Romans 13:12-14

Put On The Lord Jesus Christ

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Rom. 13:12a (Holman) The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, . . .

Daybreak vividly describes our earthly lives. This lifetime is a dawning; light struggles with darkness as the latter retreats slowly and reluctantly.

We live a life haunted by dangers of darkness. This is a world of sin and sorrow. Troubles never cease, but on the horizon, darkness is thinning, the blackness is turning grey. Light is beginning to stir and whisper (Maclaren).

The pains of this life will soon end. We will not be in this twilight forever. A blessed day, Heaven itself, is about to dawn. No night there, nothing to hurt, endanger, or bewilder. A comfort is knowing it will be here sooner than we think.

Rom. 13:12b “. . . so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

This metaphor is taken from the battlefield. In the early morning twilight, a band of soldiers is sleeping. Suddenly the bugle calls them to awaken. Reveille summons them to throw off their nightwear, those things worn while sleeping.

Soldiers of Christ, can we not hear the notes of the reveille? It is time to cast off our nightwear, those things congenial to spiritual sleep. We are going to stand before God soon. Get your good clothes on. Give evidence of your wakefulness. Get rid of your night clothes. Pull them off as you would pajamas.

Works of darkness are deeds whose source is darkness and whose desire is concealment. Sinners love the cloak of secrecy. Hell is a place of outer darkness, and Hell’s outposts on earth use the same lighting system. Sin comes from a pit of darkness, thrives in a world of darkness, and finally returns to its place of origin.

We are to put on armor. Fighting always has to be done. We talk about the deeper Christian life, and about prayer and meditation. Another valid part of Christian living is fighting. We have to struggle for each inch we grow in the Lord.

Spiritual progress requires conflict; we fight weaknesses inside and enemies outside. We fight ourselves and the world’s temptations. We have to put on armor of light. We fight forces of darkness, and darkness can be overcome only by light.

As soldiers, we must be clad in something impenetrable. The Devil may trip us or knock us down, but must not be allowed to pierce us through and destroy us. We must have protection from this, and we do. His missiles are fiery darts of darkness, and they cannot penetrate light.

God is light. He is glorious in holiness, and He has communicated a portion of Himself to us. Our armor has a heavenly origin, it consists of a radiance which matches its source. Our lives are to be a shining light to all around us.

Get our armor fastened on and go to fighting. Whatever we hope to achieve in this world, do it soon. Somehow a more convenient season never arrives.

In youth, life is filled with school and romance. In the 20s, there are marital decisions, a house to buy, children to be born; the 30s have teenagers to raise and career changes to make; in the 40s there are parents to care for, and children to put through college; in the 50s we make retirement plans, and have health problems to overcome; in the 60s the body is not what it was; in the 70s income begins to fall.

All of life is filled with busy-ness. There will never be a better time to do things. Are there things you want to accomplish? Get at it. Time is flying.

Not only will there never come a more convenient season, there might also never come another tomorrow. It is unhealthy and morbid to obsessively think of one’s own death, but occasional reflection on the subject is extremely helpful.

If thinking of death causes us to turn from anything, it was something we needed to turn away from. If we are doing something that the thought of death makes us uncomfortable in, it is not worth doing.

Thoughts of death should improve our goals by giving us better perspective about the relative importance of things. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”

Rom. 13:13 “Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy.”

“Walk with decency” means to behave becomingly. Christians anticipate the dawning glory and are to live lives befitting of the new day.

Paul knew this was hard to do. He faced reality. We live in the midst of evil, however much we anticipate glory. It is easy to slip back into corrupt practices of a worldly society, but do not look back. Certain things must be left behind forever.

This verse provides representatives of what Paul had in mind. This is not a complete list, but a summary of deeds of darkness. These are things evil people usually won’t commit in open daylight for all to see. If the wicked commit them only in the dark, it behooves God’s people to abstain from them altogether.

