Brethren Archive
2 Cor. v. 14-18

In Christ—A New Creation.

by Thomas Neatby

IT is specially on the 17th verse that I would offer a few general remarks. If there is anything that is unattractive it is death. It was moral death that Christ looked upon. Not merely the activity of evil—that was true. It was moral death that the terrible plague of sin had wrought to its bitter end—it resulted in death.
I was called to visit a patient who was ill. The case was too far gone when I arrived. There was no movement or sign of pulsation or breath. I found no sign whatever of life. I said, "You have called me too late—the patient is dead." That was the condition of man. His activities ended in death. There was moral death; and Christ looked upon it and brought life into the scene of death, "that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him who died for them and rose again." It was your natural condition and mine to make self the centre of our moral being—to live to ourselves. Just as everything in our solar system revolves around the sun; by nature, I make myself, you make yourself the centre of your system. The purpose of God in the death of Christ is to displace that centre. You cannot show me a man where that displacement has been fully realized. It is the will and purpose of God that this displacement should be realized, and that Christ should be in that place that I dared to take to myself. In love to us, He died for us in order that He should have the preeminence, not in a general way, but that He should have the entire control of the whole system of our lives, our thoughts, and actions down here. In order that we should not henceforth live to ourselves but unto Him Who died for us and rose again. He has become the Head of the new creation; as such, He takes entire precedence in everything. The old creation is set aside by the fact of a new creation being required. That is a humbling lesson for us all. It is the closing of the history of the old man and the introduction of a man according to God's counsels; the Son of Man made strong for Himself. This is indicated when Christ tells Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." He comes to Christ to be taught. He says, "I cannot teach the old man; there must be a new creation"; you must be born over again in the very springs of your being. This is at the foundation of God's intention in salvation. That sets aside entirely the old creation. God was dealing for the formation of a new creation in Christ its Head when He raised Him from the dead. That was the first action in the new creation. It was necessary that He should die, but in resurrection, you have the beginning, according to God, of the new creation. Christ was the "seed of the woman"; man is set aside by that expression. If I took my mother's name, it would be the setting aside of my father's name. The seed of the woman is the entire setting aside of man, and that is borne out in 1 Cor. xv. 45: "The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam a quickening spirit." What an important lesson is involved in this. For 4000 years, millions, hundreds of millions, and thousands of millions have been born descended from the first Adam. We read concerning Adam that he begat a son "in his own likeness, after his own image." That went on for four thousand years. No new man, only the reproduction of the old—"like father like son"—a rebellious, sinful father, a rebellious, sinful son. But after the four thousand years, a second Man comes on the scene, "the Lord from heaven." This is severely practical truth for us; it is the entire setting aside of the old man. What was the old man? All that I was when God met me in His grace—my moral condition before God when He began to deal with me—that is, flesh.
Turn to Rom. vii. 4: "Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ that ye should be married to another, even to Him Who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God; for when we were in the flesh"—that implies that we are not in the flesh now: "Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit" (chap. viii. 9). "They that are in the flesh cannot please God" (ver. 8). It is a ruin, and past remedy. You may do what you will to the carnal mind; you cannot make it anything but enmity toward God. Do anything you will to the flesh, it is flesh to the end, and flesh never can become spirit: "it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit." The Spirit characterizes our relationship with God now. It is not what I give up for God, it is what God's mighty grace can accomplish in me by Christ.
In Rom. v. we have the two heads of the race, Adam and Christ. In this chapter, it is a question of sin, the evil principle in our nature. Let me illustrate this. I have told a lie. How comes it? Because I have a deceitful heart. The deceitful heart is the sin, the lie I told is the fruit of the sin that springs from the deceitful heart. How does God deal with actual sins committed? He forgives them for His name's sake. Christ answered for them on the Cross of Calvary. What about sin? Does He forgive it? No, He never forgives sin in the flesh. What did He do with it? He crucified it with Christ; He put it to death with His Own blessed Son on the Cross, "that the body of sin might be destroyed." This is an important word; it is used both in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ii. 14) and here. It means that sin might be annulled. Sin is not destroyed yet, but the mighty work by which it will be destroyed was wrought on the Cross of Calvary. The devil is not yet destroyed, but he will be destroyed on the ground of the work wrought by Christ on the Cross. He crucified me with Christ, that the body of sin may be destroyed, that I might have another, standing before Him in Christ Jesus; that I not only might look up to Him as the Forgiver of my sins, but look up to Him, that Infinitely Holy One, as having condemned sin in the flesh, having given no quarter to sin in the flesh, having utterly dealt with it according to His holiness in the blessed Lord Jesus, that I, the sinner, might go free, and that He might give me another standing before Him; that is, a new creation. It is not repairing the old one; it is a brand new creation in the risen Christ. God has not been occupied all these years in improving Adam the first, but in bringing in the second Man, the Head of a new race.
