The New Self
For many people January is the month of new beginnings. By now, some of you have made it a few weeks on your new diet or exercise program, Bible reading plan, caffeine-free mornings, social media fast, budget, or endeavor to read more books. These are all good goals, but they pale in comparison to the new beginning Paul speaks about in Ephesians 4:17-32.
Upon conversion we receive “a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezek. 36:26). But throughout the Christian life we have to continually choose “to put off your old self” with corrupt and deceitful desires and “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24).
In order to put on the new self, Paul says we need “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Eph. 4:23), which comes by reading and studying the word of God. By the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, Scripture suffocates the sins of sensuality, greed, and impurity that linger in our hearts.
Paul’s exhortation to put on the new self is far more radical than a personal makeover. Believers are to “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth” (Eph. 4:25). We are not to prejudice the truth in any way; harm the good reputation of our neighbor or ourselves; give false evidence; conceal the truth; slander; backbite; gossip; misconstrue intentions; or look with contempt upon others (WLC, A. 145). Instead, we are to preserve and promote truth in all circumstances; love, desire, and rejoice in the good reputation of our sister or neighbor; recognize and rejoice in their gifts and graces; and defend their character as we would our own (WLC, A. 144).
This is necessary because we are members of each other. Not only are we in a covenant relationship with God, we are also in a covenant relationship with each another. Our speech either maintains or destroys the unity and purity of the church. Therefore, we must be very careful how we speak.
Paul also exhorts Christians to “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). We’re not to hate, envy, take revenge, provoke, oppress, quarrel with, or wound others in any way (WLC, A. 136). When we are tempted to get angry, we should extend to others kindness, love, compassion, gentleness, peace, and forgiveness (WLC, A. 135). Jesus says that anger is a form of murder (see Matt. 5:21-22). When we let anger fester in our hearts it becomes a foothold for the devil.
In addition, Paul says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor” (Eph. 4:28). Believers are not to take or withhold anything that belongs to our neighbor, or desire to have their goods and gifts in place of the ones the Lord has given us (WLC, A. 142). Instead, Christians are to work hard with their hands. Whatever abilities and gifts the Lord has given us, we are to use those to gain an honest living. As the Lord provides for our needs, we should respond with hearts of gratitude and hands of generosity.
Furthermore, Paul says, “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” (Eph. 4:29). We are not to tear down another person in order to control a desired outcome, build up our reputation, or gain comfort and convenience. Instead, we are to use our words to build the other person up and be sensitive with regard to the timing of the words spoken. Just as God in Christ has given grace to us, we are to give grace to others. Think of how our conversations would be transformed if we cultivated an atmosphere of edification and encouragement!
Also, believers should “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30). Let us pray for the Lord to deliver us from such sins as anger, drunkenness, envy, impurity, jealousy, and sexual immorality. Since the Spirit of God has sealed us for the day of redemption, let us live now in light of what we will one day be—glorified saints who behold our beloved Lord and Savior face to face.
Finally, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). Bitterness fails to recognize God’s blessings. Wrath fails to recognize His redemption. Anger fails to accept the Almighty’s ways. Clamor fails to give control to God. Slander fails to recognize God’s supremacy and salvation. And malice fails to recognize the Master Judge over all. Such sins grieve the Spirit and are improper for Christians. Paul tells us what we need to put on in their place, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:32).
As you continue to pursue your goals for 2022, remember to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Christ has set us free from our old self, so that we might live for Him. Therefore, let us renew our minds in the Word, speak truth, turn from anger, do honest work, encourage others, be kind and tenderhearted, and forgive one another, just “as God in Christ forgave you” (4:32).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com