“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in the knowledge according to the image of his Creator.”
This passage is manly because it gets at the heart of the gospel. A childhood father-figure once asked me, “what is the purpose of the whole bible?” At the time I new little about the bible. Honestly, I pretended to know more than did, as prideful people often do. After about ten years of study and reading through the bible several times, God’s biblical picture is more clear. At the same time, I am convinced I have just begun. I see God’s intent of renewing the man of Christ in us.
The old man is the fallen man. Of course the fallen man represents all of us, male or female, who have sinned. Since all have sinned (Romans 3:23), we can all relate to the old man talked about in the above passage. Obviously, this old/new dichotomy happens through biblical repentance. The very description “putting off the old man with his practices” means a changed mind, body, soul/spirit because practices encompasses all that goes from the inside out. Just like Jesus said, “what comes out of a man makes him unclean” (Mark 7), we have to begin from within in order to have lasting change. As we allow God to deal with our old man at the root, we can see a tangled mess of confusion come unwound and straighten out into a new man, although what we will see has not yet been made known (1John 3:2). It is the point of renewing away from where there was once a state of dying.
The new man in this passage is the complete picture of Christ. If it wasn’t obvious, we know that specifically from the context set by Colossians 1:15. That means Jesus, in all His perfection, renews us in the new man. Our faith is centered on the forward thinking picture of Jesus and being completely united with Him. As a very manly man (my dad) once said, “We are put into Christ and Christ is in us. The more that we get into Christ the more He comes into us and the more that He comes into us the more we get into Him. It is this circle of life that matures us and makes us full grown in Christ.”
Jesus starts us on an entirely different track. It is also implied we are dealing with the affects of our old man. A few illustrations will help this point. Picture an amputee that has to wake up to the reality that his limb is no longer with him. The lost limb is there in his mind and he experiences a continual shock coming to grips with his loss. We are similarly affected by losing our old man. He is gone but we can find ourselves in an old man, out of body experience. Therefore, to “put off the old man” means we come to our senses and realize we have been permanently seperated from our old man. Another illustration is the affect some earthly fathers have on their children. In this sense people often speak of their old man with disdain. You can be a victim of your spiritual old man in the same vein, whereas Jesus renews us in the new man.
How are we renewed? This passage says we are renewed in the knowledge according with the image of our Creator. That sounds really deep, but it can be broken down into simple terms, while at the same time not watering down a mature perspective. I don’t want to oversimplify God’s mystery, but this knowledge is not found by hitting the books. We should not make the mistake warned about in Ecclesiastes (12:12) and committed by the teachers of the law, where we think we are saved by what we know. It was also the mistake of the Gnostics, which is the primary occasion Paul wrote to the church in Colosse. This schismatic group would infiltrate the church subtly from within by presenting the attractive idea that you just needed the right knowledge. In other words, you could separate head and heart and your righteous practice did not matter as much. That is why this passage mentions “practices of the old man” to strongly imply practices of the new man (who we are in Christ) do matter a great deal. The word “knowledge,” as used here, has more to do with a relationship than mental exercise. That is why Jesus says, “away from me…I never knew you” to those who think they are saved by human effort (Matt. 7). The knowledge that renews is God’s perfection and faith in what He is doing in us. We walk in the new man with the attitude, “I want to know Christ!”