You see it all the time on social media. Before and after pictures of people who changed their eating habits and committed to a training program. They lose weight. They look and feel healthier. It’s almost a brand new person.
Well the Bible explains that there are before and after portraits of those whose lives have been transformed. This metamorphosis has been wrought by the Holy Spirit of God through the power of the Gospel, namely the good news that Jesus Christ died as a substitute for sinners and rose again.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
2 Corinthians 5:17-18(emphasis added)
So what exactly has changed? What are the new creation changes that are from God? To understand let us look at the before and after portraits that the Bible paints with contrasting colors.
A Change in Legal Status
We stand as it were in the divine courtroom with God as Judge, Jury and Executioner. Before salvation, a person stands condemned before God(John 3:18). By nature he is a child of wrath(Ephesians 2:3). The divine verdict is “Guilty”. But after, there is no condemnation for the one who is in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1). Now he is justified. God, who justifies the ungodly(Romans 4:5), renders a verdict of “not guilty” and declares him righteous. How is that possible? Through imputation. God the Father credits Christ’s perfect righteousness to our account(2 Corinthians 5:21).
A Change in Personal Status
The greatest war that has even been or ever will be is not against another country or our civil war, but our war against God. The Bible declares that before God justified us, we were God’s enemies(Romans 5:10), we were alienated and hostile toward God(Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21). But after, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ(Romans 5:1). We have been reconciled to God through the death of Christ(Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:22).
A Change in Familial Status
Before faith in Christ, a person is a child of the devil(John 8:44). But after trusting Christ they are a child of God(John 1:12). They have the high privilege of receiving adoption as sons(Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:16). Adopted into the family of God, the Church. It is not as the world would have you think, namely in the Fatherhood of God for all men and the brotherhood of men. The Bible makes a clear distinction between the children of the devil and the children of God(1 John 3:10), between those whose father is the devil and those whose Father is God(John 8:41-44).
A Change of Spheres
There is a change of spheres because God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”(Colossians 1:13) and because God “called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”(1 Peter 2:9).
A Change in Relation to Sin
Before, when you were in Adam, you were a slave to sin(John 8:34). After, when you are in Christ, you are free from the dominion of sin(Romans 6:14, 17-18, 20, 22). Before your sins were counted against you. But now, after salvation, your sins are forgiven(Romans 4:6-8; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13).
A Change in Relation to Christ
Before salvation, a person is separated from Christ(Ephesians 2:12). But after salvation, a person is joined to Christ(1 Corinthians 6:17) and is united with Him in His death and resurrection(Romans 6:3-5).
A Change of Affections
The result of partaking the divine nature(2 Peter 1:4) and God’s seed abiding in a person(1 John 3:9) is a change of affections. What one used to love before they now hate. And what they once hated they now love.
Before regeneration, there was no love for Christ, His Word, His cross or His people, but a love for the things of the world. But after regeneration, there is no love for the things of the world(1 John 2:15-17). There is a love, however, for Jesus(John 8:42; John 14:15) and for His Word(Jeremiah 15:16; 1 Corinthians 2:11-15). After there is also a love for the cross because whereas before it was offensive(Galatians 4:11) and foolish, literally moronic from the Greek(1 Corinthians 1:18a), now it is the power of God and that in which to boast in(Galatians 6:14). After there is a love for other Christians that did not exist before(1 John 2:9-11; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:1). That is why genuine Christians love to gather with other Christians to worship the One who brought them into the household of faith(Galatians 6:10).
He brings about a rebirth in us that creates new dispositions. We thus become partakers of the divine nature. We experience not only a change of status(as in adoption) so that we belong to God’s family, but also a real transformation of our lives so that we begin to develop the characteristics of our adoptive family. … The Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ for justification, in that very act of union also sanctifies us, transforming our dispositions and desires. Now we love what we once despised, and despise much that we once loved.
Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God