The Expository Files.


Are You Positive?


It is an undeniable fact that you and I are composed, not just in our molecular structure, but also in our spirits, of both positives and negatives. To have a proper balance of character, it is imperative in training our children that there be an appropriate balance between positive and negative.

Inspired discourse frequently uses balances of negatives and positives. For instance, Jesus said to Thomas, "Be not faithless but believing," (Jno. 20:27). "Faithless" was the negative deficiency of Thomas -- "believing" was the positive fullness of trust. Thomas had doubts so strong that he had said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe" (Jno. 20:25). He would not accept the testimony of others but his faith had to be based on his actual observation.

Particularly in Eph. 4:21-32, contrasts are made between the positive and the negative. There is no other passage that so precisely states the true behavior of Christians. The details of the negatives and positives are broadly encompassed in Paul's statement: PUT OFF THE OLD MAN -- PUT ON THE NEW MAN.

This context has been referred to as "Rags of the old man to Robes of the new." Who, in his right mind, given the choice between dirty, old rags to wear as opposed to clean, beautiful robes, would choose the old? As there are those who choose dirty rags to attire their physical being, it says something about their character -- in the same way that those who choose the rags of the old man says something about their state of mind.

The "putting off" is aorist tense in the Greek which conveys action that is punctiliar -- it is a one time decisive action. For instance, Mt. 16:24, "deny self" is aorist, while taking up one's cross and following Jesus are best conveyed in our English as "pro-gressive presents". The "putting on" is also aorist but what follows is progressive present -- one does not immediately get rid of the old and clothe himself with the new. In both the instance of "putting off" and "putting on" a firm, decisive commitment is made, then, based on that commitment, old garments of behavior are discarded and new garments of righteousness are put on. The figure here of garments being exchanged is similar to the practice of actors who wore different costumes and would exchange one for the other as their parts changed but we are not just acting a part.

Encompassed in the figure used by Paul is a series of balanced negatives and positives: "Put away lying -- speak truth;" "Do not sin when you are angry -- give up anger before the day is passed;" "Don't steal -- labor to give to the needy;" "Don't speak corrupt words -- speak words that edify;" "Remove all malicious, revengeful feelings -- be kind to one another," (vv. 25-32).

Surely, given such a choice between the old, dirty rags of unrighteousness and the misery which accompanies that and the beautiful robes of righteousness, we will not choose to drape ourselves with the former.

Guest Editorial, Jim R. Everett
The Final Page
From Expository Files 5.6; June 1998