Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Principle of Vanity

 

Standards 16

 


          The Word of God describes clothing as having four uses, the moral, the practical, the aesthetic, and the religious. You will recall, I discussed that previously in this series here. The first of those uses, the moral, is to cover up the body. We discussed the ramifications of that for modesty here, and the intersection of modesty and lust here. Of the other three uses, the practical one is largely self-guided (though it is impacted by modesty) and the religious one is not in use in our dispensation. The aesthetic one, however, is widely used. Further, there is one particular Bible principle that directly relates to it, the principle of vanity. In today’s post, I wish to define the biblical concept of vanity. Next week, I will give you some applications of the principle.

          Using clothing as a means of decoration or beautifying is never directly condemned in Scripture. It is an assumed fact, though it has both good and bad contexts. The Apostle John likened the new Jerusalem to a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21.2). The is clearly a positive reference. In contradistinction, Paul warned women about adorning themselves with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array (I Timothy 2.9). That is clearly a negative reference.

          We also see that our Creator designed His creation as practical, yes, but He also adorned it luxuriously. As I write this it is the first day of May, my favorite month of the year. Trees burst into bloom in May. The whole world is green in May. Tulips run in riotous banks of color in May. Daffodils and crocuses and lilies cheer the heart of man in May. Next week, my crepe myrtle will be a brilliant pink firework. Then come the roses of June, and on and on it goes. Have we mentioned Autumn in New England yet? Then, too, the sky is one enormous canvas every morning and evening. Sometimes, the resulting scenes are achingly beautiful. Our Lord paints each one of those, billions and billions of individual, never-to-be-repeated works of art. Nor is this aesthetic beauty only found in the inanimate world. A few months ago I looked out my picture window and saw a dozen cardinals framed in falling snow scattered like Christmas ornaments on the green Arborvitae in my backyard.

Say what you will, you must admit God is creative and artistic. He loves to decorate things beautifully. And He made us like Him. We delight in beauty, in color, in decoration, in adornment, and there is nothing intrinsically or automatically wrong with that. There is, however, or I should say there can be a problem here though. When the scripturally acceptable concept of adornment is influenced by, marked by, or motivated by vanity we have perverted what God meant for good into something that is actually bad.

          What is vanity? Some form of the English word is used 211 times in the King James Version. The dictionary defines vanity as “worthless, empty of value; excessive pride in one’s appearance or accomplishments; a dressing table.” You can see how the latter two understandings of the term flow from the former.

          The scriptural usage carries the same basic idea. Isaiah, in a passage in which he was comparing men with God said, Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: Their molten images are wind and confusion (Isaiah 41.29). Vanity here is equated literally with nothingness. Scripture refers to sowing seed in vain, laboring in vain, and comforting in vain, meaning none of these accomplished anything. The effort was worthless.

          The Word of God often connects vanity with our words i.e. vain speech, vain words, vain talk, and vain thoughts. Babbling is a similar word that carries the same connotation of worthless speech. These are words that are empty of any real value. They are purposeless, useless. For example, using the word “God” without talking to Him or about Him is using His name in vain; it is a pointless, empty usage. God loves prayer, but vain repetitions aggravate Him, empty, pontificating meaningless phrases that cover as prayer. The classic Hail Mary comes to mind here. It is an empty exercise.

          Vanity is cousin to pride, both in definition and in real life. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: Surely they are disquieted in vain: He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them (Psalm 39.6). Collecting money simply to display my wealth is a pointless, purposeless, useless exercise. I am trying to get people to notice me, to be impressed by me via my money, and that is simply worthless vanity.

          Vanity, then, is an empty show or display that feeds my pride. I have gotten attention, yes, but is a fleeting, worthless, empty attention. Think of the modern day YouTube star or Instagram influencer here. Let us not be desirous of vain glory (Galatians 5.26).

          Without delving into application here, we can already see the connection between the principle of vanity and our appearance. If vanity is an empty, worthless display that feeds our pride then that certainly applies to how we present ourselves to the world.

          In addition to this, vanity is worthless for one other reason: it celebrates that which is temporary. Scripture tells us that the holy life is the beautiful life four times. Contrast that in your mind with the kind of appearance the worldly beauty industry strives to obtain – a momentary candle-flicker fast fleeting away. When thou with rebukes does correct man for iniquity, Thou makes his beauty to consume away like a moth: Surely every man is vanity (Psalm 39.11). I so wanted to get this point across to my daughter that I had her quote Proverbs 31.30 to me every day for many years. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: But a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

Vanity
Auguste Toulmouche c 1890

          Why is this kind of beauty vain? Because it is a worthless beauty. It is a beauty that produces conceit in the pretty girl or the handsome boy, and lasts but for a moment compared with eternity. To focus on that fleeting beauty, to celebrate it, admire it, promote it, to indulge in it, to glory in it, to reveal it in such a way so as to get attention? Well, now, that is just an exercise in worthless, pointless vanity.

