"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Praying For Those In Authority (2:1-8) INTRODUCTION 1. Paul's purpose for writing to Timothy is expressed in 1Ti 3:14-15... 2. An important part of our conduct in the family of God concerns our prayers - 1Ti 2:1-8 a. Such prayers are to be offered "for all men" b. Yet Paul does go on to specify "for kings and all who are in authority" [Therefore I think it appropriate to focus our attention on "Praying For Those In Authority", especially whenever the "winds of war" are blowing...] I. WHAT KIND OF PRAYERS? A. SUPPLICATIONS... 1. These are petitions for certain definite needs 2. Humble requests which one makes in the light of this or that concrete situation which God alone can furnish help - Hendriksen 3. E.g., when leaders are faced with a crisis B. PRAYERS... 1. Perhaps used here to refer to requests for the fulfillment of needs always present 2. In contrast with 'supplications' in specific situations - Hendriksen 3. E.g., when leaders are faced with routine duties of governing C. INTERCESSIONS... 1. "pleading in the interest of others" - Hendriksen 2. Just as Christ does for us - cf. He 7:25 3. E.g., praying on behalf a leader D. GIVING OF THANKS... 1. Expressing gratitude for blessings received 2. Thus completing the 'circle' begun when requests were first made 3. E.g., when leaders have led their country to prosperity, or out of a crisis [Such are the prayers we are to offer for those in positions of authority. Have we said such prayers lately...?] II. WHY PRAY FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY? A. SO WE CAN LIVE A CERTAIN WAY... 1. With lives that are 'quiet' and 'peaceable' - 1Ti 2:2 a. I.e., tranquil and calm b. Especially in our relationship with men - cf. 1Th 4:11-12 2. With lives lived in all 'godliness' and 'reverence' - 1Ti 1:2 a. I.e., piety and gravity b. Especially in our relationship with God - cf. Tit 2:11-14 3. What does praying have to do with producing peace? a. God is in ultimate control - cf. Dan 2:20-21; 4:25; Ro 13:1-2; Re 1:5 b. God can influence those in authority to do His will - cf. Pr 21:1; Isa 10;5-7,12,15 c. We can influence God through prayer! - cf. Lk 18:7-8 -- Truly the 'prayer closet' is more likely to succeed than the 'voting booth' or the 'terrorist's bomb'! B. BECAUSE THIS IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE... 1. For God desires all men to be saved - 1Ti 2:3-7 a. He sent Jesus to be the ransom, and now mediator b. He appointed men like Paul to go and proclaim the truth among the nations 2. The spread of truth is facilitated when peace exists among the nations a. In Paul's day, the Pax Romana made the spread of the gospel easier b. Today, peaceful relations between countries opens doors for the gospel c. Whereas wars often stifle communication and transportation between countries -- So let's pray that peace may prevail, though we understand that sometimes war has a place in God's providence - cf. Ec 3:1-8 [Now let's consider...] III. WHERE AND HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? A. WHERE? EVERYWHERE... 1. In light of 1Ti 3:14-15, some think Paul refers to assemblies in every place - 1Ti 2:8 2. I.e., not just in one country, but in all countries a. Pray for all who are in authority b. Pray for good leaders and bad leaders 3. Of course, we can pray in other places besides the assemblies - Mt 6:6 B. HOW? LIFTING UP HOLY HANDS... 1. The Bible describes various 'praying postures' a. Standing - 1Sa 1:26; Mk 11:25; Lk 18:13 b. Hands spread out and/or lifted heavenward - 1Ki 8:22; Neh 8:6 c. Bowing the head - Neh 8:6 d. Lifting heavenward of the eyes - Jn 17:1 e. Kneeling - Ac 20:36 f. Falling down with the face upon the ground - Mt 26:39 g. Bowing the head, with face between the knees - 1Ki 18:42 h. Bowing the head, while striking the breast - Lk 18:13 i. Not recorded in Scripture and unknown to the early church is the custom of closing the eyes while folding the hands! 2. Evidently a particular posture is not what is important a. It is the inner attitude of the soul b. Certainly our posture should reflect our inner posture (what does 'slouching' suggest?) 3. Paul must be emphasizing 'holy' hands a. I.e., hands (and lives) unpolluted by sin b. Prayers of confession and contrition should be offered before making requests for blessings! C. HOW? WITHOUT WRATH AND DOUBTING... 