In English, to ‘put on’ Christ, as we ‘put on’ clothes, seems a strange expression. However, the first Christians were familiar with this word-picture, and we often see similar expressions in their books. For some examples, see Luke 24:49; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 and Colossians 3:10-12. In each of these places, strength replaces weakness when we receive God’s gift to us.
We are all aware of the weakness of our physical bodies. That is why we put on clothes: to cover our naked bodies (Genesis 3:7; 1 Corinthians 12:23). We choose clothes to deal with our weaknesses. So, we wear warm clothes when are cold. We wear cool clothes when we are hot. We choose clothes to protect us from the sun or the rain. In battle, soldiers wear armour: strong clothes that defend the weak parts of their bodies (compare Romans 13:12, and see Ephesians 6:10-17).
However, we have no clothes to deal with our inner weaknesses: our wrong desires, ambitions, emotions and fears. To deal with these weaknesses, we must depend on Christ. He alone frees us from these weaknesses to live in the manner that pleases God (8:1-4).
In Galatians 3:26-27, Paul again uses the expression: to ‘put on Christ’. There, he refers to the beginning of the Christian life, when a person first trusts Christ. However, we cannot stop then - we must continue to trust Christ through our whole lives (Galatians 3:2-3; Hebrews 10:36-39). So, in Romans 13:14, Paul urges people who are already Christians to ‘put on Christ’. In other words, they must trust him every day, even as we put on our clothes every day. We need his help continuously. We constantly need to accept his strength, in order to overcome our weaknesses.
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© 2022, Keith Simons.