"But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Eph 4:20-24)
So as Paul said, we must put off the old self and put on the new self, which is created to be like God. There are two aspects of God's likeness in this new self: righteousness and holiness of the truth.
One version says: "And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Eph 4:24, NASB)
Another says: "And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:24, NIV)
The NASB has the truth as a modifier describing the kind of holiness that is found in the new man. It is holiness of the truth, as opposed to legalistic holiness that is outward only but has no substance or basis within.
The NIV has truth as a modifier of righteousness. It is true righteousness, as opposed to legalistic righteousness that is based on the written code and not according to the Spirit of God. True righteousness is distinguished from hypocrisy, false piety, and empty religiousness.
In my article about Michael Sambo's Revelation of Heaven and Hell, I wrote that Jesus said to brother Mike, “Tell man that if any man wants to see Me, he must walk in truth, righteousness, and holiness. That is the only standard for heaven. Tell man I still love him. Tell man My standard is high. Tell man mercy is only attainable in the world.”
Since the Lord emphasized Truth, Righteousness, and Holiness, let's look at each of these three qualities one by one.
First of all, according to the gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Jn 14:6). That's a radical statement! The truth is not simply information, but it is a person. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth. There is no other way to the Father except through Him.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians that the "Truth is in Jesus." (Eph 4:21). He also said that while there were many types and shadows found in the Hebrew Scriptures, reality is found in Christ (Col 2:17). What is true and real has now come and is found in Christ.
The truth is powerful. Jesus said, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32, NIV). And "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (Jn 8:36, NIV).
If you listen to the traditions of men and follow man-made rules, you will end up in bondage. If you follow the flesh, the world, or the devil, it will put you into bondage. But the Truth will set you free from every kind of bondage. Let me encourage you to pray and ask God for the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.
The apostle John said the Father has commanded us to walk in the truth, and we must continue to walk in the truth (2 Jn 1:4; 3 Jn 1:3).
Truth is one of the primary characteristics of the new self that we must put on. For more on this topic, please see my articles, What is Truth?, Tradition vs. Truth, Restored Truth, and The Truth Set Me Free!
When the apostle said we must put on the new self, he said it is created to be like God in righteousness. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the only righteousness that God recognizes is imputed righteousness. In other words, imputed righteousness is the kind where a sinner who repents of his sin and puts His trust in Jesus Christ is instantly made righteous in God's sight by faith. At that moment, God imputes to that person the very righteousness of Christ. He is now truly righteous and made right with God completely. That is what I call positional righteousness, because we are made righteous with regard to our position in God. As Paul said:
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'But the righteous man shall live by faith.'" (Rom 1:17)
"Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:" (Rom 4:4-6)
"What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law." (Rom 9:30-31)
"For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Rom 10:10)
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2Co 5:21)
However, there is another kind of righteousness that the Scripture speaks about, which we must have. This is the kind of righteousness that you must practice, so I call it practical righteousness. It is somewhat of a lost teaching, as you don't hear much about it any more. But preachers of old in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries used to preach about the need for it. Philip Henry, Matthew Henry, John Wesley, and others like them used to teach about it.
Before Christ, we are mere slaves to sin. We are bound to sin continually, which is the definition of bondage as I am using it here. But when a person comes to Christ, that old slave to sin dies and the person receives a new life with a new self that is a slave to righteousness. "And having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Rom 6:18). Now he is bound with Christ to always do what is right. He is bound to live a righteous life, which he could not live without Christ.
For without Him we can do nothing and all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags when we attempt to be religious apart from faith in Christ. But when we come to Christ by faith, He not only imputes his righteousness to us, but He also imparts righteousness, so that we can live it out ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit. This requires action on our part. The Scriptures are full of direct and indirect references to this kind of righteousness. Christ's Sermon on the Mount is full of examples, where he speaks about the righteous way of life God requires.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:20)
While we certainly must practice this righteousness, we don't do it for men, but for the Lord. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." (Mat 6:1)
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Mat 6:33)
Paul wrote: "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets." (Rom 3:21). The Law and the Prophets both witnessed to the righteousness of God, which is attainable apart from observing the Law of Moses, "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction." (Rom 3:22)
"And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Rom 6:13)
As we present our members to God as instruments of righteousness, then He imparts His righteousness to us so that we can walk it out. This kind of righteousness requires your obedience. Paul said that obedience results in righteousness:
"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Rom 6:16)
Righteousness is one of the fruits of the light that we as children of the Light must produce as we walk out our lives:
"For the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Eph 5:9-10).
