Ephesians 4:22
That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
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(22-24) These verses explain the substance of the teaching of Ephesians 4:21. The original may be interpreted either of the teaching of a fact, “that ye did put off . . . and are being renewed,” &c., or of a duty, “that ye put off . . . and be renewed.” The latter is, on the whole, the more probable, although the former would yield a simpler sense. It is to be noted that the words “put off” and “put on” in the original denote a distinct and complete act; the word “be renewed,” a continuous and still incomplete process. The complete act is consummated, and the continuous process begun, by the practical “learning” of Christ—that is, by growth in spiritual communion with Him.

(22) Concerning the former conversation.—So far, that is, as concerns the conversation or mode of life described above (Ephesians 4:17-19) as the moral condition of heathenism. It is in relation to this, the corruption of the true humanity, and not in relation to the true humanity itself, that the “old man” is put off.

The phrase “the old man” (found also in Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9) is here illustrated by the description following: which is being marred in virtue of the lusts of deceit. The word rendered “corrupt” expresses not so much pollution as disintegration and decay, much as in 2Corinthians 4:16; and so carries out the idea implied in the epithet “old.” The unregenerate nature, subject to “the lusts of deceit”—the lusts, that is, of the spirit of delusion, blind themselves, and blinding the soul which yields to them—is gradually sinking into the spiritual decay which must become spiritual death, unless by the effort of faith, entering into the communion with Christ, it be, once for all, “put off.” The various qualities of the nature thus stripped off are variously described: in Rom. 13:22, as the “works of darkness; in Hebrews 12:1, as simply “encumbrance;” in James 1:21, as “filthiness and excess of evil;” in 1Peter 2:1, as “malice, and craft, and hypocrisies, and envies.” All these are the “lusts of deceit.”



Ephesians 4:22If a doctor knows that he can cure a disease he can afford to give full weight to its gravest symptoms. If he knows he cannot he is sorely tempted to say it is of slight importance, and, though it cannot be cured, can be endured without much discomfort.

And so the Scripture teachings about man’s real moral condition are characterised by two peculiarities which, at first sight, seem somewhat opposed, but are really harmonious and closely connected. There is no book and no system in the whole world that takes such a dark view of what you and I are; there is none animated with so bright and confident a hope of what you and I may become. And, on the other hand, the common run of thought amongst men minimises the fact of sin, but when you say, ‘Well, be it big or little, can I get rid of it anyhow?’ there is no answer to give that is worth listening to. Christ alone can venture to tell men what they are, because Christ alone can radically change their whole nature and being. There are certain diseases of which a constant symptom is unconsciousness that there is anything the matter. A deep-seated wound does not hurt much. The question is not whether Christian thoughts about a man’s condition are gloomy or not, but whether they are true. As to their being gloomy, it seems to me that the people who complain of our doctrine of human nature, as giving a melancholy view of men, do really take a far more melancholy one. We believe in a fall, and we believe in a possible and actual restoration. The man to whom evil is not an intrusive usurper can have no confidence that it will ever be expelled. Which is the gloomy system-that which paints in undisguised blackness the facts of life, and over against their blackest darkness, the radiant light of a great hope shining bright and glorious, or one that paints humanity in a uniform monotone of indistinguishable grey involving the past, the present, and the future-which, believing in no disease, hopes for no cure? My text, taken in conjunction with the grand words which follow, about ‘The new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness,’ brings before us some very solemn views {which the men that want them most realise the least} with regard to what we are, what we ought to be and cannot be, and what, by God’s help, we may become. The old man is ‘corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,’ says Paul. There are a set of characteristics, then, of the universal sinful human self. Then there comes a hopeless commandment-a mockery-if we are to stop with it, ‘put it off.’ And then there dawns on us the blessed hope and possibility of the fulfilment of the injunction, when we learn that ‘the truth in Jesus’ is, that we put off the old man with his deeds. Such is a general outline of the few thoughts I have to suggest to you.

I. I wish to fix, first of all, upon the very significant, though brief, outline sketch of the facts of universal sinful human nature which the Apostle gives here.

These are three, upon which I dilate for a moment or two. ‘The old man’ is a Pauline expression, about which I need only say here that we may take it as meaning that form of character and life which is common to us all, apart from the great change operated through faith in Jesus Christ. It is universal, it is sinful. There is a very remarkable contrast, which you will notice, between the verse upon which I am now commenting and the following one. The old man is set over against the new. One is created, the other is corrupted, as the word might be properly rendered. The one is created after God, the other is rotting to pieces under the influence of its lusts. The one consists of righteousness and holiness, which have their root in truth; the other is under the dominion of passions and desires, which, in themselves evil, are the instruments of and are characterised by deceit.

