What is the “New Man”?

71Ac5RpaBKL._SL1300_

“[W]e speak of such faith as is not an idle thought, but of that which liberates from death and produces a new life in hearts— that is, faith is such a new light, life, and force in the heart as to renew our heart, mind, and spirit, makes new men of us and new creatures, and is the work of the Holy Ghost. This does not coexist with mortal sin— for how can light and darkness coexist?— but as long as it is present, produces good fruits.”
(Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV.64, “Of Justification”)

Who or what is the new man? According to Doctor Luther, the new man is the Christian— that is, the person who has been reborn in Holy Baptism and is now growing into the full stature of Christ our righteousness, Who is the very image of God (cf. Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:15). This growth is the effect of the Christian’s justification coram Deo, not the cause.

Luther’s words (taken from a sermon that the Formula of Concord explicitly cites) are as follows:

Now, the apostle has two things to say of the old man: that he corrupts himself in error as to the soul and in lusts as to the body. Paul portrays the old man— meaning every man without true faith though he bear the name of a Christian— as in the first place given to error: coming short of the truth, knowing naught of the true knowledge of Christ and faith in him, indifferent alike to God’s wrath and God’s grace, deceiving himself with his own conceit that darkness is light. The old man believes that God will not be moved to vengeance though he do as he pleases, even to decorating vices with the names of virtues. Haughtiness, greed, oppressing and tormenting the poor, wrath, envy— all this he would call preserving his dignity, exercising strict discipline, honestly and economically conducting his domestic affairs, caring for his wife and children, displaying Christian zeal and love of justice, etc. In short, he proceeds in the perfectly empty delusion and self-conceit that he is a Christian.

Out of this error proceeds the other corruption, the lusts of the body, which are fruits of unbelief. Unbelief causes men to walk in sinful security and yield to all the appetites of their flesh. Such have no inclination toward what is good, nor do they aim to promote orderliness, honor or virtue. They take desperate chances on their lives, wanting to live according to the lusts of their flesh, and yet not be reprimanded.

This, says the apostle, is the old man’s course and nature. He will do naught but ruin himself. The longer continued, the greater his debasement. He draws down upon himself his own condemnation and penalty for body and soul; for in proportion as he becomes unbelieving and hardhearted, does he become haughty, hateful and faithless, and eventually a perfect scoundrel and villain. This was your former manner of life, when as yet you were heathen and non-Christians. Therefore you must by all means put off the old man and cast him far from you; otherwise you cannot remain a Christian. For glorying in the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin is inconsistent with following sin— remaining in the former old un-Christian life and walking in error and deceitful lusts. …

In the old man there is naught but error, by means of which the devil leads to destruction. But the new man has the Spirit and the truth, by which the heart is illumined unto righteousness and holiness, wherein man follows the guidance of God’s Word and feels a desire for a godly walk and good life; just as, on the other hand, the desire and love for sin and wickedness is the product of error. This new man is created after God, as an image of God, and must of necessity differ from such as live in error and in lusts, without the knowledge of God and disobedient to him. For if God’s image is in man, man must consequently have the right knowledge of God and right conceptions and ideas, and lead a godly life consistent with holiness and righteousness as found in God himself.

Such an image of God Adam was when first created. He was, as to the soul, truthful, free from error, and possessed of true faith and knowledge of God; and as to the body, holy and pure, that is, without the impure, unclean desires of avarice, lasciviousness, envy, hatred, etc. And all his children— all men— would have so remained from their birth if he had not suffered himself to be led astray by the devil and to be thus ruined. But since Christians, by the grace and Spirit of God, now have been renewed to this image of God, they are so to live that soul and spirit are righteous and pleasing to God through faith in Christ; and that also the body— meaning the whole external life— be pure and holy, which is genuine holiness.