          Vanity is an empty show or display that feeds my pride. Next week, we will look at the ramifications that has for how we present ourselves via our external appearance.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Relationship Between Modesty and Lust

 

Standards 15

 

Modesty
Giosue Argenti, 1866

          When Scripture references clothing it does so in one of four ways. The first use is the moral use, to cover up the body. We see this illustrated directly in the first references to clothing in the Bible in the story of Adam and Eve. Last week, we looked at this a little more closely and discussed the principle of modesty. The short definition of modesty in this context is to be covered, and the idea behind it as it relates to women is a long, flowing garment. The opposite of modesty is immodesty, which is nakedness, insufficient covering, and emphasized form.

          Make no mistake, modesty is a principle that applies to both men and women. Again, we see this in the very first reference in the Bible to clothing in the story of Adam and Eve. Purity is also for both men and women, in action and thought. But there is something very interesting in the Bible. The commands and instructions related to modesty are clearly directed toward women. For example, In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel (I Timothy 2.9). The commands and instructions related to sexual lust are clearly directed toward men. For example, Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5.28). Lust not after her beauty in thine heart (Proverbs 6.25).

          In short, God warns the woman about modesty and the man about lust. Either, of course, can sin in either way, but the burden of responsibility is primarily placed in this order in the Word of God. So with this by way of an explanation of the main thought, let me give your four statements of application.

          First, we are each of us responsible for our own sin. I do not have the right to blame someone else for my sin – even if my sin was instigated as a reaction to their sin. If someone abuses me and I respond with bitterness I am responsible for my own sin. I say often in counseling, “Your response is your responsibility.” Another person’s wrong actions did not cause your sin; their wrong actions revealed your sin.

          I have a temper problem, I am sorry to admit. I have worked on it over the years but it is still with me. Solomon tells us, A soft answer turneth away wrath: But grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15.1). If you hurl grievous words at me I am prone to respond with anger in my heart. But I cannot blame you for that. My anger is my own fault. It is my responsibility. What did our Lord tell Peter was his responsibility when sinned against? To forgive continually (Matthew 18.21-22). I cannot respond to your sin with sin of my own and blame you for it. My sin is my fault. Your sin is your fault.

          This point applies directly to modesty and lust, does it not? If a woman dresses immodestly and I respond with lust in my heart who is at fault? Yes. She cannot blame me for not being able to handle a little skin, and I cannot blame her for exposing that skin. We are each of us responsible before God.

          Second, I do not have the right to say that since his response is his responsibility I have no responsibility for his response. “Wait. You just said he is responsible for his own actions.” Yes, I did. But I believe I should put the weight on myself on either side of this transaction. In other words, if her immodesty provoked me to lust, I should bear that responsibility. But if my grievous words stirred you to anger I should own some of that. I bear some measure of culpability.

          It is at best unkind, and at worst sinful for me to take an action that I know will cause a sin struggle in someone else’s life. Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God (Leviticus 19.14).

We see this played out in real life in the case of Balak and Balaam. Balaam taught Balak to send his girls to the Jewish boys to seduce them away from Jehovah. Was each Jewish man still responsible for their sin? Yes. Were Balaam and Balak innocent? Not on your life. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication (Revelation 2.14). Or lets take David and Bathsheba for another example. He should not have lusted. She should not have been immodest. He could not blame her for his sin, but she still bears some culpability scripturally.

          An immodestly dressed woman is like a cigarette at a gas pump. The cigarette does not explode; the explosion comes as a result of the inherent instability of the fuel. But whoever lit the thing is an absolute fool. I can hear the responses being typed furiously all the way from Iowa. “Well, he should control himself!” Amen, sister, amen. He should walk in the Spirit and thus not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. And you should not run around half-clothed.

          Third, in the areas of modesty and lust each of us thus bears responsibility. As a man, I am responsible to keep my thought life pure. And a woman is responsible to dress modestly. Sadly, American Christianity has increasingly rejected this.

          In 2007, an evangelical blog site run by two brothers conducted a modesty survey that became rather infamous back in the day. I read it when it came out. As I was preparing this series I went looking for it. I found the original survey contents had been scrubbed from the site. Go look. The link leads to a dead page as does every other link to the survey on their site. One hundred fifty questions were asked to 1,600 guys. The response included detailed discussions about what provokes a man to lust. The basic idea was to use it to help women understand how much of a problem this is for men, and to understand how specific actions and clothing choices on their part contribute to this problem for men. So where did it go? The Christian community of women in their orbit responded with horror. They loudly asserted this was the man’s problem to deal with, not theirs. And if you do not think I am correct, go to any evangelical university and try to discuss it. You will be quickly educated to the contrary.

          …but hold on a minute. Is lust a man’s problem. Biblically, yes. Practically, yes. Is he completely responsible to deal with it? Also, yes. Does he have any right to blame the woman dressed immodestly in his presence? No. Does that mean the women in the family of God have no responsibility in this area toward their brothers in Christ? Of course not; that is sheer nonsense no matter how many evangelicals spout it.

