The Outward Appearance

Modest: Restrained by a sense of propriety; not forward or bold; Not loose or lewd. Decent; orderly. Moderate; not excessive or extreme; not extravagant..

Sobriety: Temperance or moderation; seriousness; sedateness; sober.

Shamefaced: Very modest; bashful or shy.

Called Out of Darkness

The Church of God in this generation is still a holy nation. God’s people are separate from the world as Christ Himself was in the world but not of it. Every child of God has been called “out of darkness into his marvelous light”(1 Peter 2:9). It is not only a responsibility, but the privilege, of God’s people to let their light shine that others might see the holiness of God (Matthew 5:14-16). Although many churches today have compromised the scriptural teaching on modesty and dress, God’s Word has not changed. The world places much importance on clothes and appearance. There is great pressure on people today to dress fashionably or in ways that place the physical body on display. The Word of God gives instruction and guidance on issues of the outward appearance.

Why is Dress Important?

The dress and outward appearance of God’s people is important because God said to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). 1 Samuel 16:7 is often quoted to try to prove that the outward appearance does not matter if the heart is right: “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” While God indeed looks on the heart, Christians are called to be witnesses to people who cannot see the heart. People are often judged based on the outward appearance which many times reflects the condition of one’s heart, beliefs, priorities, and self-image. The clothes and appearance of a child of God should reflect and convey the message of the humility, purity, and holiness that God values. While saints should not build a golden calf to modesty, it is a doctrine of the Word; hence it should not just be tolerated but embraced.

What is Nakedness in the Bible?

In the very beginning, after Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked. They immediately tried to cover themselves with aprons of fig leaves and then hid themselves because they were ashamed. One of the first things God did was to make coats of skin to clothe them more sufficiently (Genesis 3:7-10, 21). Nakedness in the scripture is not just being fully uncovered. Isaiah 47:2-3 illustrates that a woman was considered naked if her leg was bared and the thigh (that which is above the knee) was revealed. Consider the disciple, Peter, who was fishing. When he heard the Lord was there, “he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea” (John 21:7). According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, both men and women of the time wore a close-fitting inner garment similar to a long shirt. One kind was without sleeves and reached to the knees, and another kind of inner garment reached to the knees and ankles. There was a second tunic which was an outer garment that was longer than the inner garment. People were spoken of as naked if they were not wearing an outer garment or tunic. Hence, Peter, while not without clothes, when he saw the Lord made haste to put on his outer garment to be more fully clothed (see also 1 Samuel 19:24). These scriptures begin to reveal God’s perspective on nakedness. The world is full of people who wear shorts, mini-skirts, or less. That is clearly contrary to God’s Word and violates even the Old Testament where the standard was not as high as was given in the New Testament.

Differences of Gender

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God”(Deuteronomy 22:5). While the above scripture most likely directly refers to the prohibition of a woman taking up the instruments of war, it is also a general precept that God hates the breaking down of the distinction between genders. Just because the modern day culture approves a certain practice, does not mean that God’s blessings are upon it. Any form of dress that breaks down the distinction between male and female is an abomination to God. Society is working hard to blur the lines between not only the God-given role of male and female but also their appearance. The wearing of pants by women was a result of females leaving their God-given roles. Not only is the practice a violation of God’s plan, it violates the deeper plan of God for a man and woman’s role in the home and in society. Similarly, in today’s age, there is a move and trend for men to wear effeminate apparel. This is just as wrong.

Modesty Instructed

Paul gave Timothy very clear instruction in 1 Timothy 2:9 on how a godly woman should adorn herself. “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.” The scripture is clear and it means what it says. The standard of dress for the child of God is one of modesty and simplicity. There is very little modesty and even less shamefacedness among professing Christian women. Men and women alike should not only have their bodies covered but clothing should be decent and not form-fitting. People are exposing their bodies or wearing tight-fitting clothes to reveal the shape of what is underneath. This should never be amongst God’s people. A woman should wear “modest apparel” and something that is in keeping with the spirit of shamefacedness. Mini-skirts or skirts that do not comfortably fall well below the knee are immodest. Skirts with long slits, regardless of length, are intentionally designed to draw attention to the leg. This is not in keeping with the Word.

