Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Implications of Being Clothed With Christ

I've been working through Timothy Keller’s study on Galatians in a small group and recently arrived at an encouraging section analyzing what it means to be "clothed with Christ":

2. [Galatians 3:27] says all Christians have "clothed themselves" with Christ. Meditate on this image. What are the implications of the metaphor? What does it tell us about being in Christ?

“This is a favorite metaphor of Paul’s (cf. Rom.13:12; Eph.4:24; Col.3:12f.). But here (and in Romans 13:14) is his most daring use of it, in which he likens Christ himself to a garment. The expression conveys a striking suggestion of the closeness which exists between Christ and the believer. Those who put on Christ can do no other than act in accordance with the Spirit of Christ… The metaphor conveys essentially a new kind of life. Everything is now to be related to Christ.”
— D.Guthrie, Galatians, p. 110.

The idea of “putting on” Christ like a garment implies:

a) Our primary identity is in Christ. Our clothing tells people who we are. Nearly every kind of clothing is actually a uniform showing that we are identified with others of the same gender, social class national group. But to say that Christ is our clothing is to say that our ultimate identity is found, not in any of these classifications, but in Christ. (Paul spells this out in the next verses.)

b) The closeness of our relationship to Christ. Your clothes are kept closer to you than any other possession. You rely on them for shelter every moment. They go everywhere with you. So to say Christ is our clothing is to call us to moment-by-moment dependence and existential awareness of Christ. We are to spiritually “practice his presence.”

c) The imitation of Christ. To practice the presence of Christ entails that we continually think and act as if we were directly before his face. A similar Biblical phrase is to “walk before him.” It means to take Jesus into every area of life and change it in accordance with his will and Spirit. We are to “put on” his virtues and actions. We are to “dress up like Jesus.”

d) Our acceptability to God. Finally, clothing is worn as adornment. It covers our nakedness (cf. Gen 3.) To say that Christ is our clothing is to say that in God's sight we are loved because of Jesus’ work and salvation.

In summary, it is a daring and comprehensive metaphor for a whole new life. It means to think of Christ constantly, to have his spirit and his character infuse and permeate everything you think, say, and do. This goes so far beyond the keeping of rules and regulations. This goes even beyond simple obedience. This is virtually to be in love with him, bathed in him, awash in him. So Paul counters the teaching that a baptized Christian needs some additional commitment to the Mosaic law in order to receive or maintain full acceptance with God. (Paul's Letter to the Galatians, 80-81)

1 comment:

John Bugay said...

Matthew, this offers a good perspective on the "body of Christ" metaphor that Paul writes about.