We all have questions and you have asked a great one! We are glad you are here and hope you will look around on this site to find many more answers to living this life. What does it mean to be a new creation? Let’s dive in and find out.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Meaning
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).”
Believers often quote this verse. And it has a widespread understanding that few Christians dispute. When we read the text of this verse in isolation and with the translator’s additions, that interpretation seems likely. Each Christian is a separate new creation once they are born again. Let me suggest another possibility.
- First, the words he is are not part of the Greek text of this verse. That is why they’re in italics in the more literal English translations like the New American Standard and the King James versions. So, let’s read the first part of this verse without the translators’ additions. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ a new creature (or creation)….
After we do this, what is the plain meaning of the text? Is the new creature/creation the individual, or is it Christ that’s the new creation? It’s plainly Christ.
- Second, let’s look at the verses in the immediate context: “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16).”
In 5:16, Paul is teaching us the new way to know Christ. Some of the church members may have seen Christ “in the flesh.” And the three verses after 5:17 all discuss Christ. There’s no hint that the individual is the point of this passage (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).
So, if Paul is teaching about a new way to know Christ, what does he mean?
- Third, let’s look at the broader context.
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).”
The Body of Christ is a New Creation
Paul taught the Corinthians in his first Biblical letter that the individual members make up one new corporate body: Christ.
Paul teaches this concept in other letters too:
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:4-5).”
“In my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. (Colossians 1:24).”
“Just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body (Ephesians 5:29-30).”
What Does Paul Describe as a New Creation?
Thus, Paul’s been teaching individual believers that they are all group members of one body, a new creation (creature). This understanding fits better with the near and distant context. And leaving out the translators’ words, it naturally reads that way.
So, what difference does it make? It’s not that we’re individually new creations. It’s that we’re part of a new corporate body: Christ or the Church. It’s common in western thinking to think of ourselves as individual believers. But this verse teaches that we as individuals are part of a corporate body. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, not individuals on our own.
If you would like to know Jesus, we invite you to watch the Great News for You video on this page.