The night of my conversion, as I walked out of the building where the church service I had just attended was held and looked out at the familiar skyline of Miami, Florida, I uttered a statement from my newly born-again lips: “Everything looks new.”
I had no knowledge of Scripture yet and certainly didn’t know that I was echoing the apostle Paul’s incredible statement, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). I simply knew inwardly what I now expressed outwardly—that God had wrought a miracle in my heart, which resulted in a total transformation of even how I now looked at my familiar surroundings.
I once found one particular Bible version (can’t recall which), that actually translated II Corinthians 5:17 properly: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new species.” Creation is strong, but species takes it to another level altogether and expresses what I think the apostle is really saying. What is the difference between a creation and a species? Take, for example, the little tadpole swimming in the creek; if given the right exposure to light, heat and food, the tadpole will emerge with a croak. Is that a miracle? In a certain sense, yet the tadpole had it in him all along to become a frog. If he simply fell into the right environment it is assured that it would occur.
But what if the tadpole became a canary? That’s not a new creation but a new species! The tadpole doesn’t have the ability within him to become a canary unless, by a creative act of God, he is enabled to do so. That’s what the apostle is trying to say about what we have become in Christ. A Christian is not a person who had it within them already to love God and follow Jesus and who just needed to fall into the right group or take on a certain discipline for it to happen. In the very act of becoming a Christian, we become what we could never become in a million years of religious effort.
Are you a new species? While it is not necessary to know the exact moment that it occurred, it is necessary to know that since coming to faith in Jesus, your life has radically changed. A new species is not merely an improved version of the old but a brand new reality—something only God could create! Paul continues by saying, “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s why the apostle spent so much time in his letters describing the new life we have in Christ. The Christian is a thoroughly new man or woman, not simply a moral improvement of the old, but a different kind of person altogether. While the new has not yet completely come and awaits his appearing, yet the future has invaded the present in conversion in remaking humanity in the image of Christ.