          Fourth, then, I must own my responsibility.

          So own it.  

Monday, April 18, 2022

Modest Apparel

 Standards 14


 

          Last week, we found four specific uses of clothing revealed in the pages of Scripture. There is the moral use i.e. not being naked in public. There is the practical use, in other words, adjusting what you wear for your work or the weather. There is the aesthetic use of clothing that springs from a God-given desire to adorn or decorate beautifully. There is also the religious use of clothing in which we see priests and others called to wear certain garments. In today’s post, I want to take the first of these – the moral use of clothing – and examine a biblical principle directly related to it, namely, modesty.

          After the Fall, it was shameful to display the body and necessary to cover it appropriately. Indeed, the very first mention of clothes in the Bible is in relation to this. 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 3.7). These leafy aprons covered the mid-section. God deemed that insufficient, and so clothed them more completely with a coat. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them (Genesis 3.21). Essentially, Adam and Eve were immodest in their aprons, and God thought that a failure big enough to do something about it directly.

          Immodesty is nakedness. This was Adam and Eve’s original condition that caused them to make the apron of leaves in the first place. But immodesty is more than nakedness; it is also insufficient covering. Bear in mind, this is God’s perspective here as seen in His actions in Genesis 3. Immodesty cannot be what I deem it to be or not be; I must use His understanding to guide my thinking, as I ought to do in all things.

          The fact that immodesty is insufficient covering of the body leads me to the corollary that immodesty is also emphasized form. The spray painted nakedness of a New Orleans Mardi Gras may technically cover the skin but I do not know any Christian who would say it is modest. Pray tell me, what is the difference between the emphasized form of spray paint clothing and clothing that is clingy and tight, or that places words strategically so as to draw the eye to parts of the human anatomy? A difference in degree, yes, but not in kind. Immodesty is nakedness, it is insufficient coverage, and it is emphasized form. It is celebrating or flaunting that which ought to be covered even if in so doing it is technically covered.

          In this, we see that immodesty is a revelation of what is in the heart. I accept that some men and women are immodest out of ignorance. This is true especially in pagan cultures, or amongst young people who grow up in practically pagan environments absent any biblical instruction. But generally speaking, immodesty is not an accident of culture; it is the revelation of a sinful heart condition. The insecurity that drives a woman to seek for attention in flaunting her body is a sinful thing. It is a lack of trust in God. The vanity that drives a man to flaunt his physique is a sinful thing. It is pride. The sensuality that drives a couple to “spice up their marriage” by flaunting the wife in a dive bar somewhere is a sinful thing. It purposely intends to enflame lust.

          In this, we see the mirror opposite of what I have already written of in this series about sanctification. Holiness is an inward grace that works its way outward. Visible holiness in all manner of conversation testifies to Christ in the heart. Just so, sin is ever a matter of the heart. It begins on the inside, and reveals itself on the outside. Immodesty in this context is simply an external or visible indication of a sinful, fleshly, carnal nature at work on the inside.

          What, then, is modesty? According to the English dictionary there are three primary definitions or meanings of the term. The first is limited i.e. a modest income. The second is humility i.e. to be modest when praised. The third is to be sufficiently covered with clothing. One of the things that frosts me in this discussion is the attempt by some on the leftward side to redefine modesty as not being noticed. It attempts to use the concept of humility to assert that to draw attention to yourself with clothing is immodest. I have been directly told, for example, that if a woman wears a dress on a beach it is immodest because she will stand out. Instead, she should clothe (or unclothe) herself like all the others on the beach are doing. Such casuistry seeks to redefine modesty, to contextualize it according to what everyone else around you is wearing. Such explanations of the term are intellectually dishonest and spiritually vapid. The definition uses the word “decent” and the context of that word is to cover up your body with clothing. For example, this from dictionary.com: “decent, a modest neckline on a dress”.

          I will in another post explore at greater length the concept of vanity or ostentatious display. But generally, modesty does not have to do with that. It has to do with covering up of the body. It springs from the word “appropriate”, also used in the English definition, and the idea of being morally pure. As in, it is not appropriate to run around in front of other people without enough clothing. It is morally reprehensible. It is immodest.

          In the original language, “modest” is used once. 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 (I Timothy 2.9). Modest here means appropriate. “Ah, yes, appropriate. Wear tight pants on the softball field. That is appropriate, ergo it is modest.” Nonsense. Appropriate here does not mean that which makes my activities easier or that which everyone else is wearing. It means to cover up.

We see this in the connection with the noun the adjective modest is modifying, “apparel.” In the original language, apparel means a long, flowing robe. It is “let/put down” + garment/robe”. The root usage shows us “a tunic hanging with folds” and “to let a sail down on a ship.” Directed toward the woman, it instructs them to wear a long, flowing garment that is hanging down far enough so as to cover everything appropriately. We note here, yet again, the contrast with the insufficient apron in Genesis 3, the one God had to fix later with a full length coat. Paul is not just saying, “Wear clothes appropriate to a public church service, nicer clothes than you would wear to work in your yard.” He is saying, “Wear enough clothes to cover yourself up.”

