Three Biblical Purposes for Clothing

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From Modest Clothing Bible Study by Ray and Elaine Powell

What are God's Purposes for Clothing?

As you attempt to make any decision, one appropriate question is, “What Biblical purpose does this fulfill, if any?” What is the Biblical purpose of clothing or apparel? There are definite implications within God’s Holy Word about the purposes for clothing, and three of those purposes are as follows:

  1. Covering for nakedness
  2. Gender distinction
  3. Role identification

First Purpose for Clothing: To Cover Your Nakedness

From the beginning, God wanted your nakedness covered. From the time of the fall of man, when man recognized his nakedness before God, God required the nakedness of His children to be covered.

Genesis 3:21, “And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (NASB).

Micah 1:11, “Go on your way, inhabitant of Shaphir, in shameful nakedness . . ." (NASB).

Revelation 3:18, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” (NASB).

From the very beginning, man’s standard of modesty has been in conflict with God’s standard of modesty.

Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (NASB).

Once man had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he knew within himself that his nakedness should be covered. The problem with sinful man today is the same as the problem with sinful men then, man’s standard of modesty falls short of God’s standard for modesty. Two observations make this clear. The first is God’s response in Genesis 3:21. Had the garments that Adam and Eve made for themselves been adequate, God would not have gone to the trouble of replacing them with new ones.

Genesis 3:21, “And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (NASB).

The second observation that illustrates the contrast between man’s idea of modesty and God’s standard is the difference between the garments made by Adam and Eve and those made by God. The garments made by Adam and Eve were called “loin coverings” (NASB), “aprons” (KJV, RSV), and “coverings” (NIV). It is apparent from the definition and usage of the word that the garment of Genesis 3:7 was a very skimpy garment only covering the loin area.

Now let us examine the garments made by God. These garments were called “garments” (NASB, RSV, NIV) and “coats” (KJV). The original Hebrew translated here is “kuttonet.” This word has particular reference to a long outer dress with sleeves worn by the virgin daughters of the king, such as Tamar wore in II Kings 13:18. This word is also used to describe garments worn by priests (See Exodus 28:4, 39; 29:5; 39:27; Leviticus 8:7; 10:5; Ezra 2:69). As used of the priests, it is called a “coat” in Exodus 28:39 and refers to the tunic or shirt, which was a long linen gown or cassock worn immediately over the drawers and beneath the ephod. It reached to the feet and had tightly fitting sleeves.

From these examples, we can see the sharp contrast between what Adam and Eve considered modest and what God considered modest. There was no similarity between man’s conception of “covering nakedness” and God’s conception of “covering nakedness.” The garments devised by man and those made by God were as different as night and day. As God laid out the plan for His priests under the Mosaic Law, He continued this high standard of modesty in the apparel He designed for them.

Second Purpose For Clothing: To Distinguish Men From Women

Deuteronomy 22:5, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God" (KJV).

God desired that there be a distinction between the sexes. Does He desire anything less today?

Third Purpose for Clothing: To Identify a Particular Person or Group

Does your clothing identify you as a Christian? Under the Mosaic Law, the priests were a chosen group of people and were set apart by special priestly garments (Exodus 28 and 39). A priest was immediately distinguishable from others by his apparel. Today, we are not physical priests as those under the Law were, but as Christians, we are a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. Should not we today, as priests, be distinguishable from those around us by our unquestionably modest apparel which reflects an attitude of humility and submission to our Lord?

1 Peter 2:9-12, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (NASB).

Does your appearance reflect the attitude of a priest, one consecrated to Godly service? Does your clothing identify you unmistakably as a Christian, or are people left wondering? Does your clothing indicate a lukewarm heart or a fervent dedication to the Lord?

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