It was remarked one day by a servant of Christ that ‘many places of worship in these times are just apron factories, and nothing more’. The speaker had in mind of course, what is written in Genesis 3. This chapter is God’s account of the most terrible catastrophe that ever befell the human race. The story is related in the very simplest terms, in order that everyone may understand. It is the story of the fall of man—of his revolt against his Maker, and of how God met the sinner’s need. No sooner had Adam and his wife sinned, than “they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Gen. 3: 7). Yet, despite this, so conscious were they of their own unfitness to stand in God’s holy presence that when they “heard the voice of Jehovah Elohim, walking in the garden in the cool of the day” they “hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah Elohim, in the midst of the trees of the garden” (v8).
There we have the beginning of what has long since developed into an enormous evil—sinners endeavouring to work out a righteousness of their own. But however industrious and sincere the workers may be, it is all to no avail, for “by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him” (Rom. 3: 20). Indeed, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6).
Note what happened when God entered Eden. Having convicted the man and his wife of their sin, He “made Adam and his wife coats of skin, and clothed them” (Gen. 3: 21). Here we have grace indeed. If man has no covering suitable for God, God is able to furnish all that the sinner needs. So, in the passage from Romans 3 already quoted, we go on to read that “without law righteousness of God is manifested … righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ towards all, and upon all those who believe” (vs 21, 22). Death furnished the coats of skin, and the death of Christ has made it possible for God to “be just, and justify him that is of [the] faith of Jesus” (v26).
Is this what is being preached today? Are not people being diverted to works of their own, rather than to Christ and the work He has accomplished? Are not the multitudes being told that it is ‘character’ that counts with God? This is just to repeat the blunder of our first parents who “sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Gen. 3: 7). What a contrast there was between man’s aprons and the coats which God supplied! Not a divine stitch was in the one, and not a human stitch was in the other. Similarly, in man’s efforts after righteousness, there is nothing of God, and in the divine righteousness which grace confers, there is nothing of man.
Now reader, on what ground do you stand with God? Are you spending precious time sewing fig–leaves together—doing your best to make yourself presentable to God? If so, you are on a false line altogether, and I beg you to renounce your efforts as worse than worthless, and put your whole trust in the Lord Jesus and in the great work which He has done. This is what God says to those who believe: “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift: not on the principle of works, that no one might boast” (Eph. 2: 8, 9). And this is what believers say in response: “not on the principle of works which [have been done] in righteousness which we had done, but according to his own mercy he saved us” (Titus 3: 5). Beware of ‘apron making’ and beware of ‘apron factories’!