Proper Dress

Daily Reform, Day 129

Galatians 2:16 & 2 Corinthians 5:1-4

From the Reformer

So far, the words of Paul were addressed to Peter. Now Paul turns to the Galatians and makes this summary statement: “For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” By the term “flesh” Paul does not understand manifest vices. Such sins he usually calls by their proper names, as adultery, fornication, etc. By “flesh” Paul understands what Jesus meant in the third chapter of John, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John 3:6.) “Flesh” here means the whole nature of man, inclusive of reason and instincts. “This flesh,” says Paul, “is not justified by the works of the law.”

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

God is not interested in merely forgiving our sins. This is a means to an end. God is interested in correcting our entire sinful nature, of which forgiveness of individual sins is a part. The problem, metaphorically, is that we are improperly clothed for being in the presence of God. We are naked in our “flesh,” in our sinful nature. This has to be corrected. We must be properly dressed or robed in order to stand before God’s holiness. Thus, the one who walks with Christ “will be clothed…in white garments.” (Rev 3:5) From earliest days of the church this new life or new flesh is symbolized in the baptismal ceremony by the wearing of a white robe. Elsewhere, Paul says that we should not “be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor 5:4) He instructs us to “clothe” ourselves with the Lord (NIV) or “put on” the Lord (KJV, NAS). (Rom 13:14)

This is how God’s mercy on our “flesh” works: he covers our nakedness or ungodliness with the sacrificial Christ, even as he covered Adam’s and Eve’s naked flesh in the garden with garments of skin. (Gen 3:21) Christ’s sacrifice alone clothes us with the body of Jesus, covering our “flesh,” redeeming us and making us fit company for the Holy God.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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