Last night we had Bible Study. It was a small study. Both our normal host and normal teacher were busy, so we met at another member’s home. There were only six of us. I brought cookies, which were happily eaten, and we had also pizza, a tasty pasta dish, and grapes. (Our Bible Study is sort of a potluck.)
With our normal teacher absent, no one had actually prepared a lesson. But one member had recently heard of an idea she shared with us. We pick a small section of scripture, then each of us look it over and write down a few questions. Then we go around the room and ask the questions and discuss them.
She suggested Ephesians 2:14-18. After looking it over, we decided to start at verse 11 (then later we looked at 19-22 as well!) I shall supply the text here:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
One thing that interested me was the phrase ‘for to make in himself of twain one new man’. Or for those of you who don’t speak Elizabethan English “so He might create in Himself one new man from the two" (HCSB) This struck me. One new man.
The “two” mentioned, if you didn’t understand, were the two peoples: Jews and Gentiles, which are made one in the Church, “unto God in one body by the cross”. So it’s clear in this context, the ‘one new man’ is not just one man, but that all these people are made into ‘one new man.’
I’ve heard ‘the new man’ referred to by Christians before, but always in the context of an individual. That is to say that I set aside my old man, my old sinful nature, and then I take up my new man, that is, my new Pam. But I’d not realized that ‘the new man’ is a unified plural, like the Triune God or the One Body. The new man in this passage is not a believer being made into a new creation alone, but God taking the body that is the Body of Christ, the Church, and putting in it the One Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and making a new man, the one new man, that is, Christ.
So this made me think “What about elsewhere in the Bible where it uses the phrase the ‘new man’? Are those places referring to an individual or to this unified, corporate being?” So I used my Bible software on my computer (Online Bible) and typed “new man” and looked up all the passages with those words in the New Testament.
I was using the King James Version, so it’s quite possible that in other translations this wouldn’t be the case. But I looked and saw that, so far as I could see, wherever it used ‘new man’ it did mean this unified corporate being, that is, the Church. But it only appears in three places, so that’s not really that crazy. It appears in what we saw above, Ephesians 2:14. It also appears in Ephesians 4:24. But when Paul starts talking about it he says in 4:22 “concerning the former conversation”, meaning that he’s using these terms in the same context as he used them earlier in the second chaper, at which we already looked. The next and only other place in the KJV that the term “new man” is used is Colossions 3:10. To look at it in context, let’s look at Colossions 3:9-11:
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
So, looking at this, see it says the new man is not just an individual thing. It’s something you are in, and of, and where WITHIN IT there is not Greek or Jew, any nationality, servant or Master, but Christ is all and in all. So this is more a shared thing of the whole Church, not just the fact that when I became a Christian I put off my sinful nature and was remade new…
Which of course is totally the case. It’s just that passage is BEYOND an individual’s newness, to something bigger. But individual newness is totally true. See, the phrase “new man” is apparently used, in the King James Version, only in a whole unified way. BUT the phrase “new creature” is used for individuals, such as in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Awesome!! Guess what? As I’m typing this, I have some Christian television on in the background, singing songs at me and as I quoted that they started singing ‘the old things are passed away, all things are made new”! Isn’t amazing the little “coincidences” that are God talking daily?! :)