The work of God in creation is brought before us in different parts of the Holy Scriptures, each mention bringing out some peculiar feature for our instruction. Genesis gives its account of creation and of God’s preparation of the earth for man’s habitation, with charming divine simplicity for the instruction, edification, and delight of every child of God; its powerful statements of fact silencing for the believer the infidel voices that would leave us in darkness as to God and His works and that would engage us with the speculations and theories that originate in the puny mind of the creature. Proverbs 8 speaks of One, presented to us as Wisdom, who surveys the building up of that which was to be man’s dwelling place, where He, the blessed Son of God, would be found as Man to carry out the will of God for the blessing of those who would be His companions on earth, and then in heaven for eternity.
Creation—The Work of the Son of God
When the creation is attributed to One Person of the Godhead, it is attributed to the Son. Men have taken the occasion of the Son’s coming into Manhood to dishonor Him, but God has taken care to honor the Son; and this is one means used, the revelation that it was the Son of God who brought the creation into existence. Three times over in the New Testament we have this blessed fact brought to our notice. In John 1 there is the statement: “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Paul, in Colossians 1, observes, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth…all things were created by Him, and for Him.” If John surveys the vast extent of creation, Paul in Colossians is specially occupied with the spheres of ordered rule and government that owe their existence to the Son of the Father’s love, “whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.” When the writer to the Hebrews speaks of God creating, he says it was by the Son: “By whom also He made the worlds”; and it is the physical universe that is before the mind of the Spirit of God in this Scripture. The purpose of the creation, according to Ephesians 3:9–10, is to display now to the great intelligences of heaven, in the church, His all-varied wisdom. Revelation 4:11 shows that all things have been created for the pleasure of God.
The Need of a New Creation
That God should speak in His word of a “new creation” surely signifies His displeasure with the existing creation. Scripture abundantly confirms this, for all that was connected with Adam has been ruined in his fall. This is taught in Romans 8, where it is written, “For the creature has been made subject to vanity, not of its will, the creature itself also shall be set free from the bondage of corruption…the whole creation groans together and travails in pain together until now.” The natural man can never heal the ills of the creation; all his plans and activities will never take away the groan of the creature, but Christ will hush the groan when, at His coming, the sons of God are manifested with Him.
The Ruin of the Old Creation
From Adam there has sprung a race of men, connected with him in the conditions brought about by his fall; all are sinners by nature and practice. Cain, Adam’s firstborn manifested the awful wickedness that lay in the fallen nature of man when he slew his brother and spoke offensively to God when faced with his crime. The disobedience, first found in Adam and Eve, the hatred, insolence, and violence displayed by Cain integrated with the corruption produced by man’s ruined nature soon made the world so vile and wicked that God had to cleanse it with an overwhelming flood.
The Passing of the Old World and the Beginning of a New
The Apostle Peter tells us in his First Epistle that God “spared not the old world,” and in his Second Epistle distinguishes between “the world that then was,” and “the heavens and earth which are now.” From out of the waters of the flood there emerged a new world with Noah as its head. Alas! poor Noah’s lack of self-control quickly evinced the weakness of man and his incapacity to govern what God had put under his hand. Although God had given man a new world, it was still morally of the old creation, for although the earth had been cleansed, there was no change in the fallen nature of man. Every succeeding generation, and every fresh development of God’s dealings with men, only proving that man in sin is incorrigible and that the old creation was irretrievably ruined. Headship was debased by Noah, priesthood was defiled by the sons of Aaron, judgment was perverted by the sons of Samuel, and royalty was dishonored by the sons of David, by the kings of Israel, and by the great Gentile monarchs. Man’s evil rose to its height in the rejection and crucifixion of God’s Son; the cross exposing the enormity of man’s guilt and sealing forever the judgment of man’s world.
God Working—Amidst the Ruins of the Old Creation
When the Jews persecuted the Lord Jesus for healing the impotent man on the Sabbath day, He answered them, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). From the time that God’s rest was broken by the entry of sin into the world, He began to work afresh to bring in a new creation that sin could not defile or ruin. In harmony with His Father’s activities, the Son of God came into the world to labor in grace, working for the establishment of a realm where God could rest in His love and where there would be nothing of evil to grieve Him at His heart. Revealing the Father in a life of unwearied toil, He gathered around Him those whom the Father had given Him out of this world, and by His great redemptive work the Son of God laid the basis for the introduction of the world that lay in the Father’s counsels, where His new creation glory could be displayed in those who once were sinners far from God.
