"Ye have put off the old man with his
doings, and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge,
after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3:9).
A word now regarding that phrase or clause
which is, "being renewed... after the image of Him that created him..."
something that has been taken up and is being carried on and that, of course,
relates to the occupation and the energy of the Holy Spirit. I am just going to
be content with one thing in this whole matter of the Holy Spirit's activity,
and that is the ultimate and the object of the Holy Spirit's work. You notice
what it clearly says here, that the goal that the Holy Spirit has, although He
is not mentioned by name here, we know quite well that this renewing work
is the work of the Holy Spirit and the goal of the Holy Spirit's work is brought
forward and made to stand over everything. All-governing; it is the end that is
brought into view with the life of the believer and made the thing which rules
Now we are right, of course, in being occupied
with the many things related to the end as we are concerned so largely with what
is more elementary. That is, we are greatly concerned with the work of
evangelization that is bringing the gospel to the unsaved and bringing them to
Christ. We are greatly concerned with the spread of the gospel, or what is so
often referred to as the extension of the kingdom. This and many other matters
like that are right and must be as a way to the end, as a means to the end, but
perhaps there is a weakness often associated with that occupation, which is
making these things the end in themselves.
And what is made very clear here, you must
remember, is that the Apostle is writing now at the end of his life, and this
letter is set in the consummation of his ministry. His whole life and ministry
and work is now being brought together in a consummate way. And here at the end
is, amongst many other things of such great importance to be brought to the
Lord's people in this consummate way, he brings this activity and energy of the
Holy Spirit, not here in relation to the entering into the Christian life and
all that is associated with it, but in relation to the end of the Christian
life, and he says in effect: it is the end that governs all.
It is not being saved in itself, and it is not
the work of getting people saved in itself, important and of course essential as
that is, for nothing can be without it. Nevertheless, the thing that must be
kept in mind is that this work of being saved and getting people saved and all
that has to do with it is related to this great end: to secure conformity to the
image of Him that created him.
Why are we saved? We rejoice in being saved,
and praise the Lord that we are saved, and never cease to be grateful that He
has saved us! We can never exaggerate the wonder of grace in our salvation and
in the Lord as our Saviour. But why? Not just to be saved, not just to leave
it there, but it is the first step toward this full end. Why are we seeking
that others should be saved and using our lives and our time and our strength
that they should come to salvation? Is it just that they should be saved? Just
that they should be saved and escape condemnation, or judgment, and hell and
find heaven? No, the Apostle brings forward the end. He says, "No," our object
in leading others to Christ must always have the full end governing, and every
one is to be brought right into line with that end: the renewing after
Now you may think that this is hardly a thing
to say, it is obvious, that it goes without saying, but it does not go without
saying, because there are so many born-again people who are saved people and who
are falling lamentably and unrightfully short of Christ's likeness. We know it
in ourselves and we are not speaking only objectively of other people, we know
it in ourselves. But it is true that we meet so many Christians who are very
glad that they are saved, and boast of being saved, and make no hesitation in
saying that they are saved, but their transformation is lagging behind, and in
many you meet so little of Christ. Really so little of Christ... many things you
do meet, but you meet very little of the Lord Jesus.
Now what we are being told quite clearly is
that this will not do. In the end it will be the End that judges our Christian
life. And so it is the Holy Spirit's work, His interest, concern, energy and
activity; not only to bring people to the door and to get them inside the door,
but to make them know that that door is but the opening of a Way, on the other
side of the door everything lies. It is not the door alone, but it is what lies
beyond the door, and that is this renewal, this making anew after
the image of Him that created. The End governs: it is Christ in all that He
signifies and means and stands for. It is that vast All that He is. "Christ is
All, and in all" is the last clause. It is Christ in that fullness, which is
more than our salvation, more than our initial salvation. The door is essential,
but it is what it leads to that justifies going in it at all.
