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The Old and New Man in Ephesians

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Paul’s Old Man and New Man in Ephesians

I. Introduction.

Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians that they are to take off the old man and put on the new man ().  The purpose of this paper is to define what the old man and new man are in Ephesians and why it is important to know about them. 

A. Paucity of Information.

1. Old Testament.

Perhaps the single greatest obstacle we encounter when trying to define what the old man and new man are and to determine their importance is the paucity of information about them.  There is no information outside of Paul that we know of which he could have used to inform his concepts of the old man and new man that can help us.  The Old Testament speaks about clothing oneself with certain qualities: strength (Isa. 51:9; 52:1), righteousness (Ps 132:9; Job 29:14), majesty (Ps 93:1), honor and majesty (Ps 104:1; Job 40:10), and salvation (2 Chron 6:41) (O’Brien 189).  However, it does not mention taking off an old man and putting on a new man.  Therefore, the Old Testament notion of clothing oneself with various qualities cannot help us define what the old man and new man are in Paul’s corpus.

2. Secular

The mystery religions spoke about being clothed with the power of the cosmos and divine life, and the Gnostics spoke about donning the garments of redemption.  But, these references make no mention of taking off an old man or putting on a new man (O’Brien 189).  Outside of Paul, then, there are no exact parallels for his concept of taking off an old man and putting on a new man which could give us some clues as to what he meant by these terms (Lincoln 284; O’Brien 189).

3. New Testament.

When we turn to Ephesians and Paul’s other letters we do not fare much better.  Paul uses the terms “the old man” and “the new man” in Ephesians 4:24 and and the term “the old man” in Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9, and Romans 6:6 without explaining what they are. 

4. Varying therories.

a. Water Baptism.

This paucity of information has lead to varying theories about just what the old man and new man are.  Some suggest that Paul is referring to the church rite of water baptism, where taking off the old man refers to disrobing and entering the water and putting on the new man refers to putting on new garments after one leaves the water (Lincoln 284).  This practice is probably based on Romans 6:4ff, where Paul writes that those who have been baptized into Christ’s death have put to death the old man, and on Galatians 3:27, where he writes that those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There are two problems with this view, however.  The baptismal practice of disrobing one’s garments before baptism and subsequently robing oneself in new garments afterwards is a second century tradition (Lincoln 284).  So, Paul could not have used this practice to inform his teaching.  Also, it seems more reasonable that the rite of disrobing and then re-robing in baptism would be informed by Paul’s teaching rather than the other way around. 

b. The conduct of the unsaved and saved, respectively.

Another suggestion is that Paul’s old man and new man in Ephesians 4 refer to the conduct of the unsaved and saved, respectively.  This view equates τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν with τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον (4:22).  Louw and Nida follow this line of thinking where they write that the old man refers to “the old or former pattern of behavior, in contrast with a new pattern of behavior which people should conform to” (1:508).  Lamsa also follows this line of thinking in his Syrian translation of Ephesians 4:22: “...that you lay aside all your former practices, that is to say, the old man which is degenerated with deceitful lust.”  The most serious problem with this view is that it conflicts with how Paul used the old man and new man in other passages.  In other passages Paul seems to use the old man and new man to represent a Christian’s old and new nature. 

c. Adam and Christ as the federal representatives of mankind.

A third theory is that the old man and new man are Adam and Christ as the federal representatives of mankind (Barth 2:537).  This view is too broad.  Paul suggests that each of us has our own old man (Rom. 6:6), which rules out the old man and new man being a federal representative.  The old man and new man do refer to Adam and Christ, but not as our federal representatives.

d. The respective natures of Adam and Christ stamped on a person’s being.

The view we will develop in this paper is that the old man and new man are the respective natures of Adam and Christ stamped on a person’s being.  We will do this by studying the lexical uses of the words παλαιός, καινός, and ἄνθρωπον and the contexts in which Paul uses them.  Our first task is to show that the old man and new man refer to Adam and Christ.

It is not difficult to show that the new man refers to Christ.  This is seen by comparing Colossians 3:10-11 and Galatians 3:27-28.  Colossians 3:10-11 reads, “10...you have put on the new man, the one being renewed in the knowledge of the one who created it. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.”[1]  Galatians 3:27-28 reads, “27For whoever has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” 

There are two common themes in these two sets of verses that tie them together, suggesting that they are saying the same thing.  The first is τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον of Colossians 3:10 and the Χριστὸν of Galatians 3:27 are both “put on,” and they are both put on in the aorist  tense.  The second common theme is both of these passages end with the thought that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, etc., in either the new man or Christ.  Because of the parallel nature of these verses, it is not difficult to set τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον of Colossians 3:10 parallel with the Χριστὸν of Galatians 3:27, making the new man Christ.  Paul never equates τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον with Adam.  However, because he generally associates Adam with Christ in contexts where they are found together, and where he is comparing the old and new aeons (Rom. 5:15, 1 Cor 15:45-49) as he is in Colossians 3, we can imply that τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is Adam. 

