Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 24: Without a Wedding Garment
Based on Matt. 22:1-14
The parable of the wedding garment opens before us a
lesson of the highest consequence. By the marriage
is represented the union of humanity with divinity; the
wedding garment represents the character which all must
possess who shall be accounted fit guests for the wedding.
|Without a Wedding Garment.—Davis Collection.|
In this parable, as in that of the great supper, are
illustrated the gospel invitation, its rejection by the Jewish
people, and the call of mercy to the Gentiles. But on the
part of those who reject the invitation, this parable brings
to view a deeper insult and a more dreadful punishment.
The call to the feast is a king's invitation. It proceeds from
one who is vested with power to command. It confers
high honor. Yet the honor is unappreciated. The king's
authority is despised. While the householder's invitation
was regarded with indifference, the king's is met with
insult and murder. They treated his servants with scorn,
despitefully using them and slaying them.
The householder, on seeing his invitation slighted,
declared that none of the men who are bidden should
taste of his supper. But for those who had done despite [p. 308] to the king, more than exclusion from his presence and his
table is decreed. "He sent forth his armies, and destroyed
those murderers, and burned up their city."
In both parables the feast is provided with guests, but
the second shows that there is a preparation to be made by
all who attend the feast. Those who neglect this preparation
are cast out. "The king came in to see the guests," and
"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."
The call to the feast had been given by Christ's disciples.
Our Lord had sent out the twelve and afterward the
seventy, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand,
and calling upon men to repent and believe the gospel. But
the call was not heeded. Those who are bidden to the
feast did not come. The servants were sent out later to
say, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and
my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto
the marriage." This was the message borne to the Jewish
nation after the crucifixion of Christ; but the nation that
claimed to be God's peculiar people rejected the gospel
brought to them in the power of the Holy Spirit. Many
did this in the most scornful manner. Others were so
exasperated by the offer of salvation, the offer of pardon
for rejecting the Lord of glory, that they turned upon the
bearers of the message. There was "a great persecution."
Acts 8:1. Many both of men and women were thrust into
prison, and some of the Lord's messengers, as Stephen and
James, were put to death.
Thus the Jewish people sealed their rejection of God's [p. 309] mercy. The result was foretold by Christ in the parable.
The king "sent forth his armies, and destroyed those
murderers, and burned up their city." The judgment
pronounced came upon the Jews in the destruction of
Jerusalem and the scattering of the nation.
The third call to the feast represents the giving of the
gospel to the Gentiles. The king said, "The wedding is
ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go
ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall
find, bid to the marriage."
The king's servants who went out into the highways
"gathered together all as many as they found, both bad
and good." It was a mixed company. Some of them had
no more real regard for the giver of the feast than had the
ones who rejected the call. The class first bidden could
not afford, they thought, to sacrifice any worldly advantage
for the sake of attending the king's banquet. And of those
who accepted the invitation, there were some who thought
only of benefiting themselves. They came to share the
provisions of the feast, but had no desire to honor the king.
When the king came in to view the guests, the real
character of all was revealed. For every guest at the feast
there had been provided a wedding garment. This garment
was a gift from the king. By wearing it the guests showed
their respect for the giver of the feast. But one man was
clothed in his common citizen dress. He had refused to
make the preparation required by the king. The garment
provided for him at great cost he disdained to wear. Thus
he insulted his lord. To the king's demand, "How camest
thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" he could
answer nothing. He was self-condemned. Then the king
said, "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and
cast him into outer darkness." [p. 310]
By the king's examination of the guests at the feast is
represented a work of judgment. The guests at the gospel
feast are those who profess to serve God, those whose
names are written in the book of life. But not all who
profess to be Christians are true disciples. Before the
final reward is given, it must be decided who are fitted to
share the inheritance of the righteous. This decision must
be made prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds
of heaven; for when He comes, His reward is with Him,
"to give every man according as his work shall be." Rev.
22:12. Before His coming, then, the character of every
man's work will have been determined, and to every one
of Christ's followers the reward will have been apportioned
according to his deeds.
It is while men are still dwelling upon the earth that
the work of investigative judgment takes place in the
courts of heaven. The lives of all His professed followers
pass in review before God. All are examined according
to the record of the books of heaven, and according to his
deeds the destiny of each is forever fixed.
By the wedding garment in the parable is represented
the pure, spotless character which Christ's true followers
will possess. To the church it is given "that she should
be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white," "not having
spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Eph. 5:27. The fine
linen, says the Scripture, "is the righteousness of saints."
Rev. 19:8. It is the righteousness of Christ, His own
unblemished character, that through faith is imparted to all
who receive Him as their personal Saviour.
The white robe of innocence was worn by our first
parents when they were placed by God in holy Eden. They
lived in perfect conformity to the will of God. All the
strength of their affections was given to their heavenly
Father. A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded [p. 311] the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their
spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they
remained true to God it would ever have continued to
enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their
connection with God, and the light that had encircled them
departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the
place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig
leaves for a covering.
