Put Off and Put On

Jesus told the following story. Matthew 12:43-45 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” In this story, an unclean spirit was cast out of a man.  We would surely think that was a good thing.  After a while, the unclean spirit decides to go back to the house from which he came.  The spirit finds that the house is now empty.  The man was freed from the unclean spirit, but he hadn’t filled himself with anything to replace the unclean spirit.  So the unclean spirit takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they re-enter the man.  The conclusion was that the last state of that man was worse than the first.

Although this story talks about unclean spirits within a person, I believe it holds a principle that applies to us today. When we are baptized and our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16), we also need to put off the bad, sinful thoughts and actions that we have had.  But if all we do is empty ourselves of the bad and don’t replace it with the good, we may be like the man in the story that Jesus gave.  The bad may return and our last state may be worse than the first. 

The apostle Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4:17-19 “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”  We should no longer walk as the people of the world.  Such a walk is displeasing to God.  Now consider verses 20-24. “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that 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.”  The apostle teaches us to put off the old man which is corrupted by lusts and instead be renewed in the spirit of our mind and put on the new man in true righteousness and holiness.  There is a put off and a put on. Both are important. Let us look at several cases in the writings of the apostle Paul where he teaches us specific actions to put off but then he teaches us things to put on to replace the old.

Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” It should be natural for a Christian to put off lying and instead to put on only speaking the truth. 

Ephesians 4:28 “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” The Christian who previously was a thief should put off stealing.  The put on is to get a job and work so that he not only supplies what he needs, but he has enough to give to the poor that has need.

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” A Christian should put off corrupt, evil, and hurtful language.  The put on is to have good words that encourage and edify others.  Also, in Ephesians 5:4 “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”  If you listen to people of the world, you will often hear filthiness, foolish talking and coarse jesting.  A Christian is to put off this type of speech and instead put on giving of thanks.  When we are searching for something to say, we should give thanks for our blessings from God.

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” The put off is the hateful attitude characterized by bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, malice and evil speaking.  The put on is the loving attitude characterized by kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness for the trespasses of another.

Ephesians 5:18-20 “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The put off is a life of indulgence in sensual pleasure and scandalous activities involving sex, alcohol, or drugs without inhibition.  The put on is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and let Him help and guide and lead.  Put your heart into singing that edifies one another and that gives praise to the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Appreciate how much better your new life is in Christ and give thanks.

Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The put off is pride which results in selfish ambition or conceit.  The put on is humility and the heart of a servant that seeks to help others.

2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” The put off is youthful lusts, to include sexual lust, lust for pleasure, money, or success.  The put on is to seek righteousness, faith, love, peace and a pure heart.

As a Christian, you died to sin. How can you live any longer in it (Romans 6:2)?  Sinful actions and thoughts must be put off.  But don’t leave your life empty. Replace the bad with what is good.  Search the scriptures to find out what God wants you to put off and put on.

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