After we are saved from sin, we are commanded, "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).
We are commanded to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12) and warned that without holiness no one shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

We must present ourselves as holy unto God (Romans 12:1), cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (II Corinthians 7:1), and separate ourselves from all worldliness (James 4:4).

If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (I Peter 4:18).  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.( 1Cor 6:19  )

No one can live a holy life by his own power, but only through the Holy Spirit. "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1:8).

Holiness involves both the inner man and the outer man (I Corinthians 6:19-20; I Thessalonians 5:23). We must perfect holiness by cleansing ourselves of filthiness both of the flesh and of the spirit (II Corinthians 7:1). For example, lustful thoughts are as sinful as an act of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28), and hatred is just as sinful as murder (I John 3:15). Holiness, then, includes attitudes, thoughts, and spiritual stewardship on the one hand and actions, appearance, and physical stewardship on the other. One without the other is insufficient. Inward holiness will produce outward holiness, but the outward appearance of holiness is worthless without inward holiness. For example, a modest spirit will produce modest dress, but modest dress is of little value if it conceals a lustful heart.

Holiness or sanctification is not a means of earning salvation but a result of salvation. As such, it comes by grace through faith. Holiness cannot be manufactured bywords of the flesh but must come as we submit to the leadership and control of the Holy Spirit. We are holy in a twofold sense. On the one hand, we receive an immediate sanctification (separation from sin) through the death of Christ when we are baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews10:10). God counts us holy by imputing Christ’s righteousness to us. On the other hand, we must follow after and seek holiness (Hebrews 12:14). We must strive after holiness and receive the progressive work of sanctification. We are already sanctified, but we are also called to be saints (sanctified, holy ones) (I Corinthians 1:2).

Early Baptists were at first grouped with the Puritans, but they began to organize separately in England in the17th century. They, too, adhered to holiness teaching. Some Baptist groups still remain quite conservative on holiness issues. For example, the Baptist Bible Fellowship opposes dancing, drinking, smoking, gambling, and themovies.27 in 1984 the Southern Baptist Convention admonished all members not to use tobacco or alcohol.

Many independent Baptists teach against worldly amusements, immodest dress, and women wearing pants, and women cutting their hair. Sword of the Lord Publishers prints a number of books and booklets that deal with these issues, including John R. Rice’s Amusements for Christians and Elizabeth Rice Hanford’s Your Clothes Say it for You. Liberty Baptist College, founded by Jerry Falwell, has a dress and conduct code for its student body of over 4000: “Men are not allowed to grow beards or mustaches, or to wear hair that touches their shirt collars or covers the tops of their ears. . . . Women are expected to dress modestly. Students are not allowed to dance or attend movies.”

Many times what we wear helps to mold their expectations as well as our own. When a woman wears an immodest dress, she begins to think of herself as seductive and acts accordingly. Other people perceive her as provocative and treat her as such, which reinforces her behavior. In short, appearance both reflects and to large degree determines what we are in the eyes of self and others.

We must ask what practices of the time concerned God enough for Him to inspire this passage. What clothing did Paul have in mind when he warned against immodesty of dress? In a day when women wore robes to the ankle, what type of immodest dress existed? If Paul found immodest clothing in an age characterized by greater modesty of dress than our own, certainly he would consider many styles of clothing today to be immodest. As Chapter 8 will note, many women of the time tucked in their tunics above the knee for convenience in certain activities, and the early church fathers considered this immodest. God was concerned about modesty of dress in a day when even exposing the upper leg was considered immodest. In Isaiah47:2-3 God considered baring the leg and uncovering the thigh to be shameful exposure of nakedness. This gives us a good idea as to what God would regard as the minimum standard of modesty, regardless of culture.

The basic reason for modesty of dress is to subdue the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The exposed body tends to arouse improper thoughts in both wearer and onlooker. To implement the purpose behind modest dress, the body should basically be covered, except for those parts which we must use openly for normal living. This suggests that clothes should cover the torso and upper limbs. Reasonable guidelines, then, would-be women’s dresses over the knee and sleeves to the elbow. In addition, we should avoid low necklines, sleeveless dresses or shirts, very tight clothes, very thin clothes, and slacks on women because they immodestly reveal the feminine contours of upper leg, thigh, and hip. Likewise, swimming in mixed company is immodest. Since the primary effect of makeup is to highlight sex appeal, we reject makeup as immodest.

