To understand verse 22, we need to compare it with verse 24.
In verse 22, Paul tells Christians to ‘put off’ their former nature, which he calls ‘the old man’. It is like when we take off old clothes. We do not merely take them off; we put them away. So, when we become Christians, God changes our lives completely. We cannot simply continue in our former habits, attitudes, thoughts and actions. Many of the things that we were doing before, we now know to be wrong. By the power of his Spirit, we can now live a new kind of life that pleases God.
We may ask what was wrong with our former lives. Perhaps we would like to live in much the same way as before, but for God to forgive our evil deeds. When we say that, we have not realised how much God needs to change us. Once we served the devil (2:1-3); now we must do God’s work (2:10). Once we were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10); now we must live as his children (Romans 8:14-19). Our former desires were wrong and those desires were ruining our lives. So when we become Christians, we cannot continue to live with those wrong attitudes. Every day, we must choose to live for God and not for whatever things we may selfishly desire.
In verse 24, Paul says that we must ‘put on’ our new nature; he calls that ‘the new man’. Again, his word-picture is a description of someone who puts on new clothes. He is urging us to make a decision to live for God. Daily, we must choose to live for what is right and good, holy and true.
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© 2018, Keith Simons.