2Corinthians 5:17 “Are You In Christ?”

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: Doctrinal Sermons |

Bryan E. Walker


2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”


Introduction: When I was growing up in the ‘60’s and 70’s in Baptist life, we were all pretty much taught how to give our testimony as a part of witnessing to people who are not saved. The basic formula we used for sharing our testimony was: 1) My Life Before Christ, 2) How I Came To Christ, 3) My Life After Christ. This is still useful today although I must add that in my youth there was very likely too much emphasis on our personal experience and not enough emphasis on the Gospel itself. Very often we would hear dramatic testimonies of folks, or even famous people, who were drug addicts or criminals or whose lives were just a mess and they were saved by Jesus and transformed into Jesus loving people. For those of us raised in the church, who got saved and baptized as children, and never really went down the wild and rebellious side of life, we felt like we had an inadequate testimony. Again, that was due to over-emphasizing the personal, subjective side of the equation instead of focusing on the Gospel. But I remember teenagers sitting around saying wistfully, “I wish I had a neat testimony like that.” NO! I am thankful to God that He preserved me from much sin and the pain and chaos that goes with it! Praise God for my godly parents who raised me in the admonition of the Lord. You young people out there, and you children, you need to thank God and thank your parents for raising you in the church and homeschooling you and teaching you the gospel at home! You are missing out on a lot of horrible suffering that other kids have to go through as a consequence of sin. Sin ruins people.

Those who are saved out of the painful pit of sin, who have already suffered some of the consequences of the sinful life, do have, it seems at times, a better perspective of the idea Paul is writing about in this verse. They understand maybe a bit more than I did as a teen, that the old has passed away and the new has come. The recovering alcoholic or drug addict may know experientially a bit more of what it means to become a new creation. But, when you really understand what total depravity means, and you really look in the mirror of Scripture at your innermost self, you will understand the depth of your own sinfulness even though you may have a pretty exterior and a clean record before the world. So you too can and should understand that each one of us is a desperate, addicted to sin, sinner who needs to become a new creation. Those of us raised in the Church by godly parents need to seriously study what Paul is telling us in our text this morning. In Christ, we are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. What does this mean for those of us who don’t have one of those cool testimonies? Here is some truth of the Gospel that should radically transform our lives especially if we were raised in the Church and in good homes by godly parents. The main idea of this text is that when we are born again we enter into what God is doing to reverse the Fall in Gen. 3. Every area of our lives, therefore, is to reflect the newness of this new creation that God has provided for us in Christ. In this verse Paul shows us both the big picture of what God is doing and how the details of living our daily lives for Christ are affected by the Gospel because we are in Christ.



  1. I.                   The Context- Therefore

We must begin with placing our verse in its proper context. The “therefore” points us back to the few preceding verses where Paul is writing about salvation.  He is saying, “Because of Christ dying for all and because we are no longer living for ourselves but living for Him, we are to no longer look at people in the flesh. We are now in Christ and are new creations and are to live differently.”

How did Paul look at people and Christ before he was saved? In Acts 7:58 we find a young Saul present at the stoning of Stephen and in ch.8:1 he approved of the execution. 8:3 we find Saul “ravaging the church, and entering house after house” dragging people off to prison because they believed in Jesus. 9:1 “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord went to the high priest and asked for letters to the synagogues atDamascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound toJerusalem.”  Paul/Saul was a religious zealot who persecuted the Church without mercy. He was an angry, murderous, but respectable and highly educated young man. He looked at people through the eyes of hate prior to his salvation. He looked at Jesus as a phony, an imposter who led people astray. He was an unbeliever with an attitude.

But since coming to Christ, Saul, now named Paul, does not view people in the same way. According to Col 3:11 and Gal.3:28 there is now neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free- all classes, races and distinctions have passed away, and we are all one in Christ.

Our society preaches tolerance and diversity and multiculturalism, but it never works because the only true way to overcome these sinful barriers is in Christ. The heart must first be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit applying the Gospel then we can truly love one another.

So the context of our verse is this: Therefore, because of the salvation we have in Christ, we are in Christ and are new creatures, participating in the new creation. Our goal now is to examine what it means to be “in Christ” and understand this “new creation” and find the application for our lives.


