Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: Colossians 3
Text: Romans 13:11-14
Living in the Already and the Not Yet
Colossians 3New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Put On the New Self
3 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 [a]Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore [b]consider the members of your earthly body as dead to [c]immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which [d]amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come [e]upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living [f]in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 [g]Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old [h]self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being [i]renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, [j]barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and [k]patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is [l]the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ [m]rule in your hearts, to which [n]indeed you were called in one body; and [o]be thankful. 16 Let the word of [p]Christ richly dwell within you, [q]with all wisdom teaching and admonishing [r]one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing [s]with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing [t]to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters [u]on earth, not with [v]external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work [w]heartily, as for the Lord [x]rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward [y]of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and [z]that without partiality.
Romans 13:11-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now [a]salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us [b]behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
Living in the Already and the Not Yet
Reading: Colossians 3, Text: Romans 13:11-14
So far in chapters 12 and 13 Paul has been setting out rules for Christian conduct the basic premise of these rules being love. Our response to God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christy is to love; love God, love one-another, love our neighbour at large whoever that might be and including the governing authorities, even loving our enemies. Remember that love finds it content in obedience to the law.
Here in these last three verses of chapter 13 we are given another reason why we are to love God and our neighbour and that is because we live in the last days, in the already and not yet and because as Paul says salvation is at hand.
The term already – not yet is often used by Anthony Hoekema in his book The Bible and the Future. to describe the tension we experience between the present and the future and this life and the next. The Struggle between our old nature and the new life. Salvation now and salvation in the future
Here in Romans 13:11-14 this tension is alleviated by helping is better understand the already and the not yet of our new life in Christ and the importance of living in anticipation of the life to come.
1. The already.
Paul wrote in verse 11. Do this knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
The Bible speaks of salvation both in the present and the future tense. ‘The already focuses on the present. For example, throughout this letter to the Romans we’ve been reminded of the fact that those who believe in Jesus are already saved. This is pointed out in Paul’s teaching on justification. Though we fall short of God’s glory we are justified by grace through faith in Christ. It is also pointed out in Paul’s teaching on righteousness. Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Further on in Romans 4 Paul says this is true for all believers. Furthermore in Romans 10:9 Paul wrote, If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead you shall be saved.
The first coming of Christ is another aspect of salvation in the here and now. When Christ came the kingdom of God came with new power. The sick were healed, the blind were given their sight, the deaf were made to hear, the lame could walk and the good news was preached with the result that many entered the kingdom of God through repentance and faith. As well as that gospel of the kingdom had a transformative effect on the cultures or civilisations it reached and had influence in, such as our own country here in New Zealand. The grace of the gospel doesn’t destroy civilisation but restores it. Similarly God doesn’t destroy his works in creation but purifies his work from sin and perfects it.
Furthermore kingdom work will have significance not just for this life but also the life to come.
1 Corinthians 3:10ff teaches that a person may build on the foundation that is Jesus Christ with lasting materials such as gold silver or precious stones so that after the return of Christ and in the new heavens and new earth his or her work may survive and that person will receive a reward. Revelation 14:13 also mentions the deeds which follow those who have died in the Lord. In other words what we do for the kingdom of God in this life will have significance in the world to come.
But then some ask what about the things of value that non-Christians do? Are all of their products worthless just because they’re not Christian and they haven’t performed their work to the glory of God?
No,… according to God’s common grace even unregenerate people can make a valuable contribution to this present world. For example in his Institutes of Christian religion 2.2.15 John Calvin asserts that “human competence in art and science derives from the Spirit of God.” He further maintains that “All truth is from God. If wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not reject it for it has come from God. … and … Whenever we come to these matters in secular writers, let that admirable truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man though fallen and perverted from its wholeness is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth we shall neither reject the truth nor despise it whenever it appears, lest we dishonour the Spirit of God.”
