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"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,  and perfect, will of God."   -Romans 12:2

Why We Must Be Clothed 
in the Righteousness of Christ!


Joseph Before Pharoah Joseph insisted on a fresh change of clothes and a shave before being rushed from prison into the presence of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:14). Like Joseph, we must not be clothed in sin-stained rags when appearing before the King of the Universe, who is not only called " Holy" (sin-free and spotlessly pure), but is called "Holy, Holy, Holy." To experience the Holy One without being clothed with Christ is to experience miserable self-consciousness to the fullest extent. Joshua the high priest discovered that:

" And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel." - Zechariah 3:1-2 

Having one's moral transgressions laid bare before the penetrating eyes of the Source of moral law is not a pleasant experience at all, especially with Satan so eager to justify himself before God by pointing out our sins. Isaiah experienced this when he appeared before the King, whereupon he cried, 

"Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." -Isaiah 6:5

The solution for both Isaiah and Joshua was to be cleansed of their sins: 

" Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin  purged." -Isaiah 6:6-7  

" And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." -Zechariah 3:4 

Joshua's clothes were not washed and given to him again. They were not suitable to wear. Instead, he was given a change of raiment. This is needed for anyone who desires to dwell in the courts of the King. Paul spoke of this raiment - the righteousness of Christ - when he wrote of his desire to...

" found in Him, not having  mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of  God by faith." - Philippians 3:9

To illustrate what Paul was talking about, let me tell you a little parable. 

Once there was a woman who was hopelessly in debt. Even if she worked all of her life, she had no hope of paying back all that she owed. She was dressed in old, stained, ragged clothes. She was about to be sold into slavery as a result of her debt. But a kind, wealthy man fell in love with her, had pity on her, and proposed to her. "If you will marry me," he said, "I will pay off all of your debts." She did not want to marry him just for his money, however. But once she got to know him and realized that he was a good person, she agreed to marry him.

After she became his wife, her debts became his. He assumed responsibility for all of them and paid them off. 
But that is not all. His riches became hers. She no longer had to wear rags, because he gave her beautiful clothes to wear. And so it happened that she became clothed in her new husband's riches.

Like that woman, all of us owe a debt of sin that we can never repay. Our only hope is if someone else will pay off the debt for us. Jesus is the only man who ever lived a sinless, completely righteous life. Not only that, but He died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. He is the only one with enough righteousness to pay off our debt! But just as that woman had to marry that man in order to have her debts paid off, we also must enter into spiritual union with Jesus, through faith, to have our debt of sin paid off. Once Jesus pays off our debt, then God the Father will judicially declare us to be righteous and cleansed of all sin. Then just as that woman became clothed in her husband's riches, we will become clothed in Christ's righteousness.

I once conversed by email with a man who rejected the concept of being clothed with the righteousness of Christ. He claimed it would cause people to be lazy and think they do not need to perform good works. He thought his own deeds would be sufficient clothing to wear into the court of the King. He claimed that I was espousing an "alien righteousness." 

He was right about that last comment. The righteousness of Christ is indeed "alien" (not of ourselves) in that it comes from Christ, not us. What is wrong with that? Isn't Christ's righteousness much, much better than our own? However, this man was wrong about his first comment, because once we put the righteousness of Christ on, it becomes very evident that it is more than just a judicial declaration of our righteousness before God. It is also a righteousness that expresses itself in good deeds!

However, when we are doing good deeds, although the righteousness of Christ is being expressed though us, we cannot take credit for it,  because we (the church) are Christ's body:

God has put all things under His feet, and has appointed Him universal and supreme Head of the Church, which is His Body, the completeness of Him who everywhere fills the universe with Himself. -Ephesians 1:22-23 (Weymouth's Translation)

Do my fingers really deserve the credit for this article I am typing? No, of course not. In the same way, Because we are Christ's body, it is Christ himself who performs good deeds through us. It is therefore Christ's righteousness being expressed through us when we do good deeds, not our own. That is why after Paul noted that he worked harder than any of the other apostles, he hastened to acknowledge, "yet it was not I, but God who was working through me by his grace." (I Corinthians 15:10)

A candle.Think of a burning candle. How long can the wick keep burning without the wax? Not long. Once the wax runs out, the wick will produce some ugly, smelly black smoke (akin to our efforts to perform good deeds without God), and then it's flame will go out.

So can the wick really take credit for the flame? No. Although it is true that the wick is burning, the far greater truth is that the wax is burning. Likewise, although it was true that the Apostle Paul was working, the far greater truth was that God was working through him, by His grace. It was the righteousness of Christ that was being expressed in Paul, not Paul's own righteousness.

Likewise, in a wonderful vision, the Apostle John saw the future wedding of Jesus to his bride, the Church. He said,

"Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" -Revelation 19:8

Notice that this fine linen was "given" to the church. She did not weave that fine linen herself. It was given to her to wear, as a gift.

In light of  the following parable of Jesus, I fear for any  man who thinks he can stand before God clothed in his own righteousness rather than the righteousness of Jesus:

" And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, ' Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, ' Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." - Matthew 22:11-14 

It was customary for some kings, when they invited poor common men to their feasts, to provide a robe for them to wear. But this man, for some reason, thought that his own clothing was sufficient, and did not put on the garment provided to him by the King. That was a terrible mistake.

Adam and Eve, you will recall, were created naked by God, and they were not ashamed at first. But after they sinned, they became keenly aware of their nakedness, and sewed fig leaves together.  Not very practical or durable clothing! So, God clothed them with animal skins instead. The death of those innocent animals represented the future sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. Our own efforts to clothe ourselves with righteousness are insufficient, like Adam and Eve's pitiful fig leaf garments:

"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."  -Isaiah 64:6

Please, do not dare to stand before the Holy One arrayed in garments of your own making. You must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ! Only that fine linen, bright and clean,  may be worn in the courts of the King.


Rusty Entrekin is a theology graduate of Louisiana College. He and his wife Julie have seven children, with four still at home, and four grandchildren. Currently, he resides in Kennesaw, GA. He writes apologetic and theological articles to help people come to know Christ and grow closer to the Lord. If this article has blessed you, and you would like to free him up to write more, you may make a donation below.


Rusty previously decided not to apply for 501c3 ministry status, so that he can write about political matters without worrying about government interference. Because of this, your gifts will not be tax deductible. However, you will receive a far greater reward for your donation:  treasure in heaven!