PART 7 CHURCH TEACHINGS

Wed, 01/05/2022 - 6:15am

PART 7 CHURCH TEACHINGS

6B

TO LEARN ABOUT THOSE TEACHINGS THAT ARE CONSIDERED DISPUTABLE

B. IS A BELIEVER REQUIRED TO WEAR CERTAIN CLOTHING WHETHER IN THE CHURCH OR AT HOME?

I will say right off the bat that this does seem like a silly topic to teach. However, after perusing the internet, I have found there are many articles that reveal various degrees of restrictions in many churches in this regard. I can honestly say that this topic hasn’t been one that I can remember being of paramount importance in any of the churches I have attended. So, why is this topic being discussed in this study?

I’m presenting this study so that you, the reader, can be made aware of the Scriptures that appear to support a particular perspective on a biblical command that churches have taken a stance on and expect you, maybe one of its members, to obey its compliance without being presented the full view on it. Whether it be teaching on drinking alcohol, on wearing certain clothes, or on the next issue, which we’ll be looking at shortly called tithing, you should at least be aware of both sides of a coin on any biblical subject. Don’t you agree? Are you ready to take a look at this teaching? As the title of this chapter indicates, this is the question we’re attempting to answer.

Is a believer commanded to wear certain clothes, whether attending church, whether in the home or wherever else they might decide to reside?

THE NON-DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH

A believer should wear specific clothing as it reflects submission to authority both in the church, home, and outside of both places.

Believe it or not, churches espouse this view that they believe was given to the Corinthian church by the apostle Paul. Let’s take a look at how his instructions were to be understood.

 

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:3-12

4-6 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.

In some churches, there are strict rules regarding what kind of clothes a woman could wear. These verses talk about one type of clothing, i.e., a head covering (a veil) that a woman must wear and not a man. What was the reason for this mandate being imposed on a woman and not on a man?

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

As for the man, not wearing a head covering was a symbol of authority in the church and in the home. Even though Christ is His head, it was reasoned that because he ministers to others in His stead, he doesn’t have to wear a turban on his head. Likewise, a woman wearing a head covering was a symbol of submission or deference to authority. 

A head covering had a two-fold significance. The first was to illustrate that in the church hierarchy, only males were appointed to positions of leadership. Second, it symbolized the husband as being the head (the authority) in the home. In this regard, a woman was to wear a veil at all times. 

Let’s go to the book of 1 Timothy, which talks about another type of clothing that was also prohibited from being worn at the church of Ephesus, along with some other restrictions.

 

1 Timothy 2:9-10

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.

The idea of there being a prohibition on women wearing certain types of clothes when they attended public worship also seemed to include a women’s hairstyle that was intertwined with adornments of chains of gold and strings of pearls along with guidelines as to the expensiveness of the dress worn. Some churches might advocate that whatever was considered as being of modest apparel in the church should be the same kind of clothing worn outside the church. The word modest in Greek describes clothing that is unassuming or sensible.

With that said, one might conclude that the focus of a woman should be on modesty of dress, holy character, and good works or deeds rather than stressing external beauty, according to the world's standards.65 Today, there are some churches that have a dress code for those attending worship services. As for wearing hair adornments or jewelry, they strongly advise not to wear any.

There you have it. If these verses are interpreted in this manner, then these restrictions would be considered essential for women whether they are attending church or not.

Did you know that there is another way to interpret these verses?

 

THE DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH

A woman no longer needs to wear a head covering, or a modest (unassuming) and inexpensive dress, or be prohibited from wearing jewelry in the church, at home, or anywhere else.

Are you ready to take a look at these same verses, albeit from a different perspective?

 

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:4-12

6 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.

In society at this time, any woman who chose not to wear a head covering was considered by cultural standards to be a prostitute, an adulteress, or a slave. The prostitutes wore their hair very short, and they did not wear a head covering in public. Their hairstyle and manner announced to others just what they were and what they were offering.66 Furthermore, in Jewish law, a woman proved guilty of adultery had her hair cut off. Suggested Reading: Numbers 5:11-31

Paul used two different words pertaining to the amount of hair being evidenced by a woman. The word shaven means that all of the hair was shaved off; the word shorn meant "cut short." Either one would be a disgrace to a woman.67 It was a custom, both among the Greeks and Romans, and among the Jews an express law, that no woman should be seen abroad without a veil.68

5 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.

