God’s intent for salvation, the end of history, the new heavens, and the new earth, is that Jesus, the Son would be clearly present in everyone and everything.
March 16, 2023
Speaker: Pastor Dustin Scott
Passage: Romans 13:8-14
Good morning, everyone. My friend Rob just came up to me and said, “Hey, don’t do a bad job this morning.” So I’m gonna do my best.
You might be looking at the bread and cup stations and going oh, no. We’re going to take it at the end, aren’t we? It’s going to be one of those days. And on the day when we lost an hour of sleep too.
Well, I commend you. You’re here early, despite your lack of sleep. Who here has ever noticed that when you’re studying a passage or sharing a passage, or teaching a passage, in the weeks that build up to it, you kind of notice yourself getting rocked in the gut for how hypocritical you are in sharing it? So that was my week.
And I really think pastor Greg hit the nail on the head when he talked about our need to trust in the Lord. I really sense that this morning is a morning of repentance. Repentance of where have I not trusted the plan of God in my life? Where have I not trusted His power and His worthiness and His faithfulness?
So we’re going to dive into Romans chapter 13. I hope you can forgive me because I’m going to use my paper rather than the Bible because we’ve got a lot of work to do today. But I would love to invite you as we dive back into Romans, would you stand for the reading of the Scriptures? We’re going to start in verse eight. And we’re going to move through verse 14, and I’m going to be reading from the New Revised Standard Version.
It says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is already the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone; the day is near. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us walk decently as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in illicit sex and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Let’s pray. Holy Spirit, as You come to bring a sobering message to us the church, to me, to everyone in this body, I pray that You would bring the truth of God to our hearts. Let it not be rhetoric, let it not be theological argument. Let it be Your word. And if I say anything that’s not reflective of You, Lord, would You just let it wash away that Your truths might be heard this morning? We love You. We honor You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we ask these things in Your name. Amen. You may be seated.
Paul’s going to end Romans 13 with a most uninvited challenge. Who here loves uninvited challenges? In verse 12, he’s going to say, “throw off the works of darkness.” And then in verse 14, in addition to saying put on the armor of light, he’s going to say, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I want to pause because a surface reading of 13 seems to reveal this radical shift in topic. What is Paul doing? Paul states our need at the beginning of 13 to submit to governmental authorities. And then he’s suddenly drawing our attention to the necessity of love and continued transformation.
Paul’s topical turnabout has rocked the world of scholarship a little bit. Some textual critical researchers even question verses one through seven’s placement within the wider text, because, in ancient literary research of manuscripts, lurching changes in topic often indicate that a writing was altered or changed by a later editor.
This morning, I want to present a different view. One which very much believes verses one through seven belong here. They are the Word of God, one which acknowledges the legitimacy of one through seven while explaining Paul’s probable motive in authoring this rich and winding passage. Paul’s kind of the master of run-on sentences, isn’t he? Well, in his defense, Greek at this time didn’t have punctuation. So we should give him a break.
Within the totality of Romans 13, Paul is talking about submission. He’ll begin by talking about our need to submit to temporal authorities. Well, what are those? He tells us to pay our taxes. So the first place to go is government. Our job as believers is, whenever possible, to submit to the governing authorities over us. I don’t think it would be an over-extension of the text to say that applies to our family structure of authority, our spiritual authorities, the other various authorities that God has placed within our lives. But he’s going to move on to a different kind of submission — submission to the salvation process of God.
Paul’s already driven a point home within Romans over and over, as he did in chapter six, chapter seven, and chapter eight. I have a list of all these references, but I don’t want to bore us with it. He’s taught over and over again that salvation requires death. The death of our old life, and the death of our self-identity outside of Jesus. I want to quit real quick and say, this isn’t a once-dead, always-dead. This isn’t a whenever-I-feel-like-it death. It’s a continuous death of our identity outside of Jesus.
And he’ll put it even more succinctly in his letter to the Galatians when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” That’s chapter two, verse 20.
I want to remind us of something. I want to paint kind of a cosmic picture of what Paul’s doing in Romans. In Romans eight, he’s going to describe the aim of our salvation. He writes, “We were chosen by the Father, to be conformed to the image of the Son, Jesus. That’s verse 29.
