As a child, we would set out our “church clothes” Saturday night and polish our shoes, then on Sunday put on our slacks, our button up shirt and clip on tie. The men would wear suits and ties, the women dresses. When I was a teenager, my brother and I had some battles with mom and dad over the length of our hair and our sisters had some battles about the length of their dresses. Working in jails and prisons I have found that they have very strict dress codes. Business, school, church, home… all have dress codes, but what about the Bible? Does God have a dress code for us to follow?
First, be careful to cover your nakedness. You would think that anyone should know that but there are many who do not seem to care about it. Nor, do many understand what that means but the Bible is very clear about it.
In the beginning… there was no concern about clothes.
Genesis 2:25 But when sin entered the world man immediately recognized his nakedness and felt the need to cover up.
Genesis 3:7 Unlike the popular pictures, this was more than a twig with a few leaves, which would not have required sewing. The word translated “coverings” refers to a girdle to cover the loins [like a pair of boxers] or an apron worn around the hips [like a mini skirt] (Keil and Delitzch; cf. 1 Kin. 2:5; Isa. 32:11). In other words, they just covered the “bare necessities”. But notice that the man hid from God because he still felt naked.
Genesis 3:10 God then made “tunics of skin, and clothed them” (v. 21). A garment, generally with sleeves, down to the knees. [“Tunics” is “from an unused root meaning to cover; a shirt:--coat, garment, robe” (Strongs Hebrew). Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies defines these tunics as “a tunic worn next to the skin, generally with sleeves, to the knees.”]
In the Law and the Prophets… God expressed the same concern for covering the body in the Law and the Prophets.
Exodus 20:26 If this was true for the priests under the Law, how much more concerned should we who are the priests of God in His New Testament church be about wearing clothing that would allow others to see our nakedness when going up steps?
Exodus 28:42-43 Under the robe and tunic was an undergarment like boxer shorts. God took this very seriously. If they did not comply, they were put to death. How seriously do we take covering our nakedness? Whether standing, sitting or going up stairs we need to be sure our clothes cover our nakedness. [“Trousers” is defined “in the sense of hiding; (only in dual) drawers (from concealing the private parts):--breeches” (Strongs Hebrew). On “thigh”, Strong writes “from an unused root meaning to be soft; the thigh (from its fleshy softness); by euphem. the generative parts; figuratively, a shank, flank, side:--X body, loins, shaft, side, thigh” (Strongs Hebrew).]
Isaiah 47:1-3 The city of Babylon had fallen under God’s judgment. The shame of her fall was pictured as a beautiful virgin that was reduced to the indignities of a slave put to grind at the mills. She was forced to remove her outer clothes that covered her leg, revealing her thighs. This uncovered her nakedness and her shame was seen. According to Isaiah, when we do not cover our thigh, we are shamefully naked. Sadly, we see much more than just the thigh with the short skirts and short shorts worn by many today. [The word translated skirt is “from an unused root meaning to flow; a lady's train (as trailing after her):--leg” (Strongs Hebrew). The verse further states “uncover the thigh”. The word translated thigh is defined “the (lower) leg (as a runner):--[translated] hip, leg, shoulder, thigh” (Strongs Hebrew).]
1 Samuel 19:24 Saul “stripped off his clothes… and lay down naked.”
Micah 1:8 Micah said, “I will go stripped and naked.”
The word “naked” used in both of these passages is defined “nude, either partially or totally:--naked” (Strong’s Hebrew). It appears that they took off their outer garments, leaving them clothed with only their inner garments.
In the New Testament… In the night that Jesus was arrested, we read of a man who fled from them naked.
Mark 14:51-52 Moulton’s Greek Lexicon comments on the meaning of the word translated “naked” here: “without the upper garment, and clad only with an inner garment or tunic (John 21:7); poorly or meanly clad.”
John 21:7 Robertson’s NT Word Pictures comments: “Apparently Peter threw on the upper garment or linen blouse worn by fishers over his waistcloth and tucked it under his girdle.”
How many of us are embarrassed if the Lord sees us going out without a shirt, or with garments that don’t cover any more than our underwear, if that much?
In summary… God not only wants us to put on clothes but clothes that would properly cover our nakedness, i.e.from our shoulder to below our thighs. These verses plainly teach that both men and women should never go in public unless they are covered this way. This rules out most swimsuits (e.g. bikinis), as well as short shorts (e.g. hip huggers), short skirts (e.g. miniskirts), low blouses, halter tops, midriffs, cut outs, slits and of course see-through clothing.
Second, be careful to dress modestly. It is not enough to be careful to cover our nakedness; we must also be careful to dress modestly. But what does that mean?
Guiding principles from 1 Timothy 2:8-15… In this passage, Paul is concerned with the holiness of both men and women in the church (v. 8 “holy hands”, v. 9 “in like manner also”, v. 15 “holiness”).
