When Jesus peeled the hide off the Jewish leaders in Matthew 23, he described them as white-washed tombs – beautiful on the outside
(appearing to be righteous), but full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean on the inside (Matthew 23: 27, 28).
Just before that, he told them to clean the cup on the inside first and the outside also would become clean in the process (Matthew 23: 25, 26).
On another occasion, Jesus told his listeners to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7: 15). God’s people – the Jews before
Christ and Christians now – have been called the sheep of God’s flock (Psalm 100: 3; 23: 1, 2; 1 Peter 2: 25). Hence, the term “wolves in
sheep’s clothing” refers to those who look like sheep (have the appearance of righteousness) but aren’t sheep. In this account, Jesus
was talking about false teachers whose intent was to lead people away from the truth only to devour them for their own pleasure (Acts 20:
28-31; 2 Peter 2: 1-3, 13-15, 18-22; Jude 4).
There are others, though, without such savage motives that walk like sheep, talk like sheep, and look like sheep without truly being sheep because they’ve been misled to believe that they’re sheep when they’re really not.
Jesus is called the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins (John 1: 29; 1 Peter 1: 18-21). Jesus’ purpose as the sacrificial lamb was prophesied and typified (demonstrated by example) throughout the OldTestament (Genesis 22: 6-8; Isaiah 53: 5-9). Christian’s are to be clothed with Christ (Romans 13: 14). Hence, if we’re the sheep of God’s pasture and clothed with the Lamb of God, we’d truly be sheep in sheep’s clothing [I wonder what species the animals were that lost their skin to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3: 31). Could they have been sheep as a picture (type) of Jesus? It’s highly likely that Abel’s sacrifice was a sheep because he tended flocks, probably of sheep and/or goats (Genesis 4: 4).]
While this clothing of ourselves with Christ is an ongoing process, it has a distinct beginning – our baptism, immersion in water to put on Christ as we’re united with him in his death, burial, and resurrection to be forgiven of our sins (Galatians 3: 26-29; Romans 6: 3-7; Acts 2: 38, 39; Galatians 4: 6, 7).
Regarding the ongoing process of clothing ourselves with Christ: when Jesus arose from the grave, one in which dead men’s bones had never been stored, he left behind all the trappings of his death – his grave clothes (John 19: 38-42; 20: 6, 7).
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, however, Lazarus exited the grave still wearing his grave clothes and Jesus told the others present to take Lazarus’ grave clothes off and let him go (John 11: 43, 44). When we arise from the watery grave of baptism, we also still have on grave clothes that need to be removed so we can function freely as a member of
God’s flock (John 8: 31-36; Galatians 5: 1).
Jesus has placed us in his church (which includes all Christians throughout the world) and provided local congregations to help us take off our grave clothes so we can grow (Acts 2: 41-47; Hebrews 10: 19-25; 2 Peter 3: 18).
That’s why the Roman Christians, having already been united with Christ in baptism, were told to clothe themselves with Christ as a continuing process (see also Colossians 2: 20; 3: 1-17). We’ve got to rid ourselves of those dead men’s bones that were part of our old sinful nature.
Some say that baptism is merely outward. The Bible, however, actually says it has nothing to do with the outward – that it is when God does the internal work to clean up the inside of our cup, getting rid of the uncleanness (1 Peter 3: 20, 21; Colossians 2: 9-13); although, as you previously read in Hebrews 10: 19-25, we’re to have our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from our guilty conscience AND our bodies
washed with pure water.
Are you a sheep in sheep’s clothing – a Christian? If not, do so today by purifying yourself through obedience to the truth so you’ll
be clean inside and out (1 Peter 1: 22; 2 Thessalonians 1: 8-10).
Are you continuing to clothe yourself with Christ by practicing his attributes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness as you rid
yourselves of the attributes of your earthly nature (walking, talking, and looking like a sheep because you are one – 1 John 1:
Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