“But I heard that Paul was talking about a woman’s demeanor here, not her clothes. After all, even your KJV says shamefaced.” Why, yes, it does. And shamefaced as a term implies to be quiet/bashful vs. forward/aggressive, instruction that pairs with other biblical admonitions for women. Yes, a woman’s attitude or demeanor at church ought to be appropriate in the sense of how she carries herself. I am perfectly happy to admit that. By the same token, to insist on that understanding because of word usage but then turn around and tell me the passage does not apply to clothes is to violate the very literary context you want me to accept.

Next week, we will examine why this instruction is given specifically to women and how the man has his necessary part to play in all of this, as well. But for the moment, let me apply this passage frankly to women for this is Paul’s intent here. How would this specific understanding of modest apparel from a contextual understanding of the original language – a long, flowing garment – apply to bathing suits? Laughable, huh? How about skirts or dresses? Depends. Are they form-fitting because they are tight? That would be immodest. Are they short? Are they slit? How is that covering up? What about blouses or shirts or tops? I would argue that if they are cropped, off the shoulder, have a low neckline, or are tight they violate the sense of the word modesty as well. Pants? Well, they are long, yes. Are they flowing? No. Are they similar to a robe or coat? No. At the very least, our understanding of the biblical phrase modest apparel would rule out pants that emphasize or reveal the curves underneath of them, as in most jeans and all yoga pants. Shorts? Um, the very word means the opposite of long. What about material choices? The aesthetic use of clothing does not rule out a variety of beautiful fabrics here, but modesty does rule out fabrics that reveal versus conceal.

I have no desire to be the fashion police, or to set myself up as the judge of all that is and is not acceptable. I am, however, trying to get you think specifically about your wardrobe in light of understanding modest apparel as something that is a long, flowing garment.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with me. Somehow, I do not think there will be any shortage of that. But I accept that. I cannot write on a subject and then demand that everyone conform to my understanding and/or refrain from expressing a contradictory opinion. Regardless of that, the main point here is that modesty is a biblical principle, and it directly applies to the clothes you choose to wear. Why? Because there is a moral purpose for clothing. God told us to cover ourselves up. With clothes. With clothes that conceal rather than reveal.

I am content that is the biblical sense of the principle of modesty and specifically of the phrase modest apparel.  

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Clothing in the Bible

 

Standards 13

 

          This is a blog series about standards. By definition, standards in this context implies something external, something visible. I have sought to build that case point by point. It thus follows that standards inevitably involves what we wear. To that end, for the next few weeks we are going to discuss what the Bible says about our clothing. Some of that will be controversial, but I doubt anyone will take issue with me in this post. Today, I simply want to give you some background information about clothing in the Bible. Understanding this will help you grasp three principles related to clothing that I will discuss over the next few weeks.

          In the Scripture, “raiment” is used fifty-seven times. In context, it is related to silk, linen, wool, flax, animal’s skins, dye, needlework, sewing, weaving, embroidery, colors, and specific garments. “Apparel” is used another twenty-eight times. It is associated with terms such as glorious, rich, strange, white, royal, modest, and goodly. The word “clothes” itself is found more than two hundred times in connection with being washed, cleansed, put off, put on, swaddling, soft, long, durable, bright, and gay. Further, “garment” is found one hundred eighty-six times, “wear” nine times, and “attire” three times. I have looked at each of these references. From these passages, and some of the books I referenced in the first post in this series I have drawn today’s material.

The Moral Use of Clothing

Adam and Eve, The Expulsion 
From the Garden
Gustave Dore c 1868

          There are four biblical uses for clothing. The first is the moral use of clothing. Prior to the Fall, there was no sin, no shame, and no clothes. After the Fall, it became shameful to display the body and necessary to cover it appropriately. This is mentioned first in 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. “Aprons” in the original language implies the equivalent of a loin cloth. This was not sufficient in God’s view so God Himself furnished them with something that covered more area, so to speak. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them (Genesis 3.21). “Coat” in the original language is akin to a robe, something that implies God wanted more skin covered. Who knew God was the first legalist?

The Practical Use of Clothing

          Prior to the Fall, weather was a non-factor as I understand God’s Word. After the Fall, along with everything else that changed this did too. Sunburn became an issue. Cold became another one. In addition to weather, specific tasks now required specific clothing. Esau, the mighty hunter, had clothes set aside for hunting that Jacob stole. War, of course, produced the need for harder leather and eventually armor.

          In Bible times, people wore three basic items of clothing. First was the tunic, a long under-shirt or dress. It generally had sleeves and reached to the ankles. You can see examples of this in the way conservative Muslims dress today, men and women both. In addition to the tunic, there was a girdle or belt or sash that was wrapped around the waist. There was also a cloak, the equivalent of a longer robe worn over top of the tunic. Men employed in strenuous physical labor or war would remove their outer garment, the cloak, and tie up their tunic, wrapping it up higher toward their waist with the girdle/sash. Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins… (II Kings 4.29). Gird up thy loins now like a man… (Job 40.7). This produced something roughly equivalent to a divided garment like pants. Indeed, pants were directly required of the priests. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him (Exodus 28.42-43).  

