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What does Eph 4:22a mean by ‘lay aside the old man’?

Some men point to Eph. 4:22a “…that you lay aside the old man” as proof the old man was not crucified with Christ. When we examine verses 22-24 in the general context of the passage we discover we are being exhorted to stop acting like the lost and start acting like the saved. Here is the heart of the passage:

1. “…lay aside the old man” (22)

2. “…be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (23)

3. “…put on the new man which…has been created in righteousness and holiness.” (24)

If one interprets v.22 as saying we must get shed of the old man, then he must also interpret v.24 as teaching we must acquire the new man. The verb in verse 22 must be interpreted in exactly the same manner as the verb in v.24.

But, the book of Ephesians is addressed to the saints, to the saved. Therefore, v.24 can in no manner be exhorting us to get saved (“put on the new man“). In context the passage is teaching us to stop living like an old man because we are now new men. It’s speaking of behavior, not identity. The book is addressing those who are already new men.

There is a condition or identity or state of sanctification (holiness) which all new creations in Christ have already attained. We are already sanctified. That’s why God calls us “saints” (holy ones). But, there is also a sanctification process, a changing of the behavior from the old to the new. When examined in context it can be clearly determined that Eph. 4:22-24 is dealing with the sanctification process, not with our identity.