Bible Class Curricula - First Principles - Lesson #9 - One of The Ways Christians Put on Christ

Christians Are Different from the World

When we put Christ on in baptism, proudly take on His name and represent His blood-bought church, we are commanded to (1) walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-4); (2) be different from those in the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 4:22-24); and (3) be holy in all our conduct (1 Peter 1:13-16; Romans 12:1; Colossians 1:22; 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 2:5-12). Living the faithful Christian life sometimes results in the world not only looking at us strangely but scrutinizing us strongly (John 15:18-20; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:3-5, 12). As we let our lights shine in this dark world, we will naturally cause due attention to ourselves (Matthew 5:16; John 3:19; 8:12). One of the ways we should be different from the world is in the way we clothe ourselves. Hollywood, the mainstream media, the fashion world, etc. have all succeeded in marketing immodesty as an acceptable form of clothing. Those who design, market, sell immodest clothing will be the first to tell you they design/promote this type of clothing because “sex sells” (in other words, they purposely want to encourage the sins of lust, fornication, uncleanness, etc. through their clothing). Though it is almost impossible to get Christians who wear immodest clothing to admit that what they are wearing is not Christ-like, the people of the world are brutally honest as to its purpose. For instance, Mary Quant (credited for designing the miniskirt and hot pants) was quoted as saying “Any law-abiding female, it used to be thought, waits until dark [implying fornication]. Well, there are lots of girls who don’t want to wait. Mini-clothes are symbolic of them.” One of Françoise Sagan’s famous quotes was “A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to take it off you” (Sagan was a playwright, novelist, and screenwriter).

While a majority of Christians agree that modesty is important and commanded, most Christians also are content in thinking that God does not have a modesty standard. In this lesson, we will be searching through the Bible to determine whether or not God has given a standard of modesty when it comes to covering one’s nakedness and also look at biblical principles that govern what we should wear.

Immodesty: Where It All Began

Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve engaged in daily activities without clothing (Genesis 2:25). Because Adam and Eve did not have a knowledge of both good and evil, they were not ashamed of their nakedness (Genesis 2:17). The serpent deceived Eve into partaking of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, saying, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Instead of choosing to remain naïve to that which was evil, Eve allowed the thought of the tree being able “to make one wise” to override her love for God, for her husband and for herself; and she partook (Romans 16:19; 1 Corinthians 14:20). She then gave to Adam and he chose to sin as well (Genesis 3:1-6). Because Adam and Eve committed their first sin by partaking of the fruit forbidden by God, “the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). Not only do we learn about the origin of human sin from this true story, but we also learn about the origin of human shame and immodesty (Genesis 3:7, 10-11). Adam and Eve did not learn the shame of not being clothed (or not being clothed in a godly manner) from the culture of men because there was no societal culture/pressure in the Garden. The knowledge of the distinction between good and evil that they gained from experiencing sin as they willfully chose to disobey God was how they learned about shame and immodesty. Interestingly, Adam and Eve were married according to God’s arrangement. Yet, because of their sin, they even felt a certain degree of shame around each other and before God. Culture was not a factor because it was non-existent. While it is true that different forms or types of clothing will be worn throughout different cultures, immodesty in nakedness transcends cultures and finds its beginning in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:7).

Although “nakedness” and “immodesty” as a rule have always been sinful since the beginning of human sin, there are exceptions to consider: (1) Scriptural marriage beds are deemed by God as undefiled (Hebrews 13:4); (2) A baby is born innocent and sinless (Ezekiel 18:20; Isaiah 7:16); (3) Medical attention sometimes requires such (Genesis 35:17; 38:28; 50:2; Exodus 1:16; Mark 5:26).

