The New Man
Serious Bible students will have noticed that there are certain terms descriptive of man, some individual and some corporate, that are only used by the apostle Paul. Thus we have the old man and the new man (see Eph. 4: 22, 24), the first man and the second man (see 1 Cor. 15: 45, 47), the spiritual man (see 1 Cor. 2: 15) and the carnal man (see 1 Cor. 3: 3), the inner man (see Eph. 3: 16) and the outward man (see 2 Cor. 4: 16). Our subject is the new man—but to understand this expression we must take care to distinguish it from all the others in our list. In particular, we must understand what is meant by the old man, for it is with this term that the new man is so clearly contrasted.
The First Man and the Second Man
Let us begin then with the first man. Now to confuse “the first man” (1 Cor. 15: 45) with “our old man” (Rom. 6: 6) has caused much damage to souls. The first man was an individual made out of dust by God Himself, and pronounced “very good” (Gen. 1: 31). Adam stood at the head of the race, and all mankind is connected to him as that first man, for all bear “the image of the [one] made of dust” (1 Cor. 15: 49). The thought behind the term the first man is simply “that which is natural” (1 Cor. 15: 46). Indeed, the “natural man”—that is, the first man’s descendants—cannot enter into the things of God, because they are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2: 14). What they understand is, at most, by “mere nature”, for they are “natural [men], not having [the] Spirit” (Jude 10, 19). The expression the old man, however, takes us beyond what is merely natural, and distinctly involves what has come about as a result of the entrance of sin into the world. The old man thus “corrupts itself” according to its “deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4: 22). Rather than an individual (as was Adam, the first man), the term “our old man” (Rom. 6: 6, my italics) is the sinful condition personified, and therefore embraces the whole of fallen mankind.
Now that which is natural and that which is sinful must be kept separate in our minds, for that which sin has marred is not in itself sin. “Harsh treatment of the body” (Col. 2: 23) is completely useless with respect to putting to death those moral features that characterise the old man (see Col. 3: 5). Certainly what is natural cannot enter into the things of God, for such things are only “revealed to us by [his] Spirit” (1 Cor. 2: 10), but the believer is not unnatural, and nor is he supposed to be. Natural affection has its place in the life of the believer, and the absence of it is a mark of apostasy (see 2 Tim. 3: 3). We also have a “natural body” (1 Cor. 15: 44) in which we are to glorify God (see 1 Cor. 6: 20). Nor is the body annulled as some think. What Scripture does say is that “our old man has been crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin” (Rom. 6: 6, my emphasis). The sense is that the old man being judged at the cross, sin no longer has the position of domination over our natural bodies as it did formerly.
Turning to the second man, we find that this refers to the Lord as the beginning of a new order, and as contrasted with Adam, who headed the original order: “the first man out of [the] earth, made of dust; the second man, out of heaven” (1 Cor. 15: 47). The introduction of this new order means that “as we have borne the image of the [one] made of dust” so shall we “bear also the image of the heavenly [one]” (v49). This is future, but we are to have “put on the new man” (Eph. 4: 24) now. The first man (and his progeny) have a natural body, while those of the second man’s order are looking to be “raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15: 44) like His. Again, the second man is the Lord Jesus Christ as an individual, but those now associated with Him are formed “in himself into one new man” (Eph. 2: 15). The term new man therefore refers not to an individual, but is the personification of Christ and the Assembly. Unlike old man, the new man is not simply a moral term, but also involves the mystery. Ephesians 2: 15 presents the mystery side of the expression (the composition), while Ephesians 4: 24, presents the moral side (the character).
Other Pauline Terms
The spiritual man describes the individual believer in a right condition. He “discerns all things” (1 Cor. 2: 15), and is contrasted with the merely “natural man” (that is, an unbeliever) who “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned” (v14). The carnal man (see 1 Cor. 3: 3), is the believer in a bad state, who instead of walking according to the Spirit, walks “according to man” (v3)—that is, according to what is natural, or even sinful.
The inner man (see Eph. 3: 16) is also personal, being the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in each individual believer in Christ, and is in contrast to the outward man, which is simply our bodily frame. 2 Cor. 4: 16 makes this plain: “we faint not; but if indeed our outward man is consumed, yet the inward is renewed day by day”.
The spiritual man, the carnal man, the inner man and the outward man are all what is personal to the individual, but the old man describes instead what is characteristic of the whole fallen race. There are not multiple ‘old men’ as it were—when the apostle refers to “our old man” (Rom. 6: 6, my emphasis) the sense is what is peculiar to all mankind. We have already seen that there is also but “one new man” (Eph. 2: 15, my emphasis), formed in Christ, and in this new man, all the earthly distinctions common to humanity (such as bondman and freeman) are erased (see Col. 3: 11).