God Working—Preparing Vessels for Glory
According to the riches of God’s grace, His glory will be displayed in vessels of mercy (Romans 9:23)—those who are formed and fitted by divine power for His own presence, made meet to be the companions of His own dear Son. Even now, in passing through this world, the saints of God possess in their earthen vessels a wonderful heavenly treasure: “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”; but soon what God has wrought within them shall be enshrined in a “house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” God has already wrought in the saints with their glorious destiny in view, and this divine working has already brought them in their spirits into the new creation, where “all things are of God.” Amidst the ruins of the old creation, God is working in new creation, forming and fashioning the vessels that will display His glory and the exceeding riches of His grace in the coming ages. Regarding the pillars of the temple on which God’s testimony was inscribed and other vessels and instruments of service, we read, “In the plain of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay-ground between Succoth and Zeredathah” (2 Chronicles 4).
God Working—Preparing Vessels of Testimony
God’s new creation work has not only the coming day in view, it is for the present manifestation of His grace, even as it is written in Ephesians 2, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Good works can never be produced by man in the flesh, but those in whom God has wrought in Christ have divinely given ability, through grace, to work for the glory and pleasure of God. As created “in Christ” we partake of Christ’s character and are thus enabled to manifest His features of grace and beauty. How this magnifies the triumph of God! Satan doubtless thought that he had secured complete victory when men, as his willing instruments, crucified the Son of God; but God raised Christ from the dead and took Him to heaven and wrought in men, producing new creation vessels in which He manifests the same beautiful features that had been manifested in their perfection and fulness in Jesus here below.
The New Relationships
The subject of new creation in 2 Corinthians 5 is introduced with the words, “Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ (there is) new creation.” According to the flesh, the Lord Jesus was of the seed of David, and although He will yet reign as Son of David, the relationships on that line were laid down for ever when He died. On the cross, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold thy son,” and to John, “Behold thy mother.” This was the closing up of the relationships that belonged to the Lord Jesus in flesh and blood. This was further emphasized when, in resurrection, He said to Mary Magdalene, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” These words not only tell us that the old relationships are gone but also reveal that Christ’s disciples are brought into a new association with Him and into new relationships with the Father. In John 15 the Lord Jesus had spoken to the disciples of the favored place of intimacy that was theirs as His friends, but not until He had entered into the new conditions of life in resurrection could He call them His brethren.
“Old Things Are Passed Away; Behold All Things Are Become New”
The things that have been defiled and corrupted by men in the old creation have no place in the new creation, for nothing in the new can ever be spoiled. Everything in this new realm is entirely new; it is not a fresh start with the things that were ruined by sin, but everything is new in nature and character, and all springs from God. Nothing of man’s conception or devising has a place in this new order of divine creation; all is spiritual and heavenly. The life and relationships are not after the flesh; the affections are pure and holy; the joys, blessings, riches, and glories belong to heaven. Springing from the new creation are thoughts and feelings that delight in God and all that are His, and the disposition of the renewed mind and the desires of the heart are towards things that the natural man has never known. Not a single principle of man’s world is to be found in the new creation, nothing of his philosophy or culture, none of the embellishments that adorn his city, nor any of the attractions that hold the hearts of men.
Reconciliation and New Creation
To bring us into the present enjoyment of new creation, God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. God has come near to man in the incarnation, but this could never effect reconciliation; the cross was absolutely necessary if man was to be brought near to God. Through the death of His Son, God has brought us near to Him, shedding abroad His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us, and in this way completely displacing the enmity that once was there. As being God’s workmanship, and as having been brought into right relationships with Him, in His grace, we are free to explore the wonders connected with the new creation that center in His beloved Son. With all saints, we are privileged to survey the vast extent of the riches of the Father’s glory—its “breadth, and length, and depth, and height”; knowing that “through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Jew and Gentile believers have together been reconciled to God in one body, a vessel in which God now displays His all-varied wisdom and in which He will display His glory before the universe for eternity.
