When I read Romans 13, I can’t help but think of the movie Karate Kid! The scene where Miyagi tells Daniel to put “wax on” and then “wax off” his car. The section that reminded me of this is verse 14 which says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
The command “put on” comes from two Greek words which mean “in” + “under.” Literally it is used of coming under or putting on a garment. Here it is used figuratively to “put on Christ,” which has the sense of “to be like Christ in his character.” I am to be like Jesus in life. When people see me, they should recognize Christ’s character.
In contrast to this positive command of “put on” is the negative command “put off.” Specifically the text says “make no provision for the flesh.” In light of the grammar, it means literally, “stop planning ahead so as to satisfy the desires of your sinful nature.”
Since Paul said “stop,” he is aware that the readers were still struggling in this area. This also implies that Christians today can struggle with this. I also found it helpful to notice that the word translated “provision” is describing “thinking about and planning for the fulfillment of their sinful desires.” Paul goes so far as to tell the readers that they are lazy in their thinking because they are thinking and planning in their minds to fulfill their sinful desires and they need to stop!
As a whole, this verse could be translated “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, as a man puts on a garment, and stop living a life in which your first thought is to gratify the desires of Christless human nature” (Augustine).
Father, this challenge today is a great reminder for me to consciously strive to live life as though I am “putting on” Christ’s character. It also is a strong reminder that I should “put off,” or not be lax in my thinking. I must stop allowing my thoughts to drift to thinking about my sinful passions and also planning for their fulfillment. Help me to put on Christ’s character as a way of life and also take every thought captive to your obedience. Help me through the power of your Spirit to “put off” the bad and “put on” the good.
Following Jesus with you,