If a married woman attended a local assembly and took the lead in prayer or prophesying (speaking publicly) without wearing a veil, she would be seen as dishonoring her husband and the church by giving the appearance to others that she had committed adultery or been engaged in prostitution. However, there would appear to be no other reasons that would prohibit her from being used by God in either manner.

In this instance, a churches’ stance on this subject would be determined as to how they interpreted these verses. If the cultural reasons that existed during the early church were still considered to be in effect today, then these types of restrictive measures would be considered to be in effect for the New Testament believers of the Church Age. If the cultural reasons that existed during the early church were not considered to be in effect today, then these types of restrictive measures would not be considered to still be in effect for the New Testament believers.

And by the way, I don’t know if you noticed. I’m sure there are some who might infer that when I said there was no other reason for prohibiting a woman from leading in prayer or speaking publicly before the assembly that I’m also suggesting a woman could be called to a leadership position in the church. This is a study that I recently finished entitled Who Says Women Can’t Lead? Right now, this book is available from Kindle Direct Publishing. I will leave you in suspense as to what the final conclusion concerning it turns out to be, and hopefully, you will order a copy of the paperback or e-book when they are published.  

Let’s take another look at the same verses we looked at earlier from the book of 1 Timothy.

 

1 Timothy 2:9-10

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.

The idea of there being a prohibition on women wearing certain types of clothes when they attended public worship also seemed to include a women’s hairstyle with the accompanying adornments of gold and pearls pertaining to it, along with the expensiveness of the clothing worn. Why was this the case?

Commentators believe that these admonitions were written for the church at Ephesus. One reason for implementing them was that they might have been associated with the local temple prostitutes.69 Another reason given was also cultural. It was believed that the more a woman wore attractive clothes and elaborate jewelry, the more she lived a loose sexual life and the less she submitted to her husband.70 One can easily deduce according to the culture of the times that there was a connection between what a woman wore, her hairstyle with adornments, and the expensiveness of her clothing to her Christian character and testimony.71

According to this cultural perspective, we can deduce that a woman is no longer mandated to have to wear a head covering of any kind in the church or at home. The value or cost of the clothes she chooses to buy and wear is up to her. As for her hair, there is no rule as to the way she chooses to wear it. And the adornments of gold and pearls in whatever form to put on it is for her to decide.

There we have it, same Scriptures but different interpretations. What we can deduce from this study is that each church should make up its own decision about the wearing of clothes or jewelry as pertaining to the culture at hand, whether it’s located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, etc. If there are cultural rules in place concerning outward appearance, then these should be looked at and adopted for the sake of winning souls. Remember what the apostle Paul said in the book of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 9:20-23 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

I would suggest continuing to teach on the Foundational, Intellectual, and Spiritual Growth doctrines, and the Spirit will begin to take over in the hearts and minds of the believers wherever they may live. And what we’ll soon witness are the inward changes that are reflected in the outward changes that have taken place not only in this area but also in many other issues in the Christian faith.

Before I leave you with what I would call a balanced article on what clothes to wear in church, I thought I would present in this brief study another issue in the Corinthian church that had to do with a head covering. This was something I was confronted with by a pastor shortly after I converted to the Christian faith. In this instance, the church announced that there would be an all you could eat dinner at one of their member’s houses. I thought this would be good to attend for two reasons. The first was that I like food. Second, being young and single, maybe there would be a single Christian female that might attend to whom I could introduce myself.

When I arrived, I was elated on the one hand and doubly disappointed on the other hand. The dinner was all you could eat southern fried chicken and gravy with biscuits. I proceeded with humility to have two helpings. However, the first disappointment was that every woman was at least 60 years of age or older in respect to my younger age of 25. Second, after the meal was over, one of the pastors said that he wanted to have a talk with me.