This is what the transgressors of God's law have done
ever since the day of Adam and Eve's disobedience. They
have sewed together fig leaves to cover the nakedness
caused by transgression. They have worn the garments of
their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to
cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable with God.
But this they can never do. Nothing can man devise
to supply the place of his lost robe of innocence. No
fig-leaf garment, no worldly citizen dress, can be worn by
those who sit down with Christ and angels at the marriage
supper of the Lamb.
Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided
can make us meet to appear in God's presence. This
covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will
put upon every repenting, believing soul. "I counsel thee,"
He says, "to buy of Me . . . white raiment, that thou
mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness
do not appear." Rev. 3:18.
This robe, woven in the loom of heaven, has in it not
one thread of human devising. Christ in His humanity
wrought out a perfect character, and this character He
offers to impart to us. "All our righteousness are as
filthy rags." Isa. 64:6. Everything that we of ourselves can
do is defiled by sin. But the Son of God "was manifested to
take away our sins; and in Him is no sin." Sin is defined
to be "the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:5, 4. But [p. 312] Christ was obedient to every requirement of the law. He
said of Himself, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God;
yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps. 40:8. When on
earth, He said to His disciples, "I have kept My Father's
commandments." John 15:10. By His perfect obedience
He has made it possible for every human being to obey
God's commandments. When we submit ourselves to
Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is
merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind,
the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live
His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the
garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks
upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness
and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness,
which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.
The guests at the marriage feast were inspected by the
king. Only those were accepted who had obeyed his
requirements and put on the wedding garment. So it is
with the guests at the gospel feast. All must pass the
scrutiny of the great King, and only those are received
who have put on the robe of Christ's righteousness.
Righteousness is right doing, and it is by their deeds
that all will be judged. Our characters are revealed by
what we do. The works show whether the faith is genuine.
It is not enough for us to believe that Jesus is not an
impostor, and that the religion of the Bible is no cunningly
devised fable. We may believe that the name of Jesus is
the only name under heaven whereby man may be saved,
and yet we may not through faith make Him our personal
Saviour. It is not enough to believe the theory of truth.
It is not enough to make a profession of faith in Christ
and have our names registered on the church roll. "He
that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He
in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by [p. 313] the Spirit which He hath given us." "Hereby we do know
that we know Him if we keep His commandments." 1 John
3:24; 2:3. This is the genuine evidence of conversion.
Whatever our profession, it amounts to nothing unless
Christ is revealed in works of righteousness. [p. 314]
The truth is to be planted in the heart. It is to control
the mind and regulate the affections. The whole character
must be stamped with the divine utterances. Every jot
and tittle of the word of God is to be brought into the
He who becomes a partaker of the divine nature will be
in harmony with God's great standard of righteousness,
His holy law. This is the rule by which God measures
the actions of men. This will be the test of character in the
There are many who claim that by the death of Christ
the law was abrogated; but in this they contradict Christ's
own words, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law,
or the prophets. . . . Till heaven and earth pass, one
jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law." Matt.
5:17, 18. It was to atone for man's transgression of the
law that Christ laid down His life. Could the law have
been changed or set aside, then Christ need not have died.
By His life on earth He honored the law of God. By His
death He established it. He gave His life as a sacrifice,
not to destroy God's law, not to create a lower standard, but
that justice might be maintained, that the law might be
shown to be immutable, that it might stand fast forever.
Satan had claimed that it was impossible for man to
obey God's commandments; and in our own strength it is
true that we cannot obey them. But Christ came in the
form of humanity, and by His perfect obedience He proved
that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of
"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to
become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His
name." John 1:12. This power is not in the human agent.
It is the power of God. When a soul receives Christ, he
receives power to live the life of Christ. [p. 315]
God requires perfection of His children. His law is a
transcript of His own character, and it is the standard of all
character. This infinite standard is presented to all that
there may be no mistake in regard to the kind of people
whom God will have to compose His kingdom. The life
of Christ on earth was a perfect expression of God's law,
and when those who claim to be children of God become
Christlike in character, they will be obedient to God's
commandments. Then the Lord can trust them to be of
the number who shall compose the family of heaven.
Clothed in the glorious apparel of Christ's righteousness,
they have a place at the King's feast. They have a right
to join the blood-washed throng.
The man who came to the feast without a wedding
garment represents the condition of many in our world
today. They profess to be Christians, and lay claim to
the blessings and privileges of the gospel; yet they feel
no need of a transformation of character. They have never
felt true repentance for sin. They do not realize their need
of Christ or exercise faith in Him. They have not overcome
their hereditary or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing.
Yet they think that they are good enough in themselves,
and they rest upon their own merits instead of
trusting in Christ. Hearers of the word, they come to the
banquet, but they have not put on the robe of Christ's
Many who call themselves Christians are mere human
moralists. They have refused the gift which alone could
enable them to honor Christ by representing Him to the
world. The work of the Holy Spirit is to them a strange
work. They are not doers of the world. The heavenly
principles that distinguish those who are one with Christ
from those who are one with the world have become almost
indistinguishable. The professed followers of Christ are [p. 316] no longer a separate and peculiar people. The line of
demarcation is indistinct. The people are subordinating
themselves to the world, to its practices, its customs, its
selfishness. The church has gone over to the world in
transgression of the law, when the world should have come
over to the church in obedience to the law. Daily the
church is being converted to the world.
