Wesley in the World Today: A New Creation

By Hal Knight

The New Testament scholar N. T. Wright says “the resurrection of Jesus offers itself ... not as an odd event within the world as it is but as the utterly characteristic, prototypical, and foundational event within the world as it has begun to be. It is not an absurd event within the world but the symbol and starting point of the new world…Jesus of Nazareth ushers in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation.” (Surprised by Hope, Harper One, 2008, p. 67)

In the resurrection of Jesus Christ the future age to come has already begun. When the crucified Jesus is risen from the dead, God’s love has already conquered sin and death. Through faith we participate in that victory and receive a new life. Therefore with Paul we can affirm that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (II Corinthians 5:17, NRSV)

This is the promise of the gospel and the meaning of Easter.

John Wesley, in commenting on this verse in his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, makes two points. The first is this: “Only the Power that makes a world can make a Christian.” Elsewhere Wesley will say we become Christians through the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. We do not become Christians through our own efforts alone. Whether it occurs suddenly or gradually--for Wesley, it is normally some of both--we are changed by the Holy Spirit. We open ourselves to the Spirit through worship and a devotional life, through praying to God and serving others. The key is to engage all of this with an open and expectant faith.

But what is a Christian? This is Wesley’s second point: a Christian, as a new creation, “has new life, new senses, new faculties, new affections, new appetites, new ideas and conceptions. His whole tenor of actions and conversation is new, and he lives, as it were, in a new world.” To be a new creation is to have a thoroughgoing transformation of heart and life, with love for God and neighbor at the center. It is to be a new person, but also to enter a new world, to already belong in this age to the age to come.

As a result, things look different now. “God, men, the whole creation, heaven, earth, and all therein, appear in a new light,” and stand related to “the Christian in a new manner, since he was created anew in Christ Jesus."

The resurrection of Jesus is the turning point in history and being new creations through Christ is the turning point in human lives. Easter opens the door to a new world governed by divine love. The call of God is for us, through the Spirit, to enter in.