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        Christian Clothing                                                                    (PDF version here)


Scripture Standards for Dress and Conduct



1. The Church’s Doctrinal and Moral Corruption

In the book of Genesis we are told that Adam, the father of the human race, was created an upright man in the very image of God. We are also told of Adam’s attempt to rise above his own rank and become like a god, resulting in his breaking of God’s command and falling into sin. In him are all his posterity fallen (Rom. 5:12). That is why the carnal mind, being enmity with God and not subject to His law (Rom. 8:7), has a desire to overthrow superior authorities and to establish a new order (Eccl. 7:29). But by the covenant of grace man is freely offered salvation from sin and death, and those who have been raised up in newness of life are enabled willingly to submit themselves to their Maker, falling down before His footstool to give thanks to “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13, 14). Our Lord Jesus came to crush the head of the serpent, and having made atonement for sinners of mankind He will destroy the works of the devil.

But the Lord’s own Church today has been shaken to the foundations; the enemy has come in like a flood and continues to entice man into subverting the order and authority that God has placed in the world. The device of the evil one is to erode the belief in an infallible Word, and since the acceptance of Higher Criticism his purpose has been manifest and his work largely successful – since the 19th century there has been unceasing pressure from within the bounds of Christendom to suppress the most crucial doctrines imparted to man in the Holy Scriptures.[1] C. H. Spurgeon knew it in 1887 when he said:

The doctrine of Christ crucified is always with me. As the Roman sentinel in Pompeii stood to his post even when the city was destroyed, so do I stand to the truth of the atonement though the church is being buried beneath the boiling mud-showers of modern heresy.[2]

This decline, resisted by the Lord’s dwindling flock everywhere, was alluded to in the sermon preached in 1875 at the funeral of Irving Hetherington, minister of the Scots’ Church in Melbourne, Australia, and friend of Robert Murray McCheyne. The minister, Dr Macdonald, said of Hetherington:

As a preacher he had many excellencies, including, of course, the chief that he himself believed. He preached in a way that I am afraid is going out of fashion now – logically, doctrinally, evangelically. His sermons were full of marrow, founded on the first of all gospel doctrines – atonement by blood, Christ crucified; and no man mourned more than he over the loose preaching which is becoming popular now-a-days, which does not convince of sin, and in which sound doctrine and godly experience are dropping out of sight.[3]

Evangelical Christians have attempted to stand firm on the doctrine of the atonement, but many of us have been wounded, failing to take up the shield of faith as we ought, with the result that our belief in the infallibility of God’s Word, the immutability of His counsel, the righteousness of His judgement and the everlasting wonder of His mercy in Christ Jesus have not been held in our hearts with constancy. The Scottish preacher Robert Haldane (1764-1842) said:

When the canker of the principles of German Neology, derived from the Continent and from America, is perverting the faith of many, and seducing them into the paths of error, – while a spirit of lukewarmness, and indifference to truth, is advancing under the mask of charity and liberality, – there is a loud call on all Christians to ‘stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel,’ to present a firm and united phalanx of opposition to error under every name, from whatever quarter it may approach, and not to ‘stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up, to make their land desolate,’ Jer. 18.15. ‘Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see; and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ Should believers become unfaithful to their trust, and be seduced to abandon their protest against false doctrines, they may gain the approbation of the world; but what will this avail when compared with the favour of God? But if with prayer to God, in the use of the appointed means, they contend earnestly for the truth, then they may expect the gracious fulfilment of that blessed promise, ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.’[4]

As our spiritual forefathers were fearless in convincing men of their sin (cf. Matt. 14:4), so must we stand strong in the face of evil, and if need be, reprove our brethren “in love, and in the spirit of meekness” (I Cor. 4:21). It is vital that Christians recognise the need to resist on every side an especially powerful attack which has its roots in the Higher Critical subversion of God’s authority, and which, if not withstood, will cause further decay in gospel preaching. This assault is directed against the power of the man in the community, in the family and in the Church itself – it is a subtler form of Pharaoh’s action against the children of Israel (Exod. 1:22). The promoters of this error are “chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (I Peter 2:10). Their dogma is permeating the length and breadth of this continent, eroding our culture, and unless the Lord has mercy on us the literal fulfilment of His word spoken by the prophet Isaiah will continue its progression in Australia: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them” (Isa. 3:12).

