Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In this portion of his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul is speaking of things in the Spirit. In v. 16 he declared, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.” The actual order of things is that the natural comes forth from the spiritual, so it is now to the spiritual that Paul focuses his attention.
Just what is it that Paul sees in the spirit? A new creation. If anyone is in Christ — received new life from the Spirit of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — he is a totally new creation. Brand spanking new! The things that belonged to the old man, the man he used to be, no longer pertain to him — he is new. All things have become new for him — they do not pertain to the old man that was. In his letter to the Galatian believers, Paul put it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV; the KJV has “by the faith of the Son of God.)The old man is dead — crucified with Christ. This is not something we do ourselves, but something that happened at the cross. We simply receive it by faith. The old man is dead, and there is now a new man in residence — born from above, from heaven, by the Spirit of God. This new man of the Spirit is activated and energized by Christ, by His faith and love.
Notice that Paul says, “Behold, all things have become new.” We have some beholding to do. To behold, in this context, means to see in the spiritual realm, to appropriate by faith what is being declared in this passage.
It may not yet be apparent in the flesh. Look at my 50 year old body and you might not discern that I am a new creation. But as Paul said just a chapter earlier in his Corinthian letter: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Regardless of how I look in the natural, I am now a new creation, fully equipped and capable of living on this planet as a new creation of God. As Paul says, I have “put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created [me]” (Colossians 3:10).
In Romans, Paul exhorted the believers to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
Transformation and the renewal of our mind and our inward man does not come by our own work and initiative. They are the work of the Holy Spirit which we receive by faith. Discussing the whole matter of salvation, Paul said that it is
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration [the new birth which is from above, John 3:3] and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)From beginning to end, this transformation and newness is the work of God. Our job is to behold, to see it in the Spirit and lay hold of it by faith.
As you contemplate the new year take your eyes off the natural and behold in the Spirit that, for those who are in Christ, all things have become new. You no longer have to live like the old man of the flesh, you can live as a new creation in the spirit.