The Aesthetic Use of Clothing

          From time to time, groups arise in Christianity that assert dressing to be beautiful, to be pleasing to the eye is wrong. They say, in essence, that clothing was designed to be functional, neat, and clean but should otherwise not be decorated.

          Such a position is unscriptural for two reasons. First, using clothing as a means of decoration or beautifying is nowhere condemned. Second, in some places it is strongly implied, including in good contexts. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21.2).

          God designed His creation as functional, yes, abut He also adorned it luxuriously. God loves beauty. It is painted in every Iowa summer sunset, the brilliant colors of Autumn in New England, the plumage of the birds in the Brazilian rainforest, and thousands and thousands of varieties of flowers. God is creative and artistic. He loves to decorate. It is impossible to conclude otherwise. Further, He made us like Him. We delight in beauty, in color, in decoration, and there is nothing intrinsically or automatically wrong with that.

The Religious Use of Clothing 

Aaron by Anton Kern
c 1725

          In addition to the moral use of clothing connected with sin and shame mentioned above, there are other examples of God commanding certain kinds of clothing for religious reasons. For example, there are elaborately detailed instructions given in the Torah related to the priest’s wardrobe. These clothes included gold thread, white linen, and wool in three different colors. Each item and color was a physical representation of some spiritual truth. There were also occasions where God instructed men to signify grief, repentance, and humility via their clothing. And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner (II Samuel 3.31). Passages such as this are found all over the Bible.

          On Earth, the greatest example of this is undoubtedly the Transfiguration. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them (Mark 9.3). These shining white garments represent entire righteousness, first God’s and then ours. John says of the church, And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints (Revelation 19.8).

 

          In the next few weeks, I am going to build off of this knowledge base. Yes, there are four basic biblical uses for clothing, but there are several Bible principles – yep, that word again – that apply to what, how, and why we wear what we wear. Those principles are vanity, identity, and modesty.

          Stay tuned. We will launch into the stormy seas of modesty next week.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Your Hair Says It for You

 

Standards 12

 

          Holiness is an inward grace that works its way outward. It does not stay only in the heart; it affects all of him. Yes, God looks on the heart, but He also cares about our external, visible appearance. This is because He designed holiness to affect every part of our life. It is also because humanity measures us by what they can see, the visible part of our lives.

          “Enough, Pastor Brennan, enough. You’ve been droning on about standards for weeks now. Talk about majoring on the minors.” I seriously beg to differ. If you will look at the totality of my writing ministry you will find I strive to major on the majors. On this blog alone, I have written 170 posts about the life of Christ, and lengthy series about faith and grace and peace. I have a 400 page book in print about holiness. But even setting that context aside, in this series on standards I have, by my count, referenced thus far 155 different Scripture passages. To assert that the subject is minor is to reveal scriptural ignorance.

          “Yeah, but those are not in a connected passage. You are cherry picking isolated texts.” Again, I do not agree, but if you did have a point you will not in this post. Today, we are going to look at one connected stretch of fourteen verses in which Paul clearly says what I have said thus far – God cares about your appearance because it reveals on the outside what you believe on the inside.

1 Corinthians 11:3–16

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.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

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.

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.

7 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.

8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

 

          What we wear on our heads in a public church service ought to illustrate that we completely grasp the gender role which God has assigned us.

Of course, God loves everyone equally. There is no Scripture passage that indicates God loves one gender more than another. There is no Scripture passage that indicates God values one gender more than another. To the contrary, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3.28). Yet though each gender is equal in God’s eyes, and equally valued and loved by God, it is also true that each gender is given different roles and responsibilities.

God designed man to be the provider. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (I Timothy 5.8). God designed woman to be the homemaker. I will therefore that the younger marry, bear children, guide the house (I Timothy 5.14). I recognize that in America’s current rebellious state against God and against truth this paragraph, indeed, this whole post, is wildly unpopular. I do not care. This is God’s intent for a husband and wife, expanded on elsewhere in Scripture and illustrated within its pages ad infinitum.

          With the above by way of introduction, let me walk you through I Corinthians 11.3-16 by way of eight statements.

          First, on earth, the order of authority goes like this: God à Christ à man à woman à child. 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 Corinthians 11.3).

          Theologically, we understand the Father and the Son are equal. Yet on Earth, the Son always submitted to the Father as the lesser to the greater. O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matthew 26.39). This does not make the Son less equal than the Father, less loved, or less valued. It does mean that for a few earthly years He had a specific role or responsibility to undertake. This role involved submission to an authority over Himself. He let the Father decide on the course of action, the timing, the persons involved, the outcome, etc.