1. Without wrath a. I.e., 'settled indignation' a. Such an attitude toward another makes our prayers unacceptable to God - Mt 6:14-15; Jm 1:19-20 b. No room here for angry praying against our leaders! 2. Without doubting a. Just as prayers for wisdom must be offered in faith, so prayers for peace! b. Read Jm 1:5-8 and substitute 'peace' for 'wisdom' CONCLUSION 1. Remember that as the people of God we are "the salt of the earth"- Mt 5:14 2. One of the best things we can do to make the earth a more pleasant place is to fulfill our duty to pray for those in authority! 3. Are you able to lift prayers with 'holy' hands? Or are your prayers actually an abomination to the Lord? - cf. Pr 28:9 If you desire a quiet and peaceable a life, then let the blood of Jesus cleans your hands and your heart so your prayers will be heard! Remember, God desires all men to be saved... - 1Ti 2:4
|by||Robert C. Redden, M.A.|
I have heard it said that Genesis 1:1 allows lengthy time periods to be inserted into the biblical text, thus accommodating an ancient Earth. Is this true?
The first verse of the Bible is so dear to every believer that it can be recited from memory by almost all. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This simple rendition of the Hebrew tells us about the beginning of all things by the creative act of Almighty God. But what appears so simple on the surface often hides a complexity of difficulties underneath. Such is no exception in the case of Genesis 1:1. A comparison of several translations, or alternate translations in the margins of some Bibles, will reveal a disagreement hotly debated in scholarly circles.
One particular translation is mentioned simply because of the serious doctrinal error promoted by it. Ferrar Fenton’s, The Holy Bible in Modern English, radically departs from the standard translations. Notice the rendering of Genesis 1:1 in that version: “By periods God created that which produced the Solar Systems; then that which produced the Earth.” We are not left wilthout explanation for his novel translation. He writes in a footnote: “Literally, ‘By headships.’ It is curious that all translations of the Septuagint have rendered this word B’RESHITH, into the singular, although it is plural in the Hebrew. So I rendered it accurately.” So says Fenton!
Actually, this is a glaring mistake. A Hebrew concordance lists five occurrences where “in the beginning” appears in the Old Testament: Genesis 1:1; Jeremiah 26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:34. When these are read in any standard translation, nothing but the singular is intended. The Hebrew expression has a prefixed preposition that does not alter the number of the word. It occurs without the preposition in Genesis 10:10, and is translated in the singular “the beginning.” Although occurring with a different preposition in Isaiah (46:10), the use is decisive. God, says the prophet, declares the end from “the beginning.” Certainly the prophet teaches only one beginning, but Fenton’s grammatical analysis would assume otherwise. Add to this passage, Psalms 111:10—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The singular meaning is obvious.
It must be the ending of the Hebrew word that suggested to Fenton the number [i.e., the plurality] of the word. I know of no other possibility. A comparison of words with similar endings with singular meanings might be helpful.
|Beginning—resh-ith, Genesis 1:1; 10:10|
|Greatness—marb-ith, 1 Chronicles 12:29|
|Captivity—sheb-ith, 2 Chronicles 28:11|
|Spear—hen-ith, 1 Samuel 20:33|
|Terror—hit-ith, Ezekiel 32:23|
These words are classified as feminine singular nouns according to Davidson’s Analytical Hebrew Lexicon. According to Samuel Green, feminine nouns ending in “ith” form their plurals by the ending “yyuth” (1901, p. 48). An example of the plural is found in Exodus 1:16 where the Hebrew is translated “the Hebrew women.” According to Even-Shoshan’s Hebrew concordance, no plural form for “beginning” occurs in the Old Testament. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) translators obviously knew the Hebrew better than Mr. Fenton! Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek would allow, much less demand, Fenton’s [mis]translation.
