Modesty for True Christians
Teaching Them To Observe…. MODESTY
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel (Gr. Katastole), with shamefacedness and
sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array: but (which becometh women professing
godliness) with good works.” I Tim. 2:9,10
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the
word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation (conduct) coupled
with fear. Whose adorning (beautifying) let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of
wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel (Gr. Himation);” I Peter 3:1-3
Of all the important doctrinal issues that Paul could have corresponded with Timothy about, he didn’t fail to speak
of women’s modesty. In fact, Paul and Peter both, when speaking about women, made sure they dealt with
modesty. Of all the important things in the Christian life that pertain to women, the apostles made sure they spoke
of dress, jewelry, hair, head veil, and chastity. Yes, it is a big deal what you observe in these matters. Satan knows all
too well that you can be doctrinally sound in every other area and still lose your soul and those of your young people
by means of immodesty.
When Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy to make sure the women adorned themselves in modest apparel; it was
then pastor Timothy’s responsibility to make judgments concerning what is modest and what is not modest. He had
to “teach them to observe” modesty. The important point is that Paul expected Timothy to make judgments and be
sure the people were dressing modest.
The apostles, in these passages, are “teaching them to observe” Jesus’ commands to some extent; but leave some
room for the bishops to finish the work. It would be wonderful if pastors today at least taught their people the
specific things the apostles did mention (no jewelry, no fancy or costly clothes, no hair-do, but a head covering, etc.)
Godly church leaders today must search the Scripture to find God’s idea of modest. What did the apostles teach the
people concerning this subject? It is the glory of kings to search out a matter…
Simple grammar tells us that we should not wear: gold, pearls, costly array, broided hair, immodest apparel, fancy
clothes. So, since we can’t wear gold, “I’ll wear silver”. Is that the idea? No. It is obvious to the seeking soul that the
apostles are telling us not to “ornament” our bodies for self glory and not to follow the fashion of the world. We
are NOT to work at beautifying our outsides, but this work should be only on our insides.
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which
hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (conduct).” I Pet. 1:14,15
We are not to dress to look rich, or attract the carnal praises of carnal and wicked men. We are not to justify the
world’s seeking of self-glory, by partaking in it ourselves.
Paul says to Timothy to instruct the people (teach them to observe) to adorn themselves in modest apparel ….NOT
WITH broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array — of any kind. Now, if you wear costly array of any kind, you
are WITH these items; when you should be NOT WITH these items.
Peter tells the wives to win their unbelieving and worldly husbands by… “dressing to kill”? Did Peter tell them to
dress however the husband wanted them to? No, they were accountable to dress and live godly even with an
ungodly and unbelieving husband. He said, concerning their adorning: LET IT NOT BE the outward dressing up,
fixing hair, putting on jewelry, and fancy clothes (Himation). Now, if you wear a gold ring, you are LETTING IT BE;
when you are commanded to LET IT NOT BE.
Yes, I know the Baptists and others like to follow the NKJV perversion and say LET IT NOT MERELY BE; but “merely”
is not in the Greek text. It is perversion, and if you “live” it, don’t criticize those who tamper with the Word of God,
because you are one of them. Peter wouldn’t tell them not to merely have outward adorning, while Paul is saying to
dress modest, not with gold, pearls, and costly array. You notice they can’t fit their merely in Paul’s statement.
They try to say that “it” in I Peter 3:3 simply refers to their emphasis; but this is ignoring rules of proper grammar.
“IT” in I Peter 3:3 does not refer to “emphasis”, but to “adorning”. The word “emphasis” does not appear in the
passage. If you diagram the sentence, you will see “IT” refers to ADORNING. Let your adorning NOT BE the
outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel (himation – fancy clothes).
Let your adorning (beautifying – ornamentation) be the inner spiritual beauty of holiness and godliness in a meek
and quiet spirit. You can’t serve God and mammon, nor can you have your adorning on the inside while at the same
time you are competing on the outside with the world’s fashions – they are opposing forces.
The word “modest” must be defined for our generation in terms that fit God’s program and not our glory. We have
already learned that “dressing up” to please carnal man is wrong. We have learned that wearing jewelry, fancy
clothes, worldly hair fashions, costly clothes, etc. are all DISOBEDIENCE.
