Clothe Yourselves with Christ | Romans 13:8-14
Brian Hedges | June 13, 2021
For the message, we’re going to be in Romans 13. Let me invite you to turn there; we’re going to be in verses 8-14; Romans 13:8-14, as we continue in a series that we are calling Christianity Applied. This is a part of the book of Romans where Paul is taking the essence of the gospel, which he has expounded in chapters 1-11, and is really leaning into the application of the gospel to the Christian life.
The passage we’re looking at this morning is a special passage because God used this passage, especially verses 13-14, to bring about the conversion of one of the most famous Christians in the history of the church. You may know who this Christian was; it was St. Augustine. He was one of the great fathers of the church in the fourth century; but before he became a Christian he was a very immoral man and a very ambitious man. His life was marked by pride and ambition, this desire for honor and esteem, and he was also addicted to his sexual immorality. He lived for years with a woman who was not his wife, and then, even when his mother tried to arrange a respectable marriage for him and he had left this woman who had been his concubine for many years, he could not remain chaste, and immediately went out and sought someone else. He was just addicted to his deep sensual desires, but he was in conflict. He knew the truth of the gospel, or had come to know it over time, so there was this war within him.
One day he went out into a garden, conflicted by this internal struggle within him, and while he was in the garden he heard the voice of a child say these words: “Take it and read, take it and read.”
He didn’t know what this was. Was it children playing a game, or was it God speaking to him? But he took it as a prompting from God to just take up the book that was sitting next to him and to start reading it, and it happened to be the book of Romans, and he just read the first passage on which his eyes fell, and it was Romans 13:13-14. That led to his conversion, and it was an utter and complete transformation of his life. He was never the same again, and he became one of the most important theologians of the church. Many people would say he was the most important theologian of the church between Paul and Martin Luther, and certainly his works have shaped Christian history ever since, as well as Western civilization.
This is a wonderful passage we’re studying this morning, Romans 13:8-14. There are seven verses here, a lot packed in. I want to read the passage first, and then I’m just going to break it down and summarize it in four basic commands that kind of summarize everything in this passage. Let’s read it, first of all, Romans 13:8.
Paul says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
This is God’s word.
I think we can summarize this passage with four basic commands; let me state them for you, and then we’ll go through each one of them in turn.
1. Love One Another (vv. 8-10)
2. Wake from Sleep (vv. 11-12a)
3. Cast Off the Works of Darkness (vv. 12b-13)
4. Clothe Yourselves with Christ (v. 14)
Let’s look at each one of these commands and the verses that go with them.
1. Love One Another
This is the focus of verses 8, 9, and 10, and it really is Paul resuming a theme that he has already begun in this section of Scripture. We saw this as we were looking through Romans 12:9, where Paul says, ‘Let love be genuine,” and then he goes on to expound and expand upon what genuine love is. We spent a whole sermon on that a few weeks ago. What does it mean to genuinely love one another?
Well, this is the other side; it’s kind of the two bookends of this passage, Romans 12-13. Once again he comes back to love, and he says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”
The reason he’s says, “Owe no one anything,” is because he’s following from what he has just said in Romans 13:7 (we saw this last week), where he says, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed,” and revenue and respect and honor and so on. We saw that, the Christian’s responsibility to give what is due to the government. We talked about that last week; I’m not going to recap it today.
Paul takes this same concept of paying what is owed, and he says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” By saying that, he is essentially telling us that love is the debt we owe to everyone. Everyone you meet, everyone you encounter, there’s a debt that you owe, and that debt is the debt of love.
In fact, Paul goes on to tell us that this is the fulfillment of the law. To love one another is to fulfil the law. You see that in verse 8: “For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” And then in verse 9 he’s giving an explanation of this, and he lists four of the Ten Commandments. “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this one word [and he quotes Leviticus 19:18]: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
You may know that the Ten Commandments were given on two tablets of stone, and the first tablet had to do with what we call the first table of the law, the duties of man towards God: to worship God and to put him first. That’s the first part of the law. That is summed up by Jesus in Matthew 22 as, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” But the second table of the law was to love your neighbor as yourself, and all of these commandments that Paul lists here can really be summed up with that second commandment, as Jesus called it, the second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. So love fulfills the law.
