4:24 put on the new man As in v. 22, Paul uses the imagery of changing one’s clothes to describe believers’ responsibility to actively participate in Christ’s transformative work in their lives (compare Col 3:9–10; 2 Cor 5:17).
4:24 put on the new self (lit., “man”; see note on v. 22). Paul focuses on the individual aspect of the corporate “new man” as described in 2:15. Believers are created anew in Christ (see also 2:10). Created after the likeness of God further shows the connection with the original creation in Genesis, where “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27; cf. 1 Cor. 15:49).
4:24 put on the new self. The renewal of the mind in salvation brings not simply a renovation of character, but transformation of the old to the new self (cf. 2Co 5:17). in the likeness of God has been created. In Christ, the old self no longer exists as it had in the past; the new self is created in the very likeness of God (cf. Gal 2:20). in righteousness and holiness. Righteousness relates to the Christian’s moral responsibility to his fellow men reflecting the second table of the law (Ex 20:12–17), while holiness refers to his responsibilities to God, reflecting the first table (Ex 20:3–11). There is still sin in the believer’s unredeemed human flesh (see notes on Ro 7:17, 18, 20, 23, 25; 8:23).
4:24 — … put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
When Paul tells us to “put on” the new man, he means that we have to make a conscious, moment-by-moment choice to depend upon the Spirit’s power to transform us into the likeness of Christ.
4:24. Mind renewal makes it possible to put on the new man. The Church is a new man. The Ephesian believers were to live as the new people they were in Christ. This new man was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Believers are placed into the Church to live a righteous and holy lifestyle as new persons.
Paul then gives specific instructions on how Christians are to live in their relationships with others.
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.
4:24. Finally, we are to put on the new self. This means, we are to allow the new self to govern our activities. We are to begin living the lifestyle that corresponds to who we have become in Christ. This new holy self shows we are maturing, growing in unity with the body, and doing our part of the body’s work.
Ver. 24.—And put on the new man. As the fruit of inward renewal, let there be outward renovation. A new object is clean, fresh, tidy; let your life have something of the same aspect—let your principles, aims, habits, be new, in the sense of being conformed to Christ, who is your life. Which after God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. “After God,” equivalent to “after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). Some think “the new man” equivalent to “Christ” (Rom. 13:14), constituted the Head of renewed humanity, as Adam of depraved. But this would not correspond with the exhortation to put off the old man, nor should we be exhorted to put on Christ after being exhorted to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. In what sense, then, has the “new man” been created? The idea presented itself to the apostle in the abstract—there has been a creation of a new man; but concretely, we have to conform to the Divine creation, in respect of righteousness and holiness; righteousness denoting personal uprightness and fidelity to all social duties; holiness, the state of the spirit toward God. The last words, “of truth,” denote the relation of righteousness and holiness to the truth. The words are opposed to “of deceit” in ver. 22. Lust is bred of deceit, but righteousness and holiness of truth. They never deceive, never disappoint, are solid to the end.
24. put on the new man—Opposed to “the old man,” which is to be “put off” (Eph 4:22). The Greek here (kainon) is different from that for “re-new-ed” (Eph 4:23). Put on not merely a renovated nature, but a new, that is, altogether different nature, a changed nature (compare Note,, see on Col 3:10).
after God, &c.—Translate, “Which hath been created (once for all: so the Greek aorist means: in Christ, Eph 2:10; so that in each believer it has not to be created again, but to be put on) after (the image of) God” (Ge 1:27; Col 3:10; 1 Pe 1:15), &c. God’s image in which the first Adam was originally created, is restored, to us far more gloriously in the second Adam, the image of the invisible God (2 Co 4:4; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3).
in righteousness—“in” it as the element of the renewed man.
true holiness—rather, as the Greek, “holiness of the truth”; holiness flowing from sincere following of “the truth of God” (Ro 1:25; 3:7; 15:8): opposed to “the lusts of deceit” (Greek, Eph 4:22); compare also Eph 4:21, “truth is in Jesus.” “Righteousness” is in relation to our fellow men, the second table of the law; “Holiness,” in relation to God, the first table; the religious observance of offices of piety (compare Lu 1:75). In the parallel (Col 3:10) it is, “renewed in knowledge after the image,” &c. As at Colosse the danger was from false pretenders to knowledge, the true “knowledge” which flows from renewal of the heart is dwelt on; so at Ephesus, the danger being from the corrupt morals prevalent around, the renewal in “holiness,” contrasted with the Gentile “uncleanness” (Eph 4:19), and “righteousness,” in contrast to “greediness,” is made prominent.
