Paul told the Colossians to put on the new self and put off the old self (Col. 3:9-10). What did he mean? As an analogy, we should put on the spiritual life like we put on a new set of clothes. Clothing is something added to and different from our natural selves. At Ephesians 4:22, Paul explained that the “old self” had a modus operandi or way of living that was continually corrupted by our lusts (inordinate desires) (Eph. 4:22). Most of the time, we humans walk by the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). In case you did not get the memo, this old way of living is passing away (1 John 2:17). We are instructed to live in a new way. Paul wrote that our lusts are deceptive. (Eph. 4:22). Getting what we want in life does not necessarily make us better, more happier people, or approved by God.
The new man or woman in Christ should seek to imitate a new model and a new way of living as demonstrated by Jesus Christ. Now, we are challenged to walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, trusting in Christ Jesus, while having no confidence in our inherent capacity to live this new and supernatural way of living (Ps. 119:105; Phil. 3:3). We are challenged to forsake our old and independent way of living, which is sin. We have died to sin and our old lifestyle (Rom. 6:2). Having died and been buried with Christ, we have also been raised with Christ (Rom. 6:3). Now, we should “walk in a newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Our “old self was crucified with Christ” so that “our body of sin might be done away,” and “we [should] no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6).
In other words, we should forsake our old, independent way of living separately from God. Now, we have a new lifestyle, wherein we seek to live nonstop, 24/7, in fellowship with our Creator. Now, we should live to and for God (Rom. 6:10). To the extent we practice this new way of living, sin will no longer reign over our mortal bodies, and we will no longer obey its lusts (Rom. 6:12). When living in this new way, we instead become slaves to righteousness, and sin is no longer our master (Rom. 6:13-14). When we practice this new way of living, we are practically and functionally “alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13), and we are experientially living under grace (Rom. 6:15). We can live this new way only by God’s grace.
Paul used the image of “walking” to describe the Christian’s new modus operandi or way of living (Eph. 4:17). Paul explained that unbelievers inherently walk in a “futility of their minds” (Eph. 4:17). Paul used the Greek word mataiotes, which means “futility, depravity, or vanity.” Paul described unbelievers as being “darkened in their understanding” and “excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. 4:18). Paul then added that unbelievers possess “a hardness of heart” and a callousness and are given to living according to their lusts, impure motives, and greed (Eph. 4:19).
Again, Paul encouraged believers to depart from our old, inherited way of living (Eph. 4:22). Unfortunately, most believers continue to live just as they did as unbelievers. In contrast, Paul instructed us “to put on the new self,” which has been created in the likeness of God “in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasized things like speaking the truth to one another, not letting the sun go down on our anger, no longer stealing, working at our jobs, and controlling our tongue (Eph. 4:25-29). Further, Paul wrote that we should not grieve the Holy Spirit, and we should put away all bitterness, wrath (thymos, “explosive anger”), anger (orge), clamor [causing a scene or uproar], slander [speaking untruth about someone], and malice [hatred] (Eph. 4:31). Finally, Paul told the Ephesians to be compassionate and forgiving (Eph. 4:32).
To the Colossians, Paul wrote that we should have our eyes focused on Heaven, not earthly things (Col. 3:1-2). Our eyes should be focused on Christ, who is seated in Heaven, “at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Then Paul taught that when Christ is revealed, we will be revealed with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). Our bodies should be dead to things like sexual immorality, lust, evil, and greed. All of these things amount to a kind of idolatry, wherein we worship or put too much importance on one thing or another (Col. 3:5). Paul explained that because of these types of things, God’s wrath will come upon the sons of disobedience (Col. 3:6). The sons of disobedience include believers and unbelievers. Paul warned believers to depart from their old and familiar ways of thinking and living. By doing so, we will save ourselves from the wrath of God. Paul explained that this old way was how we once walked – as sons of disobedience (Col. 3:7).
Of extreme importance, Paul taught us that the wrath of God is equivalent to the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5). The Bible writers used the word “wrath” as an anthropopathism. Merriam-Webster defines “anthropopathism” as “the ascription of human feelings to something that is not human.” Being that God is not human, we have no idea how God actually thinks or feels. God must explain Himself or explain how He functions in terms that we can understand. God must warn us in ways that will get our attention. Compared to God, we are very primitive. Being once children, most of us can recall our father’s or mother’s anger. Time after time, we were warned about one thing or another. Then, they expressed their anger or wrath at our continued disobedience. Paul explained that God’s wrath should be understood as God’s righteous judgment, not His lack of control (Rom. 2:5). He told us many times that we should put away our anger or wrath (hint, hint). Again, knowing our weaknesses, Paul graciously taught us to not let the sun go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26). At Colossians 3:12-13, Paul told us to put on or clothe ourselves with things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing one another, and forgiving one another. Most importantly, we are told to put on love, which is the “perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14).
Finally, as stated above, putting on a new set of clothing is analogous to putting on the spiritual life. In the Old Testament, the priesthood was given a special set of clothing. The Lord told Moses, “[Y]ou shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty” (Exod. 28:2). Later, the Lord commanded Moses, “You shall put [the special clothing] on Aaron…and on his sons” (Exod. 28:41). The writer used the Hebrew verb labas, which means “to clothe, dress, put on clothing.” Aaron was required to put on special garments, be anointed with holy oil, and consecrated so that he could serve the Lord (Ex. 40:13). The tunics made for Aaron and his sons were finely woven linen (ses) (Ex. 39:27). The Hebrew noun ses means “bleached white linen.”
In the Old Testament, the idea of clothing oneself also included the expanded idea of putting on things other than just literal clothing. At Psalm 132:16, the Lord said, “I will also clothe (labas) her [Zion’s] priests with salvation.” The Psalmist told the Lord, “You are clothed (labas) with splendor and majesty” (Ps. 104:1). At Psalm 132:9, we read, “May your priests be clothed (labas) with righteousness.” At Isaiah 52:1, Isaiah wrote, “Clothe (labas) yourself in your strength, Zion; clothe (labas) yourself with your beautiful garments.” In the Book of Zechariah, the Lord addressed Joshua, the High Priest. The Lord commanded, “Remove the filthy garments from him [Joshua, the High Priest], and clothe (labas) him “with festive robes” (Zech. 3:4).
In the Book of Revelation, we also see the symbolic significance of being clothed in special white garments. John, the elder, wrote, “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4). At Rev. 3:5, we read, “The one who overcomes will be clothed in the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
In the Book of Revelation, both the 24 Elders and the 144,000 were described as being clothed in white garments (Rev. 4:4; 7:9). And again, the armies of Heaven were pictured as being clothed in fine, white linen, while riding on white horses (Rev. 19:14). The 24 Elders had golden crowns on their heads, and the 144,000 had palm branches in their hands (Rev. 7:9). (Psalm 92:12 reads, “The righteous person will flourish like the palm tree.”) The Book of Life records the names of faithful, overcomer believers (Rev. 3:5). The 24 Elders and the 144,000 are a numerical and apocalyptic picture of God’s servant believers. They are God’s eschatological leadership. Both the numbers “24” and “144,000” are multiples of 12, which is symbolic of eschatological fullness and completeness. I call them the Fraternity of Faithful Believers. In my opinion, their actual numbers will be in the millions, and they will rule with Christ for the eons and eons of time to come (Rev. 3:21).
 “G3153 – mataiotēs – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3153/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G2372 – thymos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2372/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G3709 – orgē – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3709/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “Anthropopathism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anthropopathism. Accessed 13 Mar. 2023.
 “H3847 – lāḇaš – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h3847/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H8336 – šēš – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8336/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.