This is important for Paul to say, because in the book of Romans Paul has said a lot of things about the law. For example, in Romans 7 he shows how the law reveals sin, but it not only reveals sin, it not only shows us what sin, but the law, when it is applied to a sinful heart, it actually stirs up sin, it provokes sin; it makes us worse rather than better. Then finally, the law condemns sin.
It might raise the question, “Do we do away with the law?” Is that what Paul is saying? Paul affirms that the law is holy and righteous and good, but his point in Romans is that the law was insufficient to bring the salvation that was needed. The law was part of the old covenant, and in the new covenant God has given us something better than the law; he’s given us his Spirit, and the Spirit is the one who actually brings about the fulfillment of the law in our lives.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8:2-4. He says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
You might say that the spirit indwelling the Christian is the way in which we fulfill the law, and love, loving one another, is what that looks like.
Now, his point is not that we now live under the law. He’s already said that we are not under the law but under grace. His point is that those who are under grace, filled with the Spirit, and loving one another actually fulfill what the law always intended in the first place.
So love is a debt we owe to all, love fulfills the law, and then the third thing he says about the law is that love does no wrong to a neighbor (verse 10). Love does no wrong to a neighbor.
We might ask the same question that someone asked Jesus one time: “Well, who is my neighbor?” Remember this in Luke 10? Somebody asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus has just summarized the law, right, and he’s having this conversation about the law of God. This man kind of wants to get himself off the hook: “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus tells a story, and it’s the story of the good Samaritan. There’s this man who’s going from Jerusalelm to Jericho, and he falls in with robbers, and they beat him up, and they strip him of his clothes, they leave him on the side of the road. The question is, “Who is going to help this guy?”
A priest walks by and he sees him, and he doesn’t do anything. A Levite—that was the tribe of Israel from which the priests came, and they were supposed to be really religious and everything—he walks by and he doesn’t do anything. But then one of the hated half-breed Samaritans—there was this huge racial tension and conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jews hated the Samaritans. One of the Samaritans walks by, and the Samaritan sees him, and he has compassion on the man. He goes down on the ditch and he pulls him out of the ditch, and he cleans him up and he clothes him and he puts him in an inn and he pays for all of it out of his own pocket and he sees that this man is nursed back to health. That man is the neighbor.
The point here is that we are to love the person who is in need. Your neighbor is the person who is in need. So Paul is telling us that this is the basic Christian ethic; it is to love one another. This fulfills the law, it’s a debt we owe to all, and it is characterized by doing good to our neighbor rather than doing wrong.
Now, one of the things this means for us is that love is not just a sentimental feeling, love has to be defined by the practical action by which we do good to those around us. You know, it’s easy for us to hear a command like that and just leave it abstract in our heads, but I want to make it really concrete, so I want to ask you to do something right now. I want you to think right now about who is the most difficult person in your life right now. Almost everyone of you, someone just popped into your head. You have a face in your mind right now.
This command means, love that person. It means do good to that person. It means be compassionate towards that person, patient with that person. That may be a coworker, someone that you’re just always butting heads with at work. It might be a fellow student if you’re in school, or it might be a roommate if you’re a single person. It may be a fellow Christian, even, somebody that you just don’t get along with in your small group or at church. For most people, it’s probably somebody in your family. It may be a difficult spouse, or it may be a sibling that you’re at odds with, or a parent, or maybe a mother-in-law or father-in-law. It may be a wayward son or daughter. But someone in your life that is constantly—you’re rubbing against them, and they’re just causing problems and you’re frustrated and angry and bitter. God’s word says love that person, and when you do that you are fulfilling the law and you are living as Christ himself would have you live.
That’s the first command: Love one another.
2. Wake from Sleep
There’s more in verses 11-12. Here’s another command; it is to wake from sleep. Look at verses 11-12a. We have to unpack the imagery here that Paul uses. He says, “Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For [here’s the reason] salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.”
