The Hearing of Faith
The term the old man is used three times in the New Testament (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; and Col. 3:9). In Romans 6:6 the old man is something personal, whereas in Ephesians and Colossians, according to the context, it is clearly something corporate.
When we are saved and baptized, we put off the old man both in a personal way and in a corporate way.
In Romans 6:6 the old man refers to our natural but fallen life; it is the life of our soul, which acts independently of God. This is the “I” that Paul said was crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). Since that old “I,” the old man, was crucified with Christ, it is good for nothing but burial, which Paul speaks of in Romans 6:4. Thus, in this sense the old man is something personal. We had an old life apart from Christ and corrupted by sin. This old man was crucified with Christ and should be buried. If we continue to live out this old man, our life is full of death and defeat, as described in Romans 7. However, when we rise from the waters of baptism to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), we take Christ as our person, the new life of our soul. Before we were saved, our fallen soul and the life of that soul was our person and was totally independent of God. After we are saved and Christ comes into us as our life (Col. 1: 27; 3:4), He becomes our real and new person. Our old man, the life of our soul, is crucified with Christ; however the faculty of our soul—our mind, emotion, and will—can now take the resurrected and indwelling Christ to be its very life. Our soul then becomes the organ to express this new life, which is Christ. Thus, we can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Christ lives in us, and we live, yet it is not our old man that lives but Christ living and being expressed through our soul.
The other two usages of the old man occur in the context of the new man referred to in Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10. There the old man refers to the old mankind as a corporate entity. God created Adam as the father of the human race, so we all descended from him. When Adam fell, he became “old” and the “old man,” since sin results in oldness and corruption. All mankind as Adam’s offspring became the enlargement and extension of this old man, thus becoming the corporate old man filling the earth. When we are saved and baptized, we put off the old man both in a personal way and in a corporate way. We put off the old mankind and enter into a new mankind, the church, which is God’s redeemed, regenerated, transformed, and glorified people. As the new man we do not express fallen Adam, the old man, but the One we have been transferred into and joined to by faith—the last Adam, the second man, the new man, who is Christ as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17; 15:45, 47). This new man is composed of Christ the Head with us the members of His Body. Just as Adam had an enlargement and expression, which is all of us as his fallen children, Christ has His enlargement and expression, which is the church as the new man.
For further reading on this subject, please see The One New Man, by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.
From Issue No. 71, March 2004