Christians must never claim to be “the old man”

The only passage I know of that is remotely confusing as to whether Christians should ever identify with the old self is Ephesians 4. But here is why it lines up quite nicely with 1 Cor 6.9-11 (“such were some of you”) and Col 3.9-10 (have put off…and put on), which both teach that the Christian is most definitely not both old and new, but only new:

  • Eph 4.20 says “you learned Christ”, past tense
  • v21 says “you have heard…and were taught”, again past tense
  • v22 declares what you were taught: “to put off your old man, according to your former manner of life”; that is what you were taught in the past. Someone said to you: put away the old man!
  • v23-24 continue what you were taught: your mind must be renewed and you must put on the new self. Those are all things we should say to unbelievers when we call them to repentance and faith in Christ, after making the gospel very clear.

Ephesians 4 does not have to be understood as “everyday put off the old self and be renewed and put on the new self.” No, since you have put off the old self and have been renewed and have put on the new self (that’s conversion!!!), live like it. As many great writers have now pointed out, be who you are. The call to the Christian is not “be more holy, be more righteous, because you’re not holy and righteous enough.” No, understand who you are in Christ, and then be who you are.

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