Garment of Grace

The book of Genesis deals with beginnings—the beginning of the world, the beginning of life, the beginning of sin, the beginning of God’s plan of salvation. In the first two chapters, we have nothing but a perfect world, but in the third chapter, the serpent comes and as men listen to him, trouble is the result. Trouble always comes when listening to the serpent. But Jesus didn’t leave us with the sad choice that humanity had made. He came to reveal Himself.

Before sin entered, Adam and Eve were clothed with beautiful garments of light, a token of their fellowship with God in heaven, but when they sinned, when they broke God’s law, their beautiful garments faded away. Sin and light do not belong together. Sin is associated with darkness, nakedness, and so the scripture says that Adam and Eve came to realize that they were naked. They sensed that they had lost something and, sooner or later, every sinner realizes that he’s lost something, too.

I’ve thought about it as something like this bloom on the grape, that beautiful, silvery something that’s on the skin of a grape. When you look at a bunch that hasn’t been handled you see it. Can you rub it off? Yes, easily. Then how do you get it back on? You don’t, for eating of that tree of knowledge of good and evil takes the bloom of innocence away.

In their endeavor to fix themselves, Adam and Eve got busy making clothes. Many people today try to fix themselves up in the same way. And quite often they succeed just about as well as Adam and Eve—very partial, very incomplete, totally inadequate. This is the first time we see sewing in the Bible.

The next time that we see garment preparation in the Bible, we find God Himself is in the clothing business. “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21. The garments Adam and Eve had fashioned were called aprons. Genesis 3:7 calls them, “Things to gird about.” The Jewish translation says girdles.

Notice that God did not accept those fig leaf girdles. And whether literally or spiritually, He won’t accept them today either. It is a wonderful thing to think that our literal clothing is to symbolize and represent the spiritual clothing that Jesus clothes us with. If there were no other reason for having adequate covering, I think this would be a most wonderful, beautiful, and sublime reason, because the garments Jesus makes are garments of grace provided at an infinite cost.

Our first parents’ garments were prepared by God from animal skins. For the first time, death had come into the world and their clothing would be a frequent reminder of the fact that to be clothed in the eyes of God, something had to die. Someone had to die. Every lamb and bullock slain in sacrifice represented Jesus. So every time Adam and Eve looked at their clothing made of skins, they remembered that their covering would be purchased by the death of Jesus, the Son of God.

“The white robe of innocence was worn by our first parents when they were placed by God in holy Eden.” There were four garments. The first was the garment of light that God gave Adam and Eve in Eden. But they lost that when they sinned. Then they knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together, but when God came, He clothed them in the garments of skins, the skins of the animals, slain in sacrifice. So there are four conditions: the Eden condition of innocence with the garment of light, the sinful condition of nakedness, the attempt by human works to sew together something to cover up. All this is futile and fatal, but if men will accept the gift of God, they will be clothed in this world with these garments of skins which represent the covering righteousness of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

“The white robe of innocence was worn by our first parents when they were placed by God in holy Eden. … A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.”

“This is what the transgressors of God’s law have done ever since the day of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. They have sewed together fig leaves to cover the nakedness caused by transgression. They have worn the garments of their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable with God.

“But this they can never do. Nothing can man devise to supply the place of his lost robe of innocence. No fig-leaf garment, no worldly citizen dress, can be worn by those who sit down with Christ and angels at the marriage supper of the Lamb. …

“Everything that we of ourselves can do is defiled by sin. …

“Christ in His humanity wrought out a perfect character, and this character He offers to impart to us.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 310–312

To impart means to give. Jesus gives to us a most precious gift. “Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.” Ibid. God sees as He looks at us the precious robe of Jesus’ righteousness.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6

Just imagine how long a fig leaf garment would last. It would fade as a leaf does and then the wind blows it away. Revelation 16 tells us what will happen to the garments of man’s making in the last days. “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.” Verse 15. The whole world will be found naked when Jesus comes except those who have on the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

The bride of Christ, His people, will be found wearing the wedding garment, arrayed in fine linen. “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.” Revelation 19:7, 8

Righteousness is not earned, it is a gift. As sinners, we do not deserve it—we didn’t yesterday, we don’t today, and we won’t tomorrow. But, unworthy as we are, God gives us this most precious gift when we surrender to Him.

