CLOTHED WITH POWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-14-65 10:50 a.m.
The First Baptist Church in Dallas counts it one of its highest privileges and one of its greatest opportunities to share these services with those who listen on radio and who watch on television. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Clothed with Power, or The Raiment, the Garments of God. In these days and for some time past, as for some time to continue, the pastor is preparing and delivering sermons on the Holy Spirit of God. And the message today is kind of a byproduct of those studies. It is not particularly a part of the series itself; it is just one of those things that in my studying, I have found so constantly in the Bible, and it had in it a marvelous message for my own soul. May God bless it in this hour and to all of our lives.
One of the things that I found as I studied the Holy Spirit of God in the Holy Bible, one of the things that I found was this: so often the Scriptures will use clothing as a type of God’s presence and power upon us. And as I looked at it with increasing meaning, it came to my heart to pick out some of the uses of that simile, that metaphor, as it is used here in the Bible, and maybe God would bless it to our souls today.
For example, and this is a part of the sermon that Melvin Carter delivered at the 8:15 o’clock hour this morning; in the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges, the King James Version reads: “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew the trumpet” [Judges 6:34]. The Hebrew of that reads, “And the Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself with Gideon” [Judges 6:34]. We would say it, “And the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he blew the trumpet” [Judges 6:34].
So oft times the Bible will use that type, that metaphor, that simile, as taking off these old clothes and putting on the garments of God. And here is Gideon cowering like a slave before the hosts of the Midianites. And the Lord came, the Angel of God, the Lord Jesus preincarnate, and the Angel of the Lord came and spoke to Gideon, hidden away like a coward, like a bond slave, threshing out a little wheat that the family might live [Judges 6:11]. And in his cowardice and in his fear, the Angel of the Lord came, and spoke to him and said, “Thou mighty man of valor, the Lord is with thee” [Judges 6:12].
What an astonishing address! Like a slave cringing before his enemies, and the Angel of the Lord comes and speaks to him, “Thou mighty man of valor, the Lord is with thee” [Judges 6:12]. Then, turning the page, “And the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he blew the trumpet” [Judges 6:34]; taking away our old rags of fear and cowardice and clothing us with courage, and power, and victory, and triumph.
Isn’t it a marvelous thing, the whole Word of God following that thought and that simile? In the garden of Eden, Satan stripped the man of his garment of innocency, and left him naked, and bruised, and lost, and ashamed, and unfit for the presence of God [Genesis 3:1-8]. What a tragedy; what a tragedy. Like the thieves took that traveler from Jerusalem to Jericho, and stripped him of his garments, and left him to die; what a tragedy, what a tragedy [Luke 10:30]. Like the Gadarene demoniac afflicted by Satan; Satan tore off his clothes and he lived in the tombs, the place of the dead [Luke 8:26-27].
And Adam made fig leaves to cover his nakedness [Genesis 3:7]; and the Lord came and said, “Not so; naught will it do.” And God made a garment to clothe the nakedness and the shame of our first father. Do you think He did it over the old fig apron? No. God said, “Take it off. Take it off. It will not do.” And God clothed him with His own raiment [Genesis 3:21]. As the prodigal son, when he came back home, dressed in rags, and the father said, “Bring forth the finest, best robe and put it upon him” [Luke 15:18-22]. Do you suppose he put the glorious garment over those old rags? “Take them off. Take them off.” So the Lord God to Gideon, “Take off those old rags of cowardice and fear, and be clothed in the might, and the glory, and the power, and the courage of the Lord. And the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he blew the trumpet” [Judges 6:34].
In a like figure; “And the Lord said, Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until you be clothed, until you be clothed, enduō,” our word endow, “until ye be clothed with power from on high” [Luke 24:49]. For they had been clothed with the rags of weakness, and cowardice, and apology, and denial––yea their chief with curses and with blasphemy [Matthew 26:69-74; Luke 22:56-60]. And the Lord said to those cowering, and weak, and powerless disciples, “You stay in the city of Jerusalem, tarry there, wait there, until ye be clothed with power from on high, until you exchange those rags of ineffectiveness and defeat for the glory of the triumph of the Spirit in Pentecost” [Luke 24:49].
