June 10 – A New Attitude

Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:24

When you came to Christ, you acknowledged that you were a sinner and chose to forsake your sin and the evil things of this world. But Satan will dangle the world and its sin in front of you to tempt you to return to it. Paul warns us not to return to it but to put it off and instead, put on righteousness and true holiness.

That’s not something you do once; it’s something you do every day. One way you do so is described in 2 Timothy 3:16, which says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” If you want to live correctly, expose yourself to the Word of God. It will help you deal with the traces of the world still present in your life.[1]

4:24 The third lesson is that they had put on the new man once for all. The new man is what a believer is in Christ. It is the new creation, in which old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). This new kind of man is according to God, that is, created in His likeness. And it manifests itself in true righteousness and holiness. Righteousness means right conduct toward others. Holiness is “piety towards God, which puts Him in His place,” as F. W. Grant defines it.[2]

Become the New Self

and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (4:23–24)

In contrast to the depraved, reprobate mind of the unregenerate person (vv. 17–18), the Christian is renewed continually in the spirit of [his] mind (cf. Col. 3:10). Ananeoē (to be renewed) appears only here in the New Testament. The best rendering of this present passive infinitive is as a modifier of the main verb put on, so that it would read “and being renewed in the spirit of your mind, put on the new self.” This makes clear that such renewal is the consequence of “laying aside the old self” and is the context in which one may put on the new self. Salvation relates to the mind, which is the center of thought, understanding, and belief, as well as of motive and action. The spirit of your mind is explained by one commentator as intending to show that it is not in the sphere of human thinking or human reason, but in the moral sphere, that this renewal occurs. John Eadie says:

The change is not in the mind psychologically, either in its essence or in its operation; and neither is it in the mind as if it were a superficial change of opinion on points of doctrine or practice; but it is in the spirit of the mind; in that which gives mind both its bent and its material of thought. It is not simply in the spirit as if it lay there in dim and mystic quietude; but it is in the spirit of the mind; in the power which, when changed itself, radically alters the entire sphere and business of the inner mechanism.

When a person becomes a Christian, God initially renews his mind, giving it a completely new spiritual and moral capability—a capability that the most brilliant and educated mind apart from Christ can never achieve (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9–16). This renewal continues through the believer’s life as he is obedient to the Word and will of God (cf. Rom. 12:1–2). The process is not a one–time accomplishment but the continual work of the Spirit in the child of God (Titus 3:5). Our resources are God’s Word and prayer. It is through these means that we gain the mind of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:7), and it is through that mind that we live the life of Christ.

The renewed spirit of the believer’s mind is a corollary to putting on the new self, which is the new creation made in the very likeness of God and has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. That which was once darkened, ignorant, hardened, callused, sensual, impure, and greedy is now enlightened, learned in the truth, sensitive to sin, pure, and generous. Whereas it was once characterized by wickedness and sin, it is now characterized by righteousness and holiness. In Colossians 3:12, Paul calls believers “the chosen of God, holy and beloved.”

It is essential to expand the concept of the new self so that it may be understood more fully. The word new (kainos) does not mean renovated but entirely new—new in species or character. The new self is new because it has been created in the likeness of God. The Greek is literally, “according to what God is”—a staggering statement expressing the wondrous reality of salvation. Those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord are made like God! Peter says we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).

In Galatians 2:20, Paul declares, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” The image of God, lost in Adam, is more gloriously restored in the second Adam, the One who is the image of the invisible God (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4–6), where Paul describes Christ as the image of God, the treasure that dwell-s in us.

If believers have received the divine nature—the life of Christ, the likeness of God in this new self by an act of divine creation (cf. Col. 3:10)—it obviously must have been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. In the Greek, the word truth is placed last to contrast with deceit (v. 22), and the best rendering is that of the niv : “true righteousness and holiness.” God could create no less (see Luke 1:75).

Righteousness relates to our fellow men and reflects the second table of the law (Ex. 20:12–17). Holiness (hosiotēs, sacred observance of all duties to God) relates to God and reflects the first table (Ex. 20:3–11). The believer, then, possesses a new nature, a new self, a holy and righteous inner person fit for the presence of God. This is the believer’s truest self.

So righteous and holy is this new self that Paul refuses to admit that any sin comes from that new creation in God’s image. Thus his language in Romans 6–7 is explicit in placing the reality of sin other than in the new sell He says, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (6:12) and, “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin” (6:13, emphasis added).

