Imagine that today is the day of your wedding. You have been anxiously awaiting this exciting moment for quite a long while now, and the time is here. Going to the closet to pull out that beautiful white gown, a symbol of purity, you think of how your husband will feel when he sees you. It was not easy picking out this dress; you know the challenge of finding just the right one. Yes, this is the perfect gown that will cause him so much joy when he beholds you in it. After all you love him so much, and would do anything to please him.
Now we too as Christians have a husband, we are the bride of Christ. We are to make ourselves ready for the wedding feast. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” Revelation 21:2. We are to keep pure the white robes of Christ’s Righteousness. We seek to keep ourselves undefiled because we love our husband, we love Christ. What a husband is He, there can not be found one more loving and giving than our Lord. Now there can be no doubt that we attempt to keep our garments clean by avoiding sin, and doing that which is good. We determine what is good by the Word of God, which is “a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105. When God reveals His will in any given area, we are to obey based on the principle of love. To act contrary to His Word shows either ignorance of His word, or rebellion against it. In either case we must seek to know what our Husband would have us to do, and then do it.
What is the Bride of Christ to wear? I do not mean spiritually, but physically. It is summertime again and our clothing changes. This is a difficult time, because all the world uses this time as an excuse to expose their bodies. It is a time to wear provocative clothing, in order to draw the attention from those of the opposite sex. There is not only this temptation in the world of unbelievers, but even in us. We must beware of falling prey to the temptations of the world, and our own flesh. We must not follow the fashions of the world because they are popular. No man will stand before the exalted Lord, and plead that they dressed like the world, because everyone else was doing it. Some do not feel that we have any direction in this area from God’s Word. Some feel that you are being legalistic for speaking of the need to be modest, even challenging you to show them where in the Bible it says you may not wear a skirt above the knee, or wear a modern bathing suit in public. God’s people have the Holy Spirit, and we must pray that he will give us guidance in these areas where we do not find clear direction in the Bible. We can be assured that if we come with humble hearts pleading for guidance, he will surely give it. Yet none the less, God’s Word is not silent on the issue of clothing.
Back in Genesis 3:7 we read: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” When our first parents sinned, they became keenly aware of their impurity. Their first reaction was to cover themselves, which is evidence that they were no longer righteous. God has ordained that our unclothed body reminds us of our sinful nature. Adam and Eve sought to cover their shame by making aprons (KJV), or girdles. Clothing should be a reminder of our need of a righteous robe, to cover our shame. This is exactly what
God provided for our first parents. In Genesis 3:21: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here we have a picture of the blood shedding necessary to bring us righteousness, along with a covering to hide our shame. This is symbolic of the wedding garment that we must all wear when meeting Jesus. Now the passage does not say that God made them aprons of animal skins, but covered them with something superior in His omniscient mind, coats. The Hebrew word coat means tunic, a long shirt-like garment usually of linen. This word carries the meaning of covering, indicating a purpose of concealing from view. Thankful they should have been to receive a garment that covered more of their shame, as well as picturing the need for the sacrifice of Christ. Do we dress to cover our shame? Do we see our own sinfulness; do we realize that clothing should humble us, rather then being a means of self-exaltation?
The Apostle Paul has something to say about the attire of a godly women in I Timothy 2:9, 10: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” We read here about modest apparel. Is this a general term that is subjective at best, or does it teach us something important? The term modest in the Greek is kosmios, which means well-arranged, seemly, modest, according to Thayer’s Lexicon. The Greek word for apparel is katastole, This word is comprised of two words, Kata and Stole. Kata has the meaning of hang down according to Thayer, while Stole is a word for a particular garment. According to W. E. Vine, Stole “denotes any stately robe, a long garment reaching to the feet or with a train behind. It is used of the long clothing in which the scribes walked, making themselves conspicuous in the eyes of men, Mark 12:38.” A noted commentator Adam Clarke in his commentary on I Timothy 2:9 says “The stole, stola, seems to have been originally very simple. It was a long piece of cloth, doubled in the middle, and sewed up on both sides, leaving room only for the arms; at the top, a piece was cut out, or a slit made, through which the head passed. It hung down to the feet, both before and behind, and was girded with the zona round the body, just under the breasts. It was sometimes made with, sometimes without, sleeves; and, that it might sit the better, it was gathered on each shoulder with a band or buckle.” Later on he says this of the stole “A more modest and becoming dress than the Grecian was never invented; it was, in a great measure, revived in England about the year 1805, and in it, simplicity, decency, and elegance were united;” Now if Paul gave this as an example of how a godly women should be adorned, oh how saddened he would be to see the state of affairs today.