The first of the characteristics, then, of this sinful self, to which I wish to point for a moment is, that every Christless life, whatsoever the superficial differences in it, is really a life shaped according to and under the influence of passionate desires. You see I venture to alter one word of my text, and that for this simple reason; the word ‘lusts’ has, in modern English, assumed a very much narrower signification than either that of the original has, or than itself had in English when this translation was made. It is a very remarkable testimony, by the by, to the weak point in the bulk of men-to the side of their nature which is most exposed to assaults-that this word, which originally meant strong desire of any kind, should, by the observation of the desires that are strongest in the mass of people, have come to be restricted and confined to the one specific meaning of strong animal, fleshly, sensuous desires. It may point a lesson to some of my congregation, and especially to the younger portion of the men in it. Remember, my brother, that the part of your nature which is closest to the material is likewise closest to the animal, and is least under dominion {without a strong and constant effort} of the power which will save the flesh from corruption, and make the material the vehicle of the spiritual and divine. Many a young man comes into Manchester with the atmosphere of a mother’s prayers and a father’s teaching round about him; with holy thoughts and good resolutions beginning to sway his heart and spirit; and flaunting profligacy and seducing tongues beside him in the counting-house, in the warehouse, and at the shop counter, lead him away into excesses that banish all these, and, after a year or two of riot and sowing to the flesh, he ‘of the flesh reaps corruption,’ and that very literally-in sunken eye, and trembling hand, and hacking cough, and a grave opened for him before his time. Ah, my dear young friends! ‘they promise them liberty.’ It is a fine thing to get out of your father’s house, and away from the restrictions of the society where you are known, and loving eyes-or unloving ones-are watching you. It is a fine thing to get into the freedom and irresponsibility of a big city! ‘They promise them liberty,’ and ‘they themselves become the bond slaves of corruption.’

But, then, that is only the grossest and the lowest form of the truth that is here. Paul’s indictment against us is not anything so exaggerated and extreme as that the animal nature predominates in all who are not Christ’s. That is not true, and is not what my text says. But what it says is just this: that, given the immense varieties of tastes and likings and desires which men have, the point and characteristic feature of every godless life is that, be these what they may, they become the dominant power in that life. Paul does not, of course, deny that the sway and tyranny of such lusts and desires are sometimes broken by remonstrances of conscience; sometimes suppressed by considerations of prudence; sometimes by habit, by business, by circumstances that force people into channels into which they would not naturally let their lives run. He does not deny that often and often in such a life there will be a dim desire for something better-that high above the black and tumbling ocean of that life of corruption and disorder, there lies a calm heaven with great stars of duty shining in it. He does not deny that men are a law to themselves, as well as a bundle of desires which they obey; but what he charges upon us, and what I venture to bring as an indictment against you, and myself too, is this: that apart from Christ it is not conscience that rules our lives; that apart from Christ it is not sense of duty that is strongest; that apart from Christ the real directing impulse to which the inward proclivities, if not the outward activities, do yield in the main and on the whole, is, as this text says, the things that we like, the passionate desires of nature, the sensuous and godless heart.

And you say, ‘Well, if it is so, what harm is it? Did not God make me with these desires, and am not I meant to gratify them?’ Yes, certainly. The harm of it is, first of all, this, that it is an inversion of the true order. The passionate desires about which I am speaking, be they for money, be they for fame, or be they for any other of the gilded baits of worldly joys-these passionate dislikes and likings, as well as the purely animal ones-the longing for food, for drink, for any other physical gratification-these were never meant to be men’s guides. They are meant to be impulses. They have motive power, but no directing power. Do you start engines out of a railway station without drivers or rails to run upon? It would be as reasonable as that course of life which men pursue who say, ‘Thus I wish; thus I command; let my desire stand in the place of other argumentation and reason.’ They take that part of their nature that is meant to be under the guidance of reason and conscience looking up to God, and put it in the supreme place, and so, setting a beggar on horseback, ride where we know such equestrians are said in the end to go! The desires are meant to be impelling powers. It is absurdity and the destruction of true manhood to make them, as we so often do, directing powers, and to put the reins into their hand. They are the wind, not the helm; the steam, not the driver. Let us keep things in their right places. Remember that the constitution of human nature, as God has meant it, is this: down there, under hatches, under control, the strong impulses; above them, the enlightened understanding; above that, the conscience, which has a loftier region than that of thought to move in, the moral region; and above that, the God, whose face, shining down upon the apex of the nature thus constituted, irradiates it with light which filters through all the darkness, down to the very base of the being; and sanctifies the animal, and subdues the impulses, and enlightens the understanding, and calms and quickens the conscience, and makes ductile and pliable the will, and fills the heart with fruition and tranquillity, and orders the life after the image of Him that created it.

I cannot dwell any longer on this first point; but I hope that I have said enough, not to show that the words are true-that is a very poor thing to do, if that were all that I aimed at-but to bring them home to some of our hearts and consciences. I pray God to impress the conviction that, although there be in us all the voice of conscience, which all of us more or less have tried at intervals to follow; yet in the main it abides for ever true-and it is true, my dear brethren, about you-a Christless life is a life under the dominion of tyrannous desires. Ask yourself what I cannot ask for you, Is it I? My hand fumbles about the hinges and handle of the door of the heart. You yourself must open it and let conviction come in!

