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What does it mean that a Christian is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

Once you have accepted the gift of salvation, you are a new creation in Christ. This specific phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 5:17, but let's take a look at that verse in context:

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." —2 Corinthians 5:14-17

The key to understanding what it means to be a new creation is this phrase: "if anyone is in Christ." That is, we are not "new" all on our own; we need Jesus Christ to be new (John 12:46). Our newness is nothing we have earned or that covers up who we are; we are a totally new thing that God created (John 1:13). Our newness is reflected in our opened eyes that now have a godly perspective—one that loves people instead of hating them, despises sin instead of indulging in it, walks in the holiness life instead of being dead and stuck in sin (Romans 6:4-7).

Does being a new creation mean I won't sin again?

We are not expected to be 100% perfect. In fact, even though we are new creations in Christ, we're STILL sinful creatures by nature. Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," but it goes on to explain how we "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (v. 24). Sinful impulses and temptations are an unfortunate part of life. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sinful temptations:

"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do and if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." — Romans 7:14-25

Does that sound familiar? And hey, if Paul struggled with sin and he still turned out OK, so can you!

Though we can rest assured that our "old self" and old ways will never ever be counted against us again (Romans 8:1), all Christians will still struggle to control their sinful impulses. Anyone who says they never struggle with sin is lying (1 John 1:8). We WANT to do the right thing, but the lure of sin can be so strong we think we can't resist it (James 1:14). But that's where we're wrong; we CAN fight it because we're new creations in Christ (James 4:7).

Being a new creation means having better choices.

Galatians 2:20 explains this concept of being a new lifeform in a little more detail: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." This means that if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you no longer HAVE to sin. You are no longer condemned to always give in. You have a choice!

With Christ, we get a choice: run to sin or turn away from it. Without Christ, we are slaves to sin and have no reason to stop our own self-righteousness, self-promotion, self-justification—our own self-destruction (Romans 2:6-8). With Christ, we are considered perfect (like Him) so that we may enter Heaven (John 10:9; John 14:6). Without Christ, we are dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). With Christ, we are alive as new creations.

However, with such a gift comes a responsibility to make efforts toward perfecting our faith in this life (Ephesians 2:8-10). This is a process called sanctification.

New creations are in the process of sanctification.

Sanctification is allowing old, sinful ways to die rather than letting them hang around (Colossians 3:9-10). Being a new creation means desiring a relationship with God rather than gratifying selfish desires (Ephesians 4:22-24). Sanctified new creations fight against sin rather than giving in to it (1 John 3:3-4).

Yes, you will still sin, but the goal is to resist willful sin (Romans 6:1-7, 11-12). Yes, temptations will come, but God promises to provide an escape route (Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 10:13); your job is to look for that escape and RUN FOR IT. And you can always ask for God's help when you feel like you just don't have the will to run away (1 John 5:14).

To be sanctified means that you will hate your sin more and more and, as you mature in your faith, resisting sin WILL get easier (2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 John 1:6). Another part of you being a new creation is realizing that you have a new identity in Christ. You have power in Christ and can overcome anything—as long as you CHOOSE to fight it (Philippians 4:13).

As a new creation in Christ, you are empowered by and for righteousness. You are a wonderful, beautiful child of God, whom He has created with great care, love, and thoughtfulness for Him and for His glory.

"...to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." —John 1:12-13

TL;DR

Once you have accepted the gift of salvation, you are a new creation in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:17). This means that because of Jesus Christ, God created a "new you" who is holy and in the process of being sanctified on earth (John 1:13; Romans 6:4-7). As a new creation, you get a choice: run to sin or turn away from it. As a new creation, you have a responsibility to make efforts toward perfecting your faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). You're empowered by and for righteousness as a wonderful, beautiful child of God, whom He has created with great care, love, and thoughtfulness for Him and for His glory (John 1:12-13).

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org and loves to write novellas with local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, five socially awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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