Romans 13:12b–13 —A change of clothes.
Now Paul adds a clothing metaphor. Having awakened from sleep (ceased conforming to the ways of the world), Christians take off their nightclothes and put on garments suitable for the day. This daytime attire is, surprisingly, armor.
13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
My previous message quoted from 1 Thessalonians where Paul first used the clothing metaphor: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (5:8). Christians need this protective gear because we are opposed by a scheming devil. Our spiritual armor equips us to stand strong in the Lord “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:10–18).
Paul exhorts us to live properly (meaning decently and honorably) “as in the daytime.” Although we inhabit a darkened world that has succumbed to evil, we belong to the day. We are to live as if the “day of the Lord” has already come.
Deeds of darkness
Not since chapter 1 has Paul listed particular sins, and here is another list in three sets of pairs.
Orgies and drunkenness. NASB and NIV translate this first pair as “carousing and drunkenness,” but ESV’s “orgies” suggests sexual immorality, which seems to be Paul’s point. Charles Swindoll says, “These words refer specifically to wild, nighttime festivals in honor of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, which began with a drunken parade through the streets and ended with sexual immorality.”
Sexual immorality and sensuality. This pair extends the meaning of the first, as Paul gives these sins special attention. NASB has “sexual promiscuity and sensuality.” Because Paul is on the verge of addressing the tension between Jews and Gentiles in the church in Rome, he may be warning Gentiles to avoid even the appearance of continuing their immoral pagan practices that so offended the Jewish believers.
Quarreling and jealousy. Fighting naturally follows drunkenness, as does sexual immorality, so Paul likely suggests a progression as one pair of sins leads to another.
The deception of lesser pleasures
The last three verses of chapter 13 played a role in the conversion of a young man who became an important figure in the history of the church. I will tell of Augustine in my next message. For now I close with this classic quote by C.S. Lewis: