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Putting off the old self and putting on the new self

Background

The book of Ephesians is in two parts – the first describes the believer’s position before God, given his or her inheritance made available through the grace and mercy of God;

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will Ephesians 1:11

The second half of the book sets out instructions on the believer’s correct practice based on the responsibly he or she has in the new position. One important instruction has to do with self – the believer’s nature. It is based on the fact that believers are not to live as un-believers, that is, as pagans:

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind., Ephesians 4:17.

Based on the need to be holy (as God is holy), believers can no longer walk as he or she use to walk – in the futility of unbelievers. Doing so alienates the believer from God (4:18a), gives over to sinful desires (19) which is unholy, and essentially ensures the believer travels in the opposite direction to God (4:20 – 21). Indeed, the old self knows not God. As James states:

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4.

The command not to imitate the unbeliever

Of essence in dealing with the old nature is not imitating the unbeliever. Indeed this is a command: Paul states emphatically:  don’t imitate or follow the ways the unbeliever (17 – 21), but instead practice holiness. This is required because:

1.    The unbeliever is alienated from God (18b), has a mind of futility, and his or her value system is in complete darkness (18b) – and does not know (or accept) God.

2.    The unbeliever can only be given over to sinful desires – the believer can have no part of such sin.

3.    The unbeliever travels diametrically opposite to God – indeed the world hates God and hates the believer, as Jesus Christ stated: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. John 15:18

Command to deal with the old nature

Paul commands believers to deal with the old nature, or old self (old man in older translations), because given the believer's new position in Christ, and given what Jesus has taught (4:20), it is not becoming to be of the old self – one cannot be Holy and have on the old self.

..put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-25

1.    Command: put off concerning your former conduct, the old self (man in some translations) which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (22a).

2.    Command: put on the new self, which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (24b).

The action is in the mind:

Put off the old self .. and be renewed in the spirit of your mind Ephesians 4:23.

Noting the new man is God created – in true righteousness and holiness. This means the new nature is totally new (hence the term being "born again") – it’s not a remake of the old. As Jesus said, new wine cannot be placed into old wine skins – the skins are fail and will burst.

The putting on the new-self requires self-will (e.g. one needs to be in control of one’s body: "that each one of you know how to control his own bodyin holiness and hono" 1 Thessalonians 4:4). That is, a believer needs to be in control of his or her mind because the mind feeds the heart, which is evidenced by what comes from the mouth. It is the mind that needs to be renewed daily:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God Romans 12:2.

Compare this with the mind of the pagan or unbeliever: "whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe" 2 Corinthians 4:4.

How to put off the old nature and put on the new nature

1.    Tell the truth and not lies (25). The command is not original – it is repeated in the Law of Moses (Exodus 20:16), and is much more than just being black and white. So called white lies are also lies. Pretending to work is lying, as is suggesting you are at a meeting when you are not.

A believer is a person of truth

2.    Apply righteous anger; never anger and sin (26 – 27). We have every right to be angry about those activities that detract from the glory of God. Reducing marriage to merely a sexual relationship between two people must make all believers angry. This anger is righteous as it glorifies God. Anger that sins is for ourselves - when we want revenge, or when we want justice (now) rather than offering grace and mercy, our mind must not allow Satan to act through it. In this we must control the tongue as James states:

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. James 3:6

A believer is one who is angered for God’s holiness, never for self

3.    Give, don’t steal. We work to make wealth in order to help others. Our talents that allow us to create wealth must be used for God’s purposes. True religion is one that desires to and practically helps those in need:

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

The making of wealth is never to satisfy self, as Jesus’ showed in the story about a man who mightily increased his farm’s output, only to die before it could be used for any godly purpose (the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12:16 – 21).

To give, one needs to work – and this work needs to be honest (28). Furthermore, one works to give.

A believer is one who works hard and honestly to make wealth and gives it to those in need.

4.    Speak words that edify rather corrupt words (29 – 30). A believer’s words indicate what’s in his or her heart. It epitomises what is being taken in. Like a well, the water it brings forth is what is found at the source. Daily we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God which will become the source of edifying words. The most corrupt words can be found in the church – Satan has gained control of the minds of men who accuse believers of all sorts of things. The tongue has become a device for Satan to wield.

The biggest sin from our tongue are words that grieve the Holy Spirit (30). The purpose of speech is to bring glory to God – and they need to be "what is good for necessary edification, so these words impart grace to the hearers" (29b). Again our words are not to seek justification – vengeance is of God. Hatred expressed by the tongue indicates a spirit of hated, but a believer is a person of love.

A believer speaks words of encouragement fed from the Bible

5.    Forgive rather than be bitter (31 - 32). It is very easy to be bitter given the treachery that occurs in the modern church – full of self-righteousness, greed, envy, brother and sister executing judgement, rather than giving a defence of their faith. Yet we are not to answer back. The desire of the old nature will be bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil speaking full of malice (31), yet the new nature will show what love is: kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiving: the last not being the least, based on the fact our position (as chapter 1 – 3  indicates) comes about because Christ forgive the believer. The old self wants justice, the new self wants grace and mercy which comes about by forgiveness.

A believer forgives in the spirit of grace and mercy

David L Simon
Ephesians 4: 22 - 32
Posted: 05 Jan 2014