When we are saved, an exchange takes place in the spiritual dimension – we express our belief in the Lord Jesus and in return, we receive eternal life. This is summarised succinctly by Jesus in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
Commenting about Abraham’s belief in Genesis 15:6, the apostle Paul also makes reference to this exchange in the spiritual dimension:
This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:22-24 NIV)
The prophet Isaiah describes our receipt of this exchange in the form of a garment which is placed on each believer, visible to God:
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
We have no righteousness of our own – we only have the imputed righteousness of Jesus – we wear this righteousness like a garment.
This concept starts back in Genesis 3 in the garden of Eden. After the fall, Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness and they tried to dress with fig leaves. Fig leaves symbolise works – they cannot save us and will not dress us appropriately in God’s presence. Remember Jesus cursed the fig tree – it had leaves but no fruit. Works of the flesh do not produce spiritual fruit (see Galatians 4:21-31).
So God intervenes in the garden – he gives Adam and Eve garments to replace their own works.
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21 NIV)
Adam and Eve needed new outfits after the fall to be acceptable in his presence. God provided them with the garment of salvation – he clothed them after they tried to clothe themselves.
This typology continues into the sacrificial system. Whenever the priest appeared before God, he was to wear a specific garment.
Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honour. Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. (Exodus 28:2-3 NIV)
Aaron needed garments to be suitably clothed to come into God’s presence. God is saying don’t come before me in a state of impurity – cloth yourself correctly.
On the day of atonement, we again have very specific instructions for wearing the correct clothing.
He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments… (Leviticus 16:4a NIV)
When the priest had been in the presence of God, he left and removed the garments:
Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. (Leviticus 16:23 NIV)
Whenever in the presence of God, they had to be clothed in the right way. When we are before the Lord, the only suitable garment is the righteousness that comes from God being placed on us – that makes us clean in God’s presence.
This theme continues with the prophet Zechariah:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” (Zechariah 3:1-4 NIV)
Satan accuses us, we are filthy. Here is the High Priest being given clean garments to cover his sin in the presence of God.
The theme continues in the book of Ruth as well. Boaz is typological of Jesus and Ruth is the church – his gentile bride. Listen to this key moment as she seeks sanctuary with him:
“Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” (Ruth 3:9 NIV)
You’ll be familiar with this encounter with Jesus:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. (Luke 8:43-44 NIV)
She knew she needed that garment – she reached out for it and just a touch of Jesus’ righteousness saved her.
There are numerous other examples. In Proverbs 31, the noble wife is a picture of the church – there are numerous references to clothing. Esther is another one – whenever she appears before the king, there is a reference to her being clothed properly. The typology is there.
We wear a garment of salvation. We can’t buy it or earn it or deserve it – it is freely given to us but we have to wear it.
Can this garment be damaged or stolen?
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. (Daniel 3:25-27 NIV, emphasis added)
But their robes were not even scorched! This is a picture. No trial can rob you of this garment. Satan cannot remove or damage that garment – it belongs to you.
Notice this reference to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day:
As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, (Mark 12:38 NIV)
This is the problem with being ‘religious’- the appearance of being righteous in the eyes of others. This is like the fig leaves in the garden of Eden. It is just their own (false) righteousness that is on display to others. It might look genuine, but God sees straight through it. It’s not God’s righteousness – just like the fig leaves, it is not acceptable in God’s presence.
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. (John 19:23-24 NIV)
When Jesus was crucified, he lost his garment while he took our nakedness. That is where the exchange took place – Jesus took our place so that we could wear his righteousness.
Throughout Revelation, there are also references to wearing clean robes:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their Revelation 7:9 NIV)
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14 NIV)
One of the most sobering passages in the Bible is the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22 with the warning about being clothed properly:
He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless’. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:12-14 NIV).
The man would have been offered the appropriate wedding clothes before entry to the wedding – instead, he chose his own clothes…just like the fig leaves of the garden of Eden. In the same way, we are provided with the clothing we need by our Father in heaven.
This is a great study to pick up in your own time and we’ve only scratched the surface with this. If you are born again, you are wearing the garment of salvation. God sees this every time he looks at you! God won’t remove the garment either under any circumstances. Satan cannot remove it under any circumstances. We must make sure we never remove it and we do that by enduring to the end, by remaining faithful. Our task is to encourage those around us to take up the garment of salvation and wear it themselves.
The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. (Psalm 93:1 NIV)