This association becomes firmer when we look at how Paul uses the words παλαιός, καινός, and ἄνθρωπος.  Paul only uses the word παλαιός when speaking about mankind outside of Christ.  He uses it to refer to the old covenant (Rom. 7:6, 2 Cor. 3:14), the believer’s old conduct (1 Cor. 5:7), and the old man (Rom. 6:4, Eph. 4:22, Col. 3:9).  Paul only uses the word καινός when speaking about mankind in Christ.  He uses it to refer to the new covenant (Rom. 7:6, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6) and the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15) and the new man (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10).  For Paul, then, τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον refers to the man of the old aeon and τὸν καινός ἄνθρωπον refers to the man of the new aeon.[2] 

In passages where Paul uses ἄνθρωπος and where he is comparing the old and new


aeons, he uses ἄνθρωπος as a synonym for Adam and Christ when he speaks of their role

as the representatives of mankind.  In Romans 5 he refers to Adam as the ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου through whom sin came into the world (vs. 12, 15) and Christ as the ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου through whom grace came to many (vs. 15).  In 1 Corinthians 15 he refers to Adam as πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος, who became a living soul, quoting Genesis 1, and Christ as ἔσχατος man, who became a life giving spirit (vs. 45).  Paul’s use of ἄνθρωπον in the terms τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and τὸν καινός ἄνθρωπον follows the same pattern as his use of it in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15.  Because τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is part of the old aeon and τὸν καινός ἄνθρωπον is part of the new, ἄνθρωπος refers to Adam and Christ.

Our next task is to show that τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον are the images of Adam and Christ, respectively, stamped on a person’s being.  In 1 Corinthians 15:49a Paul defines one way that Adam and Christ are representatives of mankind.  There he writes, “…ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ,” where τοῦ χοϊκοῦ refers back to πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ in verse 45.  He continues in 15:49b writing “φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου,” where τοῦ ἐπουρανίου refers back to ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ, Christ, in verse 45.  Although the future, φορέσομεν, points to the time when believers will be completely clothed with Jesus’ image, they do share part of his image now (2 Cor. 3:18).  Εἰκών means any number of things: “a similarity,” “a painting,” “the image of God,” “a mental image,” “a copy” (TDNT 2:388-89), “a pattern,” or “an archetype” (LSJ εἰκών IV).  Because Paul is writing about creation in this context, εἰκών most likely refers to the nature that God endowed Adam and Christ with, which in turn becomes the pattern for mankind’s nature. 

Thus, in the context of 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, ἄνθρωπος does not simply refer to the man Adam or the man Christ, but Adam and Christ as the archetypes of human nature (cp Eph. 4:22-24 RSV).  He seems to base his understanding of the word ἄνθρωπος in the phrases τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and τὸν καινός ἄνθρωπον on this meaning.  He writes in Ephesians that “τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα” (4:24) and in Colossians that the new man is being renewed “εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατ᾽ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν” (Col 3:10).  Both of these passages borrow from the creation language of Genesis 1:27 where Scripture says God made man κατ̓ εἰκόνα θεοῦ.  This strongly implies that Paul is talking about the creation of the new man in both Ephesians and Colossians and that, for Paul, τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον is the Christly εἰκόνα stamped on a believer’s being.  By analogy, τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is the Adamic εἰκόνα stamped on an unbeliever’s being.

There are three things we can imply from Paul’s discussion of the old man and new man.  The first thing is that the new man replaces the old man at the time of conversion.  This is deduced from Romans 6.  In Romans 6:3 Paul writes, “…we were baptized into his (Christ’s) death.”  In the next three verses, he draws three conclusions based on this fact.  In verse 4 he concludes that believers walk in the new life of Jesus because they are buried with him into death; in verse 5 he concludes that believers share in the resurrection of Jesus because they share in his death; and in verse 6 he concludes that believers are free from sinful nature because their old man was crucified with Christ.  Note the similar nature of these verses.  Being baptized into Jesus’ death (vs. 3) is similar to being buried with him (vs. 4), sharing his death (vs.5), and the crucifixion of the old man (vs. 6).  The point of this discussion is to show that the crucifixion of the old man happens when a believer is baptized into Christ’s death.

Paul does not tell us what baptism he is referring to here.  Though many take it to mean water baptism (Cranfield 303-04; Dunn 311; Stott 173), I prefer to read βάπτισμα as Spirit baptism.  The reason I do is because water baptism does not accomplish what Paul is saying this baptism accomplishes: the death of the old man.  However, if we read Spirit baptism here, we not only have an effective means of removing the old man, but of also putting on the new man (Gal. 3:27).

Perhaps it would be good here if we take some time to define what Spirit baptism is.  There are four elements to any baptism: the baptizer, the baptizee, the medium of baptism, and the end of baptism.  The baptizer and the baptizee are generally easy to identify from the context of Scripture.  The medium and the end of baptism follow a convention which helps identify them. 

            The medium of baptism is always introduced with ἐν.  Thus, John the Baptist baptized the people ἐν ὕδατι (Matt. 6:11) and ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ (Matt. 3:6); the Israelites were baptized ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ καὶ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ (1 Cor. 10:2); and Jesus baptizes the church ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ (Matt. 3:11, cp. Acts. 1:5).  The connection between ἐν and the word βάπτισμα is so strong that even when βάπτισμα is used to describe simple acts of washings, it can be introduced with ἐν.  When Elisha told Naaman to go wash in the Jordan to be cleansed of his leprosy, Naaman “κατέβη...καὶ ἐβαπτίσατο ἐν τῷ Ιορδάνῃ” (1 Kings 5:14 LXX). 