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.” Zechariah 3:1

Joshua is the high priest representing the people of God. He stands before the angel of the Lord. We see that Satan is also there. Satan means an adversary. An adversary is an enemy or opponent. Satan has no timidity, no modesty, or inhibitions. He presses right in to cause trouble.

“And the Lord said unto Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’ ” Verse 2

The Lord said, “Is this not …” What is this? The Lord is speaking of Joshua. Joshua represents all of us, so what are we? Brands plucked out of the fire. What a terrible, painful thing it was when Jesus plucked us out of the fire and was then plunged into the fire in our place. He will bear the marks of that rescue all through eternity.

“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He [God] answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’ ” Verses, 3, 4

God gave Joshua a new garment. “And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.” Verse 5

First we see Joshua clothed in filthy garments. Then we see him clothed in beautiful garments. God made the change, and there was Satan trying to trouble the people of God. Do you know, that every time God tries to do something for us the devil tries to cause trouble?

I was in a court of law once waiting for my turn to testify as a witness. I observed with much interest the trial proceedings of the case that preceded the one that I was there for. A witness would be put in the chair, the defense attorney would ask him some questions, then the prosecuting attorney would cross examine. Back and forth the questions went, first one attorney and then the other. I realized that in many cases, it all comes down to whom you choose to believe.

What clothes do you have on? If you listen to and believe the devil, he will keep you clothed in filthy garments. He will keep testifying that you are a sinner lost, a failure unworthy of anything better, and he will keep up that testimony as long as there is any breath in him. There is no shaking his testimony. For 6,000 years he has cultivated this spirit to accuse.

In Revelation 12:10, we find a different picture. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ is come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’ ”

In this world, you and I must sleep. But neither God nor the devil ever sleep. Day and night Satan keeps up the barrage of accusation, fault finding, and criticism; charging the people of God with being sinners, and keeping them clothed in filthy garments. If you and I are wearing filthy garments and and are tightly clinging to them, the devil usually has no interest in accusing us. He doesn’t need to.

But the man or woman, boy or girl who turns to God—gives up their filthy, fig-leaf garment of self-righteousness, their nakedness of sin, and accepts Christ’s robe of righteousness bought by His precious blood—is accused by the devil as he stands up before God and all the world to make sure that every mistake ever made is right out there for all to see. Has he ever come to you, figuratively digging his thumb into your side, reminding you, “I know what you did”? I think of what Martin Luther once said to the devil when he came around reminding him of some sin and casting doubt as to whether he was really forgiven or not. Martin Luther said to him, “That’s none of your business.”

The devil is not your friend. He is your enemy, and the only strong feelings he has for you or any one of us is hatred. He wants to see us dead, not saved. And that is why he continues, never ceasing, to bring up all the wicked things we have done and how we are not worthy of the gift of righteousness that Jesus is so willing to give to us if we will give up our own filthy rags.

Jesus, our own Attorney, our Mediator, is the One we need to listen to. It is He who has done everything, paid our debt, to secure our salvation and He waits now to take away our filthy rags of sin and in their place give us His own robe of righteousness.

If you have read The Great Controversy, then you know that a great time of trouble, called the time of Jacob’s trouble, is just ahead of us. It will be a fearful time of trouble. Whether you believe the testimony of Satan or that of Jesus will be the awful test of this time. Even after probation has closed, even after we have the seal of the living God, and in heaven all our sins have been blotted out and our names are enrolled for eternity in the book of life, the devil will still keep urging upon our souls the fact that we are clothed with filthy garments.

But friends, we won’t have to point to the shame of our own nakedness or hold up the fig-leaf garments of our own making. We will be able to hold up the merits of Jesus and point to Calvary, His blood shed there on the cross, and sprinkled in the most holy place to blot out our sins. By faith, and faith alone, we will be able to hide under the precious covering of Jesus’ life.

Faith is believing what God says, believing the testimony of Jesus, instead of believing Satan. Even though you turn to God and chose Christ as your Saviour, Satan will still tell you that you are filthy, wicked, no good, clothed with filthy garments, unredeemable, and unworthy. But Jesus says that He will take away our filthy garments and clothe us with a change of raiment. Which will you believe?

