Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (verses 14)
Paul tells us to wake up from slumber – “the night is nearly over, the day is almost here”(verse 12). I picture the dawn breaking through my bedroom window, rousing me from sleep, causing me to check the clock, rally myself, and get up – it’s a day on which there’s an event planned I’ve been anticipating eagerly for a very long time! “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (verse 11). Yes! The moment of seeing Jesus face to face is pressing in.
So, Paul says, shake off sleep and get dressed. But be careful what you put on. “Getting dressed” is one of Paul’s common metaphors. He uses it in Ephesians, teaming it with its opposite, telling us to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). He wants us to be careful to put away the old, worn, dirty, decrepit clothes, stained and soiled, the ones pungent with the odour of the world and needing to be discarded. Get rid of all that, he says. Rather, put on the clothes of the new self, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Yes. Fresh attire – comfortable, tailored, stylish, clean.
He uses the metaphor again in Colossians, this time urging us to clothe ourselves with specific items: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. The whole ensemble is to be accented with forgiveness, and belted up with love, “which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).
But here in Romans 13, Paul doesn’t give us any more specifics than simply to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s enough. Be like Jesus. Get to know his attitudes, his heart, his style – adopt them as your own. But it’s more. It’s not dress-up, play-acting. No. It’s actually being clothed in Christ himself. Paul revels, often, in saying that we are “in Christ”(Romans 8:1, 1 Cor 1:30, 1 Cor 15:22, 2 Cor 5:17, Eph 2:6, for starters) – it’s exactly what this metaphor of clothing ourselves with Christ communicates. We’re to be enveloped in his very being.
In that place, Paul says, don’t even give a thought to the sinful nature. Don’t think about gratifying its desires. Those are the old clothes – carousing and drunkenness, sexual immorality and debauchery, dissension and jealousy. Don’t entertain the possibility of re-clothing yourself in them. You’re ready for the day in Christ Jesus – you’re awake from slumber and clothed in him. Don’t let your thoughts turn back to the old.
Which reminds us of Romans 12 and being “transformed by the renewing of your mind”(Romans 12:2). Which reminded us of Romans 8, that “those who live according to the sinful nature have their mind set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). Which reminds us that when Paul tells us in Ephesians to “put off the old self” and “put on the new self”, in between he calls us to “be made new in the attitude of your minds” (Ephesians 522-24).
Wake up from slumber. Shake off the fog. Set your mind on the Spirit. Let him renew your own. Think clearly.
Put on Christ.
Dear Lord Jesus, I want to live this day completely clothed in you. Send your good Spirit to renew my mind and continue the work of transformation within me. And if the thoughts of the old self creep back into my mental vision, as they so often do, prompt me to yield again to the Spirit’s renewing work, drawing me back into the wonder and goodness of being clothed in your likeness.
Reflect: What are you wearing today? Designate a piece of clothing to remind you all day that you are clothed in Christ. As you remember, welcome Jesus’ presence afresh. Give thanks for your position in him. Walk in this awareness.