Not all the topics in the Bible are of equal importance. The cross of Jesus is the central attraction of the Christian religion. It is the topic of paramount importance. If you do not understand the cross, then you do not understand the basis of the Christian religion. The law of God is also very important. It was because the law was broken that Jesus had to go to the cross. That makes the law of extreme consequence. The subject of this article, dress and adornment, is not as important as the cross, or the law or the Sabbath, and the apostles and the prophets did not dwell on it at length. Ellen White also distinctly said that is should not be made a test question. You are probably wondering, then, why I am writing this article. Here are the reasons I choose to write on this topic:
- Many people will lose their souls over this issue.
- Jesus, the apostles and the prophets did preach and write about it, although they did not make it a major issue.
- Many Christians, including many attending Adventist Churches, have never heard this subject preached about. Some have concluded that since they have never heard it preached about, it does not really matter. That is not true.
- Some have concluded that historic Adventists do not believe or teach what inspiration says about dress, because it is preached about so seldom.
I have been thinking about this subject for years and saying to myself, “I have to say something about it.” In order to have a clear conscience, I want to share with you what the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy have to say about dress and adornment. Because so many ministers have been afraid to speak on this subject, God’s professed people are in a backslidden condition on the issue of dress. Ministers then, are partly to blame for this sad state. The apostle Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “I have not failed to declare to you all the counsel of God.” If I am going to declare to you all the counsel of God, I have to write something about dress and adornment.
First of all, let us begin by looking at some verses that contain the basic principles of how Christians should dress. Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loves the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
What is it referring to when it says it should be without spots or wrinkles? It is talking about our clothes. Clothing in the Bible is a symbol of a person’s character, but this applies to our physical clothes as well. We should do our best to keep our clothes without spots and wrinkles, just as we want our character’s to be. This leads us to principle number one.
Just before God came and gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, He gave them instructions about their clothes. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.’ ” Exodus 19:10. [Emphasis supplied.]
This is the first principle about dress and adornment in the Bible. No matter what our economic level is, we can be clean. If you are a Christian, you are a son or a daughter of the King, and the King whose you are said, “I want you to be clean. I want your clothes to be clean and without spots or wrinkles.”
Neatness & Order
The second principle is found in John 20, and shows us an example from the life of Christ. “He [John], stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths laying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” John 20:5–7.
When Jesus arose on Sunday morning, He had a great deal to accomplish. All of His disciples were discouraged and depressed, and He needed to comfort them and show them that He was alive. He also had to go back to His Father in heaven to see that His sacrifice was accepted. Yet, the Creator and the Majesty of heaven took time before He walked out of that tomb to fold His grave clothes. Do you think that if you and I are Christians we should learn anything from that?
Notice what it says in the next verse. “Then the other disciple who came to the tomb went in also and he saw and believed.” John 20:8. When John looked into the tomb and saw the clothes neatly folded he knew Jesus had been there. How did he know? Because he had been with Him for three years and he knew how orderly Jesus was.
Order is a basic Christian principle in regard to dress. If I am striving to follow Christ, I will not throw my things about, and I will not leave them in a disheveled array. I will bring order even into the way I deal with my clothes, just as Jesus did.
As a parent, does that give me insights about how I should teach my children? Our children can learn about order, even when they are small. They may not be able to fold clothes as neatly as an adult, or clean their rooms as perfectly, but they can learn neatness and order in everything they do.
After Adam and Eve sinned, they made themselves clothing by sewing together fig leaves. When God came down to talk with them He was not impressed with their fig-leaf garments. In fact, He would not accept them. “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21. Why did He need to clothe them? Were they not clothed before? They had on fig-leaf garments, but God said, “You are not clothed. I am going to make you some clothes that will really clothe you.” So, the Lord made clothing of sheepskins for them.
Today, when we use the word “naked,” we mean not having a stitch of clothing on. In the Bible, the word “naked” simply means that you are not adequately clothed. Let me illustrate. God gave Moses special instructions about the priests clothing. He said, “And you shall make for them [the priests] linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs. They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and his descendants after him.” Exodus 28:42, 43.
Aaron and his sons were not “naked,” as we would use the word, they had robes on already. But the Lord said, “That is not enough.” He instructed them to wear clothes that completely covered their bodies. If they came before Him without being fully clothed, they would die.
Another illustration of this point is in John 21:7: “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), [the Greek word used here says he was naked] and plunged into the sea.” Now, Peter had not taken off all of his clothes to go fishing that night, he had just taken off his outer garment. But he did not want to be in the presence of the Lord without his outer garment on. There are a lot of Christians today who come into the presence of the Lord, like Adam and Eve, with only fig-leaf garments on. The Lord says to them, “You are naked.”
