In Romans 13:12, Paul employs a striking image when he encourages Christians to put on the “armor of light.” Armor in that day was carefully designed to protect its wearer through covering every vulnerable place with iron and leather. Further, soldiers were outfitted with helmet, spear, shield, and sword—weapons that allowed both offensive and defensive strategies. A Roman soldier demonstrated the power of the empire by his well-crafted armor.
In this passage, Paul is contrasting works that arise out of “darkness” with the works that express new life in Christ. One who has put on Christ will live honorably, fulfilling the law of love through putting aside behaviors that ensnare those who have not awakened from the sleep of sinfulness. Verse three of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s great hymn God of Grace and God of Glory captures the sense of this text in the line: “Armored with all Christ-like graces…” It is a bold contention that one can be sufficiently armed with the light of truth, righteous actions, and unflagging trust in the power of love. It was counter-cultural when Paul wrote these words; it is counter-cultural now.
One of the tasks of the seminary is to equip with “weapons of light.” Learning the ways of Christ in community, burnishing the sword of the Spirit (Holy Scripture), and practicing faithful ministry forms ministers who are “armored with all Christ-like graces.” Such is the vocation of theological education.