Behold, all things have become new

Hugo Bouter

The new man

In the New Testament several terms are used in order to clarify the new beginning, the new life that has been brought to light through the Gospel (as the firstfruits, and herald of the newness that will pervade heaven and earth in the eternal state (Rev. 21:1). Two important expressions are, "new man" and "new creation."

The expression "new man" is found only in the epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. It is always singular and appears to be a collective term (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10). As distinct from the old man, the race of men in the line of Adam, there is now a new human race, of which the risen Christ, the last Adam, is the Head. The expression "one new man" in Ephesians 2:15 stands for the whole church, the body of Christ. As Christians we have all by faith laid aside or put off the old man, everything that marked us as descendants of the first (and fallen) Adam. And we have put on the new man, the features of the life of Christ as risen from the dead.

The new man is the fruit of Christ's death and resurrection. He is God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). He is created according to God, in harmony with God (Eph. 4:24). He is created in righteousness and true holiness, or "righteousness and holiness of the truth" (See the J.N.D. footnote). So on the one hand he possesses the knowledge of good and evil, in contrast with Adam before the fall. But on the other he is not subject to the power of evil, in contrast with Adam after the fall. He is marked by true (new creation) righteousness and holiness, which implies that he rejects evil and stands up against its influences. He answers to God's thoughts and displays the features of the divine nature (see also Eph. 1:4 and 2 Pet. 1:4).

The new man contrasts sharply with the old man, who came to an end in the death of Christ. He is a new, different type of man (Gr. kainos = of a new nature). He does not display the image of Adam, but of Christ. He is also a new-born man (Gr. neos = new in time, of recent date). He does not display the time-honoured, well-known image of the old man but the new, fresh image of the risen Lord.* Our old self, our old man was crucified with Christ, as we read in Romans 6:6. In that epistle it is viewed as something accomplished by God in the death of Christ.

But in the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians emphasis is put on our having laid aside the old man and having put on the new man. So there we have an active point of view: we ourselves judged the old man as entirely corrupt and as come to an end in the death of Christ. And subsequently we have put on the new man, for by faith we have reckoned ourselves to be one with the Lord in His death and resurrection.

But, of course, this has to be realised in our lives in a practical and individual way. It is for that reason that we hear the admoni­tions resulting from this point of view: "Put off... and put on" (cf. Col. 3:8, 12). We have rejected the old man and have made a clear choice in favour of the new man. We have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). Then it is a matter for us not to live any longer according to the old man, but to give expression to the features of the new man. In other words, we must put on Christ in a practical way and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts (Rom. 13:14).

The new man is not independent. He has a divine rule of conduct, a divine standard. It does not consist of a written law, a number of commandments and prohibitions, but of a Person. Christ is the standard, the rule of life of the Christian. The epistle to the Ephesians even goes so far as to present God Himself as the Chris­tian's standard, for the new man is created according to God and in harmony with Him. Therefore believers are exhorted to be

* ln the expression, "new birth," a different Greek word is used for "new." Not kainos, of a new nature, or neos, new in time, but anothen, i.e. "again" or "from above." In the new birth we receive life of a new, heavenly, origin. We are born of God, of "water and of the Spirit" (John 3:5), that is by the divine action of the Word and the Spirit of God. Christ descended from above to impart heavenly, eternal life to us. He Himself is our life.

followers, or imitators of God as dear children (Eph. 5:1). And as a result, we see that the essential features of God-love and light-are evidenced in His children (Eph. 5:2, 8).

We also find in the epistle to the Colossians that the new man has a divine standard. There the new man is said to be renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him (Col. 3:10). And as this verse is linked with verse 11 ("Christ is all, and in all"), we conclude that Christ is meant here. For the whole epis­tle speaks about the glory of Christ, as the Colossians were in danger of not holding fast to Him, the Originator of the first as well as of the new creation.

So Christ is our Rule of life, the Model after which we are transformed and by whom the inner man is being "renewed" day by day (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16). Thus we walk in "newness" of life, we serve in "newness" of spirit and we are transformed by the "renewing" of our minds (Rom. 6:4; 7:6; 12:2). We live a resurrec­tion life in the light of the risen Lord (Eph. 5:14; 1 Thess. 5:4).

As for "the new covenant," this too is marked by an inner renewal, since this is needed for man's relationship with God (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:25-27; 2 Cor. 3:3-6 and Heb. 8:6-13). In 2 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 8, the Greek word kainos is used again in this expression. The new covenant is altogether new. It is totally different from the old one, which made blessing dependent on man's achievements-the intention of which was to prove man's inability to do any good. The new covenant offers a complete renewal by free grace: forgiveness of sins and a new nature that answers to God's will. These are the characteristic blessings of the new covenant, which is based upon the one perfect sacrifice of Christ.

The new creation

Now as to the expression "new creation," it occurs only twice in the New Testament: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (Darby gives "a new creation"): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 6:15). In this chapter the new creation is said to be the rule according to which we as Christians are to walk (v. 16).

In Revelation 3:14 we find the expression "the creation of God," of which Christ is said to be the Beginning. The new crea­tion is of God and in harmony with God. In contrast with the old creation that is under the curse of sin, the new creation is in full agreement with God, who is light and love. Christ is the Beginning of this creation of God, which means that He is its Originator and its Head. The same word "beginning" is used in Colossians 1:18 ("And He... is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead"). Every­one who is in Christ belongs to this new creation of God, and is bound to walk according to its rules.

So, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. We are born of God by the word of truth, and for that reason we are a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18). And we also have the firstfruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23). We are the first harvest that is gathered in as the result of the work of redemption. But soon the whole creation will share in the wonderful results of the work of Christ, and the new heaven and the new earth will be a reality (John 1:29; Col. 1:20; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-5). What a solemn responsibility is ours, who have already been reconciled to God, to behave ourselves as true heralds of this new creation!