Question Box: The man without a wedding garment

Question or Topic Scripture
The man without a wedding garment Matthew 22:1-14

The parable about the wedding feast keys on one of the guests who did not have on a wedding garment (Matthew 22:1-14). It has been suggested that this is one of the best examples to illustrate that a person who is not baptized could be at the judgment. What are your comments?

Answer


There does not appear to be enough evidence in the text to support that conclusion.

We are told that there had been many guests that were invited to attend the wedding, and that "when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment" (Matthew 22:11). This was not acceptable and he was cast into outer darkness. There is however, no indication that the man's attendance at the wedding was intended to typify the appearance of a person who had been raised from the dead.

With respect for the context, it is more likely that he was one of those who had been called hastily in the final hours. We are told that when the original guests were not worthy, the servants were required to go out into the highways and bid others to attend. "So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests" (v. 10). This unfortunate guest could just as well have been a representative of those who are "alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:15). Whatever the case, we would need more information to make any positive conclusions about his particular circumstances.

The Wedding Garment

Let us look closely at the wedding garment that is mentioned in this parable We generally assume that at baptism, our nakedness is covered with fine linen. This would certainly be consistent with the principle established by the "coats of skins" in the garden (Genesis 3:21). We understand that they demonstrated typically that the shedding of blood provided a covering for sin. Righteousness is imputed to us through our obedience to our faith in Christ. We put off the old man, and put on Christ, rising from the waters to walk in newness of life. We begin our probation with a garment that is fit for the wedding feast.

If we acknowledge this as an accurate definition of the process involved when we are baptized into Christ, then it would seem that all of those in covenant would still have on a wedding garment when the time for the wedding arrives. The unfaithful servants would also arrive at the judgment with their garments on; however, theirs would be stained by sin and spotted from the world.

Strange Apparel?

Unfortunately, in the parable, there is no mention of a stained or filthy garment. This guest does not have the wedding garment on at all. The possibility remains that he is wearing clothing. He may have on strange apparel. We only really know that his garment was not the correct garment for the wedding. There is a very interesting parallel account to this story in the first chapter of Zephaniah:

  1. Zephaniah 1:7-8
  2. Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.
  3. And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

This would suggest that we can figuratively set aside our fine linen garments and adopt our own form of covering. Remember Adam and Eve? They chose fig leaves to hide their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). Their clothing was not what God had chosen for an acceptable covering. Our fine linen garments represented the righteousness that was imputed to us through the blood of Christ (Revelation 19:8). If we choose another way in which to establish our own righteousness, we are exchanging our wedding garment for strange apparel.

Naked?

We have considered the possibility that strange clothing was involved. We might also look at the possibility that the man was actually naked. If this were the case, would his nakedness suggest that the man never had a wedding garment on? Not necessarily. It is also reasonable to conclude that an unfaithful servant may figuratively become abandoned to sin, so much so that he has not only badly stained, but has also set aside his garment.

We recall that the Laodiceans were told that they were lukewarm. In this condition they were considered to be figuratively naked:

  1. Revelation 3:17-18
  2. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
  3. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

We are also instructed that we should keep the garments that were provided to us when we entered into covenant: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15).

Conclusion

We see then that it would be possible for a servant of God to arrive at the judgment no longer wearing his wedding garment. He may arrive in "strange apparel", such as in the coverings of an idolatrous relationship with "Mystery Babylon". On the other hand, he may be found naked, no longer covered from the pollution of the world.

Peter offers us this severe warning concerning those who have stained or exchanged their fine linen, which is the righteousness of the saints:

  1. II Peter 2:20-22
  2. For if after they have escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
  3. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
  4. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Paul adds these closing comments to encourage us to be found of him in a clean white wedding garment:

  1. II Corinthians 5:1-3
  2. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
  3. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
  4. If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
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