The word of the day is “new.” In our reading of Galatians 6:11-18, St. Paul dismisses both “circumcision” that would identify one as a Jew and “uncircumcision” that would identify one as a Gentile. He writes, “ For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (vs. 15). Various versions say that neither one of these marks of identity “avails for nothing” (NKJV), “means anything” (Berean Bible), “counts for anything” (NET Bible), “is of any importance” (Weymouth New Testament) or “matters” (Good News Translation).
Yet the Greek term assigns even less significance to these outward signs. The original language says that neither “circumcision” nor “uncircumcision” “is” anything (vs. 15). The only thing that matters, Paul says, is “a new creation” (vs. 15).
The Greek word for “creation” denotes the heavens and the earth that God made (Strong’s #2937, 1476). But according to our reading, what God made in the beginning is now “old.” In the person of Christ, a “new creation” has appeared. It is a different way of life, to be sure. But it is more than that. It is a new order of existence that is destined to replace the old.
The Cross Divides the Old and the New
At the dividing line between the old and the new is the cross of Christ. When the Lord, the Agent of Creation, died, the old regime reached its end. And when the Lord of Life rose from the dead, then a new way of being arose with Him. By his rising, Christ became the new Agent and Head of a “new creation.”
The baptized are born into this “new creation” by their dying and rising with Christ. Paul says, “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, so we also we should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). The Greek term for this New life signifies that the existence of the baptized has a new quality. The world also suggests that the conduct of the baptized should reflect that new character (Strong’s #2538, 123).
In our reading, St. Paul puts this teaching in personal terms. Earlier in his Epistle, he writes: “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20). Again, in our reading, he writes.” God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (vs. 14). In summary, those who have been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27) are “in Christ.” And those who are “in Christ” are “a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new” (vs. 2 Cor. 5:17).
St. John Chrysostom writes, “Observe the power of the Cross… It not only has put to death for him [Paul] all mundane affairs. It has set him far above the Old Dispensation” (NfPf1:13), the old order of the sin-weary world.
The Cross of Christ and His resurrection have brought a “new way of being” into existence. In the waters of baptism, our souls are re-created as a part of this “new creation.” We, the baptized, are thus the forerunners of this new order of being. We represent the hope that this “new creation” will prevail and grow until our bodies will be raised to incorruption. The New Life of Christ will finally be entirely realized, and all things will be transformed into “the new heavens and new earth” that the Lord has promised through the Spirit (Revelation 21:1).