MANY PEOPEL HAVE HAD a nightmare in which they found themselves unclothed in a public place. But the nightmare of the ages is reserved for those who some day will appear naked and alone in the presence of the King they have rejected.

The Bible is full of references to nakedness, sometimes actual, sometimes figurative. That the disobedience of Adam and Eve made them conscious of their nakedness in God’s presence was both symbolic and prophetic.

Many have lost sight of the clear biblical teaching that the Christian wears a robe of righteousness belonging, not to him, but to the sinless Son of God. This robe is neither bought nor earned; it is imputed by faith.

Human pride manufactures a robe of self-righteousness, the most dangerous garment a man can wear. Self-righteousness insulates man against God. It is false, futile, and foolish, because the God with whom we have to do sees through it and knows us as we really are.

Isaiah paints a realistic picture in these words: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment …” (Isa. 64:6, RSV).

Most people are familiar with the power of the X-ray to reveal what is within. But few are conscious of the all-seeing eyes of God. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is disarmingly frank: “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13, AV).

Why engage in subterfuge? God not only knows but also understands the thoughts and intents of our heart. How good that he never misjudges our actions or our motives! There are times when we are completely misunderstood by others, but with him there is perfect understanding.

The entire doctrine of righteousness is a part of the thought of the clothing of nakedness; we neglect it to our eternal loss.

In the Revelation we have described for us the conditions existing in seven churches, and we can well heed these descriptions today. Describing the affluent, satisfied, powerless church at Laodicea Jesus calls it “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Was he engaging in picturesque speech, or was he giving all people and all churches of all generations a warning of the danger of turning from righteousness in him to trust in their own human attainments?

Jesus goes on to counsel that church, so typical of our own day, to buy of the Master Provider “white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear” (Rev. 3:18). And our Lord warns in clear terms: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15).

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What is the real danger? Failure to appropriate what God has provided.

As a young man I frequently read the twenty-second chapter of Matthew feeling that the king who denounced and expelled the guest not wearing a wedding garment was hard and unjust. Later, in China, I discovered that in their own history they had the custom of the ruler’s providing his guests with garments at the door. The king in the biblical story was not unjust; it was the guest who had refused to accept the wedding garment who was at fault. How fatal it is for any man to reject the righteousness of Christ in favor of his own efforts! How utterly foolish to think that anything we can do will merit our standing in the presence of a holy God! How dangerous to explain away the imagery of the “white robes” that are given the saints in glory!

The Prophet Isaiah, who prefaced his remarks with these words, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” goes on to say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness …” (Isa. 61:10).

The Apostle Paul furthers this thought in telling of his own personal losses (as the world counts loss) but the glorious gain of the believer: “… that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:8, 9, RSV).

To this assurance the writer would give this testimony: A few months ago I became critically ill after a minor operation. Short of breath and in severe pain, I became acutely aware of the situation as my mind cleared in the coolness and relief of the oxygen tent.

From personal experience, from the activities around me, and from snatches of conversation I knew this could well be the end. One’s reaction to the Christian hope at a time like this, with all faculties acutely active, must be recorded.

There was no conscious prayer in words of petition, only a sense of utter thankfulness to God for his goodness and faithfulness. During that uncertain night the heart spoke a fervent “Thank you, Lord,” perhaps a hundred times—thanksgiving for what he had done, for what he was doing right then, and for what he would do in the future down into eternity.

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It is difficult to describe the overwhelming assurance of the reality of salvation and of God’s loving presence. This cannot be compared with the preservation of life from physical danger—the ejecting of a pilot from a crippled jet and subsequent opening of a parachute, or the finding of solid rock under one’s feet in a turbulent stream, for instance.

But when the time comes when one is aware that “this may be it,” there are no words to express the joy of knowing all is well, not because of anything one ever did but because Jesus Christ did everything.

This was not a case of posing as a “good man.” It involved an overwhelming sense of my sinful acts and thoughts and of utter unworthiness. But it also involved a realization that the robe of righteousness had been provided by my Saviour, that I had accepted it by faith, and that I could stand in his holy presence with complete confidence in what he had done for me.

My life may be spared many years, or the end may come at any time; but I believe I have been spared, for one thing, to bear witness that the robe of Christ’s righteousness is available to all and covers every sin.

Paul gave assurance to the youthful Titus in these words: “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. The saying is sure” (Titus 3:5–8a, RSV).

The clear statements of the Scriptures, the unequivocal promises of a faithful God, make it possible for us to know right now that clothed in the imputed righteousness of the Son of God who died and rose again we are completely prepared, now and for eternity.

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