Christ Himself, when He was here, never failed
to let people know that when they entered that door, or that straight and narrow
way, they were in for trouble - they were in for trouble. Now that may sound
like a very terrible thing to say, especially to you young Christians who are
not far inside the door, but be perfectly clear about it; the Lord Jesus never
deceived anybody about this, never at all. He let people know that to "follow
Him," as He put it at that time, involved them in difficulty and suffering and
persecution and trial and a lifelong thing. There is a cost here, a great
cost. And we shall discover that while there are the compensations, for there
are undoubtedly the compensations in this life, and the mighty compensations for
eternity, this is a way which is not easy for the natural man by any
means. This work of the Holy Spirit is drastic, exacting, and very trying to
the flesh. Make no mistake about it; it will take all the energy that the Holy
Spirit Himself has to accomplish this work. It really will. So the Lord Jesus
has not left us in any doubt about this.
But note, and I am glad the Apostle Paul puts
it like this, because it is so true to experience. The new man who is being
renewed. Notice, first there was a precise and definite transaction,
"Ye put off" and "ye put on," but now the work that is going on is
not a single act of a single moment and a single day, but it is something that
is going on in us. The new man is being renewed, and that process will
go right on to the end. It will never stop until we will not allow it to go on
any further, until we put a period to it. It will go right on to the end, a
process, something that is being done all the time, this changing over.
Not our position, that was the act, but of condition... and that is the process.
Well, that is the activity and the energy of
the Holy Spirit, and that is all I am going to say at the moment about that,
that the Holy Spirit keeps the end in view. If you look at your Bible, both in
the Old and in the New Testament, you will find that right early in the
experience of God's people, He brings the far horizon of the end forward and
governs the first movements with what it is "unto." For instance, when Israel
crossed the Red Sea and was on the other side, with Pharaoh's armies engulfed...
the people were mightily delivered by that very, very precise and definite
cutting off and setting apart unto God. And the song on the other side of the
sea, with all the miles yet ahead before the land, and all the conflicts that
were going to be in possessing the inheritance, nevertheless before any of that
in actuality, that song contains something which is in the tense of a present
accomplished thing: "And hath brought us unto Thy holy hill, to Thy
sanctuary." They were forty years away from that and there was a lot of history
between, and a few years after that in the conquest of the land. Nevertheless,
it is done.
And in the word to Joshua to begin to possess,
the terms are quite distinct, "...have I given thee, every place that the sole
of your foot shall tread upon, have I already given you." It is yours. You see,
the end is always in view with God. It governs everything by what the end is
going to be.
Well, let that sink into us, because it is very
important for us to know what it is the Lord is doing, really what He is up to.
Why all this intervening history between our being brought to Him and the
consummation of the end. Why is it? What is the Holy Spirit doing with us?
Well, it is just this: we are being renewed. That word "renewed"
which is used on several occasions is perhaps itself a little misleading. We
can think of it as renewing, refreshing, re-strengthening and so on, but really
it just means: "making over again." The little prefix, of course, in the Bible
is a very, very significant thing. Whenever you get "re-," you always know that
it is a throwback to something that was. It is not now, but it is going to
be. Whether it is re-demption or re-conciliation or any of the large number of
"re's" it means "again." It was, but it is not now, but it is going to be
again. And so here renewal means "bringing back to the original
intention, purpose, and satisfaction to God."
Well, having said that, let us spend a few
minutes upon this matter of the crisis, the crisic event in the life of the
believer. "Ye put off the old man with his doings. Ye put on the
new man." This is something you did: "You put off." I must remind you that
again there is a picture behind the Greek words, and here it is quite simply the
picture or figure of a man taking off his clothes. A man taking off one suit
and putting it aside and taking another suit and donning it. A matter of putting
off, unclothing, and then putting on, clothing. A simple figure, a very simple,
but a very effective figure, of what happens in the crisis of new birth. This
is just what it is that happens when we step out of the old man into the new
man. We repudiate one set of clothes, one adornment of life, and we say, "That
suit, that suit no longer is befitting me; that suit no longer has a place with
me. I have taken off that suit, those clothes, and put them away, never to put
them on again. It is a fashion that I have done with. It is what fitted me at
one time, but no longer fits." This is simple language, simple thoughts, but
how real this is and taking an altogether different and other outfit, a fashion
of life, and adornment. "Adorn the gospel," said the Apostle. "Put ye on
the Lord Jesus." It is the same figure again, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus,
and make no provision for the flesh."
