Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 18, 1963
NUMBER 11, PAGE 6-7,14

Principles Regulating The Christian's Apparel

Dave Bradford

God said, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) This was a rebuke to the priests because they had failed to point out the sins of the people and therefore, not knowing God's law, the people had sinned. In contrast to this, the true prophet Micah said, "But as for me I am full of power by the spirit of Jehovah, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin." (Micah 3:8) Today the principle is the same and those who are teachers of God's word must point out sin as it appears or else again his people will be destroyed for lack of knowledge. (2 Tim. 4:1,2) There is a danger of being too general in preaching and people as a result fail to have a knowledge of sin. At times we need to be specific in pointing out sins.

Many sins are seasonal in their nature, that is they are more prominent at certain seasons of the year. Others are sectional in their nature, that is they are more prominent in certain places. The wearing of proper apparel is a problem which is of specific interest in the summer and in resort areas. All who are interested in pleasing God in every relation of life will be interested in an honest study in order to determine right conclusions on this subject.

The principle of wearing clothing is taught in the events that transpired in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created naked but were not ashamed of this nakedness because they were innocent, being unable to determine right from wrong. (Genesis 2:25) God commanded them not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16, 17) After they ate of this tree their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil so they were able to determine right from wrong. They realized they were naked and made for themselves aprons of fig leaves. (Genesis 3:6, 7) God, realizing that they could now determine good from evil, saw the necessity of their wearing clothing and made them coats of skin. (Genesis 3:21)

From that time on we see nakedness as a symbol of shame. The attitude Ham showed toward his father's nakedness was a shameful thing and resulted in serious consequences. The right attitude is seen in his brothers who took special care not to see their father's nakedness. As the prophets of the Old Testament spoke of the destruction of nations, they many times spoke of the day of destruction as a day in which the shame of their nakedness would be manifested. (Isaiah 47:3) It was a time of humbling to shame and the figure used was that the nation would be made naked. Even in the New Testament nakedness is seen as a symbol of shame. The church at Laodicea was to buy of Christ white garments to clothe themselves so that the shame of their nakedness would not be seen. (Revelation 3:18) Thus far we have noticed that God set forth a principle of man wearing clothing and as a result, nakedness was seen as a shameful thing.

As we come to the New Testament we find that there are certain regulations given concerning the apparel which women are to wear. It is true that the principle of wearing clothing is taught, but much more than this; regulations are given concerning the apparel of women Christians. As Paul writes to Timothy concerning the dress of women, we learn some concerning these regulations. We must not make up our minds as to what we will wear until we first consider these regulations given by God. We read, "In like manner that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-fastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works. (1 Timothy 2:9, 10) Here we have the three words in the Greek — kosmio, aidous, and sophrosunas which are translated "modest," "shamefastness," and "sobriety," respectively. These are the words which regulate the apparel of women so we need to study to determine their meaning.

Kosmio - (kosmios) — well-arranged, seemly, modest (Thayer)

— respectable, honorable,.....modest (Arndt-Gingrich)

— orderly, modest (Berry)

The word we are considering comes from the root kosmos which is translated "adornment" and "world." Inherent within this word is the idea of orderly arrangement. It is translated adornment because of the orderly arrangement of clothing, and world because of the orderly arrangement of the universe. From the definition we see that the idea involved is that of something orderly and therefore respectable. Because the adornment of women is to be orderly, we understand that women are to dress in good taste and in such a way that will cause them to have respect. Therefore, a woman who attempts to "dress up" is not violating the idea, but by using good taste, is actively fulfilling it. In this we can see that custom would have some affect as a regulation for apparel, but it could not be the only deciding factor or else it would be apparel which is only conforming to the world and this would be wrong. (Romans 12:1,2) We find that our dress is not only to be orderly but it is to be orderly "with shame-fastness and sobriety."

Aidous - (aidos) — a sense of shame, modesty....reverence...would always restrain a good man from an unworthy act (T)

— modesty of women; reverence, respect (A-G)

— modesty, reverence (B)

Lenski defines this as "the negative side of the moral sensibility which shrinks from transgressing the limits of propriety." This simply means that it is that part of the moral sense of man which says "don't do it" and thus holds us back so that we do not go beyond that which is the proper thing to do. Lenski thus translates it as "modesty" or shamefastness." Hurvey in the Pulpit Commentary would translate it "shamefastness" or "bashfulness." This word is more in keeping with our general definition of modest so at this time we quote Webster's definition of modest — 1. Placing a moderate or low estimate on one's own merits; not forward or boastful; 2. Evincing or arising from, lack of boldness, presumption, display, etc; moderate; unpretentious; 3. Observing the proprieties of sex; chaste; decent — (Emphasis mine, D.B.)

