“…clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”
Many times the Bible uses the term “clothe” as a metaphor to illustrate a spiritual concept. Webster’s defines clothe as to dress or to be endowed especially with power or a quality. In our natural state we would not go out of the the house without having on the proper clothing depending on the time of season. In the spring and summer months you may wear lighter clothing because of the heat, and in the fall and winter months we begin to put on more warmer clothing to protect us from the cold. This year we have experienced different or unusual weather patterns or temperatures.
The Bible has a surprising amount to say about clothing. Right from the beginning, after the Fall, Adam and Eve became aware of being “undressed.” A loving Father chooses to provides for them in their nakedness. Scripture uses metaphor all the time in order to illustrate spiritual concepts and one such metaphor is clothing.
In the Old Testament, clean garments symbolized the children of Israel’s right standing with God, otherwise the covenant could not have been established. In Exodus 19:10-14, the people were instructed to consecrate themselves and “wash their garments” in preparation for the Lord’s coming on Mt. Sinai.
In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, Paul further uses the clothing metaphor when he tells the Corinthians that they do not want to be “found naked,” and that they must be “clothed” because they all were going to “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Obviously, Paul’s point was not that the Corinthians needed physical clothing of some kind, rather he was telling them to make sure that they were in a right standing with God at the judgment. This is identical to the concern of Adam and Eve when they were naked before God They were afraid that God would find them naked, just as Paul is warning here in Corinthians 5?
In Galatians 3:27, Paul uses the phrase “put on” in reference to clothing oneself in Christ: “have clothed yourselves”; ”like putting on new clothes”; “have clothed yourselves.”
Obviously, it’s important as New Testament believers that we “put on” the new self “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24), so that the world will know our true identity in Him and be drawn to the light of the gospel message.
Today, in many ways we have uncovered or unclothed ourselves by following after the world’s way of doing things. Colossians 3:9-10 says that as Christians we should have taken off the old self with its sinful practices putting aside such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language and being renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator which is our true identity. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. It doesn’t matter if you are African-American, White, Hispanic, Asian, or Indian. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, imprisoned or free. We are to accept one another, just as Christ accepted us, in order to bring glory to God (Rom15:7).
If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, He is all that matters, and He lives in all of us. God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved are to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We’re supposed to make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends us, remembering that the Lord forgave us, so we must forgive others (Colossians 3:11-13). I don’t believe this is optional. Proverbs 19:11, “A man’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.”
Oh, how I pray we get this. With so much divisiveness and lack of civility today on many fronts, politics, church, government, etc. we would do well to remember this. While government officials, church leaders, and other people are being hostile towards one another, people are homeless and living in impoverished conditions even though the economy may be doing well. Many are dying of opioid addiction leaving families shattered by the unnecessary loss of a loved one. The family (which God loves) is being destroyed through divorce and separation. Children and adults are being trafficked for sexual pleasure and enslaved for cheap labor. People, including children, are confused about their gender and identity. There is something wrong with this picture. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. God is the giver of life. He never intended life to be this way.
There is an humanitarian crisis taking place in Mexico as immigrants are hoping for asylum while the world watches to see what will happen. Yet, no one want’s to put on compassionate hearts, kindness or patience to help these poor people. Instead, they are being accused and judged by those who do not understand their plight. Yet, God understands. He is concerned about the homeless, the destitute, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (Deut. 10:18, Ps. 94:6, Ps. 146:9). He rescues the poor who cry for help, and the fatherless who has no one to assist them (Job 29:12). It so much easier to today to judge rather than to show compassion. Romans 15:1-2 says, “that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
My spirit is grieved seeing so much divisiveness, discord, racial tension, immorality, hatred, and wickedness in the world. The Church has the answer if we would only come out of our religious traditions. In the Book of Revelation the Lord had much to say to the seven churches and it wasn’t all pleasing.
At the end of Revelation 3, where as a part of the severe letter to Laodicea, Christ points out that the church in Laodicea was wealthy in temporal terms, but the in spiritual terms had no clothes:
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen . . .” (Rev. 3:17-18).
Clearly, the metaphor of clothing is incredibly important and as Revelation 3:22 says, we need to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Therefore, to misunderstand the meaning of the garment metaphor is to run the risk of misunderstanding a large portion of what the Spirit is saying to the church about how we dress ourselves as Christ’s body (Eph. 4:16, Col. 1:18, Col 3:14-16).
It’s time for the church to awaken from it’s spirit of slumber. The church has the reputation of being alive, yet, in many ways Church is dead when it comes to making an impact for the Kingdom of God. We must wake up and strengthen what remains. The greater works Jesus commanded is not complete (Rev. 3:1-22). Let us wake up and move beyond the elementary teachings of Christ and step into the powerful body of believers we are called to be so Christ can shine on His Church.
Awake o sleeper! “Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, …” (Isa. 52:1).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Note: All Scriptures are taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.