          It is in just such a similar earthly position we find the distinction between genders. Men and women are of equal worth and value and are equally loved by God. But repeatedly in Scripture the woman is called to submit herself to the man, just as man is called to submit himself to Christ, just as Christ was called to submit Himself to the Father. On Earth, in the home, the man has authority over the woman.

          Second, for the man, his role as an authority over the woman is publicly demonstrated by an uncovered head.

          This is the opposite of our American culture, in which we remove hats to show respect. In biblical times, people covered their heads to show respect, submission, humility, and sorrow (II Samuel 15.30, Esther 6.12). A covered head indicated submission; an uncovered head indicated authority. Man is made in the image of God to exercise authority as God exercises authority. An uncovered head on man’s part shows his grasp of this. 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 (I Corinthians 11.7).

          Third, for the woman, her role as follower to her man is demonstrated by a covered head. This is, naturally, the complete opposite of what the man does. He is in authority; she is in submission. His head is uncovered; her head is covered.  

          Fourth, if a man appears before God with his head covered or a woman with her head uncovered, they are indicating a basic ignorance of, or rebellion to God’s earthly order of authority. They are either ignorant of God’s ordained gender roles or in rebellion to them.

          A man is not supposed to cover his head in church because he is representing God as an authority (I Corinthians 11.7). A man at church stands publicly in the place of God, and so does not represent submission or humility on his head by covering it. No, he leaves it uncovered. He is the leader, and his uncovered head publicly says he understands and believes that. He is demonstrating he accepts God has called him to be a leader in authority. If he does the opposite – covering his head – he is shaming his own Head, which is Christ. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head [Christ] (I Corinthians 11.4).

          On the other hand, a woman is not supposed to uncover her head in church. This is because she is supposed to publicly symbolize with her head that she understands her position or role is one of submission to her authority, her man. If she does the opposite, and uncovers her head, she brings dishonor on her authority and leader, the man. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head [her husband]: for that is even all of one as if she were shaven (I Corinthians 11.5).

          Fifth, this covering and uncovering refers primarily to long and short hair, although it does not forbid hats or veils in this context.

          I will not quarrel with a woman who wants to wear a head covering in church, but I do not believe Scripture in any way instructs women to do so. Their long hair is their covering. 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 (I Corinthians 11.5-6). Plainly, Paul is referring to hair and to hair length here.

          Sixth, short hair on a woman and long hair on a man publicly indicate either ignorance of or rebellion against God’s earthly order of authority and His ordained gender roles.

          Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 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 (I Corinthians 11.13-15).

          The devil loves to pervert the differences between the genders, and at the same time to tear down their gender specific roles. With women, he prompts them to be loud and bossy rather than meek, quiet, and submissive. He prompts them to wear their hair short or butch rather than long, flowing, and feminine. He prompts them to wear pants rather than long, flowing, feminine clothes. With men, he prompts them to be meek and compliant at home rather than exercising their godly leadership. He prompts them to wear their hair long in rebellion rather than short in conformity. The devil hates God, and thus wants the opposite of what God wants. It is not rocket science.

          “Ok, but how long is long and how short is short?” The Bible does not say. My standard answer here is to wear your hair in such a way as to be clearly one or the other, either long or short.

          Seventh, this gender role concept is not be abused by the man.

          Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God (I Corinthians 11.11-12).

          God well understood the tendency of authority to become overbearing. Man has a role as an authority, but his heart is still desperately wicked. Even in embracing that role, the devil can pervert the man away from servant leadership into dictatorial, abusive leadership. There are an unlimited number of examples of this. Ergo, Paul balances his explanation of and call for clear gender roles by reminding the man of the larger picture. Both men and woman are equally loved and valued in the sight of God. Both need the other in order to fulfil or complete each other in a good marriage. Both are completely dependent upon God.

          Eighth, anybody who wants to fuss or argue about this hair covering issue is out of line.   

          But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God (I Corinthians 11.16). I see this verse wrenched out of context all the time. I saw it again just this week. “Well, you fundamentalists who preach about hair length are so wrong. It clearly doesn’t matter. God says we shouldn’t be arguing about this at all, not one little bit.” To put it bluntly, this is utter nonsense. Paul is not here giving those who disagree with him the Christian liberty to throw out the last thirteen verses of explicit, Holy Spirit inspired instruction. Rather, it was not the custom of Paul to argue the covering/gender role issue, nor was it the custom of those in other churches to argue the covering/gender role issue. It was settled doctrine for very good reasons. Paul is saying to the church at Corinth, in essence, “If you want to argue this with me don’t waste your time or mine.”

          It never ceases to amaze me how spiritually immature people make such a huge issue out of my position on hair length for men and women. Indeed, the fact that they would make it a big issue indicates either their ignorance of or rebellion to scriptural gender roles.

          In summary, your hair says it for you. It is the public, visible expression of your inner belief. As a man, you understand you represent your federal head, Christ, on this Earth. You are a leader in authority. You say this silently yet very visibly in the public church service with your short hair. As a woman, you understand you are in humble submission to your earthly head, your husband. You say this silently yet very visibly in the public church service with your long hair.

