Ephesians 4:21-24. 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Did you get dressed this morning (or will you)? Me too. In fact, I get dressed every day. I put off the old clothes and put on new ones. You most likely do too. And it is this simple, daily exercise that becomes one of Paul’s favorite metaphors for the Christian life – putting off and putting on.
Look closely at Ephesians 4:21-24 above. In Christ you have already (notice the past tense) put off the old self and put on the new self. You are a whole new person, a new creation, new mind, new heart, new desires, new righteousness and holiness. Half the battle is just believing this awesome new reality that is yours – you are wearing Christ!
But the other half is actually appropriating this new reality. Moving it from a spiritual reality inside of you to a physical reality that flows out of you. And so Paul uses the same put off and put on language to describe not only what has happened to us in the past (4:21-24), but also how we are to live in the present (4:25-32).
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Can you see the put off-put on pattern in these verses?
- Put off: falsehood – Put on: speaking truth with your neighbor
- Put off: anger – Put on: resisting the devil
- Put off: stealing – Put on: honest work with your hands and sharing
- Put off: corrupt talk – Put on: edifying grace filled talk
- Put off: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, malice – Put on: kindness and forgiveness.
What can we learn about our sanctification from this list? What is Paul showing us?
First, he’s showing us that the same way we are saved is the same way we grow – by faith in Christ’s life in us. The difference is that we have moved from the passive reception of grace from God, to the active giving of grace to others. For example: forgive one another (active sharing of grace) because God has forgiven you in Christ (passive reception of grace). But it’s still faith in grace. We can daily put off and put on in all of these areas BECAUSE we have already put off the old self and put on Christ.
Second, along these same lines, he’s connecting our human relationships to our relationship with the Spirit (really the whole Trinity). Every example he uses here is a relational example. Our spiritual growth is NOT only an experience between us and God. It is not merely personal. It’s not individualistic. Spiritual growth into holiness is always measured relationally. We love God BY loving others. We serve God BY serving others. We grow in Christ BY growing in unity and love for others.
This is why smack in the middle of all these relational example he says this – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. This warning almost seems out of place. Why is he bringing up the Holy Spirit here? Because to hurt each other relationally is to hurt the Spirit God. We share the Spirit with Christ and with each other in Christ. To grieve a Christian’s spirit is to grieve the Holy Spirit.
Third, Paul is showing us that the character of Christ in us is actually attainable. “Be like Jesus” is not a fantasy that is so far removed from us that we should just not even bother with it. Of course it’s a process, and a very very slow one at that. But it is still the goal of our union with Christ. We were created in Christ to walk in good works. What are those good works? Well here they are: truth telling, sharing, a timely encouraging word, kindness, forgiveness. This is what Jesus looked like, and this is what we can look like. How? By being renewed in the Spirit of our minds. Identifying our corrupt thought patterns. Our addictions. Our deceitful desires. And then replacing them with what we learned in Christ as we daily, moment by moment, receive his life, his holiness, and his righteousness as the grace of God.
“To live is Christ” is being a whole new person and therefore we have a whole new walk. But the pattern remains. We ALREADY put off the old man and put on the new man once and for all. Now we can daily put off the dead man’s clothes and put on the new clothes of Christ and his grace.
Do you think about putting on Christ each day?
You in Christ
How does knowing that you already have put on Christ allow you to put on his love and grace today?
Christ in you
What relationship of yours could use some putting off and putting on? Be specific.
Playlist: Put on, put off.