The Incarnation of the Word, and the resurrection of that Word from the dead, has entirely remade the world. We fail to recognize this because we don’t understand history—and the way the world actually was before Christ came into it. But humanity lived through a long night indeed, and when Christ came, the sun rose. Men still sin, but the sun is up. We can still have cloudy days, and even storms, but the sun is up—and cannot be made to ever go down.
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 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 armour of light. 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 not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom.13:11-14).
Summary of the Text
We have seen how the believers are to submit themselves to the old authorities. They were true authorities, but their rough governance of humanity was in the process of being replaced. We have also seen how believers are to treat one another lawfully from the heart, which is what love is. And so now we come to some very interesting applications. The apostle Paul takes the Decalogue, the meaning of love, and pushes it into some interesting corners. Paul says that the Roman Christians should know the time (v. 11). What time was it? Time to wake up, because salvation was nearer than when the first Christians first believed (v. 11). What is this approaching salvation? It is the cataclysm that Paul has been preparing the Roman Christians for—the final conclusion of the Judaic aeon and the formal, unfettered commencement of the Christian aeon. Note that the night is far spent (v. 12), and that the day is “at hand” (v. 12). Paul is not talking about the second coming, many thousands of years in the future. The response to this immediate eschatological reality is to cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light (v. 12). Once up, with the panoply on, what are these believers to do? They were to walk honestly, because it is day time (v. 13). This honest walk excludes six things—riotous partying, drunkenness, fornication, wantonness, strife, and envying. Put off the old man, and instead put on the Lord Jesus (v. 14), making no provision for the flesh or its lusts (v. 14).
Armor of Light
How should someone act if they are dressed out in the armor of light? What should their behavior be? Right away, it excludes certain things. Orgies or riotous parties are out. So also is drunkenness. The next sin is translated chambering, but the word means sexual immortality. After that is a rejection of sensuality, lasciviousness, or filthiness. Then comes strife or quarreling, and after that is envy. We are dressed in the armor of light, and we are to walk as the children of light (Eph.5:8). We are to do this in a way that produces the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of light—that which is good, right, and true (Eph. 5:9). Set your minds on heavenly things (Col. 3:2). Whatever is pure, (Phil. 4:8), think about that.
Put Off, Put On
These instructions are given to Christians. When you were first converted, you put off the old man, and you put on the new man, Jesus. That was a fundamental action. But it is not the kind of action that never needs to be repeated. We repeat this motion throughout the course of our lives. We put off, and we put on. We put off the old, corrupt way of being a human being, and we put on the new and glorious way of being a human being—the Lord Jesus.
An important part of what it means to put off the old man concerns the way we speak. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Eph. 5:11-12). Right after this, Paul uses the same image he used in our passage here, that of waking up from sleep so that Christ the sun could shine on us. One of the disgraceful things in the modern church is slack entertainment standards, being willing to be entertained in our homes by people that we wouldn’t have in our homes. But digitizing a dirty joke doesn’t clean it up any. And then Christians begin speaking and joking that way themselves—although the Bible plainly says not to. Wake up, sleepers.
The Bible calls us to holiness because of who we are—we are named as Christians in our baptism. But the Scriptures also summon us to purity because of where we are in the story. That is what is happening here.
The Roman Christians were told not to behave in a certain way because it was morning. Christ is the sun, and this is why this contextualization does not make it inapplicable to us in our situation. The first Christians were staggering down for coffee at 5:30 am. We are busy at work, mid-morning. Does this reasoning apply to us, less or more? We are engaged in the work of the Great Commission, which consists of racking people out of their beds. As the morning progresses, this becomes even more of a necessity. As the day progresses, we have to stay with it. Some lazy men have trouble getting up, which is what Paul was addressing. Other lazy men have trouble working through the day, which is what we are addressing—but the point is the same. Don’t be like the archbishop who once joked that he didn’t get up early because it made him proud all morning, and sleepy all afternoon.