          What does your hair say publicly about you? That you understand and obey God’s earthly order of authority and gender roles? Or that you are in rebellion to Him on the matter? The condition of our visible appearance is a direct indication of the state and condition of our heart. Your outside is a revelation of your inside. It tells the world you either agree or disagree, you either obey or rebel against God in the area of gender.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Inseparable Connection of the Body and the Soul

 

Standards 11

 

          Last week, we saw that God looks first at our heart but not only at our heart. In fact, our appearance, the visible part of our lives, is directly tied to our inner man. And if God has changed our heart our appearance will gradually grow to reflect or portray that inward change wrought in us by the Holy Spirit.

          Today, I want to explore what God tells us about our bodies, these physical things we occupy and use. By definition, our appearance relates to our body. So if we are going to discover what God says about our appearance it will help us to know what God says about our body.

          The first thing to understand here is that man was created a living soul housed in a God-constructed body. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2.7).

          This does not mean the body is just a container; it means the soul and the body have been connected from the very beginning. You do not live in a body. You are a body and a soul and a spirit. Yesterday, I preached a very difficult message to a local group of Iowa pastors. As I was preaching, the tears flowed. I was undergoing no physical pain. My body was not hurting. But my heart was hurting. And as a result, my body manifested the pain in my soul. What happens in my body impacts my soul and what happens in my soul impacts my body. They are not two separate units one of which is you and the other of which is just what you happen to be in. No, they are both you, and thus connected to each other.

          When man’s sin brought the Fall it produced the sin nature in our heart (Romans 5.12). It also produced sickness, death, disease, and work in the body (Genesis 3.19). As I understand Scripture, bodies do not sin so much as souls do (Ezekiel 18.4). But the body does immediately reflect the sinful state of the soul. We see this reflected in humanity’s first sin. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 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 3.6-7). Eve’s sin was birthed in her heart, in the lust that moved her hand to reach for the forbidden fruit. But immediately she became conscious of her body and of its condition.

          Naturally, since the Fall corrupted both our soul and our body then salvation ultimately must lead to the full restoration of the originally pure condition of both. And it does. God is not just interested in sanctifying our inner man. He tells us that our physical selves, our bodies must be sanctified as well. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5.23). Why? Because your soul and your body are inseparably connected.

          This is why we receive new bodies on Heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:50–52

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

          I am supposed to be holy. I am supposed to be like Christ. That holiness does not, cannot just affect my heart. It must affect my body too. Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3.21). Why? Because the inner man and the outer man are inseparably connected. They are joined. They are married, so to speak. What happens to one – whether it is sin or sanctification – will, must show up in the other. To somehow assert then that all God cares about is the heart is sheer nonsense.

          As Christ renews our inner man, we will find it absolutely necessary to yield our bodies to Him too. Indeed, you could almost say it is an inside out process. <ahem> You are transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12.2). Ergo, present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12.1). If your body is supposed to be holy then where it goes matters. What you put inside of it matters. What you do with it and refuse to do with it matters. And specifically for the purposes of this blog series on standards, how you dress it and undress it, decorate or adorn it matters too.

He saved more than our souls because He made us more than souls. He saved our bodies too. And He begs us to remember it.

1 Corinthians 6:15–20

15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

          I do not have the right to say, “God, save my soul from hell but leave my body alone.” Furthermore, it is entirely unscriptural to say that God only cares whether you love Him with your heart, soul, and mind. Yes, that is the great commandment, but that commandment includes within its scope yielding to Him my body. He gets to control my tongue, my hands, and my feet. And He also gets to control not just what my body does, but how I present it in public, how I clothe it, how I carry it, and how I decorate it.

          He saved me – all of me. He will save me – all of me. He is saving me – all of me. My physical manifestation in space time, my body, is to show Christ to the world just as much as my soul and spirit are supposed to. They are absolutely connected.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Inside Out

 

Standards 10

 

          This is a blog series on standards. More specifically, it is about standards of appearance, what we wear, what we look like. Yes, I realize the very fact I have dared to write about such an issue reveals I am a philistine, an oppressor, a sexist, a doctrinal neophyte, a scripture manipulator, an archaic anomaly of a pastor who should not be allowed to exist in the enlightened day in which we live. I get all that. But much of the rationale behind that negative opinion, an opinion that is horrified that I dare to discuss the subject is directly tied to what I will write about today. I want to tackle that wrong thinking head on. I will attempt to do so by first explaining the wrong view, and then showing why it is wrong from Scripture.

The Wrong View 

          If you were to gather ten Christians at random from your town together, and ask them if our appearance matters to our Christianity most of them would tell you, “No.” And this is the reason: God looks at the heart. 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 Samuel 16.7).

