When the gospel arrived in Ephesus and Paul planted a church there, people stopped worshiping the pagan goddess Artemis, or Diana, at her famous temple. This had an economic impact that led to a riot. In addition, many who had followed occult practices dramatically chose to abandon their old lives by burning their scrolls of magic and sorcery. It is estimated that these were worth 50,000 days’ wages (see Acts 19).
These actions were the results of the Ephesians’ commitment to putting off the old and putting on the new. Moving from death to life and growing from immaturity to maturity require this kind of radical change (see 2 Cor. 5:17). “Putting off” and “putting on” indicate decisive choices and actions. An entirely transformed way of life is needed!
To put off the old means to stop living like unbelieving Gentiles, that is, like pagans (vv. 17–19). Their thinking is ignorant and futile because they’ve suppressed the truth. Their hearts are hard and spiritually insensitive. They are far from the Lord. As a result, their behavior is given over to sensuality and self-indulgence. Impurity and greed characterize their lives. Wrong thinking leads to wrong actions.
To put on the new, by contrast, means to live in accordance with the truth of the gospel (vv. 20–24). Believers’ thinking is aligned with the truth of Christ—or more exactly, is in the process of becoming so. Our lives as maturing disciples of Christ should be characterized by specific qualities and actions that add up to a righteous “way of life,” which has the gospel at its center (Col. 3:9–10).
Our old selves were corrupt and deceived, but our new selves understand that we are created to be holy and Christlike. Right thinking leads to right actions.
One classic book on the topic of discipleship is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, who writes in an insightful, down-to-earth manner. Your Sunday school class or small group might benefit from studying this topic together, or you could host a book discussion group and invite friends to join you in learning more about holiness.