When I was a teenager I got into wearing Christian/scripture themed shirts. I was (am) a nerd. You already knew that. One of my favorites had 2 Cor 5:17 on it, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” I loved the idea of God making me new. It was very personal. What I didn’t understand at the time was the context of what Paul was saying in those verses. What Paul was actually saying has a lot bigger ramifications and implications than I knew at the time.
Paul had laid out what made me/us new creation and what was the resulting actions we are called to take to live out that reality. There is far more to Paul’s point than some idea of just me and God doing our thing! It has everything to do with how we see and treat others, starting with Jesus.
Check out all the connecting words and pronouns that tie the surrounding and following verses together in what Paul is arguing for,
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”2 Cor 5:14-19
You might want to go back and read it again.
The idea that we no longer regard people from a worldly point of view is because of Christ dying for all so that all might live for him. Because of that we now view people from a new perspective rather than a worldly one. Not only had we formerly viewed other people in a worldly way, we had even viewed Christ in this manner. The fact that we used to do that, even of Christ, and do so no longer is evidence that we are new creation.
What also demonstrates our new creation status is our new mission that grows directly out of how we view people. Because we are new creation we have a new ministry…the “all this” points back to our new perspective on Christ and people as well as our new status as new creation people. “All this is from God…” This new creation existence that springs out of a new view of Christ and others leads us directly to a ministry of reconciliation where we help others through those same changes in their view of others which leads to them also being “new creation” so that the old (way of view people and of being) can go away and the new arrive in their lives!
Verses have context and you can see just how rich the message of scripture becomes when read as the whole argument than Paul is actually making rather than reading the Bible as a series of zingers or gotcha quotes!