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"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 6:6).

"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 3:5-10).
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."

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 "men."

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 mind.

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 exceedingly."

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 things.

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 holiness.


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, immortal beings.

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 thoughts.

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 5:1,2).

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 sin."

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 ideal pursued.

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).
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