“You know the time,” he says, “that the hour has come.” Now, there were two Greek words for time. One was the word chronos, which basically means calendar time. We get our word “chronological” from that word. Calendar time. But there was another word, the word kairos, and that’s what this word is. It’s a word that means significant time. It’s like this moment of opportunity, this significant moment of time. Paul is saying, “You know the time.” What is time? “The hour has come to wake from sleep.” “Now is the time,” he says, “to wake up.”
Why are you to wake up? Because salvation is nearer to us than we first believed. Isn’t that an interesting way to put it? Most of us, if you’re a Christian and you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, when you think about salvation you think about what happened to you that caused you to become a Christian, right? You think back to when you were converted, when you trusted in Christ, when you were born again and you became a Christian, and you say, “That was my moment of salvation.”
But Paul’s talking to people who already believe. He says, “Now our salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” They’ve already believed, but he says, “Your salvation is near.” What’s he talking about?
He’s talking about a future aspect of salvation. When we talk about salvation biblically, we can really say that salvation has both past, present, and future aspects. It would be right to say you have been saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved. In fact, in Romans Paul uses language like this. Listen to Romans 5:9. He says, “Since therefore we have now been justified by his blood [that’s an aspect of salvation; we now have that], much more shall we be saved [future tense] by him from the wrath of God.”
There is coming a day when the wrath of God, the judgment of God, is going to come to planet earth. That’s going to happen, and when it happens Paul says if you’ve been justified by his blood in the past you will be saved from his wrath in the future. That salvation is going to come, that deliverance is going to come when Jesus comes again and our salvation is consummated, it’s brought to completion. Part of what that will mean for us is seeing him as he is and then becoming like him, glorified, so that even our very bodies will be resurrected from the dead, transformed, and we will be made like Christ in every way, completely free from sin; not only from its penalty and is power as we are now, but also from the very presence of sin. That’s the salvation we’re waiting for. Our redemption is drawing near! Your salvation is nearer than when you first believed. That’s what Paul is saying.
Then he uses a metaphor for this in verse 12. He says, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” He’s picturing all of human history as being characterized by two ages, the age of night and the age of day; the age of darkness, the age of light. You might think of it as the old age and the age to come.
In fact, Paul has already referenced this in Romans 12:2 when he says, “Be not conformed to this present age.” Galatians 1 says that Christ has “delivered us from this present evil age.” He’s using a picture for that now. “This present evil age” is the age of night, it’s darkness; but the age to come is the age of light, it’s the new age, and it will be ushered in fully and completely on the day of the Lord, when Jesus Christ comes again.
What Paul is saying is this; he’s saying, “Though you are currently living in this present evil age, the darkness is almost over. The night is almost over, the day has dawned, the morning has dawned. You see the first blush of sunrise on the horizon. The day has dawned and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He’s coming again, and you no longer belong to the old age, you belong to the new age. So don’t live as a person who belongs to the darkness, live as a person who belongs to the light.”
It’s in light of all of this that he gives this basic command: “Wake from sleep. The hour has come for you to wake from sleep, for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” Wake up! The night is almost over! The day is coming! Wake up and live as a citizen of the light, live as someone who belongs to the day.
It’s a warning for us and a call to throw off spiritual, moral slumber, where we are sleeping. You know, when you sleep, you’re not really aware of your surroundings, are you? You’re not really aware what’s going on when you sleep; you’re just kind of in dream land. You’re not aware of what’s going on at the present moment around you.
Paul wants us to be morally, spiritually awake, alive to God and to his Spirit and to the gospel and to the age to come and to what God is doing in the world. He doesn’t want us to be in the stupor, the slumber of moral indifference, spiritual deadness and darkness.
One of my favorite books is an old book by the Baptist Puritan writer John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. If you’ve been around Redeemer, you know that I quote this book quite a bit. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory, the story of this man Christian and his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Along the way, he learns all these different lessons, faces all these different obstacles. There are several times in the book where there are these warnings about the danger of sleep.
