The Wedding Garment
March 23rd, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
THE WEDDING GARMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-23-58 8:15 a.m.
Now the message this morning is a conclusion of the sermon of last Sunday morning at this early hour. We are speaking of The Garments of the Believer, and this morning, The Wedding Garment. Turn with me to the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Matthew. Matthew, the twenty-second chapter, and I am reading from the first through the thirteenth verses. Matthew 22:1-13:
And Jesus spake unto them again by parables, and said,
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
And he saith unto him, Friend, how comest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
All of which story is based upon an Oriental custom, not followed by us today, but known in resplendency to all of the citizens of the kingdom in that far away and Eastern day. For you see, there could not be imagined, there could not be conceived by the Oriental citizen of an Eastern kingdom a more happy and gala occasion than the marriage of the king’s son. And the glamour and glitter of that throng was a sight to behold, each one present in a glorious and glamorous and glittering robe. And the high electric moment comes when the king appears.
Now, in those ancient feasts such as described here in this parable, not only was the feast furnished by the king, but the garments were also furnished by the king. He that found the feast, found the robe; they were alike provided by the monarch. Now the only semblance I suppose we have today to a thing like that is, sometimes, I think – I may be mistaken in this – sometimes, I think, a bride will buy the dresses for her maids of honor and matron of honor. Am I correct in that? Sometimes that is done. Well, in that great far Oriental day, they bought the robes for all of the guests. And when the guests came, robes were provided. Now that would be lots of robes to us, but we hardly realize how the ancient Oriental laid stock in numerous pieces and changes of raiment. For example, I read where Horace, the Latin poet who died about the year Jesus was born, Horace describing Lucius Lucullus, who defeated Mithradates, and who was one of the rulers of Rome, Horace says that Lucius Lucullus had no less than five thousand changes of garments; we’d say five thousand suits. My, my! How poverty stricken we are today compared to the Oriental splendor of a long time ago.
Well, I read in another place there was a great Persian authority, Sir John Chardin, who died about 1710 or 12 AD, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He traveled extensively in Persia. And in writing about one of those Persian kings, he said that he gave away thousands and thousands of garments, changes of clothes. So in that day that gave birth to this parable, how one was dressed and the provision for it on a stated occasion was very important.
Now it is that upon which Jesus bases this story. Here are the guests and all has been provided for them by the king, everything. He provides the feast, the dinner, the place, the garments, all things are provided by the king [Matthew 22:4, 10-11]. Now that’s the basis for the story, when Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to this parable, to this story [Matthew 22:1-2]. He says, and this is the basis of it, that all things that are necessary for citizenship in and for entrance into the kingdom of God, all things are prepared by the King [Matthew 22:4]. Now we are oft times persuaded that somehow we must complete God’s work; somehow God hasn’t quite finished it, God hasn’t quite done it, God hasn’t quite accomplished it. It has to be what God has done, and then a little goodness on my part. Has to be what God is able to do, and also a little bit of what I’m able to do. You know, it’s hard to keep pride and this carnal nature out of it. It’s hard just to turn loose and say, "The Lord has it all." Somehow or the other there’s in us a little bit of wanting to boast, "Now God, I know You did something for me; but God, don’t forget, I did something for myself. Look at me, Lord. Look at me. I know You did pretty good, God, but I also did pretty good, don’t You think? Don’t You think?" That spirit is in old evil depraved human nature, evil and iniquitous and carnal; it wants to boast of itself. Well now, the point of the parable is, all things are provided by the King, everything, everything; all that a man has to do is just be there. All a man has to do is just accept the invitation. God does it all, all, all, everything! And the praise, and the honor, and the glory, and the song is to the praise of God alone. Not God and me, not Christ and what little I could do, but to the Lord Himself forever and alone! Now that’s the story that lies back of the parable.
All right, now I want you to look. Now we’re talking about the garments of the believer. I want you to look, first of all, there is a God’s way, and, if I may parenthesize, God’s way, parenthesis, the right way, the correct way, the only way, there is a God’s way of doing things in everything. Now it not only applies to the kingdom of heaven, to the church, to the things spiritual, but it applies to everything. There is a correct and a right way, there is a God’s way; there is a chosen and elective way of the Almighty for everything.
Now may I illustrate that? That thing is true of God’s work in architecture. God made the laws of architecture. There are certain things that are right. There are certain things that are not correct. And when we don’t do them right, then it violates our sense of architectural beauty. For example, no man has a right to make a crooked column. A column has its acceptance in its uprightness. Now the column may be belled out in the middle, it may be fluted all the way around, it may have scrolls and capitals on top of it, it may have bases or not on the bottom of it, it may be an Ionic column, a Doric column, a Corinthian column, an Egyptian column, but it has to be straight up. That is an architectural law, and a crooked column has no right to be. It violates every sense of what’s correct. God did that.
