Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clothing ourselves to the glory of God

Clothing (as opposed to insufficient covering) was first provided by God. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Thomas Boston writes "Our first parents made their first garments, and God made the next, which were effectual for the use of garments. Whence we may learn the utter insufficiency of our own righteousness to cover spiritual nakedness, and
the absolute necessity of the righteousness of God, the imputed righteousness, with its fitness eyery way to clothe the sinful soul".

The law of the first mention relates to the interpretation of Scripture by placing importance on the first mention of something in Scripture. Boston writes that it was "a humbling memorial to them of the spring of their ruin". we ought to remember that The least rag for our clothing, crumb for our food, breathing in God's air, etc. is what we deserve not at the hand of God, (Luke 17:10)". Here we see the principle that clothing is necessary due to the fall and that is God's right to order in general the nature of that clothing. The sinful natural tendency of man is to seek a covering that is insufficient in design, both in terms of distinction of the sexes and in terms of its function of preserving modesty. God's provision was designed to deal with both. Whatsoever we do we must do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Note number 3.

In his commentary on Ezekiel 16, the puritan William Greenhill considers “for what ends the Lord hath given apparel and ornaments”:

(1.) To cover man’s nakedness. God set man and woman naked in the world at first, that they might see they had nothing of their own, that all was the Lord’s who created them; but when they sinned in eating the forbidden fruit, they were ashamed of their nakedness, and sought to cover it, Gen. 3:7, 21; yea, God made them ‘coats of skins, and clothed them,’ ver. 21, that so their nakedness and shame might not be seen, that so modesty and chastity might be preserved: Hos. 2:9, ‘I will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.’

(2.) To arm and defend them against the injury of the air, the violence of wind and weather, heat and cold [Prov. 31:21; 25:20; Job 24:7] . . .

(3.) To distinguish one sex from another. God would not have men and women dressed and adorned alike; Deut. 22:5, ‘The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment:’ God would not have men to be effeminate, nor women to be mannish . . .

(4.) To preserve the healthiness of our bodies. ‘Man is born to labour, as the sparks fly upward,’ Job 5:7; and man labouring, his body sweats . . . which our vestures receiving are to be changed, and so health preserved: so in time of sickness, Job 30:18 . . .

(5.) To notify the conditions, ranks, and places of men [Gen. 41:42; Esth. 6:8; Acts 12:21 ; Psalm 45:13, 14; II Sam. 13:18 ; Lam. 4:5; Matt. 11:8; 27:28] . . .

(6.) To adorn the body [Gen. 27:15; Isa. 52:1; Hos. 2:13 ] . . . Jer. 2:32 , ‘Can a maid forget her ornaments?’ Exod. 28:40, Aaron’s sons must have coats, girdles, bonnets, ‘for glory and beauty’ . . .

(7.) To testify grief or joy. Mordecai put on sackcloth in a time of mourning [Joel 1:13 ; Luke 15:22 ; Isa. 61:10; Eccl. 9:8] . . . (I have taken this from the booklet Christian Clothing which contains a lot of helpful information although there are various points that are a matter of debate amongst those that hold to gender-distinctive dress and roles)

There is a sensitive and adept treatment of the subject of gender-distinctive dress by a young woman here. The article is called "Decent and Distinct".

The verse Deuteronomy 22:5 is important here. "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". Another blog demonstrates the historical interpretation and application of thishere and
here and here is another interesting contribution. (The writer seems to regard headcovering in I Cor. 11 as a cultural matter which is incorrect, it is an aspect of the public worship of God in all cultures for the New Testament Church). The author is American, so for pants read trousers.

The writer elsewhere notes the following in relation to Deuteronomy 22:5. "It doesn't say that the garment is an abomination or that the activity is an abomination. The person is an abomination. This is the only time in Scripture that a person is an abomination unto the LORD for doing something. Why? Because it attacks or rebels against God's design. At a root level, God is our Creator (Rom 1:25). He wants recognition of that by the acknowledgment of His design. It is also another way that those roles are preserved. Appearance is the primary way that roles are taught. This is why we have a gigantic passage in the New Testament that also deals with this issue (1 Cor 11:3-16)".

He continues:

It doesn't say "men should look like men and women should look like women." It says nothing about transvestism or Canaanite worship, some of the new inventions to avoid practicing the text. It says nothing about women putting on military gear. It doesn't say, "they both wore robes," because it isn't about removing distinctions. What it does say is that a man should not ever have on the woman's article and that the woman should not wear the male garment. It assumes that there is a male item of clothing designated to differentiate him from the woman, as well as a female item designated to differentiate her from the man.

He shows that this issue impacts upon men as much as women:

our culture has eliminated the male garment. There is none. The woman still has the skirt or the dress. The man has nothing...When the world did away with the male garment, Christians protested. When women started wearing pants, Christians opposed it. When Christian women started wearing pants, it wasn't because a group of godly women got together and prayed about it and sought God's will. No. It was a matter of rebellion and then the church went along with the world on this one. It's been so long since most churches practiced this, that it doesn't even seem like a biblical teaching any more.