Clothes of Character

One of the saddest chapters in the Bible is the third chapter of Genesis where it is recorded that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ ” Genesis 3:7–11.

It was customary for the Lord to meet with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. They knew He was coming and though He had created them, they were embarrassed to be seen naked by Him. So they took fig leaves and sewed them together. Some Bible translations describe the garments they made as aprons. They presented themselves wearing their fig leaf garments. However, God did not accept the way they were dressed.

There are some styles of clothing that are unacceptable to God. Often signs are seen outside churches that say, “Come as You Are.” God does call sinners to come, but He never leaves them in their initial state. Today, this “come as you are” is often interpreted that it does not matter how we present ourselves to have an audience with the King of kings. If you were invited to meet with the President of the United States, you would not come just as you are. It is a disgrace to the Christian religion to give less respect to the Creator of the heavens and the earth than we do to important people in this world. God called our first parents out, but notice what He did: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21. God did not accept the way they were dressed and provided for them another type of clothing. One of the main problems with the way they were clothed was there was not enough of it and that is one of the main problems with modern dress.

Ever since that time, mankind has realized his natural nakedness of soul and has attempted to do something to cover it up. Fig leaves don’t work. There is nothing that you and I can make that will cover our spiritual nakedness. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments clothing is presented as representative of character. Matthew 22:11–14 describes the result of somebody who was not dressed properly. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And He was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.’ ” When Jesus uses the expression, “… there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” referring to the Day of Judgment, He is not talking about the infidels and agnostics, the atheists and the unbelievers. He is referring to the people who believed they would be saved, but when the end comes, they find out that they are not. The garment here referred to is not made of linen, wool, or cotton but is a symbol of character.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:26, 27, “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” He speaks here of the garment of character that needs to be washed and cleansed.

In Revelation 3:14–18, it says, “To the angel of the church of the Laodicians write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God; I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew [vomit] you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, having become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” ’ ”

This church thinks it has everything, but the Lord says it does not know its real spiritual condition of wretchedness and nakedness. The people in this church are self-confident. They think they are ready to go to heaven but are warned there is something missing; they are naked and in need of a garment of covering.

When people are physically naked, they know they are naked, but they can be unaware of their spiritual nakedness and think everything is all right.

Revelation 19:7, 8 says, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” The fine linen represents righteousness. All who desire to go to the marriage supper described in Revelation 19 must have on the wedding garment, representing the righteousness of the saints. The Bible says that we don’t have any righteousness. So what are we going to do? There is only One Who is righteous, and He invites us to come to Him for a change of clothing.

Remember the man who went to the wedding without the wedding garment. He remained in his citizen’s dress and was refused entry. Like other Bible writers, Isaiah also uses clothing as a symbol of character. “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6. We are in desperate need of a change of clothing.

The main subject in Zechariah 3 is the need of taking off the filthy garments. It is this change of clothing or the wedding garment that Christ wants to give. Isaiah says, “Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments.” Isaiah 52:1. Those beautiful garments are the wedding garments, the righteousness of Christ.

In Revelation 16 is described seven last plagues that are to be poured out in this world before Jesus returns. In the middle of the sixth plague a pronouncement is made from heaven. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Revelation 16:15.

If you are planning to put on the wedding garment, you must not continue in sin. Ellen White states, “Every soul that continues in sin in the face of the light now shining upon our pathway, will be blinded and accept the delusions of Satan. We are now nearing the close of this world’s history.” The Review and Herald, March 19, 1895. Paul makes it very clear in II Thessalonians 2:1–12 that at the end, God is going to send strong delusion to people who did not receive the love of the truth and had pleasure in unrighteousness. All unrighteousness is sin (I John 5:17), and sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4).

In the end of time, all those who have pleasure in breaking God’s law will be deceived. Jesus is not the minister of sin (Galatians 2:17). Many Christians plan to give up all of their darling sins in the future, but not just yet. That is to be in an extremely dangerous situation, for some who are holding on to some treasured sin die before they give it up.

Time is short. Waste no more time; go to the Lord and say, Lord, I want to be rid of my sins; help me to stop sinning and clothe me in Your garment of righteousness. Some may believe there are so many sins in their life that there is not enough time between now and when Jesus comes to be rid of them. Don’t worry. Just make a full commitment to Jesus today and no matter your besetting sins—the things that hold you in bondage—the Lord wants to set you free. But He can only do that when you make a total commitment to Him.

