by Mike Ratliff
1 Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Will no longer come into you.
2 Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.
3 For thus says the LORD, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.” Isaiah 52:1-3 (NASB)
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?
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Matthew 22:1-7 (NASB)
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.
8 Then he *said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:8-14 (NASB)
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, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in 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!