One time, Christian has found himself at a place of rest, but he rests for too long and he falls asleep, and when he falls asleep he loses this scroll that he carries around with him, and that scroll represents his assurance of salvation. He loses it because he’s sleeping, and it’s only some time later, when he realizes that he no longer has assurance that he’s been saved, that he has to go back and retrace his steps, through many tears, to find his assurance again, to find that roll or scroll that he lost when he was asleep.
Another time, these shepherds warn Christian and his friend Hopeful about a place called the Enchanted Ground. The Enchanted Ground is this place where the air is really thick, and it makes people who are traveling through it drowsy. It’s kind of like in The Wizard of Oz. Do you remember that scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz, where the spell—? It’s kind of like that. They’re falling asleep, so Christian and Hopeful have to work with each other to keep each other awake.
There’s one other time where, even near the cross, there are three characters who are near the cross where Christian loses his burden of sin, but near the cross, but not really walking in this journey. There are these three characters named Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. Simple is not really into studying the Bible and knowing doctrine; he’s just simple-minded. There’s no wisdom. Sloth doesn’t want to work hard, he doesn’t want to follow hard after God; there’s no zeal there. He’s slothful. And Presumption thinks that if he’s near, he’s safe, and he’s presuming on God’s grace and mercy, but he’s not really earnestly embracing Christ. They fall asleep near the cross.
Well, it’s a warning to us. Those are pictures of the dangers of sleep, and Paul is warning us about that, and he is rousing us from sleep and says it’s time to wake up.
Let me give you one more parallel passage that I think compliments this one well. This is also from Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5. He’s talking about the day of the Lord, which will come like a thief in the night. So he’s looking ahead to the day of the Lord, and listen to what he says. He’s talking to Christians. He says, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day [the day of the Lord] to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”
It’s the same idea that you have here. Salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed. We have the hope of salvation, so don’t sleep. Wake up and live as a child of light.
Let me ask you, Christian: Are you awake? Are you awake? Are you paying attention? Or are you sleeping at the wheel in your Christian life? Are you awake, or are you more like Simple or Slothful or Presumption, just kind of presuming on God’s grace, just kind of coasting, thinking you’re going to make it? You’re near the cross—you’re in church, after all—and therefore you’re okay? But there’s no engagement! Paul says, “No, wake up!” Wake up and realize the time that you’re in. The night is almost over; morning is near, the day has dawned, and it’s time to rise from your slumber and to follow Christ.
3. Cast Off the Works of Darkness
Wake from sleep, and then here’s the third command. Love one another, wake from sleep; third command, cast off the words of darkness.
This is the application of what he’s just said about the day and the night. “So then,” verse 12, “let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”
Paul here is carrying forward this metaphor, this word picture, and he’s applying it to how we live. There’s this basic one-two punch (this is always characteristic of Paul). He tells you what not to do and then what to do. There’s both a negative and a positive. Here’s how you don’t live, here’s how you do live. “Cast off the works of darkness,” there’s the negative. “Put on the armor of light,” there’s the positive.
Then he expands on the thought in verse 13. “Let us walk properly, as in the daytime.” That’s how you are to live. That means to live with decency as someone who is characterized by light, walking in daytime.
But he expands casting off the works of darkness with three pairs of words. He’s targeting here three patterns of sin. “Let us walk properly, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness . . .” Think of the whole party scene, the bar scene for our contemporary day; there was something similar back then, people just living in these orgies and drunken parties and so on. He says don’t do that. “. . . not in sexual immorality and sensuality . . .” Any kind of sexual activity outside of the confines of marriage, Paul would say, Jesus would say, and the Bible says, that’s outside the bounds for a Christian. “. . .not in sexual immorality and sensuality, and not in quarreling and jealousy.” These are the relational sins. Not the bickering and fighting and the malice and contempt that’s so characteristic of human relationships.
If Paul were writing this to Christians today, he would say something like this. He would say, “Since the night is almost over and the day is at hand, cast off the works of darkness. Quit the bar scenes, stop the one-night stands, quit sleeping around. Don’t get drunk, don’t indulge lust through porn, don’t be involved in petty workplace fights. Instead, live a life that is marked by self-control and moral purity and marital faithfulness and peacemaking and loving one another.” Unity in the church; that’s what he’s after. Cast off the works of darkness! Cast off these sins! They shouldn’t characterize you anymore.
