Biblical Standards of Dress Part Three
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9–11)
Excellence Is in Holiness
As we come to this concluding article in our series, we need to consider the issue of excellence. Paul desired excellence from the Philippians. The word excellence means to differ. God’s desire and plan for His people is that they excel by differing from the world. By doing so, we will be pure, causing none to stumble, and will be filled with the fruits of righteousness, giving glory to God.
We must remember that God’s people are called to holiness. Holiness is a separation from the world to God. Without holiness, no man can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). It is by our minds being renewed, ourselves transformed, and resisting conformity to the world that we will discern God’s good and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2). The Psalmist declares that the person who is blessed, or happy is the one who rejects the counsel of the world and enjoys the counsel of God, meditating in it, walking in it, and becoming rooted, stable, fruitful, and spiritually prosperous therein. Have you ever longed for stability, joy, fruitfulness, and the ability to be able to see the will and purpose of God more clearly? That comes through the passionate pursuit of holiness. It comes through separating ourselves from the world and following God instead of the world’s thought processes and ways.
We are told, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1) There can be no close affinity between the children of God and the ways of the world. We cannot embrace the ways and thought processes of the world, because they are opposed to the ways and thoughts of God (See Isaiah 55:8-9). Those who love the Lord are to hate evil (Psalm 97:10) and are not to love the world (1 John 2:15-17). Those who love the ways, thought processes, and sins of the world are said to not have God’s love in them. This is very serious, and we cannot afford to take it lightly or treat it dismissively. We are told that it is the holy person who is received by the Lord and is called His son and His daughter. Let us pursue excellence in holiness: it is God’s way of joy for us.
Clothing That Excels, Or Is Holy
For many years many of us have said little from our pulpits about clothing because we have not desired to be aligned with some who were critical, rude, and unholy in their attitudes and words regarding clothing. This has been a major mistake on our part because a search of God’s Word turns up over nine hundred references to clothing and other related terms. When something is spoken of to such a great degree, it must be important; and we would be wise to search out God’s will concerning it.
In an earlier article, we saw that God made clothing for Adam and Eve for a reason, and that was to cover their shame. We also can read the book of Proverbs and find that that there was an adulterous woman, and she wore the clothing of a harlot. Evidently her clothing revealed her shameful heart (Proverbs 7). In contrast to her, we find that the family of the virtuous woman was clothed in clothing that was nicely colored and evidently covered them well because it kept them warm in the cold (Proverbs 31:21). Evidently, there is a difference even between the clothing of the virtuous and those who are not virtuous. We also find that the bride of Christ is espoused to Him as a chaste virgin (2 Corinthians 11:1-2), that He will present her to Himself holy, spotless, and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-28), and that He will clothe her with fine linen clean and white (Revelation 19:7-8); and this contrasts with the attire of the adulterous religious system (Revelation 17:1-6). If clothing is to cover shameful nakedness, and the virtuous woman and the bride of Christ are clothed differently from the harlot and the satanic bride, should not the bride of Christ be clothed differently from the world while she is upon this earth?
To take this further, the Word of God shows us that clothing is an identifier. A person in mourning often tore his clothing (Joshua 7:8;Job 1:20;2:11-13) or wore sackcloth (2 Samuel 3:31;Esther 4:1). The harlot was known by her clothing (Genesis 38:12-15;Proverbs 7:10). We also read of prison clothing (Genesis 41:14 cf 2 Kings 25:29). During David’s day, the virgins were clad in clothing that signified their virtue (2 Samuel 13:18-19). Today we also see that people often dress differently according to their occupation or status. We recognize policemen by their uniform. In town, we see that the postman has his uniform. We also walk up to public restrooms, and the men’s room and the women’s room are differentiated by the silhouettes that are on the door.
We now come to the issue of difference and modesty that is so difficult for us today, the distinction between men and women in their clothing. The most important observation that can be made concerning this is the fact that we must remember that our calling as saints is to follow the leadership of the Lord in His Word and not that of the world (Psalm 1:1-6;Romans 12:1-2;2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). It is not for the world and worldly fads to establish for us what is acceptable. That is the authority of God and none other. What does Scripture teach us? Scripture teaches us that there is a difference between men and women (Genesis 1:27;Matthew 19:4-5). It also shows us that a man could be known as a man from a distance: “And Rebekah lift up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.” (Genesis 24:64–65)
Even in the New Testament, we find that men and women were naturally expected to appear differently one from the other (See 1 Corinthians 11:1-16). It is the New Testament that gives us a more in-depth understanding of a woman’s clothing. As Paul told Timothy, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,” (1 Timothy 2:9) he spoke of more than just modesty. The word apparel& is literally a garment that is let down or a robe that reaches the feet. This instance is the only time that the word is used as such in the whole Bible, and it speaks specifically regarding a woman’s garments. The very act of a garment being let down is different from the garment of a man, which is often spoken of as being girded upwards. While it seems that most people of both sexes wore some sort of robes, it is obvious that a woman’s clothing was a sort of long dress, while a man would wear a long robe with a belt that would be used to pull up and aside his clothing so that he could work, run, or fight in a battle. There would have been, even then, a very visible distinction between men and women in their clothing.
What About Deuteronomy 22:5?
When we study the New Testament, we must remember that the New Testament builds upon the Old Testament; and we must recognize this as true in the case of clothing as well. Just as Rebekah could discern from a distance that Isaac was a man, we should be able to do the same today. When we read of the king’s daughters, who were virgins, being clad in a certain manner, we are right to understand that the king’s sons did not dress in that same manner. We also read, “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) Again we see that God demands a distinction between men and women in their clothing, and that was affirmed in the New Testament, as we have already seen.
