New Creation as Distinguished from Justification.

(See note at the end of this article. - ED.)

This is a distinction which it is impossible to ignore without doing violence to dispensational truth, and losing the blessing to our own souls of the knowledge of what our wonderfully elevated portion is "in Christ" - a portion unique and incomparable.

In the epistle to the Romans (3 to 5:11), we have the doctrine of justification elaborately worked out and established; but it starts with Abraham as the pattern of a justified person. And let us remember that justification is no question of degree. I am justified before God, accounted righteous that is, or I am not. Consequently no saint of God can surpass Abraham in this, to whatever dispensational period he may belong. Abraham was accounted righteous before God, and more than that can none in that respect be. It is absolute and final, as unmeasured as it is unchangeable. It will be readily seen that it is an entirely judicial thing. I was "guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19); but now through His grace I am not merely forgiven (blessed as that is in respect to my sins with which forgiveness has alone to do), but I, who "before God" had no other ground than that of guilty - a guilty, condemned person - am now justified; for righteousness is reckoned to me, or, in other words, I am accounted to be an absolutely righteous person by and before God. This is justification.

But where does Scripture connect this with being in Christ? Did it do so, either Abraham could not have been thus justified or he must have been in Christ equally with the saints of this day, either of which conclusions would be contrary to the truth. As to this I only add that justification is entirely of the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus - the mercy-seat, as Rom. 3:24-25 clearly teaches.

We say then of the believer that he has not only the forgiveness of his sins, but that he is a justified person, henceforth and for ever accounted before God as righteous; for as in courts of law a person is proved guilty or accounted innocent, so "before God" we are absolutely guilty, and thus "under judgment to God" or accounted righteous - to express which the Holy Ghost has used this forensic term justification. But it cannot too much be insisted upon, that the force and value of the doctrine is missed unless we clearly distinguish between forgiveness and justification. It is evident that our sins called for forgiveness, not justification, the very thought of which would be horrible. This forgiveness we have because they have been righteously disposed of and put away from God's sight, the Lord Jesus having borne them in His own body on the tree. Moreover we, once standing as sinners guilty before God, having believed on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, have been justified by His blood; in other words, have had righteousness imputed to us. This, we say, is our justification, the doctrine of which would be vitiated did we add "in Christ;" for all can see the impossibility of righteousness being imputed to Him.

What then is it to be in Christ? Scripture itself answers, "A new creation." It is the doctrine of 2 Corinthians (v. 17), of Galatians (6:15), and of Ephesians (2:10). In each of these Scriptures the doctrine of new creation is introduced, and in each case it is either "in Christ" or "in Christ Jesus." But, be it observed, for a new creation you must have a new Head - the One indeed who is "the beginning of the creation of God." (Rev. 3:14.) Accordingly from Rom. 5:12 the apostle begins a new subject - that of the two headships. It is now no longer a question of sins, but of sin, the root question. To answer which the apostle introduces the one man who sinned and his race, and then the one man Jesus Christ, the last Adam, Him that was to come. Further, he speaks of sin abounding and grace super-abounding in order that grace might reign on the principle of righteousness as sin had reigned in the power of death. But as these contrary things are going on in the one scene of operations, the question is asked, Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? Far be the thought. We have died to sin. How can we live in it? Our old man has been crucified with Christ that sin as a whole might be annulled and we emancipated; for he that has died is for ever cleared or discharged from sin. Christ has once for all died to sin, and lives unto God. We once for all died with Christ, and are alive unto God in Him. We have eternal life in Him (6:23), are clear of all condemnation, and are free from the law of sin and death, because of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus having given us liberty. (8:1-2.) Thus it is in connection with the Holy Ghost. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Nor is this ever enjoyed but where the Holy Ghost has been received; for while the work of Christ is the foundation of this and every other blessing, it is only by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us that we can say we are in Christ and Christ is in us.

Thus far the epistle to the Romans and the two headships. In 2 Corinthians, in Galatians, and in Ephesians this truth, as we have seen, is connected with new creation, where its full character comes out. In one respect this and justification exhibit an analogy; viz., they are alike unqualified, absolute, and eternal. He that is in Christ a new creation is absolutely so, and is this for eternity. The blessing is looked at as constituting a new order of being, expressed in that remarkable word "alive unto God." And whereas "justification," as we have seen, is a judicial term, "in Christ" is more properly a generic term. Instead of belonging to the house or race or seed of the first man, I now belong to that of the second man, sui generis. I am in Him a new creation, dead unto sin, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus.

Thus argues the apostle: "Old things have passed away," "All things have become new," "All things are of God." And again, in Galatians, circumcision goes for no more than uncircumcision; for it is a new creation that avails before God. And so also in Ephesians, we are God's workmanship - no marring of the image and likeness of God by Satan's craft and man's sin, but God's unsullied workmanship, a creation in Christ Jesus for good works, and these too prepared of God for us to walk in - all blessedly of God.

Another expression or two demand notice. In 1 Cor. 15 we read, "In Christ shall all be made alive;" and in 1 Thess. 4, "The dead in Christ shall rise first;" and it might be asked whether Old Testament saints are not included. But may we not answer, that their being included in each case as a matter of fact is a very different thing to their being "in Christ" dispensationally. Old Testament saints, as a matter of fact, are children of God, have everlasting life (not that they knew it), and partake of heavenly blessing; but none of these things were revealed as proper to them dispensationally. God had not in their day been revealed as Father, nor had eternal life in Christ, nor association with Him by a heavenly calling; yet who will deny that the blessings referred to become theirs? So as to faith: we read in Gal. 3:23, "Before faith came" - that is, dispensationally as a system; yet what a roll of worthies is found in Heb. 11, all blessed with faithful Abraham! We say then, that dispensationally "in Christ" is the full and incomparable blessedness of the new creation,* and as such is another thing to our justification before God, albeit nothing could in itself be higher, be more perfect, or be more blessed than that really is. The correlation of terms used in the Word may be taken as follows:

Guilty … now accounted righteous. Under judgment to God now justified before Him. = Justification.

