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.
After chapters 1–11 of his letter to the Romans, Paul begins to unfold for us the kind of life that flows from the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to do for us what the law could not do, namely, take away our guilt and condemnation before God. So chapters 12 and 13 have been descriptions of the kind of life people will live if they truly embrace Christ as the Savior, Lord, and supreme Treasure of their lives.
And the main mark of this life—this Christ-embracing, gospel-dependent life—is love. We saw it all through chapter 12 and we have seen it in chapter 13—owe no one anything except to love. Let every obligation, every duty, every job be an act of love. If you really love the way Christ loves, you fulfill the whole law. The law is summed up in this: love each other, and love your enemy.
And do this all the more, Paul says, because you know the time in which you live (v. 11). Knowing the time well helps you love people the way you should. What is this time? That’s what we saw two weeks ago. In brief, it’s the time between Christ’s first coming and his second coming. We live in overlapping times. The age of forgiveness and righteousness and life and peace and purity and health and light and joy has come with the arrival of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago. But the old age of guilt and sin and death and strife and sickness and darkness and misery still remains. We live in the overlap of these two ages. In Christ we are forgiven and accepted and empowered for holiness and love, but nothing is perfect yet on this earth. We still struggle with sin; we still get sick; we still die.
But Paul’s emphasis in this text is not on the darkness that is passing away but on the light that is already dawning. The emphasis is that if the dawn of the age to come has arrived, then the sun of righteousness and joy and perfect peace will surely rise on the horizon in due time.
The Time in Which We Live
What then does Paul say about this time in which we live?
He says in verse 12a: Look, “the night is far gone; the day is at hand.” Don’t set your mind on the darkness and how long it has lasted. Set your mind on the truth that the day of Christ’s second appearing—the sunrise—is at hand because the dawn of Christ’s first appearing has arrived. The powers of darkness are broken. It is only a matter of time till they give way entirely to the sun of righteousness.
And he says in verse 11b: “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Your freedom from sinning, your perfect health, your perfect ability to enjoy Christ is getting closer every day. Every groan in this mortal body brings you closer to glory.
And he says in verse 11a: “The hour has come for you to wake from sleep.” This is not a time for glitzy sleepwalking. Be careful. Everything in the world that does not waken more faith in Christ puts you to sleep. Most of the world thinks it is broad awake when it is sound asleep. Entertainment-saturated people who do not treasure Christ above all are like skydivers who think that the wind passing through their fingers at 120 miles an hour is the ultimate thrill of being alive when in fact they have no parachutes and the gravity that pulls them inexorably to the ground is the wrath of God. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
This is not a time for sleepwalking—or sleep skydiving. This is a time to wake up and get dressed and love your neighbor as you love yourself—in Mounds View and everywhere else.
What to Wear and How to Live When You Wake Up from the Sleepwalk
So we turn now to the last part of this paragraph where Paul tells us what to wear and how to live when we wake up from the sleepwalk of unbelief into the light of his presence and power. Start with me at verse 12: “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.” You see the words “so then.” This means that the way we live and what we wear follows from the time. The day is at hand; so then take off your pajamas—take off your deadly sleepwalking clothes—and put on . . . Put on what?
Paul chooses a word that implies that the Christian life is not just a wakeful life, but a wakeful battle. He says, “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” While we were sleepwalking in unbelief—oblivious to the reality of Christ—we walked in darkness and the clothing we wore was “works of darkness.” Now God awakens us from the stupor of unbelief, we embrace Christ as Savior and Lord and Treasure of our lives and put on . . . armor—weaponry. Because the Christian life is a battle. To be awake is to be at war.
He uses the “put on” language again in verse 14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” So we need to ask how the armor of light and the Lord Jesus Christ relate to each other. What’s the difference, if any, between putting on the armor of light in verse 12 and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ in verse 14?
You Already Are Children of God—Now Dress, Live, and Fight Like It
Before I ask that let me make something clear lest we try to wage this battle as if it were not already won. The whole assumption here is that those of you who belong to Christ are children of the day. You have already passed from darkness to light. You have already been transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of Christ. You are already new creatures in Christ. You are already children of God. What remains is for you to dress like it, to live like it, and to fight like it. The clothes, the fight do not make you a child of the light. They show that you are a child of the light.
