Behold, the new has come!
In 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, the apostle Paul makes some contrasts between things physical, and things spiritual. First he contrasts our physical bodies with our spiritual bodies which are to come. He says in verse 1; “For we know that if our earthly tent, which is our house, is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Next, Paul contrasts our old physical being, with the new spiritual being that we become, when we are “born again”. He says in verses 14 & 17; “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this; That one died for all, therefore all died. And He died for all, that they who live, should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him no longer as such. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has passed, behold, the new has come.”
In the first part of that passage, Paul says; “The love of Christ controls us..” The KJ says; “The love of Christ constraineth us..” Some versions say; “The love of Christ compels us..” Our love for Christ is compelling us to DO, what His word says to do. Our love for Christ, is controlling our behavior. Our love for Christ is constraining us, which means it is limiting us, to do ONLY what the word tells us to do.
There’s a version called “God’s Word Translation” which says; “The love of Christ guides us..” Now, God’s word does guide us, but that’s not what this verse is saying. It’s not saying that the love of Christ merely guides us. There’s a rather obscure version, called the “Douay-Rheims Bible”, that says; “The charity of Christ (that’s the same as the love of Christ) presseth us!” That’s the meaning of the verse. The love of Christ PRESSES us to do His will. It constrains us. Our love almost forces us to do His will.
Now, I want to read to you from a version that gets the constraining part right, but it gets another part wrong. This is the New International Version, the NIV. Listen to the wording that it gives; “For Christ’s love compels us..” Do you notice the difference there? The problem is, that instead of saying; “For the love of Christ compels us”, it says; “For Christ’s love compels us..”
Let me explain to you the difference, and the problem that it leads to. In the context of this verse, the phrase; “The love of Christ”, refers to OUR love FOR Christ. And what the verse is saying, is that our love for Christ, is controlling our actions. For example..
To love Christ, is to keep His commandments, isn’t it? Jesus said; “IF you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14, verse 15. So then what Paul is saying, is that by keeping His commandments, we are then controlled, by what those commandments instruct us to do. “The love of Christ, controls us.” God’s word, controls us! It constrains us, and it compels us to do what it says.
Now, that’s quite different from saying that “Christ’s love controls us..” Christ’s love, is what motivated HIM, to go to the cross and die for us. So you might say that Christ’s love, constrained HIM. But Christ’s love doesn’t constrain us. That’s like saying that the love that Christ has for US, is controlling what we do. In other words, WE are being controlled by Christ. That contradicts a very basic and foundational principle of the bible. And that principle is, that God always gives us the opportunity to choose for ourselves. Neither God’s word, not His love, ever controls us, as if we were some kind of a robot. That kind of thinking leads to the false doctrine of “predestination”, where God chooses to save some, and allow others to be lost, regardless of anything that we do.
We are never forced to believe His word, and we are never forced to obey His word. We always have free choice. But if Christ’s love were compelling us, then we would no longer have that free choice. Why is a seemingly “little detail” like this so important? It’s important because it plays into larger beliefs. One of which is that false doctrine of “predestination”. But here’s another false teaching that many people want to believe..
Many people want to believe that God has put His Spirit inside of us, and that His Spirit being inside of us, saves us, and somehow directs us, and makes decisions for us, and causes us to act a certain way. If that were true, then it would be easy to see why a lot of people would think that there’s no way they can be lost. If the Spirit of God is making our decisions, and causing us to do the things that we do, then everything that we do must be right in God’s eyes, and we couldn’t possibly be guilty of sinning.
But the fact is, that God does NOT put His Spirit within us, and thereby control us. God GIVES us His Spirit, through the knowledge of His word. Jesus said; “The words that I have spoken to you, ARE spirit, and are life.” John 6:63. So then God has GIVEN us His Spirit, but it’s up to US, to put His Spirit in our hearts, and to allow it to lead us.
That’s why the apostle Paul URGES us to choose, to be led by the Spirit. He says in Galatians 5, verse 16; “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” In other words, be constrained by the Spirit. He said in verse 18; “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Paul wrote in Romans 8, verse 4; “..In order that the requirements of the law, might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
If Christ’s love for us were constraining us, there’d be no sense in urging us to be led by the Spirit, because Christ would already be doing that. But people want miracles. They want direct intervention. They don’t want the responsibility of thinking that it’s up to them, to take charge of their own salvation. You must admit, taking charge of your own salvation, is a lot of responsibility!
But we are told plainly, in Philippians 2, verse 12; “..Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.” Why is it with “fear and trembling”? Because it’s a big responsibility, that’s why. But here’s the confidence that we can have. If we rely on the word of God, as we work out our salvation, we are sure to succeed. Because verse 13 tells us; “For it is GOD who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
God’s word is Spirit, and it is life! A lot of people will spend their whole lives, trying to “work out their salvation”, but if they’re not sticking with God’s word, they’ll never find that salvation. But if we love God, and if we love Christ, then we’ll “keep His commandments”, and then it will be God Himself that will be “at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
And also, when we love God, and love Christ, and that love is manifested by keeping His commandments, then that love will constrain us, and it will compel us, and it will be “pressing” on us, to do obey Him, and to do His will. If we love Him perfectly, we won’t be ABLE to do anything except obey Him.
Now let’s read verse 14 again, from 2 Corinthians; “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this..” That’s like saying; Here’s the reasoning behind why we’re allowing our love for Christ to control us. “Having concluded this.. That One died for all, therefore all died.”
This is an example of why one of my favorite verses is Isaiah 1, verse 18; “Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord.” The bible is always trying to get us to use our ability to reason, concerning God’s word, and then to come to conclusions concerning how we should respond to His word. And that’s what Paul is doing here. And he’s saying; Here’s the only reasonable conclusion that we can come to.. Since Christ died on behalf of everyone, then everyone who is being controlled by their love for Christ, and have therefore obeyed Christ, have also died. That is, they’ve all died to their old fleshly life. “One died for all, therefore ALL died.”
And now in verse 15, Paul gives us the reason that Christ died for all.. “And He died for all, that they who live, should live no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again, on their behalf.”
And now Paul reaches another conclusion. He says in verse 16; “Therefore, from now on, we recognize no one according to the flesh..” He’s talking about Christians here. We don’t recognize a Christian according to his old fleshly life. Paul says; “Even though we came to know Christ according to the flesh, yet now we no longer know Him like that.”
Paul is using Jesus as an example here. Even though they had originally come to know Jesus as a fleshly person, now they only know Him as a spiritual being. And that’s the same way that it is with a Christian. Even if we had known someone before they became a Christian, when they were only a fleshly person, we’re not supposed to view them like that anymore. That old person has died. Now we need to view that person as a spiritual being, not a fleshly being.
Verse 17 says; “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” The word translated “has come”, is sometimes translated, “has emerged”, or “has been born”. The idea of a “transitioning” is implied. We make a transition from one state of being, into another. That’s the idea put forth in Romans 6, verse 4, when it talks about baptism, and says; “..So we too should walk in newness of life.” In baptism, we have been “transitioned”, from our old sinful self, into a new sanctified being, who is now led by the Spirit of God.
The old person, who used to be led by the flesh, is gone. And a new spiritual being has come. And since a new creation has come, that new creation in Christ, needs to LIVE for Christ, just like the scripture says. “He died for all, that they who live, should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again, on their behalf.”
“They who live”, refers to those who have come alive, spiritually. Those who have been “born again”, as 1 Peter 1:23 says; “..Not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” The love, of that living and abiding word of God, constrains us to live for Him.
Now, I’d like to go back to verse 16 for a minute. Verse 16 said; “Therefore, from now on, we recognize no one according to the flesh..” The word “recognize” here, refers to how we perceive someone. We’re told in Galatians 3, verse 28; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.”
That’s how we’re supposed to perceive one another, as being “one in Christ.” If we can perceive one another in that way, that we are all ONE, that will go a long way in determining how we treat one another. We need to treat one another as if we are ONE. In other words; I treat you, as if you are a part of me, and you treat me, as if I am a part of you.
1 Corinthians 12, verses 26 & 27 say; “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer. If one member is honored, all the members are honored. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually, members of it.”
If you cut your hand, the other hand puts ointment on the hand that’s cut. Both hands might massage a sore muscle in your leg. Your mouth might sing a song that pleases your ears. Or it might say a prayer that pleases your entire soul. “For you are all one in Christ.” That’s how we should always perceive one another. As a new creation in Christ. “The old has passed, behold the new has emerged.”
Next week, I’d like to talk about some of the implications of the fact that the old has passed, and the new has emerged.” What exactly has passed? And what maybe, hasn’t passed?
Until then, keep studying God’s word, because it is “..the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom, that leads to salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15.