Taking Off the Old Self and Putting On the New Self: What This Means in Practice

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Ephesians 4:25

My last few reflections focused on Ephesians 4:22-24. The main point of this passage is that we were taught in Christ to take off our old self like a rotten old garment, to be renewed on the inside, and to put on our new self as if it were a brand new set of clothes. I examined what this means and suggested a few down-to-earth illustrations.

As it turns out, Paul himself adds lots of examples that demonstrate what it means in practice to put off the old self and put on the new. These examples begin in verse 25: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." Notice the phrase "put off falsehood." It uses the Greek verb apotithemi, the exact same verb that appears in verse 22: "You were taught . . . to put off [apotithemi] your old self." So, verse 25 provides a specific example of the general putting off commended in verse 22. One way we take off the old self is by taking off falsehood. We no longer lie. We no longer affirm that which is contrary to the "truth that is in Jesus" (4:21).

But, as we saw earlier, taking off the old self isn't the whole point, or even the main point. Christianity isn't just a matter of "the don'ts." It is also and profoundly a matter of "the dos." So, in verse 25, after saying we are to take off falsehood, Paul adds, "and speak truthfully to your neighbor." More literally, we are to "speak the truth [aletheia] to our neighbor." Paul could have said we are to take off falsehood as one piece of our decaying old self and put on truth speaking as a piece of our new self in Christ.

How interesting that Paul begins here, with truth speaking. We might say that truthfulness isn't just one insignificant garment of the Christian life, something rather like one of your socks, important but mostly functional and unnoticed. Rather, truth is like a new shirt, essential, yes, but also obvious to all. So, if you're going to continue to take off the old self and put on the new, you might well begin by looking at the truth-quotient of your speech.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you put off falsehood? Have you put on truth-speaking? When people think of you, do they associate you with truthfulness? What helps you to speak the truth? What makes it hard for you to speak the truth?

PRAYER: Gracious God, help me, I pray, to put off falsehood and to put on truthfulness. When I'm tempted to lie, even if it's a "little white lie," help me to see clearly what I'm doing so that I might "take it off." When I believe that which is not true, help me to learn what is right so that I might reject falsehood.

But, dear Lord, my life in you isn't just a matter of avoiding untruth. It's also and mainly a matter of truthfulness, of knowing, believing, speaking, and even doing the truth. So help me, I pray, to be a person full of truth in all that I am and all that I do. Amen.


Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is the author of eight books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer. He lives in Boerne, Texas, with his wife, Linda. Their children spend most of the year away at college on the East Coast.

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