24 In the parallel text in Col. 3:10, it is the “new man” himself who is “being renewed after his Creator’s image.” Here the injunction to be “renewed in the spirit of the mind” is repeated in different terms by the injunction to “put on the new man.” Again, the imperative replaces the indicative of Col. 3:10; but such a use of the imperative is no innovation in Pauline usage, even when established Christians are being addressed: the ethical paraenesis of Rom. 12:1–13:14 is summed up in the injunction: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” For the “new man” is essentially the Lord Jesus Christ—or at least the Lord Jesus Christ as his life is lived out in his people, who by the new creation have been incorporated into that new humanity of which he is the head. It is this new creation that is referred to when the “new man” is said to have been “created according to God in righteousness and true holiness.” The phrase “according to God” means “in the image of God”; so, in Col. 3:10, the “new man” is “renewed after his Creator’s image so as to attain true knowledge.” Christ, the Son of God, is the uncreated one; but the reproduction of his likeness in his people is an act of divine creation. If, in Colossians, the goal of this divine renewal is said to be the attainment of “true knowledge,” here the qualities manifested in the new creation are “righteousness and true holiness” (or “true righteousness and holiness”). The knowledge of God is never divorced from walking in his ways: to know him is to be like him, righteous as he is righteous, holy as he is holy.
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.
24 καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας, “and that you should put on the new person who is created in God’s likeness in the righteousness and holiness which come from the truth.” For this writer, the notion of “the new person” has both corporate and individual connotations. The corporate aspect of the new humanity has been seen in 2:15, where the one new person replaces the two separate entities of Jews and Gentiles. But this new humanity also comes to expression individually. Just as the old person is the person under the dominion of this present age, so the new person is the person under the dominion of the new creation and its life. On the basis of what God has accomplished in Christ, this new identity must be appropriated—“put on”—in such a way that its ethical dimensions become apparent. The notion of the new creation is explicit in the description of the new person as “created in God’s likeness.” τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα, lit. “created like God,” is Ephesians’ version of Col 3:10, κατʼ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν, “according to the image of the one who created it,” with its allusion to the language of Gen 1:26. The reference in Ephesians also shares these connotations of the motif of the new Adam in whom the image of God is restored, but as the following phrase, which is an addition to Colossians, shows, its focus is more on the new creation as involving a life which is patterned after God’s (cf. also 5:1), an existence in conformity to the divine will. The goal of conduct could be formulated as living κατὰ θεόν in Josephus, Ant. 4.6.10, 143 (cf. also Sentences of Sextus 201, 216, 399; Wild, “ ‘Be Imitators’ ”135). The believer is already in principle, and is becoming in practice, part of God’s new creation (cf. 2:10, 15; cf. also 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). Here, the language reflects a perspective in which there is a combination of God’s gracious initiative and human responsibility, as it is made clear that the new person is created by God but must be put on by the believer.
The new humanity has been created by God to be like him “in the righteousness and holiness which come from the truth.” This latter phrase in the Greek text immediately follows the adjectival participle κτισθέντα, “created,” and this makes it highly likely that the writer intended the virtues he mentions to be thought of primarily as God’s creation (cf. also Schnackenburg, 205). The thought recalls his earlier formulation in 2:10, where believers are said to be “created for good works which God prepared beforehand.” At the same time, as we have already seen, the mention of the virtues here in 4:24 is in an overall paraenetical context, in which it is made clear that believers must appropriate the new humanity and its ethical qualities. The choice of righteousness and holiness as the ethical qualities that are specified underlines the point that the new humanity has been recreated to be like God, because both are characteristics of God in LXX Ps 144:17 and Deut 32:4 (cf. also Rev 16:5). As the new creation in God’s likeness, believers are to be righteous as he is righteous and holy as he is holy. ὁσιότης, “holiness,” occurs elsewhere in the NT only in Luke 1:75 where it is again in conjunction with δικαιοσύνη, “righteousness.” The latter term denotes in Ephesians not God’s putting humanity in a right relationship with himself nor that right relationship itself, the characteristic Pauline usages, but an ethical virtue (cf. also 5:9; 6:14). Schlier (221–22) opts for the distinction already found in Plato, Gorgias 507B, and Philo, De Abr. 208, whereby righteousness is doing right in relation to humanity, while holiness is being right in relation to God. Such a distinction is an overdrawn one for NT usage where each term has both moral and religious connotations. It is probably best to see the two terms used together as “a summary of human virtue” (cf. Abbott, 139), as in Wis 9:3 and Luke 1:75 (cf. also the use of the cognate adverbs in 1 Thess 2:10 and adjectives in Titus 1:8). Further support is lent to this interpretation by the fact that most frequently in Plato (Apology 35D; Crito 54B; Theatetus 172B, 176B) and in Philo (De Sacr. 57; De Spec. Leg. 1.304; 2.180; De Virt. 50) both the adjectival and nominal forms of the two terms are employed together to denote virtuous living in general. It is also significant that in Plato’s Theatetus 176B and its citation in Philo, De Fug. 63, this paired expression explains what it means to become like God. Here too in Ephesians, the new humanity displays these qualities that belong to God, because it has been recreated to be like God (cf. Wild, “ ‘Be Imitators,’ ”134–35).