In Adam … now in Christ. In the flesh … now in the Spirit. = New creation.*

*See note at the end. - ED.

In Ephesians we read that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, and that we are seated there in Him. All this is unquestionably of grace, and is made good to us by the Holy Ghost, our holding and enjoying it, as against the antagonism of wicked spirits, being by spiritual conflict as strong in the Lord and the power of His might. In Colossians we read that we are "complete in Him;" but more correctly it is we are "filled full." In Him dwelleth all the fulness bodily, and we are filled full in Him.

Let us recall then what we have considered.

1. The Lord Jesus, having borne our sins on the cross, has for ever put them away, and therefore as soon as we have exercised faith we can say we are forgiven, or, in other words, have the remission of all our sins; for no longer have they any place between us and God. This is our cleansing, and is especially connected with the Lord's death and blood-shedding.

2. I have been brought unto God, and set righteously before Him. Once I was "guilty before God," now I am cleared of all guilt, and justified in His presence to walk "in the light, as He is in the light." He has imputed righteousness unto me because I have believed on Him; in other words, I am accounted righteous, having justification before God. This is a purely judicial thing, and is specially connected with the Lord's resurrection.

3. I have died with Him, and am now alive unto God in Him. I am in Christ and Christ in me, effected by the Holy Ghost dwelling in me. Having died, I am freed from sin as a principle, have got my discharge from its dominion. I am under a new headship; the law of sin and death is for me annulled, and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has taken its place and is liberty. This is a generic thing. There is a new creation, of which I am part, and Christ is Himself the Head and Beginning thereof. I am taken out of my condition in Adam as guilty, and "under judgment to God," and set in Christ in new creation and under new headship. This being made ours in the unction and energy of the Holy Ghost, dwelling in and working with us, is the fruit of Christ's being glorified; for it is as set at God's right hand He is made unto us Lord and Christ, and has shed forth the Holy Ghost. It is our new order of life and blessing - the new creation.

4. We have title to the heavenlies in Him - there blessed with all spiritual blessings, and there seated too in Him. But we can only occupy and enjoy our portion there as we wage conflict with wicked spirits, who seek to hinder and to disturb. This is an experimental thing, for which the whole armour of God and the sword of the Spirit and faith and prayer are needed. It is our new place of blessing.

5. We are filled full in Him. This is not what we are judicially before God, nor what we are generically as in Christ, nor where we are as to the scene of our blessing, but, as distinguished from what we are and where we are, indicates what we have in Him in whom we are blest; filled full in Him in whom all the fulness is, the glorified Man, in whom all our resources are found in divine fulness. W. R.

NOTE. - In reading the above article it will be necessary for the reader to bear in mind the especial character of the epistle to the Romans. We quote, as to this, the words of another: "We have two distinct statements in this epistle of the blessedness of believers - the passage which occupies us, chap. 5:1 - 11, and chap. 8. The former gives us what God Himself is for us in grace, with its blessed consequences; the latter the believer's place in Christ before God, and what God is for him there." Again, "To connect the second part of the Romans with the first as a continuous process is a mistake. Guilt by our acts is a different thing from our state as children of Adam. In one we are guilty and (unless justified) come into judgment; in the other we are lost. The effect of the work of Christ is to clear for ever all our sins away. They are remembered no more, and as when He had by Himself purged our sins He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, we are, besides being purged, risen in Him in the new standing which is the effect of His redemption for man." Further as to Romans 5:12 - 21: "We have now another subject, one man the head as to sin, one as to obedience. The many connected with the former constituted sinners by his offence, and the many connected with the latter constituted righteous (by his obedience)." Then in chapter 6 the same writer remarks: "Our resurrection with Christ is not spoken of here; that involves union with Him." In another place he says, speaking of the exaltation of Christ," We are united to Him in His new and glorious state as Head. (Eph. 1, 2.) But this is a new creation."

These remarks have been cited to show the importance of rightly dividing this epistle; and the reader, comparing them with its teaching, will undoubtedly see that "in Christ" in Romans does not imply union with Him, and is consequently not of itself connected with the new creation. It expresses the new place or standing into which the believer is brought "as the effect of redemption." Connected with being in Christ there are two additional things - sealing with the Holy Spirit, and Christ in us; and thus we have also our new condition - in the Spirit, as contrasted with being in the flesh. (Rom. 8:9.) Moreover, inasmuch as "in Christ" in Romans does not imply union with Him, neither is the Headship of Christ in chap. 5 connected with the new creation. "It is a state dependent on the conduct of the head. This is the great point here. The Lord and Adam by their act and conduct bring those connected with them into a certain condition."

As a general remark it may be added, that it is essential to the understanding of the truth of God always to bear in mind the distinctive teaching of the several epistles. [ED.]

As spirituality becomes feeble, the exercise of mind, and the play of mere natural feelings, becomes a necessary aliment. But to the soul fresh in its spirituality, the word of God has more sweetness in its least statements (for they come from God) than any indulgence whatever of the mental powers.