Another erroneous rendition in verse one is the statement that God created “that which produced the Solar Systems; then that which produced the Earth.” According to this view, “the heavens and the earth” were made out of pre-existing materials. This suggests that the verse has nothing to say about the actual beginning of all things!
In response, one must note that the Hebrew bara and its English equivalent “create” are transitive verbs. They both, therefore, require direct objects to complete their meaning. The Hebrew, along with the standard translations, give two direct objects—“the heavens and the earth.” Since the direct objects modify the verb “create,” and the act of creation took place at the beginning, then no pre-existing materials were present when the creation took place. While the word “create” in Hebrew does not necessarily prove “creation-out-of-nothing,” it certainly does not exclude the idea either.
Actually, according to Bernhardt, the use of “created” with the phrase “in the beginning” clearly teaches a creation without pre-existing materials. “As a special theological term, BARA is used to express the incomparability of the creative work of God in contrast to all the secondary products and likenesses made from already existing material by man.” He continues: “This verb does not denote an act that somehow can be described, but simply states that, unconditionally, without further intervention, through God’s command something comes into being that had not existed before. ‘He commanded and they were created’ (Psalms 148:5)” (n.d., 2:246-247). It should be no surprise, therefore, to discover that God is always the subject of this verb. God, Who exists eternally, brings into existence the things that previously had no existence!
Various translations, however, suggest that Genesis 1:1 has nothing to say about the original creation. Notice the rendering given by The Bible—An American Translation(the Old Testament companion to Goodspeed): “When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was a desolate waste, with darkness covering the abyss and a tempestuous wind raging over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light!’ ” Peacock is accurate when he explains the meaning of this rendering: “...verses 1 and 2 describe the chaotic situation that existed before God acted in creation. If this interpretation is accepted, one would translate When God began to create the universe, as in the TEV [Today’s English Version] note” (Peacock, 1982, p. 4).
The obvious assumption of these translators is that Genesis 1:1 is a relative clause and states only the condition of things when God said, “Let there be light.” Such a rendition rules out the idea of an original creation—creatio ex nihilo. Scholars are in disagreement as to whether or not the grammatical evidence demanded an abandonment of the traditional wording (cf. KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NASB, JB). Add to this the fact that all of the ancient versions, without exception, render the verse in the usual manner.
What often is overlooked by many today is the simplicity of the creation account. The sentences are very short. By changing the translation into dependent clauses, the sentence structure is affected, and thus, the effect intended by Moses. Notice the difference between the two renderings:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth And the earth was waste and void;And darkness was upon the face of the deep; And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.And God said, Let there be light; And there was light.
When God began creating the heavens and the earth, when the earth was waste and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, then God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
A reading of the literal translation (such as the ASV) of the remaining chapter will convince one that such a complicated sentence structure is totally out of place in the first few verses of the chapter. Unfortunately, the popular style of subordination in English composition may mask not only the real emphasis of the original, but also may promote a false view of its teaching!
The Septuagint was made by translators who believed that the Hebrew taught the beginning of all things. They translated the verse in an absolute sense, independent of the following verses. Aalders summed up the issue rather well: “In making our decision on this issue, let it be stated without any equivocation that the words ‘in the beginning’ must be taken in their absolute sense. First of all, this is the most natural and obvious interpretation. Furthermore, this is the rendition that is found in every ancient translation without any exception. Finally, although the alternative interpretation is linguistically possible, it does not reflect common Hebrew usage” (Genesis, 1:51).