So an aspect of the salvation we enjoy now is not only our justification and our sanctification but also the wider beneficent effects of the gospel in society. The gospel not only converts and saves the elect but it also restrains evil and makes social conditions conducive towards advances in science and the arts and for the benefit of all humankind
So this is part of our present realised eschatology; the already aspect of our salvation and the great blessing of the gospel in this life. We have God to thank for that. Christ is reigning now and putting all his enemies under his feet. You and I enjoy the benefits of his reign not just as those who know Jesus as Lord and saviour but also as those who share in and help bring about the many changes for good the gospel and the Holy Spirit has produced in our lives which brings me to my second point.
2. The Not Yet.
In text Paul describes salvation as something which also lies in the future and that each day it is coming closer.
“The day is at hand” it says. Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul made similar statements such as 1 Corinthians 7:29 which says “the time has been shortened” or 1 Corinthians 10:11 which says “These things were written for our instruction… upon whom the end of the ages has come”. In fact a dominant theme throughout the whole New Testament is the expectation of the return of Christ. And so Christ’s teaching and the apostles preaching made many think that the second coming of Christ would happen in their own generation.
Well it’s been 2,000 years and Christ hasn’t returned. Is it all a fiction? Was Paul mistaken? According to the turn of the 20th century theologian Dr. Albert Schweitzer both Jesus and Paul must have been mistaken when they predicted the imminent return of Christ. Schweitzer reasoned that when Jesus went to the cross and died there he was an utterly disillusioned man. The Kingdom he came to bring didn’t eventuate. There will be no second coming and no new heavens and no new earth.
The practical result of Schweitzer’s view which is essentially a liberal view of Scripture is that what we have now is it. The church will keep going as it is. Instead of the church living between the first and second comings of Christ, the church is on a long line of historical continuity, striving to bring about change for better in the world until hopefully, the world reaches a golden age of widespread peace sometime in the future.
It comes back to the question what is truth and how can we know this truth? Can we reason our way to the truth? We’re not really on a firm foundation there. Human reason is always going to be flawed because of the effects of sin on the mind. Let God be true and every man a liar. We are on a far firmer foundation if we make God our starting point. He exists. He has spoken and the Bible is his inspired word therefore the Bible is true. What the Bible says about Jesus and the kingdom and the future is vastly different from the liberal rationalistic world and life view.
So how then should we interpret the nearness of Christ second coming and the many times the word “soon” is used to describe that coming? There is one passage which speaks clearly about that and that is 2 Peter 3:8 which says “Do not ignore this one fact beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day.” And then it says The Lord is not slow as some count slowness but is patient, not wishing that anyone should perish but that all should reach repentance.” So we need to wait patiently.
So while we wait for that day we continue to live in the last days and the not yet, waiting for the return of Christ. We’re waiting for the fulfilment of all the promises of God, for all the elect to come to repentance, for the consummation of the kingdom of God and for our final salvation. Then when the waiting is over we’ll receive the inheritance God has promised us; a new heavens and a new earth. This is our future, the ‘not yet’ aspect of our salvation.
What will that be like?
The Biblical passages which speak of the New Earth include Isaiah 65, “For I create a new heavens and a new earth and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create.” There’s also 2 Peter 3:13 which says “But according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwell. And then there’s Revelation 21.
(Read Revelation 21:1-5 together)
a) In that passage we see that the New Jerusalem represents the glorified church which comes down out of heaven to the earth. So that means New Jerusalem or the glorified church won’t be far off in ‘heaven’ somewhere but will spend eternity on the New Earth. From verse three we learn that the dwelling place of God will no longer be away from the earth but on the earth and with all of God’s children.
