Monday, May 21, 2018

Say Yes to the Dress

“The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

The book is Revelation, and before us is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Bride is a certain subset of God’s people (we shall not revisit that discussion in detail here), and others among God’s redeemed are present to celebrate. The Bride has clothed herself with “fine linen, bright and pure.”

It’s the most uplifting picture in several chapters of what is, at times, a very dark book, and it is the great hope of the Church.

The Bride Eyes Not Her Garment …

This is the proper place for good works or acts of righteousness, isn’t it? The Bride’s clothing is not her ticket to the marriage supper, nor was she chosen by the Bridegroom for being beautifully attired. The deeds of the saints are only really seen for what they are in heaven; here on earth they are easily misattributed, misinterpreted or overlooked entirely, while deeds that are quite ungodly are often trumpeted as perfectly fitting for believers.

In fact, a life characterized by truly righteous deeds — deeds that are not just pleasing to God but both God-motivated and God-empowered — is impossible for those who do not belong to Christ, though the unsaved may certainly do good things from time to time. Paul tells us that:
“By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
The Greek for “righteous requirement” in Romans is the same as “righteous deeds” in Revelation.

… But Her Dear Bridegroom’s Face

One of the purposes for which the Son was sent into the world was to equip us to meet the requirements of the law. In one sense, these righteous requirements are forever and entirely met at the cross in Christ. But the death, resurrection and glorification of the Lord Jesus has also made possible the giving of the Holy Spirit to those he justified once and for all, equipping us to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law not just legally and technically, but in daily practice.

You will understand that I am not speaking of some sort of nit-picking, box-ticking approach to the Christian life, but merely the natural outflowing of the Spirit’s work in us. As Paul will go on to say five chapters later, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” It is these deeds of love lived out which adorn the Bride in heaven.

It is notable that the Bride’s garment is not solely her choice. What sounds like a great multitude cries out that “it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen.” The righteous deeds that adorn the Bride are not all her doing; indeed, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” His is the glory for her righteous deeds, and he confers that glory upon her in grace.

But while this marvelous work in us is wholly of God, it cannot take place without our willing participation. Though her garb is granted, the Bride must nonetheless “clothe herself” by following the natural promptings of the Spirit through a life of obedience to his word. We must all, in effect, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Yet for all that, the Bride has only responded appropriately to the sovereign hand of God moving in her experience. She has, in effect, done nothing more impressive than to say yes to the dress.

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