Verse 9: Let’s consider the words of Paul here very closely.
“adorn” translates the word from which we get our English word “cosmetics”. Vine “to arrange; to put in order” or Percshbacher (“to decorate”). It speaks of making something or someone attractive, as a bride does for her husband (cf. Rev. 21:2 “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”, 19 “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.”). Our dress should be attractive and presentable before others.
“modest” means well ordered (Perschbacher), decent (Vine) or moderate (Rienecker and Rogers).
“apparel” dress or clothing. A deeper meaning of the term is defined as “deportment, outward, as it expresses itself in clothing” (Arndt and Gingrich). The word does not just speak of clothing but makes a connection between the character of a person and the clothing she wears.
“propriety” is defined this way: “The word connotes feminine reserve in matters of sex. In the word is involved an innate moral repugnance to the doing of the dishonorable. It is ‘shamefastness’ which shrinks from overpassing the limits of womanly reserve and modesty, as well as from dishonor which would justly attach thereto” (Rienecker). The word also implies “self-respect, as well as restraint imposed on oneself from a sense of what is due to others” (J. H. Bernard).
“moderation” means “sobriety or self-control. It stands basically for perfect self-mastery in the physical appetites and as applied to women it too had a definitely sexual nuance” (Rienecker).
“not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” is a prohibition that confuses some. Paul is drawing a contrast “not” (v. 9), “but” (v. 10). He is not ruling out braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing but is saying that this should not be our first and only concern. The inward person is more important than the outward person. Peter helps us with this (1 Pet. 3:3-4). The words “merely” and “fine” were added by the translators (indicated by italicizing the words) but literally translating the Greek it simply says, “Do not let your adornment be outward…putting on apparel”. Surely, Peter is not condemning the wearing of any clothes at all! Neither does Paul condemn any braiding of hair or wearing of any gold, silver or costly clothes at all! Both Peter and Paul were saying that the spiritual is more important than the physical. Jesus did the same thing saying, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). Jesus is not saying that we do not labor for physical food at all (cf. 2 The. 3:10) but that more importantly we labor for the spiritual (cf. Mat. 4:4). Paul uses a similar contrast here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10.
Verse 10: Here is the central guiding principle that should govern our choice of clothes. We should dress as those who profess godliness, and if attention is to be drawn to ourselves, let our good works, not our clothing, be that which draws the attention.
In summary… God wants us to dress in an orderly, moderate, reserved and decent way – in a way that expresses our Christian character. Not messy, untucked, wrinkled, unkept; not wild, crazy, outlandish, extravagant, extreme; not sensual, sexually suggestive and enticing such as tight-fitting clothing revealing every curve of the body (e.g. leggings).
Third, be careful to distinguish your gender. Unfortunately, we live in an age that seeks to blur the differences between male and female (e.g. unisex clothes, haircuts, bathrooms, homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism, same-sex unions). It is not uncommon to see someone and not be able to tell what sex they are by their outward appearance.
Genesis 1:26-27 God distinguished humans as male and female. From the beginning, He gave us different bodies and different roles (Gen. 2:7; 18-24). This should be manifest in our dress.
Exodus 22:5 Moses taught the Jews to dress according to their sexual gender. He did not define the dress for male and female but demanded that the two sexes be distinguished by their dress. This may be different in every culture (e.g. ancient clothing of people of the Bible; African tribe where the more jewelry the men wore, the more masculine they were considered; the wigs worn by men in America’s past; the Scottish kilts worn by men).
1 Corinthians 11:14-15 Paul called for the church in Corinth to respect and maintain the distinction between male and female as it was expressed in the length of hair in that culture. For them to do otherwise would have been “dishonorable”. Paul was not requiring short hair for men and long hair for women, but he was requiring them to respect the difference in hairstyles between men and women commonly held among them. It is not inherently evil for a man to have long hair (cf. Num. 6:13ff; Jud. 13:5).
In summary… God wants us to dress in a way that will distinguish our gender. This may be different in different cultures, but we must be careful not to blur the distinction between the male and the female by dressing alike and/or cross dressing. It is a disgrace to embrace other gender identity.
Is there a dress code in the Bible? Yes. God is very specific: cover your nakedness and dress modestly, distinguishing your gender. Do not let the world determine what you will wear (Rom. 12:2; Jam. 1:27). Be Clothed With Jesus! Galatians 3:26-27 "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
More important than our physical dress, is our spiritual dress. This begins with putting on Christ in baptism. Without Him we are lost in sin and forever doomed with the world. Having put on Christ, we must keep putting Him on as Paul writes in Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Are you clothed with Jesus? Be clothed with Jesus, today!
Northwest church of christ
6059 Azle Avenue Fort Worth, TX 76135 817-237-1205 firstname.lastname@example.org northwestcofc.org