Genesis 1:1 is a profound revelation of God’s creative work. Before that beginning, matter did not exist. In the beginning, God created (not refashioned, per the Gap Theory) things having no previous existence. One wonders if the dissatisfaction with the standard translation of this verse arose from a corresponding disagreement with the doctrine taught by it, or was this a mere coincidence? Yes, one wonders!
Green, Samuel G. (1901), A Handbook To Old Testament Hebrew (New York: Revell).
Bernhardt (no date), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 2:246-247.
Peacock, Heber F. (1982), A Translator’s Guide to Selections from the First Five Books of the Old Testament (New York: United Bible Societies).
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
In October 1992, a Vatican commission concluded that the Inquisition had treated Galileo too harshly. It added, however, that Galileo was partially to blame by insisting that he had absolute proof for Copernicus’ (heliocentric) system of astronomy. Actually, Galileo’s argument, based on the ebb of the flow of the tides, did not prove the Earth’s motion. It would take another two centuries of scientific study to modify and establish Copernicus’ theory. Today, the Vatican feels the actions of its predecessors were overly zealous, although not wrongly motivated.
Some in the scientific media saw this is as a “half-hearted rehabilitation of Galileo” (Nature, 1992; Cole, 1992). They seemed to take a perverse pleasure in the fact that the Church had taken so long to apologize, and then acted hurt that the retraction was conditional.
The conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church was, in part, a struggle over intellectual territory. In 1546, the Council of Trent had given equal authority to church traditions and Scripture. Further, it decreed that the Church, and the opinions of the Church Fathers, were the only proper guides for interpretation. Although the Council never debated the Earth’s motion, its broad decree elevated Ptolemy’s (geocentric) system from endorsement to dogma. Likewise, some Fathers had taken various Old Testament passages to mean that the Earth stood still while the Sun moved (cf. Jackson, et al., 1986); this interpretation was now law.
Galileo rebelled, arguing that science was an entirely separate authority. One of his favorite quotes came from Cardinal Baronius: “The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.” Galileo argued that any reference to the natural world in the Bible is purely incidental. Science, not the Bible, must convey scientific truth. Further, if science contradicts a literal interpretation of Scripture, then theologians should deem the passage allegorical or metaphorical.
The irony is that Galileo wanted to advise the Church on hermeneutics, while reserving science for himself. For its part, the Church was in no mood to backpedal in the face of a growing Protestant challenge. However, authorities were quite willing to allow scientists to speculate on Copernicus’ theory. It was Galileo’s talk of absolute proof, laced with arrogance, that eventually brought him before the Inquisition.
Perhaps Galileo could have avoided censure if he had played by the rules of what was a very perilous game. The Catholic Church of the time must take the blame for creating such peril. But it is not true to say that the Galileo affair typifies the relationship between faith and science.
Nature (1992), “Eppur si non muove,” 360:2.
Cole, John R. (1992), “Vatican Recants; Galileo Cleared,” NCSE Reports, 12:9.
Jackson, Wayne, Bert Thompson, and Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A. (1986), “Questions and Answers,” Reason & Revelation, 6:47-50, December.
Flaws In Calvinism
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
John Calvin (1509-1564) was a French theologian during the Protestant Reformation whose system of Christian theology, primarily expressed in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, has exerted tremendous influence throughout the Christian world for nearly five centuries. The central tenets of his thinking have been summarized under the acrostic TULIP.
Total Depravity = All men have inherited the sin of Adam through their parents and are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because of their own depraved, sinful nature which extends to every part of their personality.
Ezekiel 18:19-23—“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself…. ‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’”
Ezekiel 28:15—“You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.”
Psalm 106:37-38—“They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters.”
Zechariah 12:1—“Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.”
Matthew 18:2-3—“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
Matthew 19:14—“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’”
Romans 7:9—“I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.”
