“As you undergo this mental and spiritual transformation, completely divest yourself of your former lifestyle and cast it away, for it was deformed by deceitful lusts fostered by delusion. Be continuously renewed in the spirit of your mind. Maintain a fresh and clear spiritual outlook. Put on the clean clothes of your new life which was patterned after God’s holy and righteous character. Abandon all lying and falsehood and tell your neighbors the truth, for we are all members of the same body.” Ephesians 4:22-25
Paul seeks to show the Ephesians that unconverted persons are not rational, but controlled by passion and desire. The King James word “conversation” refers to conduct. To “put off” (apothesthai) is a verb meaning to strip off, as a person would discard filthy clothing. “Old” (palaios) is used to indicate that which is worn out and worthless. “The old man” represents the inner nature of a person prior to conversion (Col. 3:9). The phrase “growing corrupt” (phtheiromenon) is passive, indicating a degenerating condition. “Lust” is epithumia and indicates a craving or passionate desire.
Life prior to conversion is essentially controlled by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). Lust is deemed “deceptive” because it promises satisfaction and produces the opposite. It promotes pleasure but brings pain. It guarantees liberty that can only result in bondage. Jesus illustrates the absurdity of one attempting to mix the old life with the new by pointing to the senselessness of sewing a new piece of cloth onto an old garment (Mk. 2:21).
This “renewal”(ananeoo) is not merely psychological. It is a complete renovation made possible by the Holy Spirit. This change does not take place due to the adoption of a new creed, doctrine, habit, or worldview but is a radical internal transformation that affects external actions. Ananeoo can be better translated “revival,” for the change is intended to be permanent. This process continues as one obeys the Word of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is our moral condition rather than our legal position before God that is in view here. Paul is not addressing specifically our new standing as Believers, but focuses on the daily choices we make for God. Salvation essentially affects the mind, for it is the center of understanding, wisdom, theology, and power to choose.
“New” (kainos) means revolutionary in quality, for we have become partakers of His divine nature (II Pet. 1:4). The “new man” is recreated or rebirthed in line with God’s character (Jn. 3:3). Paul tells the Galatians, “it is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). But although we have been supernaturally changed by the power of God, all Christians retain their free will. We deliberately choose not to “allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies” (Rom. 6:12). “Righteousness” (dikaiosune) is directly associated with holiness, for dikaiosune is a work of the Holy Spirit. With a new nature and worldview, every Believer can enjoy the benefits of the resurrected life.
Paul follows his exhortation for holiness with a pragmatic warning. Righteousness breeds truth, but deceit breeds lust. “Putting away lying” and “speaking truth” are two sides of the same coin. Because deception was a common practice in Greek and Roman society, Paul calls its elimination as evidence of new life in Christ. “Lying” is pseudos which has been directly adopted by the English language as “pseudo,” meaning “false, counterfeit, spurious, or fictitious.” Telling the truth indicates a clean break from the old life and validates the new life.
To “lay aside” (apotithemi) is to strip away and discard that which is useless. Apotithemi is the same Greek term Paul uses earlier regarding casting aside the old life. Truth is diametrically opposed to the deceit previously mentioned (v. 22). Proactive spiritual progress is made when lying is viewed as sin, for honesty is consistent with the Christian life.
Being honest with our “neighbors” indicates we are to be especially truthful with other Believers. Paul may be quoting Zechariah who said, “Speak every man the truth to his neighbor” (Zech. 8:16). We do not deceive those we truly love, for lying creates disharmony within the Body of Christ. We are members of the same family and honesty is our common foundation because “the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21).
Daily choices concerning what we “put off” and “put on” is a process known as “progressive sanctification.” Only if conversion to Christ is genuine will the Spirit of God be invited to guide the activities of daily living.
Points to Ponder
1. Who speaks lies (Pv. 14:25)?
2. Who does Jesus name as “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44)?
3. What word is found in all of these verses (Romans 6:6; I Cor. 5:7; II Cor. 5:17 & II Pet. 1:9)?
4. We are to “put on” Whom (Rom. 13:14)?
5. Describe the person who desires to live in God’s house (Ps. 15:1-3).