Last week I considered the first part of this verse-Paulâ€™s boast in the cross. This week I turned to the second part of the verse: â€œby which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.â€ I had planned on taking an individualistic, subjective approach to the text. In other words, I had planned to examine the doctrine of the atonement and what is often called penal substitution, that Christ took our place and took our punishment upon the cross, and what it means for us.Â Â
I think the atonement is foundational to the gospel, but there is something in this passage that broadened my perspective: I read verses 15 & 16. First, Paul says something unusual in verse 15: â€œFor neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcisionâ€¦â€ And I expected Paul to say, â€œFor neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but the cross of Christ.â€ But that is not what he says. Instead, he says, â€œbut a new creation.â€Â
New Creation? Where did that come from? What is the connection between the new creation and the cross? Then I kept reading into verse 16: â€œAnd as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.â€Â
â€œAs for all who walk by this ruleâ€¦â€ Everyone who follows this reality, this way of life, this principle, this new creation, those people will receive peace and mercy. Why? Because they are the new Israel of God; they are the new creation [note: Greg Beale].Â Â
In other words, Paul boasts in the cross because it changes everything, absolutely everything. The cross brings about a new creation, a new reality, a new order of things, a new way of living, a new people. Â Through the cross we have come into contact with a different world; we participate in a different reality. Through the cross of Jesus Christ, this world is no longer the most important world. The â€œnew creation,â€ as Paul calls it in verse 15, is now most important. And the amazing work of the cross of Christ connects us to that world even now, even to the point that Scripture calls us citizens of Heaven even though we are all still here.Â
That is just very straightforward, but at the same time it is so profound that we cannot fully explain it. Somehow, someway, through an event that happened almost 2000 years ago, the whole course of history has changed. Somehow, someway through a cruel act of punishment, through the death and resurrection of the Son of God, a new world comes into being, a world that we cannot see, yet a world that we participate in by faith. This new world is so real that Paul can say in Ephesians that believers have been raised us up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places.Â
Ronald Fung observes two reasons why Paul is not simply talking about personal salvation. First, Paul speaks of the world being crucified to him as well as of himself being crucified to the world. By saying this, Paul is speaking of a new life, a new existence. Paul has been transplanted from one world to another, and this change took place through Christ and the cross. Paul is telling us that the cross marks the end of the old world and ushers in a new world. God is delivering us from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4). If God is delivering us from this present evil age, then he is making a new world for us. We all have died to this world through the cross of Christ.Â
Secondly, we know that Paul is speaking in terms larger than personal salvation because he sees a parallel between the cross and the new creation in verse 15. We can ask this question: If Paul is crucified to this world, then where does he belong? He is part of the new creation. Paul is telling us that through his atoning death upon the cross and his resurrection, Christ has inaugurated and brought about a new creation. Christ has opened up a new world for us, and his cross marks an absolute break between the new and the old world.Â Â
We have a taste of that world now, but it is only a taste. Yes, the cross of Christ does provide forgiveness and reconciliation and righteousness and hope and glory for you, but it is so much more. It speaks to us about a new world, a new humanity, a new nation: as Paul calls it, a New Creation.
And in that day, when heaven and earth pass away, we will see a New Heaven and a New Earth. We will see the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.Â And we will hear a loud voice from the throne saying, â€œBehold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.â€Â
And then the one seated on the throne, the Lamb of God, will say, â€œBehold, I am making all things new.â€Â The cross began this work, and this is why we call the message of the cross good news. This is good news indeed!