"Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth." (Isa. 65:17.)
"If any man be in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.)
"In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Gal. 6:15.)
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." (Eph. 2:10.)
"For to make in Himself of twain one new man." (Eph. 2:15.)
"The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24.)
"The new man, which is renewed after the image of Him that created him." (Col. 3:10.)
"The First-Born of every creature." (Col. 1:15.)
"That we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures." (James 1:18.)
"The Beginning of the creation of God." (Rev. 3:14.)
I propose a brief inquiry as to new creation: in what it consists, how we are brought into it, and its relation to its Head Christ Jesus. In the texts above we have all the passages which directly and in terms speak of it, and from which the doctrine of Scripture must be mainly learnt; to which a very few more which speak of Christ's Headship or compare Him with the first Adam must be added, in order to have before us its full teaching.
One of these other passages, indeed, we may take as the key-note of our inquiry. The purpose of God, we read, is "in the dispensation of the fullness of times to head up" — as it is literally — "all things in the Christ, things in heaven, and things on earth" (Eph. 1:10). Later on in the same chapter the apostle adds that God has raised Christ from the dead and "has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body" (vv. 22, 23). And in the fifth chapter the Church is compared to Eve, Adam's own flesh, whom God presented to him, as Christ will present the Church unto Himself. So also in 1 Cor. 15:45 Christ is declared to be "last Adam," and in Romans 5 Adam to be "the figure of Him that was to come." These passages surely bring us to the heart of the doctrine.
So guided, we may see in the old creation a type of the new, with necessary contrasts dependent on the difference between their respective heads. The first Adam, man merely, yet as that a being in which already there is a union of strangely opposite elements, the breath of God on the one hand, with the body of dust; offspring and likeness of God, yet a "living soul" like the beast; — this first man, how plainly does he figure an infinitely more wondrous "Second Man." The woman formed out of the man, cast into that mysterious "deep sleep" which so vividly pictures the Lord's fruitful death, is thus bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of her head and lord, before she is "one flesh" with him by union. So in the Church we must distinguish carefully between these two things, manifestly different as they are, — new creation and union. Over the whole scene the man is set, the woman sharing his sovereignty.
Now, if we turn from the old to the new creation, we need not wonder to find a wider range in the dominion of the last Adam. God's purpose here is to head up all things in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth, as we have seen. The earth is expressly named. in Isaiah as coming into this: Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." And Israel is as expressly promised continuance upon it: "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall abide before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." To this the apostle Peter clearly refers: "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness."
Over this whole scene the Lord is, as Second Man, head and ruler. He is "the first-born of every creature," "the beginning of the creation of God:" terms which speak, not of priority in time, but in excellence and power. The "first-born" is of well-known use in this way. Thus God says to Pharaoh, "Israel is My son, even My firstborn;" and again, in Jer. 31:9, "I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My first-born;" and so once more in the psalms (Ps. 89:27), "Also I will make him My first-born, higher than the kings of the earth." The word in Rev. 3:14, again, although the regular word for "beginning," has very commonly the sense of "principality," and is so translated (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 1:21; Eph. 3:10; Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16; Col. 2:10, 15; Titus 3:1).
"The church of the first-born ones" is, in Heb. 12:23, distinguished from the spirits of just men made perfect," the company of Old Testament saints being clearly designated in this latter way. The saints of the present are of course not prior in time to those of the old dispensation, while in rank they are, according to the sovereign good pleasure of God toward them. But if ranking as the firstborn, there are thus seen to be others of the same family, in the common relationship of children with them, of the same spiritual descent, as children of God; and with all these the Lord connects Himself as "First-born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). These "brethren" are all believers: "For verily He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold" (Heb. 2:16, marg.). And "both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (v. 11).
Here the relationship seems different from that between Adam and his race; yet "last Adam" we are fully assured the Lord is, and the Antitype of the first. Are we to consider that the connection of the first Adam and his race is different from that between the last Adam and His race? That there is such a difference as results from that between the first and Second Man themselves, is surely true. "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the Second Man is from heaven:" "the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit."
Thus there is a difference. Yet in the very statement it is most strongly asserted that as the first Adam was in his creature-place, as living soul, a fountain of life to the race of which he was the head, so still more absolutely is the last Adam "a quickening [or life-giving] Spirit." It is not simply the Lord here, let us remember, but the "last Adam." Surely the force is plain. He is a quickening Spirit: it is divine life, but it is divine life in Christ, — in the last Adam. We are children of God; but none the less are we His "seed," seen as the result of His soul being made an offering for sin (Isa. 53:10).
It may help us, too, to remember that Adam's race are also called the "offspring of God" (Acts 17:29), and that here Adam was but also a first-born among brethren; and in this way, the natural type illustrates perfectly the antitype, and there ceases to be really any difficulty.
How we come into the new creation is therefore plain. In the first moment of divine life given to us are we made a new creation. Here Adam himself, rather than any descended from him, is the fitting illustration, because we are not naturally separately "created." Spiritually we are: God's workmanship each one, needing nothing less than the forth-putting of almighty power. So the new birth is spoken of as quickening from the dead, or as creation — things which are never effected by any natural process: "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
Thus, "if any man be in Christ, [it is] new creation," as the Greek may be most literally rendered. This is the plain, unequivocal statement of how we get to be in Christ. Adam at the moment he received life was surely perfectly created. He was not first quickened and afterward created! neither is this true spiritually of any saint, in any dispensation whatever. Thus the place in new creation, or under the headship of Christ, is given by that which is common to the whole "seed," or race, and not by that which is the distinguishing feature of one particular dispensation. If it were by the gift of the Spirit we were brought into the new creation, the saints of the Old Testament and of millennial times would be effectually excluded. Everything combines to assure us of what is the truth here, and to it there is no appearance even of contradiction from Scripture anywhere.
But then what follows in the passage just quoted assures us further that to every one in new creation, or in Christ — under this headship — the work of Christ attaches as righteousness: "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." This could not be true as applied merely to personal condition. Granted the life received is divine life — the nature, as it must be, perfect yet my condition is not, cannot be, perfect as long as "sin dwelleth in me," as in every child of man it dwells. "Old things are" not "passed away," so that "all things are become new," if condition only is in question. Bring in the value of the cross, and then indeed all is clear. The new nature and the new standing, never separated in Scripture, however much they may be in our thoughts, perfectly meet the requirement of the text, and leave no difficulty.
Indeed, if any one will consider the apostle's words in 2 Corinthians 12, and how carefully he distinguishes the "man in Christ," in whom he will glory, from the "self" in which he will not glory, he will surely see that it is not a state of that self that he has before him in which he glories. It is Christ Himself in whom he sees himself. Grace has identified him with that glorious object, putting away all that he was by the work of the cross. Thus he can gaze, and rejoice, and worship.
Thus, "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" becomes a "rule" to "walk" by. (Gal. 6:15, 16.) "As" we "have received Christ Jesus the Lord," we are to "walk in Him" (Col. 2:6). Position it is that gives the measure of responsibility, and new creation furnishes us with position as well as condition; therefore a rule for walk. We are not only the subjects of a blessed work of God individually, but belong to another sphere in which "all things are of God" (2 Cor. 5:18). We are to walk as belonging to this, our eyes upon things unseen and eternal, strangers and pilgrims here. We are to "walk in Him," identified with Him by God, and so to identify ourselves. This is what "avails" before God, — "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision," — neither a Jewish nor a Gentile state, — and these two conditions make up the world: "but new creation."