Clothing makes a statement about the kind of individuals we are, and the fashion industry is influential in what numerous people wear. It’s big business and governs the latest styles both sought and worn by many.
It may seem strange to contemplate the idea that God is actually concerned about what we wear, but Jesus Christ illustrated that His Father is indeed interested in our clothing. In the context of faith during His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compared the lilies of the field to the regal garments of King Solomon (Matthew 6:28-30).
However, beyond physical clothing that is modest and appropriate for the occasion, especially at those times when we appear before Him, our Heavenly Father is keen that we be clothed with one specific garment.
Clothing Reveals a Mindset
Job interviewers and those working in human resources may be trained to assess potential employees by what they wear. Choosing the correct clothing for a particular circumstance can show respect. Conversely, dressing down, perhaps in a sloppy manner, or giving an impression that might suggest poor character, may not only seem disrespectful, but could cause offence.
A measure of formality is often more appropriate in such circumstances, since what we choose to wear reflects how we feel about a given situation. Christ alluded to this in the parable of the wedding feast for the king’s son (Matthew 22:1-14). On this occasion, a man failed to be properly dressed for the wedding. Some scholars believe that poorer guests were actually presented with wedding garments by the king, so this man had no acceptable excuse (verses 11-12).
His failure to put on the correct attire suggests that, unlike the rest of the guests, he did not respect either his host or the event and indeed had rejected his ruler’s gracious gift. The context of this parable is mentioned in verse 2. It is a parable concerning the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God), and Christ is explaining who will be fit for inclusion, and who will not.
Garments that Reflect Christ’s Character
In Galatians 3:27, the apostle Paul wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The words “put on” here have the sense of sinking into a garment, something that surrounds and envelops us. Paul makes the connection between being baptized and “wearing” Christ. This is because following water baptism and receipt of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, Jesus Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). We should, therefore, also be reflecting Him in all our words, deeds and actions.
Paul expands on this thought in Romans 6:1-4, where those who have been baptized are pictured as having died to sin and been raised to a new life in Christ (verse 4). Following baptism, Christians are to begin wearing their best apparel—Jesus Christ Himself.
Just as Christ did not commit sin, Christians must also strive to overcome and not let sin have any power over them (verses 12-13). Several of the prophets symbolically compare dirty clothing to sin. For instance, the prophet Isaiah described our own attempts at righteousness as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Another prophet saw the high priest Joshua dressed in filthy garments and standing before the angel of the Lord. God’s solution was to take away the filthy garments and give Joshua a clean change of clothing. However, God links the change of garments to taking away sin by saying, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes” (Zechariah 3:1-4).
Sin is only forgiven upon real repentance. Thus, from these scriptures we can conclude that our outward appearance should reflect an inward change of heart.
Still with the sense of sinking into a garment, the apostle Paul gives several lists of the characteristics we are to put off and those qualities that should replace them. The list of traits to discard includes malice, lying, thefts, corrupt language and anger.
Instead, we should put on the knowledge of God, tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering [patience], bearing with one another and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:8-13).
Apparel that Represents Righteousness
Christians should be making a categorical statement about themselves by the spiritual garments that they are striving to wear. Paul again uses the analogy of “sinking into a garment” in Ephesians 4:23-24, when he exhorts believers to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” To put on Christ is to take on His characteristics and conduct. With Christ in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-10), we should also be outwardly reflecting God’s holiness in our lives, to the best of our ability with the help He provides.
In the book of Revelation, the elderly apostle John quotes Christ as counseling seven churches of Asia Minor. Along with their Christian commonality, each of these congregations displays somewhat different characteristics.
The Church at Laodicea has the attitude that they are self-sufficient, needing nothing. Christ tells them that spiritually they are deficient and instead counsels them to buy from Him “white garments, that you may be clothed” (Revelation 3:18). Christians need to ensure that they are clothed spiritually in apparel representing righteousness.
When referring to the Church as the wife of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-8, John says in this prophecy that it would be granted to her “to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
While we remain as physical humans, from time to time we will stumble in our Christian lives and commit sin. But having fought temptations to sin for so long and sincerely tried to stay clean (as we were when we came up out of the waters of baptism), we will be granted fine linen at the time of Christ’s coming and the first resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21). Every time true Christians sincerely repent of sin, the blood of Christ cleanses each of them, restoring them to a right relationship with their Heavenly Father (see 1 John 1:7-9). It is Christ living in us that gives us the hope of future glory (Colossians 1:27).
Beyond our physical lives today, Christ will resurrect those who are His at His return. He has promised that they will receive a glorious body like His and will be clothed in fine garments, fully reflecting His righteousness.