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by Arnold Valentin Wallenkampf
8. A New Creature
Customarily in Western society, when a woman gets married she changes her name. In a certain sense she becomes a new person. When a sinner is wedded to Christ, he too becomes a new person. "Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). This is the basis on which God can accept and account a sinner just and righteous, and treat him as such, although He solemnly vows that He "will not justify the wicked" (Ex. 23:7, KJV) and that "he who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord" (Prov. 17:15).
Justification is not based on Gods dealings with the "old sinner. The old sinner has died. In the Old Testament sanctuary service, the figurative death of the sinner was symbolized by the slain sacrificial animal. As the sacrificial animal died symbolically for the Old Testament sinner, so Christ has literally died for you and me. "Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh" (1 Peter 4:1, KJV). And the sinner, justified by faith, has died to sin (see Rom. 6:2).
Paul says that "the law is binding on a person only during his life" (Rom. 7:1). Its jurisdiction ceases with the persons death, "for he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7), and hence from the law that demanded his life. The demands of the violated law have been met by Christs death for the repentant sinner and the crucifixion of the old carnal self.
Following the death of the old man of sin, a new person is born in response to the wooing of the Holy Spirit through justification by faith. This death, burial, and resurrection to newness of life is symbolized by immersion baptism. Paul says: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom. 6:3, 6). When a person rises from the baptismal grave, he is, as it were, a new person. "It is as the Spirit of God touches the soul that the powers of the soul are quickened, and man becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus."1
The broken law condemns to death. Death is caused by "the commandment, which was ordained to life" (Rom. 7:10, KJV; cf. Deut. 6:24). No possible present and future obedience can atone for past disobedience. A pardoned murderer is constantly dependent on the executive pardon for his life. Apart from it, he possesses no right to life.
Law, sin, and death are inseparable for the carnal man. The relationship between them is so close that the words Law, sin, and death could be used interchangeably. In himself and apart from God, there is no hope for man. By the very fact of his being a human being, he is as good as dead for eternity, apart from Christ. Either he himself will die eternal death, or he will accept Jesus and let Him die in his stead. This Jesus did on Calvary.
"As the sinner looks to the law, his guilt is made plain to him and pressed home to his conscience, and he is condemned. His only comfort and hope is found in looking to the cross of Calvary. As he ventures upon the promises, taking God at His word, relief and peace come to his soul. He cries, Lord, Thou hast promised to save all who come unto Thee in the name of Thy Son. I am a lost, helpless, hopeless soul. Lord, save, or I perish. His faith lays hold on Christ, and he is justified before God."2
As the sinner lays hold of Christ by faith, the old man of sin dies; a new man now stands before Christ. By having become a new person with a new heart and attitude toward God and His will, the Christian accepts the law of God with love and chooses to live by it, just as a pardoned murderer gratefully chooses to live by the law of the land.
Paul says: "For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God" (Gal. 2:19). This does not mean that the law died. It is still in full force after it put the old carnal Paul to death spiritually. It is only by virtue of its being alive that the law can condemn and put sinners to death. It will continue to condemn other law-breakers, like you and me, to death. But like Saul in the Old
Testament and Paul in the New, every sinner who accepts Christ is turned into a new person (see 1 Sam. 10:6). By our natural fallen nature we are identified with sin; it cannot be taken out of us or from us apart from taking our life. But Jesus died in our stead; He bore our sins in His own body (see 1 Peter 2:24) and became "a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13).
"For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). This text points out the double solidarity of Jesus with the sinner. He chose to take our side against the "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). As our Creator, He preferred to die for us rather than see His creatures lost in suffering, sin, and eternal death. In dying for us, Jesus died the second death. He took our wages of sin so that any repentant sinner need not suffer eternal death. By His stripes we are healed. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole" (Isa. 53:5).
Through the re-creative power of the accepted Saviour, the repentant sinner is turned into a new creature. The power of redemption is the power of creation. Salvation reveals to us the power that was used at Creation to bring worlds and man into existence. This same power Jesus now exerts for our salvation. God can take a human being, broken and ruined by sin—yes, even dead in sin (see Eph. 2:1)—and make him into a new creature that will ultimately excel even the angels in moral beauty. Only Jesus, who is Himself God and the Creator, can do this.
This transformation from sinfulness into righteousness is illustrated by Elishas curing the pot of poisonous food on his visit to the sons of the prophets at Gilgal. "And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, Set on the great pot, and boil pottage for the sons of the prophets. One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of pottage, not knowing what they were. And they poured out for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the pottage, they cried out, 0 man of God, there is death in the pot! And they could not eat it. He said, Then bring meal. And he threw it into the pot, and said, Pour out for the men, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot" (2 Kings 4:38-41).