Understanding this definition we see that the clothing worn must be indicative of shamefastness, or must show the spirit of one who is quickly put to shame, or is bashful. As expressed by Peter, the clothing must show "a meek and quiet spirit." This is exactly the opposite of clothing that makes bold display or that shows a forwardness in nature. It must show a spirit which would shrink and hold back from doing anything contrary to proper behavior as regards sex. Therefore, bold clothing would be ruled out completely. Such clothing is that which exposes those parts of the body which tend toward unwholesome thoughts. Bashfulness is to be seen in the carefulness of dress and in the behavior in that clothing. We are speaking concerning bathing suits, shorts, halters, and other such clothing which would greatly emphasize or expose those parts of the body that have a tendency to arouse the fleshly passions. Such clothing would also be condemned as lascivious because it tends to produce a lewd emotion. Some say that from the definition of kosmios that the clothing we wear is to conform to custom and that this is the only regulation concerning our apparel. Therefore, the conclusion is made that wearing beach clothing on the beach is a conforming to the custom of that particular place and therefore would be lawful and right. The same kind of "logic" would prove that nudity would be lawful and right in a nudist colony for this is conforming to the custom of that particular place. This shows the error of such reasoning. Some might answer that nudity violates the principle of wearing clothing which was instituted in the beginning. This, of course, is true. But beach clothing also violates the principles or regulations which are given to regulate the apparel of Christians. To violate these regulations is just as wrong as to violate the principle of wearing clothing.

The other word regulating clothing is

Sophrosunas - (sophrosuna) — soundness of mind self-control, sobriety (T)

— reasonableness, rationality, mental soundness. ...good judgment, moderation, selfcontrol....Esp. as a feminine virtue, decency, chastity; (A-G)

— Soundness of mind, sanity, self-control, sobriety (B)

The general idea seen is that we are to use our heads with regards to the apparel that we wear. I believe that Webster's definition of moderation, which is one of the words given to translate the Greek word, expresses the idea very well, at least showing what soundness of mind will do.

Moderation — kept within bounds; observing reasonable limits; not excessive; restrained.

We are therefore to use reason or good judgment as we determine the limits of our apparel and must keep within due bounds. This would apply to the using of sound reason as we understand the difference in the makeup of men and women. This difference will be pointed out and emphasized later in this study.

Next in 1 Timothy we have a contrast between what apparel is not to be and what it should be. The apparel is not to be "with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly raiment." It was this very kind of apparel that was one of the causes of the destruction of Judah in the days of Isaiah. He said,

"because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with out-stretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion and Jehovah will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, and the cauls, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the mufflers; the headtires, and the ankle chains, and the sashes, and the perfume-boxes, and the amulets; the rings, and the nose-jewels; the festival robes, and the mantles, and the shawls, and the satchels; the hand mirrors, and the fine linen, and the turbans, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a robe, a girdling of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty. (Isaiah 3:16-24)

This shows the extremes of overdressing and as a result of this, Judah was taken into captivity and the beauty of their garments would be changed into the garments of a slave. The cause is seen in verse sixteen and it is "because the daughters of Zion were haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet." Their being haughty is exactly opposite of the meek, quiet, and shamefast spirit which is to be characteristic of women who are Christians. The clothes worn in Isaiah's day reflected something other than this and therefore judgment was to come. Already we have noticed that the clothing is to be orderly, suggesting that women should dress in good taste, but here we find that they are not to go to extremes so as to overdress. Some reasoning has to be used in reference to dress. Peter said "whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of braiding the hair and of wearing jewels of gold or of putting on apparel." (1 Peter 3:3) This shows that the use of these things is not completely prohibited or he would be teaching nudity in saying "not....putting on apparel." The thing shown is that as women dress in an orderly fashion, they are to dress so as to have respect, but are not to overdress to the extent that it would cause undue attention to be brought to their body.

