Building up believers and the New Testament church

Growing Up Together Into Christ

The New Man

In the verses that follow in Ephesians 4 (beginning with verse 17) Paul instructs the believers that there needs to be a change in their lives. Evidence will follow a true profession of faith. This is explained as putting off the deeds of the "old man" and putting on the deeds of the "new man." The terms "old man" and "new man" are used by Paul to describe two classes of people. "...knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6) In the previous passage, the human race is divided into those who are descended from Adam and those who are descended from Christ. The first is termed the "old man" while the second is termed the "new man."

If we have descended only from Adam, we are in the old man and we will express the deeds of the old man because we are dead to God and alive to sin. However, if we have been translated into the new man by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Spirit, we are to put on the deeds of the new man. We can do this because we are now alive from the dead and Christ dwells within us by the Spirit. Our whole outward expression cannot change immediately, but change will come if we respond in faith to the authority of Christ, the Head of the new man. The new life cannot be hidden. It will manifest.

Ministry is God's chosen way to initiate this change. Ministry is a supply of Christ to the body so that the whole body will be transformed into His image and likeness. Ministry holds Christ and His grace before us so that we may grow up into a mature man, unto the "full stature of Christ." It is God who is doing the work, but His chosen method is men filled with the Holy Spirit, men with grace who are called and meet the qualifications of God. They are servants to serve the Word of God to us that we may eat and grow up into Christ.

"And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28) Here Paul gives an order of ministry, and in this case I believe the order is significant. Apostles are given by God to lay a foundation of truth for a gathering of God's people. Prophets are given by God to hold God's vision and purpose before us until we each see the vision clearly for ourselves. Teachers are given to break down that vision into practical parts and teach us how to walk it. These ministries could be thought of as the "eyes" of the body. Their function is crucial and without them the growth and activity of the body will be greatly hindered.

In order to see the change come about that God is looking for, we must "walk" in the word that is coming to us. It is a very active place of faith before God. If we are abiding in Christ and walking in His word, the growth will surely come and the deeds of the old man will be put off as the deeds of the new man are put on. But if we do not hold fast to the Head and walk in Christ, the change will not come. This working is very active and demanding. Discipline is never easy. Change does not come easily.

Let us emphasize again at this point that it is a body that God is building, not just individual believers. Many have missed this, and if we do not see this clearly and allow God to adjust our thinking accordingly, we may find ourselves only thinking of God and ourselves. We do need to focus on God. "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36) But Christ is not separate from His body. God has created one new man in Christ Jesus. The "new man" Paul refers to includes all who are descended from Christ. (See Ephesians 2:14) "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." (1 Corinthians 12:27) This is a tremendous revelation and it provides us with a framework in which to walk if we see it clearly.

The testimony God is looking for, the testimony that has power and meaning, is a corporate testimony. The matters mentioned in the last part of Ephesians 4 all pertain to our proper interaction with other members. "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another. 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:25-32)