Still further, the words before us add another touch to this picture. They not only represent the various passionate desires as being the real guides of ‘the old man’ but they give this other characteristic-that these desires are in their very nature the instruments of deceit and lies.

The words of my text are, perhaps, rather enfeebled by the form of rendering which our translators have here, as in many cases, thought proper to adopt. If, instead of reading ‘corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,’ we read ‘corrupt according to the desires of deceit,’ we should have got not only the contrast between the old man and the new man, ‘created in righteousness and holiness of truth’-but we should have had, perhaps, a clearer notion of the characteristic of these lusts, which the Apostle meant to bring into prominence. These desires are, as it were, the tools and instruments by which deceit betrays and mocks men; the weapons used by illusions and lies to corrupt and mar the soul. They are strong, and their nature is to pursue after their objects without regard to any consequences beyond their own gratification; but, strong as they are, they are like the blinded Samson, and will pull the house down on themselves if they be not watched. Their strength is excited on false pretences. They are stirred to grasp what is after all a lie. They are ‘desires of deceit.’

That just points to the truth of all such life being hollow and profitless. If regard be had to the whole scope of our nature and necessities, and to the true aim of life as deduced therefrom, nothing is more certain than that no man will get the satisfaction that his ruling passions promise him, by indulging them. It is very sure that the way never to get what you need and desire is always to do what you like.

And that for very plain reasons. Because, for one thing, the object only satisfies for a time. Yesterday’s food appeased our hunger for the day, but we wake hungry again. And the desires which are not so purely animal have the same characteristic of being stilled for the moment, and of waking more ravenous than ever. ‘He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again.’ Because, further, the desire grows and the object of it does not. The fierce longing increases, and, of course, the power of the thing that we pursue to satisfy it decreases in the same proportion. It is a fixed quantity; the appetite is indefinitely expansible. And so, the longer I go on feeding my desire, the more I long for the food; and the more I long for it, the less taste it has when I get it. It must be more strongly spiced to titillate a jaded palate. And there soon comes to be an end of the possibilities in that direction. A man scarcely tastes his brandy, and has little pleasure in drinking it, but he cannot do without it, and so he gulps it down in bigger and bigger draughts till delirium tremens comes in to finish all. Because, for another thing, after all, these desires are each but a fragment of one’s whole nature, and when one is satisfied another is baying to be fed. The grim brute, like the watchdog of the old mythology, has three heads, and each gaping for honey cakes. And if they were all gorged, there are other longings in men’s nature that will not let them rest, and for which all the leeks and onions of Egypt are not food. So long as these are unmet, you ‘spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not.’

So we may lay it down as a universal truth, that whoever takes it for his law to do as he likes will not for long like what he does; or, as George Herbert says,

‘Shadows well mounted, dreams in a career,

Embroider’d lies, nothing between two dishes-

These are the pleasures here.’

Do any of you remember the mournful words with which one of our greatest modern writers of fiction closes his saddest, truest book: ‘Ah! vanitas vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?’ No wonder that with such a view of human life as that the next and last sentence should be, ‘Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for the play is played out.’ Yes! if there be nothing more to follow than the desires which deceive, man’s life, with all its bustle and emotion, is a subject for cynical and yet sad regard, and all the men and women that toil and fret are ‘merely players.’

Then, again, one more point in this portraiture of ‘the old man,’ is that these deceiving desires corrupt. The language of our text conveys a delicate shade of meaning which is somewhat blurred in our version. Properly, it speaks of ‘the old man which is growing corrupt,’ rather than ‘which is corrupt,’ and expresses the steady advance of that inward process of decay and deterioration which is ever the fate of a life subordinated to these desires. And this growing evil, or rather inward eating corruption which disintegrates and destroys a soul, is contrasted in the subsequent verse with the ‘new man which is created in righteousness.’ There is in the one the working of life, in the other the working of death. The one is formed and fashioned by the loving hands and quickening breath of God; the other is gradually and surely rotting away by the eating leprosy of sin. For the former the end is eternal life; for the latter, the second death.

And the truth that underlies that awful representation is the familiar one to which I have already referred in another connection, that, by the very laws of our nature, by the plain necessities of the case, all our moral qualities, be they good or bad, tend to increase by exercise. In whatever direction we move, the rate of progress tends to accelerate itself. And this is preeminently the case when the motion is downwards. Every day that a bad man lives he is a worse man. My friend! you are on a sloping descent. Imperceptibly-because you will not look at the landmarks-but really, and not so very slowly either; convictions are dying out, impulses to good are becoming feeble, habits of neglect of conscience are becoming fixed, special forms of sin-avarice, or pride, or lust-are striking their claws deeper into your soul, and holding their bleeding booty firmer. In all regions of life exercise strengthens capacity. The wrestler, according to the old Greek parable, who began by carrying a calf on his shoulders, got to carry an ox by and by.