  1. II.                What Does It Mean To Be “In Christ”?
    1. A.     Paul’s use of “in Christ” This is one of Paul’s favorite phrases using it about 25 times in his epistles. This phrase speaks of all the blessings we have in our spiritual union with Christ. Let’s look at some of the verses where Paul uses “in Christ” and see these blessings.
      1. 1.      Rom.8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If you are “in Christ” you are now no longer under the just sentence of condemnation by God for your sin. You see, the wages of sin is death, the soul who sins must die. This goes all the way back to God’s original command to Adam, to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil else he shall surely die, Gen 2:17. When we are in Christ, we receive the benefit of his righteousness; God looks at you and sees the righteousness of his Son instead of your sinfulness. Instead of judgment and wrath, condemnation and hell, because you are in Christ, you are declared justified by your faith in Christ. We have moved from being under the sentence of death to having new life, eternal life. Every morning we ought to wake up and realize that we were condemned, but He has set us free and adopted us. We are no longer condemned.
      2. 2.      Rom. 16:3 “Greet Prisca andAquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” When we are “in Christ” we have a new calling to work and a new brotherhood of co-workers. We are a part of the Church and share in the calling to work for the kingdom. We have a Gospel mandate and high and holy work to do. We are to work together to spread the Gospel and its implications and applications into every area of society. We are to care for the Church and care for the body of believers. We are to serve mankind not because of altruism or philanthropy but by faith as a part of our witness to the truth of the Gospel. Here is where our church’s methodology bears witness to this truth as we serve the local Body in our Care Groups. We are striving to apply the Gospel to every area of our lives within the context of our Care Groups, our fellow workers. We serve one another, encourage one another, teach and admonish one another, because we are in Christ. We are not called in Christ to rest on our blessed assurance, but to march toZion, and Rescue the Perishing. We are fellow workers for the Kingdom in Christ.
      3. 3.      Gal. 3:28 to which I referred earlier, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” To be “in Christ” produces a spiritual equality that should impact how we treat each other in the here and now. This is not the phony equality of the French Revolution and of Communism, this is the genuine equality of being able to approach the throne of God on an equal footing with the wealthy, the educated, the elite- all those superficial differences- put away. In Christ we can all come to God through faith in Christ alone. Practically this works out so that in the church we don’t have to concern ourselves with outward things like skin color, bank accounts or status. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord and we are free to love one another, serve one another and work together for the Kingdom. Here we should show the world what true love is all about. Jesus gave us a new command in John 13:34 to love one another. When we are “in Christ” we will demonstrate an ongoing love for the brethren that is unbreakable, and the world should stand up and take notice, “They take care of their own!” The Church should be the leading agent in Race Relations.
      4. 4.      Eph.1:3-14 is the greatest example of Paul’s idea of being in Christ. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He chose us “in him” before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless. “In Him we have redemption through his blood. “In Him we have obtained an inheritance”
      5. 5.      Philip E. Hughes writes (p.201-203 in NICNT) “The expression ‘in Christ’ sums up as briefly and as profoundly as possible the inexhaustible significance of man’s redemption. It speaks of security in Him who has Himself borne in His own body the judgment of God against our sin; it speaks of acceptance in Him with whom alone God is well pleased; it speaks of assurance for the future in Him who is the resurrection and the life; it speaks of the inheritance of glory in Him who, as the only begotten Son, is the sole heir of God; it speaks of participation in the divine nature in Him who is the everlasting Word; it speaks of knowing the truth, and being free in that truth, in Him who Himself is the Truth. All this, and very much more than can ever be expressed in human language, is meant by being ‘in Christ’. No wonder that the Apostle describes it in absolute terms as a ‘new creation’. Redemption in Christ is nothing less than the fulfillment of God’s eternal purposes in creation, so radical in its effects that it is justly called a new creation (cf.4:6 where Paul has already related the enlightenment of regeneration to the activity of God at creation).
      6. 6.      Are you in Christ? Are all of these blessings yours to claim? Have you ever repented of sin and placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? If you are not “in Christ” where are you? You remain in sin! You are in the camp of the devil himself. You are headed for hell and are under the condemnation of God. You are either in Christ or in sin. You are either joined with Christ in this mysterious, spiritual union or you are apart from Christ and under the spur of the devil. There is no neutral territory.
      7. 7.      Picture baptism and what it means. As we dip you underneath the waters what do we say? Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life. It is a picture of what Jesus did in dying and being buried and then being raised again. It resembles what Jesus commanded us in Luke 9:23-25 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” We lay aside the old man, we die to self, deny self, as we follow Jesus. To be in Christ is to take up our cross, an instrument of torture and death, but also of reconciliation, and follow Jesus wherever he leads. When you are baptized into Christ Jesus you are also baptized into his death, said Paul in Rom.6:3. Are you in Christ?



  1. III.             The New Creation Rev.21:5; Gen.3:16-24
    1. A.     A New Creation- we have looked briefly and incompletely at one of Paul’s favorite and most important phrases, in Christ, and now we turn to the next phrase of our verse, “he is a new creation.” Here I want to show you that not only are YOU a new creation in Christ, but that when we come to Christ we are now participating in God’s re-Creation of the whole universe. The Greek basically just says, “new creation”, and there are a couple of ways translators have handled it. One way emphasizes the person who has just entered into Christ as most translations have it. Simon Kistemaker and Murray Harris say it should be translated “there is a new creation” because the implications go beyond the individual being changed. We are not only created anew, born from above, born again, but we also enter into the new creation that God is creating.

