"Aprons" or "Coats of Skins?"

Titus 3:5  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The first thing that man ever made was an apron.
After Adam and Eve had sinned and become conscious of their guilt, and their nakedness, “they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:77And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. (Genesis 3:7)), intending thus to make themselves presentable to God — hoping He would approve of their sincere efforts.
Now that is just what most people are endeavoring to do. “Doing the best I can,” “trying to keep the ten commandments,” “going by the golden rule,” “trying to follow Jesus.” Human efforts! Religious efforts! Man is always willing to do anything to avoid admitting his guilt to God. All such aprons are “highly esteemed among men” but “abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:1515And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)). They are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:66But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)).
God did not approve of their fig leaf aprons, but let us see what He did do. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:2121Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)). That was grace.
To faith, those coats of skins are lovely — for they speak of God’s free and gracious provision for sinners in the death of Christ, “the Lamb of God” (John 1:2929The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)).
Adam and Eve had overlooked the one vital thing, which was, to humbly acknowledge their guilty condition before God, and to admit that death and judgment were their due.
Had God approved of Adam and Eve making their own aprons, or asked them to try to make better ones, that would just suit the thought of most people. For nothing is more popular in the religious world than this erroneous notion that man must do some sort of religious works to merit salvation. It is deeply ingrained in human nature. It matters not how often it is refuted, it asserts itself again and again in one form or another.
This restless religious tendency to do something, instead of accepting God’s gracious gift, is all because man does not love to plead guilty — does not like to admit that he is hopelessly ruined and unable to do one single thing to redeem himself. But man would rather try anyway!
“Being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 10:33For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3)), they are denying God’s declaration that “there is none righteous, no, not one  ...  there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 1210As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10)
12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:12)
). In other words, being insensible to their need of God’s “coats of skins” they go about to sew themselves aprons of fig leaves.
God’s historic chosen people, Israel, was bent on doing something. “All the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:88And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. (Exodus 19:8)). They did not know themselves, so God gave them the ten commandments to expose their sinfulness. As the mirror shows the face to be dirty, so “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:2020Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)). The law can do nothing but condemn, for all are guilty sinners; and to keep on struggling to justify oneself only adds to one’s guilt. Therefore it is written: “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt” (Romans 4:44Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (Romans 4:4)).
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:55Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)). “By grace are ye saved through faith  ...  not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8‑9)). “Not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9). It is plain that man’s aprons will not do.
Some sincerely believe that they should enlist God’s help to perfect their own salvation. They quote Philippians 2:12-1312Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12‑13) “Work out your own salvation  ...  For it is God which worketh in you.” Now, if it said “work for your own salvation” or “work on your own salvation,” then that would express their idea. But “work out” is addressed to those who already have salvation, as well as the Holy Spirit of God within them, to put their salvation into outward practice in their daily conflicts.
The often quoted verse, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:2626For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)), rebukes those that say they have faith but show no evidence.
Human effort and heavenly grace can never blend any better than oil and water. “If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace” (Romans 11:66And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Romans 11:6)). Christ has done it all, that He might have all the praise.
“Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:99Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:9)). If salvation were by works, then in heaven they would sing: “Unto ourselves who have done the best we could; to us be glory forever and ever”! Revelation 1:5-65And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5‑6) gives all praise “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood  ...  to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Law and Grace Contrasted
“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:1717For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)).
“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:44For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)).
“By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:3939And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:39)).
The two principles are distinct and in sharp contrast to each other, and cannot possibly be mixed, nor one added to the other.
The law makes all depend upon what I am for God. Grace makes all depend upon what God is for me.
The law demands; grace gives.
The law condemns; grace justifies.
The law curses; grace blesses.
The law keeps one in bondage; grace sets the believer free.
The law says: “Thou shalt do.” Grace says: “It is done.”
The law requires righteousness from man. Grace places God’s righteousness upon man.
As God had made coats of skin to clothe Adam and Eve, so the atoning death of the Lamb of God covers the believer. It is “the best robe” (Luke 15:2222But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: (Luke 15:22)), “the righteousness of God  ...  upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:2222Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22)).
Our sinless substitute was made “sin for us  ...  that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:66To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)). “In Christ  ...  a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Adding Law to Grace!
If, after God had made Adam and his wife those lovely and enduring coats of skins, they had returned to sewing fig-leaf aprons; or if they had added something to the coats of skins, what would you think? What would God have thought? Yet that is exactly what many who call themselves Christians are doing. They did it in the early days of the church. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?  ...  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?  ...  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us  ...  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage  ...  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 3:1,3,13; 5:1,41O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (Galatians 3:1)
3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)
13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (Galatians 3:13)
1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)
4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
).
False brethren — legalizing teachers, had troubled them by perverting the gospel of the grace of Christ. They taught law-keeping (Acts 15; Galatians 1).
Adam and Eve were wiser. They did not merit nor work for the “coats of skins” nor add anything to God’s gift. They had labored in vain to cover their guilt. Now all they could do was to thank God for His grace to them.
But after God had clothed them, they could display what God had wrought.
I will not work my soul to save,
For Christ that work has done;
But I will work like any slave
In love to God’s dear Son.