It is a solemn thought this of the steady continuous aggravation of sin in the individual character. Surely nothing can be small which goes to make up that rapidly growing total. Beware of the little beginnings which ‘eat as doth a canker.’ Beware of the slightest deflection from the straight line of right. If there be two lines, one straight and the other going off at the sharpest angle, you have only to produce both far enough, and there will be room between them for all the space that separates hell from heaven! Beware of lading your souls with the weight of small single sins. We heap upon ourselves, by slow, steady accretion through a lifetime, the weight that, though it is gathered by grains, crushes the soul. There is nothing heavier than sand. You may lift it by particles. It drifts in atoms, but heaped upon a man it will break his bones, and blown over the land it buries pyramid and sphynx, the temples of gods and the homes of men beneath its barren solid waves. The leprosy gnaws the flesh off a man’s bones, and joints and limbs drop off-he is a living death. So with every soul that is under the dominion of these lying desires-it is slowly rotting away piecemeal, ‘waxing corrupt according to the lusts of deceit.’

II. Note how, this being so, we have here the hopeless command to put off the old man.

That command ‘put it off’ is the plain dictate of conscience and of common sense. But it seems as hopeless as it is imperative. I suppose everybody feels sometimes, more or less distinctly, that they ought to make an effort and get rid of these beggarly usurpers that tyrannise over will, and conscience, and life. Attempts enough are made to shake off the yoke. We have all tried some time or other. Our days are full of foiled resolutions, attempts that have broken down, unsuccessful rebellions, ending like the struggles of some snared wild creature, in wrapping the meshes tighter round us. How many times, since you were a boy or a girl, have you said-’Now I am determined that I will never do that again. I have flung away opportunities. I have played the fool and erred exceedingly-but I now turn over a new leaf!’ Yes, and you have turned it-and, if I might go on with the metaphor, the first gust of passion or temptation has blown the leaf back again, and the old page has been spread before you once more just as it used to be. The history of individual souls and the tragedy of the world’s history recurring in every age, in which the noblest beginnings lead to disastrous ends, and each new star of promise that rises on the horizon leads men into quagmires and sets in blood, sufficiently show how futile the attempt in our own strength to overcome and expel the evils that are rooted in our nature.

Moralists may preach, ‘Unless above himself he can erect himself, how mean a thing is man’; but all the preaching in the world is of no avail. The task is an impossibility. The stream cannot rise above its source, nor be purified in its flow if bitter waters come from the fountain. ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?’ There is no power in human nature to cast off this clinging self. As in the awful vision of the poet, the serpent is grown into the man. The will is feeble for good, the conscience sits like a discrowned king issuing empty mandates, while all his realm is up in rebellion and treats his proclamations as so much waste paper. How can a man re-make himself? how cast off his own nature? The means at his disposal themselves need to be cleansed, for themselves are tainted. It is the old story-who will keep the keepers?-who will heal the sick physicians? You will sometimes see a wounded animal licking its wounds with its own tongue. How much more hopeless still is our effort by our own power to stanch and heal the gashes which sin has made! ‘Put off the old man’-yes-and if it but clung to the limbs like the hero’s poisoned vest, it might be possible. But it is not a case of throwing aside clothing, it is stripping oneself of the very skin and flesh-and if there is nothing more to be said than such vain commonplaces of impossible duty, then we must needs abandon hope, and wear the rotting evil till we die.

But that is not all. ‘What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,’ God sending His own Son did-He condemned sin in the flesh. So we come to

III. The possibility of fulfilling the command.

The context tells us how this is possible. The law, the pattern, and the power for complete victory over the old sinful self, are to be found, ‘as the truth is-in Jesus.’ Union with Christ gives us a real possession of a new principle of life, derived from Him, and like His own. That real, perfect, immortal life, which hath no kindred with evil, and flings off pollution and decay from its pure surface, will wrestle with and finally overcome the living death of obedience to the deceitful lusts. Our weakness will be made rigorous by His inbreathed power. Our gravitation to earth and sin will be overcome by the yearning of that life to its source. An all-constraining motive will be found in love to Him who has given Himself for us. A new hope will spring as to what may be possible for us, when we see Jesus, and in Him recognise the true Man, whose image we may bear. We shall die with Him to sin, when, resting by faith on Him who has died for sin, we are made conformable to His death, that we may walk in newness of life. Faith in Jesus gives us a share in the working of that mighty power by which He makes all things new. The renovation blots out the past, and changes the direction of the future. The fountain in our hearts sends forth bitter waters that cannot be healed. ‘And the Lord showed him a tree,’ even that Cross whereon Christ was crucified for us, ‘which, when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.’

