by Mike Ratliff
Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” (Isaiah 52:1-3 ESV)
The way many look at our salvation it is as if they believe that it is a work of some kind. The cry to put on strength and beautiful garments is seen as a new believer putting on something they already have. However, in Isaiah 52:1-3 we see that those being saved were in bonds. They were in a captivity into which they were not sold, but they were redeemed without money. From where does their strength and beautiful garments come?
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:1-7 ESV)
Notice that the call to come to salvation goes out, but no one responds. This call went first to the Jews but this was a general call based upon the knowledge of the Kingdom that the Jews should have understood. This is akin to preaching the Gospel to people who grew up going to church, but are so immune to the call, so hard-hearted, that they can easily turn away from the tug on the heart that Gospel causes in all. Notice their ultimate fate.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:8-14 ESV)
According to The MacArthur Bible Commentary, ancient kings often provided the proper attire to the guests at their feasts. This second group of invitees are in need of appropriate clothing. They did not own proper clothes for such a feast so they were provided to them by the king. The one who is found at the feast not wearing wedding garments has purposely rejected the king’s own gracious provision. What does this tell us? There are some who apparently accept the invitation to come to the wedding feast of the Son, to come into His Kingdom, but without acknowledging their need of the clothing only He can provide, which is the perfect righteousness of Christ (Zechariah 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Without this clothing, these interlopers cannot remain and will be cast out on Judgment Day.
The call, “Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments.” is not implying this strength or the beautiful garments are inherent in those called. No, no one is self-justified. This perfect righteousness, which is the beautiful garments, comes to believers as God justifies them, imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to their account (Romans 3:21-26). We must never forget that justifying grace is active. It demonstrates itself in good works (James 2:14;26). Those whom God saves are also sanctified. This sanctification is the process whereby Christians work out their own salvation by serving others and becoming more like their Saviour (Philippians 2:12-13). Justification and sanctification are inseparable. No one can successfully claim justification if there is no accompanying works of sanctification.
I believe it would be the most horrible thing to appear before the Lord at the Last Judgment and be found to not be wearing salvation clothes when it was believed that he or she was part of Christ’s Kingdom because of religiosity or a one time religious act.
“Let us not flatter ourselves with the empty title of faith, but let every man seriously examine himself, that at the final review he may be pronounced to be one of the lawful guests…for the words of Christ mean nothing more than this, that the external profession of faith is not a sufficient proof that God will acknowledge as his people all who appear to have accepted of his invitation.” – John Calvin
Soli Deo Gloria!