22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts
Two of the three phrases in verses 22 and 23 appeal to a past event (aorist). All three of these phrase relate to the “have been taught” of verse 21, referring to the content of what Paul taught the Ephesians when he was there. The three statements are not commands but something that happened when Paul was at the city of Ephesus. The translation “you put off” is misleading because the Greek indicates that the putting off took place in the past.
Note literal translations of the three clauses of this verse:
To have put off your old self, v. 22
To be renewed in the spirit of your minds, v. 23
To have put on the new self, v. 24
Putting off the old man and putting on the new man happened when some Ephesians became Christians (aorist tenses). Becoming a Christian not only involved getting rid of the old man and receiving the new man, but it also involved the process of renewing the new man (present tense). The new man gives new life and a new orientation (4:20-24) in contrast to the futile and darkened understanding of the unbeliever (4:17-18).
The “therefore” in Ephesians 4:25 directs motivation based on verses 20 to 24. The central issue is transformation, where God changed the regenerate person’s orientation to identify with Christ.
that you put off,
“Put off” was a one-time act (aorist tense). We put off the “old man” at one point in the past when we became Christians. The believer is not to align himself with the “old man” anymore.
This passage in both Ephesians and its parallel in Colossians refer to “putting off” the old man. The old man left the believer at salvation. The entire relationship to Adam with its subjugation to sin and death was put to death at the crucifixion of Christ (Ro 6:6). At salvation the Christian changed his identification with Adam to that of Christ. This is a change of position from being in Adam to a position “in Christ.” This was not experienced but was a judicial act of God. When we received Christ, we received life from Him at salvation.
We put off the old person that existed before our conversion, everything that we were as sons of Adam. We have a new position in Christ. We reckon that old life as dead positionally. We have put off the old man once for all.
We can deal with the proclivities of the old man in the new man.
The idea of verse 22 is that we put off our former life rather than our sin nature. The old man is not the same as the old nature (a complex of attributes). The Christian put off his former life as a non-Christian rather than his nature as an unbeliever.
However, it is possible to deal with the sin nature under different verses. “Put off” means to strip off and carries the idea of removing dirty clothes (Ro 13:12; Eph 4:25; Co 3:8, 9; Jas 1:21). Change of spiritual clothing is important to the Christian way of life.