Clothing makes the man. May we be clothed in the righteousness of the Lord and not found in our own tattered and torn righteousness.
Addressing the ever-increasing propensity for redefining salvation and the gospel nowadays, no teaching is more prevalent today (or throughout history) than the one that insists that salvation is either wholly, or at least partly, the result of human merit or works. There is perhaps no more graphic verse in Scripture that speaks to the contrary, however, than Isa_64:6 : “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Rags is begeḏ (H899), which is the most common OT word for clothing and by itself refers simply to any kind of garment, as in its first appearance in Gen_24:53, where a servant brought jewels and “raiment” to Rebekah. When coupled with a qualifying word, however, it is used to refer to specific types of garments, from something as common as a widow’s clothing (Gen_38:14) to the specialized, holy garments of Aaron (Exo_28:2-4).
Our text, therefore, adds a very unique qualifying word to begeḏ. (We do not wish to offend any reader’s sensitivities, so we will say this as delicately as possible.) Filthy is beged (H5708), which appears only here in the OT and refers to a woman’s menstrual period, and therefore, the cloth that accompanies it when coupled with begeḏ. Does this not clearly demonstrate what all our good works are, what any “righteous deed” we might perform really is? All of them are as filthy and repulsive as begeḏ.
No truth is clearer in Scripture than that salvation is apart from any merit or works of men. Scripture repeatedly declares man’s uncleanness and depravity (Job_15:14-16; Job_25:4; Job_40:4; Psa_51:5; Rom_1:21-32; Rom_7:18; Rom_7:24; Eph_2:1-3) and that works cannot save (Job_9:20; Rom_3:20; Rom_3:28; Rom_4:5; Rom_9:11; Rom_9:16; Rom_9:30; Rom_11:6; Gal_2:16; Gal_3:16-21; Eph_2:8-9).
Sadly, every false religion, cult, and human philosophy teaches that enough works will result in salvation, “renewal,” “enlightenment,” or whatever concept they choose as their goal. Even some today who call themselves evangelicals are diluting salvation by insisting that works have a part in salvation. James makes it clear that works are the result of salvation (Jas_2:14-26), but it is grace (April 6, 7) alone through faith (April 9) alone that is the cause. Let us rejoice this day in God’s power, for that alone can save us.
Scriptures for Study: Read the verses cited above about depravity and the insufficiency of works, and then rejoice in God’s power (and willingness) to save.