Q&R with Greg Albrecht – “Law or Grace: A Debate”
I have read repeatedly in the Bible about the “wedding garment” – most importantly, the passage where the man in heaven is seated at the table of the feast and is found not to have a wedding garment on. He is asked why and is speechless. So he is bound and thrown into “the darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). How do I know if I will have a “wedding garment”?
Great question! A study of wedding garments in the New Testament reveals that only Jesus can provide the wedding garment. The wedding garment is given, by grace, not by works. No amount of sewing or shopping on our part can provide the wedding garment that is needed for being seated at the Lord’s table. He alone can provide that garment, and he does for those who accept him as sufficient and able to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.
That’s not the point. You see, this man had already been raptured up into Heaven and had been accepted with the Lord’s host of saints. How then could he suddenly be found lacking in this one thing?
The point I made, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the point. In Matthew 22:1-14, you are telling me that this man who had no wedding garment had been raptured into heaven, only to be found lacking? How do you come to such an interpretation? Nothing in this passage suggests such a thing. The answer to your dilemma lies in looking at this parable without the impediment of what you think it says. If you think it teaches what you already believe to be true, then to you it will still seem to teach such things after you examine it. I suggest you start with a study of parables, to find out whether they supply exact time settings, such as you are insisting upon for this parable.
It’s my salvation in question here. Can you think of any other hypothetical wedding feast that would occur before the Second Coming? I place the wedding feast as occurring after the Second Coming. I find 2 Peter 1:1-10 as setting the standard for the wedding garment. This wedding parable in Matthew 22 says someone can be in heaven after the Second Coming lacking a wedding garment. That is frightening to me, because I fear that I am lacking. That passage in 2 Peter is a lot to live up to. Peter says “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10), and Jesus said, “for many are invited, but few chosen” (Matthew 22:14). I feel that I am being told here to make my calling and election sure, when someone can still be cast into the outer darkness in the wedding feast – after the Second Coming! Therefore I do not feel confident in my salvation. God’s grace is not enough – I need to make my “calling and election sure.”
Think of the parable of the Wedding Banquet as a picture of salvation, not necessarily restricted to a heavenly setting after the Second Coming. Religious people of Jesus’ day who rejected him were the original audience. This is proven by the context (read Matthew 20, 21 and 23). What is Jesus saying in this parable? He is saying that those he invited into his kingdom, those who were his very own (John 1:10-11), did not accept him. Beyond that, they killed him, because they loved their religion and their religious traditions, and could not accept the new wine of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus insisted that he alone could give the kingdom, but that no human could ever deserve it. These people were so intent on their religion and earning God’s acceptance on their own terms they rejected Jesus, the Lamb of God who alone can give us salvation.
So, the parable tells us, Jesus invited others, others who were not the Old Covenant people of God, the Gentiles. The wedding hall was filled with guests, but the person without a wedding garment was a pretender. He was there because he thought that he was good enough, that what he had done and accomplished earned him a place at the wedding table. Jesus warns that no works of righteousness – being in the right place at the right time, saying and doing all of the right things, wearing the right clothes – will earn anyone entrance into the kingdom. The kingdom is given, not earned.
Your salvation, if you accept Jesus as sufficient, as enough, as being all that you can never do, is not at stake. The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus lives his life in those who accept him and believe in him (Galatians 2:20) and he is not trying to make us fail. God wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints (Colossians 1:12). God is not mad at you. God is in the salvation business. That’s what he does.
Of course you are lacking. I am, you are, all humans are – all that humans can ever do will never be enough. That’s what grace is all about. That’s what the cross of Christ and his empty tomb is all about. You will never make your calling and election sure by what you do. You will make it sure by casting yourself upon the mercies of God and accepting the riches of God’s grace, believing that Jesus has done for you what you can never do. May you accept him and rest in him.
I pray you will see my side this time. 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” In light of 2 Peter 1:1-10, we have mapped out for us the road to maturity. First there is the act of repentance and salvation. Then we must mature as Christians in this world in which we must abide faithfully until Jesus returns. I am afraid of being chosen as a “goat” rather than a “lamb” at Judgment Day (Matthew 25:32-33). If I cannot fulfill 2 Peter 1:1-10 am I not falling short of worthiness before Christ? What if I am one of those that runs, but doesn’t obtain?
I see your side. I know your side. I lived in captivity to that kind of warped, twisted, legalistic unbiblical thinking for 35 years. I know all about it. And, by God’s grace, I reject it. I pray that in time you will as well. However, while I am attempting to help you, I also know that a man who is convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. So, yes, I see your side, but rest assured hell will freeze over and the sun will fail to rise before I ever return to the prison cell of legalistic religion from which Jesus has freed me.
I have given you biblical proof that we are saved by grace. Of course we run the race that Jesus had prepared for us, of course we pick up our cross and follow him, of course we obey. But the point is, once again, all of our efforts do not save us. We are, in fact, able to make heroic efforts because of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We repent because repentance is a gift – we do not repent because of our inherent goodness, but because God convicts us of our sinful state. All of itis about God; none of it is about us. To God alone goes the glory. He has qualified us for salvation (Colossians 1:12).
We are able to abide faithfully only because Christ abides in us. If Christ is not risen, our hope is in vain. If he is risen, we have hope, for he is able to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. On our own, based upon our sinful human nature, we are not able to please God. Period. End of story. That’s why the gospel of Jesus Christ is such incredibly good news!
The basis of our being a lamb rather than a goat is the Lamb of God. He alone can transform us from imperfection to his perfection, imparting his righteousness to us. We all fall short, of and by ourselves. No one is worthy, of and by themselves. All have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). No human can, on the basis of what they do, “make it” or “qualify.” We, the undeserving, are the recipients of God’s lavish unconditional love (John 3:16).
I don’t know who has told you or convinced you of something other than the gospel, but you are listening to another gospel (Galatians 1:6-10), which is, in fact, no gospel (because it’s not good news) at all. What you believe is depressingly bad news, and I pray that you will yield to Jesus Christ’s good news to replace the doubt, fear and worry which is part of performance-based religion that enslaves you.
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