            The end of baptism is always introduced with εἰς.  Thus, John’s baptism was εἰς μετάνοιαν (Matt. 3:11); the Israelites baptism in the cloud and sea was εἰς τὸν Μωϋσῆν (1 Cor. 10:2); believers are baptized εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος (Matt. 28:19) and εἰς Χριστὸν (Gal. 3:27); and the baptism of the Spirit is εἰς ἓν σῶμα (1 Cor. 12:13).  There seems to be a difference between being baptized into the name of someone and being baptized into a person.  To be baptized into the name of someone means to publicly declare your allegiance to that person.  To be baptized into a person, like the Jews were into Moses (Matt. 28:19) and the believers are into Christ (Gal. 3:27), means to enter into the life and experience associated with that person.  Because the Jews were baptized into Moses, they ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink (1 Cor. 10:4).  Because believers are baptized into Christ, they are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27).

            Therefore, when Paul writes, “γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν” (1 Cor. 12:13a), he is talking about being baptized in the medium of the Holy Spirit to the end of entering εἰς ἓν σῶμα.  Because of the convention that says that ἓν precedes the medium of baptism, the ἐν should be translated as “in” and not “by” in this passage.  Believers are baptized “in the Spirit,” not “by the Spirit.”  The context suggests that being baptized into ἓν σῶμα means becoming a member of Christ’s body (vs. 10).  Although Paul does not tell us who the baptizer is in 1 Corinthians 12, we know from other Scriptures that it is Jesus (Matt. 3:11). 

            One of the results of being baptized εἰς ἓν σῶμα is that race and class distinctions are no longer important (1 Cor. 12:13b).  This result is intriguing because it gives us a clue as to when the baptism of the Spirit occurs.  The disregard for class distinctions is also the result of being baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:28) and putting on the new man (Col. 3:11).  This suggests that being a member of Christ’s body, being baptized into Christ, and putting on the new man all have the same cause, which 1 Corinthians 12 indicates is the baptism of the Spirit.  Thus, through the baptism of the Spirit, the believer is at once clothed with the image of Jesus and becomes a member of the body of Jesus.  We know from other Scriptures that a person is made a member of Christ’s body (Eph. 2:19ff) and clothed with Christ’s image at conversion (Col. 3:10).  If this is the case, then the baptism of the Spirit most likely occurs concomitantly with conversion (cp. Tit. 3:5, John 3:5ff), when the person first believes in Jesus. 

            What this means for this paper is, the old man, Adam’s life, is taken off (cp. 1 Cor. 15:49) and the new man, Jesus’ life, is put on at the time of conversion.

            This thought is also reflected in the participles in Colossians 3:9-10: ἀπεκδυσάμενοι, “remove” and ἐνδυσάμενοι, “put on.”  Both participles are aorist, indicating that the actions of putting off and putting on have already been accomplished.  The simplest way to understand this is that the old man was removed and the new man was put on at the time of conversion (O’Brien 188).   

The second thing we can imply about Paul’s discussion of the old man and new man is that the old man is corrupt and the new man is spiritual.  We already know that the old man and new man are associated with the old and new creations.  Because τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον is of the new creation, it is endowed with the resurrection life of Jesus.  This comes from the parallel structure of Paul’s thoughts in Colossians 2:20-3:14: 

  Our death with Christ (2:20-23) Put off the old man (3:9)
  Our resurrection with Christ (3:1-4) Put on the new man (3:10)
  Put to death our earthly members (3:5-8) Put on Godly characteristics (3:12-14)

In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul writes about our death with Christ.  In Colossians 3:1-4 he writes about our resurrection with Jesus and our life with Jesus.  He immediately follows these verses with a hortative section (3:5-8) urging these Christians, because they have been put to death and resurrected with Christ, to put to death their earthly members: fornication, uncleanness, greed, and etc.  In verses 3:9-14 he repeats himself; only instead of using the concepts of our death and resurrection with Jesus, he speaks about putting off the old man and putting on the new man.  We cannot overlook the parallel structure of Paul’s thought here.  In these verses putting off the old man is parallel to our death with Christ and putting on the new man is parallel to our resurrection with Christ.  It would seem that in Paul’s mind the act of having the old man put off is the same as dying with Christ and the act of having the new man put on is the same as resurrecting with Christ. 

Associating τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον with Christ’s resurrection is important.  For Paul, to be resurrected with Christ is virtually synonymous with having his new life.  Returning to Romans 6:4, he writes, “...just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, thus also we too might walk in newness of life.”  Paul implies in this verse that because Christ was raised from the dead, he walks in newness of life.  Certainly, he does not mention per se that Christ walks in newness of life, but the presence of καὶ in the phrase “...οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν” suggests it.  In this context καὶ means “also” (cp. BAGD καὶ 2; NIV; RSV) and is used to show that there is a similarity between the believer’s new life and Christ’s.  The presence of the καὶ assumes that Christ has a new life and indicates that the believer’s life is “also” like his.  If putting on the new man means to be resurrected with Jesus and being resurrected with Jesus means having his new life, then putting on the new man means having the new life of Jesus in us (cp. Eph. 2:5-6).

At this point we need to take a paragraph to discuss what the life of Jesus and Adam is like.  Jesus was resurrected a spiritual being (1 Cor 15:44, 2 Cor. 3:18).  This spiritual being, in turn, becomes a πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν (1 Cor. 15:45) and gives to those who believe in him his life (1 Cor. 15:49).  Thus, the essence of the life of τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον is spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).  The life of Adam compares with the life of Christ.  In the same way that Christ became a πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν, so Adam became a ψυχὴν ζῶσαν (1 Cor. 15:45) and gave his life to those who spring from him (1 Cor. 15:49).  Because Adam’s life is of the old creation, it is subject to the futility and corruption of the old creation (Rom. 8:20).  Thus, the essence of the life of τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is futility and corruption (Eph. 4:22).

