Awake and arm!
It is strange that, at the very commencement of a new dispensation, the prospect of its close should be so often presented to the view. No sooner had Christ's first coming ended, than his people were taught to anticipate his second coming. Thus the thoughts and affections of Christians are clustered around their Lord, and the revelation of the past suggests the approaching epiphany. The contrasts of this passage are very striking. When carefully analyzed, they appear—
I. As applied to CONDITION .
1. The night of danger is nearly over. This applies to the individual, to any community, to the whole Church.
2. The morning of deliverance is dawning. An inspiration and comfort to the pilgrims, the soldiers, who are often oppressed by the gloom of the present perils.
II. As applied to CHARACTER .
1. The works of night are to be abandoned. These belong to the era which now lies in the remote distance, and from which Christ has emancipated his people.
2. The life of the spiritual day is to be adopted. If the flesh and its lusts are to be crucified, what is to be crowned? The Lord Jesus is to be "put on," the armour of light is to be taken and worn; and the Christian soldier is to go forth to meet the coming day, with his face towards the rising sun, with his heart bounding with delight at his great Captain's long-expected appearance.
The Christian's duty in the present age.
The Christian is not to be insensible to the movements of the world. "Knowing the time," says the apostle ( Romans 13:11 ). Mr. Spurgeon says he reads the newspapers to see how God is governing the world. It is well for us to know what are the current beliefs and motives of our fellow-men.
I. THE CHRISTIAN 'S CONFIDENCE .
1. " The night is far spent. "
2. " The day is at hand. " The day of our Saviour's coming is rapidly drawing nearer. Already we may hear the sound of his chariot-wheels. Gradually his kingdom has been making progress in the earth, his truth has been gaining the victory over error. The Reformation shook off the dust of centuries from the Word of God. The discovery of printing had already prepared the way for the spread of the emancipated Bible. Old kingdoms that encouraged error and fostered ecclesiastical despotism have been falling. New nations have arisen to sway the destinies of the world—the nations of the Bible-loving, liberty-loving, Anglo-Saxon race. Old wrongs have been redressed. Our King is coming. "The day is at hand."
II. THE CHRISTIAN 'S CALL .
1. A call to activity. "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep" ( Romans 13:11 ). It is plain that this exhortation is addressed to Christians, for the writer adds, "for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." Many Christians are asleep. They are inactive and idle, and are doing nothing to prepare the way of the Lord. It may be addressed also to the unconverted. This very passage, the closing part of this thirteenth chapter, was the means of converting St. Augustine.
2. A call to amendment. "Let us cast off the works of darkness" ( Romans 13:12 ). Some works are literally works of darkness, as for example those specified in the thirteenth verse. Drunkenness and impurity are most practised in the night. "They that be drunken are drunken in the night." But "works of darkness" may be regarded as including all sinful works. Sin loves concealment. The Christian is to cast off everything that will not bear the light, to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. "The day is at hand." How shall we abide the day of our Lord's coming if we do not, by Divine help, separate ourselves from sin?
3. A call to conflict. "Let us put on the armour of light" ( Romans 13:12 ). We are to wage war with our own temptations, and with the evil that is in the world. Let our armour be the armour of light. Let us not fight the world with its own weapons—with hatred, or bitterness, or deceit. Let our weapons be good weapons—the weapons of truth, justice, love. They will conquer. Let us never do evil that good may come.
4. A call to Christ-likeness. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" ( Romans 13:14 ). That is to say, "Be clothed with his spirit." This is the secret of strength. Like Sir Galahad, whose strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was pure, the man who is Christ-like in spirit will overcome all temptations, and will grapple victoriously with all difficulties. This is emphatically a call which the Christian needs to hear in the present age, when there is so much in the Church as well as in the world that is contrary to the spirit of Christ. Let us, then, hear the trumpet-call of duty, and, as we go forth, let us brace up our spirits with the inspiring thought that "the night is far spent, and the day is at hand."—C.H.I.
The day breaketh!
