Sunday, 1 March 2009

Clothes, Allegories and Imputation

The Bible's got a bit to say about clothes. What it says about them can serve to highlight the truth of the gospel; that's if we take the statements about clothes allegorically of course. And since allegorical interpretation is about as fashionable as the pope in leather chaps, I'm going to do it.

The book of Genesis for instance has a few things to say about clothes. Right at the beginning when Adam and Eve fall, we read, "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." (Gen. 3:7 NIV) Works-righteousness has a long history folks. Here, our sinning parents realise the mess of their situation and try and sort it out for themselves. Despite the Lord's curse upon humanity, look at the little gospel picture at the end of chapter 3, "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." (v21 NIV) A beast of some sort was obviously killed by the Lord so that it's skin could cover the nakedness of the man and woman. No matter what we do to 'bridge the gap', it won't suffice. It takes the Lord to provide the solution. Christ was killed so that his garments could cover our shameful nakedness. Put away your pathetic little works-righteousness fig-leaf garment making machine (how about that for allegory?!).

As we reach chapter 9 of Genesis, we come to the story of Noah. He was a picture of the baptised believer living in God's new creation (1 Peter 3:20-22). Wow! What comes next? Does Noah build a Bible College out of the ark wood? Does he found "New Creation Ministries"? Not exactly. "Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent." (v20, 21 ESV). He got drunk and naked instead. Noah was still a sinner, no matter what mighty acts the Lord had wrought in saving him. He still needed covered by God's grace. "Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness." (v24, ESV). We are constantly hearing about personal transformation or spiritual formation these days. It's as if that's what the Christian life is all about. It isn't. It's about sinners finding grace with God. And guess what? There isn't always a nice before and after picture. On our best days, we're still like Noah, disorientated and naked, needing a covering.

In Genesis 27, Jacob steals Esau's blessing by wearing his clothes. Isaac, due to poor eyesight, doubted whether it was Esau standing before him. "Then his father Isaac said to him, 'Come near and kiss me, my son.' So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, 'See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!'" (Gen. 27:26, 27 ESV) Jacob gets Esau's blessing by wearing his clothes. That is a practical picture of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. We, rotten scoundrels, enter into the blessing of our brother Jesus by wearing his garments and giving off his aroma before our heavenly Father.

It's possible for us to wear Christ's garments because on the cross, he bore our nakedness. He was cursed and we are blessed and all because of God's sovereign holy love. Now, through baptism, we have clothed ourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27) and hidden ourselves in him (Col. 3:1-3). Take heart. Your naked, ugly, sin ridden flesh is hidden by the clothes that are unspeakably beautiful in the sight of God. Blessed be the Lord.

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