This artful device the devil has used since the Garden of Eden to degrade and destroy our race. Persuading the woman to rule and the man to obey her, he assaults the doctrine of Scripture which teaches the primacy of the man over the woman. The Inspired Record teaches that while equal in value, men and women are different in rank: “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” (I Cor. 11:3). The Lord’s will is that these differences be always observed in human society, and that men and women behave themselves in such a manner as not to confound the distinctions by introducing new inventions, contrary to sound doctrine. Distinctions are necessary in the clothing of men and women (Deut. 22:5), and the respective places accorded to them in society provide foundations upon which to build an understanding of such differences.[5]

It is crucial that the Church not accept any practice or doctrine which is contrary to God’s revealed will, and error must be assailed with spiritual weapons, with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. John Knox (c. 1505-1572), Protestant Reformer and one of the fathers[6] of the Scottish church, said:

If fear, I say, of persecution (I Cor. 9), of slander, or of any inconvenience before named might have excused, and discharged the servants of God (Matt. 26; Acts 18, 21), from plainly rebuking the sins of the world; just cause had every one of them to have ceased from their office. For suddenly their doctrine was accused by terms of sedition, of new learning, and of treason: persecution and vehement trouble did shortly come upon the professors with the preachers (Psalm 2; Acts 4): kings, princes and worldly rulers did conspire against God and against his anointed Christ Jesus. But what? Did any of these move the prophets and Apostles to faint in their vocation? no. But by the resistance, which the devil made to them by his supporters, were they the more inflamed to publish the truth revealed unto them and to witness with their blood, that grievous condemnation and God’s heavy vengeance should follow the proud contempt of graces offered. The fidelity, bold courage, and constancy of those that are passed before us, ought to provoke us to follow their footsteps, unless we look for another kingdom than Christ hath promised to such as persevere in profession of his name to the end.

If any think that the empire [i.e., rule] of women, is not of such importance, that for the suppressing of the same, any man is bound to hazard his life, I answer, that to suppress it, is in the hand of God alone. But to utter the impiety and abomination of the same, I say, it is the duty of every true messenger of God, to whom the truth is revealed in that behalf. For the especial duty of God’s messengers is to preach repentance, to admonish the offenders of their offences, and to say to the wicked, thou shalt die the death, except thou repent.[7]

As man was created male and female, in the image of God, there is a moral and spiritual equality between all men and women, and this is most wonderfully manifested when fallen sinners of mankind are created anew in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). All believers – men and women, parents and children, masters and servants – have equal and glorious access to the throne of grace. In another respect, though, we are not all equal: the man is the head of the woman, he is above her, and she is his subordinate. God created the man first, in His own image, and the woman afterwards, for the man.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels (I Cor. 11:7-10, cf. Gen. 2:7, 22).

“It is an unseemly thing”, says John Bunyan (1628-1688), “to see a woman so much as once in all her lifetime to offer to overtop her husband; she ought in everything to be in subjection to him, and to do all she doth, as having her warrant, licence, and authority from him. And indeed here is her glory, even to be under him, as the church is under Christ.”[8] God, having distinguished the woman from the man and made her subject to him, calls her “the glory of the man” (I Cor. 11:7). The French Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) comments:

There is no doubt that the woman is a distinguished ornament of the man; for it is a great honour that God has appointed her to the man as the partner of his life, and a helper to him, and has made her subject to him as the body is to the head. For what Solomon affirms as to a careful wife – that she is a crown to her husband, (Proverbs 12:4,) is true of the whole sex, if we look to the appointment of God, which Paul here commends, showing that the woman was created for this purpose – that she might be a distinguished ornament of the man.[9] 


[2] C. H. Spurgeon, The Blood Shed for Many, a sermon on Matt. 26:28 (preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, 1887).

[3] Quoted by Iain Murray, Australian Christian Life from 1788 (Banner of Truth, 1988), p263.

[4] Robert Haldane, Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (Banner of Truth, 1996), p729.

[5] History shows that as woman began to usurp man’s authority she ventured to wear his apparel. As early as the 16th century Reformation there was protestation against “a woman clad in the habit [i.e., clothing] of man, yea, a woman against nature reigning above man” (John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, 1558 – “monstrous regiment” meaning unnatural rule). See endnote [2].

[6] On the Scriptural use of the term “father” for such men see passages such as II Kings 2:12 , 13:14 and Gal. 4:19.

[7] John Knox, ‘Preface’, The First Blast of the Trumpet (cited above).

[8] John Bunyan, ‘Christian Behaviour’, Works, vol. 2 (Banner of Truth, 1991), p561.

[9] John Calvin on I Cor. 11:7, Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians, vol. 1 (Baker Books, 2003), p357. Note that in this sense an ornament confers lustre.

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