Stripping Off the Old Man, Putting on the New Man
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, 18 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; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Clothing can communicate status, job description, personality, spiritual power, and transformation. Paul uses the metaphor of clothing to discuss the change that comes both as a result of Christ’s finished work as well as through our choice to live in the reality of that finished work.
I. Stripping Off the Old Man
This is an image of shame and humiliation. When a ruler was publicly humiliated or in mourning, they would tear their clothes off and cover themselves in dust and ashes. Paul encourages the Gentiles to realize the horrid stench of their former clothes (the Old Man) and strip clean. Who is the Old Man? While there are several different possibilities, the consistent parallel image Paul uses between old and new is Adam and Jesus. The Old Man is living subject to the sins of Adam.
The clothes are representative of the whole person. Paul demonstrates that everything about life under the rule of Adam is futile and doomed: thoughts, understanding, feelings, vision, words and action. The whole person is dominated by rebellion against God and his truth. All the sins Paul mentions are ultimately forms of idolatry. We think of sins like fornication as moral sins, but Paul sees them as idolatry.
This submission to Adam corrupts the human person created in the image of God. The corruption is incurable. The image cannot be restored, but must be cast aside and we must clothe ourselves with a New Man.
II. Putting on the New Man
Jesus is the New Man. His gift of grace frees me from the power of sin and death and assures me that by the power of His Spirit, I will be fully clothed in Christ on the Day of Judgment and stand blameless before the throne. While this is a future realization, the provision has already been made in the past. I choose to clothe myself in the reality of the Jesus Christ.
Paul explains that we have attended the school of Jesus. At this university we discover “truth in Jesus.” Jesus is the complete expression of truth. There is no more revelation I need. God has provided everything in Jesus. He incarnates truth in his words and action.