The third thing we can imply about Paul’s discussion of the old man and new man is that each has a particular mindset or disposition.  This is seen in the word ἀνακαινόω in Colosians 3:10.  There Paul writes, “...ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν νέον τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατ᾽ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν.”  Paul uses ἀνακαινόω and its cognates four times in his writing.  Apart from this use and Titus 3:12, each use refers to the renewal of the νοός.  In Romans 12:2 he writes, “Do not be comformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In 2 Corinthians 4:16 he writes, “...the inner man is renewed day by day,” where the inner man is most likely our mental outlook on life (cp. Rom. 7:22, Eph. 3:16)[3].  Another fact that suggests that the old man and new man refer to our νοός is the new man is renewed εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατ᾽ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν (Col. 3:10).  The only part of us that can be renewed in knowledge is our mind. 

In Ephesians 4:23 Paul develops this idea a little further.  Instead of the mind being renewed, he says τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν is being renewed.  The first question we need to ask about this verse is: How is Paul using πνεύματα?  Although πνεύματα is certainly used to mean Holy Spirit, that meaning does not fit here.  The New Testament never regards the Holy Spirit as our spirit (Abbott 137).  Another use of the word πνεύματα in the New Testament is attitude or disposition (1 Cor. 4:21), which is probably how it is used here because it is associated with νοὸς (BAGD νοὸς 2).  Thus, what is renewed in Ephesians 4:23 are the attitudes of the mind.

Taking these observations together, it seems that, for Paul, the εἰκών of Adam and Christ include one’s νοός.  This being the case, to understand what the old man and new man are, we also have to understand what νοός means.  Νοός means “a way to thinking” or an “attitude” (BAGD νοός 2a).  It refers to “the sum total of the whole mental and moral state of being” (BAGD νοός 2a).  These definitions are well reflected in the word “disposition” (TDNT 4:952), which Oxford describes as a “natural tendency” or “bend of mind” (OED “Disposition” II6).

We need to take this discussion one step further.  The particular dispositions of the old man and new man correspond to the characters of their respective natures.  We defined that character above when we looked at the words παλαιός and καινός.  We saw there that Paul only uses παλαιός when speaking about mankind of the old creation, and he only uses καινός when speaking about mankind of the new creation.  The disposition of τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is then characterized by the qualities of the old creation: futility (Rom. 8:20), darkness concerning the things of God, alienation from God, insensitivity, and unclean works (Eph. 4:17ff).  Its bent is contrary to God (Rom. 8:7).  The disposition of τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον is charcterized by the qualities of the new creation: the character of Christ and the bent toward righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).  Elsewhere, Paul describes this new mind as “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

To sum up, τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is the corrupt Adamic nature that has a bent contrary to God, while the τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον is the spiritual Christly nature that has a bent toward righteousness and holiness.

Why is a discussion about the old man and new man important to us?  Paul’s primary purpose in talking about the old man and new man is not to discuss them per se, but to lay the groundwork for Christian morality. 

Perhaps it would be good, before we go much farther, to place this discussion in the framework of Christian theology.  Christian morality properly falls within the scope of the doctrine of sanctification.  Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for sanctify are verbalized forms of their respective nouns for holy.  The Hebrew word קָדַשׁ is the verbalized form of קֹ֫דֶשׁ, and the Greek word ἁγιάζω is the verbalized form of ἅγιος.  This suggests that sanctify means to become holy or make holy.  The adjectives קָדֹושׁ and ἁγιασμός represent the end process of sanctifying: sanctification or the state of being made holy (BDAG ἁγιασμός).  Therefore, to understand how we are sanctified and what sanctification is, we must understand what holiness is.

The Lord told Moses, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, 6  you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5f, NIV).  This passage ties holiness with one's covenantal relationship with God.  A covenant is a binding agreement between God and his people whereby he defines the type of relationship he wants with his people.  Generally, a covenantal agreement includes the parties involved in the covenant, the terms they are obligated to fulfill, and the blessings one will receive for obeying the terms of the covenant or curses one will receive for disobeying the terms of the covenant.[4]  The terms of the covenant define what constitutes morality for those bound by a covenant.

How holiness is tied to one's covenantal relationship with God is clearly seen in the Old Covenant.  The principle blessing of the Old Covenant is being owned by God (Deut 26:16ff), followed by other various blessings (Deut 28).  The terms of the Old Covenant were obedience to the ceremonial and moral instruction of the Mosaic Law.  When the Israelites obeyed the Mosaic Law, they were regarded as the people of God and, thence, were holy (Ex. 19:5f).  When they disobeyed the Law, they were regarded as renegades and were disowned (Hos. 9:15ff).  Thus, in the Old Testament to belong to God is holiness, or sanctification (Orr, Sanctification), and one becomes holy, or sanctified, through covenantal fidelity.  The Mosaic Law defined what morality was for the Jewish nation.  The obligation to obey the Mosaic Law and be the holy people of God is what constrained Jewish morality in the Old Testament (Lev. 11:44). 