This is plain in the flow of the book of Romans—that chapters 1–11 precede chapters 12 and 13. First we get right with God by faith in what Christ has done. Then we dress and live and fight like people of the day. But this is even more clear in two other places where Paul talks about putting on the clothes of a believer. Listen to Colossians 3:12: “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” You are already God’s chosen ones, God’s holy ones, God’s loved ones. Now he says, put on the character that reflects your new identity.
And the one other place in all the New Testament where Paul speaks of “putting on Christ” describes it as something already done. Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Baptism is an acting out of what happens by faith in conversion. And what happened was: You put on Christ, once and for all. Which means that the command to put on Christ is a call to become what you are—a Christ wearer.
So keep in mind as we move forward now that putting on the armor of light or putting on Christ in verses 12 and 14 are not instructions to become a Christian all over again. Paul is calling us to be what we are in Christ. You are children of the light, children of the day. Now dress like it, live like it, fight like it.
What Are the Weapons of Light, and How Does Putting Them on Relate to Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ?
So then what are the weapons of light in verse 12? And how does putting them on relate to putting on the Lord Jesus Christ in verse 14?
I think the answer is given in 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8. You recall we looked at this text last time and said that it is the closest parallel in Paul to what he says here in Romans 13:11-14. Paul is using the very same language and addressing the same issues. He says, “Those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on [and here comes the “armor of light”] the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”
So Paul mentions two pieces of personal armor, namely, breastplate and helmet, and he defines what he means by each. By the breastplate he means faith and love. And by the helmet he means the hope of salvation. So the armor of light are faith, hope and love.
So we come back to Romans 13:12 and the meaning now becomes: “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” that is, let us put on faith and hope and love. In this world of sleepwalking, everywhere you turn there is a weapon of darkness aimed at your chest and your head—your emotions and will and reason. And the aim of these worldly weapons is not to scare you. Just the opposite. They aim to lull you into glitzy, entertainment-saturated sleep.
And Paul says, we must wake up to the battle we are in. We must put on the armor of light. We must put on faith and hope and love. Only these can keep us awake. Only these can break the power of the sleeping pills of television and advertising and sex and drink and success and the praise of man.
But that’s too vague. Saying that the armor of light is faith and hope and love is way too vague. Faith in what? Hope in what? Love for what? And now we bring in the parallel of verse 14. Verse 12 says put on the armor of light. Verse 14 says, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. And the link between them now is faith and hope and love. So I take verse 14 to mean at least “Put on faith in Lord Jesus Christ; put on hope in the Lord Jesus Christ; put on love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Putting on Christ each day doesn’t mean wearing him as an imposition, or nuisance, or a burden. It means wearing him as protection—that is, trusting him, and wearing him as the supplier of all your future needs—that is, hoping in him—and wearing him as your supreme treasure—that is, loving him.
Put on Jesus Christ means put him on as the parachute for your skydiving behind enemy lines. It means put him on as the high-impact protective anti-explosive suit when you disarm the bombs of the devil. It means put him on as the asbestos fire-proof suit when you rescue sinners from the flames of hell. It means put him on as a bullet proof vest when you confront the pistols of sin and unbelief.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ means put him on as a badge that admits you to all the resources of heaven that you need to do his will. It means put him on as the best intercom system that ever was so that there can be constant communication with the one whom you love above all others and who is himself everything you need. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ means trust him, hope in him, cherish him for all these things.
So the night is far gone, the day is at hand; take off the pajamas of sin and put on the armor of light. The Christian life is not just waking; it is war. The armor of light is faith and hope and love. So put on faith in Jesus and hope in Jesus and love for Jesus. That is what it means to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
How Do We Put on the Lord Jesus Christ?
And how do you do that? We could answer this question simply from the nature of faith and hope and love themselves. Faith comes from hearing, so put on Christ by listening to the word of God about Christ. Hope comes from promises, so put on Christ by remembering the promises of Christ. Love comes by the loveliness of Christ, so put on Christ by calling to mind his beauty.
But there is a signal in this text itself that confirms that we are on the right track in answering this way about how to put on Christ. Verse 14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The word “provision” means literally “forethought,” and the whole sentence would go like this: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t let any thought in your head that would lead to a sinful desire—not just to the gratification of the sinful desire, but even the desire itself.
