New People in Christ
By Eddie Cloer
"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come". (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Everyone enjoys newness. Whether it be a new baby, a new car, a new house, or just new socks, we are always thrilled by the freshness and vitality of something new.
The Greek language has two words which are translated by our single English word "new." One of the words, neos, means "new in time." Using this word, we could say of a newborn baby, "He is a new human being." We could use this word to say of a house which has just been constructed and has never been lived in, "This is a new house." The baby and the house are truly new in time . They have not existed very long.
Another Greek word, kainos, basically means "new in quality." With it, we could say of an old house that has been renovated, "This is a new house." We could use it to say of an old car after someone has put a new motor in it, given it a new set of tires, and painted its body, "This is a new car." The house and car are not "new in time," but they are "new in quality." They have been given new life. They have been remade.
The second word, kainos, is the word used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Actually, this sentence could be translated, "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new-in-quality person; the old things have passed away; behold, new-in-quality things have come." Paul was not telling us that we can start over again in time, but he was revealing that we can begin anew in quality. He was not giving voice to our wish to recover expended time, as did Elizabeth Akers Allen:
Backward, turn backward,
Rather, Paul was saying, "Whatever your life has been, it can be made new. If you have been a loser, you can become a winner. If you are spiritually dead, you can be made alive."
The church is the body of people who have been made new through Christ. They are people who have been dead in sin but have been made alive by the gospel. Paul told the church at Colossae, "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions" (Colossians 2:13). Though Christians have been given new life in Christ, they must be diligent in this new life so that the new life will not be stolen away by sin. Paul exhorted the Ephesians, "In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Ephesians 4:22-24).
An appropriate question about this new-in-quality life which God gives is this: "How does God give it?" Or, to ask it another way, "What process does God use in order to make us into new creatures in Christ?" This question is answered by Paul in Romans 6.
In Romans 1-3, Paul delineated how people are saved or made righteous before God by obedient faith. In Romans 4 he gave an example of faith making the man, Abraham, righteous before God. Then, in Romans 5-8, Paul enumerated the blessings which accrue from salvation: We have peace with God (5); we are forgiven (6); we are under obedient faith, not under the law of Moses (7); and we have life (8).
In Romans 6, as Paul explained our freedom from sin through Christ, he detailed how God has made us into new people. Come with me to Romans 6, and let us see how God makes us new persons in Christ. The process, as presented by Paul, can be divided into stages. In the growth of a butterfly, scientists have discerned three different stages: the egg stage, the larva stage, and the pupa stage. In a similar way, three stages can be identified in our becoming new people through Christ. If any one of the three stages is omitted, we will abort the process. You can be a new person in Christ; but in order to be completely new you must submit to God's remaking process.
How does God make a new person?
STAGE ONE: SEPARATION
The first stage in the journey to a new life is the separation stage. God's remaking process requires a separation from sin.
Paul wrote, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1, 2). Notice carefully the words "died to sin." In the previous chapter, Romans 5, Paul had stressed the grace of God. He had shown that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (vv. 20, 21). "God," he said, "overcame our sin problem by His grace, and by this means He has indicated how great He really is." It would be easy for someone to misunderstand this truth. Someone, for example, could say, "Perhaps we should continue in sin that grace may abound. If we have a greater sin problem to overcome, God will have to manifest more grace to save us and by this greater grace He will indicate even better how great He is." Paul anticipated this misunderstanding and raised a question relating to it in the beginning of Romans 6: "Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?" He answered this question emphatically, saying, "May it never be!" He then asked, "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" To put it another way, we could say, "It is inappropriate for a Christian to live in sin, because he has died to it."
Our death to sin is not finalized, according to Paul, until we are baptized into Christ. He said in Romans 6:4 that we are baptized into our own spiritual death to sin. However, this baptism into our own death to sin must be preceded by a separation from sin through faith, repentance, and confession of Jesus. Paul did not go into the separation from sin per se in this passage; he only implied it through his reference to our dying to sin. This separation from sin which is implied by death to sin is affected by faith in God and Christ (Acts 15:9), repentance (1 Thessalonians 1:9), and confession of Jesus as the Christ and Lord (Romans 10:10).
Our death to sin
is not finalized,
Some earlier preachers of the gospel pointed out that three important changes occur as one becomes a Christian. The first change is a change of heart, a purification of the heart. This change is produced by faith in Christ. Peter said of the Gentiles, "And He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). The second change is a change in life, a purging of the life from the practice of sin. Repentance is a change of will which results in a change or reformation of life (Acts 11:18). The third change is a change of reputation, a proclaiming of one's belief and allegiance. This change is affected by a confession of Jesus as God's Son and Lord (Romans 10:10). The fourth change is a change of state, a placing of one into Christ. This change occurs at baptism (Romans 6:3). The first three of the four changes are implied in Paul's phrase "died to sin," and the fourth change is specifically mentioned in Romans 6:4. According to Paul, complete death to sin has not occurred until all four changes have been experienced.
