The scriptures distinguish two kinds of life; psuche-life and zoe-life, soul life and spirit life (John 12:25). Psuche-life describes the life we inherit from Adam, while zoe-life comes from God (John 5:26).
Psuche-life is the life of the flesh. It is living with yourself as your source and supply. Zoe-life is sometimes referred to as new life or newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Zoe-life is also known as the life or eternal life. When Jesus said, “I am the Life” he was saying “I am the source of new life” (John 14:6).
Note: Sometimes zoe-life is used in scripture to describe a person’s temporal life on earth (Luke 16:25, 1 Cor. 15:19, 1 Tim. 4:8, Jas. 4:14). However, most of the time, zoe-life is described as the life that comes from God the Father (John 5:21, 26, 6:27, Acts 17:28, Heb. 12:9), and is given to us by God the Son (John 1:4, 5:21, 14:6, Rom. 6:23, 2 Tim. 1:9, 1 John 1:2, 1 John 5:11-13), and God the Holy Spirit (John 6:63).
The old life we inherited from Adam is a flawed life that ends in death (Rom. 5:12); the new life that we receive from Jesus is a blessed and abundant life that never ends (Rom. 6:23). Origin determines destination. Adam came from the ground and those who live the Adamic life end up in the ground (Gen. 2:7, 3:19). In contrast, Jesus came from heaven and those who receive his life experience the blessings of heaven now and forever more (1 Cor. 15:49).
Why did Jesus come?
To give us new life or eternal life is the answer to the question, why did Jesus come (John 3:16, 10:28, Rom 6:4, 1 Tim. 1:16). Jesus did not come principally to free us from sin or to give us a new nature. He came to give us a new life which includes those other things. “I have come that they may have (zoe) life” (John 10:10). When we preach the gospel, we are telling people about the new life that Jesus offers to all (Acts 5:20).
Throughout the Bible, we are invited to lay down the old kind of life to take up the new kind (Matt. 16:25, John 12:25). This is called being born again (John 3:3, 7, 1 Pet. 1:3, 23), crossing over from death to life (John 5:24, 1 John 3:14), or being made alive (Eph. 2:5, Col. 2:13). We cross over from death to new life with the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit within us that marks our transition out of the old into the new.
Eternal life is not an endless extension to the old life, but a wholly new kind of life. Those who have been born again are new creatures (Gal. 6:15), members of a new family and a new race and citizens of another kingdom (Eph. 2:19, Php. 3:20).
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). The original word for new (kainos) means new in kind. Christian, you are not a new and improved version of who you used to be; you are something brand new altogether. You were a little Adam; now you are a little Christ, a son of God. You are not a sinner saved by grace. You were a sinner; then you were saved by grace. Now you are a sinner no more. You are a saint. One with the Lord, you are as righteous and holy as he is. “As he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
DIY religion would have you believe that you are a work in progress as though there was some middle ground between saint and sinner. But there is no middle ground. You’re either dead or alive, lost or found, in Christ or out of him. You have either been born again or you need to be.
Perhaps you have heard it said, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” Such a statement appeals to our flesh and accords with our experience but it is an insult to the One by whose sacrifice we have been made perfect forever. It’s true that on your own you are not perfect. But you are not on your own. You have been united with the Lord, and there are no unholy branches on that holy vine.
Light and dark cannot coexist. Neither can perfection and imperfection coexist. For the Lord to have any sort of union with you, he had to make you into something you weren’t and he did.
When you came to Christ, you were cleansed from sin and joined in vital union with the Lord. You are no longer part of Adam’s race. You are a son or daughter of the Everlasting Father. Christ is your life. You stand on his faith and are cloaked in his love. Your present and passing imperfections are hidden within his eternal and sublime perfections.
When God looks at you, he doesn’t just see who you are now, with your visible faults and hidden glory. He sees who you are in eternity. He sees the real you, and from his timeless perspective you are faultless, blameless, and radiant with glory.
Further reading: “Who do you think you are?”
What is new about this new life?
The new life is eternal (John 3:16, 5:24, 10:28, 1 Pet. 1:23, Gal. 6:8). Although our earthly bodies may age and die, we will be resurrected and clothed with immortality (John 6:53-54, 1 Cor. 15:22-23, 42-44, 51-54, 2 Cor. 5:2, 2 Tim 1:10).
This new life is a life of fellowship or union with the Lord (John 17:3, 1 John 1:3). It is a life free from bondage to sin (Rom. 6:6-7, 22, 8:2), where we rule and reign from our secure position in Christ (Rom. 5:17, Eph. 2:6). Our new life is characterized by a new heart and a new spirit (Eze. 36:26-27). You have been given a new nature with new desires (2 Pet. 1:4). Your heart is inclined towards obedience and you no longer want to sin (1 John 3:6, 9, 24). This is why the Bible says there are no sinners in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Rev. 21:8). There are only former sinners who have been made new.
In a word, new life is Christ’s life (Col. 3:4). It is Jesus living his life through you. You now stand on his faith (Gal. 2:20), are filled with his Spirit (Rom, 8:11), and think the thoughts of his mind (1 Cor. 2:16).
What happened to me at the cross?
The moment you came to Christ in faith, you were buried into his death and raised to new life by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:3). Again and again the New Testament reminds the believer, “You died” (Rom. 6:6, 8, Col. 2:20, 3:3, 2 Tim. 2:11). At the cross, you lost your sin (Ps. 103:12, John 1:29, 2 John 2:2) and that old tyrant sin lost you. You and you are no longer sin’s slave (Rom. 6:6). You may still wrestle with old habits, but you do so from a place of freedom (Gal. 5:1). Any relationship you might have had with the law was also severed at the cross (Rom 7:6).
At the cross, you received peace with God and complete forgiveness (2 Cor. 5:19, Col 2:13). When you were placed in Jesus, you gained his acceptance (Eph. 1:6), his righteousness (Rom. 1:17), his holiness (1 Cor. 1:3), and his eternal perfection (Heb. 10:4). When you were born again you were made into a new creation, so obviously you no longer have a sinful nature. You are not one person on Sunday and another on Monday.
Before the cross you might have feared God from a distance, but now you approach his throne of grace with confidence (Heb. 4:16). Before the cross you might have envisioned God as some sort of divine judge, but now you see him as your loving Father who has given you the full rights of sonship (Gal 3:26, 1 John 3:1). Before the cross you were a beggar living off scraps from the king’s table. But because of the cross your every need has been supplied according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:19).
On the day you were born again, a lot of things changed, but two things remained unchanged. First, your physical body did not change. You may have been healed, but your body is still subject to the effects of the fall, and your earthsuit is still getting older one year at a time. We are still waiting eagerly for the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23).
Second, beyond repenting and deciding to trust Jesus with your life, your way of thinking probably did not change. If you liked chocolate and drove recklessly before you were saved, then you probably liked chocolate and drove recklessly after you were saved. This is why the scriptures exhort us to put off the old and put on the new and be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4:22-24)
Walking in newness of life
It’s one thing to be made new by the Holy Spirit, it is another to walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4). A new born baby is as human as they ever will be, but they still need to learn how to walk and talk like a human. It’s the same with Christians. The moment you came to Christ, you became a new person. In Christ, you are as righteous and holy as you ever will be. But you still need to learn how to walk and talk in the new ways of the Spirit.
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