The picture here is someone who’s been asleep and they’ve been in their pajamas, their night clothes. The idea is to put off the pajamas and get dressed for the day. You don’t go to work in your pajamas, right? At least you shouldn’t. If you do that, don’t do that. Don’t go to work in your pajamas; instead, get dressed for the morning, get dressed for the day, and go to work well dressed, well prepared for the day. That’s the idea here.
Then in verse 14 we can add to that the second half of the verse. Paul says, “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The flesh there doesn’t mean the human body, it means our sinful human nature. He says, “Don’t even make a provision for it. Don’t even give it an opportunity. Cast it off; cast it aside.”
You have to remember here the overall context. I mean, this is hard-hitting application to our moral, spiritual lives. But the context here is love one another, and it’s live as a citizen of God’s kingdom, this age to come, and consistent with your Christianity. You know what it means? It means that these sins are not just transgressions against God’s law—they are that, but they’re not just transgressions against God’s law. These sins are the opposite of love. To live this way is the opposite of love. Not only that, these sins are against your very identity in Christ if you’re a Christian. To live in this way is to live in a way that is contradictory to who you are in Christ.
There’s actually a story that’s told of St. Augustine. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve always remember it. It’s a very good, apt illustration. It goes like this, that after Augustine had become a Christian and he had put away the sexual immorality from his past, one day he was walking in the street and he met in the street one of his old girlfriends, one of his old concubines or something.
She wanted his attention, so she said, “Augustine! It is I!” And he seemed to completely ignore her; he didn’t seem to even recognize her.
Again she tried to get his attention. “Augustine! It is I!”
He said, “Yes, but it is not I.” Because he was changed. He was a different man. He said, “It’s not me. I’m not the same guy that I used to be,” because he had been changed. “Cast off the works of darkness. Put it aside,” Paul says.
4. Clothe Yourselves with Christ
Then there’s the positive as well, and this leads us to point number four: Clothe yourselves with Christ. Verse 14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Of course, this corresponds with what he’s already said in verse 12, to “put on the armor of light.” Put on the armor of light; put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does this mean? It is a summary statement, verse 14 is. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.” That’s both the positive and the negative. But it’s also the key to obeying everything else in this passage. The way in which you cast off the works of darkness, the way in which you make no provision for the flesh, the way in which you love one another, is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, to clothe yourself with Christ.
What does that mean? What does it mean to clothe yourself with Christ? Paul uses this language in Galatians 3:27 when he says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Again, the imagery here is putting on a new set of clothes. He says if you’ve been baptized into Christ you’ve put on Christ. Baptism is a part of this.
But here in Romans 13 he’s not talking about baptism; he’s already talking to baptized believers. He’s talking about an ongoing obligation to put Christ on, to clothe ourselves with Christ in daily life.
Now, I think we can just work out the imagery here. It may stretch the metaphor a bit, but I think it gets to the heart of what Paul is after. Think for a few minutes with me about the purpose of clothing, the multiple purposes that clothing serves. Paul says, “Clothe yourself with Christ.” Why do we wear clothes?
Well, one reason we wear clothes is to cover ourselves, right, to cover our nakedness. You remember in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve had fallen and they realized they were naked, and they were suddenly very ashamed, and they try to cover themselves with fig leaves, right? That’s not working, so God provides coverings for them. Animals are sacrificed and slain and God provides garments to cover their nakedness. That is a picture of the gospel! The gospel is not about us sewing together the fig leaves of our good works in order to cover our shame and our sin, the gospel is about clothing ourselves in what Christ has done! His obedience, his blood, his righteousness is what covers our sins.
You remember the words of that old hymn:
“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.”
How do you get covered? Only by clothing yourself with Christ. It’s Christ’s work, it’s his grace, it’s his righteousness that covers your shame.
