Ephesians 4:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 and put on the new man,[1] the one created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and loyalty of the truth.

This means, we are to allow the new self to govern our activities. We are to begin living the lifestyle that corresponds to who we have become in Christ. This new holy self, shows we are maturing, growing in unity with the body, and doing our part of the body’s work.[2]

God is “the Father of lights,” and “there is no darkness in him at all.” (James 1:17; 1 John 1:5) The Son said of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Christian worshipers of the Father and the Son have the illumination: mentally, emotionally, morally, and spiritually, as “they shine as lights in the world.” (Phil 2:15) Jesus said to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Jesus also said,

John 3:19-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 And this is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their works were wicked. 20 For the one who practices wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his works may not be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, in order that his works may be revealed that they are accomplished in God.

Some 2,700 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah gave this coming contrast,

Isaiah 60:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the peoples; but Jehovah will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

Some 700 years later, the apostle Paul spoke of the condition of all humanity, who is alienated from God,

Ephesians 6:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 For our struggle[3] is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.

“The reason this spiritual armor is needed is that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. The picture of warfare here implies that we do not face a physical army. We face a spiritual army. Therefore our weapons must be spiritual.” This list “seems to suggest a hierarchy of evil spirit-beings who do the bidding of Satan in opposing the will of God on earth.”[4] Paul was very concerned about this darkness outside of God’s sovereignty, exhorting Christians on how they were to remain free from such darkness,

Ephesians 4:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 This, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.

Ephesians 5:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light

Here in 4:17, Paul speaks of “the futility of their mind.” What did he mean? According to The Anchor Bible, it “implies emptiness, idleness, vanity, foolishness, purposelessness, and frustration.” What Paul wanted his first century readers of Ephesus to realize, the fame and glory of the Greek culture and Roman Empire, may have seemed striking, remarkable and extraordinary, but to pursue them was ‘empty, vanity, foolish, and purposeless.’ This mindset was merely immediate gratification, a showy display of one’s life, which would end in frustration and regret. This was true of that ancient world, how much more so of the narcissistic world of today. In Ephesians 5:8, Paul helps his readers to appreciate that they were freed from the darkness of this world; therefore, they were/are obligated to “walk as children of light.”

Come to Know Jesus Christ

Paul goes on to describe the unclean world of his day, as well as the worthless pursuits, before returning to the Ephesian Christians.

Ephesians 4:20-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus

The apostle had spent close to three years in the city of Ephesus, preaching and teaching. Therefore, he would have known many in the Ephesian congregation. (Acts 20:31-35) Thus, when he said, “that is not the way you learned Christ,” he evidenced just how well he knew the Ephesian Christians, that they had not be taught some lenient, diluted, wishy-washy truth that would condone the types of serious wrongdoing that he had described in 4:17-19. He knew that they had been given an accurate knowledge of the real Christian way of life, which was exemplified by Jesus Christ. As a result, the Ephesians no longer walked in the darkness of the Roman world that surrounded them. Rather, they ‘walked as children of light.’

Considering verses 20-21 of chapter 4, we notice that Paul implied a study process of sorts, with his expressions: ‘to ‘learn,’ ‘to hear’ and ‘to be taught.’ Of course, we cannot learn from Jesus directly, like those throughout his three and half year ministry. However, we can “learn Christ” through the Word of God, and the many helpful study tools that are available to us today. Yet, this is only possible, if we buy out the time for diligent personal Bible study at home, and take the time to prepare for Christian meetings. Moreover, we need to put faith in the things that we learn, which is evidence by our putting them into our daily lives. Then, we can honestly say, that we “have heard about him and were taught in him.”