Before conversion, you are the old man; after conversion, you are the new man, because you are in Christ.1.[They are be rebuked] who imagine that in conversion and regeneration God creates a new heart and new man in such a way that the substance and essence of the old Adam, and especially the rational soul, are completely destroyed, and a new essence of the soul is created out of nothing. This error St. Augustine expressly rebukes in his exposition of Psalm 25, where he quotes the passage from Paul, “Put off the old man,” (Eph 4:22), etc., and explains it in the following words: “Lest any one might think that the substance or essence of man is to be laid aside, he has himself explained what it is to ‘lay aside the old man, and to put on the new’ when he says in the succeeding words: ‘Putting away lying, speak the truth.’ Behold, that is to put off the old man and to put on the new.” / “Ne aliquis arbitretur deponendam esse aliquam substantiam, exposuit, quid esset: ‘Deponite veterem hominem et induite novum’, cum dicit in consequentibus: ‘Quapropter deponentes mendacium, loquimini veritatem.’ Ecce, hoc est deponere veterem hominem et induere novum, etc.” (Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord II.81, “Of Free Will, or Human Powers”)  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17). No, you are not simultaneously old man and new man, for Christ has had the last word on who you are.2.“To Luther the paradox simul justus et peccator is not an ontological description of man as righteous and a sinner, nor a statement about the old and new man, but a simple affirmation of two biblical assertions concerning man, the assertion of the law that man is a sinner and under God’s wrath and the assertion of the gospel that man is righteous and God is at peace. Both assertions are true in fact, ontologically. The second verdict, however, or assertion, takes total preeminence over the first by virtue of the principle of solus Christus. Christ is Lord! He is Lord of the Scriptures, of all doctrine, theology, and ‘everything’ (See LW 27:156).” Robert Preus, “Luther: Word, Doctrine and Confession”, from Doctrine Is Life: Essays on Scripture, pp. 282-283. But the old does man remain with you. “He” does not remain as a person or an identity, but as what is known in scholastic terminology as an “accident”, which the Formula of Concord operatively defines as “[that] which does not exist by itself essentially, but is in another self-existent essence and can be distinguished from it” (FC SD I.54).3.One may find it surprising that the authors of the Formula of Concord would make use of such technical Aristotelian language, as Luther himself derided the language of “substance” and “accident” as sophistical at times. Indeed, some theologians are so intolerant of any appropriation of Aristotle and the scholastic tradition that they reject the Formula of Concord in its entirety. Such are rightly regarded as “radical”, though one is hard pressed to call them Lutheran.

The old man remains with you in the form of sinful desire inhering in your flesh, constantly drawing you towards sin just as inexorably as gravity draws you down towards the center of the earth. This sinful desire, or concupiscence, is truly sin; it is our share and inheritance in the sin of Adam. It is original sin. A section from Article II of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession is helpful here:

Here our adversaries inveigh against Luther also because he wrote that “Original sin remains after Baptism.” They add that this article was justly condemned by [Pope] Leo X. But His Imperial Majesty [Emperor Charles V] will find on this point a manifest slander. For our adversaries know in what sense Luther intended this remark that original sin remains after Baptism. He always wrote thus, namely, that Baptism removes the guilt of original sin, although the material, as they call it, of the sin, i.e., concupiscence, remains. He also added in reference to the material that the Holy Ghost, given through Baptism, begins to mortify the concupiscence, and creates new movements— a new light, a new sense and spirit— in man. In the same manner, Augustine also speaks, who says: “Sin is remitted in Baptism, not in such a manner that it no longer exists, but so that it is not imputed.” Here he confesses openly that sin exists, i.e., that it remains, although it is not imputed. And this judgment was so agreeable to those who succeeded him that it was recited also in the decrees. Also against Julian, Augustine says:

The Law, which is in the members, has been annulled by spiritual regeneration, and remains in the mortal flesh. It has been annulled because the guilt has been remitted in the Sacrament, by which believers are born again; but it remains, because it produces desires, against which believers contend.

(Apology II [I].35-36, “Of Original Sin”; Triglotta)

That is clear enough, methinks. Lest anyone think that to deny that the “old man” is a personal identity of the Christian is somehow to soft-pedal the seriousness of our sinful condition, let us now look at how Doctor Luther describes the effect that original sin has, even in the lives of the regenerate:

Original sin is not a quiescent thing, but a kind of continuous motion or entelechy, producing its own effects. It is not a quiescent quality, but a restless evil which labors day and night, even in those who sleep. We see it in nocturnal defilements. It is a restless animal, a beast which cannot stand still, yes, which must have its motions. This is simply the truth, original sin disturbs greatly. It moves man to avarice, disobedience, and other vices, even when he sleeps. For it always endeavors to move us away from God. That ulcerous plague of sin cannot stand together with justification. For that reason it always excites its own passions and its own tendencies. We admit, then, that these motions of original sin are there, just as Paul says, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive” [Rom. 7:23], as lust for young women.