Oh, as I visit Christendom today, my soul cries out for a like visitation; changing these old rags of weakness for the garments and the raiment of power and of glory! When the whirlwind, when the whirlwind carried Elijah back to heaven [2 Kings 2:11], Elisha took his garments and tore them apart, rent his raiment [2 Kings 2:12]. And picking up the mantle of Elijah [2 Kings 2:13], the sign of the prophetic office, he smote the waters of the Jordan, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” [2 Kings 2:14].
In the days past, there were centuries that saw a floodtide of devotion to our Lord Christ. And you see a record of it in the magnificent piles of cathedrals, those great upward houses of worship that are sermons in themselves, pointing to the infinite God. And in those days, no seats in the cathedrals––the crowds and the throngs could not find room as they pressed to hear the glorious story of the saving Lord.
Just recently, I stood in the church where the immortal John Huss preached the gospel of the Son of God in Bohemia and in its capital of Prague, filled with dust. And my heart cried, “Where, O God, is the Lord God of John Huss?” And I stood in Saint Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, a great, mammoth, glorious church whose top is in the form of a mighty crown, and looked at the little handful of worshippers there, and the great, mammoth building mostly covered in dust. And I cried in my heart, “O, where is the Lord God of John Knox?” And the British government out of the largess of its offices, restoring great landmarks destroyed by the Nazi Germans, the British government has restored Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s tabernacle. And it stands there, the outside of it as it was when Spurgeon preached––a great, mammoth auditorium in its day that seated six thousand people and the throngs that crowded to hear God’s man deliver God’s message; today, a little handful there. And my heart standing in the midst, cries out, “Oh, where is the Lord God of Charles Haddon Spurgeon?”
“Take away,” said the Lord Christ, “take away these rags of ineffectiveness, and weakness, and be clothed with the glory and the power from on high” [Luke 24:49]. And I turn to the Holy Word, our Lord Christ, that we might be justified by faith [Romans 3:20, 28, 5:1; Galatians 2:16-17, 3:11, 24]. The Old Covenant was a school teacher to bring us to Jesus [Galatians 3:24]. And as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ [Galatians 3:27]. There’s that glorious figure again; dressed in rags, and in sin, and in iniquity, and in filth, changing our rotten and iniquitous garments for the glory of the garments washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14]. A new robe, a new garment, put on Christ. Take off the old body of sin, and unbelief, and death, and judgment, and put on the glorious raiment of Christ [Revelation 3:5, 18].
Something new: not, as our Lord said, a patch on an old garment [Matthew 9:16], but a new raiment, a new dress, a new suit; new, not the old life patched up, but a new life in Jesus Christ; new, new [2 Corinthians 5:17]. As Joseph, when he was called before Pharaoh, cast aside the garments of death and of the dungeon, and he put on a new garment that he might stand before the king [Genesis 41:14]. As Bartimaeus, when the Lord heard his cry; Bartimaeus, casting away his old robe of beggary, came to Jesus [Mark 10:46-50]. We need a new robe.
I do not know of a more effective vision in the whole Word of God than this one seen by Zechariah in the third chapter of his prophecy:
And the Lord showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him …
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, as he stood in the presence of God.
And the Lord God said to those that stood before Him, Take away those filthy garments . . . and He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment.
And God said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.
How like every life that is lived in this world; clothed with filthy garments, and Satan standing by to point out every sin and every iniquity, and every dereliction, and every shortcoming. And the Lord God says, “Take away those filthy garments. Take them away, and clothe him in the glory of the Lord; and set a mitre upon his head that he might stand a servant before Me” [Zechariah 4:4-5]. Oh, what God does for us in taking away the rags of our old and judged life, and clothing us in the glory of the Lord!
