By Matt Capps
I put my pants on one leg at a time just like every other man. This act is almost thoughtless. We all do it everyday without giving it too much reflection. Interestingly enough, the apostle Paul uses the idea of “putting on” as one of his favorite metaphors in the Christian life; in fact, you can find it in almost all of his letters. For example, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 to “put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (v.24). This is a striking image of the closeness that exists between the new self and Jesus—not unlike putting on one’s clothes.
The idea of “putting on” implies several things. First, it speaks to our identity. If you imagine putting on the new self as if putting on new clothing, then what we put on should tell others a little bit about us. Our clothing is like a uniform that identifies us with certain groups by indicating gender, social class, cultural affinity, or even nationality. Therefore, to command us to put on the new self, Paul is teaching us that our ultimate identity is found not in worldly classifications, but in Christ.
Second, the idea of putting on the new self speaks to our intimacy with Christ. He has given us our new self by grace. It’s much like your clothes, which are kept closer to you than any other possession you have. You rely on clothes to cover you every moment of the day; the command to put on your new self implies moment-by-moment intimate closeness and dependence on Jesus.
Finally, in the same way that clothing is worn as adornment to cover our nakedness, putting on the new self reminds us that in God’s sight, we are loved and accepted by God because of Jesus’s work on the cross. There is an expectation as well, that we will live in line with our new identity; our obedience to God flows from the “new self” He has given us. We love as Jesus loved. We speak in a way that honors God. We treat others with the same amount of grace that we have received from Christ.
So while you may put on your clothes like every other man, as Christians we are called to put on the new self as a way to stand out from other men. This is a high calling! At the same time, there is great comfort in knowing that what we put on protects us and shields us. Moreover, we should thank God that by His grace, He has granted us this new self that brings us protection and identity, but more importantly, brings Him honor and glory.
Written by Matt Capps