Significance in NT usage.
The term has, in the first place, reference to the individual believer as a person, wherein by becoming a Christian (normally expressed in baptism, Rom 6) he enters on a life “in Christ” so radically new as to be based upon a prior death with Him. “New” here is contrasted with the former way of life to which a person is born as a human being. It is spiritual, as opposed to carnality (Rom 8:4ff.); as contrasted with nature (1 Cor 2:14f.); as contrasted with life under prescribed behavior patterns (Rom 7:6).
For Paul and his contemporaries, this overlapped a further reference to the claims of Judaism, as an old-established religion. So the new covenant replaces the old, decaying one (Heb 8:13); believers are ransomed from it as “futile ways” (1 Pet 1:18). The Christian stands in the new relationship to God foretold by the prophets (e.g., Ezek 36:24ff.) through the events of Calvary and Pentecost, and the powers of the New Age are already at work in him (1 Cor 10:11; Heb 6:5).
This relegation of the old religion embodied in Jewish ordinances abolished the greatest single racial distinction among men: the Jewish possession of divine revelation (Rom 9:4; Eph 2:11ff.). In its place appears a new kind of humanity, a “third race” in which this, and therefore all the old racial and cultural distinctions are irrelevant. This gives the “new man” its corporate significance with a creative, supraracial unity, “in one body” (Eph 2:16; σω̂μα, G5393, is ambiguous, perhaps deliberately so; cf. Col 3:15 with the strongly materialistic metaphor of Eph 4:29, esp. V.L. א c etc).
The newness of the Gospel extends even beyond history to cosmic proportions. The regenerate man is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15, καινὴ κτίσις); he belongs to a second Adam (1 Cor 15:45); remade in the image of his Creator (Col 3:10).
The phrase in general refers to the subject of regeneration (q.v.). The question arising here is, what, in fact, is “new” in regenerate man? Interpretations range from a Socinian conception of a new and perfect moral law, to Tillich’s “New Being” in the existential trend set by Kierkegaard. The first is not new, but an intensification of Jewish moralism; but the idea of the “New Being,” a partaking of a new order of reality in which all religion is irrelevant, strikes at the continuity expressed by “man” in our phrase, for man is, by definition, homo religiosus. It is tempting to take a hint from Ignatius (ad Eph 20:1) and equate the “new man” with Jesus Himself. But there is a distinction: the believer is a new man, born anew, but he is not Jesus Christ reborn. Reformed theology, following Calvin, has specified from the texts, righteousness, holiness and true knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις, G2106), as the “new” elements of regenerate man. The difficulty arises in understanding this in the light of the Christian’s only too obvious inconsistencies. Possibly one may understand it more easily as a fact progressing through concentric circles of influence: (1) there is a new relationship with God whereby a man, sins and all, comes under God’s favorable consideration and pleasure. Everything is instantaneously new because it is placed in a new light. (2) Consequently, God’s Spirit implants new motives of love and faith which replace the old domination of self-sufficiency and extend their influence progressively over the old system of motivation. (3) The outward behavior is modified correspondingly, and in particular the attitudes and relationships toward other people are changed. Thus man regenerate is still man: even, until the Parousia, homo peccator; but his environment, and his in ner principle of life are new—both are, in fact, Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ brought nothing that was new; He made all things new in Himself.”
T. Boston, Human Nature in its Fourfold State (1720, repub. 1964); E. F. Scott, Colossians and Ephesians (1930); J. Stewart, A Man in Christ (1935); A. H. Hunter, Interpreting St. Paul’s Gospel (1954); P. Tillich, “The Yoke of Religion,” sermon in The Shaking of the Foundations (1957); B. Kenrick, The New Humanity (1958); R. Bultmann, “Man between the Times,” article in Existence and Faith (1961); Behm, art. on καινὸς, TDNT, Vol. III (Eng., 1965); J. R. Stott, Men Made New (1966); H. Darling, Man in Triumph, esp. ch. 4 (1969).