And there’s no other way to stand in His presence but in that marvelous visitation; a gift from the gracious hands of our crucified and atoning Savior. In the parable of the wedding feast in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 22:1-14], “And the Lord walked in among the guests and He saw there a man without a wedding garment” [Matthew 22:11]. The wedding garment is supplied by the host. And this man chose to come into the presence of the King Himself dressed in his own righteousness and in his own goodness. And the Lord God, the great King, said to the intruder, “My friend, wherefore comest thou and there is no wedding garment?” And the man was speechless [Matthew 22:11-12].
For what does a soul say in the presence of the great God in the day of judgment when God asks about the iniquities that are not pardoned, and the sins that are not covered, and all of the vile of our life that is not washed away and covered over? What do you say to God? What do you say to God? “Lord, I—Lord, I—Lord, I was not as vile as he. I was not as sinful as he, Lord.” No, the man is speechless. You don’t say anything to God in that awful day when you stand in His presence in unforgiven sin [Psalm 5:4-5, Habakkuk 1:13]. No man shall ever stand in the presence of God in unforgiven sin. No man shall ever walk into that beautiful city in unforgiven sin. No man can stand in the presence of God without shame in his nakedness; and fig leaves won’t do [Genesis 3:7, 21].
“Wherefore, my friend,” said the King, “art thou here without a wedding garment?” And the man was speechless [Matthew 22:11-12]. There must be a covering. There must be a forgiveness. There must be a washing away. There must be the bestowment and the gift of a new garment, one washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14].
And you who have been baptized into Jesus Christ have put on Christ [Galatians 3:27]. As this holy ordinance of baptism symbolizes the washing away of our sins in the death and atonement of Christ and our resurrection to a new life in Jesus [Romans 6:3-5], so our coming before the Lord in faith, in faith, and the acceptance from His gracious hands of the forgiveness of our sins, clothes us in a raiment of His own choosing, and of His own fashioning, and of His own making, and of His own glory. For as many of you as have been baptized into Jesus Christ have put on Christ like a garment to cover the nakedness and the sin of our souls [Galatians 3:27].
And we continue the life of consecration and dedication. Paul writes, “That ye put off, that ye put off concerning the old life, the old man which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and that ye put on the new man which also God created in righteousness and true holiness” [Ephesians 4:22, 24]. Put off the old rags of the old life, and put on the new life in Jesus our Lord; putting away self, and putting away all of its deceitful lusts and the corruption therein, and putting on the new life in Jesus Christ. Put off the old man [Ephesians 4:22]. Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness; the life of the denial of self, and the new and glorious garment of the Lord [Ephesians 4:24].
One of the gifted and famous preachers of all time was Adolphe Monod. And he had a son who came to America, Later returned to his native France, but in America was a power and a witness for Christ in our United States. And while he was here, out of the devoted consecration of that preacher’s heart, came these beautiful and oft quoted words:
O the bitter pain and sorrow
That a time would ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus,
All of self and none of Thee.
Yet He found me: I beheld Him
Bleeding on the accursed tree;
And my wistful heart said faintly:
Some of self and some of Thee.
Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free:
Brought me lower, while I whispered:
Less, less of self and more, more of Thee!
Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea;
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered;
None of self, none of self, and all of Thee!
[“O the Bitter Shame and Sorrow,” Theodore Monod, 1874]
Put off the old man and put on the new man; none of self, Lord, none of self, and all of Thee.
And we hesitate: “O Lord, if I were to do that, I’m afraid, I tremble. Lord, a commitment and a consecration like that, O Master, how much I might lose.” Yes, yes, would you? Hath God devised for us some poor thing and some lesser thing? Yes? If I were to give my whole self to God, would I lose? Would God let me down? Would God forget?
I remember reading one time, Queen Elizabeth I; long ago, Queen Elizabeth said to an able, and brilliant, and flourishing merchant that he leave London and England and go on a mission to the far reaches of the empire. And the able merchant replied to his queen, “Oh, but Your Majesty, you don’t understand. My business would fail. My very life and fortune would fall into ruins. And if I forsake it and leave it for this mission you ask me to go on, it would destroy me. It would ruin me. Oh, Your Majesty, I cannot.” And the queen replied to her merchantman, “You go on my business and I’ll take care of your business.” So the merchantman left London, and left his house of merchandise, and left England, and to the far reaches of Her Majesty’s empire did he go on the mission for his queen. And when eventually he returned, to his amazement he found that his business had prospered as he never could have dreamed of in the earth. For under the tutelage and patronage of the queen, it came to a height in England it otherwise could never have achieved.
