Holiness in Dress and Appearance

1. The teachers – A. Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17), B. The Holy Ghost (John 16:7-8), C. The Ministry (Eph. 4:11-13)

 2. The tests – A. Is it written? (James 1:22), B. Is it worldly? (1 John 2:16), C. Has the Holy Ghost convicted me? (James 4:17), D. Am I certain that it is acceptable? (Romans 14:23), E. How will it impact my weak brother? (1 Cor. 8:11-12) F. Will it be misunderstood? (Romans 14:16)

3. Modesty – In covering, in cost, and in attitude
1 Timothy 2:8-10 (KJV) “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

1 Timothy 2:8-10 (NIV) “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

1 Timothy 2:8-10 (CEV) “I want everyone everywhere to lift innocent hands toward heaven and pray, without being angry or arguing with each other. I would like for women to wear modest and sensible clothes. They should not have fancy hairdos, or wear expensive clothes, or put on jewelry made of gold or pearls. Women who claim to love God should do helpful things for others.”

In depth: The word “apparel” comes from the Greek word “katastole” which is “a long flowing garment."  This reflects directly on a style of garment the Greeks called “katastola” which was loose-fitting and covered from the neck to the knees. This standard of covering from the trunk of the body to the knee is seen several times throughout the Bible. In Gen. 3:21, God made “coats” to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness. The Hebrew word “Kuttonet” used in this verse refers to “a tunic with sleeves coming down to the knees, sometimes to the ankles.” In Ex. 28:42, the priests were instructed to wear trousers under their robes that would cover from the waist to the thigh. In Isaiah 47:2-3, exposing the leg and uncovering the thigh is described as uncovering nakedness.

In depth: The word “shamefacedness” comes from the Greek word “aidos” which means “a sense of shame, bashfulness towards men, reverence.” How can a woman adorn herself with shamefacedness? It starts by avoiding adorning with things that are seductive, brash, flamboyant, or vain. The passage specifically instructs the Christian to avoid elaborate hairstyles, jewelry, and expensive clothing. The same principles would also apply to cosmetics. Each time that makeup is mentioned in the Scriptures, it is in a negative connotation. In 2 Kings 9:30, Jezebel painted her eyes and put on her adornments. In Jer. 4:30, God compared backslidden Judah to a woman trying to appeal to her lovers with makeup and jewelry. In Ezekiel 23:36-44, Samaria and Jerusalem are depicted as two women who adorn themselves with makeup and jewels to commit adultery. While makeup is common in our culture, what is its purpose? Does it appeal to the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life? Can we say with full faith and assurance that it is not in opposition with an attitude of shamefacedness?

1 Peter 3:3-4 (KJV) “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT) “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”

4. Gender Distinction

1 Corinthians 11:4-7, 13-16 (KJV) “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man...Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”

1 Corinthians 11:4-7, 13-16 (NIV) “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man...Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

In depth: A woman's long hair is given to her for a covering. It is a shame for a woman to pray or prophesy without this covering. It is a shame for a man to pray or prophesies with his head covered (Greek “kata” - literally means coming down from) by long hair. Long hair is disgraceful for a man. Some contend that this teaching was a temporary cultural consideration, but Paul argued that nature should teach us this truth. He also stated that no one should be contentious about this teaching because it was uniformly accepted and practiced by all of God's churches. If long hair is a woman's glory, what constitutes long? According to the text, it is a shame for a woman's hair  to be “shorn” (cut) or shaved so she should be covered (have long hair.) The NIV has an interesting footnote on vs. 4-7 that helps clarify this teaching: “Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with no covering of hair dishonors her head—she is just like one of the “shorn women.” If a woman has no covering, let her be for now with short hair; but since it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair shorn or shaved, she should grow it again. A man ought not to have long hair .”

Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV) “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

In depth: Conservative Christian women traditionally have refrained from wearing pants for the sake of modesty and because they sought to be feminine in their dress. While women's pants are popular now, throughout history in Western society pants have always been considered masculine attire. (Example: “I know who wears the pants in that family.”) It is important to note that this commandment did not just prohibit women from wearing men's attire; they were not allowed to wear anything that even pertained to a man. As our society increasingly promotes gender confusion and unisex clothing, the fact that skirts and dresses are still (for now) considered women's clothing is the only real distinction remaining between men's and women's fashion. While this passage is from the Old Testament it complements the message of 1 Corinthians 11 in the New Testament and describes a moral commandment regarding a practice that is an “abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

5. Conclusion

Holiness is primary an issue of the heart, however, holiness must be exhibited in every aspect of a believer's life. We don't want to be like the Pharisees and neglect the weightier matters. On the other hand, as faithful servants of the Lord we should try to understand and obey His every command. Admittedly, many people disagree with our conclusions and even deride them. We are called to be lights in darkness so we should expect a contrast between our lifestyle and the lifestyle of those in this world.

Some consider these values as demeaning or oppressive to women. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We teach our men and women to avoid cosmetics and excessive ornamentation, to wear modest clothing that emphasizes gender distinction, and to seek the approval of God instead of the world. Our value is found not in outward beauty or fashion, but our lasting worth is determined by our Creator. A truly beautiful person exhibits character that gives glory to God. In a vain and sensual time, our ladies represent grace, dignity, and God given femininity. They exhibit holiness in both attitude and appearance.

Psalm 29:2 (KJV) " Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."

Romans 12:1-2 (KJV) "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

 * Definitions:  A. Hebrew  - Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon,  B. Greek - Strong's Definitions, Thayer's Greek Lexicon