A Man in Christ
In 2nd Corinthians Paul records the experiences of “a man in Christ” (12:2). Earlier he had written, “If any man be in Christ (there is) new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now he views himself abstractly as a man in heaven, to the Paradise of God, where there is everything to delight the heart of the new man. There, where all is new creation, the man in Christ heard things that he could not speak on earth. These are the things that belong to the scene where we shall be at home, where our loved ones in Christ, who have been called home, are with Christ; but our present flesh and blood condition hinders our knowing the full blessedness of all that God has given to us along with Christ, for here we only “see through a glass darkly.” There is much that we can know now, the things that have been freely given to us of God, things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10). We know the joys of the new relationships and taste the blessedness of divine affections; delighting in all that has been unfolded of the purposes of God, but apart from the full knowledge of these things, there are the things in the Paradise of God that cannot be known until we are at home there.
The New Man—His Creation
When the Lord Jesus was on earth His whole course gave pleasure to the heart of His God and Father. There was the unique salutation, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight,” because of who Jesus was as the darling of His Father’s heart. This place as the beloved Son of the Father was the eternal relationship of Jesus in which none could have part; yet the life He manifested has been communicated in grace to us, and we have been brought into sonship with Him, for this relationship belongs to Him not only as a divine Person, but also as Man. Though as Man, the Son of God was “in all things…made like unto His brethren,” yet He was a Man of a different order, “the second Man, out of heaven.” It was God’s purpose to have a race of men all like the Man out of heaven, and in the “new man” this race is made manifest. Because of the Law, the Jew and Gentile were different men, different in their relations with God, different in outlook, religious ceremony, and habits of life; these differences being maintained in the commandments and ordinances of the Law. But neither Jew nor Gentile could give God pleasure, so that it was His purpose to have an entirely new kind of man before Him having the features of Christ. This new man has been created after God in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24), and in him there is nothing of “Greek, Jew, circumcision, uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman, but Christ is everything, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Not only are the distinctions between these different kinds of men not found in the new man, but not one of their distinctive features is in him: All his features come from Christ, and Christ is the life of all partaking in this new created man.
The New Man—His Testimony
After disclosing in Ephesians 4 that the new man is created after God, there is the exhortation to the saints: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak truth every man with his neighbor.” From this, and the verses which follow, we learn that the features of the new man are to be manifested in all our dealings with our neighbors. Then follow exhortations for the saints in regard to their conduct in the family and business circles, for in them also the beautiful traits of the new man are to be evinced. Finally, in the conflict, arrayed with the panoply of God, the distinctive characteristics of the new man, we are to stand here for God’s will in the evil day. In all these spheres in which God has set us for Himself, we are to present in testimony that the features of the new man are the traits of Christ.
The Display of the New Creation
God’s purpose in quickening the saints and setting them in Christ in the heavenly places is in order “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” This is the display of grace in glory; and for this God is erecting a temple, a shrine, in which His holy nature and character shall shine forth in those He has united to Christ. The church in this vessel of glory, seen in Ephesians 2:21 as “a holy temple in the Lord,” and in Revelation 21 as “The bride, the Lamb’s wife…the holy city…having the glory of God.” While the men of the present age are loudly proclaiming their plans for the introduction of a golden age, which their endeavors can never secure, and the professing Church, with Christ shut outside its door, is boasting of its progress and great achievements, God is silently building His heavenly structure of those that have been secured for Him through the death of His Son. This remarkable building is the very crown of God’s workmanship, and long after every human edifice has perished forever, this glorious church, conceived in divine wisdom and formed in God’s power, will subsist in the eternal display of His love and glory in new creation.
The Rule of the New Creation
After discoursing in his epistle to the Galatians on the dangers for the Christian of the principle of law and of how that all that God has given to us is by faith and in His sovereign grace, Paul writes, “For in Christ Jesus, neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but new creation. And as many as walk by this rule, peace upon them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Israel boasted in the law with its ritual and ceremony, but these things, which were for man in the flesh, were exposed as valueless in the light of the new creation. That old order, which supposed there was ability in man to obtain divine blessing, has been closed in the cross of Christ; and an entirely new order has been revealed by the Holy Spirit in connection with Christ risen and glorified at God’s right hand in heaven. Those who walk by the rule of law, which the Galatians were endeavoring to do, can never find peace; but for those who walk by the rule of the new creation, who do not rely upon their own efforts, but on the sovereign mercy and grace of God, peace is theirs. May we therefore live by the faith of the Son of God, seeking the things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, and thus be blessed as walking by the rule of new creation.