PUT OFF THE OLD MAN
Paul has told his readers their lives are to be very different from what they once were. Before they came to faith in Christ they lived just like all the people around them. They were idolaters. They pursued all kinds of immorality. Their hearts were hardened toward God. But this was the old way of life and they must realize the old way of life must be left behind.
Now the apostle turns our thinking toward what we need to do in order to live the kind of lives God has for us. He doesn’t leave us floundering around in the dark. He doesn’t just tell us we have to be different from the world around us. He actually tells us what we have to do and how we have to do it.
Paul begins in verses 20 and 21 by reminding us how we came to know Christ. He is not talking about our conversion here. He is talking about how we came to be intimate with Jesus following our conversion. He is contrasting the lifestyle of the unconverted person with that of the Christian. In verses 18 and 19 he said the unconverted people have hearts that are hardened toward God and because of the hardness of their hearts they immerse themselves in all kinds of sensuality and impurity, continually desiring more. Christians are changed. We have new hearts that are attuned to God. We have the Holy Spirit of God living in us and working on our hearts and minds. We have been turned toward God. And having been turned toward God, we begin to come to know Christ and understand him and share fellowship with him. When we learned Christ we were no longer like the people of the world. He goes on to say that if we really heard Jesus and if we were really taught the truth that is in Jesus then it is plain to see that we cannot return to our old lives but must continue to grow in our Christian lives.
What are we supposed to do? Paul says we are to put off our old man. He uses the same words one would use to describe changing clothes. You have to take off one outfit and put on a new outfit. The outfit we have to take off is our old man, our old way of life. What is the old man? It is what we were at birth. It is the person we used to be; the person who was born in sin because of the fall of Adam. Paul describes the old man in verses 17-19. He is futile in his thinking and darkened in his understanding because of sin. He is separated from the life of God and his heart is hardened. As a result of these things he pursues all kinds of sin and hungers for more. This old man is being corrupted; he is dying but he doesn’t realize it because his desires are deceiving him.
This old man should influence us no longer. He was put to death when you became a Christian and were recreated as a child of God. Notice that Paul says, “You were taught to put off your old man.” When you became a follower of Jesus you were taught to put off the fallen, sinful man. The verb tense Paul uses means, “You were taught to put off your old man once and for all.” If this is something we were supposed to do once and for all, then why does Paul tell his readers in verse 25 that they must put off the sins of their old lives? It has to do with the fact that as long as we are still living in our fallen and corruptible bodies we are susceptible to the weight of sin. Remember Paul’s own testimony in Romans 7:18-25. Even Paul struggled with sin! So what he means is this: “You were taught to put off the old man when you came to faith in Christ, and so you did. But as time has passed you may have slipped back into some of your old behaviors. You still need to put off the old man once and for all!”