The evil desires which characterized the old person sprang from deceit (v 22). Now, by contrast, the virtues which characterize the new person can be said to come from the truth. This truth is ultimately divine reality which has been disclosed in the gospel and the apostolic tradition (cf. 1:13; 4:21). By its very nature it gives rise to such virtues as righteousness and holiness. In the Qumran literature, truth is frequently contrasted with deceit or falsehood (e.g., 1QS 5.10; 1QH 1.26, 27, 30), and in 1QS 4.2–26 this contrast forms part of the discussion of the two spirits and their two ways, as it does in T. Jud. 20.1–3 (cf. also T. Jud. 14.1). Also in the Qumran material, the lives of the “sons of truth” can be said to be characterized by ways of righteousness of truth (1QS 4.2; cf. also Murphy-O’Connor, “Truth: Paul and Qumran,” 208–10). Here in 4:24, the portrait of the new person as created in God’s likeness in the righteousness and holiness which come from the truth functions as a challenge to the readers to enter into and to live out that which through their baptism they already know themselves to be. In this way, it is made clear to them that God has not accomplished some instant or total transformation but has made it possible for them to participate in the truth and thereby produce those ethical qualities appropriate to being like God.
This passage, as a piece of direct exhortation about both what is inappropriate and what is appropriate to the believer’s calling, continues the address to the readers begun in 4:1–3. God’s calling of these particular readers has taken them out of their previous situation as Gentiles, with all the negative connotations the writer has attached to that identification, into a new creation in which ethnic differences are no longer the significant factor, into a body which transcends the Jew-Gentile divide (cf. chap. 2). Now they must walk worthily of such a calling by no longer living as they did before the call took effect, by no longer living as Gentiles. The positive side of the writer’s exhortation to appropriate conduct appeals to the tradition of teaching the readers have received, and particularly those aspects of the tradition that have ethical implications. This concern has been prepared for in the preceding passage, not only through the notion of living worthily of the calling but also through the importance attached to those ministers whose task is to pass on the apostolic tradition and thereby enable the Church to grow into maturity.
The form the exhortation takes, with its denunciation of the readers’ former way of life, which is at the same time a denunciation of the present way of life of outsiders to the Church, and its continue contrasts between such conduct and that which should characterize those who have been taught the Christian tradition, has certain parallels with both Jewish and Hellenistic ethical material. The content of the exhortation owes something to early Christian baptismal catechesis, but more immediately is dependent on Col 3:5–11. Whereas in Colossians the ethical appeal supported the contrast between heavenly and earthly life and the comparison with the readers’ former lifestyle was secondary (cf. 3:7, 8), in Ephesians it is the latter contrast which gives the writer’s adaptation of the material its distinctive shape and force.
So he begins in vv 17–19 with the strong insistence that his readers are not to fall back into the patterns of thinking and resultant behavior which characterize the surrounding Gentile world. In line with traditional Jewish apologetic, he draws a drastic contrast between such thinking and living and that which God intended. What Gentile Christians should have left behind is an existence in which intellectual perception is totally distorted and, having lost its grip on reality, has become permeated by folly and futility. In such a state, in which the addressees’ surrounding society still finds itself, people’s thinking has become darkened so that they are blind to the true purpose of life and incapable of apprehending truth. Their relationship to the source of life, God himself, has become broken. This is on account of their culpable ignorance, their hardening of themselves to the sense of God available to them. Accompanying this lack of basic insight is a moral bankruptcy, since dullness of ethical sensitivity has in turn led to general debauchery and unrestrained sexual behaviour, to the active pursuit of all kinds of immorality, and to an insatiable greed which disregards the welfare of others.
The transition from this general denunciation of Gentile conduct to what is expected of Christian believers comes in vv 20, 21, as the readers are told in a striking turn of phrase that all this type of behavior certainly has nothing to do with how they “learned Christ.” Between them and their former Gentile lifestyle stands the teaching which can be summed up in Christ, the instruction in the tradition through which the risen Christ shapes the character and lives of believers. The writer is assured that they have not been instructed falsely in such a way as would reproduce the Gentile pattern of life but according to the truth in Jesus, the norm which should call forth the desired quality of life. Three fundamental aspects of that life are set out in vv 22–24. First, it involves stripping off the rotting garment of the old humanity. The old person is in a process of decay which will lead to final ruin, a process brought about through the evil desires generated by deceit, by an ultimately illusory view of life. Believers must live out the significance of what has already taken place through baptism and abandon the old person that they no longer are. Second, since they are not yet completely new, they must allow themselves to be continuely renewed in the inner person, particularly in the mind. Third, this restoration to right thinking will result in right conduct, because the readers are to put on the fresh clean clothing of the new humanity with its just and holy living. The new identity, already achieved for believers, has to be appropriated so that its distinctive ethical qualities will become evident. The new person is created to be like God, and this likeness is exhibited in the righteousness and holiness that epitomize a life in a right relationship to God and humanity and also recall characteristics of this God himself. The existence of the new person is ultimately related to the truth of the gospel and of the apostolic tradition, a moral truth able to give rise to the virtues of righteousness and holiness in those who receive it.