Holiness in the New Covenant is the same as in the Old Covenant.  The New Covenant contains two agreements.  The first agreement is between the Father and Son and is usually called the Covenant of Redemption (Shedd 678).  In the Covenant of Redemption, the Son agrees to be the Federal Head of a new people of God; to fulfill the moral obligations of the Mosaic Law by living a sinless life; and to fulfill the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law by becoming the sacrifice for sin (2 Cor. 5:21) (Berkhof 267).  By his obedient life and sacrifice, Jesus secured the blessings of the New Covenant for the people of God.  Because Jesus is the Federal Head of God’s new people, his sinless life and his sacrifice for sin are imputed to his people (Rom. 6:11).

The second agreement of the New Covenant is between the Father and his people and is usually called the Covenant of Grace.[5]  The principle blessing of the Covenant of Grace is to be “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), which is the same as being owned by God (Eph. 2:19, cp., 1 Cor. 6:19f), followed by the forgiveness of sin and the life in the Spirit (Heb. 8:8ff).  The one term of the Covenant of Grace is faith.  When a person places his or her faith in Christ, he or she is included “in Christ” and, thus, is included within God’s new people (Eph. 2:13f), is given salvation and the life in the Spirit, and is considered sanctified (1 Cor. 1:30).  Thus, in the New Testament holiness is also belonging to God, and one becomes holy, or sanctified, through covenantal fidelity.  This is called positional sanctification because one is sanctified by his or her inclusion or position “in Christ.” 

One of the major differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is the New Covenant does not tie the church’s status as God’s people to their obedience to Mosaic Law.  Whereas the Israelites maintained their status as God’s people, and thus their holiness, through obedience to the Mosaic Law, Christians maintain their status as God’s people, and thus their holiness, through faith in Christ.  That is why Paul could still regard the Corinthians as ἡγιασμένοις and call them ἁγίοις (1 Cor. 1:2), even though they were not a particularly moral people (1 Cor. 3:1-4). 

However, although a Christian’s status as a child of God is not directly tied to his or her obedience, he or she is not free from the obligation to live a moral life.  The obligation to live a moral life is not imposed by the Law of Moses, but by the inner Law of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2, Gal. 5:25) to conform to the perfect life of Jesus (Eph. 4:12ff).  As a Christian conforms to the leading of the Spirit, they perfect the sanctification they have already received “in Christ” (2 Cor. 7:1, Rom. 6:15-19), which is bringing their life into conformity with Christ’s perfect life.  This is called progressive sanctification because one brings his or her life into conformity with Christ’s only over time.  Morality for the Christian is defined by the image of Christ. 

What we will talk about now is how a Christian perfects his or her sanctification, or how he or she becomes like Jesus, or how he or she becomes moral.  This happens progressively by taking off the former behavior of the old man and putting on the new behavior of the new man.  Paul talks about this in Ephesians 4:20-24.

However, before we can talk about how a Christian becomes like Jesus, or how he or she becomes moral, we need to discuss some issues related to the interpretation of Ephesians 4:20-24, especially, 24a: ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον.  There are many different ways to translate Ephesians 4:20-24 depending on how one interprets the direct object of the verb ἀποτίθημι, the first κατὰ, and the juxtaposition of τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν and τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον in verse 22a.  We will first look at how these various items affect the translation of Ephesians 4:22a and then offer a translation of this verse.

Ἀποτίθημι means “to take off” (BAGD ἀποτίθημι 1).  A question arises as to what the direct object of ἀποτίθημι is, that is, what Paul is saying must come off.  The easiest answer is to connect the ἀποθέσθαι with τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and say the old man is to come off (RSV).  The problem with this view is that when ἀποτίθημι is found in New Testament hortatory contexts, it always refers to removing sinful conduct rather than sinful nature: works of darkness (Rom. 13:12), lying, etc., (Eph. 4:25), anger, etc. (Col. 3:8), moral filth (Jam 1:21), sin (Heb. 12:1) and malice (1 Pet. 2:1).  If this is the case, then the ἀποθέσθαι is probably better connected with the τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν.  This approach, however, trips over the κατὰ in the phrase κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν.  There is no use of κατὰ that allows τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν to be the direct object of ἀποθέσθαι

One solution for finding a direct object for ἀποτίθημι comes from how the New Testament uses ἀποτίθημι elsewhere.  New Testament Greek does not require a direct object for ἀποτίθημι when the direct object is understood from the context.  For example, Matthew writes that Herod arrested and bound John and ἐν φυλακῇ ἀπέθετο (14:3).[6]  Matthew does not write that Herod put John in jail, but only “he put in jail.”  We know from the context that it was John whom he put in jail.  If we take this tack, Paul is telling these Christians in Ephesians 4:22 to take off something he previously mentioned.  The context suggests they are to remove their former ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας (vs. 19, cp vs. 25). 

Next we will look at the first κατὰ of 22a.  This κατὰ can be interpreted in three different ways.  One, the κατὰ could be understood as a norm of similarity and read “according to” (BAGD κατὰ 5aδ).  In this case verse 22 can be read a couple of ways.  The κατὰ can connect τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν with τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and read, “…to put off your old man which is in accordance with the former conduct.”  This translation has the old man defined by our former conduct or manifested through the former conduct (Bratcher 114).  Or, taking into account what we just learned about ἀποτίθημι above, the κατὰ could connect τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν with the understood direct object of ἀποτίθημι, ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας, and so read, “... take off your unclean works, which accord with the former behavior.” 

