Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The new man (4:20-29)

Yesterday, we thought about Paul's use of the description, 'old man'. He contrasts it with what he calls 'the new man'. What does he have in mind? There has been a lot of discussion about what he meant, but here is what I think he was saying.

The new man defined. If the old man is fallen humanity in Adam, then the new man is the new humanity in Christ. Jesus is the head of the new race, made up of Jews and Gentiles who believe in him. Together, they are the new humanity.

The new man described. As with the old man, there are past, present and future states. Paul told the Roman Christians that they have already put on the new man when they were converted (Rom. 6:6). In the future, they would be perfect members of the new humanity when Jesus returns. 

The new man’s dress. But in the present they have to ensure they have the right clothes on, which Paul describes as righteousness and holiness, features seen in God in their fullness. It is not clear if there is a distinction between these two terms; some think righteousness refers mainly to behaviour towards others and holiness is behaviour towards God. It is unlikely that such distinctions were in Paul’s mind. Righteousness is acting justly and holiness is separation from evil.

What we have here is the restoration of the image of God in humans. At the beginning of history, humans were created in the image of God. This image involved both character and function. The character was righteousness and holiness, and the function was to rule on God’s behalf. Neither the character nor the function are fully attained in this life, but they will be when Jesus returns.

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