Online Bible Commentary
What Does it Mean to be a Christian?
2 Corinthians 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. He begins this passage with the word “So” which refers back to the previous passage where he was calling Christians to no longer be worldly but to be wholly devoted to Christ because He died for us. He wrote that we should not have worldly motives. Instead, our motives should be to please God. We cannot both please God and please the world.
Paul now writes that we should “regard no one from a worldly point of view” (v. 16a). He means that when we regard others we should no longer look at their worldly status, such as appearance, status in life, fame, wealth, etc. We should look at them no longer in a physical way but a spiritual way. He writes that even though some of the early believers knew Jesus personally, as a man, they should not even think of Him now as a man, in a worldly way (v. 16b).
This world view aligns us with Christ. Christ does not see us as the world see us. He sees our heart. This should be the world view for Christians, since we are now a “new creation” (v. 17), in Christ. We become a new creation when we become a Christian. We are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who changes us and conforms us to Christ over time, if we yield to Him. To be” in Christ” means more than being a Christian. It is a position that Christ has given us.
The word “Christian” means “Christ follower”. So we should be Christ followers when we are in Christ. This is an active state, not a passive state. It does not mean that we believe, without following. Even Satan believes that Christ is God. This is why he stops in his tracks when we command him “in the name of Jesus”. To be a Christ follower means we worship Him, read and study the Bible, meet with Him in prayer, fellowship with other believers, and set as our goal to be obedient to Him.
When we become a Christian, we are "reconciled" (v. 18) to God. Until then, we are separated from God; we are still condemned for our sin. But when we are reconciled to Him, our sins are not counted against us (v. 19).
The Holy Spirit then makes us a new creation. He no longer wants us to see the world as others do. He wants us to change. He wants us to see the world as God does. But He needs us to yield to Him. He needs our cooperation. When we yield to Him, He changes our priorities. He changes what we want to do.
We then study the Bible so that we know God, know what to obey, and know what sin is. We are saddened when we do not obey, or we see others not obey, just as is God. We are repelled by sin, in ourselves and in others, just as is God. We strive to eliminate sin in ourselves and want to persuade others to do the same. We love others, because Christ first loved us. We become "Christ's ambassadors" (v. 20).
All of this means we are now Christians, Christ followers. We are now thinking like Him. We are now seeing others as He does. Our world view has now aligned with His. We have "become the righteousness of God" (v. 21). This should be the goal of every person.