All these expect to be saved by Christ's death, while
they refuse to live His self-sacrificing life. They extol the
riches of free grace, and attempt to cover themselves with
an appearance of righteousness, hoping to screen their
defects of character; but their efforts will be of no avail in
the day of God.
The righteousness of Christ will not cover one cherished
sin. A man may be a law-breaker in heart; yet if he
commits no outward act of transgression, he may be
regarded by the world as possessing great integrity. But
God's law looks into the secrets of the heart. Every act
is judged by the motives that prompt it. Only that which
is in accord with the principles of God's law will stand in
God is love. He has shown that love in the gift of
Christ. When "He gave His only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life," He withheld nothing from His purchased
possession. (John 3:16.) He gave all heaven, from which
we may draw strength and efficiency, that we be not
repulsed or overcome by our great adversary. But the love
of God does not lead Him to excuse sin. He did not excuse
it in Satan; He did not excuse it in Adam or in Cain; nor
will He excuse it in any other of the children of men. He
will not connive at our sins or overlook our defects of
character. He expects us to overcome in His name.
Those who reject the gift of Christ's righteousness are [p. 317] rejecting the attributes of character which would constitute
them the sons and daughters of God. They are
rejecting that which alone could give them a fitness for a
place at the marriage feast.
In the parable, when the king inquired, "How camest
thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" the man
was speechless. So it will be in the great judgment day.
Men may now excuse their defects of character, but in that
day they will offer no excuse.
The professed churches of Christ in this generation are
exalted to the highest privileges. The Lord has been
revealed to us in ever-increasing light. Our privileges are
far greater than were the privileges of God's ancient people.
We have not only the great light committed to Israel, but
we have the increased evidence of the great salvation
brought to us through Christ. That which was type and
symbol to the Jews is reality to us. They had the Old
Testament history; we have that and the New Testament
also. We have the assurance of a Saviour who has come, a
Saviour who has been crucified, who has risen, and over the
rent sepulcher of Joseph has proclaimed, "I am the
resurrection and the life." In our knowledge of Christ and His
love the kingdom of God is placed in the midst of us. Christ
is revealed to us in sermons and chanted to us in songs.
The spiritual banquet is set before us in rich abundance.
The wedding garment, provided at infinite cost, is freely
offered to every soul. By the messengers of God are
presented to us the righteousness of Christ, justification by
faith, the exceeding great and precious promises of God's
word, free access to the Father by Christ, the comfort of the
Spirit, the well-grounded assurance of eternal life in the
kingdom of God. What could God do for us that He has
not done in providing the great supper, the heavenly
banquet? [p. 318]
In heaven it is said by the ministering angels: The
ministry which we have been commissioned to perform we
have done. We pressed back the army of evil angels. We
sent brightness and light into the souls of men, quickening
their memory of the love of God expressed in Jesus. We
attracted their eyes to the cross of Christ. Their hearts
were deeply moved by a sense of the sin that crucified the
Son of God. They were convicted. They saw the steps
to be taken in conversion; they felt the power of the gospel;
their hearts were made tender as they saw the sweetness of
the love of God. They beheld the beauty of the character
of Christ. But with the many it was all in vain. They
would not surrender their own habits and character. They
would not put off the garments of earth in order to be
clothed with the robe of heaven. Their hearts were given
to covetousness. They loved the associations of the world
more than they loved their God.
Solemn will be the day of final decision. In prophetic
vision the apostle John describes it: "I saw a great white
throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth
and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place
for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand
before God; and the books were opened; and another book
was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were
judged out of those things which were written in the books,
according to their works." Rev. 20:11, 12.
Sad will be the retrospect in that day when men stand
face to face with eternity. The whole life will present itself
just as it has been. The world's pleasures, riches, and
honors will not then seem so important. Men will then see
that the righteousness they despised is alone of value. They
will see that they have fashioned their characters under the
deceptive allurements of Satan. The garments they have
chosen are the badge of their allegiance to the first great [p. 319] apostate. Then they will see the results of their choice.
They will have a knowledge of what it means to transgress
the commandments of God.
Find out more today how to purchase a
copy of this enlightening book about the parables of Christ.
There will be no future probation in which to prepare
for eternity. It is in this life that we are to put on the robe
of Christ's righteousness. This is our only opportunity to
form characters for the home which Christ has made ready
for those who obey His commandments.
The days of our probation are fast closing. The end
is near. To us the warning is given, "Take heed to yourselves,
lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with
surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so
that day come upon you unawares." Luke 21:34. Beware
lest it find you unready. Take heed lest you be found at
the King's feast without a wedding garment.
"In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man
cometh." "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his
garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Matt. 24:44; Rev. 16:15.
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