Anyone who violates Gods moral standards as flagrantly as was apparently being done in Rome (v13) has lost most or all of their fear of God. Any real expectation that they will be held accountable for their actions must have receded in their thinking so far into the future that it no longer had any power to restrain their behavior. Jesus made it abundantly clear how He wants His disciples to think. He said, But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mt 24:36). Then He gave us several examples of people being caught off-guard by the sudden arrival of Gods judgment (Mt 24:36-51). Basically, He tells us you dont know when Ill return, so live each day as if I might arrive at any minute, because when I do come I will evaluate your lifestyle and judge those whose behavior proves them to be hypocrites.
What did Paul know?
Paul himself did not know when Jesus is coming back. He knew prophetic signs to look for (2Th 2:1-12), and because the antichrist spirit expresses itself in every age, some more than others, he recognized expressions of it taking place in the age in which he lived (1Ti 4:1-3, 2Ti 3:1-5). In obedience to his Lords command he too lived in constant expectation of Jesus sudden return (1Co 16:22; 1Th 4:13-5:11). And since he wrote this letter around 58AD he knew that day was at least decades closer than it had been on the day Jesus ascended into heaven (Ac 1:9-11).
Paul wanted believers in Rome to have this same expectation but some, like the young women in Jesus parable, had apparently fallen asleep waiting for the Bridegrooms return (Mt 25:5). They were no longer watching for Him with faith burning brightly in their hearts. They felt little urgency to repent because in their minds His return was so far in the future they did not need to prepare for it. To correct this attitude Paul tells them to recognize the season in which they were living. It was and still is the hour in Gods plan when it is possible to awaken from this kind of spiritual stupor. To put it in Isaiahs words, we are in the favorable year of the Lord (Isa 61:2; Lk 4:19). Gods mercy is readily available, but the day of vengeance of our God (Isa 61:2) is sure to follow when only His justice will be administered. Those who had become lawless in Rome needed to recognize the spiritual season they were in. Grace was still available if they would repent, but such grace would not be available forever.
For now our salvation is closer than when we believed. Paul wanted them to see that the prophetic clock is ticking. The night of unbelief and evil had notably progressed which, in a manner similar to the cycle of night and day, meant Gods sunrise had also drawn closer. He warned them the day has drawn near
referring to the return of Christ at which He will bring to light everything that has been hidden so it can be judged.
Deeds of darkness
When he describes the deeds of darkness which some of those in Rome needed to lay aside he uses such vivid terms that it seems obvious there must have been a specific problem he was trying to correct. He uses six words which taken together picture a very common human situation.
1) (komos): what often happens after people get drunk. It was used to describe drinking parties that went until late at night and tended to end up with people having sex (Gal 5:21; 1Pe 4:3).
2) (methe): to become drunk, intoxicated (Mt 24:49; Ac 2:15; 1Co 5:11; 11:21; Gal 5:21; 1Th 5:7).
3) (koite): literally means a place where people lie down, in other words a bed. And the way he is using it here means to have sex with someone other than your spouse.
4) (aselgeia): wild, shameless, indecent conduct (2Co 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19). Peter uses this term to describe the behaviors of those living just before the flood in Noahs time and of those in Sodom and Gomorrah (2Pe 2:2, 7). Later he uses the term again saying that false teachers of his day were leading people into this type of sin (2Pe 2:18-20).
5) (eris): angry quarreling (Ro 1:29; 1Co 1:11; 3:3; 2Co 12:20; Gal 5:20).
6) (zelos): the jealousy that seeps into hearts and can breed hatred toward certain individuals (Ac 5:17; 13:45; 1Co 3:3; 2Co 12:20; Gal 5:20; Jas 3:14).
One of the things we rightly emphasize when we proclaim the gospel is that Jesus has paid for all our sins on the cross, and therefore we will not be condemned. But because its a bit confusing and makes us uncomfortable we tend to ignore the fact that each of us must still stand before the Lord to give account for our lives. The same light of complete knowledge that shines on the deeds and decisions of the unbeliever will also shine into the recesses of our hearts to reveal whats hidden there. True faith or the lack of it will be exposed. Why we did or did not do something will be exposed. And if real faith is present God will give us His mercy even if there has been much failure. But that does not mean the process will be easy. He will justly evaluate us as stewards. Did love or some other motive inspire our actions? Did we proclaim His truth or simply tell people what they wanted to hear? Paul says the fire of that day will consume everything that is false and will leave standing only that which is true.
Ro 14:10-12, Ro 2:14-16
1Co 3:10-15, 4:1-5
2Co 5:9, 10
So, what do I do if I realize Ive fallen asleep and have areas in my life where I am practicing deeds of darkness? Thankfully Paul has given me a simple series of steps to follow:
1) v11: it is the hour for you to awaken. I need to remember theres still time to repent.
2) v12: the night is almost gone. I need to realize that the Lords return is closer than I think. I must obey quickly. Nothing I do will be hidden from Him.
3) v13: behave properly as in the day. I must not decide what is right and wrong based on the dying world around me. Instead Ill ask: Would I do this if Jesus were here? Will I be doing things like this in the age to come?
4) v14: put on the Lord Jesus Christ. I will remember that I am not in this alone, I have been spiritually joined to Jesus Christ which means His death continually pays for my sin and His resurrection gives me the indwelling Spirit to strengthen me so I can put to death the deeds of the flesh (Ro 8:13; Gal 5:24).
5) v14: Whenever I catch myself making plans to sin, Ill stop and refuse to continue. Ill make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
1) Describe a time when you put on the Lord Jesus Christ. What steps did you take? How did the Lord help you?
2) Name an area where you feel the tension between how the world around you thinks or behaves and what God says is right or wrong.