          That is not all. Scripture speaks of the importance of the heart repeatedly. It is our heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17.9). We get saved when we believe in our heart (Romans 10.9-10). We are to love God with all of our heart (Matthew 22.37). It is our heart that must be right with God (Acts 8.21). God was pleased that David desired in his heart to build Him a house (I Kings 8.17) even though David would not be allowed to build it. Later, God said that David was a perfect man in his heart (I Kings 15.3). Solomon got away from God when his wives turned away his heart (I Kings 11.4), which importance is revealed in his own writings when he uses the two word phrase “the heart” twenty-four times in Proverbs. Jesus often referenced the importance of obeying God in the heart as prioritized over simply the actions in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul said we are to obey from the heart (Romans 6.17). Paul said we are not to seek to please other people with eyeservice, what they can see, but we are to do the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6.6). Peter, in the context of discussing appearance, specifically places a priority on the heart over and above the appearance (I Peter 3.4).  

The Right View 

          You say, “Then what is the problem? They are right. All that matters is the heart.” No. They are not right. They are wrong. The right view is to grasp this: Scripture never says all that matters is the heart; it says the heart matters most, but it does not say all that matters is the heart. In point of fact, Scripture explicitly and repeatedly says we ought to cultivate a great love for God in our heart, and that this love for God in our heart should then work its way outward, into how we live our lives, practically, in every way.

          Let me illustrate this with a pertinent Bible illustration, namely, circumcision. First referenced in Genesis 17, it is portrayed as an external, visible evidence of each generation’s acceptance of God’s covenant. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you (Genesis 17.11). This externally visible circumcision was directly tied to the condition of the heart; it was an outward evidence of an inner belief. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart (Deuteronomy 10.16). And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 30.6). You say, “See? We’re back to the heart.” Right. But God demanded that the heart belief be visibly evidenced in their appearance.

          Do you know why Moses was so vehement about this? Because God personally confronted him about it, and almost killed him over it. He had grown up in Pharaoh’s house in a Gentile culture. At forty, he fled, and lived until eighty in another Gentile culture. He married a Gentile. Not surprisingly, he could not convince his wife of the importance of the strange (to her) custom of circumcision. She refused to let him circumcise their sons.

Exodus 4:20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

Exodus 4:24–26 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

          Moses understood from bitter personal experience that the heart alone, the right intent and a love for God on the inside, was not enough. That right heart had to be shown externally in the appearance in order to obey God. Though Moses himself understood and expressed this in the Torah, the Jews, over time, regressed. Eventually, they arrived at the place where circumcision became not an outward expression of an inward belief, but rather simply something that was good in and of itself. This is why Paul in Romans points the Jews back to what Moses and Jeremiah had said in the Old Testament. For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2.28-29).

          You say, “Exactly. See? The heart is what matters.” But that statement must be finished biblically. The heart is what matters most. And if your heart really cares about what God cares about it will be reflected on your outside. And if your outside does not reflect a heart in love with God that simply proves your heart is not in it after all. Zipporah, anyone?

          It is not just the heart. It is first the heart, then the rest. It is not just the inner man. It is first the inner man then the outer man. It is not just the internal. It is first the internal then the external. It is not just the inside. It is first the inside then the outside. It is not just what cannot be seen. It is first what cannot be seen and then what can be seen. And if you reject this paragraph you are actually rejecting the heart of it all.

          You say, “But circumcision? Really? That’s so Old Testament.” I understand that. I chose it on purpose, precisely because it pairs with what God later shows us in the New Testament. In the process we see revealed a God who has consistently called for the same thing in every dispensation. He desires to reach you inside, in your heart, change you there, and then see that change works its way outward. The outside is important. The appearance is important. What people see is important. Why? Because what they see is an evidence of what they cannot see.

          When you got saved, was it just your spirit God intended to sanctify? No, it was your spirit and your body. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (I Corinthians 6.20). Paul knew the truth of their love for God in his heart, but that truth could not remain inward; it was meant to be visible. Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men (II Corinthians 3.2). Things should be honest, first, invisibly, in the sight of the Lord, but that is not enough. Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (II Corinthians 8.21).

          Our salvation is an inward thing that affects the heart. It was designed that way because the heart is where the seat of sin lies. But it was also specifically designed to work its way outward, to be visible to others.

Philippians 2:12–16 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

          This is why Paul elsewhere tells us there is a way of life that ought to accompany an inner possession of holiness. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things (Titus 2.3) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things (Titus 2.10).  

          Adorn is defined by the dictionary as “to enhance the appearance with beauty.” In the original language it carries the connotation of decorate or beautify. The word is used ten times in the New Testament. A woman (or a man) ought to portray herself visibly in such a way that the doctrine she believes in her heart is evident in her bearing, her speech, her clothes, her hair, and her actions. These should be a visible evidence of an invisible fact. In short, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the visible part of our life was designed by God to be an evidence of the invisible part of our life.

          I have said it a thousand times. I will say it a thousand more. Holiness is an inward grace that works its way outward. If I do my job right, you will see in the next few weeks that the principles that govern our appearance are all designed this way. They are an external evidence of an internal spiritual position. Yes, our religion is first, most, and always inside. But it is not only inside. It is inside out. 

        ...so keep telling yourself all that matters is the heart. You are just flat out wrong.