“A man will be justified by faith when, excluded from the righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as a saint.” John Calvin
Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
“Clothes make the man,” was a popular saying in years past. Certainly, the clothes we wear say much about us. One can determine many things for a person’s clothes; level of confidence, favorite teams or musicians, political affiliations, personal causes, even physical fitness.
In the New Testament, putting on clothing is an illustration of how our new live in Christ is lived. The transformation from our normal manner of living to one that is distinctly Christ-like is described as being “clothed with Christ” or “putting on Christ” as one would put on clothing. This metaphor speaks to the transformation that takes place in the Christian when the Holy Spirit is in control. When clothed with Christ, it is no longer the person who is visible, it is Christ Jesus who live in and through that person.
Religiosity, efforts to be right with our God by human actions, will never be transformational. The transformation we need to be freed from sin and to freely relate to our God can only be found in the work of God in us by His Spirit. We are sanctified and made holy by the Spirit of God living His life in place of ours. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ, not the work of our religious activities. The incremental “baby steps” found in “Christian education” and spiritual self-help resources are the not the transformation our God intends.
Rather than trying harder in self-reliant religiosity, we must yield fully to the Spirit and allow Him to live His life in place of ours. This is why we have been crucified with Christ and must choose to live a crucified life daily. Life under our control will never satisfy us or bring us into the holiness we seek. Allowing the Holy Spirit to live His life in place of ours is our escape from religiosity, and the path to freedom, holiness and every other promise under the new covenant. If we seek earnestly for His life in us, He will bring us to holiness and completeness in Christ Jesus by His transformational power. This is what is meant by being “clothed with Christ.”
A parallel term for this transformation is to be baptized into Christ, which means to be immersed into Him. We are conditioned to think of the term “baptized” as having to do with being dipped into water, but the term in the original language means simply to be “immersed.” It is used in the New Testament in connection to water, fire, the Holy Spirit, and Christ. This immersion is the cause for our being clothed with Christ in the Galatians passage above.
To be immersed is to be fully covered, to be overwhelmed. To be immersed into Christ means that it is Christ that is now visible, and not so much ourselves. So it is with the idea of being clothed with Christ. If I am clothed with Christ, it is no longer me you see, but Christ wrapped around me and visible in place of me. Just as in the saying, “clothes make the man,” it is the Christ who clothes me and who is my identity.
The various terms in the scriptures to try to capture this transaction are numerous and descriptive. Clothed with Christ. Baptized or immersed into Christ. Abiding in Christ. Placed into Christ. Christ in us, our hope of glory. The focus of these terms is not us. It is Christ and His Holy Spirit. Transformation is not by our efforts or our religiosity. It is only possible by the Spirit of Christ Himself.
Sadly, a great many believers in Jesus live in ignorance of these new covenant realities. They seek holiness through religious activity, human effort, trying harder to defeat sin and live a “Christian life,” greater zeal. They read books, attend classes, listen to pod casts, go to retreats, and sit in pews in hopes that they will continue to grow by increments into a “better Christian.”
Such effort in our own strength is not the “Christian life” as delivered in the Scriptures. It is the life from which the Holy Spirit wishes to free us. We will only be fully alive if we yield to the Spirit within us and allow Him to occupy the throne of our living every day. This is what distinguishes the true disciple. If we would be followers of Jesus, we must embrace the crucified life as the means of allowing the Holy Spirit to live His life in place of our own.
“But be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not listen to the flesh, to fulfill its desires.” Romans 13:14
“More important than putting on fresh clothes at the beginning of each day is the need to be renewed and clothed in our identity in Christ..” Daniel Henderson