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by Dr. Robert Hymers

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, November 12, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless" (Matthew 22:12).

A few days ago I gave an exposition of this great parable in Matthew 22. I said that Jesus told His servants to go

"out into the highways, and [gather] together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests" (Matthew 22:10).

I believe that this refers to the visible local churches. Both bad and good prospects are called into the local churches.

But now we will focus on this particular man, the one who came in to the local church and was never converted. You see, he never came to Christ. He never "put…on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14). Let's look very closely at this man, for he is a picture or type of every person who comes into a Baptist church, fellowships in the church, and is never converted. There are many people in Baptist and other evangelical churches who are pictured by this man. They come into our churches, but they are never converted to Christ. Southern Baptist consultant and conference speaker Rev. Jim Elliff

     says the largest evangelical denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention is an "unregenerate" denomination…It is a situation he regrets deeply, he says, because he loves the [Southern Baptist Convention] and has been involved in it all his life…
     Elliff is concerned that of the SBC's reportedly 16 million members, only 6 million [ever] show up for church on Sunday. [He said] "We have a bad habit sometimes of just assuming because a person has an [emotion] that they're a true believer, and we're very quick to get [their names] on the rolls [as members] of our churches."
     "This has proven to be disastrous," [Elliff] continues. "Many of these people don't even show up in the weeks following the time we've accepted them into membership." He contrasts this with the [earlier] days of Baptists in America when, according to historical statistics, churches had two to five times as many people attending as the congregations had on the rolls.
     [Elliff said] "In days when we grew excessively and reached many people in a serious way, we cared very much about the church being regenerate. In fact, Baptists have a great history of some people who believed in dying for a regenerate church. But today we've become very proficient in adding members to the roll that [are not] true Christians" (Jim Elliff, Agape Press, quoted in The Sword of the Lord, October 21, 2005, p. 11).

I believe, by first-hand observation, that our independent Baptist churches are not doing much better. Baptist churches in general are full of unregenerated members, including many who attend regularly.

This deplorable situation is actually a great opportunity. But we must seize it as an opportunity to preach conversion to these lost people in our churches. It will take great courage to do that. We must not wait for God to say at the Last Judgment of the unsaved dead,

"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

We must say that right now from our pulpits across the land. And coming close to home, we must say it in our own church,

"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

How did you come in here to our local church unconverted, unclothed in the righteousness of the Saviour? That's a good, hard sincere question. Let's break it down and look at it point by point, for be assured that God will ask this very question to you some day, at the Last Judgment of the unsaved dead.

"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

I. First, God calls him "friend."

"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

Notice how God spoke to him. He did not use rough words. The man pretended to be a friend, and God spoke to him as one. Judas is an example of this kind of person. When he gave Jesus a traitorous kiss, our Lord called him "friend." Indeed, Judas pretended to be our Lord's friend. How could the man in the parable be a true friend? He insulted the king at his own banquet table, where he had been invited as a guest.

I see this often. Young people are invited to the gospel feast. Everything seems so happy at the services and the meal we have afterwards. But some so-called "friends" come in without being converted, without the wedding garment of Christ's righteousness. Are they true friends of God? They are not! As soon as possible they get together with new people and begin to insinuate their worldliness and lack of love for God into the conversation.

The new person comes into the church with a sense of awe and wonder at the things of God. But the man without a wedding garment soon begins to put them at ease. He makes remarks that are unsuitable in the house of God. He acts like the things going on in the church are not that important after all. Very soon the new person picks all this up. He now thinks that the church is just for some light-hearted young people who get together to chatter and talk about foolish, worldly things.

The man without a wedding garment may go to evangelism. He may even be doing this to help bring new people into the church, but Jesus said,

"Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte [one convert from paganism], and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matthew 23:15).

You make him more a child of Hell than yourself!

"Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13).

Christ says that you yourself do not go in to find salvation, and you stop other people from going in. They see you. They hear you. They know that this is just a party and a big joke to you. Lost church kids do this all the time. You don't seek salvation for yourself, and you prevent the newer people from seeking it by your worldly attitude and foolish talking. It isn't that you make them leave. No, it's that you poison those who stay. You teach them, by your actions and words, not to listen carefully to the preaching, not to take salvation seriously. You take away from the new people the sense of awe and holiness they felt when they first came to the church.

"Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye [neither allow ye] them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13).

You are no true friend of God, and you are no true friend of this church. You undermine all the work and prayers of the members who are true Christians. You get the new people to follow you instead of the pastors, deacons, and older women of the church. And so, by your very unwillingness to come to Christ, you harm and ruin all the work the true Christians have done to bring in the lost and lead them to Christ.

We are trying to lead them to Christ, while you are trying to get them to follow you, in your stubborn resistance to Christ.

This will not do. As the king threw the unconverted man out of the wedding feast, so we must preach you out of the church - by the Word of God. If you resolutely refuse to come to Christ, you must be preached out of the church by the Word of God, as was this man who had not put on the garment of salvation. You must be preached out of the visible church, because you are not a true friend of God. But I hope that won't happen to you. I hope the preaching will be used to turn you to Christ.

II. Second, God asks him how he came in.

"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

Did he come in just for the "fun"? Did he come in just to have some friends? Did he come in just because he was lonely? Did he come in just because his family brought him - or because he was born and raised here?

"Friend, how camest thou in hither…?"

That's a good question. You should ask yourself that question. How did you come into this local church? "How camest thou in?" The Greek word translated "how" is "pos." According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance this word means "in what way?" or "by what means?" (Strong #4459). That's important. In what way did you come in? By what means did you come in to this church? Whether you came in because your family was here or because your friends were here, did God have anything to do with it in your thoughts?

You see, if God was not in your thoughts, then you came in for the wrong reason. You were not seeking God. You were merely seeking human friendship - or you were only here because your family brought you. And, so, God had nothing to do with it in your thinking.

This must change, and it must change soon, if you expect to stay here any length of time. The pressures of life and the pressure of Bible preaching will push you out unless you begin to think about your relationship to God.

"The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts" (Psalm 10:4).

If God is not in your thoughts, then being in this church will do you no good whatever. It will not do you any more good than it did the man to whom God asked the question,

"Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" (Matthew 22:12).

Isn't that what "awakening" is? You must not think of awakening as some mysterious thing. It happens when you start thinking seriously about your relationship with God.

Are you right with God? Do you have on the wedding garment? Have you put on Christ? If you have not come to Christ, you will be as speechless as the man in the parable on the great day of judgment. You will have no excuse in that day. You refused to think about God and your lack of a proper relationship to Him. You refused to come to Jesus. There will be no excuse for your neglect of these matters then. And, so, God will say,

"Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13).

Spurgeon said,

Search ye yourselves; do not from this tabernacle descend into hell…Let it be a matter of solemn anxiety with each one. If you have never come to Jesus, come now…If you have never had the wedding garment...go ye to Him who freely gives it, the Lord will not refuse you; go today [to Him] and He will accept you (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Wedding Garment," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume XVII, Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint, p. 105).

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by Dr. Robert Hymers

"And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless" (Matthew 22:12).

(Matthew 22:10; Romans 13:14)

I.   First, God calls him "friend," Matthew 22:12a; 23:15, 13.

II.  Second, God asks him how he came in, Matthew 22:12b;
Psalm 10:4; Matthew 22:13.