When it comes to the Lord Jesus, Paul views Him on resurrection ground, as linked with Him in heaven, in glory. Like most of the Jews of his day, Paul was once stumbled by the idea of one moving in humiliation and lowly grace, yet claiming to be the God-sent Messiah. This was all changed when he saw Him in exalted glory, at the right hand of the Father.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is (there is) a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2Cor 5:17, ESV). This is the believer’s new position in Christ, in new creation, and must be interpreted in the light of verses 14-16. Often this verse has been used in personal testimonies and as a result might have given the wrong impression. Listeners might think all of the speaker’s old habits have ended, and evil thoughts no longer come to the mind, nor lustful looks take place. Paul is not addressing our practices, but our position. The central statement is “in Christ,” in a new creation. In Christ, the old has passed away; behold all has become new. Believers are no longer in Adam. They have died to the old creation and are now in the new creation, with Christ as the Federal Head. This will happen in a literal sense when the present heavens and earth pass away and “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness”(2Peter 3:13, KJV) will be realized. However, in a spiritual sense, this has already happened to the believer.
The verb group “passed away,” suggests they are gone forever. It is in the past aorist tense, which means the sentence has been passed upon everything connected with the old order of man.
We read about “the old serpent the Devil,” “the old man,” “the old covenant,” “the old bottles,” “the old wine,” “the old leaven.” Similarly, we read of “new things.” Not new in time, but new in nature and quality. This is seen in the many references to “the new covenant,” “new commandment,” “new man,” “new life,” and “new heavens and new earth.” A completely new order of things has been introduced by God. The statement “and have become new,” implies this is an abiding result. Our assessments, associations, and ambitions should be determined by our new position in Christ, in a new creation. It is God’s expectation that believers’ practices should agree with their position.
The New Objective of this Life – Galatians 2:18-20
Paul provides the source and secret of power for us in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; no longer I, but Christ lives in me: and that which I now live in the flesh (body) I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me”(Darby).
It is important to note verse 19: “Through the law, I died to the law so that I might live to God”(ESV). By executing the sentence upon us, the law has placed the believer in Christ, where it can have nothing more to do with him/her. The law proved Paul to be a sinner, and then punished him for being so. It made demands without providing the power to fulfil them.
To run and work the law commands,
Yet gives me neither feet nor hands;
But better news the Gospel brings:
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.
– John Bunyan
In verse 20, Paul explains further. The believer has been crucified with Christ, Who has borne the curse of a broken law, its utmost penalty, beyond which it can have no claim at all. Therefore, those who have been justified in Christ are free from the law, as a means of justification and as a rule of life.
The following words confirm the present and permanent position of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Back to the cross I look and wondering see
The Christ of God in agonies for me;
And looking closer on that form divine
I see with Him, myself; His death was mine.
“I have been crucified with Christ …” (v20, Newberry).
The reference to “I” in this verse is the old, evil, pre-conversion “I.” Crucifixion was a public, judicial act. A person’s life was terminated in this act of judgment. Having been crucified with Christ, all which Paul was had ended. “Yet I live …” is vital union with the risen Lord Jesus, in the life of the new creation and on the other side of death and judgment. All these passed for Him and us, forever.
“Yet it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me …” is the principle of a new life. He is now our true self, the aim and object of Christian living. Life has no longer to do with me. The cross teaches the believer that the old life has terminated. The Lord Jesus becomes the reason for living. It is a Christ-centered life, and through our bodies, the new life (His life) is manifested.
Anne Ross Cousin explains it so well in one of her hymns (#176 BHB):
For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou’rt risen; my bands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
“And the life which I now live in the flesh ….” “That is the body; in the earthly environment and in the body suited to it” (Hogg & Vine). “I live by faith in the Son of God.” This fact provides a principle of supply and the secret of power. Paul says, “I live,” but it is not in independence and self-sufficiency. During his pre-conversion life he was ardent, zealous, self-righteous, self-confident, and self-centered. Now he lives the faith-life with a new objective, to delight the heart of God. Thus, we “live unto God” (v19, KJV).
“… Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” The Son of God gave Himself for me; and, for Paul, this was an indescribable and incredible wonder. It was out of the love which was His that He gave Himself in voluntary self-surrender on the cross. Such an act won Paul’s heart forever, and has surely won our hearts as well.