After Timothy shows what not to do it says what we are to do, "but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works." The word "becometh" means that which is fitting or proper or suitable, showing that the clothing must conform with the good character of women professing godliness. This apparel is not to be as fitting for women who are worldly, but fitting as for women professing godliness or reverence for God. Everything the woman who is a Christian does, is to be good works and therefore they must show forth her own good qualities. Her clothing is a part of this and it must be the outward manifestation of a meek, quiet, shamefast spirit. Apparel which causes wicked thoughts is not becoming of women professing godliness! Notice, it is not women professing worldliness but "women professing godliness." The standard for our clothing is not set by the world but has been set by God. Webster, in giving synonyms of chaste, says that "modest and decent are especially applied to behavior and dress as outward manifestations of inward chastity or purity." Christian women are to be chaste and pure and therefore their dress must be modest so as to be an outward manifestation of this inner chastity or purity. (1 Peter 3:2-4)

A great deal of purpose can be seen behind the command regulating the clothing of women. All of the real warning concerning the carefulness of dress is given to women and the warning concerning the watching of the heart lest we lust is given to men. Have you ever thought as to why it was given in this way? I am not saying that man can dress in any way that he desires, for as already pointed out, the principle of wearing clothes is given to men and women and an insufficiency of clothing for man or woman is rebuked by the events in the garden of Eden. However, the great need of carefulness as to how women dress, is emphasized. Jesus said, "everyone that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:27, 28) Notice that the man must be careful lest he look to lust and in doing this commit adultery in his heart. The difference in the makeup of men and women should be brought out at this time. Marriage manuals are careful to point out this difference because a failure to recognize it has caused many unhappy marriages. There is a difference in man and woman, not only in the speed of sexual stimulation but also in the causes of these reactions. Therefore in the marriage relationship, the woman has to be prepared more and in a different way than the man. It takes more than sight for the woman in most cases, but not for the man. Many do not understand this or else forget about it when it comes to the choosing of their apparel and their behavior in it. Turning now to the woman, "Do you want a man to commit adultery in his heart?" And even more than this, "Do you want a man to commit adultery in his heart with you?" Some likely will and this will be especially true unless you are very careful in regards to your clothing and your behavior. If the clothing that you wear reveals or emphasizes the more private parts of the body, it will tend to cause a man to look to lust and thus to commit adultery in his heart even with you.

Some of the shorts (and dresses) which are worn today are only a little shorter than the customary standard of modest dress. In God's word we do not have rules showing us exactly where to draw the line so that two or three inches shorter would be sinful. However, if the clothing reveals more than is customarily understood as a modest dress it tends to cause bad reactions in the minds of men. Boys and men who are not Christians talk about this kind of thing and express desires that are wrong. The woman who is a Christian should be careful to do her part in keeping these desires down by dressing "shamefastly."

Turning now to the man, I want to stress that you must be very careful to turn your head quickly and reassert right thoughts or you will sin when tempted in this way. Some people say that Christian men should have better minds than this and that Christians should be able to do things together such as swimming, and not have bad thoughts. But man simply is not made this way. David was a man after God's own heart and we realize that God judges man, not on the basis of outward appearances but on the goodness of his heart, we realize that David must have been of the best of men. However, David sinned, committing fornication as a result of this very kind of temptation.

Regardless of the clothing which a man beholds, his duty is to keep his thoughts pure and if he looks to lust, he sins. Regardless of whether the man would lust or not, apparel of a woman is either right or wrong, depending upon whether or not it meets the regulations given by God, which we have already studied.

At one time I believed similarly to the way this subject is discussed herein, but it was not based upon a study so extensive. I have studied it more since then, with the idea of seeing if maybe I had been wrong before. In Florida, where I now live, there is the tendency to look lightly upon scantiness in dress and I did not want to preach and bind where God had not bound. However, my study has only made me more convinced that the clothing which is so scant and popular is also, so wrong. I do not want my brethren to be destroyed for lack of knowledge so I ask you to study this carefully and to study God's word even more carefully. Do not substitute a standard which the world has set, for the standard of God. Be willing to put away those things which show conformity to the world and in every relation of life do your part to show forth the excellencies of God. (1 Peter 2:9)

— 318 Kings Highway, Murfreesboro, Tenn.