He also tells us in that same chapter that creation is waiting eagerly for the fullness of our salvation to be revealed. In Corinthians 15, he’s going to say the endpoint of this salvation is a future moment when God has manifested all in all, in every person, and everything, throughout all of heaven, and throughout all the world.
God’s intent for salvation, the end of history, the new heavens, and the new earth, is that Jesus, the Son would be clearly present in everyone and everything.
It’s a future moment when the Father will lavish His love and adoration on the splendor of the Son and all things. I think even the psalmist knew about this in 110 when he says, “The Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Salvation is not merely about us. It’s not simply about me. And it’s not even all about our being saved from sin and death, even though that’s a crucial part of it. Salvation is our immersion into the transformational process of faith, and trusting belief.
This is why Peter will say in his second letter, that we’ve been given everything necessary to become participants in God’s divine nature. That our true purpose as Christians is this: to carry the transformational presence of Jesus everywhere we go and in everything we do. He’s our identity now.
Western Christians call this sanctification. That’s a fine word. I kind of get annoyed with it, because it’s almost treated like this unnecessary extra credit we do once we get saved. Eastern Christians will call it θέωσις/theosis since that means “being made like God.” The Bible will call it ἁγιάζω/hagiazo: which means “I purify or I make holy.”
We were saved for this purpose, to put on the new clothes of Jesus. Nevertheless, Paul is going to lay forth this most unwelcome challenge. That the divine clothes of love, the divine clothes of Jesus, he’ll say in verse 10, never do any harm to a neighbor.
The word here for wrong is κακόν/kakon and it comes from κακός/kakos. That’s kind of a funny word, isn’t it? Meaning any word or action that is evil, harmful, cruel, unkind, abusive, foul, insulting, or bad.
Let’s pause. I want to ask the question for me and for all of us, who have we treated this way in the past week? When did we give ourselves permission to behave harmfully because we thought the person or situation in front of us deserved it? How have we presently failed to fulfill the standard of love, which truly is to do no harm to others? Can we all agree that we’re still in process?
An Eastern Orthodox writer named Kallistos Ware, he passed away recently, said “I was saved, I am being saved, and I have faith that I will be saved.” That’s what salvation looks like in our life. And throughout the remainder of our teaching, I want to co-explore two passages of Scripture alongside. I want to dive into Romans 13. But I also want to dive into Matthew 22. The parable of the guests thrown out from the wedding.
And I’m inviting us to consider this morning a very specific question. Where in life am I still wearing my old clothes? What places in my heart my thoughts, my habits, and actions still require submission to the new clothes of Jesus? And where are old patterns and habits inhibiting God’s work of salvation within me? Does that question make sense?
So let’s dive into Jesus’s parable as we continue to explore Romans 13. This is Matthew 22, verses eight through 14. Isn’t that a funny coincidence that it’s eight through 14 in both passages?
“And then the king said to his slaves, the wedding is ready. But those who are invited are not worthy. Go, therefore, into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet. Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found both bad and good.”
I want us to note that most of our translations say good and bad, which is actually a reversal of the Greek. We’re going to get to that in a minute.
It says, “So the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to see the guests he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe? And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”
I want to draw out a couple of aspects of this passage in relation to Romans 13. The first one is verse 10. It says that wedding garments were provided by the king to both the bad and the good.
The Greek here is πονηρούς τε καὶ ἀγαθούς [poniroús te kai agathoús], and I even think it’s funny that sometimes our translations try to switch it back. Because what the passage is saying is that the king — symbolizing the Lord — has extended his gift of salvation to all, the bad and the good. Within the context of this passage, he’s clearly talking about unrepentant Jews who haven’t accepted the gospel, repentant Jews who have, and then us undeserving Gentiles, who somehow managed to get into God’s covenant.
Each of these groups are generously invited to the wedding. They didn’t do anything to earn it. Yet, the guests are responsible for wearing their new garments. Now, complementary wedding clothes may seem kind of creepy to 21st-century ears. When we’re accustomed to those 30-minute-long ceremonies and those two- to three-hour receptions. I think the difference depends on if there’s alcohol there or not.
But within ancient and modern Near Eastern contexts, weddings of prominence for often multi-day affairs were still sustained to the hospitality, and the provision of the host, the hosting family, or the hosting clan.