"And this"—the work of progressive sanctification, in all its aspects and relations—this surely claims our strong attention now, when the day of God is nigh unto dawning! For, visibly to us, the shadows pass and the morning breaks. It is the night-watch still, but the day is at hand. We have here to consider—the nearness of the day of God; our full awaking.
I. THE DAY OF GOD . In and through all the declarations of the Scriptures there mingles this warning note—the day of God will come! Men seem to have their day, and work their will; God will have his day, and will work his will. We must not narrow the meaning of this presentment of the Scriptures: whenever God interferes amid the doings of men to show forth his power, his day has come. In our individual life-histories, in the histories of nations, as well as in the larger history of the race, God has come, does come, many times and in many ways. For mercy? Yes; to deliver those who trust in him and seek to work his will. And for judgment: for "wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." But amid these many manifestations of God's power, there are some which stand out conspicuously, like the mountain-peaks among the lower hills. Such was the advent of the Christ, looming large before the vision of Old Testament seers. Such is the second advent of the Christ, looming large to the view of the apostles and to us. For mercy and for judgment was the former; for mercy and for judgment shall be the latter. To the Christian believer, for fall salvation! Oh, what a hope is this! It has glowed before us as we have traced God's purposes declared in foregoing chapters; Paul would have it burn as our beacon-light, ever brighter and more near! A beacon-light? Nay, rather it is the dawn of the new day, when the shining of God's full-orbed love shall scatter for ever all the lingering shades of night.
II. OUR FULL AWAKING . But what shall be our attitude in view of such a daybreak? We must surely be watchers for the morning, children of light! The very regeneration of those to whom he writes was truly an awaking out of sleep; but there might be need still for a more thorough arousal and readiness. Nay, is there not, in each one, this need? The works of darkness will cling to us, if we do not ever resolutely cast them off. We may forget that the day is shining, and sink back into our sleep.
1. The works of darkness? Yes, such works as pertain to the corruption of the night-time of the world—base revelry, impure pleasures, passion, and strife. The works of the flesh, which are manifest ( Galatians 5:19-21 ). And oh, what a night-time the world has had! what a night-time has been ours! We have loved the darkness, because our deeds were evil.
2. But we, as children of light, are to put on the armour of light, to walk honestly, as in the day. The gleam of that dayspring has already caught our vision and lit up our brow; it is to irradiate all our path. We are to walk as though the cloudless eternity were about us now. Your citizenship is in heaven! So then, while the children of the darkness "make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof," seek ever to gratify their low desires, and make their whole life subservient to this, we are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." He is to be our clothing and adornment; the pure, spiritual nature which he showed to the world is to be our arraying for the new sunrise, bringing the world's new year!
And that glorious goal of our best hopes, "salvation" in its fullest scope and working, is "nearer to us than when we first believed." Let us gladden our hearts and rekindle all our longings. We are not to be ever battling, weary, sad; but he whom we look for shall come; yes, "the second time, unto salvation!"—T.F.L.
The approach of day.
Sin has been defined as "an act or state inconsistent with the relations" in which we stand. To act as our position demands is to act rightly. The apostle appeals to Christians as reasonable individuals desiring to behave as befits their condition. Incongruities excite ridicule, as when the sailor walks on land as if he had to steady himself against the tossing of his ship. Who has not dreamed of being found in daylight in the street attired in the garments of sleep, and felt the peculiar shame of such an incident? How different the decorations that look well enough by gaslight appear when the scene is surveyed in sunshine! the tinsel and gaudy brilliancy disgust a healthy eye.
