Concerning the Outward Man

It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.  —Jude 1:3

The burden for this quarter is on the subject of “Outward Appearance or Christian Dress.” God still has a standard of dress, regardless of many going the way of the world. The margin of difference between God’s people and the world will grow as wickedness increases in these last days. May the Lord help us to contend for the faith that was delivered through the Word of God. I challenge the reader to hold fast to sound doctrine. If there are things you do not understand, be very careful about removing the ancient landmarks which have stood the test of time.

The graces of the inner man are of far more importance than the outward appearance. It is a great reproach to see people revel in their modesty while conducting themselves with carnality, pride, and a lack of love. However, the outward appearance is a part of life and the scripture addresses it. Everything we do should be about our personal relationship with the Lord.

People so often get offended when outward appearance is preached about, especially when specifics are mentioned. It is sad when even people that believe in holy living shy away from addressing these issues. It does take wisdom, but there is rarely a “convenient” time.  How can people learn of God’s plan if it is not taught? As more people in congregations live substandard lives, it is increasingly difficult for pastors to teach on these issues. Some things may seem insignificant, and many say it does not matter; but when people begin to let down and allow small compromises, the end result is often spiritual disaster.

I am reminded of the neck-tie issue in the Church of God movement. A split occurred (1910-1913) where one of the issues was the necktie. Some were willing to accept a piece of cloth around the neck that had no utility. Others advocated for its use to “fit in” with society. While a little thing in and of itself, people who accepted the neck-tie began compromising many other issues of truth very quickly. Today there is relatively no practical standard of Biblical modesty amongst them. It is vital for the principle of truth to be considered. We observe the fashion today of women in the U. S. wearing enormous neck scarves for the purpose of adornment. In light of a necklace or neck-tie, what is the principle? The principle, motivation, and spirit behind something is more important than the article of clothing itself.

We do not want to fall prey to legalism nor to fanaticism but live a spiritually balanced life. There may be some minor differences in the outward standard of saints, but I do not think we will be too far apart if we all follow the clear principles of the Word. It is a blessing to live an humble, modest life in Christ Jesus. May the Lord give us all peace and the courage to stand true in this dark world and live pleasing to the Savior.

Michael W. Smith

April 2016