I want to pause here for a moment. The invitation and the garments of the parable refer to Jesus’s work. His fulfillment of the law, his atonement for sin, his justification of us, his restoration of our human nature, and ultimately, the fact he’s extending the gift of salvation out to the whole world. You see, it’s God’s kindness that has provided us with a gift of salvation. We didn’t earn it by any work or merit. Who here says Amen?
We are invited into the life of God, the feast, the wedding, by grace alone in that ancient Protestant affirmation. Nevertheless, the story doesn’t stop there. Because the underdressed guest, who the host even compassionately calls friend, is expelled from the feast for his refusal to wear the new clothes.
What is represented in these new clothes? Well, I believe, and I believe the passage is telling us this, it’s an old and a new nature. To put on the new nature we first have to take off what’s old.
So what is old? Well, Paul gives us this giant list in verse 13. He’s going to describe the old clothes and what they look like in our life. He’s going to talk about excessive feasting and partying. And this word — it’s an ancient word — and it really gets at the drunken processions which would honor the god Dionysus.
And even though most of us are probably not worshiping Dionysus at parties, I think the application of excessive drinking and partying does apply to us. Μέθαις/methais means drunkenness or intoxication. This next word κοίταις/koitais means bridal bed or marital bed, but it was really a Greek euphemism for having sexual intercourse or engaging in sexual excess with someone who’s not your God-given spouse. Every incident of sexual activity, which is not in the confines of what God created as a covenant is sin. It’s outrageous rejection of restraint.
He uses this fascinating word ἔριδι/eridi which comes from a Greek goddess named Eris. Have any of us Hollywood fans ever seen the movie? Troy? Anybody? Only a couple sinners here? Well, within this passage, Eris is actually the goddess in Greek mythology who gave the apple of discord which led to the Trojan War.
So what is Paul communicating in this word? He’s communicating a hunger for fighting or conflict. Have any of us ever felt a little bit prone to conflict before? I won’t make you raise your hand. And lastly, he’s going to talk about ζήλῳ/zilo which means jealousy. It really means this kind of passionate, burning, boiling jealousy. It’s likely related to a Greek word ζέω/zeo which means “I burn, I boil, I foam.”
So those are the big sins that Paul is addressing. And I want to pause here because I think these apply to many of us. And I think some of us have given ourselves over to these sins, in the gnostic belief that they’re actually permitted within the life of the Christian.
I want to caution you, there are strange teachings floating through the church. They’re floating through the church today, and they were floating to the church in Paul’s time. And they assert that the New Covenant has abolished any and all obligation to obey God, and nullifies our need to put faith into bodily action.
It’s okay, I’m saved by grace. I don’t actually have to do what God says. Have we heard that before? I know I have. And the truth is, Paul is disputing this assertion here in Romans 13, and he will elsewhere because, for him, the government of God is necessary for the life of faith, trusting belief, and for salvation.
After all, Jesus didn’t simply die for the salvation of your soul, as the ancient gnostics believed. He died for the salvation of your whole person, and for the salvation of the whole world.
I want to caution you, if you continue on this path, if you continue in these sins without repentance, without turning back, without drawing back again to God’s grace, it is guaranteed you are still wearing the old clothes, and you’re not actually living in faith.
That’s a really heavy statement. But I don’t think it’s exaggerated. I have friends in England. They serve as pastors in the Church of England. And for those of us who are watching the news right now, the Anglican Communion is being ripped apart. Because on one side, approximately 50% of its churches are arguing love is love. God would want us to practice what seems natural. We’re not going to officiate same-sex weddings, but we are going to bless them and invite the good blessing of God upon them.
While the other half of the church is going, no, God has a true standard for marriage. We are not allowed to do whatever we want. Jesus defines what our theology looks like. And it’s wreaking havoc through the whole church right now.
And I don’t say that to point a finger, because the truth is millions upon millions of people have been saved through that church and those churches. And so all I’m doing is illustrating this idea that we can just do whatever we want because we’re saved by grace is dangerous, and it’s not biblical. Paul’s not teaching that.
And I also want to contend I’m not pointing a finger because it’s my belief that the Lord is still working in that church. Revival will return to it. We are going to go into the space of contending for them, because God’s not done with the Church of England and he’s not done with the Anglican Church.
But for our church, and its sober and monogamous members, who might be tempted to check this passage off as complete, I want to pause for a moment longer, because Paul’s going to bring an even greater standard for the new clothes of Jesus. He’s going to do it in two statements. One is verse eight. It says, “owe no one anything except to love.”