These impulses are at times lighter, at times more serious, and they should be viewed as a kind of poison which drains continually and an ulcer which, the nearer it comes to health, the less poison it holds. Sin acts in that way and we ought to apply plasters until it lets up. This is our life, when the plaster has been applied, whenever the poison is halted, when it is not present, then it grows faint. Thus original sin is restless even in us…

How very pleasant. However, Luther, being the evangelical soul that he is, doesn’t leave us with bad news:

…but since we are under the doctor, under Christ and live mindful of our illness, we shall be blessed. For that poison decreases more and more from day to day and we always wipe out, wash, and cleanse the poison, with the poison becoming less until it is totally extinguished by fire in the judgment. In the meantime we endure the cure of a living physician, that is, of Christ. We hear the Word, pray, read. As much as we can, we recover through the Word.

For we ought to pray daily, hear and meditate on the Word daily, attend the sacraments, and purge the poison and rottenness. Accordingly, we ought to use these means, so that we are purged, cleansed of the poison of sin, until we are truly and entirely purged. This takes place in the pit of the tomb, until we reach eternal life, which happens at the last judgment. This is also a very good argument. (Blessed Martin Luther, Disputation Concerning Justification, Argument XX, 1536; AE 34:182-184)

We new men will not be free of the old man until the consummation of his baptismal death, which happens in our natural death.

On that note, don’t you think that if Christ were to come back while we were still alive, we would still die? I imagine that we would die and immediately be resurrected. St. Paul says that we will not all sleep, but I think that this means that not all of our bodies will lie in the ground awaiting the resurrection, because whenever Christ comes again, the generation that will see Him will be the one that “does not sleep.” St. Paul says that those who see Him return with their own eyes will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye”; it seems to me that this change is death, by which the old man is finally shed: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). Yes, Enoch and Elijah (and according to some traditions, the Blessed Virgin Mary) were taken to heaven without seeing death, but those exceptions seem to prove the rule. Anyway, that’s just my pious opinion for today.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

forestgump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

+VDMA

References   [ + ]

1. [They are be rebuked] who imagine that in conversion and regeneration God creates a new heart and new man in such a way that the substance and essence of the old Adam, and especially the rational soul, are completely destroyed, and a new essence of the soul is created out of nothing. This error St. Augustine expressly rebukes in his exposition of Psalm 25, where he quotes the passage from Paul, “Put off the old man,” (Eph 4:22), etc., and explains it in the following words: “Lest any one might think that the substance or essence of man is to be laid aside, he has himself explained what it is to ‘lay aside the old man, and to put on the new’ when he says in the succeeding words: ‘Putting away lying, speak the truth.’ Behold, that is to put off the old man and to put on the new.” / “Ne aliquis arbitretur deponendam esse aliquam substantiam, exposuit, quid esset: ‘Deponite veterem hominem et induite novum’, cum dicit in consequentibus: ‘Quapropter deponentes mendacium, loquimini veritatem.’ Ecce, hoc est deponere veterem hominem et induere novum, etc.” (Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord II.81, “Of Free Will, or Human Powers”)
2. “To Luther the paradox simul justus et peccator is not an ontological description of man as righteous and a sinner, nor a statement about the old and new man, but a simple affirmation of two biblical assertions concerning man, the assertion of the law that man is a sinner and under God’s wrath and the assertion of the gospel that man is righteous and God is at peace. Both assertions are true in fact, ontologically. The second verdict, however, or assertion, takes total preeminence over the first by virtue of the principle of solus Christus. Christ is Lord! He is Lord of the Scriptures, of all doctrine, theology, and ‘everything’ (See LW 27:156).” Robert Preus, “Luther: Word, Doctrine and Confession”, from Doctrine Is Life: Essays on Scripture, pp. 282-283.
3. One may find it surprising that the authors of the Formula of Concord would make use of such technical Aristotelian language, as Luther himself derided the language of “substance” and “accident” as sophistical at times. Indeed, some theologians are so intolerant of any appropriation of Aristotle and the scholastic tradition that they reject the Formula of Concord in its entirety. Such are rightly regarded as “radical”, though one is hard pressed to call them Lutheran.

One Comment

Comments are closed.