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A NEW CREATION (part three)

By J.C. Metcalfe

Recapture from part one:

By means of the reconciling love of God moving out to us by way of the Cross, we are
born into a totally new life, and become new creatures – a new creation – in Christ Jesus.
As Peter says: We are ‘begotten… again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). Describing the man who has thus become a new
creature Bishop Ellicott says: “ The old things of his life, .. heathen philosophies, lower
aims, earthly standards – these things, in idea at least passed away from him at the time
when he was united with Christ. We may trace an echo of words of Isaiah’s that may have
floated in the apostle’s memory: “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider
the things of old. Behold I make new things” (Isaiah 43:18-19). The words in bold Italics
are in the Septuagint the same as those Paul uses here.” (note from Esther: so, not
meaning an action of God and not repairing the old person, but meaning something
created by God, completely new. Not formerly existing)


Recapture from part two:

No, what you learned was to fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living, which
were rotted through with lust’s illusions, and, with yourselves mentally and spiritually re-
made, to put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life which was made by God’s design
for righteousness and the holiness which is no illusion”. Then follows a list of virtues,
not of the type to bring glory to us, nor necessarily to bring us into prominence in
Christian work. Truth-telling, avoidance of anger, scrupulous honesty, care in the choice
and use of words, helpfulness to others, no self-assertiveness, no talking behind the backs
of others, kindness, understanding, forgiveness, are seen as the evidences of the new life,
which is in short God-likeness. These constitute the glorious new creation in the inner
life, whereby the chaos of fallen human nature is banished from the scene, and the
ordered creation of the new life in Christ begins to be seen amongst men. “The Light
produces in men quite the opposite of sins like these – everything that is wholesome and
good and true. Let your lives be living proofs of the things which please God” (Ephesians
5:9-10 – J.B. Phillips’ own word translation). The problem with our world is a moral
one. God’s reply to it is the creation of new men and women being conformed day by day
into the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:20-21, etc).

Re-creating Grace

It would seem that Isaiah spoke with prophetic insight when he described “everyone that
is called’ by the name of Jehovah in these terms. “I have created him (here is the same
word used both for the old and new creative activities of God), I have formed him (here is
a word that speaks of molding into shape something already created), I have made him
(here speaks the pride of the craftsman over a finished task)”. All these three activities are
seen in the way that God brings us from darkness to light, and remakes us into the image
of His Son. It is the work of God in us that matters first and foremost. The man upon
whom the hand of God is laid is a man of abundant labour in His service, but his work
does not have as its source his own powers, but rather the re-creating grace of God. Paul
wrote of his own experience: “I am the least of the apostles, that am not worthy to be
called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am
what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured
more abundantly than they all: yet no I but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor
15:9-10). Grace worked in him the disposition to walk in the prepared path of good
works, in which His Lord walked before him, that was God’s plan for him. Made a new
creature in Christ, he was fashioned by suffering into a trustworthy instrument in the
Divine hand, and looking back at his life it is now possible to glimpse something of the
greatness of the work in him, which came fresh from the hand of the Creator.

The fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation seem to provide us with pointers to the first
creation and then to the second. In chapter 4 we see the throne of God, and His glory as
the Creator. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou
hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Then chapter 5
introduces the miracle of redemptive love. “A new song” becomes central in the worship
of heaven; and in the midst of the throne is seen the Slain Lamb. The fashioning of a
“kingdom” and “priests’ from amongst sinful men is witnessed; and the consequent
ascriptions of praise swell in a crescendo of worship.

