Olsen Park Church of Christ


Introduction. (1 Timothy 2:8-10). We note here that women are commanded to “adorn themselves in modest apparel.” Two modifiers clarify this command: “propriety” and “moderation.” Paul offers some specific examples of things that do not show modesty, but flaunt wealth and demonstrate showiness—braided hair, gold, pearls or costly clothing. The dress of a Christian woman must be “that which is proper” for women professing “godliness” with “good works.”

            This is a very difficult topic for us to address sometimes. Why is this topic more difficult than any other topic?  It is emotional. “Don’t tell me what I can wear!” It is personal. “You are insulting my sense of taste!”—Or, “You are accusing me of doing wrong!” It is unfortunate that it is this way, because just as in any other area in which the Lord has spoken, what matters is not how something makes us feel, but what God says. With that in mind, this evening let’s look at this objectively—because what matters in the long run is whether we are doing what pleases God or not.

“…Women Adorn Themselves…”

I.  “In Modest Apparel. The adjective “modest” and the verb “adorn” are from the same root. We get our word cosmos from it. It is literally “order.” Paul commands them “to-order themselves in orderly apparel.”

A. “With Propriety.”  Gr.  aidosbashfulness, that is (towards men), modesty (towards God) awe: reverence, shamefacedness” (Strong’s). KJV “shamefacedness” ASV “shamefastness.” Scripture associates uncovering the body with what is shameful. Godly people feel a sense of “shame” or protectiveness to avoid this from happening.

1.  Jer. 6:15 describes those who were not “ashamed” even though they had “committed abomination”—rebuking them because they had forgotten “how to blush.”

2.  Jesus tells the church in Laodicea to buy from Him, “white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Rev. 3:18). It is considered a “shameful” thing for one’s nakedness to be uncovered.

B.  (With) Moderation.”  Gr. sophrosune soundness of mind, that is (literally) sanity, (figuratively) self-control: soberness, sobriety” (Strong’s).  Tyndale and the Bishop’s Bible took this as a reference to behavior not the type of clothing “discreet behavior.” KJV, ASV “sobriety”; NASB “discreetly”; RSV “sensibly”; ESV “self-control.”

1. There are some parts of our bodies that are “unpresentable” (1 Cor. 12:20-25). Is this because some part of our bodies are “dirty” or “shameful” in nature? No. On the contrary, because as God has designed it there are parts of our body that are special, and reserved only for our mate.

a. The “nakedness” of a husband and wife belongs to his or her mate (Lev. 18:6-8). When I talk to couples who are about to get married we discuss this passage. There is a special right that is given to one’s mate, that no one else in this world has the right to. It is special and should be treated special.

b. The husband and wife have “authority” over the bodies of the other (1 Cor. 7:3-5).

c. Solomon compares protection of the intimate aspect of this relationship to the precious value of water (Prov. 5:15-17). You wouldn’t treat water as something you would just dump out on the ground.  In the same way, that beautiful, and special aspect of what God made for your mate alone should be for no one else on earth!

i. If we were in the middle of a parched desert with no water, would someone take a bottle of water they had and pour it out on the ground? If you owned diamonds, rubies, and emeralds would you throw them on the pavement?

ii. If we wouldn’t do these things, why give the world something precious that belongs to your mate?

2. What constitutes our parts that are “unpresentable” and require “greater modesty”? How does Scripture define this “nakedness” that is “shameful” to uncover to the world?

a. We can’t just let our own opinion determine this. Some would say uncovering the eyes is “shameful.” In the late 1800s a style that became associated with the Women’s Rights advocate Amelia Bloomer, was scandalous—the wearing of “bloomers.”

i. On the other hand, some cultures get to the point that women and men walk around virtually naked and consider it acceptable.

ii. Our culture is moving much closer to this. We have created a  double standards that allows exposure when swimming that would be indecent otherwise. Is that the way it ought to be?

b. In the garden, originally there was no need for “modesty” (Gen. 2:25). After the man and woman sinned, they understood that they were “naked” and tried to cover themselves with leaves (Gen. 3:6-7). I don’t know what garments made of fig leaves might have looked like. This is a fairly good size leaf. Perhaps it compared to swimsuits that are worn today. Whatever its size it was insufficient as far as God was concerned. He made “tunics” for them of animal skins (Gen. 3:21).

i.  The word for “tunic” here is the word kithoneth. It is a word that (with slight changes in pronunciation) was used throughout ancient times. The Greeks called it a chiton. It covered the upper body, the waist, and generally came down at least to the the knees.

c. The Law of Moses helps us to answer these questions.

i. Altars were not to be approached by steps, lest nakedness be exposed (Exod. 20:26).

ii.  The priest’s garments were comprised of “tunics” and “trousers” that went from the waist, covering the thigh “to cover their nakedness” (Exod. 28:40-43). This would either indicate to us that in the language of God the upper part of the leg is included in what is called “nakedness” or it was covered so as not to expose “nakedness.”

iii.  Isa. 47:2-3 includes “uncovering the thigh” in “uncovering nakedness.” The KJV reads literally, “Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.”