All of us have known of people who have been baptized by immersion into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit but who, following the baptism, have not exhibited the new life in Christ. After their baptism into Christ, they have continued in their old lives of sin without any change. Looking at their lives, we have probably wondered why they have not entered the new life. Paul gives us at least one answer to this question in Romans 6. He would ask, "Did they separate themselves from sin? Did they completely submit themselves to God's remaking process?" If the separation stage is avoided for whatever reason, one cannot enter the new life in Christ.
Have you gone through the separation stage by genuine belief in Christ, repentance of sin, and confession of Jesus as the Christ and Lord?
STAGE TWO: SALVATION
The second stage of God's remaking process we will call the salvation stage. In this stage we are actually brought into the spiritual body of Christ. Uniquely, this stage revolves around baptism.
Paul wrote in Romans 6:3, 4:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Where else could we turn in the New Testament and find two verses of Scripture which tell us so much about baptism in so little space? Four significant truths about baptism are clear from these two verses.
First, Paul stated that baptism is into Christ: "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ. . . ." (v. 3). In baptism, we are brought by God's grace into the spiritual body of Christ, the church. Baptism is the final part of our faith response to Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27; 2 Timothy 2:10).
Second, Paul said that we are "baptized into His [Christ's] death" (v. 3). In New Testament baptism we are brought into union with the benefits of the death of Christ. Whatever Jesus made available to us in His death, we receive in baptism.
Third, Paul affirmed that we are buried in baptism: "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism...... (v. 4). New Testament baptism is a burial or an immersion. This Greek word baptizo in most of our translations has not been translated-it has been transliterated. In transliteration, the Greek word is Anglicized, or converted to an English word. In translation, the corresponding English word is used for the Greek word being translated. According to Greek scholars, the corresponding English word for baptizo is "immerse." This definition of baptizo is confirmed by the way Paul used the word in this verse and in (Colossians 2:12). We can be certain that New Testament baptism is a burial or an immersion.
Fourth, Paul wrote that we are baptized into our own spiritual death to sin. He said, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (v. 4). Our death to sin is finalized in baptism. Through faith, repentance, confession of Jesus, and baptism, our "old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Romans 6:6, 7).
One of the momentous events in the life of Christ was His baptism by John. His earthly ministry is prefaced with His baptism and His temptations. When Jesus appeared on the shore of the Jordan River and waded out to John to be baptized of him, John was hesitant to baptize Him and said, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" (Matthew 3:14). Jesus said, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). When Jesus was raised up out of the water from the baptism, two significant events took place. His Father in heaven publicly acknowledged Him as His Son for the first time, with the words, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17), and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16). John had been told that the One upon whom the Spirit descended and remained was the Son of God (John 1:33). From the baptism of Jesus forward, therefore, John testified to His deity (John 1:29). The baptism of Jesus marked the beginning of His ministry.
The significance of Jesus baptism reminds us of the significance of our baptism. Consider how momentous our baptism is. According to Paul, we are baptized or buried into Christ and into His body, the church. We are brought into union with His death and the benefits of His death. We are baptized into our own spiritual death to sin, as the old man of sin is being separated from us and we are being raised to walk in newness of life.
Have you passed through this stage of God's remaking process? Have you been baptized into Christ, into His death, and into your own spiritual death to sin?
STAGE THREE: STAY-WITH-IT
The third stage of God's remarkable remaking process might be called the stay-with-it stage. Once we are remade, we must stay remade. God can give us the new life, but we must live it. He can put us on the S & N Road, the straight and narrow road, but we have to stay on it.
In the remaining verses of Romans 6, Paul listed at least four characteristics of the new life we have in Christ. Each of the traits of the new life must be maintained daily.
First, Paul said that in Christ we have a new freedom-we are free from sin. "For he who has died is freed from sin" (Romans 6:7). Freedom is a generic term and must be given a specific context before it has real meaning. When someone says, "I'd like to be free," I want to ask, "Free from what?" One cannot be just free. Does he want to be free from working? Free from rules? Free from sleeping? One has to be free from something. Paul gave the words "free," "freed," and "freedom" a context in Romans 6. He said that in Christ we are free from sin--free from its guilt (Romans 3:24; 6:3); free from its grip (Romans 6:17); and free from its grave, or condemnation (Romans 6:21).