I remember a rough parable of Luther’s, grafted on an older legend, on this matter, which runs somewhat in this fashion: A man’s heart is like a foul stable. Wheelbarrows and shovels are of little use, except to remove some of the surface filth, and to litter all the passages in the process. What is to be done with it? ‘Turn the Elbe into it,’ says he. The flood will sweep away all the pollution. Not my own efforts, but the influx of that pardoning, cleansing grace which is in Christ will wash away the accumulations of years, and the ingrained evil which has stained every part of my being. We cannot cleanse ourselves, we cannot ‘put off’ this old nature which has struck its roots so deep into our being; but if we turn to Him with faith and say-Forgive me, and cleanse, and strip from me the foul and ragged robe fit only for the swine-troughs in the far-off land of disobedience, He will receive us and answer all our desires, and cast around us the pure garment of His own righteousness. ‘The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus shall make us free from the law of sin and death.’4:17-24 The apostle charged the Ephesians in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, that having professed the gospel, they should not be as the unconverted Gentiles, who walked in vain fancies and carnal affections. Do not men, on every side, walk in the vanity of their minds? Must not we then urge the distinction between real and nominal Christians? They were void of all saving knowledge; they sat in darkness, and loved it rather than light. They had a dislike and hatred to a life of holiness, which is not only the way of life God requires and approves, and by which we live to him, but which has some likeness to God himself in his purity, righteousness, truth, and goodness. The truth of Christ appears in its beauty and power, when it appears as in Jesus. The corrupt nature is called a man; like the human body, it is of divers parts, supporting and strengthening one another. Sinful desires are deceitful lusts; they promise men happiness, but render them more miserable; and bring them to destruction, if not subdued and mortified. These therefore must be put off, as an old garment, a filthy garment; they must be subdued and mortified. But it is not enough to shake off corrupt principles; we must have gracious ones. By the new man, is meant the new nature, the new creature, directed by a new principle, even regenerating grace, enabling a man to lead a new life of righteousness and holiness. This is created, or brought forth by God's almighty power.That ye put off - That you lay aside, or renounce. The manner in which the apostle states those duties, renders it not improbable that there had been some instruction among them of a contrary character, and that it is possible there had been some teachers there who had not enforced, as they should bare done, the duties of practical religion.

Concerning the former conversation - The word "conversation" here means conduct - as it commonly does in the Bible; see the notes, 2 Corinthians 1:12. The meaning here is, "with respect to your former conduct or habits of life, lay aside all that pertained to a corrupt and fallen nature." You are not to lay "everything" aside that formerly pertained to you. Your dress, and manners, and modes of speech and conversation, might have been in many respects correct. But everything that proceeded from sin; every habit, and custom, and mode of speech and of conduct that was the result of depravity, is to be laid aside. The special characteristics of an unconverted man you are to put off, and are to assume those which are the proper fruits of a renewed heart.

The old man - see the notes on Romans 6:6.

Which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts - The meaning is:

(1) That the unrenewed man is not under the direction of reason and sound sense, but is controlled by his "passions and desires." The word "lusts," has a more limited signification with us than the original word. That word we now confine to one class of sensual appetites; but the original word denotes any passion or propensity of the heart. It may include avarice, ambition, the love of pleasure, or of gratification in any way; and the meaning here is, that the heart is by nature under the control of such desires.

(2) those passions are deceitful. They lead us astray, They plunge us into ruin. All the passions and pleasures of the world are illusive. They promise more than they perform; and they leave their deluded votaries to disappointment and to tears. Nothing is more "deceitful" than the promised pleasures of this world; and all who yield to them find at last that they "flatter but to betray."

22. That ye—following "Ye have been taught" (Eph 4:21).

concerning the former conversation—"in respect to your former way of life."

the old man—your old unconverted nature (Ro 6:6).

is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts—rather, "which is being corrupted ('perisheth,' compare Ga 6:8, 'corruption,' that is, destruction) according to (that is, as might be expected from) the lusts of deceit." Deceit is personified; lusts are its servants and tools. In contrast to "the holiness of the truth," Eph 4:24, and "truth in Jesus," Eph 4:21; and answering to Gentile "vanity," Eph 4:17. Corruption and destruction are inseparably associated together. The man's old-nature-lusts are his own executioners, fitting him more and more for eternal corruption and death.

That ye put off; a usual metaphor, taken from garments (implying a total abandoning, and casting away, like a garment not to be put on again): it is oppesed to putting on, Ephesians 4:24, and is the same as mortifying, Colossians 3:5, crucifying, Galatians 6:14.

Concerning the former conversation; the former heathenish life and manners, Ephesians 2:2. He shows how they should put off their old man, viz. by relinquishing their old manners; the same as putting off

the old man with his deeds, Colossians 3:9.

The old man; the pravity of nature, or nature as depraved.

Which is corrupt; or, which corrupteth, i.e. tends to destruction, Galatians 6:8; or, which daily grows worse and more corrupt by the fulfilling of its lusts.

