In Isaiah 64 we see the statement, “And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (“rag” some translations say). Now, I do believe people take this verse out of context, to mean that everything we do no matter what, we are still filthy rags before God. In the context of the book of Isaiah, the children of Israel had fallen far away from God; far enough away that God was going to allow Babylon to come in and destroy them and take them into a 70 year captivity. Verse 5 of Isaiah, sheds light on verse 6, mentioned above, those who were righteous, God comes and meets but God was angry with those who had sinned and they had continued in sin (or abominations, cf. Ezekiel 8) a long time, Isaiah asks the question, “And shall we be saved?” Isaiah asked this question rhetorically of course, because they were not saved from the destruction brought by Babylon because their sin had prolonged so long; they tried saving themselves by putting their trust in foreign powers such as Egypt and by putting their trust in their walls. They needed to put their trust in God.
With that being said, those in sin, any righteous or good deed you do, does you no good. You cannot save yourself based upon your own righteous deeds. We read in Romans, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All are dirty rags before God in their sin. We can do nothing ourselves to clean ourselves, no matter how hard we try. But God did not leave us in this state of filthiness. He wanted us to become clean. He did not want to see us as dirt rags, ever! So God did the only thing that He could do to help us, He sent a redeemer, who shed His blood, which makes us clean (Romans 6:1-7; Galatians 3:27). In baptism, those who have clothed themselves in Christ the redeemer are no longer seen as dirty before God, they become clean.
Jesus asked the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), who had put their trust in their own wealth and had become dependent on their own righteousness (filthy rags), to purchase the white garments of Christ so that they may clothe their nakedness (i.e. filthiness, unrighteousness) and the shame of their nakedness would be covered. Once washed in Christ blood, we become clean but we need to be careful because if we go back to our old ways of self-righteousness, then we no longer have the right to wear the white garments of Christ and once again become dirty rags before God. The same thing that happened to Israel, can happen to Christians today. Jesus told them, “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be Zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
We need to be so thankful to God for giving us the ability to be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and make our garment clean. We no longer walk around in our filthy dirty clothes but we have purchased the garments of Christ! Even then, Christ paid the dept of our salvation, we accept the free gift through our works of obedience (i.e. faith). Jesus has these words for those who are in danger of loosing their garments, “He who overcomes will be thus clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).
Father in Heaven, I praise you this day for the love that you have brought down to the world, Your Son. I thank you for Your gift of salvation and the ability to be clean before Your presence. Help each of us to walk in Your light so that we remain in fellowship with You and Your Son. Your Holy Spirit is the mark of our salvation and let us hold that high to world, so that they may glorify You as well. In Christ name I pray. Amen!