Romans 13:12b-14 “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
When we get dressed, one thing has to come off before another goes on. Paul first describes the kind of life Christians shed as they strive to live a life of faith. Generally, it involves the “deeds of darkness.” Even our world recognizes certain behavior as so shameful it doesn’t belong in public. Crime takes place under the cover of night. So do many sexual sins.
But Paul is not addressing these words to the world around us. He is addressing them to Christians. He encourages us to behave decently. He knows that we are tempted, like anyone else, to indulge in the sins he lists. He starts with orgies and drunkenness. God does not forbid all use of alcoholic beverages. But Christians who understand this may be tempted to overlook drunkenness, or redefine what it means to be drunk. That leads to abusing Christian liberty. God calls us to wake up, to repent of such behavior as sin, to be prepared for Jesus’ return.
Next Paul warns of sexual immorality and debauchery (the word “orgies” in the previous pair actually comes from a Greek word suggesting abuse of alcohol more than misuse of sex). Many professing Christians no longer accept that sexual activity is limited to heterosexual marriage. Many more have become calloused to watching simulated sex on TV or in movies. Does the screen somehow make it acceptable? Would we approve if the next door neighbors invited us over to watch?
To these sins the apostle adds dissensions and jealousy. Perhaps those seem like less serious offenses? We can become so accustomed to hurt, angry, or resentful feelings that we may begin to think of these as a normal and ordinary part of life. We don’t expect to be able to get along with everyone. We dismiss our own resentments as the natural result of incompatibilities.
But does that mean this is how it should be? Isn’t this still evidence of sin within us? And doesn’t all sin need to be dealt with in the same way–repentance, confession, and forgiveness? These “deeds of darkness” need to come off, too, if we want to be ready when Christ returns.
In their place, Paul urges us to wear the “armor of light.” This isn’t frilly or fancy clothing. We aren’t dressing up for an elegant party. We are at war. This is not the time to get comfortable. We need the armor our God provides.
Nothing can better protect us than to be wrapped in Christ himself. “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” How do we clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ? We are putting him on every time we put our faith in his gracious promises. He applies them to us in word or sacrament. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” Paul writes the Galatians. “For all of you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.”
And when I am clothed in him, then it is God who works in me both to will and to act according to his good pleasure. Then I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
God’s promises produce true faith. Faith will produce a true Christian life. Clothed like this, we are dressed and ready when our Lord Jesus returns.