I. A CRITICAL SEASON . The daybreak is at hand, when the labourer should be found at work, the soldier engaged in conflict, and the traveller started on his journey. Night is the time in which Christianity has to struggle for existence, its adherents sometimes forced to resort to obscurity for fear of persecution. Christ's departure was the setting as his advent shall be the rising again of the sun; the interval is summer night. Our salvation is nearer than when we began to believe. Faith commenced the process of sanctification, ushered us into that kingdom of God on earth, whose consummation, whose outward triumph and glory, are approaching. The apostle may have deemed Christ's appearance nigh. Like the ancient seers, he viewed coming events in a picture, where the distinction could not always be accurately perceived between the background and the foreground. He knew, however, that certain occurrences must precede the Parousia. Surely this incentive to vigilance should be operative with us, to whom later centuries have rolled. Who shall say when the cry may resound, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh"? No doubt, too, that the apostle foresaw a rapid extension of evangelistic endeavours. The nearing downfall of Jewish hopes would cause many to turn to the gospel as the only possible fulfilment of their Messianic aspirations. Such times of potency are ever occurring to us individually and collectively. Like ardent men of business, we should be on the look-out to seize our opportunities. Both at home and abroad this is an unequalled season for missionary effort; doors are being opened on every side. To spend the night in rioting is to slumber during the day: the morning will find us heavy-eyed and dull of brain. And to each one the day of death is drawing near—a day of deliverance, of full salvation to the faithful. Who would indulge the ambition of standing before the blaze of glory from the throne in filthy garments, with marks of sin upon the brow, and defiling stains upon the person? This night is our earthly day of service and opportunity. The day of heaven closes for ever the night of earth. The remembrance of wasted moments will diminish the splendour of the heavenly reward. "Work, for the day is coming!" The anticipation of such a season of disclosure is calculated to melt the stoniest heart into contrition. All deeds will stand confessed.
"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale."
II. THE CONDUCT REQUISITE IN SUCH A CRISIS .
1. Cultivate a spirit of wakefulness. "When the sun ariseth, man goeth forth to his labour." Those who sleep heavily, like the drunken, know nothing of the signs of dawn, and are surprised that the morning could come without their noting its approach. "Awake thou that sleepest," for thy sleep is that of death! His voice sounding through the cavern shall give thee strength to arise, and in his light thou shelf see all things clearly. It is death to the sentinel to sleep at his post. The lover cannot rest when he pictures the joy of the morrow, and the bride of Christ may well watch with intense delight the multiplying tokens of her Lord's arrival.
2. Indue the appropriate attire. This involves, first, the "casting off" of the vestments of the night, and secondly, the "putting on" of the costume of day. The works of darkness are like an infected garment, which the instructed wearer throws aside as worse than no covering at all. The panoply of light, the faith, hope, and love in which Christ arrays his followers,—this is the armour which will bear the scrutiny of the Captain, and prove a sure defence against the powers of evil. This negative and positive preparation is in essence one and the same, as the entrance of light scatters the darkness. Armour was the favourite dress of Romans, and though they would doff it for night revels, they would scorn to lack their accoutrements in the daytime. The cross of Christ is the tiring-room of his servants; there they die to sin and live unto righteousness; there they "put on Christ," imbibe his spirit, and receive his colours. The Northumbrian earl, conscious of the advent of death, desired to be clothed in the suit of mail in which he had won so many fights; but the eye became glazed, the nerveless hand could not grasp the spear, the ashen hue of mortality overspread his face. The Christian dons his equipment, never to lay it aside; in it he shall join the throng of those who have overcome.
3. Exert a decorous activity. Avoid evil by pursuing good. "Walk honestly," not indulging in intemperance, impurity, and discord, but leading a righteous, sober, godly life. Deeds of darkness are condemned by the light, revealing their hideousness, whilst habits of integrity and virtue shrink not from any scrutiny; they shine most lustrous in the brightest rays. Attain "to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," "growing up into him who is the Head in all things." We are now weaving and sewing and donning the vestments that shall be our glory or our shame through eternity.—S.R.A.
