Virtue dresses us.
The first great event in heaven, after all His children are present, is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The church is presented to Christ as His bride. In that moment we are wearing a designer dress composed from virtue. This is Rev. 19:7,8. It’s shocking. John hears an angel saying:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.
It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The church is dressed in her own righteousness. The pursuit of virtue is the seamstress that, taking cues from the Designer, weaves righteousness into a wedding garment dressing the church for her Groom. God works with our works to make us presentable to His Son, the groom.
So, on a macro level, that’s how virtue goes, this is where virtue is going, and that’s where virtue ends up. Once in heaven we will no longer be putting on virtue because, in a moment, we will have all the virtue we will need. No more putting on at that time. Then. Later. Yet, in order for us to be presentable then, we are putting on virtue now (I Peter 1:5). The implication is that we’re not yet there. We’re not yet wedding ready. We only have threads; threads of righteousness in the fabric of our life. And it’s from those threads that our wedding dress is woven.
How does this happen? By what means does God takes us and make us beautiful for Christ? This is where it gets interesting.
The means by which God takes us and actually makes us presentable to Christ is the Word of God. This is clear enough from Eph. 5:25-27. Paul is teaching husbands that we are to model Christ. And, very much different from the western tradition, the Groom Himself is actually making the bride ready. In imitation of Christ, the husbands are told:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
How will we be a pure bride? Did you catch it? Here it is: having cleansed her by the washing of water of the Word. We are ready because we are washed by the word. This phrase bears an interesting resemblance to John 15:3, where Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you.” The word makes us pure and ready for Christ. Conversely, without the word, we would not be ready.
Christ died to sanctify us so that in His sanctifying work, when we agree with it, we compose the wedding dress. So yes He sanctifies us (Eph 5) and yes these works are our righteousness (Rev 19). Both are true because to be ready, we are co-operating with God’s determination to make us ready. This can mean nothing more practical than we should be submitting ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Word! Neglecting the Bible in the rhythm of our days is a rejection of the grooming necessary to be wed to Christ. If we do not love God through His word we are bucking His global plan to make us wedding ready.
There are lots of reasons to have a love for the Word. The word is helpful to us daily. Yet stop to think of it globally. In the massive plan of God, He chose the Word to make us presentable for that day. The Word is indispensable.
I’m thinking, then, that love for the Word, along with humility and self-discipline, are essential virtues. It’s not that they are more important than others, but they are the indispensable ones. They belong in a separate category because they are catalytic – they initiate a desire for virtue; and they are sustaining – they keep us on the path of virtue. They start and stoke the fire of virtue. Ignite and fuel.
The virtues of humility, love for the Word, and discipline help us get wedding ready. They help us get dressed. They make us presentable. Beautiful.
So light the fire for virtue by loving God through the Word. No one is fully dressed without it.