*June 18 - 24
|Clothed in Christ|
Read for This Week's Study:
|Gal. 3:26–29, Rom. 6:1–6, Col. 3:1–10, Eph. 4:22–24, 1 Cor. 15:49–55, 2 Cor. 5:1–4.|
|“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:14, NIV).|
Have you ever dropped an egg and watched it break into messy pieces? One thing, though, you have never seen is the messy pieces of that broken egg dropped again, only to turn back into an egg. Reality just doesn’t work that way.
A fundamental law of our natural world, at least our fallen natural world, is that objects tend toward decay, toward disorder. Things left alone do what: increase in energy, order, and structure or decrease, decay, and move toward disorder? The answer’s obvious. We see it all around us and even in ourselves (for instance, our aging bodies).
A lot of complicated science goes into explaining this phenomenon, but you don’t need a PhD in physics to see it. To quote a text from an earlier lesson, “and the earth shall wax old like a garment” (Isa. 51:6).
And yet, amid all this, we have the gospel, the plan of salvation, which at its core is about restoration, about taking the old, the broken, the decaying and making it new.
This final week we’ll look at some special clothing imagery from the Scriptures that reveals these promises of renewal and restoration.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 25.
Heirs According to the Promise
One of the great struggles of the Christian church from the earliest days, a struggle that was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation (and one that in various ways continues today, even in our church), deals with the question of the gospel, of salvation, of how we are saved. Paul, with the church in Galatia, had to deal squarely and directly with the issue, where false theology had crept in and threatened the integrity of the gospel itself.
Read Galatians 3:26–29. What is the main point that Paul is making? (As you read, note that the Greek word translated “put on” comes from the word meaning “to be clothed.”)
In verse 27, Paul says that all those who were baptized “have clothed yourselves with Christ” (NIV). Though all were sinners, their sins had been washed away, their old filthy garments were gone, and they were now “clothed,” covered in the righteousness of Jesus. His life, His perfection, His character they can now claim as their own. All the covenant promises have been fulfilled in Jesus, and now, clothed in Christ, they can claim those promises for themselves. They are heirs of the promise first made to Abraham (Gen. 12:2, 3), not because of status, gender, or nationality, but only through faith in Christ.
Read Romans 6:1–6. What is Paul saying there that should help us understand what it means to be “clothed” in Christ?
Being clothed in Christ is more than just a legal standing with God. Christians are united with Christ; they are surrendered to Him; and through Him they are being renewed, rejuvenated, and restored. Christians who refuse to change their old ways, their old habits, and their old lifestyle need to look in the mirror at what they are really clothed in.
|What are you wearing? Is what you wear in public different from what you wear when no one (you think) is watching? What does your answer tell you about yourself?|
No Provision for the Flesh
For all of Paul’s deep and complicated theology, he can also be very practical. Any theology, any version of the “gospel” that focuses solely on salvation in cold and legal terms alone, misses the point. Christianity is all about Jesus, but it’s not about Jesus in isolation. It’s about Jesus and what He has done for our fallen race through His life, death, and High Priestly ministry. It’s not just about a change in our legal status before God; it’s about a change, a renewal, a new birth in us; it’s about a new life in Christ.
Read Romans 13. Focus on the daily, practical points that Paul is dealing with here for those who are Christians.
Most of the chapter deals with, in many ways, what could be considered being a good citizen and a good neighbor. It’s a reiteration of the principles of the law, culminating in the famous words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (vs. 9).
In verses 11–14, however, the tone somewhat shifts. Paul begins the chapter by talking about obeying the present political powers, and then he shifts to an emphasis on the “lateness” of the time, the idea being that considering the times the Romans were living in, they needed to get serious about their conduct. At the end of the chapter, we have the phrase “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 14, NIV), which uses the same Greek root found in Galatians 3:27. Thus, both verses are saying similar things.
The context here in Romans 13 makes it clear what Paul basically means. The verses that come before and the rest of the verse following the phrase itself show that being clothed in Christ means living a life of faith and obedience. The same Greek root for “clothed” appears in verse 12, as well, in the context of donning the “armour of light.” Christ is the light of the world; those who walk in Him don’t walk in darkness. They have “cast off the works of darkness” and now walk in light. Whatever else to “be clothed” in Christ means, it certainly deals with character building, with conduct, with loving as Christ loved, and with reflecting His image. In a sense, while all things around us tend to get worse, those clothed in Christ should be getting better and better (see 2 Cor. 3:18).
|How different would your life be were you fully clothed in Christ? That is, what parts of your life have you held back from the kind of surrender and death to self needed in order for the Lord to work in you? How would your life differ were you to make that complete surrender?|
Putting Off, Putting On
Read Colossians 3:1–10. As you do, realize that in verse 10, the verb to put on is from the same verb, to be clothed, that appeared in the previous verses we have studied. With that in mind, what are these texts saying to us?
Scholars see in these verses, as in some of the other ones we’ve looked at, references to the idea of baptism. (Where in the texts do you see a hint of that?) In no uncertain terms, we are shown again the idea of renewal, of regeneration, of something made better than it was before. In Christ we are no longer the same people we once were, living as we once did. Here, too, Paul is very clear in linking what we experience of Christ now with what we will experience when He returns. Indeed, how we respond to Christ’s first coming will decide what happens to us at His second coming!
Read Ephesians 4:22–24 (yes, the Greek verb in verse 24 is to clothe). What point is Paul stressing here, as well?