To some degree modesty is culturally relative. We must certainly dress in a manner that would be considered modest for the occasion and in the judgment of our culture. For example, 19th century society considered it improper for a woman to expose any of her leg in public. Applying principles of Christian liberty, a Christian woman of that day should not have worn a knee-length dress, for this would have brought reproach upon her and the Lord. However, there must be a minimum of modesty that is absolute. Otherwise, if society condoned total nudity, Christians could walk around nude. If so, we could delete I Timothy 2:9 from the Bible as irrelevant.

Finally, the heart must be modest and motives pure. Conduct, gestures, gait, body language, and speech must be modest. If a woman wants to, she can display her body immodestly and act seductively even in the most modest of dresses. We must never use dress to promote immodest conduct, and no degree of external modesty can cover-up an immodest, lustful spirit.

A sign posted in an Orthodox Jewish district of Jerusalem provides an interesting definition of modesty for women’s dress:” Passage permitted ‘only’ to women dressed modestly! Long dress, lower than knee length (no slacks). Long sleeves, beyond elbow length. Closed Neckline” (National Geographic, July 1985, p. 30).

Taken from the UPCI Positional Papers

New Testament Teaching For Women

The New Testament makes several specific statements pertaining to women's dress in the epistles of Paul and Peter.

"I will 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).

"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands" (I Peter 3:1-5).

Paul admonished women to dress according to certain standards and listed them in this order: modesty, inexpensive and non-ornamental attire, and clothing that becomes godliness. To be modest means to be decent and respectful. The apostolic Christian woman seeks to emulate all the fine virtues of Christian womanhood, so she carefully and prayerfully selects her attire in order not to unduly expose her body to the stares of the public. She is not so old-fashioned as to look like a monstrosity, but she is deliberately, methodical in choosing clothing that will dignify her womanhood without provoking the stares of the opposite sex.

She has dedicated herself to the cause of Christianity. This manner of dedication avoids expensive, extravagant clothing and superfluous, ornamental jewelry, permitting only the functional use of a wristwatch and a wedding band to designate her wedlock. The great needs of Christian evangelism and charitable assistance to the poor demand that she deny herself the exorbitant tastes of expensive fads so that she might practice the Christian art of concern for others. In this manner, she professes a godliness that stems from a heartfelt desire for virtuous, holy living.

Her hair style is again predicated upon the Word of God, which teaches her to let her hair grow uncut: "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" (I Corinthians 11:13-15).

Guidelines for Men

The New Testament does not provide instructions expressly for men's clothing. Apparently immodest dress was not as much of a problem for men in those days, even though it often is today. However, in many instances it may well be said, "What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."

The trend to indecent exposure is even having an impression on the male sex today. Comfort seems to be the overall objective instead of a cautious, considerate thought for decorum and dignity. But comfort can be achieved without some of the ridiculous, outlandish costumes now being displayed on our busy avenues.

We can honestly proclaim that the basic principles of godly appearance that apply to Christian women should also apply to men; namely, modesty, moderation, decency, elimination of ornamentation and costly finery, and distinction between male and female in hair and dress.

Distinction Between Male and Female

Moreover, the Scriptures teach a great difference between femininity and masculinity as to dress. "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" (Deuteronomy 22:5).

The desire to emulate men in dress has seriously affected the fine and noble characteristics of womanhood. Often it takes a second glance to determine the sex of a woman today, due to the distorted and strange garb she wears and the close proximity of her attire to that of a man. The Scriptures call this practice an abomination unto God, or something God hates.

Perhaps some will say this standard has changed due to the inception of the age of grace introduced by Jesus Christ. But this verse deals with moral law and with the nature of God, which never change, not with a ceremonial ritual fulfilled by Christ. Moreover, when the Apostle Peter wished to instruct Christian women about proper conduct, he used Sarah, the wife of Abraham, as his example (I Peter 3:5). Thus, we are not out of order in this instance to use a verse of Scripture from the law. We rightfully go back over the years and learn a spiritual lesson that sharply rebukes the customs and practices of our day.

Taken from the Word Aflame Press tract "The Scriptures Decree Modesty in Dress" - #1567220908

  • Pastor’s note  - It is clear today that the trend to gender assimilation in roles and dress has been a great helper in bringing an age where homosexuality has become commonplace, and materialism has almost completely obliterated faith and generosity.  God’s very purpose in saving us through the gospel is to bring us out of a world system into a body that is fashioned after His desire.  God’s moral law is not restrictive but in fact the plan to the greatest possible life lived and the desire for His “wife”, the church, which he will grant to sit with Him in His throne for eternity!   

   November 2018   
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