Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17
There is much talk this day of being a Christian, and yet, continuing on in sin. To tell such a person that it is not possible to be a Christian and continue on in sin is to force 'rules' and 'laws' on them, after all, we are under grace right? Indeed, salvation is by God's grace, but living the Christian life does not give one a license to sin; the Apostle Paul speaks out against such a heresy in Romans 6:15, ' What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. ' There is widespread misconception that surrendering to the authority and lordship of Christ is not necessary, you can live any way you desire and still go to heaven. Such a view should cause one to question and examine themselves to see if, in fact, they are in the faith. Obviously, such a person has no understanding of denying self, nor do they understand the power of God when He regenerates dead sinners.
The first thing I noticed from 2nd Corinthians 5:17 is that the new creation is based on a condition, one must be 'in Christ'. Is this a mere profession, a claim made by those who say they are Christian? Here is what theologian and Presbyterian minister Albert Barnes says concerning this phrase-
"The phrase to “be in Christ,” evidently means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in him as the branch is in the vine - that is, so united to the vine, or so in it, as to derive all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. Joh_15:2, “every branch in me.” Joh_15:4, “abide in me, and I in you.” “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me.” See also Joh_15:5-7, see the note on Joh_15:2. To be “in Christ” denotes a more tender and close union; and implies that all our support is from him. All our strength is derived from him; and denotes further that we shall partake of his fullness, and share in his felicity and glory, as the branch partakes of the strength and vigor of the parent vine."
The preposition 'in' means 'a fixed position, a relation of rest'. There is an intimacy with Christ, it's not just a relationship, it is a union and communion with Him; a reconciliation that bonds. Resting in Christ means trusting in Him, relying on Him, living for Him. It is a total dependency on Him for every breath we take, every circumstance, everything that takes place, whether good or bad, trusting in Him to see us through. It is a life totally surrendered to Him...His will, His way. There is no room for 'self' here, it's all Christ or nothing. There is no room for the love of the world, material possessions, personal goals and agenda, pet sins; all must be forsaken if one is to truly be 'in Christ'. There is no way anyone is in Christ if they have not been born from above by God. This is not a mere verbal profession spoken by someone with good intentions, the evidence that you are a new creation is proof you are in Christ. You cannot have one without the other, you cannot be in Christ and not be changed by that. There is a widespread false teaching that insists you can be Christian and not be changed, that repentance means only a change of mind. Yes, repentance does mean a change of mind, but what does a change of mind lead to? A change in behavior, a changed life. This is the new creation, the rebirth of the dead sinner by God will lead to a different way of thinking, speaking, and living.
'The old has passed away' - this is a reference to the old way of life, the bondage to sin. Again, we turn to Albert Barnes for commentary -
"In regard to all, it is also true that old things pass away. Their former prejudices, opinions, habits, attachments pass away. Their supreme love of self passes away. Their love of sins passes away. Their love of the world passes away. Their supreme attachment to their earthly friends rather than God passes away. Their love of sin, their sensuality, pride, vanity, levity, ambition, passes away. There is a deep and radical change on all these subjects - a change which commences at the new birth; which is carried on by progressive sanctification; and which is consummated at death and in heaven."
Is this not speaking of dying to self, to what we once loved and lived for? Sin's grip is gone, it no longer rules the life of the born again believer. We die to sin and our old way of living, and 'behold, the new has come'. I feel it worthwhile to add Barne's commentary for this as well, it is worth reading -
" That is, all things in view of the mind. The purposes of life, the feelings of the heart, the principles of action, all become new. The understanding is consecrated to new objects, the body is employed in new service, the heart forms new attachments. Nothing can be more strikingly. descriptive of the facts in conversion than this; nothing more entirely accords with the feelings of the newborn soul. All is new. There are new views of God, and of Jesus Christ; new views of this world and of the world to come; new views of truth and of duty; and everything is seen in a new aspect and with new feelings. Nothing is more common in young converts than such feelings, and nothing is more common than for them to say that all things are new. The Bible seems to be a new book, and though they may have often read it before, yet there is a beauty about it which they never saw before, and which they wonder they have not before perceived. The whole face of nature seems to them to be changed, and they seem to be in a new world. The hills, and vales, and streams; the sun, the stars, the groves, the forests, seem to be new. A new beauty is spread over them all; and they now see them to be the work of God, and his glory is spread over them all, and they can now say:
“My Father made them all.”
The heavens and the earth are filled with new wonders, and all things seem now to speak forth the praise of God. Even the very countenances of friends seem to be new; and there are new feelings toward all people; a new kind of love to kindred and friends; and a love before unfelt for enemies; and a new love for all mankind."
The way we think, what we love, live for, and desire centers solely on Christ as He becomes the center of our being, our reason for living and dying; He is our life. This world and the things we once loved are now repulsive whereas Christ and His gospel used to be repulsive to us; we now are consumed by the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. There is indeed evidence that this transformation has taken place, the old you is gone and the new you strives to please, honor and obey Him. This is so much more than a mere verbal profession, it is a way of life!