The new life in Christ wells from Paul’s classic statement that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come’ (2Cor 5:17). This new life is interpreted subjectively to mean that all of the desires and appetites of this unregenerate man has passed away and have been replaced by an entirely new set of desires and appetites. In Christ, the unregenerate man with his perverse inclinations and sins has passed away. They no longer exist; what is seen is a reborn life in Christ. Man is made new, made in Christ; the whole man belongs to a new order, all in and through Christ.
Paul, an ardent believer of the one true God naturally ascribed the initiative of salvation to God. God is the initiator and the ultimate cause of our salvation: the agent he chose to manifest his salvation is Christ. Christ became man for our sake and he entered into our human situation. He revealed in his person and comportment the divine intention for humanity; having been bestowed with the grace and power to break the power of sin that held us captive and usher us into communion with God. The redemption from our sins and the entrance into the salvation promised was wrought by Christ through the paschal mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection. By dying in his flesh, the sensible sign of the sinful world and by rising in a body made new, Christ himself and in him, virtually, all humanity passed from the carnal to the spiritual life.
Redemption, salvation, spiritual life all point to the fact of life in its fullness. Christ has come to fulfill the original intent of God at creation: to bring us life; life in abundance (Jn 10:10). The purpose of Christ’s death is to reveal that those who are only physically alive, because they make themselves the centre of their little world, should become existentially alive by dedicating themselves to Christ, who gave his all for them, and through him to all those who need to be raised from ‘death’ to ‘life’ (2Cor 5: 15). New life thus entails living in Christ; immersing oneself in the paschal mystery of Christ by dying to sin and living for righteousness. For there is “the firm conviction that since Christ died for us all, we, in perfect solidarity with him, must also die to sin and every form of self-seeking and henceforth live only for Christ, in the charity of Christ, who rose from the dead as a symbol of our resurrection from sin and selfishness.
New creation does not refer primarily to a new inner moral nature. The putting on of the new man is deeper than moral renewal, it demands moral conduct. The renewal of the new man does not designate gradual renewal of the character, but that the new humanity, already existing in Christ, is progressively actualized in the Church. It behoves then that everyone who lives with the life of the risen Christ has become totally new, belonging to an entirely new order of reality, issuing from God, and lived within the Christian family. Therefore, to be in Christ is to be in the new sphere of salvation; to experience the newness of the new age. In the realm of faith, as thus as well in the realm of physical world, the old has passed away, the new has come.
While putting on of the new man is viewed as something that has already happened in Christ, it is not a once and for all event, for Paul exhorts to put off the old man that manifest itself in pagan conduct and put on the new man that is created after the likeness of God. Working through Christ as his instrument, God has swept away our sins, which kept us in a state of enmity with him, and now continues his salvific activity in and through us. The new person on the inside, participating in Christ’s resurrection, means more than the decaying outer person observable to human eyes. For the fact that Jesus the Messiah has come and has reconciled us to the Father, believers have already began to participate in the resurrection life of the coming world; for anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.
The idea of newness and the Pauline affirmation that in Christ the old has passed away and the new has come is an eschatological statement. The new age which has dawned with Christ brings a new creation that awaits eschatological consummation, and the creation of a new man. Here, the old does not go into extinction, yet does not remain intact; the new age breaks into it. Redemption in Christ is nothing less than the accomplishment of God’s eternal purposes in creation, so spontaneous and radical in its effects that it is justly called a new creation. In the experience of this new creation all that is inimical to the good; the standards and pretentions of this world sink into insignificance.
Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. The underlying idea of the new life in Christ is that while believers live in the old age for they still have their physical existence in the world, their fusion to Christ in his new giving life and their redemption in Christ make them belong to the new age with its new creation, and they are to live a life that is expressive of the new existence.
Salvation refers to the proclamation of Jesus as the saviour and redeemer of the world. It refers to healing, a bringing back to wholeness. It is to savage a thing, to restore it to a new state as different from the old. Salvation for Christians is achieved in Christ. “The totality of Jesus’ commitment is highlighted by the stark phrase ‘one died for all’ (2Cor 5:14b). His concern encompassed all humanity and he gave himself completely. He is the messiah, he has come, everyday is the day of salvation; grace is always available, and it is never late to respond.
To be ‘in Christ’ is simply to belong to the Church. To be reborn in Christ is to enter admitted and conformed to Christ and the Church. For Paul, baptism is essentially a rite of initiation into an alternative environment, the Christian community. It is not a magical gesture which transforms the individual automatically. Moving from enslavement to sin into freedom, believers enter a community of opportunity where authentic values reign. As they assimilate the lesson of the death of Christ, they are progressively transformed. The fruit of their rebirth is to lead them to a new life devoid of sin, to be a transformed being in order to attain and gain the salvation wrought by Christ for all.
Owing to our solidarity with Christ; our self-identification with Christ by being ‘in Christ’, we have received also in return the beneficial effect of God’s salvific activity, exercised through Christ. The salvation wrought by Christ is for all humanity; however, there is the invitation by God and also by Christ to make this salvation ours. Salvation needs to be personalized and owned. To attain this salvation is hinged on oneness with Christ. Once we are in Christ; dead and alive to him in baptism, we have planted the seed of restoration which will bear for us the fruit of salvation. Salvation is the fruit of our rebirth in Christ.
All is in Christ; both redemption and sanctification have been wrought in Jesus Christ through rebirth and renewal. Reconciliation of the world has been accomplished in Christ by his death on the cross. Justification comes to men in Christ by the merit of his redeeming blood. Access to God is available in him as the door and way to the Father. Forgiveness of sins occurs in him by his one sacrifice offered to achieve the satisfaction for our sins. The totality of salvation is in Christ. Since it is in Christ that God out of love for us, conceived and executed his plan of salvation, it is clear that no supernatural reality can exist or can even be thought of apart from Christ. It is in Christ that God choose and predestines his elect; manifests his grace; communicates his charity, peace, liberation, light, knowledge, strength and life.
Christ’s redemptive sacrifice is effective both in the experience of the Christian and throughout the whole order of God’s creation. For the consummation of all things is not merely a renewed humanity but new heavens and a new earth; a renewed cosmos. The believer, in his capacity as the re-created man-in-Christ, is the dynamic guarantee that all God’s purposes in creation are unfailingly being brought to full fruition. The effect of the saving passion and death of Christ should be effective in all spheres of the Christian life.