Two, the κατὰ could be understood as a genitive of a substantive which, although not found in the New Testament, was used in koine Greek (MM κατὰ 2b).  Such a view would have to supply a direct object for ἀποτίθημι, which, as mentioned above, would best be ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας from verse 19.  In this case this verse reads, “…take off your unclean works of your the former behavior,” which is similar to the previous rendering. 

Three, the κατὰ could also be understood as denoting relationship and “with respect to” (BAGD κατὰ 6).  In this case this verse reads, “…to put off, with respect to your former conduct, the old man” (NIV; Abbott 136).  This translation associates the old man with our former conduct.

Finally, we need to determine the relationship between τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν and τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον.  There are two ways these two phrases can connect to each other.  First, because they are juxtaposed they could be in apposition (s. Wallace 198-99).  In this case, this verse reads, “…to put off your former conduct which is the old man.”  In support of this view, Paul does use a similar construction in Ephesians 2:2 where he writes, “…in which you once walked according to the age of this world, according the prince of the authority of the air...” Here, τὸν αἰῶνα could be construed as being in apposition to τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος (Wallace 198-99). 

Second, they could form a Hebraism that makes τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον a genitive.  In this case this verse reads, “…to put off your former conduct which is from the old man.”  The construction κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον is made up of a κατὰ followed by two definite accusatives.  This construction is used in the LXX to denote a genitive relationship.  In Exodus 30:13 Moses speaks about הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל, “after the shekel of the sanctuary” (ASV).[7]  In the LXX this phrase reads κατὰ τὸ δίδραχμον τὸ ἅγιον.  Paul’s construction in Ephesians 4:22 follows the same pattern as the LXX version of Exodus 30:13: a κατὰ followed by two definite accusatives.  This suggests that τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον in Ephesians 4:22 could be interpreted the same way, as the genitive “of the old man.”  There is one more fact that we can get from the Exodus 30:13 passage.  The “shekel of the sanctuary” came from the sanctuary, making the genitive construction a genitive of source.  If we import this idea into Ephesians 4:20, τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον reads “from the old man,” that is, the old man is the source for τὸν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν

Despite the fact that these several options present us with a plethora of possible readings of Ephesians 4:20-24, these readings can be whittled down substantially by applying two facts we already know about the old man: It is our Adamic nature and it is removed at conversion.  These two facts make it difficult to connect the κατὰ with τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and read it as “with reference to” because this would imply that the old man is our conduct, which it cannot be.  Also, these two facts make it difficult to set τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν in apposition with τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον because this likewise makes τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον our conduct.  It’s easier to take the juxtaposing of τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν and τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον as a Hebraic genitive.  This understanding of τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον squares with Paul’s treatment of the old man in Colossians 3:9 where he says that the old man has it own practices, “τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον σὺν ταῖς πράξεσιν αὐτοῦ.”

Through the process of elimination, Ephesians 4:22a should probably read, “...take off your unclean works which accord with the former conduct of the old man.”  Although Paul does not use the same language in Ephesians 4:24 to describe τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον as he did in verse 22 to describe τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον, we must assume that he views it in the same way, as a source of conduct.  The διὸ that begins verse 25 implies the previous argument in verses 20-24, showing why the old conduct must be taken off and the new conduct put on.  His comments in verses 25ff would make little sense if his discussion about the renewal of the mind in verse 23 and putting on the new man in verse 24 were not about conduct.  If this were not the case, he would be helplessly confusing his readers as to what he was talking about.

With this as a background we can now discuss the importance of the old man and new man to Christian morality.  They are important in three ways. 

First, our old man and new man are the source for our conduct.  This was seen in the genitive construction κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον noted above in Ephesians 4:22 and in Paul’s comments that the old man has its own πράξεσιν in Colossians 3:9.  Although Paul does not say the new man has its own πράξεσιν, because he treats the old man and new man in parallel fashion, what he said of the old man can be said of the new: it also spawns its own conduct. 

The way that these two natures spawn conduct is by the mindsets they produce.  Paul writes that the believer’s attitudes are renewed (Eph. 4:23).  This renewal comes through the work of the Spirit.  In Romans 8:5 he says that those who are according to the Spirit think the things of the Spirit.  In the context of Romans 8, the things of the Spirit are νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος (v. 2), which most likely is the Torah (Dunn 416-17).  This νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος is the fulfilment of what God said he would do in the Messianic era: write his Law on the hearts of his people so they would walk in it (Jer. 31:31ff, Ezek. 36:26f).  Thus, God writes his Laws on the believer’s heart through the Spirit and in so doing exercises his authority and influence over him or her (Cranfield 376).  In this way the Law of God becomes a controlling factor in the believer’s life, which in turn brings about a new lifestyle.  What is said of the new man can be said of the old.  The old man, too, has its mind, which likewise produces its own set of attitudes (Eph. 4:17).  The agent that informs these attitudes is “the lusts of deceit” (vs. 22).  These lusts bring corruption (vs. 22) that Paul describes as “futility,” “darkness of understanding,” “separation from the life of God,” “hardness of heart,” and “insensitivity” (vss. 17-18). 

