Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV)
23 But before this faith came, we were held in custody under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. 24 So the law was our chaperone until Christ, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a chaperone.
26 In fact, you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28 There is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one and the same in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants and heirs according to the promise.
Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we might truly live as people clothed with Jesus Christ. Amen.
Some people like to dress up.
Whether it’s a child who dresses up as a cowboy, or princess, or pirate, or their favourite Disney character, or whether it’s a young adult who attends Cosplay events as a Marvel or DC Comics superhero, or their favourite Star Wars or Harry Potter character, or whether we’re celebrating a special birthday and we decide to attend in our Abba inspired flairs, Downton Abbey clothes, or as a character from the musical ‘Grease’.
It can be fun dressing up as a way of pretending we’re someone different!
Today St Paul also tells us to ‘dress up’.
He tells us we’ve been baptised into Christ, and that we’ve put on, or have been clothed with, Christ!
But what does it mean to put on, or to be clothed with, Christ?
Is Jesus like a dress up as if we’re to emulate him or pretend we’re someone we’re not?
No, of course not! Jesus isn’t meant to be a dress up, but then why do so many people seem to treat him as a dress up as if we can put him on and take him off whenever we want? Why do so many seem to ‘pretend’ they’re a Christian?
For example, have you ever been tempted to ‘put on Christ’ while you attend worship by putting on your best behaviour, your most gracious smiles, and showing off your pious attitudes, but then seem to take all this off when you’re caught in long shopping lines and act with impatience, or when you’re angry with members of your family because they interrupted or changed your plans, or when you act unkindly toward those in need, or when you lie or curse or mouth off at those who annoy you?
In this way, do your lips taste the holy body and blood of Jesus in worship, but then those same lips swear and abuse others during the week? Do you smile and treat congregation members and your pastor well on Sunday, but then whinge and complain about them when you get home? Do you receive the undeserving gifts of forgiveness, grace, mercy, love, and peace from God on Sunday, but then behave uncharitably, grumpily, selfishly, and greedily between Sundays?
Despite the fact we may be tempted to ‘dress up’ with Christ for an hour or two on Sundays, but then act differently the rest of the week, Jesus isn’t supposed to be a ‘dress up’ as if we can put him on and off whenever we like!
So then, what does it mean to put on, or to be clothed with, Christ?
Well, it means you shouldn’t want to take him off!
You’ve been baptised into Christ and received all the benefits of his saving work through faith, and this baptism is still present and effective!
This means Christ remains with you always as he promised. Therefore, you can’t say you’re baptised while worshipping God at church, but not baptised while you’re shopping. You can’t say Jesus is with you when you’re praying, but not with you when you’re complaining about those he’s placed in authority over you.
Since you’re baptised and clothed with Christ through faith, this means Jesus is here with you at worship, but he’s also with you at home, down in the shed, when you swear, when you grumble about others, as you watch TV, when you surf the Internet, when you argue, as you desire to get something or someone, and when you lie and deceive.
If any of you ever have this alien idea that you can take off Christ and put him on again whenever you like, you end up not putting Christ on at all!
What you end up doing is putting on a certain set of behaviours. You end up attempting to live according to a certain set of rules or expectations. But by following a certain set of rules, behaviours, or expectations, you end up putting on the Law. It’s by this same Law that you measure, criticise, and judge each other. This same Law burdens and condemns you as you fail to live according to its exacting demands. This isn’t what St Paul is telling us to put on.
On the other hand, you’ve been baptised into Christ and have been given faith in Christ so that you can live without being imprisoned by the Law. You’ve been baptised into Christ – not so that you need to live up to a new set of rules, but so that you might receive the nature and person of Christ. Through faith you’ve swapped your imprisonment under the Law and have been dressed with the grace and beauty and holiness of Christ.
But what’s interesting is that Paul didn’t say you’ve been clothed with Jesus, but you’ve been clothed with Christ.
This title ‘Christ’ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Messiah’. Jesus is the promised Messiah, which means he is the Promised One, the Anointed One. The only ones anointed in the Old Testament were priests, prophets, and kings.
Therefore, when we talk about Jesus as the Christ, we’re saying he’s the promised King in the line of David who has come as King to restore the Kingdom.
He’s the Prophet who speaks God’s word to us and is the Word of God in human flesh.
He’s also the Priest of God who acts on our behalf and presents himself as the last sacrifice; dying for us to wash our sins away.
Therefore, as we’ve been clothed with Christ at our baptism, we’ve also been clothed with his kingship, his prophet task, and his priesthood.
But our kingship isn’t given to us so that we’re to rule over others. Instead, as members of his anointed royalty, we’re to proclaim the kingdom of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as kings have authority to announce mercy and pardon, this means every time we announce God’s mercy or forgiveness to those around us, the Kingdom of God is at work.
Similarly, our prophet task isn’t so that we might speak of future happenings, but so that we might proclaim the Word of God to others as revealed to us through Scripture and to share the hope we have in Jesus.
Our role as priests isn’t so that we offer sacrifices for ourselves or so that we might only bring our own needs to God, but we instead serve as priests to offer ourselves as servants to others and bring their needs before God the Father through Jesus. We pray on their behalf for God to have mercy on them.
Not only this, but being clothed with Christ also means we’ve been clothed with everything he’s done for us.
You and I have been clothed with Jesus’ obedience, suffering, and death. Since we’re clothed with Christ who suffers for his people, he may call some of us to suffer with him.
Therefore, instead of fearing any suffering for bearing the name of Christ, we may consider it an honour to experience some of the hostility and persecution he experienced as the world continues to imprison itself under the Law.
Similarly, since we’re clothed with Christ’s suffering and death, doesn’t it follow we’re also clothed with his resurrection?
Since Christ now lives eternally and we’re clothed with Christ, doesn’t it follow we already have eternal life?
Therefore, our own death isn’t the end, but death is like going through a doorway to life forever in God’s kingdom of light and life.
To put on Christ means when God the Father looks at you, he sees his only begotten Son. It means you’re all God’s dearly loved children and you’ll inherit what’s due to his only Son, Jesus. You will receive the glory due to Christ, not because any of you deserve it, but simply because you’re clothed in Christ, and Christ does deserve it!
Since each of you are clothed with Christ, then who do you see in the person next to you?
That person isn’t just your spouse, your child, your parent, or even someone you don’t get along with, but that person is a representative and image-bearer of Christ to you!
This is why Paul says there’s no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for there is only us and Christ (and we’re all equally clothed with Christ)!
This is who we’re to see in each other. This is who we’re to be for each other. Since you’re all clothed with Christ, and I’m clothed with Christ, we’re all people clothed with Christ!
Therefore, even if some of us might have difficulties with members of our own family, or with members of our church family, and we may struggle to love and serve them; by seeing each other clothed with Christ may help us greatly.
You see, in this way, you’re not just serving grumpy old Mrs Griffenpuffle, but you’re serving Christ. In the same way, when you’re being served by others, even by Mr Crabby Fidgetsticks, you’re being served by Christ himself.
While your words and actions may indicate you’re not clothed with Christ for a while, you’re to keep putting on Christ. You’re to take off your sinful and selfish words and actions through repentance and put on Christ again through faith.
This is the Christian life – taking off the old Adam with all the Law’s demands, selfishness, pride, and greed, and putting on the grace, mercy, peace, and holiness of Christ.
The Christian life of putting on Christ means…
… that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds as you’re clothed with Christ Jesus. Amen.