Naturally, because of both the form and content of the passage as an ethical exhortation, believers and their lives are the focus of the writer’s attention. In both their previous and their present state it is their relationship to God that is emphasized—separated from the life of God in the former case and created in God’s likeness in the latter. In the writer’s discussion of the existence of the new person, divine initiative and human responsibility go hand in hand. The decisive transference from the old humanity to the new has already been accomplished by God’s action, but believers must appropriate this for themselves by abandoning the old person, taking on the new and its activities, and allowing themselves to be renewed. A Christological element is not absent from this section, since it is through Christ or, more precisely, through the catechetical tradition which can be summed up in Christ or in Jesus that the pattern of life of the new creation is passed on.
There are a number of other significant aspects of the thought of this passage. Outsiders to the Gentile Christian membership of the Church are designated Gentiles, which reinforces the impression already gained from earlier in the letter, and particularly from 2:11–22, that the writer himself is a Jewish Christian. This Jewish Christian is impressed by the way in which thinking leads to doing in both negative and positive contexts, by the power of ignorance of God in producing moral corruption, and by the power of a mind renewed in the truth in generating virtue. He also places great importance on the role of Christian tradition and of instruction in that tradition in effecting appropriate Christian conduct. Clearest of all is his conviction that being a Christian means having undergone a radical change—from the old person to the new, from futility of mind to renewal of mind, from the service of deceit to the service of truth, from a process of corruption to one of renewal, from a life of unrestrained passions to one of righteousness and holiness. This stress on the change of identity from the old to the new person is in line with Colossians and with earlier Pauline thought but may well introduce a variation. Here only is the tension between indicative and imperative extended to the terminology of the old and new persons, so that believers can be exhorted to put off the old person that they no longer are and to put on the new person that they already are.
Obviously, hortatory material is intended to effect a particular pattern of life in those to whom it is addressed. Here, the denunciation of Gentile lifestyle, the appeal to Christian catechetical tradition, and the antithetical formulations which characterize the passage are all meant to reinforce the new identity of believers, which is foundational to their new lifestyle, and to guard against their becoming conformed to the ethos of the surrounding society. The use of traditional material means that instruction about the distinctive ethical implications of the new identity can take place by way of reminder of what the readers should already know. This passage lays the essential groundwork on which the more detailed and specific ethical exhortations that follow in the next section, 4:25–5:2, depend. Only from these will it become clear how far and in what ways the conduct advocated by this writer really is new and distinctive in relation to ethical attitudes and behavior in the surrounding society.
24. And that ye put on the new man. All that is meant is, “Be renewed in the spirit, or, be renewed within or completely,—beginning with the mind, which appears to be the part most free from all taint of sin.” What is added about the creation, may refer either to the first creation of man, or to the second creation, which is effected by the grace of Christ. Both expositions will be true. Adam was at first created after the image of God, and reflected, as in a mirror, the Divine righteousness; but that image, having been defaced by sin, must now be restored in Christ. The regeneration of the godly is indeed—as we have formerly explained—nothing else than the formation anew of the image of God in them. There is, no doubt, a far more rich and powerful manifestation of Divine grace in this second creation than in the first; but our highest perfection is uniformly represented in Scripture as consisting in our conformity and resemblance to God. Adam lost the image which he had originally received, and therefore it becomes necessary that it shall be restored to us by Christ. The design contemplated by regeneration is to recall us from our wanderings to that end for which we were created.
In righteousness. If righteousness be taken as a general term for uprightness, holiness will be something higher, or that purity which lies in being devoted to the service of God. I am rather inclined to consider holiness as referring to the first table, and righteousness to the second table, of the law, as in the song of Zacharias, “That we may serve him in holiness and righteousness, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74, 75.) Plato lays down the distinction correctly, that holiness (ὁσιότης) lies in the worship of God, and that the other part, righteousness, (δικαιοσύνη,) bears a reference to men. The genitive, of truth, (τῆς αληθείας,) is put in the place of an adjective, and refers to both terms; so that, while it literally runs, in righteousness and holiness of truth, the meaning is, in true righteousness and holiness. He warns us that both ought to be sincere; because we have to do with God, whom it is impossible to deceive.
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