Note too after the study process, Paul said, “As the truth is in Jesus.” We should observe that Paul hardly ever uses the personal name Jesus in his writings, without also using Christ or just Christ alone. In other words, he says either Jesus Christ, or Christ. In fact, out of 47 references to Jesus Christ in the book of Ephesians, this is the only time that he uses Jesus by itself. Generally, a reference to the personal name Jesus alone is to the person of Jesus, his human side, while a reference to Christ alone is a reference to his office, the anointed one. Jesus had said of him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Paul elsewhere tells us that in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Jesus did not say, ‘I am the teacher of the truth,’ but rather “I am … the truth.” He was the greatest teacher who ever lived, but he also lived the truth and was the epitome of the truth, i.e., was the embodiment of the truth, the personification of the truth. Therefore, being a true Christian is not just having a head full of knowledge and wisdom, but it is also a way of life, the essence of who we are. When we “learn Christ,” this means that we pattern ourselves after him, imitating him, following in his steps closely, by living the truth. Paul helps us to appreciate how we can “learn Christ” and “walk as children of light, as he went on to say,

Take Off the Old Man

Ephesians 4:22-24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

22 that you take off, according to your former way of life, the old man, who is being destroyed according to deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and put on the new man,[5] the one created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and loyalty of the truth.

The often-used metaphorical image of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ reminds us of taking of and putting on an article of clothes. (Rom. 13:12, 14; Eph. 6:11-17; Col. 3:8-12; 1 Thess. 5:8) If we carry the metaphor a little further, the article of clothing is taken off once it has been soiled, and a new article of clothing is put on. If we are out eating and spill some soup down the front of our shirt, we rush to change it. Certainly, our spirituality is far more critical than an article of clothing.

How does one go about taking off that old person? If we look at the Greek verb behind “put off,” we will notice that it is in the aorist tense. The aspect[6] of the aorist is like that of a snapshot photo, while other verbs, such as the present and the imperfect, are more like an ongoing movie. Buist Fanning describes aspect in this way: “The action can be viewed from a reference-point within the action, without reference to the beginning or end-point of the action, but with a focus instead on its internal structure or make-up. Or the action can be viewed from a vantage-point outside the action, with focus on the whole action from beginning to end, but without reference to its internal structure.”[7]

The “aorist aspect was used when the Greek writer didn’t want you to pay any attention to the duration or the completion of the action. … The action itself could have taken years, but that’s not the point.” (Black 1998, 96) The action here of ‘putting off” the old person is a onetime snapshot, or ‘once and for all.’ ‘The old person, as well as our former manner of life,’ must be removed with a certain and conclusive action, carefully and completely. In other words, this is not something we can simply consider, dither or even waver. Why?

The expression “being corrupted” is evidence that “the old self” is in a constant and progressive decline into a moral ruination, continuously deteriorating. Yes, as we subtly feed the desires of the flesh, our moral compass that God gave us is weakened, until it no longer warns of the wrongs that we practice. Yes, they become our new norms. Those of humanity who reject the Word of God will continue in this not caring about good behavior or morals, i.e., downward spiral. They will believe that they do have values, moral and good behavior, but this is because they have ruined their moral compass and are unable to recognize the difference between good and bad. These have “become hardened by the deception of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) This is what is known as innocent appearing situations, where they place themselves in harm’s way spiritually, not even realizing the dangers, like an animal that is boiled alive, because the heat is turned up so slow, they do not realize. If we allow ourselves to ignore the Scriptures, the path is the same for us as well. The end of those things is death.”–Romans 6:21

Romans 8:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Paul begins by saying that believers are under obligation—but not to the sinful nature. Rather, our obligation is to the Spirit. The believer is indwelled by the Spirit; the believer’s spirit has been regenerated by the Spirit; and the believer’s body will be resurrected from the dead by the Spirit. That puts the believer under an obligation to put to death the misdeeds of the body. What believer, understanding the implications of the presence of the Spirit that Paul has just enumerated, could feel the slightest freedom to indulge the sinful desires of the flesh? We are under a holy obligation. And if we do not put to death the misdeeds of the body? It is a sign that no obligation to do so is felt, which is a sign of the lack of the presence of the Spirit, which is a sign that you will die. (Boa and Kruidenier 2000, p. 254)

Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind

If we have gotten our clothes soiled with dirt, grease and sweat while, at work, we do not just come home and take off our clothes, and put on clean clothes. No, we take a shower, cleaning our body thoroughly before we put on clean clothes.[8] This is what Paul makes clear in the second half of his spiritual illumination, saying, ‘be renewed in the spirit of our mind. (Eph. 4:23) Back in verses 17-18 of this chapter Paul said that the worldly were ‘walking in the futility of their mind,’ “being darkened in understanding.” The mind is the center of consciousness that generates thoughts, feelings, ideas, and perceptions, and stores knowledge and memories. This is what must be renewed. How does this renewal process work?