His voice sounded stern. I thought I might have offended someone by something I said, or maybe it was because I ate too much. He proceeded to ask me if I wanted to be like Jesus, to which question, I responded with an assertive yes? And then he made this surprising and hurtful comment. Did you know that Jesus didn’t have long hair? I replied, how do you know that? He really didn’t give me a clear answer other than to say that short hair evidenced a testimony of Christ-likeness to others. I left the dinner feeling embarrassed as everyone else in the room heard the conversation. Soon thereafter, along with other reasons, I left this church.

Let’s take at some verses from the book of 1 Corinthians that pertain to the length of a believers’ hair.

 

1 Corinthians 11:14-15

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.

It’s interesting that after we have looked at culturally why a man should not wear a turban and why a woman should wear a veil in the early church, another covering of sorts was mentioned. Even though this had nothing to do with clothes, it does have to do with a covering of sorts, albeit in respect to the length of one’s hair. A man was instructed not to have long hair; however, a woman’s long hair was for her glory. What was this all about?

The word nature refers to natural revelation. What it means is that mankind instinctively distinguished between the sexes in various ways, one of which was [the] length of hair.72 There have been exceptions to this in history. The Spartans favored shoulder-length hair. Some of the Greeks during the time of Homer had long hair. And those Jews, called Nazarites, who took upon themselves a religious vow let their hair grown long. But for the most part, the Roman, Greek, and Jewish men kept their hair short with the idea being that there ought to be a noticeable difference between the length of the men's hair and the women's hair so that there be no confusion of the sexes.73

And as for the woman, her long hair was for her glory. The word glory means a visible expression. A visible expression of what, of a covering, as a sort of natural veil. So, while the customs of the time regulated the length of a man or woman’s hair, it also had to do with natural revelation, i.e., of the order established by God in the world, and especially in human society.74

And now I would like to leave you with an informative article that contains a clever answer as to what kind of clothes a Christian should wear when attending church.

 

WHAT SHOULD WE WEAR TO CHURCH?

When I was a little boy, probably 80% of men wore a coat and tie to our church, and [ninety percent] of women wore dresses. By the time I was in high school, [forty percent] of men [had worn] a coat and tie, and [fifty percent] of women wore dresses to church — the majority of both genders being middle-aged and elderly. Everyone else dressed “business casual.” Jeans were rare. Tee shirts even rarer. Shorts were never seen outside the nursery, even in mid-July.

Today, in the church I attend, no man wears a suit or sport coat unless it’s a special occasion. And ties are seen less than coats. I’d say less than 5% of women wear dresses on Sunday. Shorts, tee shirts, and sandals are commonly worn in warmer weather. My young son wonders why he has to “dress up” for church if I tell him to change into better jeans and a nicer tee shirt. In the small Protestant [denomination,] I belong to, no pastor I know of preaches in a coat or tie on a typical Sunday. Pastors, worship team members, and other platform participants dress pretty much like everyone else, minus the shorts, tee shirts, and sandals.

These changes in what people wear to church reflect the wider cultural changes over the past fifty years regarding clothing. The whole of American culture has dressed down. This has produced largely generational debates over appropriate church attire. Those who favor more formal dress suspect casual clothes reflect a disrespectful, irreverent attitude toward God. Those who favor casual dress feel it reflects a more authentic approach to God. Does either have a biblical case?

Does God tell us what we should wear to church?

 

More Respectful?

The debate over formal versus casual church clothing is a shrinking one for at least two reasons: 1. the pro-formal party is shrinking, and 2. the pro-formal remnant is now so outnumbered it hardly seems worth the effort to argue.

Most folks who lament the casual trend came of age in an era where public [dress, in general,] was more formal. They, like most people in every era, simply assumed their own cultural norms. It just wasn’t “right” to wear casual clothes in certain places, especially in church.

So, as the cultural clothing norms [changed] and people — typically younger people — started wearing casual clothes to those places, including church, it felt “wrong.” It felt like a form of disrespect, even rebellion, toward the older generations. In church, it felt like disrespect, even rebellion, toward God.