From citizenship, which is disposed of in the preceding verses, the apostle passes on to the Christian spirit as manifested in neighbourly relations. He here enters into the very spirit and essence of God's law, showing it to be love. And here we have—
I. THE DEBT WHICH CAN NEVER BE DISCHARGED . ( Romans 13:8 .) We may pay all other debts, and should owe no man anything; but love is a debt that can never be discharged, an obligation which abides, a blessed law laid on us in perpetuity. All the commandments of the second table are covered by this one law of love. No one in his senses would ever seek discharge from such a law. Could it be a privilege to hate one's neighbour? "Good haters," as they are pleased to call themselves, are usually public nuisances. We are under this law of love for ever, because we are under grace. It is here that our Divine sonship is realized; it is here that Christ-likeness begins. God is love; and in proportion as we are loving are we like Christ and his Father above. £
II. WITH THE CHRIST - LIKE LIFE HAS CEASED TO BE A DREAM . ( Romans 13:11 .) This is the case with the worldly; they fancy they are "wide awake," and yet they are asleep so far as eternal realities are concerned. How time slips through their fingers, as it does with those in sleep! Life is not in earnest; they have pillowed themselves upon success, and are dead to things Divine. But when Christ comes, then we awake and find ourselves in the morning hours. That Sun of Righteousness arises and our dream and night are over, and the activities of the new day are come. The Christ-like feel that life is earnest, and no time should be lost in dreams. As Feuchtersleben has pointedly said, "Life is no dream. It only becomes so by the fault of man, and when his mind disobeys the summons to awake." £
III. THE WORKS OF DARKNESS AND THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH ARE OUT OF DATE . ( Romans 13:12-14 .) While life is only a dream, while the night of indifference and neglect is around the soul, indulgence will he tolerated and provision made for the lusts of the flesh. Pleasure will be the pole-star of life, and decency will not deter the soul from its satisfactions. Of course, the primitive Church had to deal more with the lusts of the flesh than we have; or perhaps they went more thoroughly into the morals of their members. "The primitive Church," it has been said, "was more under the influence of the 'lust of the flesh' than of the 'pride of life; 'the modern Church is more under the influence of the 'pride of life ' than of the 'lust of the flesh.' But pride is as great a sin, in the sight of God, as sensuality. This should be considered in forming an estimate of the modern missionary Church" (Shedd, in loc. ) . But the soul which has awaked through the advent of Jesus regards these deeds of darkness as out of date. They would be anachronisms of the day. The light has come and put to flight the darkness.
IV. THE ARMOUR OF LIGHT ALONE BEFITS THE DAY . ( Romans 13:12 , Romans 13:13 .) Now, it is wonderful what a protection light, even in its physical form, is against pollution. There are deeds which can only be done in darkness. Turn the light upon them, and they are annihilated through sheer shame. In the same way, when the full spiritual light which Jesus Christ, our Sun, embodies, plays upon our life, we are instantly aroused and elevated, and the tone of life improves. This is our panoply in the morning hours. Christ with us, near us, observing us, encircling us with his light, becomes our great protection.
V. CHRIST - LIKENESS THROUGH CLOTHING OURSELVES WITH HIM IS THE GREAT SECRET OF A USEFUL AND HAPPY LIFE . ( Romans 13:14 .) As the Sun of Righteousness shines around us we contract a luminosity like his. We get sanctified through contemplating him. The same image that is in him becomes ours from glory to glory, as with unveiled face we behold the face of God ( 2 Corinthians 3:17 ). It is this likeness to our Lord which makes us increasingly earnest and useful and happy in life's young day. We feel that salvation, in all its length and breadth, is Hearer realization than when we first believed. The morning hours give promise of the perfect day. £ As one has well put it, " The pilgrims of the dawn tolerate nothing in themselves that the light of day would rebuke. Hence it is the counterpart of this that they make no provision for the flesh; whatever provision they take for their heavenly journey, the flesh has no share in it. The sin adhering to their nature, the old man not yet dead, is an enemy whose hunger they do not feed, to whose thirst they do not administer drink, whose dying solicitations they regard not, but leave him to perish by the way. But the supreme preparation—uniting all others in one—is the putting on of the Lord Jesus Christ. In him alone the dignity and the purity of our nature meet; transformed into his character, we need nothing more to fit us for the holiest heavens; but nothing less will suffice his expectation at his coming. He will come to be glorified in his saints—already the likeness in ten thousand reproductions of himself; and they shall in turn be glorified in him. Hence the great business of the pilgrims is to occupy the precious moments of the morning in weaving into their nature the character of Christ as the apparel of the eternal day. And if in faith that worketh by love—the love that fulfilleth the Law—they diligently co-operate with the Holy Spirit, it will be his blessed function to see to it that before the Bridegroom cometh, his bride, and every individual soul that makes up her mystical person, shall be found clothed in his spiritual perfection as with a garment without seam, woven from the top throughout. Beyond this we cannot go. This is the close and the secret of the whole exhortation to the pilgrims of the dawn. They have come up out of the night at the sound of his awakening voice, and have left their Egyptian darkness for ever. They are wrestling with the dangers of the morning, rejoicing in its partial satisfactions. But supremely and above all they are intent upon the coming day; in their pathway there is no death, but they wait for the more abundant life; they are full of trembling and solemn expectation of all that the day will pour out of its unfathomable mysteries. But the end of all their expectation is the Person of their Lord. And to prepare for him by being like himself is the sum of all their preparation." £ May we all thus put on Christ and be like him!—R.M.E.
