Jewish Midrash is a system of Biblical typology, metaphor and symbolism that is designed to reveal the ways of God as established and played out in the lives of those Biblical characters from the earliest times. Thus, the first man Adam, known as God’s son (Luke 3:38), was a type of Jesus, God’s only begotten son, and Eve, his wife, is a type of Israel, God’s “wife” as well as the true church, Christ’s bride. Often, the principle that God wanted man to understand by faith in the Old Testament, was later articulated by Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament. An example is found in Genesis 3:21, where God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins to replace the leaves with which they had clothed themselves. The writer to the Hebrews subsequently spelt out the point that God was making;
“…without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption” (Hebrews 9:22).
Typology of the First Born
Adam was the first man and Jesus was the second Adam. So scripture teaches. In Adam we are lost in sin and death, whereas in Christ we are born again into eternal life. This truth is laid down in a prophetic pattern that first appears in Genesis.
Cain was the first born and Abel the second born. Cain was rejected from the presence of God whereas “righteous Abel”, as the scripture calls him, had God’s regard. It was the second born who found favour in the eyes of God. And the first born resented the second born and killed him.
Ishmael was the first born son of Abraham from the bondwoman, Hagar, and Isaac the second born from the freewoman, Sarah. Ishmael, “a wild donkey of a man”, was sent from the presence of his father to dwell in the wilderness, where he dwells today. Isaac was the son in whom all of God’s promises to Abraham were to be fulfilled. It was Isaac, the second born, who was to receive the inheritance. The first born had to be driven out before the second born could inherit.
“But what says the scripture? ‘Drive out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman will not be heir with the son of the freewoman’” Galatians 4:30.
And enmity has existed between these two sons of Abraham to this day.
Esau was the first born of Isaac and Jacob the second born. But the inheritance of God’s promises came to Jacob, and Esau, who sold his inheritance to indulge his flesh, was rejected. Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, became bitter enemies of Israel, the children of Jacob, and their hatred continues to this day.
This typology of the first born in the scripture is setting out a principle of God that was subsequently spelt out of by Jesus;
“Truly indeed I say to you; unless one is born again (from above) he is not able to see the kingdom of God” John 3:3.
And Nicodemus, despite being the teacher of Israel, could not understand these things.
But what Jesus was telling him was evident from a midrashic understanding of the Old Testament types and patterns and it was this; in each one of us the first born is the natural man, the one who cannot inherit the kingdom. Being born in sin, he is rejected by God and destined to dwell in a Godless wilderness in this life and thereafter eternally. But God sovereignly grants to some that they may be born again in this life and receive the gift of faith and revelation in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Suddenly there is a second born, a new creation or “the one being created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the truth” Ephesians 4:24.
So now there are two men dwelling in the one body – the old man born in the flesh and the new man born in the Spirit. Here are Adam and Christ manifested together and just as we have seen with Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, the first born hates the second born and there will be no peace between them. These two cannot live together and one must go.
“For the desires of the flesh (the natural man) are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do that which you would wish” (Galatians 5:17).
For some, it is the new man who goes, overcome by the fleshly nature of the old man and the spirit of the world which reinforces and validates it.
But the Word tells us how to handle this situation; we are;
“….to put off the old man according to your former manner of life, the one being corrupted according to the desires of deceitful lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, the one being made according to God in righteousness and in holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
Putting Off The Old Man
If you have ever wondered how it is possible to be a Christian and yet still sin, then the answer inevitably is that the old man has not been put off. Only I can put off the old man. It is not something that God or anyone else can do, but only I. It is in the old man that Satan dwells and sin, wickedness and every evil thing. He is born in sin and in sin he remains. As long as we still retain the old man, we are still subject to the bondage of sin.
When we are born again, we become, in a sense, schizophrenic, having two persons within the one body – the natural man born in sin and disposed to wickedness, a captive and slave of Satan; and the regenerated man born again in Christ Jesus of the Holy Spirit. Now God hates mixture and as long as these two try and dwell together the new man cannot reach his potential, being disabled by the old man who still lives within.
While theologically and positionally we are a new creation, the old creation remains until we actually put him off and keep him off. Satan will keep trying to bring him back so that he can be re-established in his former home and take possession once more, with his habits of wickedness, worldliness and slavery to sin.
So the old man must be put off – not once but continually. As he returns to re-occupy the strongholds he once enjoyed he must be resisted and put off firmly again and again. This is the only way we can experience that liberty, that freedom from sin, that we are meant to have in Christ Jesus.
Now if we are born again, sin has no legal power or authority to compel our submission and obedience. But the habits of the old man die hard and while he remains they will continue to flourish and allow sin to continue its reign. The habits of the old man are only an outworking of the sinful nature of the natural man and until he is gone completely they will reassert themselves. It is pointless to try and change the habits of the old man – he must be put off and his habits will disappear with him. Concentrate on getting rid of the old man, rather than on his behaviour. The behaviour is just signalling that the old man is back in residence again.
