The Wedding Garment

Although under a new title, this post is actually a continuation of my last post.

1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

14 For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:2-14

This scripture is talking about taking up our cross and following Jesus.

In this parable, two things apparently occur. The first thing that happens is that those who were invited to the marriage feast by the king would not come. Every one of them had an excuse; and others scorned and persecuted the servants whom the king sent to invite them.

This happens even today. It is so difficult to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the high and mighty of this world; and if you become too insistent they will look for ways to deal with you.

But the poor and downtrodden receive the gospel eagerly. We do not read that “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (Lk. 14:21) gave excuses or refused to come when they received the invitation. In fact, they came running.

Do you think that the king did not know that those he had called would not come? Yes, he knew. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of heaven, and God knows this better than we. As long as we have something we are holding onto in the natural in our lives we will never answer the call of God. That thing will always be of more importance to us.

But God is rich in patience and He continues to give every man and woman a chance to turn their lives around.

Finally, though, it was time for the wedding – and there were no guests! What a graceless wedding it was bound to be! The king was so angry at the refusal of his invited guests to attend his son’s wedding that he sent his servants into the alleyways to invite to the wedding people who were clearly unworthy of the noble feast laid out by the king. In the Gospel of Luke version of the story, we read:

21 Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:21-23)

The scripture says that we who have been called have been called, not because we are good or worthy, but because we are unworthy.

The second part of this parable is the really chilling part. After all the ‘guests’ had come in and were hungrily tucking into goodies they would never have dreamed of in their former miserable lives, the king decided to move around in his wedding hall to see how things were going with his guests. While doing so, he stumbled upon this man which had not on a wedding garment”!

Apparently, the single most important requirement that one had to have in order to be in that wedding was a wedding garment. And yet this fellow had somehow managed to worm his way right into the wedding hall without a garment! Well, no matter.

Now this king was a very magnanimous person. He called the man, “Friend”. Judging from the gist of the story, this man was really no friend, but an enemy. But the king was so kind-hearted he addressed him as “Friend”.

But love him as he would, the king nonetheless wanted to know how this man had gotten in without a wedding garment. And, no doubt with a heavy and sorrowful heart, “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 13)

Jesus ended the parable by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (v. 14)

We must put on the wedding garment if we are to be allowed into that heavenly abode.

So what’s this all-important wedding garment? Many of us believe it is the call to salvation; and no doubt it is. But it is more than that, otherwise Jesus would not have said that many are called but few are chosen.

The key to unravelling this mystery lies in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

You realize here that the Apostle Paul is saying that there are two ways to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. One is with excellency of speech or with human wisdom.  But that is a gospel that has no power. It is a gospel that cannot change someone.

The second way of preaching the gospel is by revealing Christ, and Him crucified. This, Paul affirmed, was the one true gospel that alone had the power to change people on the inside.

The garment that the Bible talks about, therefore, is Jesus Christ Himself (Gal. 3:27). And Christ is not something that we can put on on the exterior, like sporting ‘Jesus’ t-shirts or wearing crosses around our necks.

Jesus is very Life itself, manifested in believers’ lifestyles. The Bible in Colossians 3 says,

“9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”

There, for one, lying is gone. But there is more. In verses 12 to 14 we read,

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

In Galatians 5:19-23 we read more concerning the things that we ought to put off and those that we need to put on. We cannot enter the Kingdom of God while still putting on the “old man with his deeds”. We must put him down. We must live a holy life. And in order to do this we must receive the revelation of the cross in our lives. The cross of Christ is the only thing that has power to change us.

The cross brings death to the old man and his deeds and it enables us to put on the new man, the wedding garment whereby when the King finally sets His eyes upon us, He will be pleased to welcome us.

That is why Paul preached the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). He did not want to preach a powerless gospel.

[Below: Zanzibar Harbour]

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The Wickedness of Man’s Heart – Part 2

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

Through the new birth, Christ has given us a new nature, and a new heart. We have been born of the Spirit of God and our hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.

But we know that this newness of life is a work in progress. The flesh – our humanness, that old human heart – is there still, an indefatigable enemy of our souls. The Apostle Paul cried out in Romans 7:24, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

This cry of anguish was a result of the wickedness that he saw in his heart.

I sometimes smile ruefully when I ponder the many times that I seek after men’s approval. I want people to think of me as a good person. But it is not true. I am not good, and I know it.

I appreciate the fact that it is by staying hard by the side of Jesus that I can expect to get and maintain a different heart. There is no other way. Any other way is a big lie or a denial.

The Apostle Paul summarizes it very well when he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul realized how rotten he was. He placed all his hope to be anything different on the grace of God alone.

When we are not walking in the revelation of the cross, we could even be saved and active in church, but our hearts are filled with every kind of evil. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church, “I cannot address you as spiritual people. For you have in your hearts envyings, strife, war, and every kind of evil.” These guys had even someone in their midst who was sleeping with his father’s wife!

If you find people in a church bound by a certain sin, do not be deceived. You will find every other sin running deep beneath the floor boards of that church. If we are not watching over our hearts, we will carry every kind of wickedness in us.

The Apostle Paul would not find any other way to keep his heart pure apart from a true, spiritual knowledge of and relationship with our Lord Jesus. In Romans Rom 7:24, as we have seen, he writes, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

In the very next verse he provides us with the answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

In effect he is saying, “Only Jesus can deliver me from the rot that I am!” Paul’s heart was desperately wicked, and he knew it. The greatest challenge that he had was in maintaining a pure and holy heart. More than 50 years after his conversion he writes the Philippians, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” (Phil. 3:13-14)

He is not referring to his ministry here. He is talking about his personal walk of faith with the Lord, his life as a Christian. He struggled daily to keep a strong faith and to maintain a pure heart.

A pure heart is needed within the Body of Christ. It is what will keep us holy. It is what will keep us in sincere fellowship. It is what will build us up as a Body.