“Carousing” referred to the wild drunken parades through streets at night in honor of Bacchus, the god of wine. “Sexual impurity and promiscuity” referred to unbridled lust. This described a person to whom honor and decency meant nothing.

It is sad God has to repeatedly remind believers not to quarrel. Too often Christians are known for their arguing rather than for their kindness to each other.

Rom. 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.”

This describes the armor of light (v. 12). We want Jesus to be seen, not us. Nothing is wrong with meeting needs of our body, but we are not to fulfill its lusts.

Cast off our sins. Put on Jesus. He is the best clothing for a Christian to be adorned with. Christian living is summarized in this: Be like Jesus. Act like Jesus acted, speak like Jesus spoke, love like Jesus loved, minister like Jesus ministered.

No limitation is given here, as if some things in Christ might be unworthy of imitation. We never have to fear being too much like Jesus. This can be said of no one else. Abraham was God’s friend, but lied. David was “after God’s own heart” but committed adultery and murder. Peter was a rock, but showed racial prejudice. There are things in others unworthy of being imitated, but not so in Christ.

Put on Jesus. Cast off clothes of darkness and don robes of day. We’ll wear this dress right into Heaven. Keep it clean. We will someday meet the King in it.

A day is coming when we will sheathe a sword and grasp a palm branch. We will drop the spear and take up a harp. The helmet will be put off as our brows feel the weight of a crown. As our armor is unbuckled, may the robe under it be clean.

Verses 13-14 were written to admonish Christians. Ironically, they are most memorable in Church history for their effect on an unbeliever. They will always be special to the Church for the role they played in the conversion of Augustine. These are the verses that kindled a flame of new life in his heart.

Augustine was the greatest of the Church Fathers. Only Saul of Tarsus was a less likely candidate for veneration in the Church. Augustine had a godly mother, Monica, but his dad, who had no moral scruples, let his son run wild. His dad was determined to allow his genius son free rein in expressing himself.

As a result, Augustine as a child had an uncontrollable temper, and was a thief and prolific liar. In adolescence he was sent away to an exclusive school. He threw rocks at the faces of his school mates. He left many student’s faces gashed and bleeding. He spent his father’s liberal allowance on prostitution. His teen years were immoral. In young manhood he lived with a lady for years out of wedlock.

Nevertheless, a godly mother continued to pray. She never gave up on her profligate son, who never could find peace for his soul. He was always at unrest. He searched every religion of the ancient world, hoping to find the joy he wanted.

The teaching of Christ began to appeal more and more to him, but he loved his sins. He began contemplating the surrender of his life to Jesus, but the pull of evil was strong. In his early thirties, the civil war inside him became unbearable.

In 386 A.D., the 32-year-old reached his wit’s end. A choice had to be made. One day in the garden of his friend Alypius, his heart was convulsed by a violent agitation. Heaven and Hell were at war, with Augustine’s heart the battlefield.

His life was in shambles. He was torn apart, desperately longing for an end to his exasperation. Walking alone he kept saying, “How long? Tomorrow and tomorrow–why not now? Why not this hour an end to my depravity?”

His agony became so intense that he collapsed beneath a fig tree. While lying on the grass and moaning to himself, he heard a childlike voice saying, “Take up and read.” It may have been a child in the area asking an adult to read to him.

Augustine, however, took it as a word from God. He hurried back to where his friend Alypius was sitting with a volume of Paul’s writings. Augustine later remembered, “I snatched it up and read silently the first passage my eyes fell on: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

“I neither wished nor needed to read further. Immediately, at the end of that sentence, a clear light flooded my heart, and all the darkness of doubt vanished away. I put my finger in the page and closed the book: I turned to Alypius with a calm countenance and told him.” He then went to his mother and told her, also.

The word spoke to Augustine. It found him where he was. Coleridge said he knew the Bible was inspired because “It finds me.” Maybe it has “found us” through this text. God grant us grace to respond.