The word “clothed” in the text before us is used of putting on a garment such as John the Baptist being “clothed with camel’s hair” (Mark 1:6) or the father clothing the prodigal son with his “best robe” (Luke 15:22) or of Herod being “arrayed in royal apparel” (Acts 12:21). Throughout the Gospels and Acts it is used almost exclusively in this way of putting on a physical garment.
Paul, however, uses it to describe the Christian life. In fact apart from Revelation 1:13; 15:6 and 19:14 Paul is the only writer to use the word once we leave the Gospels and Acts. I have listed each of the occurrences by its grammatical description. Once you look at the grammatical description certain elements become evident.
Aorist Middle Imperative
Romans 13:14 “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
Colossians 3:12 “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Aorist Middle Indicative
Galatians 3:27 “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Aorist Middle Infinitive
Ephesians 4:24 “And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Aorist Middle Participle
Ephesians 6:14 “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”
Colossians 3:10 “And have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
1 Thessalonians 5:8 “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
Observations concerning their grammatical description
First, they are all aorist in tense. The action of putting on is being looked at as a whole. As something that is a point in time. The middle voice tells us that we do this to ourselves. The various “moods” (i.e., imperative, indicative, infinitive, and participle) stress certain actions in time.
Observations concerning their theological application
The passages suggest there is an action we are to be doing today, right now. Yet the tense suggests that this is something already done. So how do we reconcile these two thoughts? First, I believe we clothed ourselves with Christ the moment we believed. At that moment in time we were baptized into the body of Christ and thus put on His righteousness.
The song writer wrote well when he said, “When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found: Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne” (The Solid Rock).
Thus I am, right now, clothed with the very righteousness of Christ. So why am I now being called upon to put on Christ? Paul’s exhortation is for us to practice our position. Paul wants us to intentionally live in the reality of Him. He wants us to show Christ through these earthen vessels to those around us. No action on my part can add to or take away from the righteousness that I already have and am in Him. My earthen vessel is simply the screen upon which His righteousness is being seen, it is the billboard that displays His righteousness to others. That is what Paul is encouraging us to do. Show the Christ who is in you, through you, to those who are around you.
How exciting to think that right now I have been clothed with the real righteousness of Christ. As a believer, you and I are righteous. May we thrill at every display of His righteousness through us. And again, as always, “grace to you and peace.”