And we all know how this works—male and female, young and old. We know that by thinking certain thoughts we can awaken certain sinful desires. Paul gives us three categories of sinful desires and what they produce. They are just samples. Verse 13: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, 1) not in orgies and drunkenness, 2) not in sexual immorality and sensuality, 3) not in quarreling and jealousy.” 1) Inordinate desires for drink—or we might say, “substance abuse” (alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc.). 2) Inordinate desires for sex—whether fornication or adultery or incest or bestiality or pornography. 3) Desires for attention and preeminence and control that produces quarreling and jealousy.
And the point of verse 14b (“make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”) is “Don’t let any thought in your head that gives rise to these sinful desires.”
If you are bored, or lonely, or tired, or discouraged, or feeling hopeless, don’t ponder the relief of alcohol or drugs. They simply put you to sleep; they stir up the sleepwalking that Paul calls the works of darkness. It’s like going to work in your pajamas. Don’t let those thoughts in your head.
Frustrated housewife or working mom, married to a man who never learned affection, never learned tenderness, never learned how to simply talk about what matters to you, don’t daydream about romantic Mister Perfect. Don’t let those thoughts into your head.
Frustrated husband or single man, who wonders why there is no woman to embrace or why the woman you have doesn’t want to embrace, do not let illicit thoughts into your mind. Don’t put them there with your fantasy and don’t do it with your computer. 12% of all websites are pornographic. 25% of all search engine requests are related to pornography. Internet revenue from pornography is $2.5 billion a year. Don’t be conformed to this darkness. The night is far gone. The day is at hand. Put on the armor of light. Put on Christ. Don’t let thoughts into your mind that waken sinful desires.
Or what about quarreling and jealousy? If you have been wronged—maybe 30 years ago—or your have been overlooked, or belittled, or misunderstood, or abandoned, don’t let these thoughts into your head. They are a provision for the flesh. They awaken resentment and anger and envy and covetousness and jealousy. Don’t let these thoughts into your head, says the Lord.
How? Sometimes just trying to resist them reminds you of them. The answer is not mainly by direct resistance—though that is very important. We should indeed say NO! to a rising thought that would lead to sinful desire. But the answer is mainly in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ—that is, calling to mind the words of God that awaken more faith in Jesus, and calling to mind the promises of God that awaken more hope in Jesus, and calling to mind the beauty of Christ that awakens more love to Jesus. This is the confirmation I was talking about.
Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is not just the alternative to making provision for the flesh. It is the way we keep from making provision for the flesh.. It’s the way we kill these sinful thoughts. It’s the way we keep them from even arising. When you put on the armor of light—daily (or hourly!) fresh faith in Christ, hope in Christ, love for Christ—it is hard for the works of darkness to cling to you. They are pushed out by the light. If your eye is good (if you see Christ as your treasure) your whole body will be full of light.
Owe No One Anything But Love
Now let me close by reminding you that this whole paragraph is continuing the command of verse 8 to owe no one anything but to love. It’s about how you love other people. It’s about the motivation that comes from knowing that the day of peace and joy and righteousness have dawned and we are people of the day not of the night. And it’s about how love looks in this day of fading darkness and dawning light.
Very specifically, we learn from verse 13 (and these three categories of sin) that what God has joined together for our good, love does not tear apart. God has joined body and mind for our good. God has joined body and the covenant of marriage for our good. God has joined communities of forgiveness for our good.
When you drink or do drugs so that your mind ceases to be a faithful guide for the behavior of your body, you tear apart mind and body which God has joined together for our good. That is not what love does.
When you cultivate sexual stimulation—whether in your mind or in your body—with a person with whom you have no marriage covenant, you tear apart what God has joined together for our good. That is not what love does.
When you savor thoughts of one-upmanship or of your own preeminence or control, or when you brood over wrongs done to you, you are preparing for quarrels and jealousy and discord, and you tear communities apart. That is not what love does.
Rather love does the opposite. It keeps the mind clear by putting on Christ and rules the body. Love keeps the covenant of marriage clear as a picture of Christ and his church and rules the body. It keeps the community of Christ clear as a blood-bought blessing and subdues jealousy and quarreling by putting on Christ.
That is what verse 13 means when it says, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime.” So, Bethlehem: walk properly. The night is far gone. The day is at hand. Walk properly. Walk in love. Show Mounds View this afternoon that sharing the light of Christ is what we love to do.