A False Emphasis

There are many voices today that seek to rivet our attention on our fallen world. They tell
us that the work of the Christian Church must be to change the existing order of things
for the better. In the Ecumenical Review for July 1967 is an extract from an article by
Paul Löffner which speaks of this outlook in the same breath as it mentions a new
creation. It says: “As the World Council of Churches moves towards its Fourth Assembly
on the theme “Behold, I make all things new” it becomes clear that neither the renewal of
the world nor of the Church can be adequately understood without the re-orientation of
people as persons. In meeting some of the most dramatic crises of the modern world
signified by the struggle for a juster economic and social order among the nations we are
again challenged to show how exactly such changes can come about; to what extent does
the transformation of society depend upon a ‘new man’? What kind of commitment does
it require? How do personal destiny and that of mankind interrelate?”
This conception is not biblical, and there are secular writers who realize that it is false. A
little time back an article appeared here in England in The Daily Telegraph Magazine
written by Anthony Lejeune, of which the following is an extract:
“If the Church has nothing more than the world to offer, why go to the Church? If the
Church provides no escape from the spirit of the times, what help is it? If we want
politics, there are politicians and political parties in plenty. If we want philanthropy, there
are a multitude of charitable bodies. If we want practical advice, there are counselors,
lawyers, doctors and psychologists.
But these are not what we want. These are the diversions and trivia of the world. They
leave us, as they left our remotest ancestors, gazing out uncomforted into the awful
darkness. The Church’s function is to bring light into that darkness, to take the sting from
death itself, to preach good news which no election manifesto can promise. Anything
which hinders, or distracts from this function is unworthy and a betrayal.
The case for secular involvement is familiar enough. The Church, the argument runs, in
order to capture the hearts and minds of 20th-century men, must be in the forefront of the
campaigns which absorb them: campaigns for social and economic equality, for better
housing and welfare services, for the advancement of the coloured races. But the
argument is a fallacy. For the Church to identify itself with secular causes will inevitably
scandalize some of the faithful and deter some waverers, and it can have no
compensating advantage unless, sooner or later, it actually brings irreligious people into
the religious fold, persuading them to believe in God and to pursue the salvation of their
own souls. That this latter result in fact occurs there is no evidence what so ever.”

We have a great commission, which we dare not set aside. The Church of Christ is the
ambassador to a dark and dying world of the good news of the new life in Christ. The
imporement of the world as it is, is no part of God’s plan. The new creation in and
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is His great masterpiece, and it is also the sole
vehicle of blessing to needy men now, and in His own time to the nations.

God’s Masterpiece

The Lord Jesus Himself used this parable while dealing with the religious teachings of
His day. “Nobody tears a piece from a new coat to patch up an old one. If he does, he
ruins the new one and the new piece does not match the old. Nobody puts new wine into
old wine skins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins – the wine will be spilt and
the skins ruined. No, new wine must be put into new wine skins. Of course, nobody who
has been drinking old wine will want the new at once. He is sure to say, “The old is a
good sound wine”. (Luke 5:37-39. J.B. Phillips). The gospel of the Cross is the new
dealing with man, and by it all other religious ideas, teachings, and works are outdated.
By union with Christ in His Cross men are brought into the new realm of the Holy Spirit;
created anew, and re-made after the pattern of the risen Lord, according to the power of
His resurrection. The Christian life is therefore the constant “putting off’ of the old, and
the ‘putting on’ of the new. A day is coming when the world as it is will finally stand
under judgment, and God’s new creation will then be seen in the full flower of its glory.
The present task of the Christian Church is the prosecution with all God-given power and
wisdom of the work of the new creation in the hearts of men. It is not the bolstering up of
the old. In this labour we may expect, and rejoice to see the Spirit of God at work, but at
the same time we shall face the bitter criticism of religion, and the opposition of the
world. But the day will dawn when God will declare:” Behold, I make all things new”
(Rev. 21:5). Then we shall see the full manifestation of His new creation; the nations
shall find healing; the light of God shall shine forth in its fullness; and thirst of heart and
mind shall be satisfied for ever in the flow of life from the throne of God, and of the
Lamb. Is it any wonder that the apostle prays – “Even so come, Lord Jesus”; and that it is
a cry that finds an echo in the hearts of His children?


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