Nakedness and Immodesty

As soon as sin entered the world, nakedness became shameful and sinful (Genesis 2:25;3:7-10). The entire Bible points to the shamefulness of nakedness (Lamentations 1:8; Ezekiel16:8; Micah 1:11; Nahum 3:5; Revelation 3:18; 16:15). So, according to God’s word, besides nakedness being defined as totally without clothing, how else is it defined? Adam and Eve’s initial behavior after they committed sin taught us that we must at least cover some parts of our body so that we no longer are considered “naked” (Genesis 3:7). At least Adam and Eve had some shame about them; whereas today many have lost their feeling of shame, forgetting how to blush (Jeremiah 6:15). In using figures of speech in reference to the church, Paul mentions that there are “unpresentable parts” (1 Corinthians 12:23). So, what are our unpresentable parts”? And how do we know for certain what they are? The Lord says to man in Isaiah 55:8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”. When Adam and Eve realized they were naked, they clothed themselves with loin-coverings made out of fig leaves they had sown together (Genesis 3:7; also defined in Brown-Driver-Briggs “BDB” Hebrew dictionary as “belt, girdle;” only other places this word occurs in its feminine form is: Genesis 3:7; 2 Samuel 18:11; 1 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 3:21; Isaiah 3:24). God Himself clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin that He had made. The implication of the context is that God did not consider Adam and Eve’s “thoughts” on modest clothing as modest. As far as God was concerned, Adam and Eve were still naked, immodest and shameful in the way they dressed themselves. The “tunics” in which God modestly clothed Adam and Eve continued to be the ordinary garments worn by both men and women during the Patriarchal and Mosaic Ages as well as during the beginnings of the Christian Age and even in the Middle East today. This “coat” or “robe” is defined by BDB Hebrew dictionary as a “tunic” (the Hebrew word occurs 29 times in the Old Testament and is found 9 times in Genesis 3:21; 37:3, 23, 31, 32, 33). The tunic was (and is) a type of shirt/robe that covered one from the shoulder to the knee or ankle (Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred Wight, p. 91). It is very powerful to know that the only scripture that mentions God clothing man and woman is when He covered them from their shoulders to at least their knees. It must be kept in mind that the issue it not as much as with what God clothed them as it is what parts He covered. In fact, the amount of clothing authorized throughout the Scriptures was always from the shoulders to at least the knees (Genesis 3:21; 37:3; Exodus 28:42; Isaiah 47:1-3; Ezekiel 16:7; Luke 9:3; John 19:22-24; 21:7; Acts 9:39). Therefore, we can be confident and know that if we clothe ourselves from the shoulders to the knees then we are covering up our nakedness and our unpresentable parts and are pleasing God in this respect.

Christian Example

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” As Christians, are we wearing the same seductive, revealing, shameful clothes that the world does? Are you “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15)? Many times what we wear says a great deal about who we really are. The writer of Proverbs 7:10 tells of a young man who had no regard for the words, commands, law or wisdom of God; but instead went to the house of a prostitute (like so many people do today –young and old – including many who are supposed to be faithful Christians). We are told that this “woman met him, with the attire of a harlot” (Proverbs 7). When Paul instructed Timothy to be an example in conduct and purity (which would include modest clothing), he told the women of the church to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 3:15; 4:12, 16). The problem with some of the Christians ladies of the first century was that they were wearing immodest clothing because the clothing was “too showy”. The problem in the church today is that many of the older and younger Christian women are wearing immodest clothing that is “too revealing”. God has commissioned the Christian to change the world; yet it seems that the world is doing a better job of converting many Christians (Romans 12:2; Matthew 28:18-20). In order to change the world around of us for Christ, we must remember that choosing what we wear plays a part in being the right example for Jesus. What we “pick out” to wear must first and foremost be based on whether or not it will please God (Romans 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Hebrews 11:5-6; 13:16). Secondly, we must make sure that what we wear is professing our godliness. Third, we should never choose anything that we believe or know can be alluring to worldly-thinking people. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:15, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (circumspectly is defined by Thayer’s Greek Dictionary as “exactly, accurately, diligently… to live carefully…deviating in no respect from the law of duty”). We must always dress carefully and abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22, that is, from every shape, kind or appearance of wrong or evil). When Jesus washed away your sins in baptism and translated you into His body, the church, He wanted to “present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight - if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away” (Colossians 1:18-23; 2:11-12). Do not disappoint Jesus’ desire for you to remain holy and without disgrace in His sight by wearing “unholy, impure, disgraceful” clothes like much of the world is wearing. Since Christians are scarcely going to be saved as it is, do not put a stumbling block to sin in your own way or in the way of those with whom you come in contact (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 14:21; 1 Peter 4:18; 1 John 2:15-17). Some will say, “It does not matter what I wear; people are not going to lust after me” or “if someone lusts after me, they are the one with the problem.” While there is some truth to these statements, we must always remember that “if it is possible, as much as depends on you” you are to do everything you can to set the right example and not contribute in any way to someone’s sin. For you will be ultimately judged by your own thoughts and actions (that you control) and not the thoughts and actions of others (Romans 12:18; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelations 14:13). Therefore, it is vital we as Christians choose God-pleasing attire that covers from our shoulders to at least our knees.

In conclusion, our thoughts, actions and even what we wear must be based on the authority of Jesus’ word (Matthew 28:18; John 12:48; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:10; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Bikinis, shorts above the knee, low cut tops showing cleavage, males going shirtless, revealing shirts, dresses and wedding gowns and much of today’s sporting attire do not meet God’s modesty standard. Coco Chanel (fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand) is quoted as saying, “Adornment is never anything except a reflection of the heart.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. If what you wear is never anything except a reflection of your heart, what is your heart reflecting?

Study Questions

  1. What has been God’s modesty standard since the beginning of man’s sin?
  2. How do you prove that there is a modesty standard in the Bible?
  3. How can you prove that nakedness/immodestly is not based strictly on one’s culture?
  4. Did Adam and Eve’s “loin-coverings” pass God’s modesty-standard test?
  5. How do men and women today justify their immodest clothing in light of Adam and Eve’s implied justification for their “loin-coverings”?
  6. Why do many Christians dress immodestly today?
  7. Explain how the way you dress can reflect upon your character as well as affect others around you.
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