We are told to wear “modest apparel” — what is that? First, I want you to notice that the word “modest” doesn’t just
mean “covered up”. Modest is an attitude that shows in your dress as well as every other part of your life. Paul uses
the synonyms, “shamefacedness”, “sobriety”, “chaste”, “meek”, “quiet”, and “fear”; but not, “showy”, “proud”,
“sensual”, and “attractive”.
If I say, “He has a modest house”; what am I saying? If I say, “He makes a modest wage”; what am I saying? Modest
also means, “simple”, “plain”, and is the opposite of extravagant. Yes, modesty should be seen, not only in our
clothes, but in our homes, cars, and every area of our life. We are to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
1. We should not appear rich, or desirous of being rich.
1Ti 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which
drown men in destruction and perdition.
2. We should not appear sensual or sexually attractive.
I Thess. 4:4,5 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the
lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
3. We should not appear to support fads, fashion groups, special interest groups, etc.
1Pe 1:14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
4. We should not allow the praise of men to dictate our dress.
1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
5. We should appear as humble, content, spiritual, hard working, modest, chaste, followers of Jesus Christ. That
which is highly esteemed among men is still an abomination in the sight of God. The early Christians became a
“gazing stock”, and so will you when you follow Jesus and protest the world’s parade.
Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
If one, out of desire to live by Bible principles and to be a faithful leader, digs a little deeper; they will realize that
we are not to use “our point of reference” to determine what is modest. They will then ask the question: “What was
considered modest apparel in the first century? What principles can we find to apply to our century? Would we be
considered modest if we were suddenly placed in the Antioch church in 50 AD? They will then find that the term
used by Paul in I Timothy, seems to have a “historical setting” in a “style” of dress according the Adam Clarke. Paul
said to dress in modest apparel — KOSMIOS KATASTOLE. The word Katastole evidently refers to parts of the Roman
and Grecian dress. If this be Paul’s meaning or not, we still can learn through this a style of dress worn in those days
and considered modest. What can we learn from it?
The Katastole seems to have been a “vest” type cover over the Stola or dress. The sincere, God fearing people of the
day knew what was considered modest. Here is the testimony of Adam Clarke, in his commentary:
“The apostle seems to refer here to different parts of the Grecian and Roman dress. The stola seems to have been
originally very simple. It was a long piece of cloth, doubled in the middle, and sewed up on both sides, leaving room
only for the arms; at the top, a piece was cut out, or a slit was made, through which the head passed. It hung down
to the feet, both before and behind, and was girded with the zona round the body, just under the breasts. It was
sometimes made with, sometimes without, sleeves; and, that it might sit the better, it was gathered on each
shoulder with a band or buckle.
The katastole seems to have been the same as the pallium or mantle, which, being made nearly in the form of the
stola, hung down to the waist, both in back and front, was gathered on the shoulder with a band or buckle, had a
hole or slit at top for the head to pass through, and hung loosely over the stola, without being confined by the zona
or girdle. Representations of these dresses may be seen in Len’s Costume des Peuples de l’Antiquit’e, fig. 11,12,13,
and 16. A more modest and becoming dress than the Grecian was never invented; it was, in a great measure,
revived in England about the year 1805, and in it, simplicity, decency, and elegance were united; but it soon gave
place to another mode, in which frippery and nonsense once more prevailed. It was too rational to last long; and
too much like religious simplicity to be suffered in a land of shadows, and a world of painted outsides.”
So, if we really want to understand what the apostles had in mind and what they probably considered modest, we
can look at the “historical setting” of this command; or, if we don’t, we can also follow the “frippery and nonsense”
of our age like most.
The Anabaptist peoples, and many other godly groups have followed the “Katastole principle” in their dress for the
ladies by using a “cape-dress”, “dress and vest”, or some other way of producing the simple, modest, “double
covering” of the Katastole. The advantages of this dress are obvious: A loose, long, full dress, with a second cover to
the waist that wasn’t drawn in at the waist. This avoids the “drawn in waist” that immodestly accentuates other
parts of the body. Such practicality and modesty, why wouldn’t every Christian woman want to follow this godly
So, is it right for a bishop, in “teaching them to observe”, to lead his church to dress in a modest, Katastole-type
dress without jewelry, lace, bright colors, fancy prints, and such? Of course it is. Where is the backing for NOT
leading your church to do so? Are you teaching your people to “observe all things”? Are you striving for excellence
or convenience? It is also right for the bishop to counsel in “home decor”, types of vehicles, etc. to “teach people to
observe” modesty and simplicity for the testimony of the church and to avoid the snare of the Devil.