In the book of I Peter we have further instruction concerning how one should adorn oneself. In I Peter 3:3 we read: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting of the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Now we have a list of items, which Peter inveighs against. His purpose is not necessarily to condemn each item, but to rather focus on what is truly important. Godliness should be our goal, not outward appearance; to focus on the outward betrays an improper placement of the affections. You could hear the Apostle pleading that we ought to spend more time looking at how we could be more beautiful on the inside, rather then wasting so much time with the outside. Do we spend as much time each day reading God’s Word, meditating on that Word, praying, and reading good Christian books as we do getting dressed, putting on makeup, and doing our hair and nails?
Let us again turn to view what the Apostle Paul has to say. In I Corinthians 6, and 10 he deals with that which is lawful. What do these passages have to do with our clothing? After having said all the above, some may claim that the Apostle has said all things are lawful for me. I do not know how such a plea could be made in this area, but yet we must consider the argument. I Corinthians 10:23, 24 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” This is how God through the pen of Paul qualifies those things not directly spoken against in Scripture. These guidelines determine what the Apostle shall do, and they are based on love. All things are not expedient, all things edify not, and I will not be brought under the power of any, show our need to be loving to the brother. There are certain things that we might do, that can cause our brother to stumble. We may not do these things, but rather we are told to Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. To wear clothing that is immodest, can provoke our brother to temptation and sin, for we are prone to the lust of the eyes as I John 2:16 warns us. We may not be the best judge of what is modest, so better to err on the side of over modesty (if that is possible) than to miss on the other side, and be a source of stumbling to our fellow man. This section is not meant to say that our attire is an area of Christian liberty, as we have seen we do have instruction how we are to adorn ourselves, but rather to show that immodesty should never be argued from Christian liberty.
Summertime is now upon us, and all the world shall begin to shed big baggy outfits, in favor of tight, short, and more revealing attire. Let us battle against being tempted to do the same. When you are tempted to put on the bathing suit, and go into public, consider what effect this will have on those who see you. Is there really much difference between underwear and the bathing suits of today? Would you meet with your brothers, or walk around in front of strangers wearing your underwear? Of course you would not. Even when we meet for church, the temptation is to wear short skirts, high slits, or see through white blouses when it begins to warm up. First of all, we dress for God. His all Seeing Eye knows what we wear, whether inside or outside of our worship service, so we must always be modest. Yet to bring possible temptation to the house of prayer is truly sad. We come to repent, and praise God, not to fend off temptation. Oh let us love one another. I have refereed mainly to the attire of women in this article, and the reason is two-fold. Women are more prone to dressing to attract men, or at least are generally more concerned about their outward appearance. Also the Word of God speaks of women as being a source of temptation in a way that it does not speak of men. So please do not feel as though you were being singled out ladies.
In conclusion let us remember these guiding principles. Clothing should be a reminder of our sinfulness, which should make us humble, not a source of self-exaltation. We dress to cover, not to reveal. Our dress should be modest, not by the world’s standards, nor even by our standards, but by the standard that Almighty God sets. Do not mistake the stole for being a culture-bound garb, as if the people lived in a cold climate that required long robes. No, it was a very warm region, it must be obvious that they wore these clothes because they were indeed modest. We must not focus on our outward beauty and dress nearly as much as on our inward spirituality. We must dress with our brother in mind. We should seek not our own welfare to the exclusion of our neighbor, but we are to esteem each other higher then ourselves. Let us love the neighbor, by not tempting him. If we use these guidelines, we will show that we love our husband, who is in fact called the Word. We will also show our love of the neighbor, which is called a fulfilling of the royal law, according to James, when we follow these principles. On top of it all, we will be more inclined to draw the attention of a true godly man, a man who will love you because you love God. Let us adorn ourselves for our husband on earth, and more importantly our husband in heaven. ❖