The scripture forbids the wearing of costly array. A saint should not wear articles of clothing that are flashy or flaunt wealth. The Word intimates here that clothing etc. should be simple and decorous. To “adorn” means to put in order or arrange. Hence, it indicates that sloppiness or slothfulness should not have a place in a Christian’s appearance. Children of God should be orderly in dress, clean, and well-kept.

Modesty is Motivated by a Desire to Do God’s Will

Fashions and styles come and go but the standard of God’s word is unchanging. Paul charged the congregation at Rome: “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). A child of God does not want to grieve the heart of the Father and will strive for the holiness He calls for in the area of dress rather than emulate the world. Beware of what the world places value on, for surely it is not conforming to Christ. Evil is abounding and society is in a downward spiral. The child of God should stand aloof from its spirit and folly.

We are Not Driven by the Lusts of the World

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-17). Much of the clothing today is geared to sex appeal and draws attention to the flesh. Not only women but also men are being pressured in society to dress according to fashion and to accentuate the flesh.

Clothes affect the way an individual feels and acts. Dress a child in different types of clothes and watch their response. Adults are no different and it is important that clothes are in keeping with the inner spirit that pleases the Lord. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). The saint of God should be adorned with that inward spirit of modesty which will then be lived out in practical applications.

Adornments and Jewelry

1 Timothy 2:9 clearly forbade the wearing of gold and pearls. This is again confirmed in 1 Peter 3:3: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.” The judgments of God were placed against the daughters of Zion who were proud and walked and minced as they went. They wore various kinds of jewelry and God pronounced judgment against them (Isaiah 3:16-24). It is contrary to God’s will for people in this New Testament dispensation to wear jewelry and adornments—earrings, necklaces, rings, etc. It may not be gold or silver but it may be “soft jewelry” which is again contrary to the principle of simplicity and holiness. While there are other items not spelled out, God’s Word reaches every generation and covers every culture. Taking into account the Word, children of God should have spiritual discernment and be careful about falling in the trap of “things not specifically named in the Bible.”

Cosmetics and Makeup

Similarly, the use of make-up to enhance the appearance of face or body is not in keeping with a life of holiness. Foundation, lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, rouge, nail polish, false nails and lashes, French manicures and pedicures, tattoos, etc., which are so prevalent in the world, are of the flesh and in no way fall in the purview of shamefacedness or modesty. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. May God help His people not only to live this truth but to teach it by word and example to the children and young people.

Hair Styles

Much attention is also given to hair styles. While different races of people have different types of hair, the scripture gives some guidelines. “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). God is well pleased with obedience to His Word and the scripture is clear that a man should have his hair short while a woman’s long hair (as God hath given) is her covering and her glory. The way a man has his hair cut and the way a woman of God arranges her hair should be in keeping with modesty and simplicity. As quoted previously, plaiting or interweaving material or other items into the hair is forbidden.

Judge Not

The standard of God’s people must rise above the quickly falling standard of the world. Judgments should not be based upon others but upon the fixed standard of the Word of God, for it will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). Every child of God should seek to be led of the Spirit of God, remembering that the Spirit will never lead contrary to God’s Word. In an age of spiritual relativism, “we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. . . . For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Corinthians 10:12, 18). One must be careful about judging another’s salvation based on outward standards as there are people who have never been exposed to the truth of this doctrinal teaching.  It is God’s will that all come to the understanding of this light.

Set For Yourself a Standard

It is paramount that saints have practical standards of holiness in their daily lives. Without a standard, a doctrine becomes an empty shell and eventually means nothing in practical application. The Bible is not specific on an exact dress or sleeve length. However, knowing that nakedness is that which is above the knee, it follows that a sound standard of application would be at least a three-quarter length dress and a similar standard of safety applied to sleeve length. More than ever, people need revelations from God so that this truth be personal. There is much compromise and confusion right among holiness people on some of these lines. Who will answer the call and instruction of God in Isaiah 62:10? “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.”

Joy in Obedience

There is a highway of holiness that rises above the ways of this sinful world. The outward standard of holiness, as given by God, is beautiful. Modesty was never meant to be a bondage to people. Outward holiness is just one of the results of a pure heart and life. The commandments alone bring death, but the Spirit gives life and meaning to this Word. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). It is a joy for a Christian to follow the Word of God. The benefits of obedience far outweigh any sacrifices that are made in service to the Lord. The outward appearance of God’s people should reflect their citizenship in the heavenly kingdom.

—mws