Posts Tagged "2 Corinthians 5:1-17"

New Creations?

June 13, 2021
By Rev, Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this third Sunday in Pentecost comes from our epistle text, especially where Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Really, a lot of what we hear in our text sounds wonderful … but if you’re anything like me, it may sometimes ring a little hollow. It sounds disjointed, perhaps even a bit naïve. There’s some cognitive dissonance between what Paul writes … and what we live and experience.

“[W]e are always of good courage?” Does that describe you? Are you always confident, of good cheer, courageous? Can you say confidently that, because Christ died for you, you absolutely no longer live for yourself but for Him? How about that last part, where Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”?

A new creation. Sounds very nice. But is it true? Because I’ll be honest; I still feel the same. I came up out of the waters of baptism as a wee bitty baby, washed clean of all iniquity … and yet I still sin. I hear the words of absolution every single week … and I don’t notice much difference in myself. Inevitably I wind up saying something careless or doing something harmful or thinking something impure not long after. I partake of Christ’s true body and blood in, under, and with the bread and wine, swallowing that blessed food and drink … and there doesn’t seem to be much change within me.

It’s possible for one to read what Paul writes here and become disheartened, even disillusioned. Paul says that those who are in Christ are a new creature, but I don’t see it. I don’t feel it. Yesterday, I slipped back into that old, nasty habit. I’m not as good to my spouse as I should be. I get angry, arrogant, greedy, and envious. I intentionally hurt people because they hurt me first. I’m a lazy slob who puts myself before others, much less Christ. There’s no way that Paul could possibly be talking about me … so am I actually in Christ? Am I a new creation? Am I saved? Because I sure don’t see it.”

All those flaws and sins mentioned … are accurate. Each and every one of us is a sinner rife with imperfections, flaws, and issues. We’ve all got grudges and resentments, guilty pleasures and secret sins. Even without all our iniquitous inclinations and habits – you know yours, and I know mine – James writes, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” One lie, one hurt, one thought – that’s all it takes, and the façade crumbles.

And that’s not even mentioning the original sin that we’re all born with, inherited from Adam and Eve. They caved to the temptation and beguilement of the serpent, and now all human beings are conceived and born infected with this disease. It’s intrinsic to our nature, something that we cannot simply shake off. All people are born spiritually blind, dead, and ENEMIES of God.

We still see sin in ourselves, so it is sometimes hard to hear Paul say that we are “new creations.” His words may be difficult to believe, once we look within and see the sin … but his words are nevertheless true. We affirm that, like every other word of Scripture, Paul’s writing is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. He’s not flattering the Corinthians; he’s not mocking them or dismissing the harsh reality of their status as sinners. He’s simply reminding them of the greater reality that took hold the moment they were born again of water and the Spirit.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” To the Galatians, he wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is the greater reality: despite what we may feel or see within ourselves, by virtue of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, we now belong to the Father. We are His children, claimed as His own, given the identity of our Lord Jesus, having “put Him on” as the robe of righteousness, covered in His holy blood which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. That’s the reality that God declares about us: in Christ Jesus, we are new creations. We were nothing, but in the waters of Holy Baptism, God made us into something new.

But, what about my sin? What about all the lousy, rotten, no-good thoughts, words, and deeds for which I am rightly ashamed? Well, it’s true, that won’t go away on this side of eternity. We are still sinners, living in a broken world. But as Paul wrote earlier in our text, “we walk by faith and not by sight.” What we see is the sin. By faith, we trust God’s promise that He has nevertheless declared us to be His forgiven, justified children for the sake of our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus.

Yes, I’m still a sinner, despite the fact that I am baptized. Yes, I still sin even after the word of absolution is spoken by Pastor French. Yes, I may not see change in myself after partaking of the Holy Supper … but I am nevertheless a new creation. And so are you. Though we don’t see it, by faith, we trust that we have been changed. By faith, we are of good courage. By faith, we do not live for ourselves, but rather for Christ who, for our sake, died and was raised. By faith, even as our bodies waste away outwardly; inwardly, we trust that we are being renewed day by day. Not by anything we’ve done, but by God’s creative, performative Word, we are new creatures in Christ our Lord. And we yearn for the Day when faith will become sight, and what God has declared about us, His new creations, all along … will be plain to see.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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