Let us look now at the two heads. Adam disobeyed God, and, in his rebellion, became the head of a race like himself. Christ obeyed, and, when His work was finished in resurrection, He became the Head of a new race. When Adam's disobedience was an accomplished fact, he became the head of a race of disobedient ones like himself. Christ, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, in resurrection has become the Head of a new creation destined to be conformed to His own image. We stand before God in Christ, in His entire obedience unto death. There is an excellence in the work of Christ before God which is a rest for His loving heart, and a rest to the souls of those that are brought to Him. As by one man's disobedience many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of the One, shall many be constituted righteous. I wish I could tell you of that wondrous obedience in adequate terms.
The blessed Lord Jesus did all the will of God. He said, coming into this world, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." His one purpose, aim, and object was to do the will of God. O that we knew something of this in power. The one thing that absorbs all others is, that I be found doing the will of God: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." With what love and delight did God look down upon His Son; in every word He spake, in every action of His life, in all the inward springs of his being, God found perfect rest. There was one work needed for man's condition and for God's glory. The blessed Lord asked in the Garden that the cup might pass from Him. It was His perfection thus to shrink from the Cross. He Who had ever been the delight of His Father, could He bear the hiding of God's face? There never was such a moment, never in all eternity, as when the Lord Jesus thus prayed. To go to the Cross was to be forsaken of God. To shrink back, involved that all the will of God should remain unaccomplished! The devil took advantage of this season. The blessed Lord said, "The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me." He came not to use the power of death; He could not, for Christ was not a sinner. He could not use the power of death, but he seeks to frighten the Lord. His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground! Do you believe it? Shall He go forward and do the will of God, or shall He go backward and leave all the counsels of God unfulfilled? The blessed Lord, whilst He thus shrank from having to endure the wrath and curse of God for sin, He, the Perfect, blessed One Who was ever the delight of His Father, said, "Thy will be done." That is the only answer of the Lord Jesus. "Father, glorify Thy name." O what did the angels think when permitted to hear that? What did God feel as He heard in the sanctuary the Son of His love, in view of that awful Cross, saying these blessed words. How wonderful! "Therefore doth my Father love Me because I lay down My life that I might take it again." Don't we feel that there is a motive for the love of God towards His Son in that wonderful Cross? I am saved by it. Thank God a thousand times. God's heart rests in His Son as it never could have rested apart from the Cross.
"By one man's disobedience many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be constituted righteous." They had their place in the first Adam; they are now in the last Adam, the second Man. They were in the disobedience and rebellion of the first man, but being saved by the obedience unto death of the Lord Jesus Christ, they have their place in Him. "No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Notice it is in Christ. We have a perfect standing in Christ in the presence of God. We are in the New Creation in Christ. The question has been settled by Christ, the Head of the New Creation. It began with entire judgment of sin, and the perfect atonement made in His blood. Therefore God has raised Christ from the dead. I am not only pardoned, but I have a new place before God, as an actual fact for enjoyment. There is no condemnation in Christ. He took our place as condemned ones, and perfectly satisfied God in that place. And now we are put in Christ, risen, without any condemnation whatever. It is the New Creation, where all things are of God. He has raised up His Son from the dead because He was perfectly satisfied with His work on behalf of sinners, therefore there can be no condemnation to those who are in the risen Christ, a Christ beyond death, a Christ beyond condemnation. What a complete deliverance it is!
