Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.…
I. THE DUTY ENFORCED.
1. Toput on Christ is to endeavour to be like Him, to have Him on is to succeed in the attempt. It is the investment of the soul with the virtues which adorned His character, just as a man clothes his body with articles of dress. Many a man has so done this as to put others in mind of Christ; he was so Christlike; just as if one of His followers after His departure had put on the garments which Christ had worn. Does any one of us put others in mind of Jesus?
2. To put on Christ does not mean any mechanical attempts after mere external likeness, as clothes may be put on a lay figure, or a portrait wrought on canvas. What is meant is not so much a studied imitation of what in Him may have met the eye of observers, as the culture of a deep internal sympathy with His Spirit which manifested itself in words and deeds. You may put royal robes on a corpse, and in particular lights and distances it may seem alive. In the same way a mere simulated likeness to Christ may be put on a dead spiritual nature; but this, so far from representing Him, presents only an aggravated image of His worst enemies whom He denounced as "whited sepulchres." Christ is not to be put on over the natural man, but the natural man becoming spiritual, a visible Christ comes out as an emanation from within; just as His inward essential glory came out on the Mount of Transfiguration.
3. To put on Christ is not synonymous with the being clothed with Christ's justifying righteousness, and so hiding our sins from the sight of God; it rather refers to sanctification — a subjective participation of life through Christ, and the consequent outgrowth of conformity to Him. It comes after justification. "As many as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ," etc.
4. The precept suggests the moral perfection of Christ. No caution is given, as if there were some things which were not to be put on. There is no fear of your being too much like Him. It would not do to speak thus of any one else, however distinguished. In every other character there is something to be excepted, e.g., Abraham's duplicity, David's bloodguiltiness, etc. Nevertheless(1) There were things in Christ we cannot and must not imitate. Here we distinguish between an example and a pattern. The latter is to be literally traced, just as the engraver produces the facsimile of a painting; the former may be something whose form we cannot repeat, but whose principle we may imbibe and infuse into other acts different in form but of the same kind. Thus we cannot like Christ perform miracles, but we can cultivate the spirit of love which moved Him to do what He did. We shall not be tempted as He was; but the same parts of our nature will be assailed; and we can learn to resist as He resisted, with the sword of the Spirit. It might not be right for us to go into the company of sinners as He did, nor employ His terrible invectives; but we can cherish the spirit which led Him to seek the lost, and sympathise with His repugnance to evil. We have not Christ's personal religion which had no repentance.
(2) There were many acts of personal holiness and relative virtue which our Lord could not exercise. He was not a merchant, magistrate, or head of a household. But He embodied the principle of universal obedience, and fulfilled every obligation arising from all the relations which He could or did sustain towards God and man. This is what we are to do, and to learn from Him to do.
II. TO WHOM THE DUTY APPERTAINS. The words are addressed to a Christian Church, who have received the gospel. Those who believe in Christ, and are reconciled to God by Him, are required to put Him on. But let no man go on sinning in the supposition that some day by Divine grace he may become converted and then put on Christ. This should be remembered by the children of Christian families particularly. Let their earliest lesson be to strive to be like Christ, and after many a failure they may gradually come to a sense of forgiving mercy which will not be lessened by their endeavours before they knew the precise nature cf their obligations to Him.
III. HOW IT IS TO BE CARRIED OUT. To put on Christ there must be —
1. A thoroughly honest desire to be like Him. This needs deep consideration and prayer for the grace of the Holy Spirit.
2. A frequent and devout study of the character of Jesus in order to understand both its form and spirit.
3. A study of what Christ taught and required.
4. A deliberate and habitual effort to realise all this in personal character and life.
5. Seasons of special self-examination as to likeness or unlikeness to Christ.
6. Carefulness to guard against religious acts becoming formalities.
IV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FULFILLING THIS DUTY.
1. It constitutes the most solid and satisfactory proof of inward religion. The spiritual processes of contrition, faith, forgiveness, dec., are all inward and secret, and so there is a necessity for the practical fruits of these in likeness to Christ, to be brought forth, so that the Christian and others may have full demonstration that he is born of God.
2. It is the only way of securing that peace and comfort which specifically belong to the religious life. The peace of the sinner flows into him entirely from without; the peace of a saint from purified affections and Godlikeness, and in proportion as he puts on Christ will this be secured to him in Christ's companionship.
3. It is the great secret of spiritual strength, safety, and perseverance. The text gives us the meaning of "the armour of light."
4. It is the best preparation for the day of His coming, when they only who are like Him will be able to see Him as He is.
(T. Binney, LL.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.