We must try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord and then do it. That is practical righteousness and goodness. We must pursue righteousness:
"But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." (1Ti 6:11)
The fact that we must be trained in righteousness from the Scriptures proves that we need more than just positional, but also the practical kind of righteousness. For there is no need to receive training in order to receive positional righteousness, but practical righteousness requires training:
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;" (2Ti 3:16).
Notice that we receive this training in righteousness from all Scripture, both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, since they are all inspired by God and profitable for teaching as well as training us. That means that we are trained in righteousness not only from the Gospels and the Epistles, but also by the Law and the Prophets, as well as the Psalms and Proverbs.
The apostle wrote in the great Hall of Faith about the many saints gone before us who walked by faith, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Rahab, as well as Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, "who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight." (Heb 11:33-34). They performed acts of righteousness by faith. That's practical righteousness or imparted righteousness.
This fruit of righteousness cannot be produced in a disciple without training by painful discipline.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Heb 12:11. NIV)
The apostle John in his epistles wrote that those who are born of Christ practice righteousness.
"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him." (1Jn 2:29)
"Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;" (1Jn 3:7)
Don't let anyone tell you that the righteousness of God that He requires is only a state of being in your heart and not something you practice.
"Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." (Rev 22:11)
Practical righteousness is a characteristic of the new self, which you can read more about it my articles Practicing Your Righteousness, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Doing What is Right, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?
Another primary characteristic of the new self that we must put on is holiness, which I have written about in other articles like Holy Living in a Perverted World, Aim for Perfection, and Called to Be Blameless. I mentioned discipline a moment ago, which is not only necessary to produce righteousness in our lives, but also holiness.
"For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." (Heb 12:10).
If holiness were merely a positional state of being for the believer, then there would be no need for discipline in our lives in order to share in God's holiness. But discipline is necessary for our own good.
Peter taught that we must be holy. The fact that he had to instruct us to be holy shows that it involves our participation. He said:
"But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;" (1Pe 1:15)
Notice that the kind of holiness Peter taught was the kind that is like the Holy One who called you. The fact that it is like the Holy One shows that He is the standard for it. We must be holy in all our behavior, just as He is. The reason for that is: "Because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1Pe 1:16).
Paul taught that the unmarried woman and the virgin must concern herself with being holy in body and spirit.
"And his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (1Co 7:34).
If your holiness only affects your spirit, then it is not complete. It's not true holiness, because if it were true holiness it would affect your body, too.
Just as Peter taught that we must be holy, so did Paul. He said, "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him." (Eph 1:4). This means the Lord chose us that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
The Bride that the Lord Jesus is going to present is one who is holy and blameless. Paul wrote:
"That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Eph 5:27)
He taught that we must perfect holiness in the fear of God.
"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2Co 7:1)
The apostle wrote:
"Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14, NIV)
There are two aspects of holiness taught in this verse that I want to point out. The first one is that you must make every effort to be holy, and the second one is that without holiness, no one will see the Lord's face.
Putting it All Together
So as we can see, this new self that we must all put on is characterized by truth, holiness, and righteousness, which are indispensable. We will not reach heaven without them.
The Lord said to Brother Michael Sambo, "I am commissioning you to go back into the world to tell them of My everlasting love for man. Tell man I love him with an everlasting love. Tell him to repent and turn to Me. Preach Christ the crucified. Preach Truth, Righteousness and Holiness; because that is the only way that can bring man to heaven. Preach holiness as if no one has ever preached it in the world."
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy The Wardrobe of the Saints, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Aim for Perfection, Called to Be Blameless, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Baptized with the Spirit, Holy Fire Baptism, The Straight and Narrow Path, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Pleasing the Lord, The Burning Ones, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Ask for the Ancient Paths, The Knowledge of the Holy, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Living a Life Worthy of the Lord, Keeping a Good Conscience, Separation from the World, Having a Servant's Heart, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Doing What is Right, Partaking of the Divine Nature, The Ways of Life, The Refiner's Fire, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, Is Obedience Optional?, Obedience by the Spirit, and The Obedience of Faith.You can find more of my articles related to Seeking the Lord on the Home page of this blog. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org