The New Man—His Creation
The new man could not exist without first there being an old man, and that old man having been judged at the cross (see Rom. 6: 6), thus proving the need of a “new man”. The old man came about through the fall, but the new man was not created until the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. The new man could not exist in the OT because the Lord Jesus was not a man until the incarnation (see 1 Tim. 3: 16; 2 John 7), and it is as a man, that the “one new man”, is formed “in himself” (Eph. 2: 15, my emphasis). However, the Lord Jesus Christ did not form the new man in Himself as a man on earth. Not only did He live and die as a man on earth, but He has been “received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3: 16) as a man (see Acts 7: 56; Heb. 2: 6, 7), for “we see Jesus” (His ordinary name as a man among men) … “crowned with glory and honour” (v9, my emphasis). It is in that position that the new man is formed in Himself. Scripture is explicit that the new man could not exist before the cross because there the Lord annulled the enmity between Jew and Gentile “in his flesh” (that is, through His death) in order “that he might form the two in himself into one new man” (Eph. 2: 15, my emphasis). Again, the new man could not exist before the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven to indwell the Church, because Jew and Gentile could not be formed “into one new man” (Eph. 2: 15) until “in [the power of] one Spirit” they had “all been baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks … and had “all been given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12: 13).
The new man is not simply a new nature (for the OT saints pleased God and yet they lived before the new man was formed). Nor is the new man simply the body of Christ on earth, connected to the Head in heaven (although, all blessedly true). We know this because while the Corinthians were told “ye are Christ’s body” (1 Cor. 12: 27), they were also told “ye are yet carnal” (1 Cor. 3: 3), which hardly accords with a new man “created in truthful righteousness” (Eph. 4: 24). Again, while the Colossian saints were responsible to hold “fast the head” (Col. 2: 19), the new man is created “in himself” (Eph. 2: 15) and thus cannot fall short. The new man is really what is true of Christ finding its expression by the Spirit in the Assembly. The moral features of Christ are replicated there, so that the whole can be seen as “one new man” (Eph. 2: 15), formed for the pleasure of God.
The New Man—His Composition
The corporate aspect of the new man is one that is not often considered—for if the subject is examined at all, it is usually only with respect to what is practical and personal. Focusing solely on the moral features of the new man might lead us to think that the term refers to a new race of men, but it is actually “one new man” (Eph. 2: 15, my emphasis)—which the addition of the words “one body” in the following verse only add emphasis. Indeed, read on, for it is the corporate idea that is prominent throughout: “the household of God … a holy temple in the Lord … a habitation of God in [the] Spirit” (v19, 21, 22). Now it is obvious that what is characteristic of the old man is not conducive to “the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4: 3), while that which marks the new man necessarily has that effect. Thus while the Ephesians were directed to “let all bitterness, and heat of passion, and wrath, and clamour, and injurious language, be removed from you, with all malice”—that is, what is characteristic of the old man—they were also exhorted to “be to one another kind, compassionate, forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you”—that is, what is characteristic of the new man—(Eph. 4: 31, 32). Nor is it simply a matter of the character of the new man, for it is “one new man” (Eph. 2: 15, my emphasis). Two men might quarrel with each other, but not one. Thus, in His death, Christ has “annulled the enmity” (Eph. 2: 15) between Jew and Gentile, both are reconciled in one body (see v16), both have access by one Spirit to the Father (see v18), are fellow–citizens (see v19), fitted together (see v21) and built together (see v22). This concept of “one new man” (v15) immediately does away with the prevalent notions of ecclesiastical independency and all forms of sectarianism, and is the death knell of those human alliances that pretend a spiritual unity they do not have. In the one new man, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ [is] everything, and in all” (Col. 3: 11). Where man sees difference, God sees Christ, where man delights in many, God has formed into one.
The New Man—His Character
Scripture clearly contrasts the character of the new man with that of the old man, but in both cases it is the state of the mind that influences the behaviour. Those characterised by the old man are said to “walk in [the] vanity of their mind, being darkened in understanding, estranged from the life of God by reason of the ignorance which is in them, by reason of the hardness of their hearts, who having cast off all feeling, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greedy unsatisfied lust” (Eph. 4: 17–19). The Christian, however is not ignorant, but “instructed” in Christ, and, as a result, has “put off according to the former conversation the old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts” and is instead “being renewed in the spirit of your mind … having put on the new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness and holiness” (vs. 21–24).