The second way the old man and new man are important to Christian morality is that the old man and new man produce conduct that corresponds to their respective characters.  Because the new man is the byproduct of the new creation, the conduct that it generates corresponds to the character of Christ.  This is so true that the moral teaching of the new age can be summed up as simply “Christ” (Eph. 4:20, cp. Col. 2:8).  The contexts of Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3 suggest that the basal nature of the conduct that the new man creates is benevolence.  Therefore, we are told to speak truth rather than lies, to give, and to say only what edifies those listening (Eph. 4:25-32, Col 3).  If we want to know how to act as Christians, then we should do what is benevolent according to Christ. 

Of course, this begs the question: What is benevolence according to Christ?  The answer to this question is two-fold.  One, benevolence according to Christ corresponds to how God treats us.  James writes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jam. 1:17 NIV).  So, a rule of thumb is that we are to treat others as God treats us (cp. Eph. 4:32).  Two, benevolence according to Christ corresponds to the Law or Scripture as a whole, where the Spirit properly interprets it.

The old man, on the other hand, is a byproduct of the old creation.  As such, the information it feeds us corresponds to the character of the old creation, which in turn engenders conduct that corresponds to the old creation: futility and corruption.  This conduct is called licentious and unclean works in Ephesians (4:17b NIV) and ταῖς πράξεσιν of the old man in Colossians (3:9).  In the New Testament the word πρᾶξις has overtones of godless conduct (cp. Rom. 13:12, Col. 3:9).  Thus, the basal nature of the conduct that the old man generates is malevolence.  Therefore, we are told to avoid anger, lying, stealing, and destructive speech (Eph. 4:25-32, Col 3). 

The type and quality of a person’s conduct, then, is informed by whether they have the old man’s or the new man’s disposition.  The old man’s disposition will inform a type of conduct in keeping with the old creation: futile, corruption, and contrariness to God.  On the other hand, the new man’s disposition will inform a type of conduct in keeping with the new creation: righteousness, holiness, and pleasing to God.

The third way the old man and new man are important to Christian morality is that they do not necessitate conduct.  Just because we have certain dispositions produced by the old man or new man, it does not follow that these dispositions cause us to necessarily act according to them.  If this were the case, when the old man is put off, its conduct would necessarily cease; and when the new man is put on, its conduct would necessarily occur.  The reality of the situation is, however, even though the old man has been put off (Col. 3:9), believers are still told to put off its conduct (Eph. 4:22), indicating that they still do its conduct; and even though the new man has been put on (Col. 3:10), believers are still told to put on its conduct (Eph. 4:22), indicating that they still do not do its conduct.  So, even though the old man and new man influence our conduct, they do not, by themselves, create it. 

God’s method for removing our old conduct and bringing about our new conduct necessitates the believer’s involvement.  This is seen in the three infinitives in Ephesians 4:22-24: ἀποθέσθαι (vs. 22), ἀποθέσθαι (vs. 23), and ἐνδύσασθαι (vs. 24), which are hortative in nature (Lincoln 283).  These infinitives indicate that Christians have three responsibilities to produce Christ-like conduct. 

The first responsibility is ἀποθέσθαι: “to put off” from himself or herself the conduct associated with the old man.  The aorist tense ἀποθέσθαι suggests that the conduct of the old man is to be put off once-for-all. 

The second responsibility the believer has is ἀνανεοῦσθαι: “to be renewed” in the spirit of his or her mind, ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν (Eph. 4:23).  It is curious that ἀνανεοῦσθαι is both hortative and passive.  Paul does not tell the Ephesian believers to renew their minds, but to allow someone else to do it: God.  The purpose of this renewal is to create new attitudes in the believer that inform them of the conduct of Christ, which Paul describes in the next verse as “true righteousness and holiness” (NIV).  The step of being informed about Christ’s conduct cannot be overlooked.  It seems from the order of Paul’s admonition that the believer’s mind must be renewed before he or she can put on the new conduct.  This makes sense because a person cannot know what proper conduct is until they are first told what it is.  

The third responsibility the believer has is ἐνδύσασθαι: “to clothe” himself or herself with the conduct appropriate to the attitudes God worked in him or her.  The importance of Paul’s admonition does not only lie in the meaning of the word ἀποθέσθαι, “to clothe,” but also in its aorist tense.  Just as Paul calls for the believer to put off once-for-all the old way of living, he also tells him or her to put on once-for-all the new way of living.

This creates a tension between the present ἀνανεοῦσθαι in verse 23 and aorist ἀποθέσθαι in verse 24.  It would seem logical that we can only put on the new lifestyle at the same pace our mind is renewed.  However, the tenses of ἀνανεοῦσθαι and ἐνδύσασθαι seem to prevent this.  Even though our mind is renewed progressively, our conduct is to be put on all-at-once.  This reading does not match Christian experience (Phil 3:12).  Perhaps Paul is not thinking of putting on the entire new conduct associated with Christ all-at-once, but only such as has been renewed in our minds.  If this is so, then, what Paul is telling believers is that once God has renewed their mind in a particular way, they must put on the conduct associated with this renewal once-for-all.

In as much as verses 22 and 24 are parallel, what can be said about the new conduct can also be said about the old conduct.  Paul is not suggesting in verse 24 that all of the old conduct come off all-at-once.  This, like putting on new the conduct, simply does not match Christian experience.  He is probably saying that we are to take off the old conduct a little at a time.  The greater context suggests that the conduct that comes off corresponds with the conduct that goes on: telling the truth instead of lying, working instead of stealing, and so on.  In the end, the particular conduct that is to come off probably corresponds with God’s work of renewing our mind.  When God renews our mind in a particular area, like anger, we are to put off our anger and put on a more suitable response, like patience or tolerance.

