PUTTING OFF THE OLD MAN AND PUTTING ON THE NEW MAN
Now we come to see Ephesians 4:22-24, which is connected to 4:15-16. Verse 22 says, “That you put off…the old man,” and verse 23 says, “And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Then verse 24 says, “And put on the new man.” Christianity today also speaks these words but does not apply them properly. What is the old man? What is the new man? You must know that we should not define any term in the Bible by the term itself. You must look at the context around the term and at the entire book; you must even look at the entire Bible. If you look at the context here, you will realize that the old man and the new man are not individual but corporate. The new man here is the church life. Ephesians 2:14-15 says that the Lord has broken down the enmity in His flesh that He might create the two, the Jewish and the Gentile believers, in Himself into one new man. We see in the book of Ephesians that the new man is not individual but corporate, and it refers to the church. Since the new man is corporate, the old man, of course, must also be corporate. To put it simply using today’s language, the old man is society. The old man in Ephesians is the social life, and the new man is the church life. Putting off the old man is putting off the social life, and putting on the new man is putting on the church life.
Your putting off your social life and putting on the church life does not depend on any change in your outward activity; rather, it altogether depends on your growing up into Christ in all things. If you grow up into Christ in all things, will you still be able to have anything in the social life? It will be impossible! For example, at the time of the Mid-autumn Festival every family eats moon cakes and gives moon cakes to others as gifts. If during this season, you have not grown up into Christ in all things, you will not be able to keep yourself from following others to observe the festival. You might say that it is too hard, but I have the assurance that if you grow up into Christ in all things, the Mid-autumn Festival will fall off from you. I can testify that because I have been living the new man for a long time, I do not even know when it is time for the Mid-autumn Festival, despite the fact that I am an old Chinese man. Thank the Lord that the Mid-autumn Festival is a thing of the past for me. We put off the old man and put on the new man because we have grown up into Christ.
To help the brothers and sisters understand, sometimes I use putting on clothes to illustrate this matter. Someone may come into the church; he puts on the church life and shouts, “Hallelujah! I have seen the church!” But in actuality it is just as if he draped a jacket around his shoulders, and the jacket falls off after a short time. This is an outward kind of putting on. Another one may be a little clearer and say, “I have seen the church.” But his case is like putting an arm into one sleeve of the jacket; after a while when he moves around, the jacket still falls off. Yet another one may be even better and say, “I have seen the church. Thank the Lord, it is so good for me to be in the church life today! The church is my home. Home, home, sweet home.” This case is like putting the jacket on properly. But the next day suddenly one of the elders may be rude to him, so he becomes unhappy and unbuttons one of the buttons. The next week another person is rude to him, so he unbuttons another button. Then after two weeks a young brother offends him, and by this time his church life is nearly gone. He puts off the church life in just the same way that he put it on, saying, “Forget it! What kind of church life is this!” Then he takes off the jacket and throws it on the floor.
These kinds of putting on are not a growing up. Do not forget that the putting on in verse 24 is the growing up in verses 15 and 16. In the Bible to put on means to grow. It does not mean that you have a layer of skin and on top of that you put a layer of clothing; rather, it means that the one layer of skin grows. When you have grown up, it will not matter if the elders make you unhappy or if a certain brother offends you or even if all the angels are rude to you; you will have no way to put off the church life because it will have already grown and become part of you. The church life will be grown into your skin, your blood, and your marrow; you will remain a man for the church even after you die. I am not at all joking about this. It has been forty-five years since I came into the church in July of 1932. In these forty-five years I have tasted different things, things that are sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy hot. I did not eat “almond-flavored pudding” every day. Many times the situation was hotter than the spiciest Szechwan or Hunan foods, but I had to take it even if I did not like it. Sometimes I had to hold my nose to eat it.
The new man is not like a garment that is put on outwardly; it grows from within. How do we know that it grows from within? You see this in Ephesians 4. Between the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man, it says, “And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Is this not something inward? This is not an outward activity. It is not a matter of saying, “Now all the other people are observing the Mid-autumn Festival, but I am not observing it. Rather, I am running to the church meeting.” No, it is a matter of being renewed in the spirit of your mind. This is not outward but inward. This is also subjective, and it is so subjective that within you there is only Christ and the church. All other things are dispensable: if you can have them, you have them, and if not, it does not matter. Only Christ and the church are absolutely necessary. Furthermore, Christ and the church have been constituted into each one of your cells. Others might compel you to eat moon cakes, but it would not matter. It does not mean that because you have eaten moon cakes, you have thrown away the church life. Even after eating the moon cakes, you can still say, “Christ is my satisfaction, and the church is my living. It does not matter whether or not I eat moon cakes; what matters is Christ and the church.”
This should be our experience today. The church is not a social group or a family association; the church is Christ wrought into us. We put off our social life of the former days and put on the church life of today. From beginning to end, everything and all things are Christ being manifested in the church. This is the golden lampstand. We all have been baptized into this Christ, and we all drink of Him. This Christ lives in us, is formed in us, and makes His home in us. He continually adds His divine element into us, thoroughly saturating our entire being, and thus we are transformed and conformed to His image. We spontaneously grow up into Him in all things and spontaneously put off the old man (the social life) and put on the new man (the church life). This is a great metabolic process in which new elements come in to replace the old elements, which have become waste to be discharged. We all have an inward, organic transformation, and the result is the church. This is the church life.
Dear brothers and sisters, today our fighting is for this, our prayer is for this, and our testimony is for this. This is the Lord’s recovery today. The Lord today must have this testimony in each locality on the earth before He can return and His kingdom be brought in. May the Lord have mercy on us that we all may see this truth that was lost and now has been recovered. This is the recovery; it is something subjective, and it is an inward experience. These matters are not doctrines; rather, they should all become our experience. Among us, whether young or old, whether brothers or sisters, all should say, “O Lord, grant me mercy to participate in this testimony. O Lord, do not lose me, and do not let me lose this testimony of Yours.” For the past twenty centuries, this subjective truth has been buried, but thank the Lord that today it has been resurrected to become a recovered, resurrected truth among us. We should live in it.
(The Subjective Truths in the Holy Scriptures, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)