Romans 13 beginning at verse 11: “And do this knowing the time that now is the hour 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 armor of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in immorality and shamelessness, not in strife and envyings, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.“
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is really what a Christian is to be: one is who is cloaked, who is clothed, who is garmented with the character, the disposition, the attitude, the habits and the virtues of Jesus Christ. We are to put on Jesus Christ. That’s what Christian means.
One of the most vivid and continuous images that was used in teaching in the New Testament and in the early church was this idea of putting on a garment…being clothed with something, taking something off and putting something on. It appears many times in New Testament passages and it encompasses justification, that is salvation, as well as sanctification, that is spiritual growth. Just as an individual puts on garments, he is to put on Christ.
In Colossians 3:9 Paul has been telling the Colossians that they are to put off certain things. Colossians 3:8 says “put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth, lie not one to another.” Again you see the same imagery, put off this garment, put on this one. But what he says is take this off and then verse 9, “Since you have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man that is continually being renewed in knowledge.“
Ephesians 4:22 says that you have put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lust and have put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. The imagery here is that at salvation you have put off the old man, just like in Colossians, and you have put on the new man.
Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.“
Now it’s important that we make a distinction here or we’re not going to understand what Romans 13 means when it says to Christians: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” How can Paul say to put on Christ in Romans 13:14 when in Galatians 3:27 he says that, if you’re already in Christ, you have put on Christ?
First, at salvation we put on the Lord Jesus Christ in the sense of taking on His righteousness, taking on His holiness. In Romans 3:22 we read, “The righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” In other words, when you believe, the righteousness of God which is in Christ is placed on you. In Romans 4:5, “But to him that works not, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Saving faith results in a cloak of righteousness. And, as we received the cloak of sin in Adam, so we received the cloak of righteousness in Christ.
God now sees you as righteous in Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful picture. 2 Peter 1:3 says we have received or become partakers of the divine nature. So God sees us as righteous and we have a new capacity to really be righteous. God sees you as holy in Christ. And there is a new capacity.
That brings us to the second dimension. Putting on Jesus Christ also is an exhortation given to believers. How can Paul say to a believer who has already put on Christ: “Put on Christ?” Very simply. What he is saying is this has happened to you positionally, let it happen to you practically.
Even though we have put off an old man and put on a new man, we still have to keep doing that. You have put them off in position, put them off in practice. So, in Romans 13:14 when Paul says “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” he is not calling for salvation, he is calling for sanctification. He is calling for the believer to be in practice what he is in in position.
Make No Provision
Romans 13:14, again, says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
The flesh is that part of you that is still bent on sin. It has a proclivity (a fancy word from a previous post!) to do evil. It is your humanness. It covers your thinking, your mind, your emotions. Yes you have in you a new creation, but that new man is encased in your humanness. That’s why in Romans 7 Paul says the things I want to do deep down in my heart, the things my new nature wants to do are restrained and restricted by my flesh. And so he even says it is not I but it is sin that is in me, that is in my flesh, Romans 7.
Forming Christ In Us
Colossians 2:6 says, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, you’ve put Him on, so walk in Him.”
1 John 2:6, it says this, “He that says he abides in Him then you ought also so to walk even as He walked.”
Galatians 4:19 “My little children, of whom I travail in birth, I’m in birth pains until Christ be formed in you.”
That should be the heart of every pastor, the heart of every disciple, the heart of every mother, the heart of every father, the heart of every husband, the heart of every wife toward the one God has given them. We say we abide in Him, we ought to walk as He walked. We say we’re His children, He ought to be formed in us.
How Do You Do It?
How do you put on Christ? How do you become like Christ? How do you walk like Christ walked? It is by gazing on His glory. And as you lose yourself in His glory by studying the Word and communing with Him and praying and meditating, you find that imperceptibly and you can’t even see it the Spirit of God is moving you from one level of glory to the next, closer and closer to the very image of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to concentrate on the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to concentrate on techniques and gimmicks, just concentrate on Jesus Christ.
It is by gazing on His glory. And as you lose yourself in His glory by studying the Word and communing with Him and praying and meditating, you find that the Spirit of God is moving you from one level of life to the next, closer and closer to the very image of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to concentrate on the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to concentrate on techniques and gimmicks, just concentrate on Jesus Christ.
Another way to put it is this. Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
So, to simplify the Christian life, be clothed with Christ and trample on the desires of the flesh. This is ultimately the goal of every Christian’s life. And so, the Christian life in that sense is simple. It isn’t complex. God is not asking us to do a whole series of things that we have to figure out, He’s just saying be like Christ.
Wake Up, Throw Off, Put On
Paul gives us three commands in Romans 13. Here they are, “Wake up…throw off…and put on.”
First of all, “wake up” illustrates urgency…urgency.
“Throw off” illustrates purity.
And “put on” illustrates integrity…urgency, purity and integrity. This is a powerful statement.
Also published on Medium.