When we submit ourselves to Christ,
The heart is united to His heart,
The will is merged with His will,
The mind becomes one with His mind,
The thoughts are brought into captivity to Him;
We live His life.
This is what it means to wear the wedding garment;
This is what it means to wear the wedding garment;
This is what it means to be clothed with the garment
Of His righteousness.
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Contrary to what is commonly taught in the religious world today, the wedding garment, which is what is required in order to enter Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 22:11-14), is not simply a nominal faith in Christ’s death on the cross. It is a holy character, purified by the blood of Christ, and filled with His graces, as Ellen White makes abundantly clear in this beautiful and concise statement.
This is not heresy, as some might imagine. It has been taught by other well-known preachers of the past. Read this paragraph from Spurgeon’s sermon #976, preached in 1871, and titled, “The Wedding Garment”:
…the wedding dress is a holy character, the imparted righteousness which the Holy Spirit works in us, and which is equally necessary as a proof of grace. If you question such a statement, I would remind you of the dress which adorns the saints in heaven. What is said of it? “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Their robes therefore were such as once needed washing; and this could not be said in any sense of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; that was always perfect and spotless. It is clear then that the figure is sometimes applied to saints in reference to their personal character.
Holiness is always present in those who are loyal guests of the great King, for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Too many professors pacify themselves with the idea that they possess imputed righteousness, while they are indifferent to the sanctifying work of the Spirit. They refuse to put on the garment of obedience, they reject the white linen which is the righteousness of saints. They thus reveal their self-will, their enmity to God, and their non-submission to his Son. Such men may talk what they will about justification by faith, and salvation by grace, but they are rebels at heart, they have not on the wedding dress any more than the self-righteous, whom they so eagerly condemn.
Or consider these paragraphs from a sermon of John Wesley (sermon #120, “On The Wedding Garment”), presented the year before his death:
What, then, is that holiness which is the true “wedding garment,” the only qualification for glory?
“In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but a new creation,”—the renewal of the soul “in the image of God wherein it was created.”
In “Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” [Gal. 5:6] It first, through the energy of God, worketh love to God and all mankind; and, by this love, every holy and heavenly temper: in particular, lowliness, meekness, gentleness, temperance, and longsuffering.
“It is neither circumcision,” (the attending on all the Christian ordinances), “nor uncircumcision,” (the fulfilling of all heathen morality,) but “the keeping the commandments of God; particularly those: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” In a word, holiness is the having “the mind that was in Christ,” and the “walking as Christ walked.”
Such has been my judgment for these threescore years, without any material alteration. Only, about fifty years ago I had a clearer view than before of justification by faith: and in this, from that very hour, I never varied, no, not an hair’s breadth…I am now on the borders of the grave; but, by the grace of God, I still witness the same confession.
Indeed, some have supposed, that when I began to declare, “By grace ye are saved through faith,” I retracted what I had before maintained: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” But it is an entire mistake: These scriptures well consist with each other; the meaning of the former being plainly this: By faith we are saved from sin, and made holy. The imagination that faith supersedes holiness, is the marrow of Antinomianism.
The sum of all is this: The God of love is willing to save all the souls that he has made. This he has proclaimed to them in his word, together with the terms of salvation, revealed by the Son of his love, who gave his own life that they that believe in him might have everlasting life. And for these he has prepared a kingdom, from the foundation of the world. But he will not force them to accept of it; he leaves them in the hands of their own counsel; he saith, “Behold, I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Choose life, that ye may live.” Choose holiness, by my grace; which is the way, the only way, to everlasting life.
He cries aloud, “Be holy, and be happy; happy in this world, and happy in the world to come.” “Holiness becometh his house for ever!” (Psalm 93:5) This is the wedding garment of all that are called to “the marriage of the Lamb.” Clothed in this, they will not be found naked: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” But as to all those who appear in the last day without the wedding garment, the Judge will say, “Cast them into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Madeley, March 26, 1790
But in spite of this clear teaching from the past, it is now popular, even in those churches who claim to be Adventist, to teach that the wedding garment is something placed to our account, and not a living part of us. The modern preachers teach that Christ will “stand in our place” in the judgment, and that God will look at Him, and not at us. They teach that the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness is something that covers up our sinful deformities, so that when God looks at us, He does not see them. (For more details about this false teaching, see the article, Covered Sin).
But covering up and hiding sin is hypocrisy: it is giving an appearance of righteousness; it is pretending to be a lamb when you are still a wolf inside. Christ will never cover up sin, for He is not the “minister of sin” (Galatians 2:17). The covering of His righteousness is only put on after the old garments of sin have been removed. This is very clearly taught in the Bible:
4 Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
It was the contrary and false teaching (that grace covers sin but does not remove it) that John Wesley described, in the sermon above, as “the imagination that faith supersedes holiness.” It is a false imagination, and not real faith. Real faith does not do away with holiness, it establishes holiness:
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
God forbid that we should try to turn the wedding garment into something that makes holiness void, or not required. The wedding garment IS holiness. And the standard of the kingdom, that which the King looks for when He inspects the guests, is this wedding garment. It is a character purified and perfected with the blood of Jesus Christ: His own attributes and life imparted to the believer to give him victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. For “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)