The word of the day is “new.” We live in an old world whose days and months, and years keep spinning around like a top. But like the child’s toy, the earth’s rotations will eventually come to an end. Today in 2 Corinthians 5:15-21, St. Paul speaks of the results of Christ’s death and resurrection. He writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (vs. 17). The Greek word for creation is derived from the word “kosmos” (Strong’s #2889, 144). This familiar word refers to the harmonious order of the universe that God has fashioned. In this sense, the apostle writes that those who are “in Christ” are fresh creations of His new order (Ephesians 4:24).
What Is New About the New Creation
What is new about this “new creation”? After all, we still live on the same old earth that existed before Christ’s death and resurrection. The answer lies in the verse that our reading carries over from yesterday, “… we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all have died, and He died for all…” (vs. 14b-15a). This is to say that all persons in the “old order” “died” when Christ died. In the death of Christ, the “old order” died. In His resurrection, the “new order” triumphed over the old. The old remains for a time, but its time is limited, and a new order of existence is replacing it.
How so? The answer is in vs. 19: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…” St. John Chrysostom explains that in the sacrifice of Christ, “God made us friends unto Himself” (NfPf1:12, 333). Because of the cross and resurrection, human beings need no longer consider themselves God’s enemies. Nor do they need to fear the wrath of God. For in the passion of Christ, God showed once and for all that He no longer “imputes” their sins against them. The Greek word translated as “imputes” comes from the thought of “to compute.” That is, by the cross, the Almighty no longer takes our sins “into account” (Strong’s 3049). Instead, Christ fulfilled the promise of Jeremiah, “for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (vs. 31:31-34).
A New Way of Being
God’s incredible mercy has established an entirely new way of being. About it, St. John Chrysostom noted that “…instead of the old Jerusalem below, we have received the mother city from above; instead of the material temple,…a spiritual temple; instead of tables of stone, fleshy ones; instead of circumcision, baptism; instead of manna, the Lord’s Body; instead of water from the rock, Blood from His side; instead of Moses’ rod,…the cross; instead of the promised [land], the kingdom of heaven; instead of a thousand priests, One High Priest; instead of a lamb without reason, a Spiritual Lamb” (NfPf1:12, 333). All these features of the “new creation” are “of God” (vs. 18) and signs of His new order.
The Gospel proclaims that this new order of the revelation of God’s mercy in Christ has begun. However, that Gospel demands a personal response. Paul, therefore, writes that since God has reconciled the world to Himself, “we implore you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (vs. 20). God has treated all as His friends. But human beings can still live as His enemies. They can still think and act according to the old order and live at “enmity with God” (Romans 8:7).
What is the sign that we are living in the “new order”? The sacramental sign, of course, is the Holy Mystery of Baptism when we die and rise again in Christ as a New Creation.” But how then do we show that we live as a “New Creation”? The answer from our readings is that “we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died [for us] and rose again” (vs. 15).