The Only Thing that Counts
At Novum, God’s new creation story is central to who we are, what we do, and why we do it. Yet, “God’s new creation story” does not sound a familiar note for most people. Perhaps the most familiar answer to the question of why we do anything as Christians is “because of the gospel” or “for the glory of God.” These are not wrong, or even bad, answers. In fact, they are pretty good. So why does Novum have such an emphasis on new creation? We begin with the simplest answer: because new creation is the only thing that matters.
Can we really say that new creation is the only thing that matters? Sure, Paul says it right there in Galatians 5:6, writing, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision no uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” The church in Galatia, as in most places where Gentiles are coming to faith in the first century, is struggling with whether or not Gentiles should be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses (see Acts 15, especially). The Galatians are so embroiled in this controversy that Paul must write a stern letter warning them to remain faithful to the gospel he preached to them. In the midst of this he reminds them of the only thing that matters. It’s not circumcision or uncircumcision, but it’s . . . new creation? Well, yes, actually.
Paul uses the same introductory formula “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, but . . . ” two other times in his writings. Based on Galatians 5:6, we should expect the same result every time — faith working itself out in love is the only thing that matters. Yet, Paul surprises us. Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). So, is this what really matters, keeping the commandments of God? Maybe he got confused since he was writing to a different church? Probably not, especially since he uses the “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, but . . . ” again in Galatians. Just one chapter removed from his bold proclamation of the only thing that counts, Paul writes, “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).
OK, one thing is clear—neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything. Got it. Loud and clear. Ten-four good buddy. But what exactly does count for something? We have three options on offer:
- Obeying the commandments of God
- Faith working itself out in love
- A new creation
Rather than see these as three different options, however, it is likely best to see them as three different ways for Paul to say the same thing. In other words:
obeying the commandments of God= faith working itself out in love= a new creation
These are the only thing that matter(s).
If new creation is the only thing that matters, what about the gospel and the glory of God? The gospel announces new creation as the Gospels tell the story God’s making all things new through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and the new creation is the dwelling place of the glory of God where there is no need for sun or moon because “the glory of God gives it light” (Revelation 21:23). New creation is the all-encompassing category within which we can understand rightly gospel proclamation and the glory of God. And we can see all of creation through the lens of new creation because of an all-encompassing story.