Mark Twain famously wrote, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” As silly as that statement may be, it actually has a profound spiritual application. Certainly, a lesson could be taken concerning physical clothing and the subject of modesty, for it seems that nearly-naked people are having too much influence on society these days. However, there is an even better application pertaining to the spiritual adornment of Christians.
The figure of clothing is used frequently in the New Testament to describe the spiritual nature, character, and hope of Christians. The idea of these figures is that Christians are to wrap themselves in the things represented. Just as clothing covers and adorns the physical body, so also the spiritual elements expressed in these figures of clothing cover and adorn the character and soul of Christians. We are to put on these things just as we would put a suit of clothes or a dress.
First and foremost among a Christian’s clothing is Christ Jesus Himself. In Galatians 3:27, Paul wrote, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” At the point of baptism, a believer in Jesus wraps the mantle of Christ around himself as he takes on the distinct character of a son of God. In this way, he will "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14). By putting on Christ as a garment, a Christian changes his character into the image of Jesus, bearing the fruit of the Spirit and putting away the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-26). This point is further expounded in Ephesians 4:24, which says, "[P]ut on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” This "new self” is like a new set of clothes that replaces the old, filthy rags that a sinner wore before he turned to the Lord. Through Jesus Christ, this former sinner has now "put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:10).
Having been clothed in Christ, a Christian puts on the individual traits of the Lord like the parts of a uniform. Paul described some of these parts in Colossians 3:12-14:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Each of these spiritual garments serves to clothe a Christian in Christ-like character. Peter likewise tells Christians to "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1Pet. 5:5). Peter also gives specific instructions to women, saying that their adornment should "be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1Pet. 3:4).
Our clothing in Christ also takes on the form of armor for equipping us in the fight against Satan. This theme is common in the New Testament epistles. In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul gives a thorough description of the "armor of God,” which consists of truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God. These implements of war will enable us to "stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Other references to this spiritual armor are found in Romans 13:12 and 1Thessalonians 5:8.
The spiritual adornment of a Christian in this life is glorious, and it brings glory to God, but the most glorious clothing of the saved will be put on in the life to come and worn for eternity. In speaking of the flesh as a house and a tent, Paul wrote:
For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. (2Cor. 5:2-4)
Immortality will be the final, eternal clothing of those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ. At the resurrection, we will trade in the decayed clothing of the flesh for a spiritual body, as Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 15:53-54:
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Therefore, we must seek to make our spiritual clothing complete in Jesus Christ. Just as it is inappropriate to go about with our bodies naked or even half dressed, so also it is inappropriate for a Christian to only partially clothe himself in the spiritual garments of Christ. So then, let us put on all of Christ in this life so that He will clothe us in shining white garments for eternity (Rev. 3:5, 18).
Stacey E. Durham
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