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Commentary on Romans
« Prev Romans 13:11-14 Next »

Romans 13:11-14

11. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

11. Hoc enim, quum noverimus tempus, quia hora est qua jam e somno expergiscamur (nunc enim propior est salus nostra quam quum credidimus,)

12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

12. Nox progressa est, dies vero appropinquavit: abjiciamus ergo opera tenebrarum, et induamus arma lucis.

13. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

13 Sicut in die decenter ambulemus; non comessationibus neque ebrietatibus, neque eubilibus neque lasciviis, neque contentione neque aemulatione:

14. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof

14. Sed induamini Dominum Iesum Christum, et carnis curam ne agatis ad concupiscentias.

11. Moreover, etc. He enters now on another subject of exhortation, that as the rays of celestial life had begun to shine on us as it were at the dawn, we ought to do what they are wont to do who are in public life and in the sight of men, who take diligent care lest they should commit anything that is base or unbecoming; for if they do anything amiss, they see that they are exposed to the view of many witnesses. But we, who always stand in the sight of God and of angels, and whom Christ, the true sun of righteousness, invites to his presence, we indeed ought to be much more careful to beware of every kind of pollution.

The import then of the words is this, “Since we know that the seasonable time has already come, in which we should awake from sleep, let us cast aside whatever belongs to the night, let us shake off all the works of darkness, since the darkness itself has been dissipated, and let us attend to the works of light, and walk as it becomes those who are enjoying the day.” The intervening words are to be read as in a parenthesis.

As, however, the words are metaphorical, it may be useful to consider their meaning: Ignorance of God is what he calls night; for all who are thus ignorant go astray and sleep as people do in the night. The unbelieving do indeed labor under these two evils, they are blind and they are insensible; but this insensibility he shortly after designated by sleep, which is, as one says, an image of death. By light he means the revelation of divine truth, by which Christ the sun of righteousness arises on us. 409409     The preceding explanation of night and day, as here to be understood, does not comport with what is afterwards said on Romans 13:12. The distinction between night and day of a Christian, ought to be clearly kept in view. The first is what is here described, but the latter is what the passage refers to. And the sleep mentioned here is not the sleep of ignorance and unbelief, but the sleep, the torpor, or inactivity of Christians.
   That the present state of believers, their condition in this world, is meant here by “night,” and their state of future glory is meant by “day,” appears evident from the words which follow, “for nearer now is our salvation than when we believed.” Salvation here, as in Romans 8:24, and in 1 Peter 1:9, means salvation made complete and perfect, the full employment of all its blessings. Indeed in no other sense can what is said here of night and day be appropriate. The night of heathen ignorance as to Christians had already passed, and the day of gospel light was not approaching, but had appeared. — Ed.
He mentions awake, by which he intimates that we are to be equipped and prepared to undertake the services which the Lord requires from us. The works of darkness are shameful and wicked works; for night, as some one says, is shameless. The armor of light represents good, and temperate, and holy actions, such as are suitable to the day; and armor is mentioned rather than works, because we are to carry on a warfare for the Lord.

But the particles at the beginning, And this, are to be read by themselves, for they are connected with what is gone before; as we say in Latin Adhoec — besides, or proeterea — moreover. The time, he says, was known to the faithful, for the calling of God and the day of visitation required a new life and new morals, and he immediately adds an explanation, and says, that it was the hour to awake: for it is not χρόνος but καιρὸς which means a fit occasion or a seasonable time. 410410     The words καὶ τούτο, according to Beza, Grotius, Mede, etc., connect what follows with the preceding exhortation to love, “And this do, or let us do, as we know,” etc. But the whole tenor of what follows by no means favors this view. The subject is wholly different. It is evidently a new subject of exhortation, as Calvin says, and the words must be rendered as he proposes, or be viewed as elliptical; the word “I say,” or “I command,” according to Macknight, being understood, “This also I say, since we know the time,” etc. If we adopt “I command,” or “moreover,” as Calvin does, it would be better to regard the participle εἰδότες, as having the meaning of an imperative, εστε being understood, several instances of which we have in the preceding chapter, Romans 12:9,16,17. The whole passage would then read better in this manner, —
   11. Moreover, know the time, that it is even now the very time for us to awake from sleep; for nearer now is our salvation than when we

   12. believed: the night has advanced, and the day has approached; let us then cast away the works of darkness, and let us put on the

   13. armor of light; let us, as in the day, walk in a becoming manner, etc. — Ed.