Eph. i. 6: "To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has accepted us in the Beloved." It is not a question of accepting us in the sense that the word is used in the epistle to the Romans (xv. 16, 31). It is the same word as was addressed to Mary by the angel in Luke i. 28: "Hail! thou that art highly favoured." He has made us "highly favoured" in the Beloved. It is not only in Christ, but in Christ the Beloved of God. We are highly favoured in that very Beloved One. "If any man be in Christ there is a new creation." Here I find myself in the Beloved according to His place with His Father—according to the delight that God finds in Him. This is positive excellence. I cannot find any word to use higher than that, "highly favoured." Just as Christ is, so is the believer in this world. So art thou, my brother and sister, highly favoured. Gabriel might address each one of us in the same terms: "Hail! thou that art highly favoured." (John xvii.) The blessed Lord here takes in the whole of His disciples and presents them according to His place before God. He announces that which would be true when the Holy Ghost came.
Before looking at this chapter, turn to xiv. 20: "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." The day that is mentioned here is the day of the Holy Ghost. They ought to have known then that He was in the Father, and the Father in Him. He taught them that already. But they could not know, for it was not true of them yet, that they were in Christ, and Christ in them. But in this day, we know that Christ is the blessed Son of the Father. We know that to see the Son is to see the Father. It is a most striking way of showing that the Father and Son are One. We say that a man and wife are one. But you cannot say you have seen the man when you have seen the wife. But it is so with regard to Christ. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." We are in Christ, and Christ in us. How? By the Spirit coming down to form a new creation in the Son of God. "I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." Is that a fact? Just at this moment is it so? Yes; I could not say otherwise. I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. John xvii. 21: "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me," &c. We are one with the Lord Jesus by the Spirit. It is a real oneness. It is not oneness because you and I see alike. We are one because the Holy Spirit lives in me, and lives in you. The same blessed Spirit links us together. You may be a Jew and I a Gentile; the Spirit links both to the Lord Jesus. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit." That one Holy Spirit has united you and me to the Lord Jesus. Highly favoured in the Beloved, and loved as the Beloved One is loved. God loves the Head and all the members—one blessed person—the Christ.
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation." It is not the setting up of the old man; it is the bringing in of a new creation. What have we to say to our God about this? We must have something to say to Him if these things are so. You cannot be what you were when you were in the flesh—that would be unreality. The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. That immediately links us with a risen Christ. We are no longer to live to ourselves, but unto Him Who died for us and rose again. Our blessed Lord we owned as our Lord this morning, when we sat at His Own table. His lordship is a very deep reality. There is all blessing in it for our souls for time and eternity. I am brought now into communion with my God. He says: "This is life eternal, that we might know God and Jesus Christ, Whom He has sent." Brought into this holy relationship that I might express it in all my relationships down here; that I may be a new creature; that I may be one of Whom and in Whom it may be said, "Old things are passed away." That man who was passionate is not passionate any longer; that man whose word you could not trust, hates a lie now; he is an honest man—in Christ, a new creation. God is seeking reality, and He is producing reality, "for it is God Who works in us, both to will and to do of His Own good pleasure." You cannot enjoy these things without living them out. You cannot enjoy this place in Christ without living in it. If you are enjoying your place in Christ, you will be a great comfort to your family when you go home. They won't say, "Behold, this grumbler cometh." It will be like a sunbeam when you enter your house. If you are enjoying one half of these things—if you are in the enjoyment of a quarter of them, your face will be beaming. Every word will show it—it will tell, you have found the source of blessing; that you are living by the fountain of the water of life. May God work it in me and you mightily by His Spirit.
I ask you: Do we not need it in the Church? The questions that arise constantly, which cause so much strife, would be settled easily if this were made good in our souls in the living faith that the blessed Spirit produces. It is said of Stephen that he was a man, "full of faith and the Holy Spirit." You cannot be full of faith without being full of the Holy Spirit; you cannot be full of the Spirit without being full of faith. May He work this in us. It is a priceless privilege. It is your privilege to represent Christ in a world that does not know Him, in your actions, words, and manner of life here below. It must be seen of God; it must be seen by principalities and powers; and it ought to be seen by our fellow-creatures every day of our life.
"The Witness" 1898

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