"Old man" and "new man"
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body
of sin might be destroyed; that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom
What are the meanings of these terms, "old man" and "new man"?
They are most certainly related, so if we are able to define one, we may
understand the other also. In the scriptures quoted, the "old man" is either
"put off" or "crucified". The "new man" is always "put on."
"If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the Truth
is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old
man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: and be renewed in
the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God
is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph 4:21-24).
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication,
uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which is
idolatry: for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of
disobedience; in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But
now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy
communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put
off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man,
which" is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col
We know that the acts of taking off and putting on are things
we do ourselves. They are not things which are done to us. Nor do we change from
old to new in a sudden wave of emotion. Repentance signifies a change in actions
as well as a change in thoughts. Neither is it a feeling sorry for past deeds
merely. In Phi 2:12, we are told to "work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling." We ourselves must take an active part in this matter of changing
We must first remove the "old man" before we are able to put
on the "new man". It must be a conscious effort. The "new man", as we read, is
"created" by the influence of God's Word, by the constant "renewing" of the
The formation of our new man is a process in which perverse,
or wicked, thoughts are forcefully put away and replaced by thoughts and actions
in harmony with divine law.
The change here is not a "one-time thing". It is not something
which we do at baptism only. Instead, it is a constant, continuous effort.
Baptism is essential to salvation, but it is not the change itself -- it is only
the first step of an entire life which must be dedicated to constant change,
constant improvement. In 2Th 1:3, Paul tells the brethren that he "thanks God
always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth
Our faith must always be growing. We must continually study
God's word and seek to change from the old to the new man. No matter how much we
know or what we have done in God's service, if we pause or stop, we are losing
ground. We must "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ" (2Pe 3:18).
Our lives grow and deepen by little additions, laying one
layer upon another, accumulating habit after habit. One good habit leads to
another. But, sadly, one bad habit will do the opposite. We may be growing, but
in the wrong direction. This is the theme of one of Jesus' parables. In speaking
of the two classes in the field, he said: "Let both grow together until the
harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye
together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn; but gather the wheat
to my barn."
Here we have a graphic picture of the resurrection and
judgment. It points out what may be a startling thing to us -- our wicked
thoughts and deeds may be completely hidden from everyone, and still arise at
the last to condemn us.
Also, in the sense of the parable, we become wheat or tares
gradually. One bad act does not in itself put us with the goats on the left
hand. One good deed alone does not put us with the accepted class. One good and
worthwhile achievement must be followed by another, and another. The race for
the Kingdom is not a short sprint, but an endurance race. We must repent of, and
then forget, the discouragement of our setbacks, and always go on to better
Here is our challenge; here is the ambition we must develop
from reading the Bible -- from reading of the love and goodness of God, and of
the glorious things He has in store for those who seek His way of
In the beginning Adam was made in the image of God; he was
''very good'' and his thoughts at first were only to obey the commands he
received from God. Through the serpent's lie, he began to doubt the wisdom of
obedience. Finally, he was led to open rebellion to God's command.
So sin was born, and the original childlike purity was lost.
The wrong step having been taken, future thought and action could never again be
what it had been in the time of man's innocence. The divine sentence of death
took effect in a process which at last brought Adam back to the dust from which
he had come.
His descendants inherit two things from their father Adam.
First, they inherit his dying nature. Secondly, they inherit an impulse to
transgression so powerful that successful opposition to Sin has been impossible
to the most sincere of men. It is a fact of history that all have sinned. And so
we are all victims of a vicious circle: Sin brought death, and the sentence of
death acting in mortal man impels him to sin.
Man, then, is the victim of his own evil deeds. But God, in
His mercy, has devised a system to deliver us from the "wages of sin", and in
this we may find the significance of the "old man" and the "new man".
It is a scriptural principle that, if we draw near to God, He
will draw near to us (James 4:8). If we try to serve Him and avoid the ways of
the flesh, Jesus will, at the judgment, "change our vile body, that it may be
fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phi 3:21).
The change we must make is a re-creation. If we create in
ourselves a new love for God, He will at last re-create us into glorious,
In our imperfect state, the development of a divine way of
thinking is not then a fresh writing on a clean slate. It is not a "putting on"
of a new way of life on a pure or innocent person.
The "new man" is put on by a conscious and tireless effort
which is in opposition to all our natural feelings, which are contrary to God's
Gradually, the "new man" takes shape. The "divine image" is
revealed in a new way of life. Since the "new man" is begotten by first hearing
and then obeying God's law, the person in which the new relation is formed
becomes to God as a son: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an
offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" (Eph
In the letter to the Colossians, the putting on of the new man
is illustrated in Col 3:12-14: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and
beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,
longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man
have a quarrel against any: Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above
all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
What is the "old man"? As the New man is a description of the
thinking, feeling, and acting of a man instructed in the Word of God, so the Old
man is a description of the habits of a person unrestrained by God's law. His
characteristics are wrath, covetousness, fornication, uncleanness, anger,
blasphemy. They must be put off before the characteristics of godliness can be
put on. As we read, "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds."
The baptized man or woman who obeyed the "standard of
teaching" of God's Word (Rom 6:17), rose from baptism to walk "in newness of
life". There must have been an "oldness of life" which had to be LEFT BEHIND --
to be left in the past.
The old life was the expression of man's "self", the sum total
of his thoughts, his habits, and his actions. The old self was recognized to be
deserving of death.
In Rom 6:6 Paul uses three figures closely related to one
another: "Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin
might by destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve
The RV has "done away" in place of "destroyed": the idea is
that of making ineffective, helpless. Sin is personified as the master to whom
service was rendered. The "old man" is the old self.
In the full, sincere, and hearty joining with Christ in
baptism, the old self is crucified; and Sin's body, whose movements served Sin,
was paralyzed, so that service to Sin might be broken.
The apostle Paul states a perfect ideal -- one that we could
never live up to completely. But nevertheless it is an ideal accepted, and an
In actual fact we must "reckon ourselves to be dead to sin."
That is the standard, however short of it we may come. It is painfully apparent
that we do fall short of molding this "new man" to a perfect likeness of God's
will. But, as far as we can, we must dedicate our life to God's hand, taking
Christ as our only sure example. Listen to Paul: "For I through the law am dead
to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless
I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: And the life which I now live in the
flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for
me" (Gal 2:19-20).
The "I" that now lives is the new Paul so influenced by
Christ's love for Paul and Paul's faith in Christ that he calls the new Paul
"Christ living in me." This is what we must do: subdue our personal desires, and
submit to God's wishes.
At our baptism, we were buried with Christ and we rose with
him. What came to that grave died and was buried there. It had been the slave of
Sin. Its body had served Sin. That was our old self, our "old man". We left him
there as a way of life we cut off and forgot completely.
But a New man was born, as we rose to a new life. As Christ
was crucified, was buried, and rose again, so we died with him and so we must
now serve God and deny ourselves.
We rose a new creature, a "new man" with a new way of life.
That life is not ours, but Christ's. It must correspond to a new standard --
which is God's law. The intention in our baptism must be followed in daily life.
We must "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" by continuous effort:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable
service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and
perfect will of God" (Rom 12:1,2).