There is now interposed among the particular admonitions a call to watchfulness, with a view to holiness in all relations of life, on the ground that the day is at hand . There can be little, if any, doubt that the apostle had in view the second coming of Christ, which he with others supposed might be close at hand, Our Lord had said that of that day none knew but the Father, and that it would come unexpectedly. Further, in the same addresses to the disciples before his death in which these things were said, he seems to have disclosed a vista of the future, after the manner of the ancient prophets, in which more immediate and more distant fulfilments of the prophetic vision were not clearly distinguished; so that words which we now perceive to have pointed to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was typical of the final judgments, might easily have been understood as referring to the latter. Such are, "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled". Hence it was natural that the apostolic Church should regard the second advent as probably imminent. We find in the apostolic Epistles several intimations of this expectation (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 , seq.; 2 Corinthians 5:2-5 ; Philippians 4:5 ; Hebrews 10:25 ; 1 Peter 4:7 ; 1 John 2:18 , 1 John 2:28 ; Revelation 22:20 ); and though it was not realized in the event, the authority of the apostles as inspired teachers is not thus disparaged, this being the very thing which Christ had said must remain unknown to all. Nor does their teaching, enforced by this expectation, lose its force to us; for, though "the Lord delayeth his coming," and may still delay it, yet to each of us at least this present world is fast passing away, and the Lord may be close at hand to call us out of it. The duty of watchfulness and preparedness remains unchanged. The Parousia or, as it is called in the pastoral Epistles, the Epiphany (in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 , ἐπιφανεία τῆς παρουσίας ) of Christ is here, as elsewhere, presented under the figure of the day appearing (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:13 ; Ephesians 5:14 ; l Thessalonians Ephesians 5:4 ; Hebrews 10:25 ; 2 Peter 1:19 ), the previous ages of the world being regarded as the time of night. The figure is found in the prophets with reference to that day—the coming day of the Lord (cf. e.g. Isaiah 9:2 ; Isaiah 60:1-3 ; Malachi 4:2 ), But though the day has not yet come, Christians are viewed as already in the radiance of its dawn, in which they can walk as children of the day, and be on the watch, and not be surprised asleep, or doing the deeds of darkness, when the full daylight bursts upon them. For in the first advent of Christ the day dawned, though, to those who loved darkness rather than light, but as a light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not ( John 1:5 , seq.; John 3:19 , seq.; cf. 2 Peter 1:19 ; 1 John 2:8 ; and also Luke 1:78 , seq.; Luke 2:32 ).
As in the day, let us walk honestly , and of the things done in secret of which it is a shame to speak; cf. Ephesians 5:11 , Ephesians 5:12 ); not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying ( rather, jealousy, denoting jealous wrath, cf. Acts 13:45 ). But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ . The figure of a new investment being renewed from Ephesians 5:12 , it is here Christ himself who is to be put on. So also Galatians 3:27 . For the idea implied, of. Ephesians 4:23 , Ephesians 4:24 ; Colossians 3:12 ; ch. 8:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:15 , 1 Corinthians 6:17 . " Induere autem Christum hic significat virtute Spiritus ejus undique nos muniri, qua idonei ad omnes sanctitatis partes reddamur. Sic enim instauratur in nobis imago Dei, quae unicum est animae ornamentum " (Calvin). It may be observed that in Galatians 3:27 Christians are said to have already put on Christ in their baptism; here they are exhorted still to do so. There is no real contradiction; they are but exhorted to realize in actual life the meaning of their baptism. And make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof (literally, unto lusts ) .