The old man could not be improved. His history from the fall of Adam to the cross of Christ is proof of this. Indeed, soon after the formation of the old man, we read that “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him”, and before long, “the earth was full of violence” (Gen. 4: 8; 6: 11). The introduction of the Law only served to expose the sinfulness of man even further, and his awful history culminated in the murder of the Son of God. A new man was therefore needed. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit uses a different word for new in Colossians 3, to that which He uses in Ephesians 2 and 4 (these being the only three chapters in which the new man is so named). In Colossians 3: 10, the word is neos, while in Ephesians 2: 15 and 4: 24, the word is kainos. The first means new abidingly, the second, new altogether. The first can never grow old: it is ever fresh. The second is what has never been before. Both words are needed to describe the new man: it is both new altogether, and abidingly new. Thus the “old man has been crucified” with Christ (Rom. 6: 6)—condemned—while the new man is “created in truthful righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4: 24)—a new creation. Again, the old man is hopelessly corrupt, the new man is incorruptible, being formed in Christ (see Eph. 2: 15).
A Change of Man
We have just noted that Ephesians 2: 15 tells us that Christ forms the one new man “in himself” (my emphasis). However in Ephesians 4: 22 and Colossians 3: 9, we are said to have put off the old man and put on the new. These two thoughts are not contradictory. The first refers to what Christ has accomplished through His work at Calvary, the second refers to what has been accomplished through the repentant sinner believing that work to be on his behalf. At the cross, Christ has judicially set the old man aside—crucifixion being not just simply death, but a sentence of condemnation. “Knowing this”—that is, accepting the testimony of God’s Word that “our old man has been crucified with [him]” (Rom. 6: 6)—we form the same judgment as God about that character of man (that is, that he can never please God). Our own efforts can never “put off the old man” (Col. 3: 9), but in believing, we put him where God has put him. Indeed Scripture never supposes the case of a Christian where the old man has not been put off, but always speaks of it as something already done. The old man and the new man are in no way presented as co–existent: the one has come in place of the other. Similarly we are not exhorted to put the new man on, but are told that since it is already done—“[your] having put on the new man” (Eph. 4: 24)—then certain moral characteristics will flow from that fact. A very simple example will suffice. Thus if we have put on “the new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness” (v24, my emphasis), then we are to “speak truth every one with his neighbour” (v25, my emphasis). Thus it can be seen that to view the “one new man” (Eph. 2: 15) as simply an abstract concept is a grave mistake. It has serious practical implications.
A Change of Clothing
These practical implications are seen in the clear link that the apostle makes between the renewing of our minds and our having put on the new man: “being renewed in the spirit of your mind … renewed into full knowledge according to [the] image of him that has created him” (Eph. 4: 23; Col. 3: 10). The Greek word used in the first Scripture is ananeoo, while that used in the second is anakainoo, and the connection between neos and kainos is easily seen. Ananeoo refers to a renewal of the spirit of the mind such that the way we think is permanently changed, while anakainoo is being renewed in a way that was entirely unknown until Christ came (a change of mind that is utterly foreign to the old man).
These things being so, our outlook is changed, and we now see certain things as being inconsistent with having put on the new man. “Once”, we “lived in these things” (Col. 3: 7) as being in accord with “our old man” (Rom. 6: 6), but now we see that his garments (as it were) are unsuited to the new man. A change of clothing is in order, hence we are to “put off, ye also, all [these] things, wrath, anger, malice, blasphemy, vile language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, having put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3: 8–10). We are to put these things off because we have put off the old man to whom the attire belongs.
Then there is what we are to put on. Not, mark, that we might become “[the] elect of God, holy and beloved” (Col. 3: 12), but because we are that. Are these ‘clothes’ to be things that we plan to wear in the future, either when we are ready for it, or when we have matured in the faith? Not according to Scripture, for the words “put on” literally mean ‘to be in the state of having done it’. The problem for so many of us lies in not realising that you cannot put on until you have put off. The new man must be clothed in his new garments, not the garments of the old man, hence: “put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, long–suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also [do] ye” (vs 12, 13). Note how we begin with what is inside—“bowels of compassion”, and that the completeness of these seven graces is crowned by forgiving as Christ did. He, as ever, is the standard—He has to be, for the new man is formed “in himself” (Eph. 2: 15). Finally, to all these graces, we are to “[add] love, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3: 14)—put on like an overcoat over all our other garments, and without which the new man would not be properly dressed. What will be the effect of adding love? It will bring God’s people together in the “bond of perfectness” (v14).
The bond of perfectness is a good point on which to conclude our study. Though the teaching of Scripture concerning the one new man has only been briefly sketched out, it is my prayer that the soul of the reader might be exercised to find out more about these things. Not just in an intellectual way of course, but to be “instructed in him according as [the] truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4: 21, my emphasis).