It was the apostle Paul who first introduced the New Testament idea of people being made new through the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ. In a number of his correspondences, he chose the phrase ‘new creation’ as a way to capture the essence of Christ’s saving vision for the world.
However, when people think about and attempt to explain what Paul meant by the term ‘new creation,’ the focus primarily centers on salvific concerns that highlight the effects of Christ’s work in us.
Unfortunately, our reflections often end there, and as a result, we fail to comprehend the cosmic dimensions associated with the language of ‘new creation.’
Cosmic dimensions of God’s New Creation
The idea of ‘new creation,’ when used to describe followers of Christ, is a companion to the cosmic and futuristic ‘new creation’ promised by God. And, while it does have implications for the personal component inherent to salvation, its focus doesn’t end there.
In fact, the personal is meant to be a precursor to and a reflection of the cosmic and fulfilled dimension of ‘new creation’ communicated throughout the biblical witness. Unfortunately, we normally embrace the personal dynamic, only to abandon the universal.
Embracing the cosmic focus of ‘new creation’, however, offers us a remedy to our traditional lack of concern – often displayed in much of contemporary evangelicalism – for present earthly realities, i.e., economical, environmental and a wide-range of social issues.
Rather than try to escape this world and launch into the world to come, the promised ‘new creation’ should create the opposite effect; it ought to inform and shape those who have been made new, today.
Ideas that center on notions of escape have no place in the teachings of Jesus. The salt and light of the Christian’s witness is not to be removed from the present order, but remain within it, effecting positive influence by reflecting tomorrows realities today.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven
God’s kingdom comes to earth in and through those who have been made new and precipitates the promised, future and fully realized kingdom inaugurated by Jesus. As a result, we don’t live to escape this world, but seek to find ways to express the realities of the world to come, now.
This captures the kingdom ethic of Jesus. His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6) is a call to live out his future kingdom vision in the present. The Spirit enables Christ followers to emulate their leader in such a way that the kingdom brought near in Jesus is to be seen with increasing clarity in and through his followers, today. This ought to permeate the essence of our communal witness (words and works) to Christ.
As N.T. Wright wrote in How God Became King, we need “a strong theology of the Holy Spirit as the one who dwells in Jesus’s followers and enables them in turn to be kingdom-bringers” (202).
If we are to abandon anything, it should be our ideas of escapism. Such a notion causes us to neglect present concerns because we believe they really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s as if we think God only cares about tomorrow and not today. This demonstrates an inaccurate and obvious misreading of scripture.
We need to embrace the present and infuse it with God’s future kingdom vision of a cosmic ‘new creation’ even today. And as we do, we need to earnest and daily repeat the prayer of Jesus. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”