A startling summons.
The admonition of this passage is especially addressed to Christians; yet to Christians who stand peculiarly in need of a rousing appeal and summons, to call them to a more spiritual and a more watchful life.
I. THE CRISIS OF LIFE .
1. The night is well-nigh gone. Between our Lord's first and second comings stretches the dawn of the world. Behind his first coming lay the night of humanity. Beyond his second advent the daylight beams, with the brightness of knowledge, of holiness, of happiness, of glory.
2. Salvation is nearer than ever. In one sense, indeed, salvation is a present blessing; for we are delivered from condemnation if we are in Christ Jesus. In another sense it is future; for we shall hereafter receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls. It is something to be looked forward to with keenest joy of hope, something the prospect of which may well inspire us to endurance and to toil.
II. THE SUMMONS OF GOD .
1. To spiritual energy. To such a period, drowsy, slumberous inactivity is utterly inappropriate.
2. To the renunciation of all that interferes with the fulfilment of our calling and the realization of our hope.
3. To a spiritual warfare and campaign.
4. To purity of body and of mind, as those who are in their whole nature redeemed, that in their whole nature they may be consecrated.
Night and day.
Christian motives are brought forward to incite to moral duties. We are called upon to do right, not only by the voices of expediency and of authority, but by the voice of revelation. Christians are addressed as those who know the seasons, who discern the signs of the times, who regard the present as a period of probation, of discipline, of education, and whose gaze is ever forwards, whose hope is in their Lord's return to judge and to save.
I. THE RETROSPECT OF THE PAST . "The night is far spent."
1. The spiritual night of the world is passing away. The true Light is shining, and the radiance of his beams is illumining the darkest and most distant shores.
2. The night of time is departing, and eternity, resurrection, the new heavens and the new earth, are about to dawn.
3. The night of life is nearly spent, and the day of immortality approaches. If this is the case with all, how manifestly is it so with the aged!
II. THE PROSPECT OF THE FUTURE .
1. "The day is at hand." So far as the opportunity for labour is concerned, we may admit that the night cometh, when no man can work." But, in another sense, it is a welcome truth that "the day dawns, and the shadows flee away." Full light shall soon be shed upon our intellectual and spiritual darkness. The fears, the ignorance, the doubts of the present shall cease to be; we shall see Christ as he is, and we shall know even as we are known.
2. "Salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed" A fortress is beleaguered by the forces of the foe. The garrison, long besieged, is feeble, weary, and all but exhausted, ill supplied with provisions and ammunition, and in great straits. But relief is planned, and is approaching. At night the prospect seemed dark. But now, when the morning breaks, the besieged, looking from their walls, behold the banners of the deliverer drawing near, and hear the welcome music of his march. Salvation is at hand! It is in this light that we are encouraged to look at life, at time. Now we are besieged by our spiritual foe, and our condition is often apparently desperate. But our redemption draweth nigh, and our salvation is nearer. The perfection of our salvation, the fulfilment of the promise of victory,—this is in the future.
III. THE DUTY OF THE PRESENT . This is not the time to indulge mere sentiment, whether of retrospect or of anticipation. The living present demands all our energy.
1. "It is time to awake out of sleep;" to arouse ourselves from indifference to concern, from half-belief to earnest faith, from inactivity to zeal.
2. To "cast off the works of darkness." By the clothing, the impediments thus designated, we understand the negligences, the sins, which are inconsistent with true spirituality.
3. To "put on the armour of light." Holiness and diligence, patience and devotedness,—these are the spiritual exercises appropriate to those who have a hope so glorious and promises so sure as ours. Let the soldier see to his weapons, the servant to his work, the steward to his trust!
APPLICATION . Every crisis of human life, of Church history; every day which tells of the flight of time; every instance of human mortality,—speaks loudly to us, summoning us, as children of the day, to live as in anticipation of the Divine Deliverer's speedy and welcome approach.