Christ, the Central Figure of Christian Living in the Clothing Imagery in Romans 13:14

In this presentation, I will argue that Paul’s clothing metaphor in Romans 13:14 demonstrates that Christ is the source and goal of believers’ ethical living. Specifically, Christ is the righteous Savior who entered believers’ hearts and created their new identity and conduct by indwelling them through his Spirit (e.g., Rom 8:9; 2 Cor 13:5; Gal 2:20; 4:19; Eph 3:17; Col 1:27). I will demonstrate that Paul intended the clothing imagery to suggest that believers’ ethical living is an outward manifestation of the personality and character of Christ who inhabits them by his Spirit (Rom 14:14–15; 15:3–8; cf. Gal 3:27; Col 3:12–14; Eph 4:24; 5:2). Accordingly, this presentation will focus on the meaning and the function of the clothing metaphor in Paul’s ethical teaching within the context of Romans.

This presentation will allow Christians to appreciate the constant role of Christ in affecting believers’ ethical living in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit. Further, by examining Paul’s garment metaphor in Romans, which has received less attention in the scholarship of Paul’s ethics, this presentation will provide a modest contribution to the field.

I will develop this presentation by completing a thorough exegesis of Romans 13:14 within the context of the letter, with some background research on clothing imagery in the Jewish and Greco-Roman literature and the early church fathers’ interpretation of the imagery in Romans 13:14. First, I will show that the clothing imagery reflects Paul’s understanding of Christ as the foundation of believers’ new life (Rom 5:12–21; 6:1–14). Second, I will show that the imagery implies Christ’s constant role in believers’ ethical living in association with his Spirit’s work (Rom 8:9–14, 15–16; Gal 2:20; 4:6; 5:16). Third, I will demonstrate that the imagery links to believers’ conformity to the image of the Son in Romans 8:29, which is the goal of Christian living in Paul (cf. 2 Cor 3:18).

In this presentation, I will interact with Jung Hoon Kim’s The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus (2004), an extensive work on Paul’s clothing metaphors in his letters. For Christological emphasis on Paul’s ethics, I will interact with Victor Furnish’s Theology and Ethics in Paul (1968; repr. 2009), Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996), and Grant Macaskill’s Living in Union with Christ: Paul’s Gospel and Christian Moral Identity (2019). Michael Thompson’s Clothed with Christ (1991) and Richard Burridge’s Imitating Jesus (2007) will serve as fruitful conversational partners regarding Christ’s exemplary roles in believers’ moral conduct. Finally, I will discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s ethics through Volker Rabens’s The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul (2014) and Jarvis Williams’s The Spirit, Ethics, and Eternal Life (2023).

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