Notice the contrast between the “old man” and the “new man.” In principle, the “old man,” the former self, has died (symbolized by baptism), and a “new man,” a new creation in Christ, results. Here, too, the idea of being “clothed,” either in Christ or in the “new man,” arises in the context of Christian behavior. Read the verses that come before and after. We are dealing with a transformation of character, of actions, of a person’s whole moral being. This motif, this idea, keeps recurring. As baptized Christians, we are new people in the Lord; to be “clothed” in Christ isn’t a metaphor just for justification, for Christ’s righteousness covering our sins and giving us a new legal standing before God. Being clothed in Christ means being a new person, one “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
|Go back over the verses for today, looking at specific commands regarding behavior. In what areas do you need change? If you are struggling, why not seek out someone you can trust and ask for help in how you can better live out the principles taught in Scripture?|
In the Twinkling of an Eye
No question, to be clothed in Christ is to become a new person in Jesus. It is to be restored, at least somewhat, into “the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:10, NASB). Untold numbers of lives have borne and still today bear testimony to the reality of what the Lord has done in and for them. Many of our own lives, regardless of our faults, struggles, and falls, witness to the reality of what it means to be clothed in Jesus.
Yet, let’s be honest. If what Christ did for us ended with this life here, in the end—whether we are clothed in Christ or not clothed in Christ—the grave would still await us. Many have suffered a great deal in this life for Jesus and for their faith. Whatever the immediate rewards, what are these rewards, what could they be, in contrast to the real reward awaiting us at the Second Coming?
Corinthians 15:49–55. What great hope is presented here? As you read
the text, guess which words come from the same Greek root we’ve seen all
week, “to clothe” or “to be clothed.”
In verses 53 and 54, the verb (often translated “clothed”) is the same one we’ve already seen. Here, though, the apostle takes it to a whole new level. Being clothed in Christ doesn’t mean only to bear the moral image of Jesus, to reflect His character, and to live out the principles that He taught us. In other words, it’s not just a legal change, not just a moral change: it also will include a radical physical change. Our mortal flesh, our aching and hurting and dying flesh, will be clothed with the same kind of immortal body that the resurrected Jesus had. Talk about a change of clothing, talk about wearing a new garment! That’s the ultimate hope that awaits us, the only hope that really makes our faith worthwhile (see 1 Cor. 15:12–19).
|Most of us (particularly as we age) realize the frailty and untrustworthiness of our flesh. If we don’t yet see that frailty in ourselves, we can see it in others. Think about the hope we have in Jesus, as revealed in these verses. What could this world, in any conceivable manner, offer that would make it worth losing the promise revealed here?|
Our Heavenly Dwelling
Read 2 Corinthians 5:1–4. What is Paul telling us here? What hope is again presented? How does clothing imagery fit in?
As long as we are in this world, in this body, in this “house,” we are going to “groan” (from a word that means also “to sigh deeply”). Who hasn’t groaned while in our “earthly dwelling,” which is our present body? Look at the chapter that comes before (1 Corinthians 4), talking of the woe that followers of Jesus have encountered in this existence. It’s after this recitation that Paul goes into the texts for today.
Sure, we groan, we suffer, and we die, but that’s not the whole story. We have the promise of being clothed in “our heavenly dwelling.”
What two metaphors, or images, does Paul use in these verses to depict our present situation and the hope that awaits us?
In some ancient writings, the idea of being clothed was seen as similar to being inside a house. Both are external to us, and both present a certain amount of protection and covering (in Paul’s time, the name of the garment worn by the poorer class came from a word that meant “little house”). Whatever the reasons, Paul uses different images to contrast two basic ideas—a temporal earthly dwelling in contrast to an eternal heavenly one; being naked in contrast to being clothed; and mortality (the certainty of death) in contrast to life, eternal life in Christ. In the end, these metaphors all are talking about the same thing: the hope that we have, at Christ’s return, of being clothed or housed in immortal bodies. In other words, these texts are another way of expressing the promise of eternal life that we have in Jesus.
|Think about death, about the apparent finality of it. Without hope of something beyond it, what hope is there for any of us? Dwell on all the reasons that we have for our hope that death doesn’t have the final say. Bring your answers to class and discuss them there.|
“The Controversy Ended,” p. 665, in The Great Controversy.
“All will be a happy, united family, clothed with the garments of praise and thanksgiving—the robe of Christ’s righteousness. All nature in its surpassing loveliness will offer to God a constant tribute of praise and adoration. The world will be bathed in the light of heaven. The years will move on in gladness. The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold greater than it is now. Over the scene the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy, while God and Christ will unite in proclaiming, ‘There shall be no more sin, neither shall there be any more death.’”—Ellen G. White, My Life Today, p. 348.
| As a class, go over your
answers to Thursday’s final question. How can you help each other
find hope in this wonderful promise? How can you help those who might
find themselves struggling with doubt?
So often, in our day and age, people have placed so much hope in science. Many have seen science as the only way of coming to know truth and as the only hope of humankind. Dwell on why that’s such a false hope, especially in the context of the last few days’ lessons. What hope can science offer us for the greatest problem we face—death? Why must our hope be in something “supernatural,” as depicted in those promises?Think about Paul’s question in Romans 7:24, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (a reference to a punishment of the time, when a criminal had to wear a dead body chained to his body). What answer do we have that all the world’s wisdom cannot supply?
Dwell more on what it means to be “clothed” in Christ in terms of how we are to live. Think through how you are living: your practices, your habits, your thoughts, your attitudes toward others, and so forth. How well do you reflect the reality of Christ in these areas? Though we all struggle with cultivated and inherited tendencies toward sin, what overt and conscious choices can you make that would go a long way in helping you live as you know you should? Also, how can we help each other, as a community, in living out the biblical ideals presented before us?
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