Holiness of Dress

God expects His people to be a separated people. Holiness is not just inward- it is also outward. God expects His people to look holy. He expects His people to not look like the world. He expects His people to be a separated people. This includes our outward appearance. God gives us many guidelines of how He wants His people to dress. He also gives many examples of sinful dress and the results of sinful dress.

One verse that people love to quote is about the outward appearance of David.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

I’ve heard this verse used in order to teach that God doesn’t care how we dress. I’ve heard preachers claim they are not “clothes-line preachers” because “God don’t look on the outside”. In order to make this verse refer to our clothing we have to take the verse out of context.

What does God mean when He says He doesn’t look on the outward appearance? God was telling Samuel that He was going to anoint a new king. God was explaining to Samuel that a man’s ability to be king wasn’t dependent on how tall he was, or how strong, or good-looking he was, but a man’s ability to be king depended on what was in his heart. This verse has nothing to do with clothing.

Does God look on the outward appearance when it comes to clothing? Yes He does. God tells us throughout the scriptures how He expects us to dress (and not dress).

Deuteronomy 22:5 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.

God clearly intends for men to look like men and women to look like women, but He goes even further by telling men not to wear women’s clothing and for women not to wear clothing that even is similar to men’s clothing. This means that women can not wear pants, because pants, even pants that are made for women, pertains to men’s clothing because it is made in the likeness of clothing that is made for men. It is commonly known that women didn’t generally wear pants until WW2, when women took the jobs of men while the men were gone to war. Pants for women did not become ‘fashionable’ until the 1960s (Condra, 2008, p. 172). Pants were considered men’s clothing. God intended for there to be a clear distinction between men and women’s clothing.

Our clothing is to be modest.

1 Timothy 2:9 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;

The key here is ‘modest apparel’. What is meant by ‘modest apparel’? To be modest means to be decent. The Greek word is kosmios.

kosmios {kos’-mee-os} Meaning: 1) well arranged, seemly, modest

This means that clothing should not be immoral in any way. Clothing should not be too tight and should cover the body. Clothing should not be lascivious, extravagant, or expensive. Our clothing should be decent.

1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

This verse can easily be taken out of context by saying it is telling us we can’t put on apparel. This interpretation is obviously against God’s intentions. The point in this verse is that apparel should not be adorned. This means that our clothing should not be covered in jewels or extravagant material.

God does not want us to take on the styles and trends of the world.

Romans 12:2 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.

Unholy dress can cause people to fall.

Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Don’t cast a stumbling-block by wearing lascivious clothing that causes lust.

There are many Biblical examples of immodest dress.

Adam and Eve knew they needed to be clothed.

Genesis 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Ham committed sin by seeing the nakedness of Noah.

Genesis 9:20-25 20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:  21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.  22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.  23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.  24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.  25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

Uncovering nakedness” was an expression used for sexual activity.

Leviticus 18:6-19 6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.  7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.  8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.  9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.  10 The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.  11 The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.  12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman.  13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman.  14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.  15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.  16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.  17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.  18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.

David sinned when he saw Bathsheba bathing.

2 Samuel 11:2-5 2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.  3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?  4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.  5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

God compared the sin of Babylon to shame and nakedness.

Isaiah 47:1-3 Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.  2 Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.  3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.

In this case God is saying it is shameful to bear the leg and uncover the thigh. This verse will not allow us to wear shorts.

A man from Gadara was demon possessed. The demons had caused him to rip off his clothes. When Jesus cast out demons from the man, the man started to wear clothing.

Luke 8:26-36 26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.  27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.  28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.  29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)  30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.  31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.  32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.  33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.  34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.  35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.  36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.

Another demon possessed man had torn his clothing when the seven sons of Sceva had tried to cast the demons out.

Acts 19:13-16 13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.  14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.  15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?  16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Lascivious clothing is associated with prostitution and harlotry.

Genesis 38:14-19 14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.  15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.  16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?  17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.  19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

Proverbs 7:10 And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.

Our outward appearance can tell those around us what is in our hearts. Our clothing can say it for us. Clothing can give a professional or non-professional appearance. Clothing can give a modest or a worldly appearance. Clothing can give a Godly or sinful appearance. We are judged by the clothes we wear. Christians should not dress like sinners. Christians should not look like the world. It is God’s intention that our clothing be modest- not expensive, extravagant, or lascivious. God wants men to look like men and women to look like women. It does matter how we dress. We are to dress modest. We are to dress holy.


Condra, Jill (2008). Greenwood encyclopedia of clothing through world history, The

Westport: Greenwood Press

1 Comment

  1. The comment about clothing is what I was taught in Church over 65 years ago. The scripture presented was scripture I never heard used for this teaching and is very good food for thought.
    I’m scared for my soul today, I have no place to worship where real truth is preached. The doctrine I grew up under called “entire sanctification” , “second work”, second blessing”, is not what I understand the scriptures to say regarding the term “sanctification”. The order as proclaimed is that it follows justification. But, when I read I Corinthians 6 : 11, I see a different order that is in contradiction to this doctrine professed.

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