Out With The Old and In With The New
"Created in the likeness of God"
"...and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Ephesians 4:24) The "new self" which we are to put on is not merely "a little" different from the old self, but a vivid contrast. Forget trying to change "just a little." This is a major renovation we are talking about here.... And it does not happen overnight.
Walk No Longer As The Gentiles Walk (Eph. 4:17-19)
First, the things Paul instructs us on how to live are also the Lord's instructions. To disobey apostolic instruction is to disobey the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5). Those who think they can pick and choose whatever apostolic doctrines they want to obey or not and still be faithful to the Lord are mistaken. Many are willing to subvert Scriptural authority to political correctness/popular sentiment. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Acts 14:15).
Second, there are consequences of walking according to the world's standards and not according to God's. Paul describes living by worldly standards as "walking in the futility of their mind" (17). Understand, now as well as then, to allow popular opinion to be our guide is futile. It may please more folks, but it is vain as far as helping them prepare for eternity.
This mentality is also described as being "darkened in understanding" (18). Wisdom is clouded when estranged from God. This explains why people do so many self-destructive things to themselves and even bring harm to those they love. Worldly cleverness is often at odds with the beauty of wisdom from above (James 3:13-18).
Another consequence of this is to be "excluded from the life of God" (18). Spiritual death... hopelessness of alienation from God and a perception that life itself is vain is what lies at the end of this path should any choose to follow it that far, and some do. (Psalm 55:4-8).
Then, there is "ignorance within them" (18). Sometimes, ignorance is willful. Who has never tried to talk about God to someone who refused to listen? Jesus did (Matthew 23:37).
Often there is "hardness of heart" involved (18). Note the progression: Excluded because of ignorance; and ignorant because of hardness of heart. One who closes his or her heart to the gospel has close their heart to hope and victory (Revelation 3:20). They may think of their heart as a strong fortress that has kept Jesus out; but in reality, it is a prison in which the soul is detained until judgment.
One can become "calloused" (19). Even the death of the Savior on the cross can become a thing to be mocked. It happened. It is still happening.
They had "given themselves over to sensuality" (19) Things become more important than principles and character. It is as if it does not please my eyes or touch or taste, then it is not worth anything.
Finally, there is the "practicing of every kind of impurity with greediness" (19). Perhaps not everyone will complete this path to its bitter end, but it is destructive, and there is no reason to take even the first step. Often, when a line is crossed, there remains no good stopping place until ultimate degradation (see also Isaiah 56:11; 2 Peter 2:12-14).
Christ is Not Learned This Way (Ephesians 4:20-22)
Those who have truly learned Christ know He is nothing like what we have just described. The Lord came to give Himself to redeem us and rescue us from this darkness! (Titus 2:11-14). If indeed they had been taught in Him (21) then they know this is so.
When you see a member of the church behaving like the world; reacting to life's situations as someone darkened in their understanding; then you might be looking at one who has never truly learned about Christ; or having learned, has forgotten (2 Peter 1:9).
The truth is in Jesus (21; see also John 1:17; 14:6; 17:17). The faithful are certain of the promises of Christ as revealed in the gospel (Ephesians 1:13). In reference to the former manner of life, the "old self" is laid aside (22). It's gone. Do not hold on to a small portion of ignorance, darkness and death! The "old" me was "corrupted in accordance with lusts of deceit". We will not allow ourselves to be lulled back into it all (some do! Hebrews 3:13).
Renewed in the Spirit of the Mind (Ephesians 4:23-24)
In place of the "old self" we are to put on the "new self" (24). It is said to be "in the likeness of God". Wow!
How do we put this "new self" together? As we come to know the Creator better, we look to Him and follow Him as His children (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 5:1). We see His patience with us, and learn patience. We see His love, and we love. We see His holiness and righteousness, and follow His lead. We rejoice in the God of joy and comfort. We extend our hand to others.
We understand that to be like the Lord in the resurrection, we must become more like Him now (1 John 3:2,3).
"... and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Ephesians 4:24). The obvious challenge in this passage is to be more like Christ in my manner of life. This involves rooting out any leftovers from the world so all things can be made new in attitude and conduct. I have an idea that the process of "putting on the new self" never ends in this lifetime. While I understand there are still levels of spiritual maturity that I have yet to attain, I thank God for His grace to allow me to prepare myself to dwell with Him in eternity. Faith means to "press on" and "climb higher" in the assurance and confidence in the promises of God. My imperfections are not the standard of what I want to be. The standard is the Word of God. Let us all press on toward perfection, even as we rejoice in the victory God gives to us flawed human beings.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 15.1; January 2008