By Jonathan Mitchell
What? You've got to be kidding! Did Paul really say that? Then what does this mean? In Paul's second letter to the called-out covenant community in Corinth, he made an astonishing statement in chapter 5:14,
"You see, Christ's love (urge for accepting reunion) continuously holds us together. [We are] deciding (discerning; judging) this: that [some MSS add: since] One Person (or: Man) died over [the situation of] all mankind (or: for the sake of all); consequently all people died (or: accordingly, then, all humanity died)."
All right, he said it. So what are we to conclude from this? In case they might have missed the inclusiveness of the work of the cross, Paul again states this fact in vs. 15,
"He died over all humanity (over [the situation] of, and for the sake of all)..."
Verses 15 and 16 describe some of the practical effects that took place immediately, but then in vs. 17 he begins unpacking and laying out the breath-taking consequences:
"Consequently, since someone [is] within Christ (or: So that if anyone [is] in union with [the] Anointed One; or: And as since a Certain One [was] in Christ), [there is] a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality): the original things (the beginning [situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) passed by (or: went to the side). Consider! New things have come into existence (have been birthed; or: It has become new things; or: He has been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind, character and quality)."
This sounds beautiful, but what does Paul mean by this? The first affirmation - which I rendered in three possible ways due to the fact that this dependent clause contains no verb and some form of the English verb "to be" is the proper copula to insert - is basically saying "since the Messiah has come..." Then we have another qualified noun, "a new creation," and I have again given three possible forms of the verb "to be" for it to be a complete sentence in English. But there is another possibility, the noun phrase, "a new creation," could simply be an appositional modifier of the noun "Christ," and it would read,
"And so, since a Certain One [is] in [the position; the role; the office of] Messiah, a New Creation, [then] the original, archaic situations and arrangements [e.g., the Law; or: conditions of the first creation] passed by. Consider! New [conditions; situations; etc.] have come into existence."
Paul is not speaking of the physical universe, but of what the Jews had long anticipated with the coming of their Messiah who would put the world "to rights" (to use N.T. Wright's phrase). He is describing the situation that has come into being with the dawning of the new age, the age of the Messiah which brought eonian life, life that has the qualities of this new age.
This is what he means in vs. 14, above. He is speaking of God's new arrangement with humanity that was inaugurated with the advent of the Christ (or: Messiah). The old world arrangements and situations of the Law, the sacrifices, the purity codes, the us-and-them of the Jew/Gentile dichotomy, the differentiations between the sexes in social and spiritual matters, the societal stratifications (slave vs. free) - all ceased to exist, "in Christ." In 1 Cor. 15:45-47 Paul describes this new existence as the
"last (eschatos) Adam... the second humanity."
The writer of Hebrews describes it as a
"better arrangement (or: covenant)," (8:6), a "new arrangement (or: covenant)" (8:8).
The old died, and the new was resurrected within Him. And this death/resurrection included everyone. This is now the new founding, the new framework of a new creation in which,
"[He is] presently making all things new (or: habitually creating everything [to be] new and fresh; progressively forming [the] whole anew; or, reading "panta" as masculine: periodically making all humanity new; progressively creating every person anew; constantly constructing all people fresh and new; continuously renewing everyone)!" (Rev. 21:5)
Let us consider another place where Paul spoke of us being dead and buried with Him in union with His death on the cross. In Rom. 5 he laid out the situation in Adam (a figure, here, of all humanity) where, due to Adam's disobedience (vs. 19), just as "The Death reigned (or: holds royal and kingly rule) from Adam as far as and as long as Moses [= Law]," now in this new creation (vs. 14),
"... THUS SO (or: in THIS way) also the Grace and joyous favor would reign (should rule as king; can exercise sovereign sway) through rightwisedness (or: by means of rightly-turned existence with equity in [covenantal] solidarity of right relationships which accord to the Way; through a Justice-[expression]) [which leads] into Life which belongs to, pertains to and has the characteristics of the Age (or: eonian life; Life of the Age [of Messiah]; a life for the ages) - through Jesus Christ, our Owner (Lord; Master)" - vs. 21.
