What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Some things are worthy of treasuring for the rest of our lives, while other things belong in the dumpster.
We all have the natural tendency to cling to what is familiar, even it if proves detrimental to us. Like those who have adopted the Depression mentality, we fearfully and tenaciously cling to self-defeating and destructive behaviors. Many individuals have collected injustices and grudges throughout the years, nursing them and keeping them alive long after the activating event has ceased. Spouses who have gone through an ugly divorce carry these malignancies to the grave after having infected their offspring with the same malignancy.
In his book, Weight Loss for the Mind, Stuart Wilde suggests that "letting go" is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks for a human being. He suggests that we instinctively "hang on to our family connections, to the certificate we got at school, to our money, we embrace and hang on to our children [sometimes attempting to micromanage their lives into adulthood], we lock our car and hang on to it." People may hang onto books, magazines, cassettes, records, shoes, egg cartons, plastic jugs, bottles, reusable cans, etc. If we keep these items long enough, we sentimentalize them, affectionately calling them antiques.
Henry David Thoreau in Walden compares our accumulated belongings to traps we carry around, suggesting
it is the same as if all these traps were buckled to a man's belt, and he could not move over the rough country where our lines are cast without dragging them—dragging his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap. The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free. No wonder man has lost his elasticity.
The difficulty we have in freeing ourselves from physical clutter metaphorically parallels our difficulties getting rid of spiritual clutter. God's Word indicates, however, that we must make a full-fledged effort to rid ourselves of excess baggage. Notice Hebrews 12:1:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . . .
Perennial and chronic sin constitutes the unwanted weight or obesity that we desperately desire to shed. This accumulative set of reinforced bad habits and transgressions the apostle Paul identifies as the "old man." He admonishes that we ought to slough off the "old man" like an accumulated mass of dead skin cells or an old discarded garment: ". . . that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22).
Paul gets more specific as he identifies particular obnoxious traits and qualities found in the old man—or our comfortable, old, carnal selves:
But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds. . . . (Colossians 3:8-9)
Dr. William V. Haney in his Communication and Organizational Behavior illustrates that people who hold negative or dysfunctional self-images tenaciously hold onto them, feeling their very "identities" to be at stake:
A man, for example, may regard himself as incompetent and worthless. He may feel that he is doing his job poorly in spite of favorable appraisals by the company. As long as he has these feelings about himself, he must deny any experiences which would not seem to fit this self-picture, in this case any that might indicate to him that he is competent. It is so necessary for him to maintain this self-picture that he is threatened by anything which would attempt to change it.
. . . This is why direct attempts to change this individual or change his self-picture are particularly threatening. He is forced to defend himself or to completely deny the experience. This denial of experience and defense of self-picture tend to bring on rigidity of behavior and create difficulties in personal adjustment. (3rd Edition, 1973, p. 88)
To hang on to this negative self-image rather than to conform to God's image (Romans 8:29) means to resurrect and hang onto the old man—with its obnoxious habits and behavior patterns. Some of these behavior patterns we may have reinforced so thoroughly that it has become part of us, somewhat like individuals who carry around benign or malignant tumors, accepting them as part of themselves, rather than a hideous and life-threatening alien growth.
David F. Maas
A Time to Throw Away
The Bible uses wine in a wide variety of ways. It can represent a drug or a blessing. It can be a symbol of debauchery or of abundance. Wine was part of the drink offering, symbolizing being poured out in service. It was part of Melchizedek's blessing on Abraham, and 2,000 years later, Jesus uses it in the Passover as the blood of the New Covenant. Psalm 75 shows a cup of wine of God's wrath, and Revelation 18 depicts a cup in the hand of Mystery Babylon, representing its intoxicating culture and the spirit of the times.
Obviously, not all of those meanings are in view here, but when we link the new wine with Jesus being "taken away" (verse 35), it coincides with the Passover cup, representing Christ's blood and the New Covenant. When we add the fact that the Holy Spirit could not be given until Jesus had gone away, then the new wine entails more than just forgiveness, but also suggests God's Spirit—His love, power, and sound-mindedness (II Timothy 1:7).
In the example, the new wine is expansive. The fermentation process produces a great deal of pressure. An old and brittle wineskin will not be able to withstand the increasing stress, and it will burst.
The wineskin is a type of vessel. Throughout Scripture, vessels are symbols for people. For Christians, there is an “old man” and a “new man.” The old man represents the life we had before conversion, and the new man, the new vessel, is the life that comes because of conversion. But if we take the expansive and dynamic new wine, and we attempt to put that into the old life, we can be sure that we will have a disaster on our hands.
Our old lives, our old ways, are entirely incompatible with the new wine. The new wine requires change, expansion, and steady improvement, while in the old life, there was no real desire or ability to change. Remember, the new wine is tied to the blood of Passover, the New Covenant, the receipt of God's Spirit, and the spiritual result that will be produced by those powerful factors. Trying to cram all that into a person who is unwilling to change will invariably result in his coming apart at the seams. The precious new wine is spilled on the ground and dreadfully wasted.
David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine
The apostle Paul informs us in Romans 6:6 that, when we were submerged in the waters of baptism, "our old man was crucified with [Christ], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Once this has occurred, "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (verse 4).
Every Christian, then, is a new man, no longer living the old life of sin and slavish obedience to human nature. Paul says later in the chapter that, "having been set free from sin, [we] became slaves of righteousness" (verse 18). Because the new man is a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), he is to be renewed in mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10) and conduct (Titus 3:5, 8; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:10, 12). Ring out the old, ring in the new, and the new man begins his walk toward perfection (Hebrews 6:1).