Here is this crisis, this definite crisis, and
that is exactly what was meant when you and I were baptised. There, in effect
and in meaning, we stripped off the old garments and put them into the grave.
We put them into the grave, and are done with them; the old garments of the old
man, we put him off. And when we rose on the other side, we took altogether new
garments: we put on the new man.
That is, at any rate, the meaning of our
baptism, the meaning of our ceasing to acknowledge and recognise our
identification with the old man. We say, "I am done with him. Just as I could
discard a suit of clothes never again to wear it, I repudiated the old man, the
natural man." And just as definitely as we might take another entire outfit, so
different in its nature, in its style, in its manner, in fashion, we rose and
put that on "the new man." "Ye did this," says the Apostle. Now if you want to
know why I relate that to baptism, you only have to go back in this Colossian
letter to chapter two, and here it is: "In Him ye were also circumcised in a
circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh."
"The putting off" is the same idea again, related to clothes and garments:
"putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having
been buried with Him in baptism" (verses 11, 12; ASV). So you left your
clothes in the grave, you just left them in the grave. Not literally, you never
see your clothes literally in the baptistry afterward, but this is the idea, you
see, the spiritual thought. In "buried with Him" you put off - "buried with Him
in baptism." The other side of burying: "You were also raised with Him
through faith in the working, in the energy of God, Who raised Him from the
dead." And that is followed by, "If you were raised together with
Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated on the right hand
of God. Set your mind on the things that are above," (Col. 3:1, 2; ASV).
You put on something altogether new, you repudiated one form, or nature of life,
and put on another.
You remember when Saul the king was rejected by
God and God said, "I have rejected him." A very drastic thing, a very terrible
thing for Saul - his repudiation, he took hold of the garment of Samuel, and it
rent, and Samuel said: "The Lord has rent the kingdom out of your hands." Saul
was rejected, was repudiated. Samuel mourned for Saul and the Lord stepped in
and said, "Why mourn ye for Saul, seeing I have rejected him? Arise, take your
horn of oil..." And with the rejection and repudiation of one man, an old man
that could not any longer stand in God's favour and acceptance, God brought in a
new man. A new man, "Go, anoint David. I have found Me a man. He shall
do all My pleasure" (1 Sam. 13–16; Acts 13:22).
Now the whole change turns upon that little
word, "Do." "He shall do all My pleasure." That was the trouble
with Saul as you remember, in First Samuel 15, God told Saul what he was to do,
precisely and definitely: "Go, destroy Amalek, and leave nothing of Amalek
remaining." And Saul went and half did the job; he compromised, argued,
excused, saved something. He did not do all God's pleasure. He did not
do it. Now he is repudiated because he did not do the will of God.
David is brought in on that one little word,
"He shall do all My pleasure." This is the new man, this is the
difference, you see. One who is not wholly, utterly committed to God, to do
God's will wholly, is repudiated. And then there is the man who will do. So it
is just a question isn't it, of obedience! And that crisis, historic crisis in
Saul and David is just one of the numerous illustrations in the Old Testament of
this great truth. Here is a man who does not do the will of God, does not
satisfy God's will: he is called the old man; and here is the new man who does
do God's will: Christ, you have put on Christ Who does all God's will, and I
have no need to take time at this point to dwell upon how He did the will of
God. That was the battleground to the last degree, "Thy will, O God, not
Mine." So the New Man is the accepted man, committed to complete
obedience. And that is the Man we are supposed to put on.
