ALL THIS IS FROM GOD, WHO RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST AND GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:18
As born-again believers, we are all new creations in Christ. Although we may not always feel like it or act like it, Scripture clearly teaches that we have a new identity: we are children of God (see 1 John 3:1-3) and no longer children of wrath (see Ephesians 2:1-3). This immediate spiritual transformation and continuing growth will be easier for us to understand if we are familiar with a particular agricultural technique that is used in the semitropical climate zones where a frost can severely damage citrus crops.
In these regions, horticulturists have learned to use the bitter-tasting ornamental orange as rootstock because it can take a moderate freeze without damage. When the ornamental orange tree has grown to the right stage, they cut the stem just above the ground and graft in a sweet orange, such as a navel orange. The new growth above the graft has a new nature.
Nobody looks at a navel orange grove and says, “Actually, all those trees are nothing but rootstock.” They were at one time, but they no longer are. Now, people identify the orchard by the type of fruit the trees are bearing. The same is true for us. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). Believers are identified for who they are “in Christ,” not for who they were “in Adam.”
“Suckers,” or small green sprouts, can continue to grow from the old roots, but they need to be trimmed off. If they are allowed to grow, they will divert the growth of the tree away from the new graft. In the same way, the gardener cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit and prunes every branch that is bearing fruit so it may bear even more (see John 15:2).
We have been grafted into Christ, and He will prune away our old nature that doesn’t bear fruit. This transformation from who we were “in Adam” to whom we are now “in Christ” may be summarized as follows:
In Adam: Old self (Col.3:9) by birth In Christ: New self (Col. 3:10)
In Adam: Sin nature (Eph. 2:1-3) by nature In Christ: Participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4)
In Adam: Live according to the sinful nature (flesh; Rom. 8:5a) by choice In Christ: Live in accordance with the Spirit or flesh (Rom. 8:5b; Gal. 5:13-23)
The apostle Paul consistently identifies the believer according to who they are in Christ and never identifies them by their old nature/flesh. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16, ESV). In other words, we shouldn’t perceive other believers as natural people who derive their identity from their physical origin and natural existence.
Returning to the tree illustration, that which grows above the graft has only one nature, but the total tree has two natures (rootstock and navel). The believer still lives in a mortal body and is confronted with the choice of living according to the old sinful nature (flesh) or living according to the Spirit. However, the apostle Paul says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). We are new creations in Christ, and we belong to Him. Someday, we will leave our physical body, receive a resurrected body and live forever—with only one righteous nature—in the presence of God.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
When a navel orange is grafted into an ornamental orange, the tree takes on a new identity. How is the same true when when we are grafted into Christ?
Small green sprouts called “suckers” can divert the growth of a tree from the new graft. How is this similar to what can happen in our lives?
Why shouldn’t believers identify themselves as sinners, alcoholics, addicts, co-dependents, and the like?
In what way is God pruning your life so that you may bear more fruit?
What labels have you worn that are not consistent with who you really are?