You can tell a lot about people from the clothes they wear. The clothes that we choose to wear often reflect our status, our values, and even our priorities. At Hollywood red carpet events reporters often ask actors and actresses “Who are you wearing?” to find out which designer created the clothes they are wearing. In the ancient world, clothing had a similar significance. It could reflect a person’s socioeconomic status, mood, or even their character. We could also ask one another if we are clothed in Christ. The New Testament uses clothing imagery to describe three different, but closely related, aspects of our relationship with God.
1. Clothed in Christ at Conversion
First, it emphasizes our union with Christ that happens at our conversion. In Galatians 3:26-27, Paul writes that “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Therefore everyone who has committed their life to Christ by faith has the status of having “put on Christ.”
2. Clothed in Christ Now
Second, being clothed in Christ vividly portrays the transformation that results from our relationship with Jesus Christ. In contrast to living a life of disobedience to God and his ways (Rom 13:13), Paul instructs believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom 13:14). Sometimes the command is to “put on” certain godly characteristics that are a reflection of Christ himself: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12). Thus the call to “put on” these godly characteristics is rooted in our status as those who are holy, chosen and loved by God.
3. Clothed in Christ Eternally
Third, the imagery of being clothed in Christ describes the transformation of our bodies that will take place when we are resurrected from the dead. Paul explains that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:53). In the meantime, as we await that day, “we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened– not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:2-4).
Thus in summary, every believer has put on Christ by virtue of trusting in who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Yet we are also called to put on the character qualities and virtues that reflect our identity as children of God. We pursue this lofty goal in anticipation of the day when we will take off our mortal bodies and put on resurrected bodies that fully reflect Christ’s own resurrection body.
Are you sensing a call to share this good news and be clothed in Christ with the people of God? With an M.Div. in Pastoral Studies from Grace Theological Seminary, you will be equipped to encourage and build up the body of Christ. To learn more, visit our website and learn more about our various degrees and pathways to the pastorate.
Matthew S. Harmon, Professor of New Testament studies, loves to help people understand the beauty of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, seeing it as the key to life transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18). As a result, the focus of his ministry is teaching and preaching God’s word in various contexts. He has a passion for research and writing, specializing in the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, biblical theology, commentary writing and the Pauline epistles. He is an active member of Christ’s Covenant Church, where he leads a small group, teaches Sunday School, and serves on the preaching team.