us to have to choose between the two.
If we were reading the Greek, we would also see that some of our English translations leave a word out. Behold. “The old has gone. Behold, the new is here.” I’ve seen it argued that the word is archaic; some translations forego the “behold” and include an exclamation mark instead. In my mind, I keep behold. God’s work is something to behold. That he reconciles us through the sacrifice of His One and Only and makes us different than what we were in our dusty fallenness, that we are part of all that He makes new—this calls us to stand in wonder and behold his lovely Otherness.
- Diana Wisdom
*Think of examples with your family of things that begin one way but end up looking completely different (examples: butterflies, plants, origami, clay pottery). Talk about how people are similar to your examples, how they can be new creations in Christ.
**Jesus, our Messiah and Creator, without you we are dust. But, in your beauty, you have recreated us for new life and for glories unseen. May we ever see you before us and follow you home. Amen.