We are living in a time when everyone is being weighed in the balance. After the birth of Samuel, Hannah prayed, “Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.” I Samuel 2:3. God weighs actions and the motives that determine the weight of the action. Daniel told Belshazzar, “You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.” Daniel 5:27. What balances were those? They were God’s balances.

God has a temple where Jesus is ministering right now as your High Priest. In that temple are balances. I do not know how to describe it other than the way that inspired writers have written about it. Both Daniel and Hannah talked about God weighing actions.

Ellen White wrote, “Every character is to be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary; if the moral character and spiritual advancement do not correspond with the opportunities and blessings, ‘wanting’ is written against the name.” The Review and Herald, March 19, 1895. Are you ready to be weighed in the heavenly scales?

In order to measure up and be found acceptable, a person’s character must be transformed by the Holy Spirit. We are counseled to study the Scriptures. In writing to Timothy, Paul said, “It will make you wise unto salvation” (II Timothy 3:15). In The Review and Herald, March 19, 1895, Ellen White wrote, “All who claim to be children of God should seek daily to understand why they believe by searching the Scriptures for themselves.” Do you know why you believe what you believe? There are many people today who cannot explain to you what they believe and why they believe it. “The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church is looked forward to as in the future; but it is the privilege of the church to have it now. Seek for it, pray for it, believe for it. We must have it, and Heaven is waiting to bestow it.” Ibid. The Lord wants you to receive the Holy Spirit and be changed in character. Are you doing your part?

What is involved in putting on the wedding garment? In I Samuel 15, the Lord had blessed Saul with a great military victory, but the Lord had told him to kill everything, including the cattle. Saul did not obey. When he returned the prophet said, “What is this? I hear all these cattle out here.” Saul said to him, “We brought those things back to sacrifice to the Lord. We’re going to have a big worship service.” Verses 14, 15, literal translation.

Millions of Christians today, like Saul, are worshiping God in a way that He does not accept. Why? The answer can be found in verses 22, 23: “Then Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice … For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.’ ” It is better to obey than to be religious. There are people who go through all kinds of religious rituals and ceremonies, and the Lord says, “I don’t accept that. You are disobedient.” The Lord did not reject Saul the first time he was deliberately disobedient. He gave him more than one chance. Obedience is crucial to being able to wear the wedding garment.

In Numbers 14 we are told about some people that did not enter the Promised Land. Canaan was a symbol of the heavenly Canaan. In Numbers 14:21–23 it is recorded that God said, “ ‘… but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord—because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.’ ”

Notice, this did not happen after they had rejected the Lord over disobedience once, or twice, or even three times. The Lord said that they “have put Me to the test now these ten times.” They had a wrong spirit. But notice verse 24: “ ‘But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land.’ ” What kind of a spirit do you have? Will you follow the Lord wherever He takes you, or are you half-hearted?

When God speaks, do you, like Samuel, say, “Speak Lord, your servant hears” (I Samuel 3, literal translation). Whatever you say, I will do it. Or do you resist the Holy Spirit? Do you want to put on the wedding garment? Do you have an intense desire to cover your spiritual nakedness with the robe of Christ’s righteousness? All of our own righteousness is filthy rags. Writing to Seventh-day Adventists, Ellen White said, “We are far, far from being Christians, which is to be Christlike.” Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, No. 6 (1896), 24.

Today, just as it was in the time of Christ, there are many people who claim to be Christians and know Bible truth whose minds are actually under the control of Satan. The same thing happened to the religious leaders in Jesus’ time. He said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44.

The root of the devil’s problem is pride and selfishness. Therefore if I have pride and selfishness, then the devil is in control of my mind. I’m not putting the wedding garment on. In Upward Look, 51, we are told: “Today as in Christ’s day, Satan rules the minds of many. … Selfishness has perverted principles, selfishness has confused the senses and clouded the judgment. …

“If men would only give up their spirit of resistance to the Holy Spirit, the spirit which has long been leavening their religious experience, God’s Spirit would address itself to their hearts. It would convince of sin.”