“According to Ephesians 4:23, the sphere in which the renewal takes place is ‘the spirit of your mind,’ an unusual expression which has no analogy in the rest of ancient Greek literature. Many regard the phrase as a reference to the Holy Spirit and render the verse, ‘Be renewed by the Spirit in your mind’. No, this is not the case, the phrase “renewed in the spirit of your mind,” literally reads, “to be renewed in the spirit of the mind of you.” (Marshall 1993, p. 768-9) Nowhere in Scripture is the Holy Spirit spoken of as belonging to humans, or as a part of a human. Here the meaning is “a person’s emotional dispositions considered collectively and understood by the seat of emotional faculties, the soul; especially as positively or negatively disposed toward God.” (Boisen, et al. 2014) In other words, the inclination causes a person to exhibit a particular attitude, outlook, or feeling or to act in a certain way or follow a certain course. Therefore, the “spirit of the mind” is the force that sets our mind into motion, i.e., our inclinations, predisposition, leanings, likings, or dispositions.

Because of human imperfection, the “spirit of the mind” or the force that sets our mind into motion is toward the desires of his or her imperfect flesh. (Eccl. 7:20; 1 Cor. 2:14; Col. 1:21; 2:18) Some Christians have taken of the old person, and have given up their former bad practices, but have not overcome their sinful mental inclinations, predisposition, leanings, likings, or dispositions. This means, they will eventually return to those bad practices if their mental inclinations go unchanged. An example would be those who have given up smoking or abusing alcohol or drugs. If they have not made any effort toward being made new in the force that sets their mind into motion, they will eventually return to their former ways. If there is to be real change, they must ‘be transformed by the renewal of their mind.’–Romans 12:2

Do we play a role in making the force that sets our mind into motion new, so that our inclinations, predisposition, leanings, likings, or dispositions are toward good? The Greek verb ananeousthai (to be renewed) is in the present tense, which is expressing continuous action.[9] What continuous action is needed? We need to have a personal Bible study program, as well as a family Bible study if we have a family. This study needs to be more involved than just surface reading of the Bible. We also need to be preparing for each Christian meeting, so that we can fully participate. What does this accomplish? It is by our taking in this knowledge, which is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16), generated by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), and is brought back to our minds by the Holy Spirit. Let us take a quick look at the science of how memories are stored in our brain.

How Memories are Stored in the Brain

Researchers have been able to trace memory down to the structural and even the molecular level in recent years, showing that memories are stored throughout many brain structures in the connections between neurons, and can even depend on a single molecule for their long-term stability.

The brain stores memories in two ways. Short-term memories like a possible chess move, or a hotel room number are processed in the front of the brain in a highly developed area called the pre-frontal lobe, according to McGill University and the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

Short-term recollection is translated into long-term memory in the hippocampus, an area in the deeper brain. According to McGills, the hippocampus takes simultaneous memories from different sensory regions of the brain and connects them into a single “episode” of memory, for example, you may have one memory of a dinner party rather than multiple separate memories of how the party looked, sounded, and smelled.

