23 March 2006

Old Man-New Man (Part 2)

To complete the two part series on Hoekema’s Created in God’s Image, I wanted to mention how he sees the parallel passage in Ephesians. I may slightly nuance what he presents here, but I still like the crystallization. I suppose my only substantive complaint is that he did not relate these texts explicitly to the categories Paul uses in Romans 5–8. I see the definitive break with sin occurring as the old man (i.e, what we were in Adam, slaves to sin) is crucified with Christ in our union with him. But because Hoekema's focus is on how the new man relates to the image of God, the correlation may have fallen beyond his immediate interest. Again parenthetical references to Greek have been omitted.

Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

This passage contains three infinitives, both in the translation and in the Greek: “to put off"; “to be made new”; and “to put on”. Many English translations render these infinitives as if they were imperatives, as if the apostle were saying: You must put off the old self, you must be renewed, and you must put on the new self. Though occasionally Greek infinitives may be used as imperatives (as, e.g. in Rom. 12:15), it is not necessary to interpret them as such here. I prefer, with John Murray [Principles of Conduct, pp. 214–219], to think of these forms as infinitives of result or as explanatory infinitives, depending on the verb “you were taught”, and giving the content of that teaching. This is, in fact, the way in which the NIV renders that passage (see above).
Since you have come to know Christ, Paul is saying to the believers in Ephesus, you have been taught once and for all to put off your old self, to be continually made new in the attitude of your minds, and once and for all to put on the new self. In words reminiscent of Colossians 3:9–10, Paul says that a Christian is a person who has decisively and irrevocably put off the old self and put on the new self, and who must continually and progressively be renewed in the spirit or attitude of his or her mind. A once-for-all change of direction is to be accompanied by daily, progressive renewal. The Christian is a new person, but he or she still has a lot of growing to do(pp. 26-27).

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