But you have not so learned Christ;…
The apostle represents "believers" as having "learned Christ," not as having learned about him, but as having reached the true knowledge of him, having heard his voice and having been taught by him, as to "the truth as it is in Jesus" - a truth that carried them far apart from the frightful license of the heathen. We now understand the exact import of this truth. It is to put off the old man and put on the new man. It is, in a word, sanctification.
I. THE NECESSITY OF THIS TRANSFORMATION. The question might naturally arise - Had not the saints at Ephesus already put off the old man and put on the new man? Were they not already true believers? Why should they be asked to do it again? We must keep in view the distinction that the apostle clearly maintains in this familiar figure between "the old man" and "the new man." Sometimes he refers to our legal condition, sometimes to our moral condition. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14). In this Epistle the apostle exhorts the Christians to put off the old man; but in the Epistle to the Colossians he says the old man has been already put off (Colossians 3:9). In this Epistle the exhortation is given, "Put on the new man" (ver. 24); but elsewhere that which is new has been already accomplished (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are exhorted again to be "transformed (Romans 12:2) and renewed" (ver. 23); but we are elsewhere said to be already "transformed" and "renewed" (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is necessary to mark this distinction, that we may not be led aside or into that mysticism which seems to confound justification with sanctification. It is the moral, not the legal, condition that is here in question. It is worse than a mistake to say that we ought not to trouble ourselves about sin, because the new man cannot sin, and that sin comes from the old man, who has been already crucified and put off. This theory makes the work of the Holy Spirit altogether unnecessary.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS TRANSFORMATION. This is evident from the contrast between the old man and the new man.
1. The old man represents corrupt nature, and is called "old" because it is original as opposed to what is new. It precedes what is new. Its character is vividly pictured by the apostle: "waxing corrupt according to the lusts of deceit." There is a progressive moral disintegration, which is inconsistent with the life of God or the happiness of man. The moral nature goes to pieces under the action of this corruption. Then it finds its natural development in" lusts of deceit." These lusts are deceitful, for they promise pleasure and bring pain; they promise liberty and bring bondage; they promise secrecy and bring shame; they promise impunity and bring retribution. Christians are well taught to put off this old man.
2. The new man represents the new nature, with its renewed intellect, its renewed affections, its renewed will. It has been "created after God in the righteousness and holiness of truth;" that is, in the righteousness and holiness which belong to the truth, or which are its essential products. Observe:
(1) That the new man is a creation, as man was a creation at the beginning. "We are God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10).
(2) The new man is in God's image, as the first man was in God's image. The apostle says, "According to the image of him who created him" (Colossians 3:10).
(3) The lineaments of the image of the new man are "righteousness" -that principle which guides him in all his relationships to God, man, and himself; and "holiness" -that principle of the spiritual life which has primary relation to God himself. Righteousness and piety, governed and guided by the truth, are the two great principles of spiritual perfection. The image of God is thus manifest in its intellectual and its moral side. All things, indeed, have become new to the believer - a new name, new relations, new honors, new possessions, new thoughts, new affections, new words, new actions - because he now acts from a new principle (Galatians 2:20), and is governed by a new end in life (1 Corinthians 10:31). - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: But ye have not so learned Christ;