Christians, therefore, are left with a choice about how they want to live.  On the one hand, Christians can choose to change their conduct by allowing God to renew their mind, taking off the conduct leftover from the old man, and putting on the new conduct associated with Christ.  To do this some Christians may have to deal with old misconceptions about Christian growth. 

Some say, “I cannot change.”  This is not a true statement because God has already changed us by replacing our old futile and corrupt nature with a nature that corresponds to his Son’s and by giving us new attitudes that correspond to his Son’s, so that we can conduct ourselves like his Son.  Christians do, in fact, have the ability to take off the old-man type conduct and put on the new-man type conduct and become like Jesus in habit.

Other Christians say, “I am waiting for God to change my conduct.”  This is not a true statement either because God is waiting for us.  He desires that we become involved in our moral transformation by choosing to allow him to renew our attitudes and then choosing to live in a way that corresponds to those attitudes. 

On the other hand, Christians can choose to keep the old man’s way of life.  This approach to living, however, is dangerous.  Christians are part of the new creation and to enjoy its benefits they must live in harmony with its character.  If they choose not to do so, they will live a life that is discordant with the new creation, with its Creator, and with the new man within them.  In the end, they allow the futility and corruption of the old order to permeate their new lives.

To conclude, the old man is the corrupt Adamic nature with a bent that is contrary to God; and the new man is the spiritual Christly nature with a bent that is toward righteousness and holiness.  Each of these natures engenders dispositions that corresponds to them and becomes a source of conduct.  These dispositions, however, do not automatically create conduct.  Our conduct comes from choosing to follow these dispositions.  Thus, only as Christians allow God to renew their minds and then choose to remove the old-man type conduct and put on the new-man type conduct, will they actually walk in the conduct of Christ.


 

Works Cited

BAGD.” Arndt, W., F. W. Danker, & W. Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Abbott, T. K. The International Critical Commentary: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary On The  Epistles To The Ephesians and To The Colossians. The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1968.

Barth, Markus. Ephesians Translation And Commentary on Chapters 4-6. The Anchor Bible. Garden City: Doubleday & Company Inc., 1974.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.

Bratcher, R. G., & E. A. Nida. A Handbook on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. CD-ROM. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.

Cranfield, C. E. B. The International Critical Commentary: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary On The Epistle To The Romans 1-8. The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975, 1979.

Dunn, J. D. G. Word Biblical Commentary: Romans 1-8.  CD-ROM. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.

Lamsa, The Modern New Testament from Aramaic. BookMaster, Incorporated, 1933

Lightfoot, J. B. Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. 8th ed. CD-ROM. London and New York: Macmillan and co., 1886.

Lincoln, A. T. Word Biblical Commentary : Ephesians. CD-ROM. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.

LN.” Louw, J. P., & E. A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains. CD-ROM of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996, c1989.

LSJ.” Liddell, H. G., R. Scott, H. S. Jones, & R. McKenzie. A Greek-English Lexicon. Rev. and augm. throughout. CD-ROM. Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1996.

TEOJ.” Neusner, J., J. Neusner, A. J. Avery-Peck, W. S. Green, & N. Y. Museum of Jewish Heritage New York. The Encyclopedia of Judaism. CD-ROM. Boston: Brill, 2000.

MM.” Moulton, J.H. & Milligan, G. Vocabulary Of The Greek Testament.  Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

O'Brien, P. T. Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon. CD-ROM. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002

“OED.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. CD-ROM. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.

Shedd, W. G. T., & A. W. Gomes. Dogmatic Theology. 3rd  ed. CD-ROM. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2003.

Stott, John R.W. The Message Of Romans. The Bible Speaks Today, Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Orr, J., M.A., D.D. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia : 1915 Edition. Ed. J. Orr. Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1999.

 “TDNT.” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976.

Wallace, D. B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics : An Exegetical Syntax of the Greek New Testament. CD-ROM. Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 1999, c1996.


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[1] Unless otherwise noted, translations are my own.

[2] It should be noted that Paul does not use παλαιός to describe the old creation.  He uses ἀρχαῖος for this.  Even though some differences can be found between these two words, for Paul they are synonyms (TDNT 5:717).

[3] Although Paul does not say what ἔσω ἡμῶν is here, in other places where he uses the term, he leaves little doubt that it is our mind.  In Romans 7:23 he uses τοῦ νοός as a synonym for τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον in verse 22 (Dunn 395), and in Ephesians 3:16ff ἔσω ἄνθρωπον must be given the ability to have Christ dwell in our hearts (or minds) in order to know the love of Christ.

[4] I have only included those elements of a covenantal agreement which have a bearing on my present discussion.  For a more complete list see TEOJ, Vol. 1 page 137.

[5] Although the distinction between the covenants of redemption and grace “is favored by the scriptural statements, it does not follow that there are two separate and independent covenants antithetic to the covenant of works.  The covenant of grace and that of redemption are two modes or phases of the one evangelical covenant of mercy” (Shedd 679).

[6] Passages in the LXX which exhibit this use of ἀποτίθημι are Numbers 19:9-10, Joshua 4:8, and 1 Esdras 6:18-19.

[7] Some other passages which show this pattern in the LXX are, Exod, 29:41, 39:30; Lev. 4:6; Num. 3:50, and throughout Num. 7.

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