In those passages Paul places sin in the believer’s life in the body. In chapter 7 he sees it in the flesh. He says, “No longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwell-s me” (v. 17), “Nothing good dwell-s in me, that is, in my flesh” (v. 18), “I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwell-s in me” (v. 20), and “… the law of sin which is in my members” (v. 23).

In those texts Paul acknowledges that being a new self in the image of God does not eliminate sin. It is still present in the flesh, the body, the unredeemed humanness that includes the whole human person’s thinking and behavior. But he will not allow that new inner man to be given responsibility for sin. The new “I” loves and longs for the holiness and righteousness for which it was created.

Paul summarizes the dichotomy with these words: “So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind [synonymous here with the new self] am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [synonymous here with unredeemed humanness contained in our sinful bodies] the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). It is this struggle that prompts the anticipation for “the redemption of the body” described in Romans 8:23 (cf. Phil. 3:20–21).

We are new, but not yet all new. We are righteous and holy, but not yet perfectly righteous and holy. But understanding the genuine reality of our transforming salvation is essential if we are to know how to live as Christians in the Body of Christ to which we belong.

The remaining portions of the epistle contain exhortations to the believer to bring his body into obedience to the will of God.

Many rescue missions have a delousing room, where derelicts who have not had a bath in months discard all their old clothes and are thoroughly bathed and disinfected. The unsalvageable old clothes are burned and new clothes are issued. The clean man is provided clean clothes.

That is a picture of salvation, except that in salvation the new believer is not simply given a bath but a completely new nature. The continuing need of the Christian life is to keep discarding and burning the remnants of the old sinful clothing. “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness,” Paul pleads; “but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13).

The many therefores and wherefores in the New Testament usually introduce appeals for believers to live like the new creatures they are in Christ. Because of our new life, our new Lord, our new nature, and our new power, we are therefore called to live a correspondingly new life–style.[3]

24 Now comes the contrast: “put on the new self.” The shift back to the aorist tense, as in “put off” (v. 22), points to believers’ need to take this next decisive step. God works in the process of renewing, but believers must act to put off and put on. This new “self” or “person” (anthrōpos, GK 476) is a divine creation designed with specific traits and different from the “old self.” This “self” has both individual and corporate aspects (cf. 2:15). Believers must act like the new body they are (e.g., characterized by unity, 4:3, 13)—a step that requires each individual believer to actualize his or her new identity in Christ, as Paul will spell out more fully in what follows. Foremost, the new self is created in conformity with or in similarity to God (Gk. preposition kata; see BDAG, 513, 5, b, a). The new self Christians put on is a creation (cf. 2:10) in which the effects of the fall are reversed; God renews his image in them, so they become more “like God.” The divine traits of “righteousness” and “holiness” characterize this “self.” To “holiness” Paul appends the genitive “of truth.” Is this a descriptive genitive that modifies both nouns, as in “true righteousness and holiness” (cf. most versions)? Or might the genitive be one of origin or source, such that these traits derive from the truth (and the One who is truth and the truth of the gospel, 1:13)? In view of the prominence of truthfulness in v. 25, the second probably captures better Paul’s intent. O’Brien, 333, agrees, though Best, 438, does not—seeing it as “an adjectival qualification of the other two nouns.” In either case, whereas the desires that inhabited the old person stemmed from deceit (v. 22), truth characterizes the new self that God is producing, a self that lives in righteousness and holiness.

In combination, then, Paul appeals for believers to take the necessary steps to become who they are in Christ. If this language seems strange, it is Paul’s doing! Paul insists that the old self was taken off at conversion, and yet it is still very much “on.” Likewise, though the new self was put on at conversion, it must continually be “put on” in the Christians’ ways of life. Put another way, what was taken off does not stay off; elsewhere Paul speaks of dying daily (1 Co 15:31; 2 Co 4:10–12; cf. Ro 6:2, 6, 8; Gal 2:19–20). And what was put on needs to be put on again and again. Paul lives with this paradoxical description of Christian reality. He does not envision actual “entities” being put off or on but uses such metaphorical language to highlight believers’ new status and capacities in Christ—ones that enable them, through the power of the Spirit (5:18), to live lives that please God. The gospel shouts that believers are no longer prisoners to what they once were. It also reminds them they must engage the process of becoming renewed in Christ. In theological terms, sanctification is not automatic but requires believers’ willful participation, as the next sections will make abundantly clear.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 179). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1938). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 177–179). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 126–127). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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