Over the years and with each new generation opinions about what to wear to church have proven controversial, from mildly so to downright antagonistic and have ranged from dressing-up in one’s Sunday’s best to extreme casual.
In fact, this issue was prominent during the Jesus Movement (late 60’s to early 70’s) when scores of hippies were saved and attended church in their less than conventional attire to which some churches took great exception and basically said “dress appropriately or leave”. And leave they did which gave rise to Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel where they were welcomed with open arms. We know the rest of the story, how Calvary Chapels are now almost as ubiquitous as Starbuck’s and still maintain a ‘come as you are’ philosophy, at least the one’s I’m familiar with.
The point is that focusing on externals as opposed to inward, spiritual transformation has always been an issue with Christians, as it was for the Jews of Jesus’ day, because it is easier to changes one’s clothes, hair-style, or hem-line than it is to change one’s life. There is, however, an appropriate Christian uniform we all should wear that displays character and action, virtuous living and fierce battle, taking the offensive while also defending what is right and just. It has nothing to do with outward appearances but everything to do with victorious Christian living.
A favorite phrase of Paul is “put off” and “put on” which, according to the Greek verbs, means ‘changing clothes’. The “putting off” is connected with evil, darkness or sinful behavior while “putting on” refers to Christian power, virtue and a changed life in Christ, or even Christ Himself. Consider the following verses that make this point:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53 italics mine NKJV)
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:26-27 italics mine NKJV)
“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have herd Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24 italics mine NKJV)
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11 italics mine NKJV)
Echoing Eph. 6:11 a final striking example is Romans 13:12 (italics mine NKJV) where Paul tells us to “…cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (ὅπλα τοῦ φωτός) and will mark the beginning of a series on what the proper wardrobe for believers might look like.Romans 13:12 is one of several where Paul uses the word ‘armor’. Unlike Eph. 6 this reference to ‘armor of light’ hasn’t have been so widely commented on, probably because there isn’t much information in the passage itself about exactly what Paul meant. But there is enough in other passages to glean some wonderful ideas, so here we go.
First off, consider some observations about ‘armor’ itself. It needs to be forged, or sewn together depending in what it’s made of; it is used for both defense and offense; it provides protection; it identifies the wearer as one engaged, or about to be, in heated battle; it can be taken off and put back on; there is skill involved in its proper use, and, finally, it must be regularly maintained.
Of these facts about armor in general, it is the idea of armor being forged that catches my attention because forging armor made of light seems the exclusive domain of light’s Creator. It stands to reason, then, that this armor possesses an almost indescribable radiance and/or brightness (φωτεινός) very much like the radiance associated with the appearance of angels and, most dramatically, in the transfiguration of Jesus. One feature of this transfiguration noted by Mark is a profound radiance emanating from Him and that His clothes were whiter than any earthly ‘laundry’ could ever approximate together signifying purity, holiness and other-worldly transcendence.
It seems to me, then, that the terms ‘darkness” and ‘light” are not just metaphors, although they can be; I rather think they have a substantial structure that can, sometimes, be ‘felt’ directly by our senses in the natural world and most certainly by the demonic (see Matt. 8: 28-34).
So, for example, that light and darkness can be instantiated in the believer is evidenced by Eph. 5:8: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Here we are to actualize what is already true about us further evidenced by Col. 1:12-13: “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,…” (NASB)
There is, then, something already ‘heavenly’ about us and it can, and should, be steadily increasing. This armor of light we can ‘put on’ is just one example.
More to come soon in this series.
© W.G.Ryzek 2013