Second, Paul mentioned that the new life is characterized by a new fellowship-we have fellowship with God. "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus," he said (Romans 6:11). Two contrasts are seen in this verse; one is implied, and the other is expressed. The implied truth says that before you became a Christian, you were dead toward God but alive toward sin. The expressed contrast says that as a Christian you are alive toward God and dead toward sin. In Christ, you have come into a new fellowship, a new relationship with God. You have a heavenly Father to pray to and a loving Savior to pray through. You are alive toward God's existence, fellowship, blessings, promises, and the spiritual life which He gives.
Third, Paul explained that the new life in Christ is characterized by a new fruitfulness.
Therefore what benefit [fruit] were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit [fruit], resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life (Romans 6:21, 22).
The non-Christian brings forth a kind of fruit, but not a lasting, beneficial fruit-"for the outcome of those things is death." The Christian brings forth a fruit that endures when life's little day has passed. He produces the spiritual fruit of Christian character and the "forever" fruit of eternal life. Someone has said, "Only what we give to God do we get to keep." We invest our lives in Christ's life and work, and He brings forth from that investment the imperishable fruit of Christian character and eternal life.
Fourth, Paul said the new life in Christ is characterized by a new future: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). The Christian is on his way to heaven. He has read the last chapter in the book of life, the Bible, and he knows that the Lord's side wins. He may struggle in this world, becoming bruised and lacerated at times, but he knows the ultimate victory is his!
The new life in Christ is attractive to anyone who has an honest heart and wants to live a good life. A new life is ours when we become Christians--a life of freedom from sin, a life of fellowship with Him, a life of fruitfulness, and a life with an eternal future in heaven.
The new life must be preserved and maintained. Suppose you were given a new car to own, drive, and enjoy. You would have the responsibility to maintain it if you wanted to enjoy it for a while. If you did not drive it carefully, take care of its engine, keep air in its tires, and provide it with gasoline, the car would not be yours to use very long.
A Christian has to guard his freedom from sin. He must keep his mind clean and not allow evil to return to dominate his life. He must cultivate his fellowship with God through prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other Christians, and a daily walk with God. He must continue producing fruit by striving to grow, by seeking to lead others to Christ, and by building character in himself and others. He must affirm his hope of eternal life by keeping this hope burning brightly in his heart.
You can be a new person in Christ today. God asks you through His Word to submit to His remaking process so that He can remake you and give you His new life in Christ. His process involves separation, salvation, and staying with it. Each stage is significant and essential.
Just think of what it would be like to have this new life in Christ! After being away from home for a couple of days, suppose you returned home and discovered that everything in your house was brand new, that someone had come into your house while you were gone and had made everything new. What would you do? Perhaps you would run through the house checking out everything. You would see new chairs, new tables, new beds, new towels, new clothes, new shoes, new appliances, new carpets and rugs, and many other new things. Would you not be thrilled at all of your new possessions? Surely you would be overwhelmed with delight and excitement!
Most likely, an experience of this kind will never happen to you or me. The possibility is extremely slim that you will ever go home and find that someone has replaced everything in your house with brand new furniture and clothes. Something else is possible and is far greater than having all new possessions: You can be a new person. You can be remade through God's divine process today.
The church is made up of the people who have received God's new life. They are the new-life family. At the same time that God makes you into a new person, He puts you in His church. Why not enter the company of the new life by submitting to God's remaking process today?
1. What is the difference between the Greek words neos and kainos? Apply this difference to 2 Corinthians 5:17. 2. In what sense were we dead before we became Christians? 3. Give a brief outline of Romans 1-8. 4. Tell what Paul meant by the question "Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?" (Romans 6:1). 5. When or at what point is our death to sin finalized? 6. How is separation from sin brought about in the conversion process? 7. What would be true of one's conversion if the separation stage were omitted? 8. How are we brought into Christ? 9. What is the meaning of the Greek word baptizo? 10. What did Paul mean when he said that we are baptized into death in Romans 6:4? 11. List the four characteristics of baptism which Paul mentioned in Romans 6:1-4. 12. What kind of freedom are we granted in Christ, according to Romans 6:7? 13. What did Paul mean when he referred to being "alive to God"? 14. What kind of fruit does a Christian bring forth? 15. What future does the Christian have? Describe it.
For Preaching and Teaching Purposes: Sermon or Teaching Type: Basic pattern; deductive; expository. Subject: Conversion. Theme: How God makes us new creatures. Title: New People in Christ. Preaching or Teaching Portion: Romans 6. Proposition: (Declarative/sermonic) You can be a new creature in Christ. Interrogative Question or Probing Question: How? Key Word: Stages. Major Points: I. Stage One: Separation; II. Stage Two: Salvation; III. Stage Three: Stay-With-It. Sermonic or Teaching Objective: To persuade people to become new creatures in Christ.