Put Off Your Old Self- Ephesians 4:22-24

As we conclude our examination Paul’s warning to the church in Ephesians 4:17-24, we now come to the verses in which Paul tells believers what they are to do in order to avoid living in the way he has described for them in the preceding verses. We will recall that Paul first tells them to no longer live as the “Gentiles” (unbelievers) live, which is characterized by “futile thinking”, by a mindset that concludes that I am lord and Jesus is not. This futile thinking then leads them to live lives characterized by a darkened understanding, separation from the life of God, the hardening of their hearts, and their being given over to sensuality, living without restraints and doing whatever they feel like doing. Paul then tells the church, in verse 20-21, exactly how those in the church will fall into the trap of living as the “Gentiles” do, and the way in which we do so is by accepting that the truth is to be found anywhere but “in Jesus”. It is in abandoning Jesus and the Word of God as their fundamental source of truth that believers will fall prey to the danger of futile thinking and live as described in verses 18-19. We will now examine, in verses 22-24, what Paul tells the believers they are to do in order to prevent themselves from falling prey to the dangers he has just described. What he tells them they must do here is “put off the old self” and “put on the new self”. We will now look more closely at these “commands” and discover exactly what Paul tells us to do here and how we should go about doing it. We will begin by noting that both of these “suggestions” are in the imperative mood, so they function as “commands” rather than suggestions. We must also note that the context of the passage as a whole is that it focuses primarily on thinking, that the root of any “problem” here is found in flawed thinking. This is verified in verse 23, in which Paul tells us to be “made new in the attitude of your mind”, or literally the “spirit of your mind”. What Paul tells us with this is that there is something (or someone) behind our thinking, that there is a heart level choice we make which determines “how” we think, and it is this choice which determines whether our thinking will be futile or not. We saw the nature of this fundamental, one time choice in verse 21, that we must make a heart level choice that the truth is “in Jesus”. Having dealt there with the “one time” choice, Paul now deals with the choices we all must make moment by moment and day by day, we must continually choose to put off the old self and put on the new self. This is crucial, because Paul has shown us here how human beings operate. The choice we make of what we will accept as truth determines our “thinking”, thinking then leads to desiring, desiring to attitude and attitude to behavior. We will “live out” what we accept as truth, not just in a one time decision, but in the choices we make every moment of every day. The “put off” and “put on” metaphor is Paul’s way of telling us of the importance of these continual “choices”. The putting off here refers to the continual choice to reject any competing “truth”, to continually embrace the truth that is “in Jesus” and reject any of the many contradictory “truths” we will be bombarded with as we walk in this fallen world. The putting on refers to the continual choice to reject these contradictory “truths” and to continually embrace the truth which is in the Word of God. It must also be noted here that these are presented as two contrasting choices, and there is no option given to not choose. We must “put on” something, we must choose a truth to embrace, and we will “live out” that truth in our lives. So Paul ultimately tells us here how we, as believers, can avoid falling back into our “former way of life”, how we can avoid falling prey to futile thinking and its negative and destructive consequences. We do so by continually choosing, moment by moment and day by day, to put on the truth that is in Jesus, and to put off any other source of truth. We must continually choose to live by the truth given to us in the Word of God, and to reject truth which is in anything or anyone other than Jesus. Paul here calls all believers to choose to live every moment of every day guided by the truth of the Word of God, to order their lives according to the truth they learn in the Bible, and to choose not to live according to the “truth” which the “Gentiles” live by, the truth that comes from the world. It is as we “put off the old self” (reject any “truth” which contradicts Scripture) and “put on the new self” (embrace and live out the truth of the Scripture), that we will avoid living “as the Gentiles do”, that we will put off our “former way of life”, and live in true “righteousness and holiness”, being what God created us to be (righteousness) and doing what God calls us to do (holiness).

No Comments Biblical Psychology  //  Epistles  //  Growing In Grace  //  Transformation

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