Let us pause for a moment and consider this: death is no longer reigning! In this new age, inaugurated by Christ's death (His obedience) and resurrection, Grace (joyous favor) is now reigning, exercising sovereign influence upon humanity!!! Excuse me if I just say, "Wow!"
Three verses later (keep in mind, the original manuscripts had no chapter or verse separations), in speaking to the believers in the community in Rome, he says,
"...as many of we who are immersed (or: were at one point baptized) into Christ Jesus are immersed (or: were then baptized) into His death. We, then (or: consequently), were buried together (entombed together with funeral rites) in Him (or: by Him; with Him), through the immersion (baptism) into the death, to the end that just as (or: in the same manner as) Christ was roused and raised forth from out of the midst of dead folks THROUGH (through means of) THE GLORY (the glorious manifestation of splendor which calls forth praise; the notion; the renown; the reputation) of The Father (or: which is the Father), thus also we can walk around (or: we also should likewise conduct ourselves and order our behavior) within newness of life (in union with life characterized by being new in kind and quality, and different from that which was former).
For since (or: You see, if) we have been birthed (have become; have come to be) folks engrafted and produced together (or: planted and made to grow together; brought forth together; congenital) in, by, to and with the result of the likeness of (or: the effect of the similar manner from) His death, then certainly we shall also continue existing [in and with the effects of the likeness] of The Resurrection (or: which is the resurrection; or: from, and with qualities of, the resurrection), while constantly knowing this by intimate experience, that our old, former humanity is crucified together (or: was simultaneously and jointly impaled and put to death on an execution stake) with [Him], to the end that the body of the Sin (the body of failure; the body that pertains to the deviation which resulted in missing the target) could and would be rendered useless and inoperative (idled-down to be unproductive; made null, inactive and unemployed), for us to no longer continually be a slave to the Sin (or: perform as a slave in the failure, for the Sin, or by deviating and thus missing the goal), for you see, the One at one point dying (or: the one at some point suffering death) has been rightwised away from the Sin (or: set in the Way pointed out, away from the Failure; turned in the right direction, away from the deviation and missing of the target; placed into equity and right relationships, away from error; = has been moved away from The Sin, and has been brought into participation in covenant relationship).
Now since we died (or: if we die) together with Christ, we are continuously believing (relying; trusting) that we shall also continue living together in Him (by Him; for Him; to Him; with Him), having seen and thus knowing and perceiving that Christ, being aroused and raised forth from out of the midst of dead folks, is no longer dying. His death is no longer exercising ownership (or: Death is no longer being lord or exerting mastery pertaining to Him), for what He died (or: for [the death] which He died), He died for the Sin (or: by the Failure; in the deviation; to the Sin; with the Error) once for all [time] (or: at once and only once); yet what He lives (or: Yet [the life] which He continues to live), He continues living in God (for God; to God; by God; with God). Thus you folks, also, be logically considering (reckoning, accounting and concluding) yourselves to exist being dead ones, indeed, by the failure to hit the target (or: in the Sin; or: to the deviation), yet ones continuously living by God (in God; for God; to God; with God), within Christ Jesus, our Owner (or: in union with [the] Anointed Jesus, our Lord and Master).
This passage speaks in mystical terms of the spiritual reality that now exists since the resurrection of the Messiah and the sending of God's Spirit to humanity in a new way. This is another picture of the new creation. It started in the first century called-out communities as being the firstfruit - Jacob (or: James) 1:18,
"Being purposed (intended; willed), from pregnancy He brought us forth by a Word (collected thought; message) of Truth and Reality - [placed] into us - to be (or: to continuously exist being) a specific firstfruit of His created beings (or: of the effects of His act of creating; or: from the results of the creation which is Himself)."
The term "firstfruit" is a designation that implies a later harvest, yet to come.