Unconditional Election = God chose from eternity to save certain people, not based upon any foreseen virtue, faith, or anticipated acceptance of the Gospel. God chose to extend mercy to those He has specifically chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive wrath and damnation.
Luke 13:3—“I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 8:24—“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believethat I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Acts 10:34-35—“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.’”
Romans 2:5-11—“God…will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
1 Peter 1:17—“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
Revelation 22:17—“Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Limited Atonement = Christ died only for those whom God specifically pre-decided to save—the elect—but not for any others.
1 Timothy 2:3-4—“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6—“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.”
Titus 2:11-12—“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
1 John 2:2—“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
John 3:17—“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
2 Peter 3:9—“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Acts 10:34—“God shows no partiality.”
Romans 2:11—“For there is no partiality with God.”
Irresistible Grace = God’s saving grace is applied to those whom He has determined to save (the elect), overcoming their resistance to the call of the Gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved (even against his will if necessary). This purposeful influence of God’s Holy Spirit, Who creates faith within the individual, cannot be resisted.
Deuteronomy 30:19—“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life.”
Joshua 24:15—“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Luke 7:30—“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”
John 12:42-43—“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Acts 7:51—“You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
Acts 13:46—“Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’”
Perseverance of the Saints = Since God is sovereign and His will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with Himself will continue in faith until the end. They cannot be eternally lost.
Galatians 5:4—“You [Christians] have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
2 Peter 2:20-22—“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”
Hebrews 4:11—“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
Hebrews 6:4-6—“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
Hebrews 10:38-39—“‘Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
James 5:19-20—“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
Revelation 2:5—“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
Revelation 3:5—“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Revelation 22:19—“If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life.”
Finding the Right Answer to the Right Question
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
How should a sinner react to the gift of salvation freely offered by Jesus? What is man’s appropriate response to learning about the crucified Creator and Savior of the world?
Man’s sin, along with God’s grace and sovereignty, should drive every person to ask a most foundational (and logical) question: “What does God want me to do?” If Jesus is my Creator; if He has all authority in heaven and on Earth; and if He is the only Savior of mankind, what does He want me to do?
While Jesus was still living, a young man once recognized the Son of God’s authority, knelt before Him, and asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, emp. added). After the first recorded gospel message following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the convicted hearers asked: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). When Jesus revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, the persecutor of Christians immediately asked, “What shall I do?” (Acts 22:10). A heathen Philippian jailor, who found himself in dire circumstances, all the while in the presence of a singing-and-praying Paul and Silas, was likewise compelled to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”(Acts 16:30, emp. added).
What is the answer to this question? What is a person to do to be saved? Through the years I have heard and read a number of professed Christians say things like, “God loves you. There’s nothing for you to do.” “We do nothing to become righteous.” “We do nothing to get salvation.” “Salvation is from nothing we do ourselves.”
Interestingly, not one of those in the New Testament was told these sorts of things—that he did not need to do anything. The very opposite is true, in fact. Though all are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), each time the question, “What shall I/we do?” was asked in the New Testament, the hearers were always told to do something. While the Law of Moses was still in effect, Jesus told the rich young ruler, in essence, to repent (Mark 10:21-22). [Jesus instructed the young man to get rid of the “one” thing in his life (his great possessions) that was keeping him from committing his life to Christ.] The Philippian jailor was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). The thousands in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were told to “repent…and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). When Saul asked what he needed to do, Jesus told him what he had to do. Saul had to go wait for the word of the Lord in Damascus where Jesus sent Ananias to tell Saul what he “must do” in order to have his sins cleansed by the blood of Christ (Acts 9:6). And what was it Saul had “to do”? By the authority of Christ, Ananias told Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Friend, don’t buy the lie that so many false teachers in the 21st century are selling: there issomething for you to do in order to become a Christian and live the Christian life. No, it is not any kind of meritorious work (Titus 3:5). We could no more earn salvation than I could earn $999 quadrillion in my lifetime. But, we must submit ourselves to God and do what Hesays in order to receive the free, gracious gift of salvation, which comes only through Jesus Christ.
