In Eph 4:20-32, Paul gave us very practical instructions about the Christian life. He told us to put off the old man and to put on the new man.
We must put off the old man because he is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” Eph 4:22. We are to “henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk,” Eph 4:17. The way our old man behaved should now be our “former conversation,” Eph 4:22.
The new man, conversely, is “created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph 4:24. He is the product of the resurrected life of Jesus Christ, Rom 6:4. So, as we are “renewed in the spirit of (our) mind,” Eph 4:23, the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ. He is the one who taught us the truth, Eph 4:21. Thus, the new man is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” Col 3:10.
Putting off the old man and putting on the new is something that we must consciously do each day. Though the old man is crucified with Christ, Rom 6:6, he is still around. And he demands attention like a crying baby. You must always put him off.
Growing Christians will manifest a continual change in their conduct that is the result of following Paul’s instructions. However, some Christians will make a few changes and then quit; their old man then tries to disguise himself as the new man. These guys are hypocrites. Some Christians will try to put on the new man and placate the old man at the same time. They will really frustrate you. They never change some things that they know they must put off. And they can expertly justify their reasons for not putting these off. Some Christians put off the old man for a while and then, just when you think they are never going back to their old ways, you see them walking as the other Gentiles walk, again. Be sure your sin will find you out, Num 32:23.
After explaining the need for putting off the old man and putting on the new, Paul gave us very specific examples of things in our lives that should noticeably change.
Put off lying; speak the truth – Eph 4:25 – people lie to avoid getting caught, to get something they know they couldn’t have if they told the truth, to keep from hurting someone else’s feelings, to make themselves look better than they really are, and so forth. Christians should always speak the truth in love, Eph 4:15. If you are afraid to tell the truth, then stop and pray. Don’t lie. Ask the Lord to renew the spirit of your mind so that the words that come out of your mouth are absolutely true before God.
Put off anger; be kind, tenderhearted – Eph 4:26-27; 4:32 – Paul said, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” That is much harder to do than you think. Anger is associated with pride, self-will, manipulation, hatred, stress, and the inability of a person to rule his own spirit, Prov 16:32. These are the ways of the old man. Paul said that you have to deal with your wrath before the sun goes down. Otherwise, it will fester and carry over to future days and other relationships. When you let this happen, you give place to the devil. He takes advantage of the discord created by the anger and uses it to divide people that ought to be together. Like Paul said, “we are members one of another.” The new man won’t use anger, because he knows anger is harmful. The new man is kind and tenderhearted, instead.
Put off stealing; go to work – Eph 4:28 – a Christian, who is always under the watchful care of a loving Father with limitless provisions, has absolutely no reason to steal. But if he is too lazy to work, he might be inclined to take what doesn’t belong to him. Paul told the Ephesians to do good work with their hands. A Christian should not only meet his own needs by working, he should “give to him that needeth.” Read 2 Thes 3:10-15.
Put off corrupt communication; speak that which is good – Eph 4:29 – Paul was explicit, “Let no corrupt communication…”. He gave specific examples in Eph 5:3-4. Christians should remember Matt 12:34-37 and we should be careful to use our mouths to minister. See Col 4:6 and 1 Pet 4:11. Our speech should edify others.
Put off grieving the Holy Spirit – Eph 4:30 – the Holy Spirit gently leads us, Rom 8:14 and Jas 3:17. He reproves us when we are out of line and he instructs us to keep us in line. He is grieved when we disobey God’s words, when we ignore his instructions, and when we disregard his reproofs. You get to where you can’t sense his leadership and direction in your life. We must seek to be sensitive to his leading and responsive to his directions in our lives.
Put off bitterness; forgive one another – Eph 4:31-32 – when you get mad at someone the old man can manifest a variety of emotions. Anger, the feeling of rage. Wrath, the enraged feeling expressed vehemently. Clamour, a loud outcry. Evil speaking, running someone else down with your mouth. Malice, a disposition to injure others. Bitterness, extreme enmity, grudge, or hatred. Paul told us to put all of these away. The new man will be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving because he realizes that God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us. Forgiveness helps you put away the bad things.
Conclusion: the list of things that Paul gave to put off and to put on in Eph 4 is not exhaustive. These are just some of the more obvious areas where the old man is going to cause trouble in your life. From the day you get saved until the day you die, you want to mortify the old man and let the new man live. You must diligently strive to keep the old man on the cross. And you must also daily renew the spirit of your mind and put on the new man.