Now the same thing is true in the realm of music. Oh! Somebody singing off key hurts my – what does it hurt? I don’t know what it hurts, but it hurts my something. A blue note, you know, oh, it just sounds terrible! Do you hear that, choir? Just sounds awful. God made that. Things that are harmonious, God made them that way. And things that are discordant are harsh. That’s God. Same way about colors; some colors clash and do violence to the eye, and some colors go beautifully together. Same way about words and language. The wisest man who ever lived said, "Words fitly spoken, beautifully said, are like apples of gold in pictures of silver" [Proverbs 25:11]. All of life is that way. God makes everything and does everything according to a correct way, a right way, a God way.
Now, I’m just saying that this is not peculiar, or separate, or different, or isolated from everything else that God does. There is a God way. There is a right way, a correct way, to come into the kingdom of God. And Jesus mentions it here in this parable. We are accepting from God that one way. Jesus said it one time, in the tenth chapter of John, the first verse, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that cometh climbeth up into the sheepfold some other way," other than the right way, the God way, the door, "he is a thief and a robber" [John 10:1]. There is one way, one correct way, one God given way.
Now, I want you to look at the story now in this parable. There were some of those who made light of the invitation to join the kingdom of God, and they did not come [Matthew 22:5]. But this fellow, this fellow made light of the kingdom of God, and he came. "Huh," he says. So the king says I am to put on the wedding garment. "Huh," he says. "So the king has provided for us robes to wear. Huh," he says, "I will wear my own robe. I will wear my own garment [Matthew 22:11-12]. I like it better," he says. "I’ll stand on my own merits. I am ready to make my appearance before God, and justify myself. Why, I’ll stand before the Lord God in that day of the marriage supper of the Lamb, when the bride hath arrayed herself in beautiful garments, and the great marriage supper of the Lamb is come [Revelation 19:6-9], I’ll stand that day in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, and I’ll say, ‘Look here, God, see all these debts I paid, see all these things honest that I’ve done? Look at my reputation in the community, look at these things that I’ve said and worked for. Why, I’ve been in community enterprises, and I’m a man of great honor and dignity among my community, and am accepted as such among my friends.’ I’ll stand before the Lord God in that day in garments of my own weaving."
Now, I want you to look at this. Isn’t this the funniest thing you ever saw? "And when the king came in to see the guests," there he saw that man who said, "I will not put on the righteousness of the Son of God. I will not put on the garment of Jesus Christ. I’m going to stand in my own ability, robed in my own righteousness." Now look at this man, "And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw that man standing there, and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on the wedding garment? And he was speechless" [Matthew 22:11-12]. Isn’t that strange? What about all those things he’s going to tell God about himself?
Now this is exactly like I was telling you last Sunday morning, when we were speaking about Adam and Eve. After their sin [Genesis 3:1-6], they made garments of fig leaves, and covered themselves [Genesis 3:7]; and isn’t it strange that when they heard the voice of the Lord God as He walked in the garden in the cool of the day, they were afraid, and hid themselves? [Genesis 3:8]. And God said to Adam, "Adam, why are you afraid?" And Adam said, "Because I am naked!" Why, he wasn’t naked; he had – the Bible says at least, he had just made garments of fig leaves to cover himself [Genesis 3:7]. Yet when he stood in the presence of God with the garment he had made, he felt he was naked! And he was afraid and ashamed, and he hid himself [Genesis 3:8-10]. It’s the same identical thing here. He’s coming into the kingdom in his own goodness and in his own righteousness, with garments of his own manufacture and weaving. He’s going to stand before God on his own merits. When he stands before the king, and the Lord speaks to him kindly, "Friend, where is your garment?" and he’s speechless because he’s naked, and his shame appears, and he’s confused, and he’s stupefied, and he’s dumbfounded, and he’s lost [Matthew 22:11-12].
You’ll never get away from the judgment of the Word of God. "Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" [Isaiah 64:6]. We need an Advocate [1 John 2:1-2]. We need a Savior [Matthew 1:21-23; 1 John 4:14]. We need a clothing, we need to wash in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5]. That’s what the parable is speaking of: the garments of the believer.