If you dig into this passage in the Greek, it really means that self-sacrificing love is owed. It’s a present active imperative verb and it means “to be under obligation to pay” or “indebted.” And the Greek present-tense really indicates that this process is incomplete. We owe sacrificial love to others in every conversation and every interaction. There is no exception and there are no endpoints.
The next one is verse 10. He’s going to say, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” Οὐκ/ouk, this word “no” in Greek, has a really complex definition. I’m not sure you guys will believe me when I tell you but it means “no.”
Paul is telling us that if a word or action is harmful, hurtful, unkind, impatient, cruel, demeaning, short-tempered, vulgar, inconsiderate, unthoughtful, or self-centered, love wouldn’t do it. The answer would be “no.”
I want to conclude that left to ourselves, we are absolutely toast beneath this standard. We can’t accomplish such a Herculean task on our own and in our own strength. We would undoubtedly find ourselves beyond the outer walls, wouldn’t we? Who knows? Maybe the outer darkness is pleasant this time of year? No, I won’t say that. That’s really bad.
But the good news for us is that salvation is a gift. And it’s a divine, human person named Jesus. And Paul’s going to say in verse 14, ἐνδύσασθε/endysasthe, which means “put him on.” It’s an heiress tense. It means put him on once for all, not for a moment, not periodically, not from time to time, commit to wearing him always.
He says it is in imperative mood, which means that Paul isn’t asking or suggesting that we put on Jesus, He’s requiring our putting on of Jesus is the very heart of the salvation process.
And the middle voice he’s using really bespeaks reflexive action, I must put Jesus on myself, no one else is going to do it for me, this is the Holy Spirit’s work within me, and other people cannot accomplish it in my stead.
So we’re putting on Jesus. Let’s look at His earthly ministry and what that actually looked like. What did the fully human and fully God person — by the way, He still is — how was He led, governed, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit? How did He accomplish the will of the Father?
Well, Jesus would say in the Gospel of John, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”
You see, the new clothes of Jesus aren’t just a belief set. They’re not just a sinner’s prayer. They’re not just a water baptism, and they’re definitely not a list of pious religious chores. The new clothes of Jesus are the life derived entirely from God. I’m dead. I live in Him now.
If we remind ourselves that God is love, as the writer of 1 John said, and that love is the fulfilling of the law in Paul’s words. We really require the voice of God, the love of God, and the government of God to accomplish this process, don’t we? Participating in an ever-increasing salvation of continued transformation, and no harm to others, requires the God of love. Because only a perfect God can do no harm to anyone.
If we cling on to Him in trust and in faith-filled obedience, I believe we’re participating in the process of salvation. But here’s the thing, another big statement, the greatest enemy of salvation, in my opinion, and I believe Paul’s opinion, too, is the refusal to let our old clothes go.
I’m going to say that again, the greatest enemy of salvation is the refusal to let our old clothes go.
They’re often comfortable, stylish, culturally relevant, and familiar. Maybe we’ve exchanged our old t-shirts, but we’re still holding on to that old pair of socks. There’s still an aspect of our life that we haven’t given over to the government of God.
And it’s really my personal belief that this false sense of freedom, this idea that we can have the new life of God while still hanging on to the sin of our old life, this individuality so common in the West, has become an antichrist in the Western churches, and it’s wreaking havoc in the United States and Europe.
In the one true Christian faith, descended from the apostles and dictated by Jesus, the King of Eternity, I am not given room for a personal bubble to just make my own choices, do whatever I want in a narrow or fickle way. The old clothes are any part of my life that I refuse to surrender to the will of the Father and the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
They can be places of sin, self-centeredness, personal autonomy, they’re all those things that we claim right to. God, you can’t have that, that’s mine. And the Scriptures teach that these clothes lead beyond the outer walls to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The imagery conveys a reality of immense, profound, and unalterable regret. Now, hell is a complex topic, and I’m not going to dive into it. The Bible uses a lot of different words, terms, symbols, metaphors, and historical locations to talk about it. But CS Lewis once imagined hell is a prison locked from the inside with inmates who preferred life in their own cells, rather than moving to the freedom outside.
