NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Lesson XVIII)
What wedding attire must we have on to be ready when our Celestial Groom comes calling? Nothing can make us more fit to meet Christ and to be with Him in His glory than for us to be dressed in His likeness! Not psychically or materially, but spiritually. I agree with Spurgeon, if we wear Christ’s virtues as our garment we do great honor to Him as our Groom. If we make Him our glory and our beauty while we live here, we can be sure that He will be all that and more to us in eternity! If we take great pleasure in serving Jesus here, Jesus will take great pleasure in welcoming us when we meet Him in the air and He takes us up to dwell with Him forever. Put on the wedding garment you beloved of the Lord! Put on the wedding gown you brides of the Lamb, and put it on at once, for behold He comes! Hurry up, you slumbering virgins! Arise and light your lamps! Put on your robes and be ready to behold His glory and to take part in it! O virgin souls be prepared to go out to meet Him! With joy and gladness go out, wearing His likeness as your gorgeous apparel, fit for the daughters of a king!
F. F. Bruce tells us that a literary parallel to this use of “put on” is quoted from Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric where he uses the phrase “to put on Tarquin,” which means “to play the part of Tarquin.”1 The practical teaching given to Christian converts in the primitive church appears to have been arranged for easy memorization under various catchwords, of which “Put on” was one. They were urged to “put on” or “play the part of Christ,” by clothing themselves with Christian virtues as is they were putting on a new set of clothes.2 And since these virtues were all aspects of the new Christian character which they received at conversion, they might be told to “put on the new man,”3 or to live as those do who have put on Christ once and for all.4 Since this “new man” was the character of Christ reproduced in His people, it was a simple transition to say, “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,”5 or, as here, in this case, to exhort believers to “put on” Christ in the sense of manifesting outwardly what they had already experienced inwardly. While Paul had not read the written Gospels which we have in the Last Covenant, it is noteworthy that when he commends to his readers the cultivation of those qualities which the Evangelists ascribe to our Lord, he does so by telling them to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”6
So what this all adds up to is that to be a bona fide Christian exhibiting all the virtues of Christ in our lives, will require more than just reading the Bible, or repeating a prayer, or going to church. Jesus made it plain when He said we are not to hide His light that shines through us under a basket.7 That means, our light does not shine only in church or at an evangelistic crusade, but it shines in the workplace, in the gym, in the marketplace, in the department store, on the sidewalk, while driving down the highway, and even when no one is looking. To put on Christ is not done only when we want to feel religious. Once we put on Christ, it is a permanent change in our character which affects the way we talk, act, and feel. There is no substitute for putting on Christ in order to be identified as a real Christian.
END OF CHAPTER THIRTEEN
SUMMARY OF ROMANS CHAPTER THIRTEEN 10/26/18
When the first six verses of this 13th chapter are put in context, they continue the theme of chapter twelve on the importance of love and respect for our fellowman. Paul shows the believers in Rome that their conduct and behavior which is guided by love should be directed to both those in the church and those outside the church. In particular, those in authority in the church and those in authority in the state. This is God’s design for how people are to be governed so as to benefit from being part of a spiritual community and secular community.
Paul was quick to acknowledge that there were, and would be, those who are placed in authority that misuse and abuse their power and privileges. But that is no excuse to dismiss the office they hold which is part of God’s governing institution. While serving in the military there were some in authority that did not meet the approval of the troops as a whole. In fact, many of the enlisted personal despised the way these individuals threw their weight around. Nevertheless, they were obeyed and their orders were carried out without hesitation. If you were to ask one of the troops why they still did what they were told by such an individual, they would tell you this, “I detest the man but I respect the uniform.”
And that is what Paul is saying here. It is the office we respect and submit to its authority, Even though the person in charge may be less than courteous and considerate, still we respect what God put into place to make sure that citizens were given the help they needed, that law and order were enforced, and that they were protected from all enemies both foreign and domestic. So no matter what the city council member, the mayor, the governor, or the president did that one might take offense to, still their office was respected. To disrespect what God put in place was to disrespect God Himself.
After instructing the believers in Rome on the “transformed life” as it relates to their fellow believers, Paul discusses the Christian’s responsibilities to government authorities. Understanding that all governments are in power due to the providence of God and that they serve as ministers of God to avenge the law-breaker, Christians are admonished to submit to “the powers that be.” This submission involves payment of taxes and having respect for those in authority.
Paul’s next exhortation deals with the importance of love and moral purity. Christians are to be indebted to no one save to love one another. When love is properly demonstrated, even the requirements of the Law are adequately met. This admonition to love, however, is carefully balanced with the reminder that time is short and it is imperative that Christians maintain moral purity. This is done by Christians putting on the Lord Jesus and not making provision for the fulfilling of the lusts of the flesh.
When we put all of this together, we see the following points that are to be understood and instituted in our daily lives: Everyone should obey people in positions of authority. After all, all authority comes from God, so all those in authority should keep in mind that they serve others at God’s request.
That means if you go against someone in a position of authority, then you’re really going against God’s method of governance for society. In other words, if keep walking on the path that God has placed you on it will help you carry out your responsibilities as both a citizen of heaven and a citizen of earth. It’s only when you step out of line that you should be corrected and pay the penalty. Remember, God gave those in charge the power to keep order and they should not be afraid to use it properly.
The same thing goes for paying taxes. These combined sources of revenue help those in charge to provide for the benefit of the citizens those things that enforce law and order and maintain peace. If you owe money to the government, don’t look for an excuse not to pay just because you are a Christian. We all owe respect and honor to the office of the people in positions of power, and as Christians, we should be model citizens.
Paul was emphatic about believers staying out of debt. That is, except the debt of love. You should owe everyone love all the time. And pay it as often as possible. That’s the essence of all of Jewish law anyway – love. Paul agrees with Jesus that the Ten Commandments can pretty much be boiled down to this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
And finally, Paul says to those Christians who have been asleep to wake up. It’s time to go to work. So take off your sleeping clothes and put on your work clothes. God has work for you to do. Not only that, but the work will require that you wear armor. The battle you will be fighting requires that you have all the right equipment in order to win the victory for Christ’s sake and God’s honor. That also means that you don’t take off your armor in order to play the games the world is playing. They can not only injure you spiritually but they can be fatal. God did not redeem and call you out of the world for you to live selfishly for your own pleasure. You are God’s property now, live for Him. Make Him proud that He chose you out of so many to be His very own.
Jack Wellman, Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane, Kansas expressed it this way: How different would the world be if Christians took to heart these commands to be a good neighbor, citizen, employer/employee, and fellow member of the Body of Christ? Then indeed, it would be said of us all, collectively, that “These that have turned the world upside down are come here also.”8 Maybe it should read, we have turned the world right side up because that’s the way God originally intended for us to live.
1 Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Roman Antiquities, Bk. 11:5. Another rendering reads: “…by acting the part of the haughty Tarquin.” Loeb Classical Library edition, Vol VII, 1950
2 Colossians 3:12
3 Ephesians 4:24
4 Colossians 3:10
5 Galatians 3:27
6 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, p. 243
7 Matthew 5:15
8 Acts of the Apostles 17:6