According to the deceitful lusts; i.e. which draw away and entice men, Jam 1:14; or which put on a show and semblance of some good, or promise pleasure and happiness, but lurch men’s hopes, and make them more miserable. That ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man,.... Which is the corruption of nature; why this is called a man, and an old man; see Gill on Romans 6:6, the putting him off, is not a removing him from the saints, nor a destroying him in them, nor a changing his nature; for he remains, and remains alive, and is the same old man he ever was, in regenerate persons; but it is a putting him off from his seat, and a putting him down from his government; a showing no regard to his rule and dominion, to his laws and lusts, making no provision for his support; and particularly, not squaring the life and conversation according to his dictates and directions; and therefore it is called a putting him off, concerning the former conversation: the change lies not, in the old man, who can never be altered, but in the conversation; he is not in the same power, but he retains the same sinful nature; he is put off, but he is not put out; and though he does not reign, he rages, and often threatens to get the ascendant: these words stand either in connection with Ephesians 4:17 and so are a continuation and an explanation of that exhortation; or else they point out what regenerate souls are taught by Christ to do, to quit the former conversation, to hate the garment spotted with the flesh, and to put it off; for the allusion is to the putting off of filthy garments, as the works of the flesh may be truly called, which flow from the vitiosity of nature, the old man:

which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; the old man, or the vitiosity of nature, has its lusts; and these are deceitful; they promise pleasure and profit, but yield neither in the issue; they promise liberty, and bring into bondage; they promise secrecy and impunity, but expose to shame, and render liable to punishment; they sometimes put on a religious face, and so deceive, and fill men with pride and conceit, who think themselves to be something, when they are nothing: and through these the old man is corrupt; by these the corruption of nature is discovered; and the corruption that is in the world is produced hereby; and these make a man deserving of, and liable to the pit of corruption; and this is a good reason, why this corrupt old man, with respect to the life and conversation, should be put off.

That ye put off concerning the former conversation {e} the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

(e) Yourselves.

Ephesians 4:22. Ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς] dependent on καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ. See on Ephesians 4:21. What is truth in Jesus, Paul states, not in general (to lay aside, etc.), but individualizingly in relation to the readers; that ye lay aside.[239] Michaelis and Flatt give the strangely erroneous rendering: to lay aside yourselves! In that case there would be wanting the main matter, the reflexive ἑαυτούς; and how alien to the N.T. such a form of conceiving self-denial! Luther and others are also incorrect in rendering: lay aside. It is not till Ephesians 4:25 that the direct summons comes in, and that in the usual form of the imperative, instead of which the infinitive (Winer, p. 282 f. [E. T. 397]), and with the accusative ὑμᾶς in addition (Matthiae, p. 1267), would be inappropriate. The figurative expression of laying aside is borrowed from the putting off clothing (comp. ἐνδύσασθαι, Ephesians 4:24), and in current use, as with Paul (Romans 13:12; Romans 13:14; Colossians 3:8 ff.; Galatians 3:27), so also with Greek writers (see Wetstein in loc.); hence there was the less reason for forcing on the context any more special reference, such as to the custom (at any rate, certainly later) of changing clothes at baptism (so Grotius).

κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφήν] is not to be explained, as if the words stood: τὸν παλ. ἄνθρ. τὸν κατὰ τὴν προτέροαν ἀναστρ. (Jerome, Oecumenius, Vorstius, Grotius, Raphel, Estius, Semler, Koppe, Rosenmüller, and others), but: that ye lay aside in respect of your former life-walk the old man, so that it expresses, in what respect, in reference to what the laying aside of the old man is spoken of. “Declarat vim verbi relationem habentis deponere,” Bengel. The Pauline παλ. ἄνθρ., ideally conceived of, is not injuriously affected, as de Wette thinks, in its internal truth by this recalling of the pre-Christian walk (as if the author had conceived of it empirically). The προτέρα ἀναστρ., in fact, concerns the whole moral nature of man before his conversion, and the ἀποθέσθαι τὸν παλ. ἄνθρ. affirms that the converted man is to retain nothing of his pre-Christian moral personality, but, as concerns the pre-Christian conduct of life, is utterly to do away with the old ethical individuality and to become the new man. Such a contrast, however, as Cornelius a Lapide (comp. Anselm) found: “non quoad naturam et substantiam,” would be in itself singular and foreign to the context.

As to ἀναστροφή, see on Galatians 1:13.

τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρ.] The pre-Christian moral frame[240] is represented as a person. See on Romans 6:6.

τὸν φθειρόμενον κ.τ.λ.] an attribute of the old man serving as a motive for that ἀποθέσθαι κ.τ.λ.: which is being destroyed according to the lusts of deception. φθειρόμενον is not to be explained of putrefaction (Michaelis), seeing that ὁ παλαιὸς ἄνθρ. is not equivalent to τὸ σῶμα, nor yet of inward moral corruption (Koppe, Flatt, Holzhausen, Meier, Harless, and older expositors), or self-corruption (Schenkel), seeing that the moral corruption of the old man is obvious of itself and is already present, not merely coming into existence (present participle, which is not to be taken, with Bengel, as imperfect), but of eternal destruction (Galatians 6:8), in which case the present participle: which goes to ruin (comp. on 1 Corinthians 1:18), is to be taken either of the certain future realized as present, or of the destruction in the course of development (so Grotius: “qui tendit ad exitium”). The latter appears more appropriate to the contrast of τὸν κατὰ Θεὸν κτισθέντα, Ephesians 4:24.

κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῦς ἀπάτης] τῆς ἀπάτης is genitive subjecti, and ἡ ἀπάτη is personified (comp. Hesiod. Theog. 224). Hence: in accordance with the lusts of deception, with which it has had designs on the corruption of the old man. What ἀπάτη is meant, cannot be doubtful according to the context, and according to the doctrine of the apostle as to the principle of sin in man, namely, the power of sin deceiving man (Romans 7:11). Comp. Hebrews 3:13, also 2 Corinthians 11:3. The adjectival resolution into cupiditates seducentes (Grotius), followed by many, is in itself arbitrary and not in keeping with the contrast in Ephesians 4:24 (τῆς ἀληθείας).

[239] Not: that ye have laid aside, as Hofmann wishes to take it, who explains as if Paul had written: ἀποθεμένους ὑμᾶςἀνανεοῦσθαι τῷ πνεύματιἐνδυσαμένους κ.τ.λ. Starting from the aorist infinitive thus taken at variance with linguistic usage (comp. on Romans 15:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1), Hofmann has incorrectly understood the whole passage. According to his interpretation, the perfect infinitive must have been used. The Vulgate already has correctly not deposuisse, but deponere.

[240] Not original sin (as Calovius and others would have it), which, in fact, cannot be laid aside, but the moral habitus, such as it is in the unregenerate man under the dominion of the sin-principle. Comp. Romans 7:7 ff.; Ephesians 2:1 ff.Ephesians 4:22. ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον: that ye put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man. This is best connected with the ἐδιδάχθητε. It gives the purport or contents of the instruction. The inf., therefore, is the objective inf. (cf. in μηκέτι περιπατεῖν, Ephesians 4:17 above, and Donald., Greek Gram., § 584). It has something of the force of an imperative, but is not to be taken as the same as an imperative, that use of the inf. being very rare in the NT, and found generally indeed only in the case of oracles, laws and the like (cf. Win.-Moult., p. 397). In such constructions as the present the inf. does not require the pronoun; but ὑμᾶς is introduced here with a view to lucidity, after the reference to Jesus in Ephesians 4:21 (so Ell., Alf., etc.). The figure in the ἀποθέσθαι is taken from the putting off of garments, and is parallel to the ἐνδύσασθαι of Ephesians 4:24. The κατὰ clause defines that in respect of which this putting off is to take effect, the prep. having here the general sense of “in reference to,” not that of “in conformity with”. τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον, contrasted with the καινὸς ἄνθρωπος (Ephesians 4:24), the νέος ἄνθρωπος (Colossians 3:10), the καινὴ κτίσις (Galatians 6:15), is the former unregenerate self in its entirety (cf. Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9).—τὸν φθειρόμενον: which waxeth corrupt. The pres. part. marks the corruption as a process that goes on, a condition that progresses. The point is missed by the “is corrupt” of the AV, but is well put by “waxeth corrupt” (Ell., RV); cf. also Galatians 6:8. The “corruption,” however, is to be understood as “destruction”. The “old man” is in a condition of advancing destruction or ruin, and, therefore, should all the more be “put off”. Some (e.g., Meyer) take eternal destruction to be in view, the pres. part. expressing what is to issue in destruction or indicating the certainty of the future.—κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης: according to the lusts of deceit. ἀπάτης is the gen. subj., not = “the deceitful lusts” (AV), but = the lusts which deceit uses or which are its instruments. The ἀπάτη is in contrast with ἀλήθεια, the article giving it the abstract force approaching a personification. κατά here = in accordance with. The process of corruption or ruin goes on in precise conformity with the nature of the lusts which the deceitful power of sin has in its service.22. that ye put off] The Gr. verb is the infinitive aorist. The tense tends to denote singleness of crisis and action. Some would render “that you have” (or “did) put off.” But the better explanation, or paraphrase, is, “with regard to your (definite) putting-off.” The “instruction in Christ” had informed them about such a “putting-off”; its principles, secret, effects, as well as its fact.—But the view of the “putting-off” as a definite crisis remains; and the only question is, does this crisis appear here as a past or future one? The answer will be best given under the words “the old man,” just below. For the present we refer to Colossians 3:9 as strongly favouring the reference here to a crisis past; so that we may paraphrase, “you were taught in Christ with regard to the fact that your old man was laid aside.”

concerning the former conversation] On “conversation” see on Ephesians 2:3 above. The word (noun and verb) happens to be almost always used by St Paul in reference to the unregenerate life-course.—The clause means that the “putting-off” concerned, had to do with, a former life-course; it affected it, by being the close of it.—As concerning your former manner of life (R.V.).

