“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Co 5:17)
We know that the Bible is true and completely reliable. Jesus fully endorsed the credibility of Scripture when He used the Bible as a defence against temptation when on three occasions He told the devil, “It is written” and then proceeded to quote Scripture. He also said that heaven and earth would pass away but that God’s Word would remain. It does seem to be a contradiction, however, when we don’t always experience this ‘newness’ of 2 Corinthians 5:17. We may even wonder if we are not just using wishful thinking or the power of positive thinking when applying the above verse to ourselves.
Am I really a new creation if I still succumb to temptation?
To unpack this and get to a meaningful understanding of this apparent contradiction, we need to consider a profound statement made by the Lord Jesus. When a rich young ruler (of the Jews) asked about eternal life, he said: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus answered with a question (as He so often did): “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. . . “(Mt 19:17) This statement unlocks a very vital and all-encompassing principle: The only source of “good” in the Universe is God Himself.
On a practical level when we look around us in the world, there is some ‘good’ in almost everyone; even the worst sinner may have some kindness or goodness in them. As an extreme example, look at Hitler, it may be very difficult to find any good in him, but if he showed kindness to his cat, that would still register as a tiny fragment of good. The point being, where ever the smallest gesture of good is observed, the source of that good is God. To quote Jesus again, “No one is good but One, that is, God” The influence of the goodness of the Creator can be observed even in the worst sinner.
Of course, even though the source of all goodness is God, no amount of ‘goodness’ in us will save us, we MUST be born again to qualify for eternal life.
Here is the bottom line; there is no inherent good in anyone of us, any good thought, feeling, behaviour in us, comes from God. The closer we are to the Lord, the more goodness is seen in our behaviour. The further we drift from the Lord; God’s goodness in us diminishes accordingly. This can be seen in the lives of individuals and also in the corporate lives of nations. When a nation honours God, the goodness of God can be seen in many facets of society. The opposite is also true when a nation excludes God, there is deterioration on all levels of society. Although the world is predominantly evil, God is actually restraining the evil at the moment. If (when) God removes His restraint of evil, the world will disintegrate into a cesspool of moral depravity.
When we are born again and become a new creature in Christ, God places His Spirit within us and makes all His goodness available to us. We don’t automatically become good, but we now have full access, as new creatures, to God’s goodness. We need to take full advantage of this and allow God’s goodness to influence every aspect of our lives.
Sadly the behaviour of many Christians is often far worse than the behaviour of some unbelievers because they have not grasped this principle that they are not good in themselves, but any goodness in them comes from God. A born-again, new creature in Christ has to rely on God for his or her goodness. We are not inherently good even though we are born again. Paul said: “In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing” (Rom 7:18)
- God has breathed His Spirit into us again and we have become a new creation in Christ (born again or newly created)
- Old things have passed away – Sin is no longer our Master, it has been dealt with.
- All things have become new – we are in a new standing with God and therefore face temptation as Jesus did by quoting what has been written in Scripture and holding fast to it.
- The more we open our hearts and minds to God and honour Him by our actions, the more of His goodness is seen in us, there is no exception to this rule.