We also wear clothes to protect ourselves from the elements, heat and cold and wind and rain. I mean, you get into these Michigan winters . . . It took me a while to figure this out. I’m from Texas, and when I moved up here, I just had these cheap, lightweight jackets that I’d brought from Texas. It took me a few years to realize I need to go to L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer and buy a coat that is rated for 50 degrees below if I wanted to stay warm!
Listen, you need clothing to protect yourself from the elements, but Jesus does that; he protects you from harm and from spiritual danger. He shields you.
Another one of the hymn writers said,
“I need thee every hour;
Stay thou nearby.
Temptations lose their power
When thou art nigh.”
If you find yourself as a Christian constantly being assaulted and barraged by temptation, you know what’s wrong? It’s not just that you’re weak, it’s that you’re not near to Jesus! You need to be near to Jesus to be shielded from temptation; you need to put on Christ. Clothe yourself with Christ.
Clothing also is a way in which we identify our status. Negatively speaking, clothing is often a status symbol. Kids want the 150-dollar tennis shoes; when I was growing up it was Air Jordans—I don’t know what it is today, but they want the really cool clothes, they want the name brands, and so on.
But there are positive ways in which clothing helps identify people in their position, in their role, in their vocation. A police officer wears a uniform, doctors and nurses wear their scrubs. Just think of the different roles, where there’s something specific, there’s a uniform that is worn, and it identifies them. In the same way we put on Christ, and in doing so we identify ourselves with him. We follow him. When we wear his name, when we imitate his character, when we are disciples, Jesus-followers, we are identifying ourselves with Christ.
I have two more. Sometimes clothing is worn to defend us from attack. Here’s the armor imagery. Paul says, “Put on the armor of light.” In Ephesians 6 he expands the imagery here and he says, “Put on the whole armor of God,” and he names the various pieces—loins girt with the truth, and the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and so on. But really we could say that all the pieces of the armor are simply Christ. It’s when you put on Christ that you put on all these other things, because Christ is the armor of light; he’s the one who shields you from Satan and from sin and from attack, from the flaming arrows of the wicked one.
Here’s one other way in which we use clothing: We wear clothing sometimes to adorn us. We use it to beautify us, adorning us in beauty and grace. Think about a bride on her wedding day. She’s all decked out in a beautiful white gown; she wants to look her very best for her groom. Think about the groom, who’s wearing this terribly uncomfortable tuxedo, and he’s doing it only for her. That’s the only reason; because they want to look their best. They are adorning themselves for one another.
In the same way, when we put on Jesus Christ we are adorning ourselves. In fact, we might say it better that Christ himself is adorning us, he is beautifying us with his grace.
John Wesley translated that great Moravian hymn writer, Count Zenzindorff. His hymn went like this:
“Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress.
’Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”
What do I wear? The blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is my beauty, this is my glorious dress.
Now, how do you do this? How do you put on Christ? I want to end by sharing one more thing with you.
There’s this old book that I have found so beneficial, by a guy named Isaac Ambrose. What a great name, right? Isaac Ambrose, writing in the 17th century, and he wrote this whole book called Looking Unto Jesus. In that book, the whole thing (it’s 800 pages long!) is about what it means to look to Christ. It’s very similar to putting on Christ. It talks about the gospel art of looking unto Jesus.
He surveys everything you can imagine about who Jesus is and what he has done, the person and the work of Jesus Christ. But in every section he shows that to look to Jesus includes these things—and he gives us a list. In each section he deals with this.
He says, “It is such a look as includes all these acts: knowing, considering, desiring, hoping, believing, loving, enjoying, and conforming ourselves to Jesus.” How do you put on Christ? You do it like that. You put on Christ by knowing him better. You put on Christ by thinking about him. You put on Christ by believing in him, by hoping in him, by desiring him. You put on Christ by enjoying his fellowship, and you put on Christ by imitating his character.
Brothers and sisters, this is the Christian life. You could summarize the entire Christian life with this one phrase: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian!
Let me ask you this morning, does this characterize your life? Are you living in the light of day, or are you still wrapped up in your night clothes? If so, cast off the works of darkness, put on the armor of light, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, live for him and for his glory, and love one another. Let’s pray.