If believers are merely like a new creation, they might get away with thinking that they really do not have to live and think radically as new creatures. But if Christians are the actual beginning of the end-time new creation, they must act the way new creatures act, which is to live for Christ by viewing all of reality from the perspective of his word and not from the viewpoint of the world. Just as a butterfly cannot return to its cocoon and act like a caterpillar again, so all who are part of the beginning fulfillment of the prophesied new creation in Christ cannot return to being unbelievers and, therefore, will perhaps slowly but surely act like people who have begun to be part of the new creation. It is on the basis that Christians are a new creation that Paul can issue commands to them. That is, they have the power to obey the commands by virtue of the new-creational ability inherent in them.
I have been reading through G.K. Beale’s New Testament Biblical Theology (which you can purchase here) and thought I would share some very interesting thoughts that I found well-thoughtout in my reading. The first chapter of this grand work deals with the redemptive-historical storyline of the OT. Beale’s main premise is that the NT is the continuation of the original storyline of the OT. He begins by arguing that the texts in Genesis 1-3 sketch or lay the ground for the rest of the OT and also eschatological themes which will come in the NT. I had heard of this briefly in the past but Dr. Beale really did a fantastic job in articulating this.
Firstly, Beale argues that in Genesis 1:26-28, God gave Adam mandates that God would bless him, that he would be fruitful and multiply, he should fill the earth and that he should subdue and rule over all the earth. In other words, God blessed Adam like none other of his creatures and commissioned him to be sovereign over the earth. This comes as a result of God creating Adam in His own image. God is sovereign and He is king over all things and hence, man being made in His image would reflect having sovereignty even though not supreme sovereignty. Another aspect of being created in His image was a moral one in that in being in His likeness, Adam was expected to be holy, righteous and having true knowledge (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Adam was placed in Eden and give a task to both cultivate the garden and also to keep or guard it (Gen. 2:15). He was to do this to demonstrate that he was God’s obedient servant. God also gives him a moral command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. Not only was a physical command given but also a spiritual/moral one as well. Yahweh laid out a positive command, a negative command and a warning to go along with it. We all know the story about the serpent but one thing Beale brought out that I had never really pondered was that Adam had authority to rule and subdue over all animals as well as a responsibility to keep (guard) yet the serpent came and Adam didn’t subdue it nor did he protect the garden from it but fell to its deceit. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a tree or a place where judgment was to occur. Beale sees the knowledge of good and evil in the same light at discerning between good and evil. It is always associated with one judging (2 Sam. 14:17; 19:35; 1 Kings 3:9). Trees are also used in scripture to depict places where things are being judged (Judges 4:5; 1 Sam. 22:6-19). Adam had the ability to discern the evil of the serpent and judge it in God’s name because he had authority over it but the serpent used his wife to deceive him. Adam choosing the way of the serpent, whom he was to rule over, ended up being defeated by the serpent because evil was not judged resulting in him falling into sin. Adam lost the battle to the serpent but the 2nd Adam crushed the head of the serpent and defeated the devil and his kingdom. (Matt. 12:25-30; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:7-10; 20:1-6)