So there will no longer be this barrier between God and us where were are one dimension in time and space and God and the angels exist in another dimension which we can’t see. God will live with us. We will see the face of Jesus according to Revelation 22:4. We will have unbroken fellowship with God and the people of God including loved ones who have long since passed away.
b) In verse 24 its says, “the nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” We can take that to mean that those things in this present life that have been of value, are noble, pure, excellent, lovely of good repute, worthy of praise and so on will be seen in the life to come. Abraham Kuyper also has the view that the dominion we were originally meant to have over creation will continue in perfection on the New Earth and therefore that dominion and knowledge we’ve gained over creation till now, can and will be of continued significance in the kingdom of glory.
However, many today are convinced that we are destroying the world through over population and pollution. Who knows when and where another terrorist is going to mow down or slash at unsuspecting bystanders with whatever they can use to maim and kill as many as possible? What kind of leaders will rule world powers in the future? Well as bleak as the outlook for this world may seem God’s promises stand.
We walk by faith in the God whose promise has always been” I will be their God and they will be my people and I will make my dwelling with them.” We have that now, in part in the church and with the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our midst strengthening sustaining the church. But we look forward to the not yet; salvation in all its fullness on the new earth and that will be so much better.
Now does that mean that we do nothing about the problems of this world now? Can we just sit back and write this present world off as a total loss?
No. Our Christian life now, our struggles against sin in and around us now, our mission work, our attempts to have a Christian influence in our communities, have value not only in this life but in the life to come. That takes us to my third point;
3 How then shall we live? Paul wrote, “The night is almost gone the day is at hand let us therefore set aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.”
a) That tells us that we ought to live in anticipation and even with a sense of urgency. Life can be a struggle there is evil in the world and we struggle with our own sin and infirmities. The word Paul uses to describe this struggle is night. But the night is growing into the day figuratively speaking. When it comes to our struggle against sin it’s as if the faint light of the rising of the sun is just visible on the horizon and in half an hour or so the landscape will be bathed in the light of the morning sun.
Dawn is about to break the struggle with sin will soon be over.
So we see what Paul is getting at. He is urging us to live with a keen sense of anticipation as through Christ is going to return soon and we need to be ready for his imminent return. How?
b) Paul continues, “Lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light” In other words don’t live as though the first coming of Christ never happened as though the resurrection never happened and as through the Bible isn’t true. That’s living a lie because we’re all enjoying the blessings of the gospel now, we’ve been raised with Christ now, and therefore we’re called to put on the new self now as Paul puts it in Colossians 3.
So when the dawn breaks and the day is about to begin what do we need to do? We need to get up and get dressed. That means taking off our night clothes which is Paul’s analogy for “the deeds of darkness” and put on our day clothes, his analogy for “the armour of light”. And why do we need the armour of light? Ephesians 6:11 provides the answer where it says “Put on the full armour of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
Paul continues verse 13, “Let us behave properly as in the day, not carousing in drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality not in strife and jealousy.” According to the historian Scott LaTourette this passage at the end of Romans chapter 13 was used by God to turn 5th century church father, Augustine’s life around. Although Augustine was brought up to be a Christian by his mother (he had an indifferent father) he turned away from the faith in his youth and lived a life of sin, fathering illegitimate children and living recklessly. All the while his mother Monica was praying. One day Augustine picked up the Bible and came to the end of Romans 13. He was convicted by the Holy Spirit who turned his life around and Augustin become a Christian.
So, how then shall we live?
We live in the already and the not yet but who knows when Christ will return who knows when our days on earth will come to an end? Therefore live with a sense of anticipation. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the lust of the flesh. We know what we have to put off. But we must also put on Christ to replace the old with the new so that our lives resemble more and more the character of Christ rather than the old sinful nature.
That doesn’t mean there will never be tension. Sometimes we see stuff in our lives that is more like the old sinful nature rather than like Christ’s nature and so putting on Christ is an ongoing journey of trusting in Christ for that free gift of salvation and then always living by faith in Him. Live by faith God who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth and who at the end of history has promised us a new heaven and a new earth.
At the centre of history is the Lord Jesus Christ; the Lamb who was slain; the first born from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. We live by faith in him.