“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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 Corinthians 5:17-19
In the opening to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul writes that he was “shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). This testament of faith was not immediately accepted, however, for even the faithful hesitated to believe and accept him into the fold (Acts 9). Understandably, they were still quite fearful, for Saul, as he had been known, persecuted the church, inciting people to rise up against those who believed in the resurrection and Lordship of Jesus for their arrest or death. Barnabas, though, brought him to the disciples and told them of his faithful service and persecution on account of his faith in the Lord Jesus.
Paul was a new creation, spiritually. There was a point in the span of his life, where the old man and the new man were separated by an infinitesimal gap through the intervention of Christ Jesus. Saul was a violent blasphemer and persecutor of the church, but became one of the most active teachers of the Gospel, establishing churches, acting as mediator in conflicts, and taking the young in the faith under his wing as a mentor to a protégé. All of this was made possible only through that point in which Christ Jesus intervened in his life, changing him from old to new, that is to say from a condemned man to a redeemed man; this is the “eternal qualification”: Saul persecuted the church violently for some time, but Jesus has come into his life.
He was a man with two distinct sections of life and the qualifying factor in this very physical, mental, and spiritual change was Jesus. Paul was no longer defined as the persecutor of Christ’s church; instead, he was counted among those who have been redeemed by the awesome power and mercy of the Lord Jesus. What does this mean for all of those who have truly been redeemed by His blood? They are washed clean. They are a new creation. Their life, now, is defined, not by the severity of past choices or actions, but by Jesus’ act of redemption on the cross and intervention in their lives to reconcile them with the Father.
How many Christians and churches have held their congregants or potential congregants to what defined them prior to Jesus intervening? A man with a record as a sex offender of any sort is refused admittance into a church because of fear, despite his claim to faith in Christ; this, I have seen happen. How many men or women refuse to engage in a relationship with another Christian, because of a past of drugs, gang life, violence, and more? I struggle and have known others to struggle to find one who will not reject them because of what they did before Christ called them to surrender and repent.
Hearts which have been changed should never forget that, once, all who have surrender to Jesus were guilty of sin. Just as Paul could no longer be identified as a persecutor of the church, those who have been redeemed can no longer be identified by their past, for Jesus qualified their lives for eternity as new creations. May we never commit the horrid foul of discouraging our brothers and sisters by refusing them the joy of Jesus’ work in their lives; instead, may we be ever encouraging and lift up praise to the Most High God who, in His unfathomable mercy and grace, changed all who have surrendered to the Son. To the glory of the Father through our Lord and Savior, Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.