A New Humanity
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).- Colossians 3:11
Because of the emphasis on conversion in evangelicalism, most of us probably tend to think of redemption in individualistic terms. The questions we ask ourselves and others confirm this: Am I saved? Are you saved? Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus? Do you know Christ? Of course, to think of salvation in terms of the individual is not inappropriate. Scripture again and again speaks of the need for individual faith and repentance; in fact, this was the subject of Jesus’ first sermon (Mark 1:14–15). John the Baptist condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees for trusting in their familial heritage and not in the gracious Lord (Matt. 3:7–10). Examples could be multiplied, but the point is clear — no one gets into the kingdom of God based on the faith of another person; we are all required to believe.
Still, if we are not careful, we can focus on the individual aspect of redemption too much and lose Scripture’s view of corporate salvation. That is to say, God does not merely save isolated individuals but rather saves a specific people. He called Israel out of bondage, not Moses alone (Ex. 3:7–8). Christ died to purchase a church made up of multiple people, not just one person, whether Leah, Alexander, Robin, Joey, Claire, Nathan or anyone else (Eph. 5:25–27). Thus, the common statement that “Jesus would have died for person X even if person X was the only person ever created,” while wellintentioned, is not exactly true. Christ died to save His people.
When God purposed to save His people, He also purposed to create a new humanity. We saw in Colossians 3:9–10 how God in Christ takes off the old self (mankind in Adam) from His people and puts on the new self (mankind in Christ). This new self is a humanity that transcends all of the distinctions between human beings without obliterating them. We see this in today’s passage, wherein Paul speaks of the new self as a corporate body in which there is no ethnic or class distinctions (3:11). Everyone who trusts Jesus alone is indwelt by Him through His Spirit — He “is all, and in all.” Therefore, no one in the church is closer to Him than anyone else. From the poorest slave to the richest free man, from the most cultured Greek to the most uncouth barbarian, from the most observant Jew to the formerly rankest pagan, all are on equal footing in the new humanity God is building in Christ.
One commentator has aptly said that “no one is joined to Christ except together with a neighbor.” We cannot therefore be “lone ranger Christians,” and we cannot survive without the local church. It is incumbent upon all believers to become members of a local body wherein the gospel is preached, the sacraments are administered rightly, and discipline is carried out according to the standards of the Word of God.
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 2:4–10