II.  “Not with braided hair…”  Gr.  plegma entwined, woven, braided) (BAGD).  The emphasis seems to be on the manner not the substance altogether (1 Peter 3:1-6). Note: “arranging of hair”—wearing of gold—contrast between externals and inward beauty.  Some of the ugliest people you can see in this world are those whom Hollywood considers the most beautiful externally! That is not what makes a person beautiful. This is probably not talking about hair pulled back in simple braided pony tail. It is more likely talking about the elaborate braiding the Roman’s practiced to call attention to one’s self and her wealth.

A. “Gold.”  This doesn’t seem to absolutely prohibit wearing any type of gold. Abraham’s servant gave gold bracelets to Rebekah (Gen. 24:22) and jewelry of gold (Gen. 24:53). James 2:2 warns of showing favoritism to one with “gold rings” and “fine apparel” but it does not condemn the person for wearing these things.

1. This was probably talking about things such as gold headdresses made from coins common in some Near Eastern countries in ancient times. These were not only showy but again, flaunted the person’s wealth.

2. It probably is not talking about a wedding ring, or modest bracelet, or necklace. But extravagance.

B. “Pearls or costly clothing.”  Many of these things emphasize wealth and draw attention to ourselves. It should not be that we try to dress in clothing that makes others envy us, or think we are wealthy. Christians are to be humble in disposition and in dress.

III.  “But that which is Proper for Women Professing…” “Proper” prepo to be suitable or proper… often used impersonally, it is fit or right)” (Strong’s).  “Professing” is euanggello and is related to the word for “gospel” (i.e. the good news). This is in essence “women professing the good news about…”

A. “Godliness.” Gr.  theosebeia lit. “fear of God.”

B. “With Good Works.” As Christians our profession is “We believe in Jesus!—you should to!” We proclaim to the world, “Fear God, and do good works!”  Our behavior must reflect this profession. This is true of all things—what we wear, what we say, where we go, how we spend out time.  Consider what this mean:

1. Illustration: Imagine that I believed it was wrong to be a cowboy. I told everyone I know how bad cowboys are, and what a horrible profession it is—I argued to anyone who would listen that it would lead you to hell if you were a cowboy. (I don’t believe that, but by way of illustration…) How much sense would it make if I wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots?  That wouldn’t work would it.  The same is true if we say, “People should live moral lives—they should wait until they get married to have sex—married couples should keep themselves only to themselves”—but we dress just as provocatively and immodestly as immoral women (and men in the world). It doesn’t make sense does it?

2.  God teaches that we must not lust (Matt. 5:27-30).  This is dwelling upon the thought—relishing in it—gawking and deriving some pleasure from looking upon another person in a way we do not have the right to. God has made men and women different. What motivates and excites them is different. Women are generally moved by closeness, and touch, while men are moved by sight. This is probably why Jesus directs this warning to men.

a. Sometimes when we discuss this issue women will respond, “well, men need to just control their thoughts and their eyes!” That’s right—they do!  Note the extreme measures Jesus says one must be willing to go to avoid sin. Cut off the hand—gouge out the eye—not literally maiming of the body but giving up whatever it takes to do what is right! 

b. Notice another place this same idea is used (Matt. 18:6-9).  Notice, the same measures as individuals we should go to in order to sin, we must go to in order to keep from causing someone else to sin! 

c. You know women also need to control their thoughts and eyes, and men also must dress modestly and decently, but I think it is clear that the Lord worded these things addressing the most likely tendency that men will struggle with this sin, in the face of women who fail to take modesty into consideration.

3. I don’t envy the position that the young face. Girls are pressured by culture and by peers to dress in ways that are fashionable and “cute”—they often don’t even recognize when their clothing can be provocative.  Boys are bombarded with media and culture that flaunts sexuality and immodesty as they struggle to control their thoughts and attitudes.

a. Young girls can get attention and notice from boys when their neck-line is low, their legs are exposed, or their clothing is tight. What they may not realize is that what they think is “cute” is not viewed the same by boys. Boys (especially non-Christian boys) will be encouraged to lust. My daughter told me that she didn’t realize until she was married why we urged her to be cautious and modest. Boys and girls do not look at things the same.

Conclusion.  I can’t imagine much more frightening than being charged by a hungry lion. Most of us would do all that we could to avoid such a situation. How many of us, would take a large cut of raw meat and dangle it out in front of a hungry lion?  Why not?  Because, first of all it would be dangerous for us, but also—we wouldn’t want to tempt that lion any more than our mere presence already did. Human beings are not animals governed by instinct—we have freewill and choice. However, given the struggle that all of us have with sin and temptation, why do any thing that would risk causing another person to sin?

Kyle Pope 2011

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