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)
In Galatians 3:27, Paul says we "put on" Christ at our baptism. If we sink into water, it surrounds us. If we put on a coat, it surrounds us. We are in the water or in the coat. If we put on Christ, we are in Christ.
Yet, in Colossians 1:27, Paul says Christ is in us. God reiterates this truth several times in the New Testament.
» John 17:23: Christ Himself prays to His Father: "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one."
» Romans 8:10: Paul tells us, "If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin."
» Galatians 2:20: Paul speaks of himself and all true Christians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."
» Ephesians 3:17-18: Referring to the "inner man," Paul mentions that he prays "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
» I John 3:24: John writes: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us."
Is this contradictory? Is it impossible? Can Christ be in us and we in Christ at the same time?
God's Word—His very Logos—answers those questions for us in John 14:20. He tells His disciples that, at His resurrection, they "will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Christ is not describing an impossible situation. He is describing perfect, total unity!
To understand this type of unity, a couple of analogies will help.
1. We can say two bricks are united when they are attached one to another with mortar, but this is not the kind of unity of which Christ speaks. Bricks "united" in this way are distinguishable from each other even by a child. True, we could say they are united, but it is better to say they are connected, attached, or adjacent.
2. Christ speaks of a more thoroughgoing unity. Picture water from bucket A being poured into water in bucket B. The waters completely intermingle; one cannot distinguish water from bucket A from that of bucket B after they are mixed.
While no analogy is perfect, these two do serve to point out the sort of unity that exists between God and the true Christian. It is a thorough commingling of minds. Ideally—and none of us is there yet—it should be impossible to distinguish our mind from Christ's. They should be that much alike! Paul urges us toward the ideal: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
When we put on the new man, we put on Christ. We are in Him and He in us. Our goal should be to nourish that new man by renewing our minds through submission to Him, until our mind and His are indistinguishable. Now, that is unity!
Choosing the New Man (Part Three)
Notice another interesting similarity in terminology whenever Paul speaks of the new man. Quite consistently, he uses the verb "to put on." The Greek verb is enduo, which means, literally, "to sink into." By extension, it means "to enter into," "to get into," or "to put on" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). New Testament writers often use it when referring to putting on clothes (see Matthew 6:25; 27:31; Mark 1:6; I Thessalonians 5:8; Revelation 1:13; 15:6; etc.).
Paul repeatedly uses the metaphor of putting on clothes when he commands us to adopt the Christian way of life. With the same predictability, he speaks of taking clothes off to describe the abandonment of this world's lifestyle. We see it again in Colossians 3:9-10, where he speaks of our "put[ting] off the old man with his deeds" and our "put[ting] on the new man." He uses the same figure of speech in Ephesians 4:22-24. In Ephesians 6:11-17, the apostle goes a step further when he tells us how to dress the new man: "Put on the whole armor of God."
God's consistent use of the analogy of donning clothes to describe our adoption of the new man tells us a lot about the choices we must make daily. The logical conclusion of the metaphor is as inescapable as it is meaningful: The clothing we wear is largely a matter of our choice. Unless an adult is in very special circumstances, as in prison or the military, he has wide discretion in the matter of clothing. His is the choice of what to wear and when to wear it. He determines when to take clothes off and when to put them on. More than this, it is a choice he makes daily—sometimes many times a day—as he determines what to wear in different social contexts.
So it is with the Christian walk, the way of life of the new man. Daily, repeatedly each day, we must choose to "put on" the Christian way of life.
That is what Paul is telling us through his splendid clothing analogy: Christianity is a way of life.We must choose to put on that way of life—and to keep it on. Just as we do with a well-worn garment, we must come to feel so at home with the new man—so comfortable with his way of life—that we absolutely refuse to take it off for any reason at all.
In addition, God's consistent use of the clothing analogy argues against the Protestants' false doctrine of eternal security. "Once saved, always saved" is the cry of some Protestants. Others put it in a slightly different way: "It was all done at the cross."
What is wrong with this? "Born-again" Protestants, so-called Christians who claim the new man was born in them when they "accepted" Christ, have in fact abdicated virtually all personal responsibility for their salvation! Take their thought to its logical conclusion: When we were physically born, from our viewpoint, it just happened—we had no say about it at all! It was out of our control. So, the "born-again" Christian believes that he "accepts Christ," and, presto, he is saved, forever born as a spirit being, a new man. Thus, now, in this life, he has no further responsibility. Christ did it all "at the cross" and must, upon his confession of faith, irrevocably save him.
This false doctrine permits its adherents to evade all responsibility to choose daily to follow Christ. True Christians know, because of the clothing analogy, that they have that ongoing responsibility to "put on the new man."
In describing the new man, the birth or conception analogy is conspicuous by its absence. However, by its repeated presence, the clothing analogy is equally conspicuous.
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)
Symbolically, our baptism imitates what our Savior did for us, and therefore, by our participation in it, we show our desire to be united—at one—with Him in both His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). Paul writes in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." This is what our decision to be baptized tells our Father in heaven.
Being put into the water represents the death of the "old man" with his sinful way of life. Being completely covered by water symbolizes burial, and being raised from the water pictures a resurrection to "newness of life." After baptism we consider ourselves dead to sin, that is, we have completely divorced ourselves from living a sinful way of life (Romans 6:11). Once baptized, we are to give our lives to God and use our time to become "instruments of righteousness to God" (verse 13).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Water Baptism
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