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Johann Gerhard on Trinity 20 – Matthew 22:1-14

by pastorjuhl ~ November 1st, 2011

It is not amiss to understand this wedding as the spiritual union of the Church and each and every believing soul with Christ…. Nonetheless, since the call of the Christian Church is presented to us in the words of the parable as distinct from the wedding, it seems somewhat closer to the text if we understand it as the union of the divine and the human natures in Christ…. For, as by the bond of marriage two become one flesh (Gen. 2:24), by the personal union the divine and the human natures in Christ are united in one Person. Just as the bride shares in the bridegrooms possessions, so also Christ bestows His assumed human nature with His heavenly possessions. Accordingly, when the heavenly Father gives His Son in marriage, that which was determined from all eternity is accomplished in the fullness of time, namely, that God’s Son has taken up human nature into the unity of His Person.

This blessed call is extended to many, as Christ says at the end of this gospel, because nations and people are called not only at various times but also, and primarily, because the three universal calls extend actually to all people who are alive at any time. For after the fall into sin the Lord God called our first parents, in whose loins existed the entire human race. After the Great Flood, God called Noah and his family, from whom all people have spread out across the earth (Genesis 11). After Christ’s ascension into heaven, the apostles went out into all the world and preached everywhere (Mark 16:20) so that the Gospel would be proclaimed “…among all creatures that are under heaven” (Col. 1:23). God’s saving Word is to be passed down from these people and nations to their descendants. But that this has not happened and, instead, the ingratitude of our forebears has robbed their descendants of the divine Word and brought punishment upon them, does not in the least detract from the gracious will of God for man’s salvation nor from the universal call to the heavenly wedding – for, as stated in 1 Timothy 2:4: “[God] desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” and in Acts 17:30: “But now He commands all men everywhere to repent.” The call to the heavenly wedding that is offered to us, namely, the universal call, remains the same even if it is sometimes withdrawn because of men’s sins and ingratitude.

The teaching of an unconditional call in untenable, that is, the teaching that externally the Lord God calls some men even though, in His sheer counsel, He has condemned them to eternal hell and has not seriously sought their conversion. But this is far removed from the Lord God, for whom such hypocrisy is an abomination. In His Word He offers men Christ’s benefactions, in Christ’s benefactions the forgiveness of sins and His divine grace, and in His divine grace eternal life and salvation. It follows, then, that the Lord God earnestly seeks their salvation, as He reveals in His Word, Isaiah 65:2: “I hold out My hands all the day long to a disobedient people,” that is, He woos them ardently to Him and yearns to gather them beneath His wings.

Some do not wish to come; they wantonly reject the divine call and pay no heed to what is being presented to them from God’s Word…. There are also those who seize, mock, and kill God’s servants who have called them…. Christ has those in mind in the parable who are outwardly among the invited guests but who have no wedding garment. Among them are doubtlessly the hypocrites who are externally in the Christian assemblage, even profess the faith with their mouths, but in whose hearts there is not true repentance, no genuine faith, and no godliness.

If we are to stand before God, we must be garbed again and not be found bare. The garment, however, cannot be our own righteousness; for before God this is like a filthy dress (Isaiah 64:6), but Christ with His precious merits is the beautiful raiment that covers our nakedness and shields it from the heat of God’s wrath. We put on Christ by true faith: “You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). This is foreshadowed in the tunics of lamb skin the Lord God made for our first parents, for fig leaves were not fit to do it (Gen. 3:21). Christ is the Lamb of God; in His merit we must wrap ourselves, as it were, if we are to stand before God. In Genesis 27:16, Jacob acquired the blessing when he placed the goat skin around his neck and hands; this is how we will partake of the heavenly blessing – when we are garbed with the precious righteousness of Christ (who is the true Scapegoat, Lev. 16).

If it happens that out of weakness we sin and defile ourselves – for the world is a filthy path along which we wander – we should soon turn again to God in true repentance and “…wash our garments and make them bright in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). And since the righteousness in our lives is an imperfect and tainted work, we should have a heartfelt longing for the fulfillment in us of what is proclaimed in Revelation 21, that the new Jerusalem, the Church of the elect, be brought to the Groom, the Lord Christ, as a jeweled bride, having no flaw or spot of any sort (Eph. 5:27). According to the rule of faith this is to be understood as the wedding garment. If we wish to understand the wedding garment as that righteousness which stands before God and makes us acceptable, it is singly and alone the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us through faith. but if we wish to understand the wedding garment as the entire adornment of the true Christian, then it is faith and its fruits, such as love, humility, gentleness, patience, and the like – for all of these are well pleasing to God in those who believe in Him; and it is their beautiful finery.

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