I said in my last post that in the past I (perhaps in keeping with many in the charismatic world) understood 2 Cor.5:17 to mean that because the old has gone and the new has come, I and others need no longer struggle with stuff from our 'old' lives. If I did, it was because I was not exercising enough faith in this truth (early in my Christian life I actually doubted whether I truly was a Christian when I did struggle). In reality, some of us needed help with major issues in our internal worlds but we were told or told ourselves (or the message was 'in the air' in some way) that we just needed to have more faith or 'come into a greater revelation.'
Now I do believe that the 'eyes of our heart' need opening up to spiritual realities and that growing revelation and realization of our new identity in Christ is absolutely fundamental to the Christian life. But it is about how we understand it and the application or outworking of it that I have questions. Although I think some specific, individual verses so encapsulate a vital principle that it is understandable and legitimate (up to a point) that they are lifted out of context, we should go back to their original context to check we are are understanding them correctly.
One of the key issues in 2 Corinthians is that Paul is dealing with those who are challenging the authenticity of his apostleship and he specifically brings up the whole issue of not judging by outward factors (see 5:12). He is assuring his readers that his motivation is not to please himself but to live for the Christ who has died for him (5:14-15); and that one consequence of this new way of living from new values is that he does not judge people outwardly (and he is painfully aware that this is what he did even in relation to Christ before his conversion - see 5:16) but sees them from a whole new perspective. The perspective he now views them from is this: the new creation of the future age to come has already burst in upon this world through the death and resurrection of Christ! Everything has changed now because of this and he views everyone and everything from this perspective, including the fact that our purpose in life as Christians is to tell people about this ultimate new reality - that God is in Christ reconciling the whole world to himself (5:18-21), another way of saying He is restoring all things, or making all things new. In the middle of this, he writes:
if anyone is in Christ, new creation (the 'he is a' is not in the original)The point is not so much that they are made into new people (though I think that is part of it, rightly understood) but that they live from a totally new reality; they are no longer defined by this present and passing age but by the new resurrection age, the new creation. This means new and different values, perspectives, sense of identity, ways of evaluating, priorities etc. We don't live by this world but by the better way of a different kingdom. It is perhaps best summarized by what Jesus says of his followers in John 17:16, quoting from The Message version:
They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world.This is a longer post than I planned. Next post will say more about how we view past and present struggles and brokenness in the light of this new creation reality.