If Christians are a new creation, why isn’t everything perfect? I ask the question because of today’s Verse of the Day, from YouVersion. It says we are a new creation. The old is gone. The new is here. It sounds so exciting! So how come things aren’t perfect? For that matter, how come little or nothing seems to have changed? Is the verse wrong?
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
See what I mean? What’s the problem? Why isn’t everything perfect?
Well, there are several reasons.
- We pulled the verse out of context
- The English translation loses something
- We missed a condition and its effects
So let’s look at those and see what’s really happening.
A new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:17 in context
Context is always a problem when pulling out one verse. To solve that problem, let’s look at the entire passage. This is Paul, so let’s try to not get too deep into the weeds. At least, not today. Just go ahead and read it, then we’ll check out a couple things.
2Co 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
2Co 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2Co 6:1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
A new creation in Christ is about Reconciliation
There’s nothing in the verse of the day to indicate this is about reconciliation. Five forms of the word reconciliation are in the passage, but not in the verse we pulled out.
One thing about that reconciliation though. Paul writes about us and God. Notice, from verse 18: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. Not only that, but it’s God doing the actual reconciliation. This is not going to be a lesson on reconciliation. That would make this way too long. The point I make is this: the reconciliation is between us and God and the work is done by God – through Jesus.
There is one more thing, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
A new creation in Christ – what’s lost in translation
Do you remember the image at the top? The fireworks. Maybe because this verse of the day is for New Year’s Day, we think of fireworks. Instant action. Something obvious. And something that happens immediately.
Like last night. There were some fireworks going off starting at 9 PM. Probably because I live in California, and people were watching the New York City celebrations. But at midnight, things went kind of crazy. A new year. Instantly noticeable.
Such is not the case without new creation in Christ.
But why not? For that, we must turn to verse 17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
That certainly sounds like an instant change, doesn’t it? And yet, that’s not what the original Greek text says.
There’s no specific timeframe attached to the old going and the new coming in the original text. That message we tend to look at as instant gratification isn’t really there.
There are a few reasons for that.
One is that the reconciliation has to do with the next life. There’s nothing in the Bible that says we’re going to be perfect in this life! Far from it. In fact, even Paul writes about how he does things he doesn’t want to – and doesn’t do the things he wants to. For us to expect anything different is to not understand the full message of the Bible.
Another issue has to do with our growth as Christians. As followers of Jesus. Our new creation, on this earth, takes time to be evident. I did a series on the Beatitudes that goes through this in great detail. We start at the beginning, progress through what Jesus taught, and then repeat. Every step of the way, and every time through the series of steps, our new creation in Christ becomes more obvious.
It’s a process in this life. One that takes time. A life time. And it never completes in this life.
A new creation in Christ – there’s a condition in there
Did you notice the condition in the passage? It’s “hidden” in plain sight, where we tend to miss things. Check it out: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
It’s only two letters. But two really important letters! If.
We often tend to think we’re “in” with Jesus. Even non-Christians have an expectation of going to Heaven. That’s another of those things we lay claim to – but is nowhere to be found in the Bible. In fact, even Christians are warned that many of us who claim to be followers of Jesus won’t see Heaven. Given our topic today, the passage below is especially on point.
Jn 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jn 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jn 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
Just as the “ministry of reconciliation” passage, this one contains the word “if”. But it contains some implied conditions as well.
If we aren’t in Christ, then we cannot even begin to show any change in our life because of Him. It only makes sense. And yet, we often overlook it.
Conclusion – If Christians are a new creation, why isn’t everything perfect?
As we can see, there are many reasons why things aren’t perfect. Sometimes because we’re not even true Christians. We aren’t true followers of Jesus.
But even when we are, we don’t necessarily understand the impact of what Jesus told us. We won’t see a change from what we were to being perfect. Certainly not instantly. But then, not ever in this life. Not realizing the truth of what Jesus told us sets up so many false expectations. Both from ourselves and from others. Even from non-Christians.
It may seem odd, but maybe one way to begin seeing results from being in Christ is to have a better realization of what that means.