For nearer is now our salvation, etc. This passage is in various ways perverted by interpreters. Many refer the word believed to the time of the law, as though Paul had said, that the Jews believed before Christ came; which view I reject as unnatural and strained; and surely to confine a general truth to a small part of the Church, would have been wholly inconsistent. Of that whole assembly to which he wrote, how few were Jews? Then this declaration could not have been suitable to the Romans. Besides, the comparison between the night and the day does in my judgment dissipate every doubt on the point. The declaration then seems to me to be of the most simple kind, — “Nearer is salvation now to us than at that time when we began to believe:” so that a reference is made to the time which had preceded as to their faith. For as the adverb here used is in its import indefinite, this meaning is much the most suitable, as it is evident from what follows.

12. The night has advanced, and the day, etc. This is the season which he had just mentioned; for as the faithful are not as yet received into full light, he very fitly compares to the dawn the knowledge of future life, which shines on us through the gospel: for day is not put here, as in other places, for the light of faith, (otherwise he could not have said that it was only approaching, but that it was present, for it now shines as it were in the middle of its progress,) but for that glorious brightness of the celestial life, the beginnings of which are now seen through the gospel.

The sum of what he says is, — that as soon as God begins to call us, we ought to do the same, as when we conclude from the first dawn of the day that the full sun is at hand; we ought to look forward to the coming of Christ.

He says that the night had advanced, because we are not so overwhelmed with thick darkness as the unbelieving are, to whom no spark of life appears; but the hope of resurrection is placed by the gospel before our eyes; yea, the light of faith, by which we discover that the full brightness of celestial glory is nigh at hand, ought to stimulate us, so that we may not grow torpid on the earth. But afterwards, when he bids us to walk in the light, as it were during the day time, he does not continue the same metaphor; for he compares to the day our present state, while Christ shines on us. His purpose was in various ways to exhort us, — at one time to meditate on our future life; at another, to contemplate the present favor of God.

13. Not in reveling, etc. He mentions here three kinds of vices, and to each he has given two names, — intemperant and excess in living, — carnal lust and uncleanness, which is connected with it, — and envy and contention. If these have in them so much filthiness, that even carnal men are ashamed to commit them before the eyes of men, it behooves us, who are in the light of God, at all times to abstain from them; yea, even when we are withdrawn from the presence of men. As to the third vice, though contention is put before envying, there is yet. no doubt but that Paul intended to remind us, that strifes and contests arise from this fountain; for when any one seeks to excel, there is envying of one another; but ambition is the source of both evils. 411411     The case is the same with the two preceding instances; the vice which seems to follow is placed first. Revelling is first mentioned, though drunkenness goes before it; and “chambering,” or concubinage, or indulgence in unlawful lusts is first stated, though lasciviousness or wantonness is the source from which it proceeds. It is an example of the Apostle’s mode of writing similar to what we find in Romans 11:29, as to “the gifts and calling of God,” and in verse 33, as to “the wisdom and knowledge of God.” — Ed.

14. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, etc. This metaphor is commonly used in Scripture with respect to what tends to adorn or to deform man; both of which may be seen in his clothing: for a filthy and torn garment dishonors a man; but what is becoming and clean recommends him. Now to put on Christ, means here to be on every side fortified by the power of his Spirit, and be thereby prepared to discharge all the duties of holiness; for thus is the image of God renewed in us, which is the only true ornament of the soul. For Paul had in view the end of our calling; inasmuch as God, by adopting us, unites us to the body of his only-begotten Son, and for this purpose, — that we, renouncing our former life, may become new men in him. 412412     Many have explained “the putting on” here in a manner wholly inconsistent with the passage, as though the putting on of Christ’s righteousness was intended. Calvin keeps to what accords with the context, the putting on of Christ as to his holy image. Sanctification, and not justification, is the subject of the passage. To put on Christ, then, is to put on his virtues and graces, to put on or be endued with his spirit, to imitate his conduct and to copy his example. This is in addition to the putting him on as our righteousness, and not as a substitute for it. Both are necessary: for Christ is our sanctification, the author, worker, and example of it, as well as our righteousness. — Ed. On this account he says also in another place, that we put on Christ in baptism. (Galatians 3:27.)

And have no care, etc. As long as we carry about us our flesh, we cannot cast away every care for it; for though our conversation is in heaven, we yet sojourn on earth. The things then which belong to the body must be taken care of, but not otherwise than as they are helps to us in our pilgrimage, and not that they may make us to forget our country. Even heathens have said, that a few things suffice nature, but that the appetites of men are insatiable. Every one then who wishes to satisfy the desires of the flesh, must necessarily not only fall into, but be immerged in a vast and deep gulf.

Paul, setting a bridle on our desires, reminds us, that the cause of all intemperance is, that no one is content with a moderate or lawful use of things: he has therefore laid down this rule, — that we are to provide for the wants of our flesh, but not to indulge its lusts. It is in this way that we shall use this world without abusing it.


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