Of the New Creation it is written, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (2 Cor 6:15). A misleading error arises when it is assumed that all of this was equally true of OT saints in their day. There could be no perfected saints with regard to their standing until there was a resurrected Christ who might be the source of their imputed righteousness. On the other hand, there is no such thing as a Christian in the present dispensation that is not thus perfected because of being in Christ (Heb 10:14); therefore, there is no such thing as a Christian who is not justified forever.
It is such knowledge surpassing truth as this which advances the NT revelation over that of the OT. It must be obvious to the most casual observer that no such relationship is contemplated in the OT, the Synoptics, or even in John’s gospel until the record is given of the Upper Room Discourse. The first twelve chapters of John present the Gospel of salvation by grace, and it is not until the record of the Upper Room Discourse that the word appears in the entire Sacred Text that the believer is in Christ!
The very first reference to the organic, vital union of life between Christ and the believer occurs in John 14:20, which reads, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.” Even the knowledge of this marvelous union is deferred unto “that day,” which day, according to the context, is the Day of Pentecost, the day of the advent of the Spirit into the world. No deeper revelation respecting relationship had been made than is set forth by these seven words, “Ye in Me, and I in you.”
Well has it been said that the entire grace revelation is compressed into this twofold relationship. These are immeasurable undertakings on the part of the Holy Spirit. To be in Christ is a relationship wrought by the baptism of the Spirit; to have Christ indwelling is a relationship wrought by the regeneration power of the spirit. This vital inion with Christ is announced not alone to Jews who were His disciples, but to all whom the Father hath given to the Son; and for the first time in human history this stupendous reality has come into actual existence.
This truth concerning living union with Christ and all it secures is again emphasized by Him in John 15:2, where the branch is said to be in Christ. Likewise, it is stated by Him that the believer is removed out of the cosmos system and is now as unrelated to that system as Christ Himself. He declares, “If the world hate you, ye know it hated Me before it hated you. I ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18, 19).
“I have given them Thy Word; and the world hateth hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. As thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world” (John17:18). No such relationship to God was ever predicated of Israel (cf. Rom 9:4, 5), and certainly not of the Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11, 12). A most significant inclusion in this prayer is recorded in verse 20, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believer on Me through their word.”
It is thus assured to those who have believed through the word of the disciples that they are equally partakers of all that this immeasurable prayer discloses; but it is just as significant also that Christ did not pray for the saints of the Jewish dispensation. If it be claimed that since they were dead there would be no occasion to pray for them, it may be asserted that there was a whole generation then living under Judaism and these were as much entitled to share in His prayers as was any previous generation. He did not pray for saints that were then in Judaism. He prayed for those who would believe, and the OT saints were not related to God on the sole basis of belief in a Savior. The designation is clearly restricted to those of this dispensation who are saved by grace and thereby recreated in Christ Jesus—new creations in Him.
From this prayer in John 17 the conclusions must be drawn that an entirely new divine undertaking has been introduced into the world, it objective being the out-calling of a company of saint each one of which company will have been perfected forever, being in Christ, and that each has obtained that exalted position by the one act of believing on Christ. So far as precious human relations to God are concerned, this is wholly new—even for the disciples themselves—and with the introduction of this truth as presented in Scriptures which deal with the oncoming dispensation, give no hint that anything relating to the New Creation will then be on earth.
In the same connection, attention should be given to the title by which believers are identified by the Son when He is speaking to His Father. Within that innermost fellowship, by what name will they be designated? It is probable that when speaking to His own about themselves the Lord might adapt His language to their restricted conceptions; but when speaking to the Father about believers He identifies them by the title which obtains in the highest heavenly association—the term common to Father and Son from all eternity, since their identity has been determined and they have been chosen in Himself from before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph 1:4).
If this appellation is to any degree a description of their character or position, it will refer to the most exalted feature of the divine undertaking. In this prayer the Savior refers to believers seven times, but under only one cognomen, and therefore this title must be contemplated as being the highest of all designations assigned to them in heaven or on earth. He speaks of them, though in various forms, as those “which Thou gavest me out of the world.”
Since no such classification has ever been suggested for any people on earth before and since it is wholly foreign to all later groups who are anticipated in prophecy, it is to be accepted that the present dispensation, concerning which the Lord is speaking is this discourse, is not only heaven-high with respect to its divine purpose, but contemplates a heavenly people who are, by exaltation and transformation, wholly different from all people that have been or ever will be on the earth.
- L S Chafer
Note: Many often comprehend an opposing atmosphere between the OT dispensation and the NT dispensation when viewing their differences of positions. Considering the manner of Christ’s teachings, He always presented urgency in discerning the important variations between the Christian position and all other positions, and that the present dispensation is not a continuation of the prior but rather a progression from the prior dispensation, without which it could not have come into being. Therefore, there are no conflicting revelations or instructions between the two, just misunderstandings (requiring time for clarification) of their purposes and applications.