I think you will agree with me that in too many
cases the meaning of that transition, that changeover, the meaning of it does
not sink deep enough into the hearts of those who take the step. The tragedy
that we have so often met, that those who come for baptism, who have been told
what it means - death, burial, resurrection - told what it involves and in a
subsequent year turn away from that meaning. Many, many are not living according
to that transaction, many have turned away from the meaning, and many more are
not pursuing the course of that which it meant; to repudiate wholly, once and
for all, a kind of man with his doings, with his trappings. Not only the bare
garment, but all its adornments, embroidery, decorations and everything else...
done with - the old man and his doings. Well, the Apostle here just tells us a
little of the doings you see, verse eight, "Put ye also away all these:
anger..." I think we are going to be found out in a minute, if we dare to read
any more! He put off the old man and his doings. What are they? "Anger, wrath,
malice, railing, shameful speaking, lying." Any more? Is that all? No.
Now by contrast with the new: "Put on
therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion." Well, you
put off a heart that is not a heart of compassion. "Put on kindness, humility,
meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, forgiving each other" (verse
12; ASV). All that is contrary to those things belong to the doings of the old
man. "You put them off." The old man is very clearly portrayed here, and the
new man also. Well, that is what is supposed to have happened with you and with
me. That is something done. That is not a process, I mean the putting off of
the old man, and the putting on of the new. That is not a process, that is a
position. The process is what belongs to him, any relics at all, anything
associated with him, is to be progressively put off the old man and what is
belonging to the new man being put on.
Well, this putting on of the new man is, as we
have said, the real engagement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, He is trying to
bring about a new adornment altogether. Peter has a way of speaking of this, of
course he's talking to sisters, talking to the saintly sisters, but they're not
the only people interested in fashion. And Peter says about these saintly
sisters whose adornment (I'm going to come back to that word in a minute) whose
adornment is not in the plaiting of the hair, and the wearing of jewels, but is
the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. That word "adornment", I'm sorry that
it is so translated, but perhaps it would sound a little awkward to rightly
translate it. The word there in the original is: "whose cosmos." Whose cosmos
is not the plaiting of the hair and the wearing of jewels, and its "whose world"
whose world is not that. That's not your world. The correct translation in one
sense is that the meaning of "world" is the form, the adornment, all that makes
it up. But says Peter, "That is not the world of a true believer. You do not
live in that world." I don't know how far that's true, seeing the difficulty in
these days of dealing with our own personal appearances, we've come into a time
in our national history when it seems that both men and women don't know what to
do with their hair! It seems to be one of the big problems of our day; what to
do with it! How to appear, or appearances. Peter says don't live in that world,
that's not your world. Don't be careless about such things, but don't live in
it, do not let it be your life, your world; whose adornment is not that, whose
world is not that, but whose adornment, whose world is a meek and a quiet
spirit. This is of great price in the sight of God. This is the real value
from God's standpoint.
Well, we just conclude at this point with a
re-emphasis. We have said early on that we had one object in view, just one, it
may be wrapped around with all these other things that we have said, and are
saying, but right at the heart there is only one thing, and that one thing is:
Christ-likeness, being renewed unto the image of Him. And you notice the
word that we have not underlined: unto knowledge, "Renewed unto knowledge, to
the image of Him that created him." It just means this, dear friends, that
you and I are throughout our Christian life to be learning what Christ is, and
what Christ is like, discovering Christ for life; learning in knowledge,
knowledge unto conformity, knowledge unto the renewal of the lost image.
And again, we have to be very practical. One
thing that you and I have come to or will come to, is this: A dread of knowledge
that does not lead to something. A dread of knowledge that does not lead
to something. I never in my life have shrunk from speaking as I do today, lest
it might resolve itself into words only; words, words, teaching, teaching, a
subject, a vast amount of it, and so little that corresponds to it. It's very
true, I don't say that it is all lost, it's all in vain, I don't believe that it
is, but it is a wholesome fear to accumulate a kind of knowledge that does not
lead to something. And the one and only thing to which spiritual
knowledge should lead, is Christ-likeness.
Now then, what a knowledge we have of things
concerning the Christian life and the purpose of God, and how greatly we fall
short in the expression, the personal expression, of Christ. Is it not true?
