The Bible is practical. The truths we learn in God’s Word are meant to be practiced in the real world under real-life pressure. Christianity is not for the weak. It takes great spiritual strength to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. God has never been theoretical about life. It’s always practical. So, how do we practice walking like a brother?
We’ve already seen the first two steps: 1. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” 2. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here are the next steps:
“… that you 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 4:22-24
Step 3 – Put off the old man
Step 4 – Be renewed in the spirit of your mind
Step 5 – Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness
The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian believers that they had been taught, with regard to their former conduct (way of living), to do these things. Remember that Paul spent a lot of time ministering to the Ephesians. Pastors Timothy and Titus also invested time teaching in Ephesus. The believers there knew the how and why of walking like a brother. It started with deep love and devotion to God and each other, and moved to putting off the old man, being renewed in the spirit of their mind, and putting on the new man. What does that mean? Putting off and putting on? Is it something we have to do or does it happen automatically to every believer?
Putting off and putting on is what we do in concert with the Holy Spirit Who lives in us. We do not accomplish anything in this life “for” God “without” God. That’s one of the reasons why the Spirit of God resides in us. He provides us with the strength and wisdom to accomplish His Will for our life. The word translated “put off” is apothesthai. It is the process of taking something off and putting it away. The ancient Greeks used the term for taking off clothing. It’s something they did after making a choice.
Every Christian has a choice. Do we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength or do we not love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength? Do we love our neighbor as ourself or do we not love our neighbor as ourself? Do we obey God in everything or do we not obey God in everything? Choices – the Christian life is about making hundreds of thousands of choices during a lifetime. We make important choices every day that impact our walk with God and others.
Paul says making the choices that please God begin with loving Him and loving others, then moves on to the process of putting off the old man. What is my “old man?” The words are palaion anthropon – the man of the past, that which is obsolete. It’s the way we were before God changed us through spiritual regeneration. It has nothing to do with our new life – it is the old life – the way we used to be – our former way of life. Paul tells us to “put off” that past man, that old man. Why? “… which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Our “past man” is in the process of corrupting (phtheiromenon – destroy through corruption, bring into worse state, to waste, decay). There are physical and spiritual forces applied to all people because of sin that are causing this corruption (present passive). They are filled with deceitful lusts (epithumias tes apates – very strong desires excited through deceit, seduced through delusion). Life for an unsaved person gets worse and worse because of the decay and corruption they experience in every aspect of their life. As Paul wrote the Ephesians earlier in his letter, Christians were once like everyone else in the world with no ability to change their spiritual situation – so God had mercy on them because of His great love for them.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10
This is the doctrinal foundation for everything we do and can do as Christians. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ! We experience life from death because Jesus conquered death for us. In the verses leading up to Paul telling the Ephesians to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new man, he reminded them that their life should look a lot different than the lives of the unsaved.
“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, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Ephesians 4:17-19
That’s what the Ephesians had been before God saved them. Their thinking had been futile. Their understanding had been darkened. They were alienated from the life of God. Why? Because of the ignorance that was in them and the blindness of their heart. They were past feeling. They had given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. That’s how Paul expressed the pitiful condition of being lost. That’s what the Ephesians believers were like until God saved them “by grace through faith.”
The Ephesians knew what to do. Most Christians today know what to do. We need to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new man. How do we do that? “… be renewed in the spirit of your minds …” The word “renewed” (ananeousthai) speaks of your being made new (made young again) at the present time. This present renewal is happening in the “spirit of your minds” (to pneumati tou voos humon). It is a reviving of your human spirit, which affects your attitude and intent. Who does this for us? God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is the One acting on our hearts and minds every day, giving us the ability to “put off” and “put on.” Once we make the decision, we find all of God’s Heavenly Resources available to do what we decide to do.
That is such a comfort to me – knowing that living for God is not something I do alone and without help. I do make the choice to obey God, but He is the One with the power to help me make the choice, fulfill the choice, and live for Him. I like it that way. God gets ALL the glory. He doesn’t get “some” of it, or even “most” of it. God gets ALL of it.
A good example of this is the Apostle Paul. Look at what he accomplished during his ministry. Who got the glory?
“Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God.” Romans 15:15-17
“But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:30-31
This is not something Paul hid from the Ephesian believers. He made it clear that they existed for God’s glory as well. It was a choice God made long before the Ephesians were born. “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, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)
Moving now to the next step in this important process – what does it mean to “put on the new man?” Who is the “new man?” The words “put on” are endusasthai. It was used for people putting clothing on themselves and wearing them (middle voice). The Christian life is more than putting away the former things of our life. It is becoming new in every way that matters to God. Paul helps us understand what we “put on” with the next part of the sentence: “which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” The word “created” is ktisthenta and was used by the Greeks for the founding and forming of a place for people to live (e.g. village, town, city). New Testament writers used the word for creating or producing something from nothing. Who does this creating? “… which was created according to God …” The words “according to God” are ton kata theon and speak to the dominance and control God expresses in this special work in a believer’s life. God creates within every Christian a spiritual laboratory where great experiments of life can occur. It is in our spiritual lab that God works with us in the putting off and putting on. He equips our laboratory with all the necessary tools we will need to carry on this great experiment – “true righteousness and holiness.” Just as a scientist needs mixing bowls, flasks, burners, and basic elements to conduct their experiments, God gives us what we need to put off and put on – Himself. Who loved us, chose us and blessed us from before the foundation of the world? God. Who had mercy on us? God. Who shed His Blood for us to pay the price for our sins? God. Who lives inside of us to pray for us, support us, teach us, and guide us in every spiritual thing? God. What are the primary elements God has placed within our laboratory to assist us in putting off the old man and putting on the new man – “true righteousness and holiness.” The Greek reads en dikaiosune kai hosioteti tes aletheias – in righteousness and holiness of truth.
The most essential element of Christianity is “truth.” Everything is based on God telling us the truth about everything. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) He also said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) That is the foundation of our faith and trust in God – truth. Jesus is Truth and He will set us free! God uses this Truth as the basic element for every experiment we will ever conduct in our spiritual laboratory.
What springs from His Truth is His righteousness and holiness. Think about that for a minute. Can we really put on the new man without God’s righteousness and holiness? There’s no way. We’re wasting our time if we think we can. Our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). That is the most amazing thing to ever come out of a spiritual laboratory. Take a sinful human being, spiritually dead and without hope – mix in the Blood of Jesus Christ, the Truth of God, and the Power of the Holy Spirit – and we have a human being who God fashions by His Grace into the very likeness of His Son! How can that happen without the righteousness and holiness of God in truth? It can’t. Putting on the new man will NOT work without God’s righteousness and holiness in the sphere of truth. If we’re not focused on that in our Christian lives and ministries, we need to stop right now and not take another step until we take care of that first. It is that important!
What happens when a Christian puts “off” the old man and puts “on” the new man? Their world changes. People take notice of the change and react to it. They may or may not like the change, but they will react. When Christians put on the new man, “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness,” hearts, minds and lives are affected for eternity. We’ll see how – next week – as our study continues about How To Walk Like A Brother!
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”