"and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:10-11)The scriptures, at times, seems to be a odd mixture of things done for us and things we must do for ourselves. In one place Paul tells us that, if we are in Christ, then we are "a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) In another place he tells us that "our old self was crucified with Him" (Romans 6:6) that we might "walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4) Yet, here, Paul tells us to put on the new man. If we are now already a new creature, crucified to our old life, and given a new life in Christ then what does there yet remain of a new man for us to put on? Furthermore, why does this new man, seeing he was created new, still need to be renewed? Was there something deficient in his creation that needs our attention and refinement? Why didn't God create our new man already renewed from its beginning?
To understated this, we must first realize that the Greek term for "new" does not mean "new" in the since of some new clothes or a new car but rather "young" as in a young man or a baby. Paul writes to Titus, "Likewise urge the young men to be sensible." (Titus 2:6) Here translating the word "new" as "young men." When we are created anew in Christ we are not created as mature men and women of God, rather we are born again as children who need to grow up to become the people we are called to be. When a child is born, his whole life lays before him. He is full of potential and promise. However, who and what he will become depends largely on what he will do, how he will choose, and how he will respond to the world around him. The same is in the spiritual. We are born again with purpose, destiny, and promise. However, realizing that purpose, destiny, and promise is not automatic, it is dependent on what we choose, how we live, and how we respond.
When we are born again we are born without distinctions of race, position, gender, and all such worldly limitations. We are all free to grow and to become whomever God has called us to be. Some, applying greater industry in their growth, will proceed further in their calling in God others, however, will remain children forever. Who we become depends chiefly on how we choose and how we live. Our participation in our growth in God requires two things: renewal and putting on.
Renewing takes place in our mind. Paul says that we are to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) When we are born again, we are still accustomed to think like we always did. We need a renewal in our thinking and our understanding. We need to change the way we look at things and value things. Mostly, we need to begin to see and understand ourselves and the world around us as God does. We need to learn the mind of Christ.
The Greek word for "put on" means to cloth ourselves. It is one thing to learn the mind of Christ but it is another to put it into action. We need to take what we learn and put it into action. We need to not only think like Christ but also act like Christ. Only when we combine the two, learning and acting, will we grow up into the fullness of all that God has for us. Only then will we fulfill the will of Christ as we, "attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)