[NOTE: To learn more about becoming a follower of Christ, read our free e-book, Receiving the Gift of Salvation.]
Two Standards of Modest Dress
Editor's Note: This article has been carefully written to be purposefully vague, so that it will be suitable for all audiences. However, if the referenced Scriptures are studied carefully, and if the stubs of logic are extrapolated judiciously, the patient student will find concrete applications for modest dress, which are too specific for this medium. As the reader and a student, you are entrusted with the completion of this task.
We live in a world that encourages exhibition of our bodies. Although the Scriptures do occasionally note the outward beauty of someone or their striking features (Genesis 12:10-14; 39:6; I Samuel 9:2; 16:18-19; II Samuel 11:2; 13:1; Esther 2:7, etc.), such footnotes are always mentioned only as they are relevant to the events that followed. In fact, the Bible never encourages us to unashamedly flaunt such physical beauty. Rather, we should have a natural sense of shame and modesty that would move us to cover specific parts of our body. Unfortunately, we are living in a time, when that sense of shame is being devalued, belittled, and finally lost. It is a time, when too many no longer "know how to blush" (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12). Therefore, that sense of modesty must be taught again, based on God's Word.
The boundaries of modesty are actually defined by the overlap of two standards. Failing either standard defines a given suit of dress as being immodest. The first of these two standards is our culture, and it is dynamic. It may change with time and locale. For whatever reason, some cultures may define some innocent dress as being immodest, which God never defined as immodest. A people's sense of modesty may require more clothing than God would demand. In this case, we need to give up our liberty in Christ, put on the extra clothes, and "fit into" the culture, so as not to unnecessarily damage the reputation of Christ (I Corinthians 9:19-22; I Corinthians 11:14). For example, women might have to wear extra, otherwise unnecessary veiling in the middle east, just to fit into that culture. However, if our society defines modest clothing as being less than what God has defined (short shorts, for example), then we must submit to God's standard rather than men's opinion (Acts 5:29). We cannot wear less clothes than what God has required.
The principles defining modesty in our culture may arise from many sources: tradition, fashion, human religion, weather, etc. Regardless of the source, we obey them, so we can fit into our society. However, God's defining principles arise from our creation, anatomy, reproduction process, and loss of innocence (Leviticus 18:6-19; Song of Solomon 4, 6; Genesis 3:1-21). Therefore, God's standard is constant and absolute, since its basis does not change. These governing principles were applied to Jews in Old Covenant as well as to Gentiles outside the covenant (Exodus 28:42; Genesis 3:10-11, 21; Isaiah 47:2-3). Consequently, these principles indeed transcend all cultures and times.
Modesty is often unnecessarily taught by Christians as if it were a mere scruple, which is inherently not authoritative (Romans 14:1). In such a case, modest dress is treated as a "judgment call", and emphasis is placed on encouraging the listener to self-reflect on their motivation and their purity of the heart. This can be effective, if the person is deliberately being immodest and still has a tender heart, easily pricked. However, if the listener truly believes that his or her clothing is indeed modest, which most people seem to believe on the surface, then such an approach will have no positive effect. Many people do not realize that there is a transcendent, absolute standard for modest dress taught in Scripture. The following outline is provided to help us understand and follow bothof these two overlapping standards, God's absolute standard and culture's relative standard.
- What is the New Testament Command?
- To dress modestly - I Timothy 2:9-10
- must be modest
- with an understanding of shame - what should, and should not be worn or would be shameful
- with a sense or understanding of discretion
- should be clothing that is fitting for a godly woman
- To reflect godliness - I Peter 3:1-5
- not focused on mere outward appearance, like arranging one's hair, wearing jewelry, putting on fine clothes
- but, the focus should be reflecting the hidden person, the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit
- which inner beauty is very precious in God's sight
- What does this mean practically?