But is this true? Certainly, on the [micro level] of sinful individuals, plenty of rebellion toward elders and God took place, just as it has in all generations. The pro-formal crowd had their own generational expressions of rebellion. But from a biblical standpoint, there is no compelling exegetical case to be made that more formal dress is de facto more respectful toward God than casual dress. Church clothing is a preference formed by culture and tradition.

 

More Authentic?

On the other hand, many of those who embrace the trend toward more casual have come of age during the dressing-down decades, and they are just as vulnerable to assuming the cultural norms that have shaped them. It feels “fine” to wear jeans and a [tee-shirt] to church, perhaps the same ones worn on Saturday. But why does it feel okay?

    

As I mentioned before, “authenticity” is the most popular answer. [We’re] coming to God as we are, putting on no airs or masks with him.

It sounds good, but I don’t really buy it. Wearing casual clothes is no more de facto spiritually authentic than formal clothes are de facto spiritually respectful. We might not be at all authentic standing before God in our jeans. We may choose casual clothes primarily to fit in socially, or to attract attention to ourselves, or to nurture a “cool” image. In other words, we may wear casual clothes to church and worship God with our [lips] while our hearts are far from him (Isaiah).

Perhaps casual clothes can help us approach God more authentically in ways formal clothes don’t. Perhaps formal clothes can help us express respect and reverence toward God in ways casual clothes don’t. I have significant doubts about both.

 

What God Wants Us [to] Wear

God does not explicitly endorse either formal or casual clothes in corporate worship. He doesn’t even enter the debate. In fact, outside of [Levitical ritual] laws that no longer apply in the new covenant, God says virtually nothing regarding how we should dress when we come together to worship him.

It’s not that clothing doesn’t matter to God. Clothing matters a great deal to God — just not in the same ways or for the same reasons it typically matters to us. God refuses to decide the formal-casual debate, but he does explicitly tell us what he wants us to wear to church:

1 Peter 5:5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”       

What are we supposed to wear? Humility.

All clothing — formal, casual, work, sport, beachwear, sleepwear, underwear, headwear, every other kind of wear — can be a source of great pride. There isn’t a clothing item or style that we can’t turn into an expression of self-centered, self-exalting self-worship.

But if we clothe ourselves with humility, if we “count others more significant than [ourselves],” and “look not only to [our] own [interests] but also to the interests of others,” then no matter how we dress, [we’ll] honor and reflect Christ. [Suggested Reading; Philippians 2:3-4]

 

The Clothes Inside Us

God doesn’t specify what external clothes honor him [most] because he cares what our hearts wear. What’s inside of us either honors him or dishonors him — either approaches him with authenticity or with inauthenticity. If our hearts are wearing humility, no matter what we wear, [we’ll] dress in loving ways. If our hearts are wearing pride, formal clothes will always be disrespectful and casual clothes will always be inauthentic.

If our hearts are wearing humility, what will matter to us is whether God is glorified and others are loved. But if our hearts are wearing pride, [we’ll] disregard God’s glory and others’ spiritual health in favor of our personal preferences and freedoms.

And, in the end, if our hearts are wearing humility, [we’ll] think of our clothes as little as possible when we draw near to God together in worship.75

Are you ready to take a look at the next disputable doctrine?

The succeeding disputable doctrine is one that I believe is probably the most contentious in Christian circles. It comes across from the pulpit as an admonition from God that better be obeyed, or severe consequences will be incurred from both Him and church leadership. It has become a measuring stick for respecting church hierarchy and a believer’s spiritual growth. I’m sure you must have some inkling as to what this topic is all about. Let’s find out.

 

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Endnotes

65Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

66The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.

67The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.

68Adam Clarke’s Commentary.

69Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.

70UBS New Testament.

71Wuest.

72Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.

73The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

74UBS New Testament.

75Jon Bloom. “What Should We Wear to Church?” desiring God 20 April 2020 <https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-should-we-wear-to-church>.