In overcoming the sins of the flesh, the apostle Paul made use of an interesting term in order to describe what this process was like. To his way of thinking, the believer’s life was to be clothed with the Messiah, as if the righteous example and deeds of the Messiah were something to be put on, like you might put on a robe or suit of armor.
Romans 13:12-14 – The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Yeshua Messiah, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.
This thinking is likely the result of Yeshua’s teaching of the empowerment of the holy Spirit. In this respect, the empowerment of the Spirit of God was something that occurred to the individual from outside of themselves; it was bestowed upon them from God.
Luke 24:49 – “And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
This event, of course, was the day of Pentecost that first early summer after Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection. Yeshua describes it as being clothed with power from on high (that is, from God). We see this event being described in the book of Acts:
Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
Paul captures this same imagery and uses it to describe the believers’ unity they have because of this operation of God in their lives.
Galatians 3:26-28 – for through faith you are all sons of God in Messiah Yeshua. For those of you who were baptized into Messiah have been clothed with Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
This operation of God has set them apart in holiness. They are now a collective of individuals who have specific purpose in growing the Kingdom of God. But they can only do this as they continue to walk in this holiness, this set-apartness.
So Paul then takes this imagery of being clothed with power from on high and carries the metaphor into the practical aspects of overcoming sin in their lives.
Ephesians 4:20-24 – But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new man, created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.
He encourages the believers to rely on that empowerment they have received as the tool by which their lives will be changed.
Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.
Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14 – Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with its practices and have put on the new, the one being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. … Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all these is the love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
These qualities and practices he is urging them to “put on” are the qualities and practices evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.
Romans 8:5, 12-14 – For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. … So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.
The full context of Romans 8:1-17 is all about living by the empowering of God’s Spirit to overcome the sinful practices that have separated them from God. When they do so, Paul says, they demonstrate they are truly God’s children. God’s children walk in holiness or set-apartness because they are yielding obediently to God’s leading and they are empowered by God to do so.
In a similar way, when we learn to rely on God’s Spirit to overcome the sinful works of the flesh, we demonstrate that we are God’s children to a world that needs to know him. Our being set apart by God is not only for our benefit, but so that others can see how God’s standards are possible to live out in this life. Those who are compelled by our walk of obedience can then also experience this work in their lives and are then empowered to influence others. In this way, each generation carries forward the heritage of faith in Messiah until it ultimately fills the earth.
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