According to McGill, as memories are played through the hippocampus, the connections between neurons associated with a memory eventually become a fixed combination, so that if you hear a piece of music for example, you are likely to be flooded with other memories you associate with a certain episode where you heard that same music.[10]

In some ways, a memory implanted in our brain is like writing on the hard drive of our computer (i.e., storing and retrieving digital information), which is relatively permanent. The reason we run the disk defragmenter is to keep the information in its proper place. As we work with our computer throughout the day, it is like taking books off the shelf at the library, and then putting in back in the wrong place. At the end of the day, the librarian is tasked with putting them back in the right place. Our disk defragmenter accomplishes the same thing, so the information can be found faster. When the memory is created in our brain, it leaves an imprint, which is accessed faster and faster each time that it is used. If the information that is stored is the Bible and Bible study tools, it will begin to create new patterns of thinking within us. Within our brain lies our worldview. A worldview is a comprehensive and usually personal conception or view of humanity, the world, or life.

Everything from the day that we were born plays a role in developing our worldview. Such things that develop our worldview are life experiences, parents, teachers, news media, entertainment, work experiences, politics, as well as our religious experiences. Literally, everything that enters our minds develops our worldview. Therefore, as we take in spiritual food, we are developing our biblical worldview, developing a new pattern of thinking, i.e., we are renewing in the spirit of our mind. Now, if we barely fed on the Word of God, we would have a very weak biblical mindset, just as we would have a very weak body if we barely ate food. In addition, if we ate nothing but junk food, we would not have a healthy body. Additionally, if we ate foods that were harmful to our body (allergic), it could kill us. Therefore, if we take in junk food type information or harmful information into our brain, it could affect our spiritual health even causing spiritual shipwreck.–Philippians 4:8

Put On the New Man

Ephesians 4:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 and put on the new man, the one created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and loyalty of the truth.

We take off the old man; clean ourselves up from the practicing of any sin, renewing the spirit of our mind, putting on the new man. This “new” man is not a new version of us, it is a completely new us, “in accordance with God.” Paul told the Colossians, “put on the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” (3:10, LEB) How does this completely new man come about?

Adam and Eve were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), meaning that they possessed a perfect moral compass and spiritual qualities, which imperfect humans still possess to a degree. Once we accept Jesus Christ, to the point of complete trust in his ransom sacrifice, we will take off the old man, and we “will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:19-21) If we truly ‘belong to Christ Jesus we will have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’–Galatians 5:24

Romans 6:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

knowing this, that our old man was crucified together with him, in order that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin

Created in Righteousness and Holiness from the Truth

Colossians 3:1-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Put On the New Person

3 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Take Off the Old Person and Put On the New Person

Deaden, therefore, your members on the earth: sexual immorality,[11] uncleanness, lustful passion,[12] evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming [upon the sons of disobedience],[13] and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man[14] with its practices 10 and have put on the new man[15] who is being renewed through accurate knowledge[16] according to the image of the one who created him, 11 where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Seek New Behavior

12 Therefore, put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 putting up with one another and forgiving one another. If anyone should have a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these things put on love, which is a perfect bond of union.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,[17] to which also[18] you were called in one body. And be thankful.[19] 16 Let the word of Christ[20] dwell in you richly, in[21] all wisdom teaching and admonishing[22] one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Put Sin to Death (3:5–11)

Paul exhorted the Colossians to put to death whatever belonged to their “earthly nature” (3:5). This suggests that they had not been living consistently with the principle of a spiritual death and resurrection in their conversion. Some think it is only coincidental that Paul listed five vices in 3:5 and five more in 3:8 and then five virtues in 3:12. More likely Paul was responding to the heretics’ list of vices and virtues. The list initially focused on sexual sins. Those who commit such sins bring the wrath of God on themselves. In their former way of life the Colossians practiced this kind of sin. Now they were commanded to differentiate themselves from such conduct.

Put on Love (3:12–17)

This section completes Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians to maintain a holy lifestyle. Paul admonished them “to clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Over all these they should “put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”.

The heretics were obviously causing divisions in the church. The way to unity included letting the peace of Christ and the word of Christ rule in their hearts. This required obedient application. So Paul said, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.[23]

We have considered Paul’s words at Ephesians 4:17-24, which has given us much to ponder. Verses 17-19 are an apt description of the world that we live in, alienated from God, and heading down the path of death. These ones have refused to accept the knowledge that leads to eternal life. While they may seem to succeed in a fallen world, this is short-lived. They do not even realize that they are wallowing in moral and spiritual ruin.

