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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

04 April 2006

The Old Man

Q: Who in the Bible is to referred as the Old Man?

Adam and Eve BanishedA: You are, for one. So am I. So are all the heirs of Adam and Eve. Paul used the expression in his letters both to Ephesus and Colossae. Many Bibles use “person” or “self” for “man,” since the stain of birth sin clings to men and women alike. While I don’t have any great problem with this, I think that keeping “man” in the translation isn’t a bad idea — it connects us directly to the first man, who was also the first sinner

We see that the “old man” isn’t something the Christian wants to retain, as Paul told Ephesians to “put off your old self [man], which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self [man], created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (4:22-24)”

Likewise, he wrote the Colossians, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.... But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self [man] with its practices and have put on the new self [man], which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (3:5, 8-10)”

Weimar AltarpieceOf course, this “new man” is our new nature in Christ. We can, in fact, say that Christ is the New Man. Paul established the contrast: “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)” The Epistle to the Galatians also helps us make the connection between the New Man and Christ: “[I]n Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (3:26-27)”

Here, we also see the passive nature of putting on the New Man. While Paul encouraged his readers to “put on the new self,” he notes that this new “clothing” came to “as many of you as were baptized into Christ.” Baptism is God’s action of washing away sins and adopting us as His children (note the “sons of God” in the Galatians passage). Thus, we “put on Christ” only as God moves, enables, and empowers us so to do.

The Old Adam seeks to soil itself. That is our action by nature. The New Man seeks to be clean and holy in thought, word, and deed. That is Christ’s action in us through the new nature we receive by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

Addendum: Please see the next post for a continuation of some of these theological themes.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that the "son of God" that we become has nothing to do with our gender. The passage in Galatians says that we are sons of God ... male and female. It is our position in Christ as sons and heirs of eternal life.

Bill Marsh

05 April, 2006 22:42  

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