Some will say that this text is obsolete because it is an Old Testament text, and we are not under the law. To these, we pose the following question: Does the Old Testament law regarding murder still stand as authoritative today? The answer is indeed in the affirmative. Simply because something is in the Old Testament does not mean that it is nullified.
Another may protest that we do not observe the Jewish dietary laws (See Leviticus 11:1-47), and that those who eat catfish would be inconsistent to observe Deuteronomy 22:5 as authoritative. The issue before us is the fact that the Jewish dietary laws were specifically for the Hebrew people and were abolished in Christ. Paul speaks of this in Romans chapter fourteen, and then he tells Timothy, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4–5) While the dietary laws were done away with, we have already found that God has retained the demand for a distinction between men and women in what they wear.
Perhaps someone else will state that we do not build banisters on the roofs of our houses, so we are not obligated to observe Deuteronomy 22:5. Let us consider this verse. “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.” (Deuteronomy 22:8) What is the issue before us? Is it not the issue of liability? Today we observe the spirit of this by buying liability insurance to protect us in the event someone is injured on our property or in our home. Surely, if we were to build a house with a flat roof, on which people were habited to walking about, we would be obligated to build a bannister of sorts in order to protect others and to lessen our liability. This being the case, we cannot dismiss or disregard Deuteronomy 22:5 based upon that argument.
What, then, should we think about Deuteronomy 22:5? We should consider that God indeed desires the distinction between men and women to be honored and observed, even in our clothing. The verse probably referred to women who would take up men’s clothing to go and work with men like men. It is thought by some commentators that it refers to a woman putting on armor to go to war as a man would. In these instances, issues of modesty and sexual propriety/impropriety would arise also, so we can certainly understand why the restriction is in place. While our culture has now influenced us to think differently about these things, it was only a few decades ago that women began to put on pants and go into the workplace dressed in them. It was not until the year 1993 that a woman wore a pantsuit onto the floor of the United States’ Senate in what was called, “The Pantsuit Rebellion.” It has been said that many in the Senate gasped audibly when this occurred. Things have changed rapidly, and we must ask ourselves whether God or culture has the authority to define our clothing.
We also consider the fact that the sexes should never be confused because God created male and female. “Transvestism was condemned because it spoke of unnatural mixing of clothing.” Albert Barnes said, “The distinction between the sexes is natural and divinely established, and cannot be neglected without indecorum and consequent danger to purity (cp. 1 Cor. 11:3–15).” The “King James Study Bible” tells us that transvestism was associated with homosexuality and idolatrous fertility rites. This informs us that the blurring or obliterating the lines between the sexes was about more than simply the appearance, but about sexuality; and God calls His people to holiness in sexual purity (See 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). This is one of the reasons that Paul spoke as he did in 1 Corinthians chapter eleven, idolatrous practices in Corinth were immoral in nature, and the natural distinctions between men and women were maintained for spiritual and moral reasons.
John Gill stated that sometimes the distinction between the sexes was removed in dressing so that men could for lewd purposes enter in among women who were gathered privately. Matthew Henry stated, “men must not be effeminate.” Paul also spoke of this, saying, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10) Today, when we see so many men seeking to be like women, men dressing as women and going into women’s restrooms and locker rooms, we can see the wisdom of God in giving us this verse. It certainly was given to protect against the lewdness of ungodly people.
Ask yourself, as you are looking at your clothing, whether it is truly modest or not. Does it cover and conceal, or does it uncover and reveal? Does it attract attention to places that attention should not be given? Is it tight? Does it cling? Is it sheer? Does it make a man appear effeminate? Does it make a woman appear masculine? Does it appear sensual? These are important considerations, and we must remember that our clothing demonstrates what is in our hearts. Yes, God looks on the heart, but man looks on the outward appearance. Let us show them true and modest masculinity and femininity.
I realize that this goes against the way many of us have long thought. This goes contrary to our ideals of freeing women from what some would think are unreasonable constraints. Should someone reading this choose to disagree with this writer, he will certainly continue to love the one who differs from him. This is not written to stir up strife or to agitate and anger people. This is written with the desire to stir up thought, to provoke us to consider whether we are being modest or not. It is written to cause us to ask whether we have allowed the world’s customs to so greatly influence us that we have come to accept immodesty as a way of life to the point that we have joined in with the world.
Jesus Christ is Lord over every area of our lives, including the most visible of areas, which is our clothing. We should take heed to His commands to be holy, to surrender our thoughts to His Word, and to refuse to follow the counsel of the ungodly. God calls us to excellence by means of holiness. God calls us to modesty, and He calls us to show a visible and modest distinction between males and females.
Finally, we must recall that our duty as Christians is to give glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Often it seems that we seek to see how far we can go, or how much we can get away with. The question should not simply be, “Is this wrong.” The question should be, “Does this give glory to God, and does this represent my Savior well?”
 2689. καταστολή katastolḗ; gen. katastolḗs, fem. noun from katastéllō (2687), to put or let down, appease. A long garment or robe reaching down to the feet (see Sept.: Is. 61:3). Apparel, dress in general, a garment, a long robe of dignity (1 Tim. 2:9). Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000.
 2689 καταστολή [katastole /kat·as·tol·ay/] n f. From 2687; TDNT 7:595; TDNTA 1074; GK 2950; AV translates as “apparel” once. 1 a lowering, letting down. 2 a garment let down, dress, attire. Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 264.