the old man] This important phrase occurs elsewhere Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9. In Rom. it appears as a thing which “was crucified with Christ”; in Col. as a thing which “was once stripped off” by the saints. (Cp. the remarkable parallel words Colossians 2:11, as in the best supported reading, “in the stripping off of the body of the flesh.”) On the whole, we may explain the phrase by “the old state.” And under this lie combined the ideas of past personal legal position and moral position; all that I was as an unregenerate son of Adam, liable to eternal doom, and the slave of sin. To “put off the old man” is to quit those positions, which, at the root, are one. It is to step into the position of personal acceptance and of personal spiritual power and victory; and that position is “in Christ.” The believer, lodged there, enters definitely and at once upon both acceptance and spiritual capacity for victory and growth.—“The old man” is thus not identical with “the flesh,” which is an abiding element (Galatians 5:16-17) in even the regenerate and spiritual, though it need no longer—even for an hour—be the ruling element; it may be continuously overcome, in a practical and profound manner, in the strength of “the new man.”—The phrases “old Man” and “new Man” have a probable inner reference to the doctrine of the First and Second Adam (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-58). The “putting off” and “putting on” may be expressed by saying, “ye broke connexion (in certain great aspects of connexion) with the First Adam, and formed connexion with the Second,” connexion both of acceptance and of life-power[37].

[37] On this aspect of Christian doctrine much excellent matter will be found in an old book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall, Fellow of New College, Oxford (about 1670).

corrupt] Lit., corrupting, growing corrupt; morally decaying, on the way to final ruin. Such, from the Divine point of view, is the condition of ideal Man unregenerate, Man as represented by and summed up in Adam fallen. And such accordingly is the actual condition, from the same point of view, of unregenerate men, in whom the ideal is individualized.

according to the deceitful lusts] Lit., the desires of deceit; desires after the forbidden, full of deceitful promises of joy and gain. See Genesis 3 for the great typical case, which perhaps is in view throughout this verse.—“According to:—by natural result. Moral decay must follow in their path.—Cp. 2 Peter 2:19.Ephesians 4:22. Ἀποθέσθαι, that ye put off) This word depends on I say, Ephesians 4:17 : and from the same verse the power of the particle no longer [μηκέτι, Engl. Vers. henceforth—not] is taken up, as it were, after a parenthesis without a conjunction in the equivalent verb, out off [= that ye henceforth walk not, Ephesians 4:17]: for the reverse of those things, which are mentioned Ephesians 4:18-19, has been already set forth and cleared out of the way in Ephesians 4:20-21; and yet this verb ἀποθέσθαι, to put off, has some relation to the words immediately preceding Ephesians 4:21. Putting on, Ephesians 4:24, is directly opposed to the putting off [Ephesians 4:22].—κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν, according to the former conversation) according as you have formerly walked. The antithesis is the whole of Ephesians 4:23 : according to shows the force of the verb, which has relation to it, put off, not merely abstain.—τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον, the old man) The concrete for the abstract, as presently, at Ephesians 4:24, “the new man:” comp. Ephesians 4:13, note. The abstract, for example, is lying, Ephesians 4:25.—τὸν φθειρόμενον, who was corrupt) The Imperfect, as κλέπτων, who stole, Ephesians 4:28. The antithesis is, was created [in righteousness, Ephesians 4:24], and that too in the aorist or imperfect [κτισθέντα, not as Engl. Vers. “which is created”], in respect of the first creation and the original intention [of God in making man at first pure and innocent].—κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας, according to the lusts) The antithesis is, according to God, in righteousness [Ephesians 4:24], etc.—τὰς ἐπιθυμίας, the lusts) The antithesis is, righteousness and holiness.—τῆς ἀπάτης) of heathen error. The antithesis is, of truth [τῆς ἀληθείας, lit. “the holiness of truth;” so true holiness, Ephesians 4:24].Verse 22. - That ye put off, as concerning the former conversation, the old man. The sum of Christ's practical lessons is given in two particulars - putting off and putting on. The change is very decided and very complete. It is emphatically personal; not a mere change of opinions or of religious observances, but of life, habit, character; not altering a few things, but first putting off the man as we put off a garment. "It is a change which brings the mind under the government of truth, and gives to the life a new aspect of integrity and devoutness." Which is rotting according to the lusts of deceit. The present participle, φθειρόμενον, indicates continuance or progress in corruption. Sin is a disintegrating dissolving thing, causing putridity, and in all cases, when unchecked, tending towards it. Deceit is personified; it is an agent of evil, sending out lusts which seem harmless but are really ruinous - their real character is concealed; they come as ministers of pleasure, they end as destructive tyrants. Lust of power, lust of money, lust of pleasure, have all this character; they are the offspring of deceit, and always to be shunned. That ye put away

Dependent upon ye were taught, and specifying the purport of the teaching.

The old man

See on Romans 6:6. Compare Colossians 3:9.

Which is corrupt (τὸν φθειρόμενον)

The A.V. misses the force of the participle. The verb is passive, which is being corrupted, and marks the progressive condition of corruption which characterizes "the old man." Rev., correctly, waxeth corrupt.

According to the deceitful lusts (κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης).

Rev., correctly, lusts of deceit. On the vicious rendering of similar phrases in A.V., see on Ephesians 1:19. Deceit is personified.

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