The poisonous effect in the pottage was caused possibly by the gourd-like colocynth that the sons of the prophets may have gathered in the field. This is a yellow fruit about the size of an orange. The fruit is bitter and produces colic; it affects the nerves as well as causing stomach ache and nausea. If eaten in large quantities, the colocynth might even cause death.
To cure the pottage from its death-producing effect, Elisha put some meal into the kettle. Even though there was "death in the pot," Elisha did not have the servant discard it. Rather, he transformed the lethal pottage into wholesome food.
As the colocynth (or whatever the men had gathered) was a poison unto death in the pottage, so sin is a poison unto eternal death in human lives. Elisha put meal into the pottage. Jesus is the meal—the "bread of life," according to John 6:35, to us who are poisoned unto death. There is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ to heal every one of us from the vilest sin.
In his parting speech to the leaders of the church at Ephesus, Paul said, "And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). The evil that sin has wrought in us, the Holy Spirit has power to undo through the Word. The Word is able to build us up and fit us for His kingdom. "Our Saviour is the bread of life, and it is by beholding His love, by receiving it into the soul, that we feed upon the bread which came down from heaven."3
"Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). "Through faith, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed."4
Jesus, who is the bread of life, possesses power to transform us. He wants to put this meal, this bread of life, into us through His Word, as Elisha put the flour into the poisoned pottage. With the meal, the nature of the pottage was changed. So it is Gods plan for you and me to be transformed by admitting Jesus into us through His Word. But only by choosing to fill our minds with His Word can this be done.
The transforming power of the Word is also illustrated by several parables. In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-9) the seed is scattered upon the soil, and new life sprouts and grows. So the old man of sin dies and a new man in Christ arises under the nurture of the Word.
The beginning of new spiritual life, the new birth, is also illustrated by the parable of the leaven (Matt. 13:33). Leaven, or yeast, is put into a lump of dough. The purpose of the leaven is to change the nature of the dough. Jesus accepts us just as we are at the moment we commit ourselves to Him and are justified by faith. But as the meal removed the poison from Elishas pottage, and as the yeast changes the dough, so Jesus changes us through His Word.
"As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. God Himself is the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Rom.3:26)."5
There is no justification by faith or salvation apart from regeneration. Jesus made this clear in His nocturnal conversation with Nicodemus when He said that "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). "It is the Spirit that gives life" (John 6:63). There can be no true Christian life without the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit exalts and glorifies Christ (see John 16:14) by leading men and women gladly to do His will.
As a new creature in Christ Jesus, the transformed sinner—now a saint—has been enabled to keep Gods law, as expressed in the Ten Commandments. "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh . . . in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3, 4).
F. F. Bruce comments that "for Paul there was no substantial difference in content between the just requirement of the law, which cannot be kept by those who live according to the flesh, and the just requirement fulfilled in those who live according to the Spirit. The difference lay in the fact that a new inward power was now imparted, enabling the believer to fulfill what he could not fulfill before. The will of God had not changed; but whereas formerly it was recorded on tablets of stone, it was now engraved on human hearts, and inward impulsion accomplished what external compulsion could not.6 "For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God" (1 Cor. 7:19).
In the sinner justified by faith, the sine qua non presented by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:7 for entrance into the kingdom, "You must be born anew," has been fulfilled. And to be born again means to "begin life anew in relation to God; his manner of thinking, feeling, and acting, with reference to spiritual things, under-going a fundamental and permanent revolution."7
As a new creature in Christ, the converted person has a new standing before God. "Through faith, the believer passes from the position of a rebel, a child of sin and Satan, to the position of a loyal subject of Christ Jesus."8 The sinner justified by faith is a new creature in Christ Jesus, for "no man is justified who is not renewed, nor is any man renewed who is not also justified."9
Although his standing has changed, to onlookers his state may appear to be the same since they may not perceive any immediate ethical change. But his state, or condition, has also changed. He is no longer a rebel against God and His ways, as he was before, although he may not as yet have been entirely delivered from the snares of sinful habits.
A person justified by faith may still look like a sinner. When he returned to his
fathers home, the prodigal looked like a sinner. But he was no longer a rebel. So a
person justified by faith no longer chooses to sin.
1 White, in Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892. [back]
2 ________, in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 365, 366. [back]
3 ________, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 112. [back]
4 ________, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 564. [back]
5 ________, Christs Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub, Assn., 194l), p. 163. [back]
6 F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1977), pp. 199, 200. [back]
7 R. Jainieson, A. Fausset, and D. Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub, House), on John 3:3. [back]
8 The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, vol. 6, p. 1070. [back]
9 James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978; first published in 1867), p. 402.
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