“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Obviously his physical characteristics have not changed, and one does not “partake of the divine nature” in its essence. We suggest a comparison study of verses in the frequently parallel letters of Ephesians and Colossians as a clue to this “new” and different man.
Eph. 4:17-f. defines the changed man. “Walk not as the Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind…” “but ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by Him” “that ye put off… the old man … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind…etc”.
Now, compare this with Col. 3:8-f., “Put off anger, wrath … 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…”
I have emphasized words pertaining to the common thought: the new man thinks differently, i.e., he has new and different standards; one change has taken place in his mind. The heart (mind) is not different through miraculous operation, but by teaching, hearing, learning (Jn. 6:45). But this “learning” is not simply the accumulation of information …stored so it may be repeated upon examination. The “spirit of the mind” has been affected or “constrained” by our recognition of Christ’s love for us (2 Cor. 5:12), so that vanity has been replaced by humility and dependence (Cf. Phil. 2:5; 3:15). Expositors say, “It is necessary, therefore, to take pneuma here as our spirit…the higher faculty in man …that makes him most akin to God.” Without debating the intricacies of mind-spirit, the man is “new” because his understanding has affected his desires, and the new heart bears fruit for God.
Both passages (Eph. and Col.) tell us that the whole of the “new man” includes his conduct. “Just so the heart is right” is an idle gesture. We can not know one’s heart, but “by their fruits” men are known (Matt. 7: 20). Remission of sins, and heaven, are at the point of doing (Acts 2:38; Rev. 2:10), and short of this point there is no new creature (Matt. 7:21).