- All clothing choices should be based on these above four principles.
- The latter verse (I Peter 3:1-5) directly condemns expensive overdressing. Therefore, a godly woman should not wear lavish, excessively expensive clothing.
- To wear too little clothing would also violate these rules.
- A Christian woman's dress is to be balanced or modest - not too much, not too little. Rather, it should allow a woman's godly character to be seen which brings glory to God. Immodest clothing detracts from a godly life of good works, and accentuates our bodies or our wealth instead of God and His way of life.
- How does this apply? What is "modest" and "immodest"?
- We should never overdress so to attract unusual attention to our clothing or ourselves.
- We should never dress in a way that is considered shameful or sexually appealing by our society and culture.
- Therefore, modesty is partially relative to culture.
- Clothing that is marketed and designed to attract attention from the opposite gender would violate all of the four guiding rules.
- The Bible does allude to certain parts of our bodies that are sensual and, therefore, should remain covered by loose clothes.
- Adam and Eve: Genesis 3:7,10,21
- Adam and Eve made small coverings - vs. 7
- But, they were still naked - vs. 10
- God made them tunics which, by the Hebrew word, would have covered from knees to shoulders - vs. 21
- Levite priests: Exodus 20:26; 28:42
- Exposing the waist to thighs was considered nakedness
- Blessings of marriage: Proverbs 5:18-20
- Specific parts of a woman's body are reserved for marital bliss. They should not be paraded outside of this relationship.
- Description of wife's body: Song of Solomon 7:1-9
- Consider husband descriptions after marriage, but before honeymoon (Song of Solomon 4:1-5). Only non-sensual parts are mentioned such as teeth, etc. Whatever else is mentioned is only what cannot be hid unless one wears a box or barrel.
- After being married for some time, the husband describes his wife's beauty in vivid detail. The parts of her body additionally described in this passage represent what is reserved for the marriage relationship and what should not be flaunted outside of marriage.
- The differences in these two descriptions - one given based on what everyone sees, one given based on what only the husband should see - defines the boundaries for the eyes and hands of all not married.
- Shaming of the Lady Babylon: Isaiah 47:2
- It was shameful to uncover her thigh.
- Although this is part of a figurative reference to the nation of Babylon, the figure's merit is rooted in a sense of modesty that would have been common to the Jews and the Babylonians.
- Direct relation between the marital relationship and being uncovered: Leviticus 18:6-20
- Whose responsibility is this? Mine?
- We all have an obligation to guard our eyes and the thoughts of our hearts (Job 31:1 and Matthew 5:27-30). This is every man's responsibility to himself and God.
- The above question is hauntingly similar to Cain's question (Genesis 4:9). Are we not our brother's keeper, and should we not seek his best interest? (See also, Luke 10:29-37.)
- Would we want to do anything to cause a brother to stumble and sin?
- I Corinthians 8:9-12 - It would have been a sin against Christ for the Corinthians to eat meat and cause their brother to stumble.
- Matthew 18:6-9 - It is a terrible thing to offend a brother. It is better to sacrifice our rights and do without.
- It is everybody's problem. We must answer for the direct commands found in I Timothy 2:9-10 and I Peter 3:1-5.
- Dressing modestly is not a restriction or penalty, but it is rather an opportunity to help our brother and seek his best interest through love (I Corinthians 13:1-7).
Our clothing should always match the four principles of I Timothy 2:9-10 and I Peter 3:1-5 based on our culture and society. It should also be based on an understanding of our body's design as described by God in the Bible. So, the style and boundaries of our clothing may fluctuate with the changes in our societies and times, but the definition and limits of our apparel should never expose more than God's universal, minimum standard. We may have to add to this minimum standard to match our society or culture, but we should never fall below this guide and expose what should remain hidden, lest we tarnish the reputation of Christ, cause our brother to stumble, or give place to our pride and wanton need for attention.