I have a confession to make. I am not a morning person. I have great aspirations to be but it just doesn’t seem to work. It may have something to do with the fact that I am more prone to burn the midnight oil. I am one of those people who sets the alarm clock early so I have time to hit the snooze button a few times. I’m not a grumpy guy in the morning. I just enjoy sleeping. I remember early in high school when my dad came into to get me moving. I reached out and took his hand, tucked it under my arm and rolled away from him. I didn’t think anything of the pop I heard until I came home from school that day to find out that I had broken two of my dad’s ribs. I guess I wanted a little extra sleep that day.
Even though I like to sleep, I know how to get moving. When something has my attention, I’m all in and ready to go. Paul reminds the church in Rome that it was time to wake up from their sleep. His words clearly called the church to recognize the hour and get moving. This wasn’t an early morning wakeup call. It is something more significant than a physical alarm clock. Paul call was a deeply spiritual one that spoke to the matters of the soul.
Those who were part of the church had encountered Jesus through the ministry of the early church as it spread from its epicenter on a mountain top when Jesus gave some of his most eternity rattling directives. The church was a people who had believed in the Gospel and had stepped into a new way of living. They had been saved.
Paul’s words present an interesting perspective. He makes it clear that there is a salvation that is somewhat different than what they had received back when they had become believers. William Greathouse, in his commentary on Romans writes, “Positively, it means full entrance into all the blessings in store for the eschatological people of God.” (NBBC 194) It would seem that what happened when the people first believed is only a glimpse into a salvation that is yet to be fully revealed.
Like a groggy person after a night of slumber, there are times when we are aware of something on the horizon but until we are fully awake we can’t grasp the ramifications of a full awareness. Paul is calling the church to wake up. It is a call to open eyes, ears, minds, souls and every other possible part of their identity. Paul alludes to the fact that some within the church may have been engaged in questionable living. It wasn’t that they were just sleeping. Some were awake and living in ways that seem to thrive in the darkness of night. He paints a picture of this living in verse thirteen.
Paul’s call to the Roman church to wake up is a call to live in the light of day by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the problems of living in the night is that you tend to want to sleep in the day. Not only is this a backwards approach to living but it breeds different results. Putting on Jesus is living with Jesus as our sole motivation driving us forward. Paul is clear that people who put the flesh first have yet to wake up.
Paul’s words in these verses are a clarion call for those who have come to believe to be a people driven by the life of Christ in us. I wonder what kind of emotions lay behind these words. I am convinced that Paul had the heart of a Father and it would be words like these that would come out because of a deep seated love for his spiritual children. Parents can’t dictate what a child does (although many try.) Parents can do their best to raise a child to be compelled by the same things that parent is. There are times when children decide to choose their own way. The heart of a parent grieves over the choices their children make that take them down a path of destruction, or at least living below their God given potential. Paul, the spiritual father, longs for his children to have all that God has to offer them. But it comes at a cost. Paul wants the church in Rome to want the light that is Jesus more than the darkness the world has to offer.
In my Bible the heading to this section is “An Urgent Appeal.” While this title wasn’t available to its first readers I think that it is an appropriate heading for Paul’s words and heart. This urgent appeal is for us today. It is the cry of a church today for a world that surrounds our gatherings. Our heart should be the heart of Paul on the matter. We want the people around us to believe and to realize the salvation that has been secured for them by Jesus. Our desire isn’t only for people to escape an eternal separation from all they were created to be. Our desire is that they would realize the amazing reality of Christ in them today.
So let us wake up and lead the way. May we be that people who put on Jesus Christ. May we live today in the reality of a salvation that will be fully realized sooner than we all realize. What we encounter today is just a glimpse of what is to come. Let us be driven by this reality.