Unfortunately, many believers suffer from one of two problems; firstly, they are either too ignorant of the reality of their liberation from sin and so have not taken hold of it or secondly, too content with their lives in this world to realise the true freedom from sin that is available to them and the risk they take by clinging to the natural man and his ways. If the former, they will always labour and struggle in vain, seeking to accomplish in the old man what can only be the fruit of the new creation. If the latter, they will devise “….a way that seems right to man but leads to death” Proverbs 14:12.
The natural man will never walk in the ways of God. He may stumble onto the path every now and then, but inevitably he will stray off in failure and disappointment. The only way to end this cycle of weakness and frustration is to put off the old man completely. While we have liberty in Christ Jesus theologically and positionally, it must become ours by personal appropriation and experience. While Jesus has given us this liberty, it is up to each one of us to take it up ourselves.
“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those having been sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). This verse reinforces the scriptural doctrine that sanctification is the key to salvation. We are meant to be made perfect. That is not something that we can do. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a new man with a new heart. The old man cannot be sanctified and it is a waste of time to think that he can be made perfect. He is born in sin and can never be anything other than a sinner. The new heart and the old heart cannot co-exist. One must go. The new man, on the other hand, is truly a new start in which he can be made perfect, but only in Christ. Christ died that we too can die in the old man. Christ was raised that we too might be raised so that we can live a new life in the new creation.
“And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives” (Hebrews 9:15-17).
While this refers to the death of Christ inaugurating the New Covenant, it also speaks of the necessity of the death of the old man. Our old man cannot inherit the legacy of the promises of God. They are left to the new creation. Therefore, before we can inherit, the old man must die. The old man stands between us and our inheritance.
The only route to inheritance is to accept the sentence of death on everything that is of self. The new heart is ours; the law written on the heart is ours, the Holy Spirit, the earnest of the Covenant, is ours. We need to act on what God has said and ask Him to reveal and make real to us all the power and glory of His everlasting covenant. In the old man we can only be what we make ourselves to be. But in the new man, our potential is only limited by our faith in God.
The Old Covenant was referred to by Paul as a ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:7) and that is what it was. It brought forth nothing but death and ended in the death of the only One who was ever able to meet its requirements. That was the only way His life could be ended under the Old Covenant, since He was without sin and, had He not been put to death, would have lived for ever.
In contrast, the New Covenant was to be a ministry of life. The New Covenant brings with it not just the promise of a new life but also provides the power to live that life as it was lived by the Mediator Himself. “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death that just as Christ was raised up through the glory of the Father, in this way also we may walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Nothing less that walking in this newness of life is the promise and it can be the experience if we will trust God enough to hand over all of ourselves and our vital interests in this life to Him.
Christ was the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New. His death brought about the death of the Old and His resurrection brought about the birth of the New. So it is with us. We move from the Old Covenant to the New by way of our own death – the death of self. Although we may be born again, we cannot inherit the promises of God that are part of the New Covenant until the old man is dead. Until we can put off that old man we are stuck in the middle of the two covenants – in no man’s land. There can be no release from the “ministry of death” that is the Old Covenant until we put to death the old man and choose instead to live in Christ.
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his wish, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; (Hebrews 13:20,21).
This text brings out the beautiful truth of the New Covenant; just as the raising up of Christ from death was the work of God, so too our life is equally and wholly to be His own work. We are meant to experience the transition from death to life in the same way as did Christ Himself. Just as God raised Jesus, so He will work in us what is pleasing to Him. That is the heart of the New Covenant. All that is required from us is our consent. As we give ourselves to that death, as we entirely cease from self-effort and lie, as it were, in the grave waiting for God to work, it is only then that God can work His good pleasure in us.
In the deepest reality Satan or sin have no power to compel our obedience. While sin may seek to assert its natural right and exercise that authority which it had in the old man, it has neither authority nor power unless we surrender ourselves to the old man of sin and yield to sin’s temptation and give it back the power it once had and wants to reclaim. While judicially, sin has no power; it is a fact that, if we don’t put off the old man, we are not freed from sin’s bondage. The old man cannot walk in the newness of life. He cannot be humble, holy, righteous, and faithful. He cannot abide in Christ. He cannot crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). He cannot obey God or glorify Christ. He cannot receive the “…spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1). He cannot be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). He cannot be “a vessel of honour” (2 Timothy 2:21). He cannot “..glorify God in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20). We have to put off the old man because Satan owns him. Christ has purchased the new man for us to replace the old man.
Christ died so that our old man, the body of sin, may be done away with (Romans 6:6). Whether or not he is done away with depends upon us and is a matter of fact not theological claim. But if we want to partake of the life of Christ, we must also partake of His death by giving our old man of sin up to crucifixion. Put off the old man and count him dead; as we are dead to the old man of sin we have authority to live in Christ. Like Christ we must die to sin and live to God. We have divine authority to do that. This is what is meant by being born again. That is what leads to faithfulness, righteousness, holiness and glorification.
