Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
The truth that God has reconciled us back to Himself through the perfect work of His Son on the cross has been profound for me. By the Spirit, He has motivated me to be the agent of change in my daily relationships in the hope that it pleases God and points people from their temporary tent to their true home. Before the foundation of the world, every Christian received a work prepared especially for him/her to pursue. God has called me His ambassador, but do I know what that means? How are my actions and decisions pointing people to see the ministry of reconciliation that He has given us? How am I His representative when I feel like I am more devoted to this kingdom than THE Kingdom? In verse 17, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” That verse marks a believer’s call to a metamorphic motivation to be a living example of the reconciliation provided by and through the Gospel to a world that is not reconciled to God. The Greek translation stresses to the reader more emphasis on this reality than the English version. The Greek says, “if anyone in Christ, new creation.” This immediate identity change carries the weight Apostle Paul originally conveyed.
When you see the word therefore in a passage, always ask, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” To answer this question in regard to verse 17, we must look at the first 16 verses to understand our new life in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, Paul is reminding the people of God that our bodies and this world are not our home. He compares our bodies to tents or tabernacles that are but temporary shelters for us.
I don’t like to go camping, but a few years ago, I found myself camping and trying—and failing—to sleep in a tent. By its nature, a tent is not the best place to get some R&R. It is not meant to house a person for an extended period of time. Its existence is predicated on temporary use. The tent was not my home, but I knew I needed to make the best use out of the temporary discomfort. Yet, I was always thinking how great it would feel to return home.
We struggle by becoming convinced that the temporary tent, with all its discomforts, is all we have in this life. We forget that it is temporary and that the discomforts may be used for a purpose. Before Paul begins chapter 5, he ends chapter 4 saying, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The comparison is the weight of the glory of Jesus Christ. Fixing your eyes on Him in the midst of discomfort in this world not only keeps you from losing heart, but also points the world to a comfort that truly satisfies.
Do you feel too comfortable in this tent? Have possessions, power, passions, and pursuits become comfortable places to rest? Or do you feel unsettled in these tents? God’s Word is clear—comfortable Christianity is an oxymoron. We should feel uncomfortable on this side of eternity because of the fall. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21). Our bodies should be uncomfortable. We wait for Jesus to restore and renew our bodies, but while we wait, we make it our aim to please Him (v.9) because we are controlled by the love of Christ (v.14). His death became our death, and therefore, we must live for Him and not for ourselves. For through His sacrifice, we received life, identity, and a singular purpose.
This is the backdrop for Paul’s incredible identity transformation from old to new creation. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed, “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And this Spirit has been given to us as the guarantee that this body is not complete. There is a future glory awaiting us. So, let us be men and women who see our lives as uncomfortable and consider it joy. Let us remember that we are already citizens of a Kingdom, though not yet home. One day we will have resurrected bodies, but until then, may we represent our King by loving people in our work places, homes, restaurants, and churches in the hope God calls them to be reconciled back to Himself through the promise He has freely given us.