“So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17 Darby). The idea in this passage is not merely that believers in Christ have individually become new creations (though this is also true) but that they now belong to a glorious new creation which God has brought into being in Christ.
Likewise, the latter part of the verse does not mean merely that the old sinful habits have passed away from the life of the individual believer, to be replaced by a new manner of life (however this may, or should, be true) but that with the forming of the new creation an entirely new order or program has been ushered in.
That this is the correct meaning of this passage is evident from Paul’s remarks in general with reference to the new creation, as well as from the context here in II Corinthians 5. Especially is it evident from the preceding verse, which reads: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (verse 16).
The whole passage in II Corinthians 5 has to do with knowing Christ henceforth in a new and different way, no longer after the flesh, but as the Head of a new creation, and with knowing men too, no longer after the flesh, but as belonging either to the old creation or to the new creation in Christ.
The Ephesians Epistle has a great deal to say about this important truth. After reminding us, in Ephesians 2:11,12, that as Gentiles we were aliens from God and from His covenant people, the apostle goes on to say: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us: …to make [Greek, create] in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:13-15).
In the third chapter the apostle, proclaiming the revelation “which in other ages was not made known,” declares that believing Gentiles now are: “…Joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of [God’s]promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings” (Ephesians 3:6 Darby). This “new creation,” this “one new man,” this “joint body” formed of Jews and Gentiles made one in Christ, is called “His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).