The natural man is made for sin. It is transmitted from generation to generation in the seed of the father. Thus he is destined for death. But if a man is born again, a new man comes into being. This new man is created to be in the nature and character of Christ Jesus, a servant of righteousness and a slave to God. Whether or not that is what he becomes, will depend upon which man rules. While they both live together there is conflict – we find insufficient strength to do God’s will, unsuccessful efforts and disappointed hopes and continual failure. We find ourselves on a treadmill going around and around and never seeming to advance in wisdom, righteousness and holiness, always going back to the old man like a dog returning to his vomit.
“O wretched man that I am!” we cry with Paul.
These two natures cannot cohabitate – one must go. If we cling to the old man we must backslide in the new man and experience all the frustrations and self-loathing that such awareness of our failure and compromise brings. But we are instructed to put off the old man. That is the only way we can enjoy “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that sets us free from “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). We cannot live in the old man and be free from sin. All the wickedness, worldliness and carnality of the natural man are in the old man. He must be put off and put off whenever he endeavours to re-assert his place and eventually he will be dead, in as much as the capacity of his natural tendencies to disable us and influence us is concerned.
Only thus can we truly dwell in Christ. Christ does not dwell in the natural man but in the new creation. That new creation is the only place that we can enjoy the true liberty of life in Christ Jesus free from the presence of sin. Sin abides in the old man. He must be put off and put down.
He dies hard. He will struggle to reassert his status as the leading personality and the driver of behaviour and manner of life. Satan will constantly attempt to bring him back to his former pre-eminence. Knowing that the old man is a slave to sin, we must continually be putting him off lest, by listening to him, we are drawn back into sin and death.
Putting off the old man is the essential act of true faith. What it is saying is “I trust you God”. Christians are fearful of trusting God but “it is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:4). This includes putting confidence in the old man. Too many are content to circumcise the old man, but the demand is for crucifixion, not circumcision (Galatians 6).
God’s will is only able to work itself out in those who do not resist but yield themselves to its power. Many Christians believe it impossible to surrender absolutely to the will of God and thus, they resist its divine power. Their problem stems from looking at God’s wish as being at odds with their own will, and they know positively and absolutely that their own will is never going to be able to delight in doing all that God wishes. They are right. But they overlook the fact that the natural will is of the old man. The new creation has a new will that, being born of God, is made to delight in doing the wish of God. What is required is the putting off of the old man and the wholehearted embrace of the spirit of Sonship for the divine will to become theirs.
“For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
If God blots out the memory of our sins, you can be sure that Satan brings them back. His purpose in doing that is to disable our thinking, to plant in our minds the seed that we can never be made worthy. And as long as we remain in the old man he is right. But as we put off the old man, we put off all that belongs in him and that includes sin and Satan’s presence. As we put the old man behind us, God remembers our sin no more.
The transition from the Old to the New Covenant takes place as follows;
- Belief in God’s willingness to deliver what He has promised. Unless there is genuine belief that God is not only capable but anxious to perform all that He has promised, there can be no entrance into the New Covenant. This will generally follow conviction of our sinfulness and recognition of our complete inability to conquer sin in our lives. This will include self-disgust, frustration and disappointment.
- There must also be an intense longing to take hold of the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus that are part of our inheritance. Unless the spirit is stirred into action by a sincere brokenness it cannot be expected that we will find our way into the Holiest of all.
- A willingness to be made willing. It is God who works in us both to wish and to do according to Philippians 2:13, but we must be willing to allow Him to make us willing. This is the point at which God can begin work. It is the point of absolute surrender, of trusting Him with our wills, of yielding our self-control over to Him. This is the point of no return, which probably explains why not many Christians go past it.
- Putting off the old man, being renewed in the spirit of the mind and putting on the new creation being made according to God in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24). This a constant exercise in which the Holy Spirit can be relied upon to draw our attention to the old man’s attempts to regain his former pre-eminence.
These are all things that we do and the only things that we have to do, except to pray without ceasing, for the enabling of God’s eternal spirit in each step of the way. From this point onwards, God is truly free to undertake all that He has promised – and He does. These steps together amount to an invitation to God to take over and hugely empower the Holy Spirit in the work He is to do. For us, it remains to keep praying our way through God’s plan, to enjoy His presence and abide in His rest.
The putting off of the old man is the key sacrifice to growth in Christ. While the old man lives, the growth of the new creation is stunted. We become disabled, hoping against truth that the promises of God can be ours even though we refuse to die to self. Sanctification is not for the old man, but the new. Christ redeemed the old man to make him new. He purchased the new man, not the old.
Put off the old man. Seek the help of the Lord in going through the process. Speak to the old man in the name of Christ Jesus and command him to be gone. Assert the authority you have to become a new creation in Christ Jesus. Speak to the old man every time he attempts to return and put him off again and again, until he is truly no more. Claim the authority of Ephesians 4:21-24 and act it out.
What is required is the putting off of the old man and the wholehearted embrace of the spirit of Sonship for the divine will to become theirs.
The fact is, that you can only receive of God what you have given up of yourself. We have to make room for Him and He can only fill what is empty and the emptying must precede the filling. As much of ourselves as we are willing to give up He will replace with Himself. We tend to focus on the filling, but that is His job. We need to focus on the emptying; only we can do that.