Clothed with Christ

13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:13-14
In a couple recent posts (here and here), we’ve been meditating on a magnificent passage from Romans 13:11-14. In our opening, we looked at verses 11-12 and specifically the chronological language dealing with time: knowing the time, the hour has come to wake from sleep, salvation is nearer now, night is far gone, cast off works of darkness, and put on armor of light. This language alerted us to the reality that there is work to be done, contra the modern antinomian, which was the subject of a second post. This passage is a call to action, but not in a legalist way. Rather it is a call to action for those in Christ. Indeed, our verse in this post makes it crystal clear that the action we are talking about is nothing less than gospel obedience, that which flows out of our justification from Christ. In other words, what we are dealing with is nothing less than our sanctification.

Moving now to the last half of this passage, verses 13-14, we find instructions or imperatives. We may be reminded that these verses follow the command to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, before continuing our chronological metaphors with, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime….” Following the imagery from earlier, waking from sleep, dressing in armor, now it is clear that our duty is to walk properly. Walk in this passage is the commonly found word peripateo, and signifies progress and with respect to believers it’s progress on a path of holiness. It should be obvious, but it stands naturally in contrast to standing still and contextually in contrast to sleeping. This walking is modified by properly or as the King James translates, honestly and perhaps would be even better translated as decently. With this, we understand that decency (lacking in today’s culture) supplies the contrast with the couplets that are to follow. Said simply, our daily habitual walk, progressing in holiness, is to be done properly, honestly, or decently as opposed to what the author is about to warn against.

Continuing the contrast with night and day, the passage gives us the imperative to walk decently in the daytime and then defines the works of darkness by three couplets. The first couplet is translated as orgies and drunkenness by the ESV. Their translation choice of orgies, carries a meaning not supported by the original word. Elsewhere, this particular word is translated as reveling/revelry or rioting (Gal. 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3) and it conveys the idea of a drunken partying or rowdiness. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon elucidates this meaning by providing the following context:
in the Greek writings properly, a nocturnal and riotous procession of half-drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honor of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before the houses of their male and female friends; hence, used generally, of feasts and drinking-parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2970&t=KJV
With this more informed understanding of the first couplet, rowdiness and drunkenness, it would appear that while it is describing a lifestyle of riotous, drunken behavior, the application to any and all excesses is not a stretch. The danger, or work of darkness as it is termed, is taking anything that God has created good and abusing it through excess. This is taking liberty into licentiousness and it leads to an out-of-control lifestyle.

The next couplet, sexual immorality and sensuality, again requires some clarification. The translation sexual immorality here is not the normal word, pornea. Instead, this rarely used word simply means bed with the idea of conception, i.e. sexual intercourse. It’s probable that this word was used in order to carry through with the imagery of night, sleep, day, awake. Nevertheless, the intention is clear, particularly when coupled with sensuality, or wantonness, filthiness, and unbridled lust. Illicit sexual activity is being strictly forbidden.

The third and final couplet concerns quarreling and jealousy. The former deals with interactions among people out of strife or contention while the latter could be emphasizing envy and jealousy, but could also be more focused on zeal for the sake of defense, which may more naturally fit with the first prohibition against quarreling. In other words, the danger here is engaging one another with verbal strife and contention, especially in zealous arguments or self-defense. Arguing for the sake of arguing.

This brings us to the contrast in the passage, marked by the little word but. In contrast to walking around in the night clothed with the works of darkness, those previously mentioned, we are to walk in the daytime – being awake and alert to our surroundings, being clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ. With this, we may recall a verse earlier, Romans 13:12 and the call to put on the armor of light. Most likely these are parallel phrases referring to the same concept of an outer clothing or armor of light, i.e. Christ. Putting on the armor of light or the Lord Jesus Christ conveys primarily the imagery of war or battle and second our need for a defense. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his series on Romans which has been edited into a very worthy 14-volume set, helpfully provides us with clarity on the meaning of putting on Christ, which in this context flows from our justification, but is itself referencing our sanctification.

Principally, as Lloyd-Jones points out, the putting on of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to cast of the works of darkness, and as we will see avoid making provisions for the flesh. The first aspect of this putting on that he sees is a recognition of who we are putting on, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Lord. He is the incarnate Son of God. He is the Messiah who died to redeem us from our slavery to sin and restore our relationship to God the Father through His propitiatory sacrifice. That is foremost, a recognition of Who He is. But second, there is Christ as our example. Certainly He is our example for holiness in this dark and depraved world, but He is also our example for reliance upon the Spirit, for our pattern of suffering in this life, and for the expectation that the world will hate us because it hated Him first. Third, again drawing from Lloyd-Jones, “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ means living upon Him.” This is looking unto Christ as our daily portion, our daily bread (John 6:53). Next, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is relying on Him, “conscious of our weakness and of our need for strength and ability and power….” What soldier would put on armor that he wasn’t sure of? For what purpose would a soldier put on armor if his own skin would protect him? In the same way, we are to put on Christ. Finally, Lloyd-Jones sees this putting on of the Lord Jesus Christ as our hiding in Him. Our retreat to Christ, much like the “Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee,” we are to retreat to Christ our Shield.

With these, this imperative to put on Christ is not to be held in isolation. In sanctification, there is a putting off and a putting on. Here there is a double imperative, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ and a making no provision for the flesh. In clearer language, earlier we saw that we are to put off the works of darkness and here we see there is a putting on of the Lord Jesus Christ, but not only that. Yes, indeed there is putting off and putting on, but here we see that in contrast to putting on Christ there is the command to not make plans, provisions, or forethought to fulfill the desires and lusts of the flesh.

As we go, let us put off the works of darkness and clothe ourselves with Christ. As Puritan Henry Scudder helpfully offers, as we get dressed for the day, let us take the opportunity to remind ourselves of the need and indeed the reality of putting on Christ.

As you go out into the world, say, ‘I am not my own, I am the bondslave of Jesus Christ. He is my Lord. He is my Master. He is my Owner. I have no right to live as I want to live; I do not live to please myself.’

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans vol. 13, Banner of Truth, pg. 317

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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