Paul said in Rom. 8:22-23,
"You see, we have seen, and thus know and are aware, that all the creation keeps on sighing, groaning or querulously moaning together, and yet progressively travailing together as in childbirth (continues suffering common birthing pains) until now (to the point of the present moment). Yet not only [this], but further, even we ourselves - constantly holding (or: having; possessing) the FIRSTFRUIT of, and which is, the Spirit (or: the Firstfruit whose source is the Breath-effect; or: the first offering, or first portion, which is spirit and breath, and is from the Attitude) - we ourselves also continually sigh and groan within (in the center of) ourselves, continuously accepting and with our hands taking away from out of a placing in the condition of a son (or: [the] deposit of the Son; a setting in place which is the Son; a constituting as a son; a placing in the Son): the ransom-paid redemption of our body (or: [and] the loosing from destruction pertaining to the [corporate] body, which is us; or: = the unbinding and release of body [of Adam; of humanity], which belongs to us)."
And then we read in Rom. 11:16,
"Now since (or: But if) the Firstfruit [is] holy (set-apart and consecrated; sacred), the kneaded mixture (the result of the lump which is mingled and reduced to a uniform consistency by treading, kneading or beating) also [is]..."
Jer. 2:3 instructs us,
"Israel [was] holy (set-apart) to Yahweh, the firstfruits of His harvest yield..."
The pictures given in Israel (Yahweh's corporate "first-born" - Ex.4:22) was the first phase of God's bringing all humanity into family relationship with Him. We see the reality of this in the work and new existence of Christ, where the "harvest" of the ethnic multitudes (the nations; the Gentiles) has now been included. Paul informs us, in Eph. 2:10-19, of the present reality,
"for the fact is, we are (continually exist being) the effect of what He did (or: His creation; the thing He has constructed; the result of His work; His achievement; His opus; the effect of His Deed): people being founded from a state of disorder and wildness (being framed, built, settled and created), within and in union with Christ Jesus, upon good works (virtuous actions; excellent deeds) which God made ready (prepared; or: prepares) beforehand, to the end that we may walk about (= live our lives) within and in union with them.
On which account (or: Wherefore) you must continuously call to mind (or: keep in mind; remember) that once you, the nations (multitudes; ethnic groups; Gentiles; non-Israelites) in flesh (= in your physical beings and cultural heritages) the ones habitually termed (spoken of as; called; said to be) "uncircumcision" by the one (or: that) habitually being termed "circumcision," in flesh (= in body and culture/religion), [i.e.], made by hand, that (or: because) you were, and continued on being for that season (or: in that appointed situation), apart from Christ ([the] Anointed One; = [the] Messiah): people having been alienated from the state of being a citizen (or: estranged from citizenship in the commonwealth) of Israel and [being] strangers pertaining to the arrangements of (or: foreigners from covenants and testamentary dispositions whose origin is) The Promise (or the assurance), continually having no expectation (or: hope), and [were] folks without God (or: godless; atheists) within the ordered System (world of culture, religion and governments).
But now, within, in union with and centered in Christ Jesus, you - the folks once being (continuously existing) far off (or: at a distance) - came to be (were birthed; are generated; are suddenly become) near, immersed within and in union with the blood of the Christ (the Anointed One). You see, He Himself is our Peace (or: continuously exists being our harmony [= Shalom]) - the One making (forming; constructing) The Both [to be] one, and within His flesh (= physical being; or: = system-caused crucifixion) is instantly destroying (unbinding; unfastening; loosing; causing to collapse) the middle wall of the fenced enclosure (or: the partition or barrier wall): the enmity (cause of hate, alienation, discord and hostility; characteristics of an enemy), rendering useless (nullifying; rendering down in accord with inactivity and unemployment) the Law (or: the custom; = the Torah) of the implanted goal (impartation of the finished product within; inward directive) consisting in decrees (or: prescribed ordinances), to the end that He may frame (create; found and settle from a state of wildness and disorder) The Two into One New [p46 & others: common] Humanity within the midst of, and in union with, Himself, continuously making (progressively creating) Peace and Harmony (= shalom); and then should fully transfer from a certain state to another which is quite different (or: make completely other while moving away from what existed; or: fully reconcile) The Both within One Body - with, by, in, to and for God through the cross (execution stake) - within Himself killing the enmity (or: discordant hatred; characteristics of an enemy).