Does God mean some lesser thing for us when we devote to Him our highest talents, our trust, our faith, our commitment in tithing, in loving, in praying, in serving, in doing, in walking, in coming and going? Does God forget? Does God let us down? All of self, and none—all of self, and none of Thee? O Lord, none of self, and everything of Thee.
There are those who say that the most able man, the greatest intellectual giant, and the ablest theologian that America ever produced was Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards, the New England divine, was pastor of the North Hampton Church in Massachusetts for twenty-three years. In those days George Whitefield came from England. And together those two men of God moved those colonies heavenward and God-ward. But after twenty-three years as pastor of the church, Jonathan Edwards was ejected. The people repudiated him and cast him out because of a commitment to a great doctrinal truth.
The truth was, at that particular moment when they dismissed him, the truth was Jonathan Edwards came to believe, according to reading the Bible, the Word of God, that unsaved and unbaptized people ought not to take the Lord’s Supper. And because of his conviction and his doctrinal belief, after twenty-three years the great preacher was dismissed. He was called as pastor of a little wretched church, and was a missionary to a despised and poverty-stricken tribe of Indians. In those days, Jonathan Edwards did his greatest work. He was so poor he never had money with which to buy paper. And his marvelous treatises on theology are written on the backs of used envelopes and on little scraps of paper, wherever he could find them. And in those days, he wrote these words:
I have given myself, all that I am and have, so that I am in no respect my own. I can challenge no right in myself in this understanding, this will, these affections; neither have I right to this body, or any of its members. No right to these hands, these feet, these eyes, these ears; I have given myself clean away.
And there in that little place, nearly starving to death, God found him and remembered him. And they called him to be president of Princeton University, in which high place he died; God’s great preacher, the father of the Great Awakening in America. None of self, and all of Thee; put off the rags of the old man, and put on the new man which in God is created in righteousness and true holiness [Ephesians 4:22, 24].
We continue. For we know, we who are Christians, we who have been saved, we who have received from the Lord’s hand the robe of covering of atonement, of imputed righteousness:
For we know, we do, that if our earthly house, if this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
[2 Corinthians 5:1-4]
The apostle there is likening this body, this earthly house, to one made out of decaying and rotting rags. And the years wasted and finally death decimates it. And this old garment, this old house, this old clothing, this old raiment dissolves, and decays, and rots. And we are left naked. You, who are instructed in the Masonic Lodge remember that awesome and impressive and dramatic moment when the man stands up and says, “The flesh comes off from the hand, and I cannot raise him up.” In this house, in this raiment, in this garment, dying and rotting and decaying, clothed in flesh that turns back to the dust; then the apostle so proudly says, but someday, some triumphant and glorious day, we shall take off these old rags or the decaying and a rotting body, and we shall put on the glorious immortal garments of God: “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” [2 Corinthians 5:1-2].
There shall be a new robe. There shall be new raiment. There shall be a new house. There shall be a new body when we are clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; that, as the apostle says, mortality, decay might be swallowed up of life [2 Corinthians 5:4].
For this I say unto you, my brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
But behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all, we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed—clothed upon with our beautiful garment from heaven.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortality must put on immortality.
And when this mortality shall have put on immortality, and when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death, death is swallowed up in victory.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-54]
Clothed upon with our house which is from heaven [2 Corinthians 5:1-2].
I was so moved the other Sunday, two Sundays ago, was it, when Dr. Lee was here. And he described in South Carolina, in the home in which he lived, he described a visit of his aged, and precious, and darling Christian mother. He described a visit of his mother to an old slave who had helped in the family and who was dying. And when Mother Lee went to see that old, aged, dying Negro former slave who’d been such a blessing to the children, to him, and to the family, the old, aged, dying Negro woman said to her, she said, “Mother Lee, Mother Lee, I is just about to exchange this old wore-out wagon for a golden chariot.” And Dr. Lee said, “I don’t think I ever heard in my life a better description of what it is to die in Christ: ‘Mother Lee, I is about to exchange this old wore-out wagon for a golden chariot.’”