Jesus is a witness on our behalf. Satan is a witness against us. The Bible tells us there is another witness who testifies against us. Even if the devil were to die today, you and I would still have a problem on our hands because of this witness. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is wicked; it tells lies. My heart, yours, everyone’s. We are all as an unclean thing. The heart, the mind, are deceitful above all things. If you were on trial for your life, would you want that kind of witness on the stand to speak against you? Would you want the testimony of your own heart to be accepted if your life was hanging in the balance? If I cannot trust my own thoughts, what can I trust?

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” 1 John 3:20

There is a better witness to listen to than my own deceitful heart. My thoughts and feelings constantly change. Today I may feel wonderful. I may have received such a blessing. But what about tomorrow? Tomorrow, your heart may condemn you, and only God can change your heart.

A man stole $5 from his neighbor. In the night, his conscience condemned him so bad that he couldn’t sleep. Should it condemn him? Yes. Should he listen? Yes. So he goes to God, “Lord, I’ve broken the eighth commandment of Your law. Please forgive me.” Then he goes to his neighbor and confesses that he stole the money and gives it back, and then asks, “Neighbor, please forgive me.” And the neighbor does. He has received forgiveness from both God and man, but then the devil says, “You don’t dare come to church. Church is for the saints and you are a thief. You don’t deserve to be there. Maybe if you’re good for a year or two you might get back, but don’t dare go today.”

Now, what if this man’s own heart agrees with the devil. It forgets that the man did pray and ask God for forgiveness and that he believed he was forgiven. It forgets that the man went and confessed to his neighbor and received forgiveness. His own heart and the devil, too, tell him he really couldn’t be forgiven because he is a terrible sinner. Imagine how dark and discouraged the thoughts of this man would be after listening to this sort of testimony. The Bible tells us that “on the testimony of two or three witnesses …” (Deuteronomy 17:6, last part) every word is established. Now he is filled with doubt and darkness.

But suppose that he listens to God instead of listening to the devil or his own heart. “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” God knows that he stole, but He also knows that he gave up this sin and confessed, and now he is forgiven and covered with the precious life of Jesus.

Here are some witnesses that are a lot better witnesses than the deceitful devil and the deceitful human heart. “And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.” 1 John 5:8, 9, first part. If men will listen to men in matters brought before a court of law, why should he not listen to God when his soul is at stake? God says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

So dear friend, when my heart condemns me, when the devil urges his accusations against me, when my own heart condemns me and my mind is weary with a restless striving, I must turn off those other voices, and listen to these three Witnesses—the Spirit and the water and the blood of Christ. I must look to Calvary and say, “Yes, Jesus died for me.” I will look to the sanctuary and see the sprinkled blood and say, “That blood speaks for me, and I will believe that it covers me.”

God teaches us the lesson of being fully covered in the ordinance of baptism by immersion, not sprinkling. In the watery grave, the water speaks and says, “Yes, your sins are covered.” The ordinances of communion and foot washing are regular renewals of cleansing.

The Spirit speaks to our hearts through the inspired word. The Bible says, “You are clean.” It tells us that our filthy garments are taken away, and we are accounted righteous. It tells us that we are the sons and daughters of God and we are covered with the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Listen as God speaks peace to our troubled hearts and His voice echoes and reechoes down the halls of time to, “This is My beloved child in whom I am well pleased.”

If we will listen to these three Witnesses, what our poor, natural mind and the devil say won’t make any difference. If we will do that now, we will be able to do it when Jacob’s trouble comes.

One way or the other, we all testify. What will be your witness? Where do you place your will? Can we believe the word of God?

The Bible says that the just shall live by faith; they live by believing God. We cannot see this new garment, but we know that there is one for each of us when we believe in God and His witnesses.

Pastor W. D. Frazee studied the Medical Missionary Course at the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. He was called to Utah as a gospel medical evangelist. During the Great Depression, when the church could not afford to hire any assistants, Pastor Frazee began inviting professionals to join him as volunteers. Thus began a faith ministry that would become the foundation for the establishment of the Wildwood Medical Missionary Institute in 1942. He believed that each person is unique, specially designed by the Lord, of infinite value, and has a special place and mission in this world which only he or she can fill. His life followed this principle and encouraged others to do the same.