I Cor. 6:19,20 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? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your
spirit, which are God’s.
2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as
God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;
and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord
Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the
flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
TESTIMONY OF GODLY MEN
Charles Finney, a former American Evangelist (1792-1875).
The question now regards fashion, in dress, equipage, and so on. And here I will confess that I was formerly myself
in error. I believed, and taught, that the best way for Christians to pursue, was to dress so as not to be noticed, to
follow the fashions and changes so as not to appear singular, and that nobody would be led to think of their being
different from others in these particulars. But I have seen my error, and now wonder greatly at my former blindness.
It is your duty to dress so plain as to show to the world, that you place no sort of reliance in the things of fashion, and
set no value at all on them, but despise and neglect them altogether. But unless you are singular, unless you
separate yourselves from the fashions of the world, you show that you do value them. There is no way in which you
can bear proper testimony by your lives against the fashions of the world, but by dressing plain. “Lectures to
Professing Christians,” Pg. 146
John Wesley, Founder of the Methodist Church (1703-1791)
I am distressed. I know not what to do. I see what I might have done once. I might have said peremptorily and
expressly, “Here I am; I and my Bible. I will not, I dare not vary from this Book either in great things or small. I have
no power to dispense with one jot or tittle of what is contained therein. I am determined to be a Bible Christian, not
almost, but altogether. Who will meet me on this ground? Join me on this, or not at all.” With regard to dress in
particular, I might have been as firm (and I now see it would have been better), as either the people called Quakers,
or the Moravian brethren. I might have said, “This is our manner of dress which we know is both Scriptural and
rational. If you join with us, you are to dress as we do; but you need not join us unless you please.” But, alas. The
time is now past; and what I can do now, I cannot tell. Wesley’s Sermons Vol. II, Pg. 439. Dublin, July 2, 1789.
“Shall I be more particular still? Then, I ‘exhort all those who desire me to watch over their souls,’ Wear no gold….no
pearls, or precious stones; use no curling of the hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever… Buy no velvets, no silks,
no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ornaments, though ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, though you have
it already,…which is in any kind gay, glittering, or showy; nothing made in the very height of the fashion, nothing apt
to attract the eyes of the by-standers. I do not advise women to wear rings, ear-rings, necklaces, lace (of whatever
kind or colour), or ruffles…. It is true, these are little, very little things, which are not worth defending; therefore,
give them up, let them drop, throw them away without another word; else, a little needle may cause much pain in
your flesh, a little self-indulgence much hurt to your soul.”
The Words of John Wesley, Vol. XI London: Weslayan-Methodist Book-room.
Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) America’s first foreign missionary: to Burma:
In a letter to the Christian women of America, he illustrates how he dealt with a new convert from among the
“After the usual examination, I inquired whether she would give up her ornaments for Christ. It was an unexpected
blow. I explained the spirit of the Gospel. I appealed to her consciousness of vanity. I read to her the apostle’s
prohibition. She looked again and again at her handsome necklace — she wore but one — and then with an air of
modest decision… she quietly took it off, saying, ‘I love my Christ more than this’. The news began to spread. The
Christian women made but little hesitation.”
Judson now makes an appeal to American women:
“Let me appeal to your conscience, and inquire, What is the real motive for wearing ornamental and costly apparel?
Is it not the desire of setting off one’s person to the best advantage, and of exciting the admiration of others? Is not
such dress calculated to gratify self-love, and cherished sentiments of vanity and pride?…Do such motives and
sentiments compare with the meek, humble, and self-denying religion of Jesus Christ? I would…suggest, that these
questions will not be answered so faithfully, in the midst of company, as when quite alone, kneeling before God.
Surely you can hold out no longer. You cannot rise from your knees in your present attire. Thanks be to God, I see
you taking off your necklaces and ear-rings, tearing away your ribbons, and ruffles, and superfluities of headdress…”
Herald of Truth, Elkhart, In, V. 10 (October, 1868), 146-148, quoted in J,C. Wenger, op. cit., pp. 145-151.