“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven . . . that mortality might be swallowed up of life” [2 Corinthians 5:2, 4]. “Take off,” God says to us someday, some glorious triumphant resurrection day, “take off those old rags of flesh that rot and decay, and put on the glorious garments of God.”
“Awake,” cried Isaiah to his people, “awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem . . . Shake thyself from the dust of the ground; arise, shine, for thy light is come” [Isaiah 52:1, 2, 60:1]; this old wore-out wagon, exchanged for a golden chariot; these old and rotting rags, exchanged for the garments glorious of the Lord [2 Corinthians 5: 2, 4].
Bear me one other. Going through the Bible, there is yet another; and oh, how preciously beautiful, and how gloriously true. In the Revelation,
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice mighty thunderings saying, Hallelujah, hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is dikaioma, plural, the righteousnesses of the saints.
“And to her was granted that she be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the dikaiōma,” plural, “the righteousnesses of the saints” [Revelation 19:8]. What the Lord is speaking there concerns the inheritance, the rewards, God hath in store, God hath prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Did you ever see a man on a Veteran’s Day, as last Thursday? I was preaching last Thursday in San Jose, California. They had a marvelous parade, and I like that; the blowing of the trumpets, the beating of the drums, the unfurling of the flags, the stepping of our men. And some of them passing by, I noticed stars, and ribbons, and medals of the conflict. Men who had laid down their lives for our country, men who had been wounded in battle, men who had jeopardized life and fortune for the freedom and the liberties of our people, and honored on this day, marching by in uniform; there with the honors of the conflict pinned where all could see and be grateful. My friend, it is just an earnest, just a harbinger, just a symbol, just a type of what it shall be in that ultimate and final glory when God shall clothe His saints with the righteousnesses, the rewards of their service down here in this world. And compared to that eternal reward, any reward, any stipend, any recompense we’d ever gain in this life and in this world is as nothing.
I think every preacher ought to read Charles G. Finney’s glorious autobiography. And in it is that dramatic outline of his miraculous conversion, and when he was saved, and baptized with the Spirit, and filled from heaven, and endued with glory from above. In his office, in his law office, there came one of his clients to ask him about the matters of the day in the legal courts. And Charles G. Finney said to him, “Sir, I am no longer in the employ and I’m no longer in the office, for I have received and I have accepted a retainer from the Lord, and I am now serving Him.”
I am not avowing that every man is to lay down the cause and the task and the assignments that God hath given him in a secular world and to go like Charles G. Finney with a retainer from Jesus to plead the case of Jesus. I think the Lord called him for that. He calls you maybe for something else. I am just avowing that the rewards, the retainers, that we receive; the emoluments, the stipends, the pay that we receive in this present life is not worthy to be compared with the glorious rewards God hath in store for those who love Him and are in heaven. “Behold, I come quickly,” He said, “and My reward is with Me, to give every man as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12].
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come.” The great triumphant rendezvous is come, “and His people have made themselves ready” [Revelation 19:7]. And when they are presented before the Lamb, before the Lord God, behold, they are arrayed in those glorious garments of light. And those garments, that fine linen, clean and white, is the righteousnesses of the saints [Revelation 19:8]. It is what you have done for Jesus down here in this very world. Oh, how preciously meaningful, how certainly true. And God bless us as we labor in His name until that final and ultimate day of glory and reward.
While we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus, give your life to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]; you, a family you, coming into the fellowship of this church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a couple, as God shall say the word, shall whisper the appeal, make it now, make it this morning, “Here I am, preacher, and here I come. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” Or, “Pastor, these are my children. This is my wife. All of us are coming today, and here we are.” As God shall say the word, make it now. In this balcony round, there’s a place to come; front and back on either side, in this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, preacher. Here I come.” Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.