In verses 20-21 of chapter 4, Paul stresses that we need to learn the truth, which is found in Jesus. Lastly, in verses 22-24, we saw that we are to take off the old man and to put on the new man, determinedly and purposefully. As long as we live in this fallen world, under the pressures of Satan and his demon horde, we must continue to feed our minds spiritual food, “for God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Review Questions

  • Who are the lights of the world, and what role do Christians play?
  • How concerned was Paul about the darkness outside of God’s sovereignty, and why does it impose such a threat to our light?
  • In 4:17, Paul speaks of “the futility of their mind.” What did he mean?
  • What did Paul evidence when he said, “that is not the way you learned Christ”?
  • What do we need to do so that that we can honestly say that we “have heard about him and were taught in him.”
  • What can we conclude from Jesus saying of himself, “I am … the truth”?
  • How does one go about taking off that old man (person)?
  • Why must one be determined and decisive in taking off the old man?
  • Talk about the moral compass that God gave Adam and Eve, and what is an innocent appearing situation?
  • How are we to understand Romans 8:13?
  • How does this renewal process “in the spirit of our mind” work?
  • What role do we play in making the force that sets our mind into motion new, so that our inclinations, predisposition, leanings, likings, or dispositions are toward good?
  • How are memories stored in the brain, and what illustrations help us to appreciate how we can get at our biblical memories faster? What is a worldview, and how do we develop our biblical worldview?
  • In what sense is the new man new?
  • How does this completely new man come about?
  • How do we “learn Christ”?
  • Why is it important that we put away the old person definitively?
  • What is the force that sets our mind into motion, and how is it made new?
  • What was Adam given that imperfect humans still have, which needs to be cultivated?
  • What is the difference between having the truth in our head, being in the truth superficially, as opposed to having the truth in us?

[1] An interpretive translation would have, “put on the new person,” because it does mean male or female.

[2] (Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary: vol. 8, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians 1999, p. 155)

[3] Lit., “wrestling.”

[4] (Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary: vol. 8, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians 1999, p. 191)

[5] An interpretive translation would have, “put on the new person,” because it does mean male or female.

[6] Tense refers to a grammatical temporal reference; that is referring to a particular time frame is intrinsic with the meaning of tense.

Aspect refers to viewpoint – how the action is viewed: perfective (from the outside, as a whole, from afar), or imperfective (from the inside, reference to internal structure and its details).

Aktionsart refers to how an action takes place – what sort of action it is: once-occurring, instantaneous event (punctiliar); repeated over and over (iterative); focuses on the beginning (ingressive)

[7] Buist M. Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek (Oxford Theological Monographs; Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 27.

[8] Allowing sweat (perspiration) to sit on our flesh inspires bacterial growth, which may contribute to an outbreak on the surface of the skin that is often reddish and itchy.

[9] The verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion. Michael S. Heiser, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Logos Bible Software, 2005).

[10] Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/32798-how-are-memories-stored-in-the-brain.html

[11] Gr porneia

[12] Lit passion; Gr pathos

[13] The longer reading, “upon the sons of disobedience,” has good early documentary support, but it is also absent from some very good early witnesses as well. In all likelihood, early scribes felt that something should have been a direct object after “the wrath of God is coming” upon whom? Thus, they likely made it to conform to the parallel passage of Eph. 5:6.  Paul informs his readers as to why the wrath is coming (4:5), but not who the object of that wrath is. Of course, it would be upon those who are disobedient. We retained it in square brackets because it is found in the Untied Bible Society and the Nestle-Aland Greek text.

[14] Or old person

[15] Or new person

[16] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.

[17] Or control your hearts

[18] Or indeed

[19] Or show yourselves thankful

[20] The Christ P46 א2 B C2 D F G  Ψ 1739 Maj it copsa; the Lord א* I copbo; God A C* 33

[21] Or with

[22] Or encouraging

[23] David S. Dockery, “The Pauline Letters,” in Holman Concise Bible Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 591–592.