I don’t know if I entirely agree with him. I’m not sure any of us know. But what I do know is that imagery is moving and apropos to our topic today. It begs a question for me: what places in my life, what old clothes justify missing out on the eternal life, splendor, and love of God simply because I wanted to hang on to them?
What glory will I miss out on in favor of choosing what’s broken, torn, but just familiar? I don’t think that’s who I’ll choose to be. I don’t believe it’s who we will choose to be. In the words of the writer of Hebrews. We are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and preserve their souls. I believe we are ready for the all-transformational process and salvation of God, and that we’re ready to be a people who put on Jesus.
We’re not going to miss out on the move of God because we wouldn’t give places over to Him. And we know that the transformation of all things is the big picture, the time when God will be all in all. But what does this life of salvation look like, putting on Jesus look like, in my day-to-day life?
I believe that’s simple. Paul has talked about it over and over and over and over and over again. It’s faith, trusting belief. Faith says, “I’m dead. I live in Jesus now. And the Holy Spirit can have whatever He wants to inside of me. He can transform anything in me. I’ve given him permission, meaning whatever the Father wills, I will endeavor to do it. Whatever Jesus examples, I’ll practice it. Now I won’t get it perfect. James says we make many mistakes. But wherever the Spirit leads, I will follow it. If the Scriptures command it, I will strive to put it into faith-filled obedience. If the scriptures forbid it, I will work to abstain from it. If God’s voice speaks, I will pay attention and respond to it. If my neighbor has a need, I will endeavor to supply it. If my enemy sins against me, I will work through the power of the Holy Spirit in me to forgive it. And most of all, if my heart and my spirit require rebirth, I will trustingly hand them both over to Jesus.”
That’s faith’s definition of trusting belief. A trust which acknowledges that God’s love and purposes for our world are way better than our own. It also has confidence that God’s Spirit resides within us and provides us with the love, power, and resource we need to trust Him, follow Him, and care for others.
As Paul says in Romans 5:5, “Hope doesn’t put us to shame. Shame doesn’t belong in the new life, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Or maybe we could quote the prophet Zechariah who said, “Not by might not by power, but by my Spirit.” Faith commits itself to trusting the powerful spirit within us. And by putting on Jesus and expressing this trust in everything.
That means the packed aisles of King Soopers, even on those wretched Tuesday nights at 6 PM or 7 PM. And you have no idea how King Soopers managed to fit 5000 people into one store.
It includes the reoccurring argument with our spouse. It includes the way we correct and discipline our children. It includes the serving of our family on the weekends when leisure just sounds so much better. It includes the dispensing of kindness and honor on our enemies, especially when they deserve a punch to the face. And most of all, thinking about the cosmic image of God transforming all things, it means participating in the life of the church, rather than living as a lone-wolf Christian, which, according to Scripture, don’t actually exist.
Sanctification is the God within us, the Holy Spirit, transforming us into the image of the God who created and redeemed us, Jesus, the Son, the logos, unto the will of the God who eternally and dearly loved us, the Father. Our new life exists for Him and for others, for His glory and for the world, He desires to transform.
We’re going to partake of the bread and the cup in just a few moments. And Paul will say, before you partake of the elements, examine yourself that you’re receiving in a worthy manner. In the early church document called the Didache they’d say, “Hey, it’s a really good idea just to find those areas you need to repent for before you go to the bread and cup.”
So this morning, my invitation as we partake is this. The unfathomable reality is, every time I choose Jesus, the kingdom, His way, trust in His purposes, the new clothes, I am participating in God’s recreation of the world and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The sober reality is every time I choose myself, the old clothes, the old nature, I’m actually partnering with hell, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth, the regret over what could have been. So I’m going to invite us as a church, do we have the courage to examine ourselves and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal any old clothes which remain? I promise you, they’re there. I’ve got plenty of them. His grace is sufficient for us. He’ll carry us through the process.
So as we go to the bread and the cup, as we search out those old clothes within our marriage, workplace friendships, private habits, relationships with authority, ambitions, beliefs, and opinions, will we let God continue in the process of being all in all, to us and to the world? Will we trust Him and allow Him to take hold of those things as we repent and give us the new life that only He can give?
I want us to stand. It’s probably appropriate that we partake of the elements by ourselves this morning. Let’s partake and ask the Lord, what new clothes do you want to give me? And what old clothes should I surrender to you this morning? Let’s partake of the bread and the cup.
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