Put Off and Put On

How have we got holiness so wrong?

We misunderstand holiness because we think it is something we need to “do” rather than “be”. There are many invitations in Scripture to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new. Let’s explore a few.

But now you yourselves are to 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 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (Col. 3:8-10)

The Greek word for “put off” is apekduomai (ap-ek-doo’-om-ahee). It literally means to ‘strip off oneself, divest, renounce’. This is a decisive action. It is not passive. You can see why baptismal and confirmation prayers in traditional, liturgical worship have such strong words as, “I renounce Satan and all his works.” If you come from a non-liturgical background like me, we still encourage prayers of renunciation. Failure to do so is a little short sighted I believe.

Conversely, we are encouraged to simultaneously “put on”. The Greek word here is endusamenoi (from enduo [en-doo’-o]), which essentially signifies “to clothe or be clothed with (in the sense of sinking into a garment)”. Wow. What imagery! This language speaks to me of being fully immersed. The verb usage in the Greek is passive. This means it is entirely received. There is no striving.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col. 3:12-13)

Putting off the old man is also discussed in Ephesians 4:

[T]hat you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24)

The verb utilised here is also comparable to the Colossians passage. It is apotithémi (ap-ot-eeth’-ay-mee) which signifies ‘putting off’ and ‘laying aside’. We allow our minds to be renewed (Rom. 12:2) and we “put on the new man”. The language is very clear here. It is entirely received. Once again, no striving.

Wearing our holiness

It will be very clear to others when we are ‘wearing’ our holiness. It cannot be hidden. Above all things, we are to ‘wear love’.

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Col. 3:14, NASB)

Love unifies us and demonstrates to our world we belong to Him.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

We can speak truth boldly to our sphere of influence once we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). It is imperative we speak the truth in our present culture and climate. However, we must always operate in love. People don’t tend to listen to people on ‘soap boxes’. They want to know you are loving and genuine first. After this, you can speak truth into their lives. But hey, let’s speak the truth (Eph. 4:25).

Learn to receive

So, if we want to understand holiness, we need to learn to receive. The virtue and vice ‘lists’ in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 are not a laundry list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. They are a divine invitation and something available to you now if you simply reach out and grab hold of it by faith. It’s time to surrender…

Love and blessings,

Naomi Byers

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