Menno Simons, Anabaptist leader (1496-1561): (writing about the state church)
“Dear reader, take notice that all the proud, haughty, avaricious, carnal, and adulterous persons who call themselves
Christians, but are not such (for they testify by their disposition, heart, mind, and life that they hate Christ),….They
say that they believe, and yet, alas, there are no limits nor bounds to their accursed haughtiness, foolish pride and
pomp; they parade in silks, velvets, costly clothes, gold rings, chains, silver belts, pins, and buttons, curiously
adorned shirts, shawls, collars, veils, aprons, velvet shoes, slippers, and such like foolish finery. They never regard
that the exalted apostles Peter and Paul have in plain and express words forbidden this all to Christian women. And
if forbidden to women, how much more to men who are the leaders and heads of their wives. Notwithstanding all
this they still want to be called the Christian Church.” The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, pg. 377
Well, I think we know the difference between the slick tongued preachers of today, and the God fearing men of
yesterday.. Believe me I could add many quotes from church writings of the first 3 centuries.
Today, if you try to build a church that observes “all things whatsoever” Jesus commanded, you are a freak and a
cultist. The problem is ignorant and rebellious people who run from the light, because they love their darkness.
Compare the lives of these men I have quoted with the life of your smooth talking, compromising preacher.
DEFRAUDING — FORNICATION
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you
should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as
the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because
that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called
us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” I Thess. 4:3-7
Notice how the apostle equates “going beyond” the bounds of modesty and “defrauding” his brother (or sister); with
“fornication”. If you dress for sex appeal, or ignorantly dress in a way that tempts others to think unlawful thoughts,
then you are guilty of defrauding. The form-fitting dress; the materials that lay against the form; shear materials;
gaping between buttons; low necklines; slit skirts; short skirts; sleeveless; patterns that accentuate body shape; tight
fitting clothes; and any other slick trick of Satan to draw people into sin. This goes for men also. Tight form fitting
jeans, unbuttoned shirts, tank tops, shorts, T-shirts, thin or shear shirts, etc. are defrauding to the sisters.
You can defraud brothers and sisters by looks, winks, flirting, flattery, lack of sobriety, and not conducting yourself
“Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers;
the younger as sisters, with all purity.” I Tim. 5:1
Living in holiness with God’s people is a challenge for all of us; but the problem is not the difficulty of the way; it is
those who would rather come to church to be worshipped than to worship. The problem is secret desires that stem
from our wicked fleshly nature. We should strive to build up the church, not tear it down by seeking self-glory and
carnal preferences. There must be modesty in the home, work, and church — everywhere we are and go, we should
properly represent Christ. Immodesty in the home among family members is still ungodly and dangerous. Having
immodest pictures, magazines, art, photos, or such like in our home is defrauding to those who find it or see it. God
has called us to holiness, and holiness is modest. IT IS RIGHT FOR CHURCH LEADERS TO SET GODLY STANDARDS
OF MODESTY FOR THEIR PEOPLE IN ORDER TO “TEACH THEM TO OBSERVE” MODESTY.
I have made this section a major portion of this tract – why? Why, when so many others make this of very little value,
and allow people to dress as they please? I grew up in a church where people dressed as they pleased, and have
witnessed the fruits of such ways. I have compared what I saw with what the Bible says. I have seen how mankind’s
major judgments stemmed from apostasy due to immodesty and sensuality. Look at the flood of Noah: What
caused it? Look at Sodom and Gomorrah: What caused it? Why did 23,000 people die in Israel (I Cor. 10:8)? What
caused David to fall? Sampson? What was one of the main things David warned Solomon of as we see in Proverbs?
What made Solomon fall? Must I go on? You can have right doctrine, good form, nice buildings, and a great
heritage, but immodesty in dress and life can still draw your people into Hell right under your nose.
Many times it is wiser to set some simple standards, rather than put the pastor in a bad position of having to police
the dress. Printed materials are hard to regulate, and it is unwise for a pastor to have to approach a lady or her
husband to let them know their print is too wild after the woman has already made the dress. So, to set a standard
which allows only plain solids or just certain types of prints is wise. Give your leaders some slack, and don’t buck and
rare over the standards set. If you want to do as you please, there are many apostate churches who will let you. If
you want to do as you please, just don’t complain when everyone else does too. [Pastor Mark Bullen]