Now, look at what happens: "And he was speechless [Matthew 22:12]. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" [Matthew 22:13] – an expression of the despair and woe of the soul sinking down in the pit. Now that is a fearful thing. I never broach it without fear and awe and trembling. The Word itself says, "It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31]. The Lord has provided for us a way, a way of salvation, the way of salvation; one door into the ark [Genesis 6:16]. And God has sent his evangelist, and he stands and he preaches, and he calls, and he exhorts, and he appeals [2 Peter 2:5]. And Noah enters in the door, and his wife; and Shem enters the door, and his wife; and Ham enters the door, and his wife; and Japheth enters the door, and his wife [Genesis 7:13]. And I guess Noah stood there before that mocking, jeering, godless throng, lifted up his hands and made one last appeal. When they still mocked, the Book says, "And God shut the door" [Genesis 7:16]. God shut the door. And when God shut that door, the day of grace and the overtures of mercy were passed; and the judgment of God fell from heaven and broke up from the fountains of the deep [Genesis 7:17-24].
That’s the way it’s going to be some of these days. Some of these days the last sermon will be preached in this world. Some of these days the last invitation hymn will be sung in this world, the last appeal will be made, and God will shut the door to the kingdom of heaven. And then, O Lord! And the vials of wrath that are poured out [Revelation 15:7-16:21]; I say, I never broach that without awful fear and trepidation. And you can’t separate it in the Scriptures. This man who had not on that wedding garment, those that did [Matthew 22:11-12], you can’t separate them in the Scriptures, in these things of which I’m speaking now. And I have three of them. I want you to look at them just for a minute.
First of all, both alike, both alike, saved and lost, both alike are to be raised from the dead. That is according to the word of Christ Himself. In John 5:29, the Lord says, "They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." All of us are going to be raised; not at the same time, but all of us are going to be raised. We’re going to stand in the presence of God, saved and lost. They that have trusted Jesus and looked to Him, who have the righteousness of Him. What is it that a man does that is righteous? This is righteousness: the works of holiness that they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ." They that have done righteously, believing in Christ, shall be raised to the resurrection of life and light and glory. They that have spurned the overtures of mercy shall be raised unto the resurrection of damnation, of hell and flame and eternal perdition and punishment. But both alike are to experience a resurrection [Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-5, 11-15].
Now a second thing about them: both alike, saved and lost alike, both alike shall be conscious and sensitive in this world that is to come, both alike, both alike. In the story of our Lord, in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He says that that beggar died, that he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom, and there he was comforted and blessed in the Paradise of God. But it says that this rich man who refused to repent, who had everything in the world but God, who had everything to minister to him except the loving merciful hands of Jesus, says that he died and was buried; and in that other world "he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and cried that Lazarus could be sent," isn’t that strange? All his life he’d been accustomed to having people wait on him, "Here you do this, and here you do that, and here, you come." And even over there, character doesn’t change, not through all eternity. He’s the same man there as he was in this life. "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" both of them equally conscious: one of the splendors of heaven, and the other of the fires of hell [Luke 16:19-26]. O Lord, O Lord!
Now, one other comment: both, both are described with the same word with regard to time. Don’t forget, the same Book that reveals to us the glories of heaven revealed to us the fires of hell. And the same Book that tells us about the saving Lord is the same Book that warns us of the presence of Satan. And the same Book that describes what it is to be saved is the same Book that describes what it is to be lost. You can’t separate them. They’re there together in the Book. Now I say, it is the same Word that describes the length and the duration of that time in the world to come. Listen to the Word of the Lord as he closes the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal" [Matthew 25:46]. Now you look at that Greek word: "And these shall go away into punishment aionion; but the righteous into life aionion." In the King James Version here you have one of them translated "everlasting" and the other translated "eternal"; mean the same thing in English, but it is a translation of the same Greek word. However long we live in heaven, these that are lost live that long in damnation. They’re both the same, both the life. And that is God’s appeal to this generation. That’s God’s appeal to our hearts. Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? [Revelation 1:5].
Have you been to Jesus for His saving power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
["Are You Washed in the Blood," Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878]
No righteousness which I have done, no pleading my own merits, no standing before God in self-justification, but at the great marriage supper of the Lamb, robed in the righteousness which is by faith in Christ, a garment of His weaving and manufacture, a suit, a raiment of God’s own giving [Revelation 19:6-9]. Nothing that I have done, but what the Lord has done! That’s the way into the kingdom of God, and it’s the only way; humble, contrite, repentant, bowing at His feet, looking up into His face, giving Him all glory and praise. That’s what it is to be saved, with the wedding garment given us by the King himself [Matthew 22:4-12].
Now while we sing our song, is there somebody you this morning, give his heart to Jesus? Somebody you this day, put his life in the fellowship of the church? In this brief moment when we sing this appeal, coming down these stairwells, or into the aisle, from side to side, and here to the front. Maybe somebody you, trust Jesus today, "No longer shall I look to myself; I shall look to Him. No longer shall I plead my own goodness; I in confession and contrition shall plead His mercy and His forgiveness" [Ephesians 2:4-9]. Would you? While we stand and while we sing.