There is a gap between our knowledge and our life so often. And I have not come
to you at this time just to give you a lot more knowledge as such, or to add to
the teaching, but say to you: the occupation of your life and mine, and the
knowledge which you and I receive, must be turned to this one account and have
this one effect: "I must be more a man and a woman like Christ." If that is not
true, then the knowledge is false knowledge, for it does not really fulfill its
One must underline that again. I think
probably this is why the prophets were so reticent, so reticent to speak. This
is something to take note of. I was speaking to people who were ambitious to
preach and to teach; whether there are any such here, I would be very strong
about this, after many years, for this is one thing that the Lord has said to me
very, very strongly and drastically to me in experience. After years of being
very much in the way of demand, preaching in many quite important, highly
standing churches in the country and having a large sphere of acceptance at
conferences and so on, the Lord brought me to the place where He made it
perfectly clear to me by very drastic handling that it is the result that
matters and not what you are doing. And I can tell you, dear friends, that I
have come to the place where I would seek to be an ordinary man in an ordinary
job and a menial job at that, rather than be in the false position of public
ministry that is only an end in itself; only an end in itself.
No, you look again, and we need to be reminded
that the prophets were very reticent men about public ministry. Isn't that true?
Moses... God met him, and told him of his vocation, his calling, and he said,
"I cannot speak, I cannot speak." God had to really argue with him, but
Moses stuck to his point. "Oh, if You can send by anyone, send not by me."
Well, it therefore became a matter of divine compulsion that made Moses fulfill
his public ministry.
Jeremiah. The Word of the Lord came unto
Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee I knew thee... I have appointed thee a
prophet to the nations." Jeremiah says immediately, "I am a child, I
cannot speak." You would think he would have leaped at a thing like that.
If he had been like a great number of young men that we know, he would have
jumped at it: the opportunity of being a prophet of the nations. Jeremiah says,
no, "I am a child, I cannot speak." And once more the Lord had almost to
compel him. The responsibility you see bound up with this. And these are not the
only ones in the Bible. There is a wholesome reticence, a wholesome reticence
not to have ambition in this way, but to be brought to the place where it has
got to be of God or may I be mercifully saved from it. Why? because it is not
what we do and what we say, but it is after all, what is effected, what comes of
it all, and that is very searching. Well now, if you are not prophets and
preachers, or ambitious to be such, we are all those who receive a lot; and
there is a great responsibility bound up with everything that we receive,
"unto knowledge... unto renewing... unto the image of Him."
So as we search our hearts before the Lord as
we close, and simply ask, "How much of all that I have received, and all that I
know in a way is being changed into the likeness of Christ? How much of it is
working out in that way? How much is the Holy Spirit able to take hold of our
knowledge and bring it into conformity to Christ?"
This is an explanatory word, dear friends, of
why the Holy Spirit puts us into the experiences through which we are going.
Oh, how drastic are His dealings with us! How painful are our experiences, how
deep are our histories in God! You wonder when there will ever be an end of all
this that we go through under His hand. Why? Oh, we may not see it all, it may
not be safe for us to see it, we might begin to congratulate ourselves, but here
is the object perfectly and clearly stated: the Holy Spirit's activities and
energies in our experiences - deep and terrible, painful experiences of trial -
one object in all this is to make us like the New Man. To inculcate in us these
virtues of the New Man Who we have put on. Not just some thing that we have put
on, but something that is a new character: that of the Lord Jesus.
Now that is not an exciting word is it? It
doesn't in any way cause us to leap for joy at the moment, because "no temptation
for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous, but afterward..." afterward:
likeness. And I think, however heavy this may sound, it could be perhaps a bit
of it depressing, I think every heart here says, "after all, whatever it means,
by whatever way, my one desire is to be like Christ, that Christ should be fully
formed in me."
May we have grace to let Him do it in His
own way, and that through our sufferings, something more of that meekness and
patience and humility and forbearance of the Lord Jesus shall really be a
part of our being. It shall be like that!