While attending Montana State University in Bozeman, I got involved in what we called “COLLYP” (College Young People) at Grace Baptist/Bible Church. We had about 50 students from MSU that participated and over the four and 1/4 years that I was there, we grew very close and I made some good friends. Nearly every weekend we had some activity together. My sophomore or junior year we had a retreat at Luccock Park near Livingston, returning to Bozeman on a Sunday afternoon. I was due at an initiation ceremony for Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honorary, and since there was no time to go and change I just got dropped off on campus and walked into the auditorium in my shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes, sunburned and unshaved. Lo and behold, the professors were in caps and gowns and most inductees were wearing suits and ties! (Guess I didn’t get the memo!) Needless to say, I was a bit embarrassed at not being appropriately dressed.
I’m sure all of us at one time or another wondered what we should wear to a particular event or activity. We wondered how others would dress and if we would fit in or be out of place. Probably there have been times when we felt a bit out of place because of the way we were dressed, or maybe even greatly embarrassed as I was. But, in the big scheme of things, it’s no big deal. We get over it and life goes on. But, when it comes to appropriate clothing for coming into God’s presence, there is only one garment acceptable. One of the beautiful biblical metaphors of salvation is that of clothing appropriate for coming into God’s presence. In Isaiah 61:10 we read: “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD. My soul will exalt in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness…” Such clothing is not something we ourselves can make or purchase; it must be prepared and provided by God.
Adam and Eve, when they found themselves separated from fellowship with God because of disobedience, sensed their “nakedness before God” and ran and hid. They experienced guilt for the first time and were ashamed. They tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together, but to no avail (Gen. 3:7). Their Creator, now Redeemer, had to provide a covering, which He did by first slaying innocent animals and then making “garments of skins for Adam and Eve and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Notice the name used for God in that passage: “LORD God” (“Jehovah Elohim”). “Elohim” is the name used for God in the creation account (Gen. 1,2) and means “the strong, faithful, covenant-keeping God. “Jehovah” means “the holy, just, righteous God who hates sin but loves the sinner and thus provided for redemption.
So, we see that the only garment with which we can enter God’s presence is the one He Himself provides and it comes through the shedding of blood of an innocent substitute, one who dies on our behalf. We see this pattern all throughout the Old Testament as priests killed animals and applied their blood to the altar on behalf of the people. We see the word “atonement” used some 80 times in the KJV. It is a translation of the Hebrew kaphar which means literally “to cover” and figuratively “to expiate or placate or cancel; to forgive, pardon or put off.” In the New Testament we only find the word “atonement” used one time in the KJV and that is Rom. 5:11: “Through Christ we have received the atonement.” Christ’s death on the cross for our sins is referred to as “the Atonement.” It was there that the pattern, started way back in the Garden of Eden, was fulfilled, as Jesus came as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The Apostle Paul put it this way: “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). When a penitent sinner recognizes he can’t achieve his own righteousness by works, and repents and calls on the mercy of God, the Lord covers him with His own divine righteousness by grace through faith. Titus wrote: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”(Tit. 3:5-7). (Also see Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Phil. 3:7-9.)
The “garments of salvation” are invaluable yet offered at no cost to us because the Provider paid the price in full. We can be clothed in the “garments of salvation” (Christ’s righteousness) simply through faith in Him and His death for sin and His burial and resurrection (which by definition happens to be the “Gospel”—I Cor. 15:1-4). God offers redemption and reconciliation to sinners without cost, because He was completely satisfied (“propitiated”) by the price paid by His Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself for us. “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19). “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…” (Ro. 3:24,25). “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I Jn. 2:2).
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, trusting in His atonement through His death and resurrection, we become children of God (Jn. 1:12,13) and are clothed with “royal robes,” the “garments of salvation.” Tragically, many think they will be able to enter God’s presence with their own “home-made” garments of self-righteousness (their version of Adam and Eve’s “fig leaves”.) Many think that doing more good than evil deeds will get them into heaven. Others think that being religious, or belonging to a religious group or denomination or church will make them acceptable to God. But, Isa. 64:6 tells us that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (rags).” Zephaniah referred to those who had turned from the true God as those “who clothe themselves with foreign garments (KJV has strange apparel)” (Zeph. 1:7,8). Everyone without Christ’s righteousness is under the condemnation of sin and is clothed with “foreign garments” or “strange apparel.”
So, the question is, “What are you wearing?” Are you covered with the “garments of salvation” or are you still dressed in “strange apparel.” There is only one way you will be able to stand one day in God’s presence in heaven and that is to be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. I read the story about a Christian woman who had few of this world’s goods. She was soon to enter the presence of the King of Heaven. A friend sat by her side, and seeing her peace and joy, said, “Are you not afraid to go into God’s presence?” She made this reply: “No ma’am, I am too well dressed for that, since He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” What a glorious testimony. She was appropriately dressed. Are you?