Paul counseled women especially about modesty: “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with broided hair or gold pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” 1Timothy 2:9, 10.
In simple terms, what does modesty mean? It means that your body (torso) is covered. According to Bible standards, we must have our body covered so people cannot see it. Suppose I put on clothing that you can see through. Am I clothed? No. If I put on clothing that is so tight that you can study my anatomy, even though it has cloth over the top of it, am I clothed? No, I am the same as Adam and Eve with those fig leaves on.
If my clothing in any way allows people to have a peek at my body, it is not modest. If a dress allows you, in any position, to see a person’s body, it is immodest. That means that a dress should be below the knees, or in some body positions the body will be visible, and that is forbidden in Exodus 28.
Do you think I am being too specific? Friend, the Christian religion is very specific, because God wants the very best for us in all the details of life. That is why God’s counsel is so specific on the dress issue. I do not have to tell you that we are living in a very wicked age and time. Our daughters are especially in danger. I pray every time my daughter goes to Wichita. But we have something to do besides pray. Ellen White told us that a woman who was dressed in modest apparel would be protected from a thousand evils. Isn’t our God merciful to give us specific rules to save us from such heartache?
Men and Women Should Look Different
“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5. That is specific. Why were we given that instruction? Ellen White said that if there is confusion between the sexes, it results in a great increase in crime. We can certainly see that today.
In brief then, this principle says that when people see you they should be able to tell immediately if you are a man or a woman. The way you wear your clothes, the way you wear your hair, and your total appearance should leave them with no doubts.
Good Quality but Not Costly
Jesus had clothing that was of high quality and was durable. That is why the soldiers at His crucifixion cast lots for His garments. (See John 19:23.) But Jesus did not dress with the adornments of Babylon, and His children will not dress that way either. So many people today have cast aside God’s counsel on this issue, but there will be some who have their garments ready when Jesus comes, according to Revelation 16:15. “Behold, I am coming as a thief.
Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked [have a fig-leaf garment on] and they see his shame.”
Throughout the Bible, garments are a symbol of character. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:7, 8. If I am modest in character, I will wear modest clothing. If I am meek and humble, I will not dress to make a display. My clothing will be durable and neat, but plain and not gaudy.
The Bible tells us not to wear expensive clothing. If I love my neighbor as myself, I will not spend money for expensive clothing when there are other people who do not have enough. Part of the commendation that Jesus will give to His followers who are saved is recorded in Matthew 25. It says: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me.” Matthew 25:34–36.
Do Not Dress For Display
Principle number six is one of the biggest problems in the area of dress. There will be people who lose their souls over the dress issue. How could people lose their soul over what they wear? Let us just see what the Bible says about this issue. This principle is the underlying problem with these people. ” ‘For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of Hosts, That will leave them neither root nor branch.” Malachi 4:1.
One of the ways that pride manifests itself is in how we dress. Do we dress to show how good we can look? That is pride and the Lord has a solution for people with that problem. “Moreover the Lord says: ‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks And wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, Making a jingling with their feet. Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab The crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will uncover their secret parts.’ In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; The pendants, the bracelets, the veils; The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands, The perfume boxes, the charms, and the rings; The nose jewels, the festal apparel, the mantles; The outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes. And so it shall be: Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench; Instead of a sash, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, baldness; Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; And branding instead of beauty. Your men shall fall by the sword, And your mighty in the war. Her gates shall lament and mourn, And she being desolate, shall sit on the ground.” Isaiah 3:16–26.
Gaudy dress, make-up, and adornment have always been associated with idolaters: “And when Jehu had come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked though a window.” 2 Kings 9:30. “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.” Revelation 17:4.
The dress issue, according to Isaiah 3, is going to take many people to hell. We need to ask ourselves when we go shopping, “Am I buying these clothes to glorify the name of the Lord Jesus? Will what I buy correctly represent Him by being durable, well fitting and becoming? Or do I just want to display how handsome (or beautiful) I am?” If we are dressing for display, we should ask the Lord to take the pride out of our hearts and fit us for heaven.
My friend, we are in the closing days of earth’s history. God wants to prepare us to live eternally with Him. He counsels us, “buy of Me . . . white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” Revelation 3:18. Do you want to have the fine linen on when Jesus comes? He wants to put that garment on you so that you will be able to appear in His presence and not be ashamed because you do not have enough clothes on. Will you accept His gift and comply with the conditions?