Putting on God’s Clothes

By Mark D. Roberts

March 12, 2019

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24


Children love to dress up in their parents clothing. I can still remember when I was a young boy and I walked around wearing my dad’s giant shoes and humongous coat. When I put on his clothes, I felt like I was my dad. Perhaps I even acted like my dad when I was dressed like him.

Recent psychological research suggests that when we wear clothing with particular meaning it affects our behavior. In an article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers from Northwestern University make a case for what they call “enclothed cognition.”

Adam D. Galinsky and Hajo Adam ran a series of experiments in which people put on a distinctive, meaning-laden garment, like a doctor’s coat. When wearing this coat subjects did better in cognitive exercises than when they did not wear the coat. It wasn’t enough just to see the doctor’s coat and be inspired by it or to put on any old white coat. Improvement in the tests came when subjects knew they were wearing a doctor’s coat and could actually feel it on their bodies.  We are aware of, act differently in light of, and even perform better depending on, the clothing we wear.

So what if we were to dress up like God? No, I’m not envisioning wearing a robe and a beard like God in the Sistine Chapel—or putting on a Norse warrior costume and winged helmet like Thor. Rather, I’m thinking in light of Ephesians 4:24: “[You were taught] to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Notice that the new self we “put on” as if it were an article of clothing is a new self “created to be like God.” This doesn’t mean, of course, that we become all-knowing and all-powerful. We are like God when it comes to “true righteousness and holiness.”

The Greek word translated as “righteousness” here can also mean “justice” when applied to legal or social contexts. So, “righteousness” in this verse means living in right relationships in every sector of life. Even as God treats all people rightly and seeks to be in a right relationship with them, even as God executes justice for all, so we are to do the same.

The word translated in Ephesians 4:24 as “holiness” in the NIV, hosiotes, isn’t the common New Testament word for holiness. Rather, hosiotes means “devoutness” or “piety.” It has to do with honoring God in religious duties as well as in all of life. Thus, we might say that we are to put on our new self, which has been created by God so that we might be just like God in everything we do. We are to be like God in our worship and our work, in our religion and our relationships, in our rest and our recreation.

Notice that putting on the new self has to do with actual behavior, not just with inner beliefs and feelings. Even as Galinsky and Adam found that one has to feel the reality of the doctor’s coat in order to act like a doctor, so we need to feel our godlikeness through doing actions that reflect God’s own actions. This thought is similar to what we read in Ephesians 2:10, where God “created [us] in Christ Jesus to do good works.” As we put on our new self, engaging in behaviors in imitation of God, choosing to do and speak like Jesus, then we will experience our newness in Christ.

Something to Think About:

Did you ever play “dress up” when you were a child? What was this like for you?

How might your life be different if you were to “dress up” like God?

If you were to imagine yourself as representing God in every part of life, how might this affect your behavior, relationships, values, and words?

Something to Do:

Since you are to be like God in “true righteousness and holiness,” consider the people to whom you will relate today. Choose to act toward them in “true righteousness.” This might be as simple as treating them with kindness. Or it could be more complicated. The point is to “put on” God’s clothing by acting in righteousness toward others.


Gracious God, even as children dress up like their parents, so may I dress up in your clothes, so to speak. Help me to put on the new self you have created for me, so that I might act like you, speak like you, love like you, and be like you. Today, no matter where I am or what I am doing, may I be a true Christian, a “Christ-like” person. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
10,000 Hours of Piety

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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