This long passage should be read, and re-read, that its message would really sink in and create a new horizon (or, world-view) for us. This is the new creation and the new arrangements of which we read in 2 Cor. and Heb. There is no more Jew and Gentile in God's new economy. There is one new humanity. In God's relationship to humanity - elsewhere called God's kingdom and reign of sovereign influence - there are no more divisive categories of race or sex. There no longer exist the categories of "in" and "out." The new age has arrived in Christ and the whole creation has found a new home,
"because WITHIN Him all - the entire contents (the result of that which fills everything; all the effect of the full measure [of things]) - delights to settle down and dwell as in a house (or: because He approved all the fullness [of all existence] to permanently reside within Him)" - Col. 1:19.
In order for this to come about, everyone had to die (figuratively) so as to be buried with Him, and then (each one in his own class, or order - 1 Cor. 15:23) be made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22). And in Col. 1:20, Paul goes on to say,
"and THROUGH Him at once to transfer the all (the whole; = all of existential creation), away from a certain state to the level of another which is quite different (or: to change all things, bringing movement away from being down; to reconcile all things; to change everything from estrangement and alienation to friendship and harmony and move all), INTO Him - making (constructing; forming; creating) peace and harmony through the blood of His cross (execution stake): through Him, whether the things upon the earth (or: land) or the things within the atmospheres and heavens!"
In Col. 3:3, Paul tells the folks there,
"for you folks died, and your life has been hidden so that it is now concealed together with the Christ, within the midst of God (or: in union with God)."
He was not speaking of physical death, but of their being included in the death of Christ, and of their now being include in the new creation that is within Christ, and centered in God. This was a mystical, spiritual event, but it had real results in who they were and on how they lived.
Taking all this into consideration, we return to our opening verse: EVERYBODY DIED, since the One (Christ) died. And now, let us drink in more of the completed picture that Paul paints for us in 2 Cor. 5:18-19,
"all these things [are] (or: the Whole [is]) forth from out of the midst of God - the One transforming us to be completely other [than we were] (or: bringing us into another place or state of being; changing us to correspond with other [perceptions and conceptions]; altering us to be conformed to another [person]; changing us from enmity to friendship; reconciling us) in Himself (or: with Himself; by Himself; to Himself; for Himself), through Christ, and giving to us the attending service of, and the dispensing from, the transformation [for folks] to be other [than before] (or: the change into another [position]; the changing to correspond with other [situations; perceptions]; the alteration to be another [person]; the change from enmity to friendship; the reconciliation),
as that God was existing within Christ (God was and continued being in union with [the] Anointed One) progressively and completely transforming [the] aggregate of humanity (or: world) to be other [than it is] (or: progressively bringing [the] ordered System into another level or state; repeatedly changing [the] universe to correspond with other [conditions; perceptions]; progressively altering [the] ordered arrangement of culture, religions, economy and government to be in line with another one; habitually and progressively changing [the] secular realm [of humanity] from enmity to friendship; reconciling [the] world [of mankind])
in Himself, to Himself, for Himself and by Himself, not accounting to them (not putting to their account; not logically considering for them; not reasoning in them) the results and effects of their falls to the side (their trespasses and offences), even placing within us the Word (the Idea; the Reason; the message) of the corresponding transformation to otherness (or: the full alteration; the change from enmity to friendship; the conciliation)."
Thank God, that because of the death of Christ, EVERYBODY DIED, and they all died with Him on the cross. Individual baptism is only a ritual to acknowledge the fact of what has already been accomplished in Christ.
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