Notice, the first work of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin (see John 16:8). If you are not convicted of your sin, it is evident that you do not have the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Lord will convict you of your sins.

“God’s Spirit would address itself to their hearts. It would convince of sin. What a work! But the Holy Spirit has been insulted and light has been rejected.” Ibid., 51. This is called the early rain of the Holy Spirit. The Bible predicts in both the Old and New Testaments that just before Jesus comes again there is going to be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon this world such as has never been. It is referred to as the latter rain. If you have the experience of the early rain you will receive the beautiful garment—a Christlike character. However, if you do not have this experience, when the latter rain falls, you will not be ready for it and will not receive it. “We may be sure that when the Holy Spirit is poured out those who did not receive and appreciate the early rain will not see or understand the value of the latter rain.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 399.

This is a subject that I personally talk about to the Lord privately. I plead with Him that I will be aware of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Paul simplifies this when writing about being ready for Jesus to come in Colossians 1–4. He says there are some things that must be put on and other things that must be put off. The filthy rags of our own righteousness must be put off and the robe of Christ’s righteousness must be put on. “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.

He then continues to say there are some things you need to put on. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:12–15.

Have your garments been changed in preparation for Jesus to come? With all the strife and disunity amongst the believers today, it is obvious that Paul’s instruction in Colossians 3 has not been studied and understood. Families are fractured and churches are fragmented. These problems would disappear with a change of garment.

We pray that we might receive the Holy Spirit, and though that is an appropriate prayer, God cannot pour out the latter rain upon His people until certain conditions are fulfilled. Those conditions are so plain that Ellen White writes that a child will be able to understand. “Unless this converting power shall go through our churches, unless the revival of the Spirit of God shall come, all their profession will never make the members of the church Christians. There are sinners in Zion who need to repent of sins that have been cherished as precious treasures.” The Review and Herald, February 7, 1957.

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you right now telling you that there is some sin in your life that you are not willing to put aside, it is to give you an opportunity to choose to be saved. But you cannot be saved as long as you cling to that darling sin. There are people who refuse to quit sinning because they enjoy it. They look at sinful things that they should be avoiding—on television, videos, DVDs or the Internet. They listen to and read sinful things and get so much enjoyment out of this “entertainment” that they refuse to give it up. They enjoy the pleasures of sin, but keep in mind, those pleasures are always temporary.

Ellen White wrote, “Until these sins are seen, and thrust from the soul, until every faulty, unlovely trait of character is transformed by the Spirit’s influence, God cannot manifest Himself in power.” Ibid. That is why we rarely see the powerful working of the Holy Spirit among us today because, “God cannot manifest Himself in power.”

The reason the outpouring of the Holy Spirit did not occur until the Day of Pentecost was that the disciples were not ready for it until they had been transformed by the Spirit’s influence. God wants to pour out His Holy Spirit on His people now, but He cannot, “Until every faulty, unlovely trait of character is transformed by the Spirit’s influence.” Ibid.

When the Holy Spirit works in the life, by His grace and power, every faulty, unlovely trait of character is going to be expelled. That is what is involved in putting on the wedding garment, the beautiful garments that Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 52. There will be no unlovely traits of character in heaven to risk a repeat of the misery of this world’s history.

“Are we striving with all our God-given powers to reach the measure of the stature of men and women in Christ [Ephesians 4:14, 15]? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever reaching higher and higher, trying to attain to the perfection of His character?

“When God’s servants reach this point, they will be sealed in their foreheads. The recording angel will declare, ‘It is done.’ ” The Review and Herald, February 7, 1957.

Then Jesus will come. The early rain of the Holy Spirit takes away the wrinkles and spots, leaving the garments clean. It can happen in your life and in my life if we will make a complete commitment to Jesus and say, “Lord, I’m going to follow You all the way. I want perfection of character. I don’t want to be just a Christian in name; I want to actually become Christ-like.” Let the Holy Spirit work on your mind and your heart. Reach out to the Lord and say: “Lord, I want to be saved. I want to have salvation; I want to be transformed by Your Holy Spirit and be clothed in the wedding garment. Fulfill your promise, that whenever I cry out to You, the Holy Spirit will come and answer my cry. Teach me and show me what to do to cooperate with the heavenly agencies so that I will be ready to enter into the Promised Land when You return.”

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.