Paul now brings up a theme that permeates the Bible from Genesis to    Revelation, the Creation and coming New Creation. Genesis 1:1,31 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” But in Gen. 3 we see that through man’s disobedience sin entered the picture and man is kicked out of the Garden God had prepared and must now contend with thorns and thistles. Paul tells us in Rom 8:19-23 that all of creation has been waiting and groaning for redemption so that it can be set free from decay.

Isaiah 43:18ff “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am now doing a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches…” Paul even echoes this passage some with Behold…new. We see this hope for newness in Isaiah 65:17ff “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Jeremiah 31:31-34 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house ofIsrael and the house ofJudah…” There is a promise of a new covenant that will be in the hearts of God’s people and not merely in tablets of stone or in aTemple made by the hands of sinful men. This new covenant is in Christ and it is sealed in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit.

Even in the narrative ofIsrael’s history we see this promise of something new being created. After the exile and the destruction ofJerusalemthe people are promised by God’s Word through the prophets like Jeremiah that they shall return and buildJerusalemanew. This was fulfilled in Ezra and Nehemiah, but ultimately it is being fulfilled in the Church.

So when a person enters into Christ by grace, through faith, he is a new creation and he begins to participate in God’s ongoing work of redemption for all of creation. We tend to think of salvation only in personal terms, but there is a bigger picture here. Since all of creation was affected by the fall of man, all of creation will be affected by God’s plan for redemption, and you get to participate in that. There is coming a day when the lion will lay down with the lamb and we, God’s redeemed, will enter back into thatParadisethat Adam lost, and be in sweet fellowship with God forever. Nature itself will be remade so that the beauty and harmony that existed in the Garden will be restored.

What does that look like now or how does that apply to us today? When we come to Christ, we come because he has given us a new heart. As a part of our growing In Christ we begin to apply the Gospel in every area of our life. As a new creation we seek to bring every thought captive to the Gospel. In our workplace, we are now not just working for the weekend, we aren’t just working for a paycheck, we are working as unto the Lord. If we Christians simply worked as unto the Lord in the workplace we would transform our society. We would work as servants, we would work with excellence, we would exercise the fruit of the Spirit towards co-workers, bosses, customers, etc.

What if we brought this idea of being a new creation, of participating in God’s ongoing new creation, into our political arenas? I bet we could find a good balance between justice and mercy, between Paul’s “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” in 2Thess.3:10 and the practice of giving alms to the truly needy. If we brought this idea of the new creation into the Arts we could boldly challenge our culture’s nihilism and eroticism. When our world says, “Let’s start another government program here” the church ought to be saying, let’s bring the Gospel to this situation and see what kind of New Creation can happen.

Keep in mind this is no mere Social Gospel because the proper starting place is with the new creation of a person saved by Jesus and given new life. What happens to that person?

  1. B.     He is a new creation.

To begin with you have a new nature that is bent towards God now as opposed to your old nature that is wholly sinful and running from God. If you are in Christ then you have been “born again…born of the Spirit” as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The problem with man is that he has a fallen nature and is at enmity with God; the new birth gives us a new nature and places us in Christ. We are now inclined towards God and have been given the faith with which to repent, believe and follow.

As a new creation you will long for the things of God. Christ tells us to “seek first thekingdomofGod” in Matt.6:33. When you are in Christ, when you are a new creation, you will seek thekingdomofGodbecause that is reflective of your new nature. You will have a desire to know Christ, Phil 3:10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

As a New Creation you will have a desire for the Word, and for Worship. As a new creation you will crave true spiritual worship, this is a taste of our real home, heaven, every week. Our hunger for the Word will grow and take us deeper into the Word, not being satisfied with just the milk, but wanting spiritual meat as well. 1Pet.2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation”

As a new creation we will put off the sins of the flesh, the sins of the past, as we put on the righteousness of Christ. You will no longer be satisfied with sin, you will crave the things of the Spirit. You will grow in the spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. You will seek holiness even as Christ is holy and you will seek to give glory to God in everything you do.

As a participant in the new creation you will seek to introduce others to the Creator, the Savior. You will want them to have what you now have.

This world needs to see some new creations, some people who truly are in Christ. They need to see the gospel lived out in their midst.

Conclusion: There is nothing you can do on your own to recreate yourself. People realize that something is wrong about their lives, about this world, and they desperately want to start over and get it right, but in their own terms and strength. That will never happen except and until they repent of sin and trust in Christ alone. We can be born again only by his power and grace and enter into that New Creation. If you realize this morning that you are stuck in the grey, old life of sin, and that you have never repented of sin and trusted in Jesus, right now, this morning is a great time to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. If you realize that you are not In Christ, then you must trust in Jesus right now.

If you are already a believer you need to wake up to your calling to be a part of this new creation. You need to bring the Gospel into every area of your life and celebrate being In Christ. There is a cold, dark world out there that desperately needs to see the gospel lived out and then hear the gospel proclaimed with love, power and conviction.



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