For now I’d invite you to open your Bible to 1 Timothy chapter 2. 1 Timothy chapter 2. We’re going to be looking together in the next few weeks at verses 9-15. 1 Timothy 2:9-15. I want to read that text so you’ll have it in your mind. I trust you'll reread it through the weeks we go in the teaching of it, but I do for this morning want to set in your mind so you listen carefully as I read beginning at verse 9.
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with godly fear and self-control; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothing; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being greatly deceived was in the transgression. Nevertheless, she shall be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.”
Now obviously this portion of Scripture has to do with the woman’s role in the church. And we’re going to be looking at it in detail because it is, as we find so commonly in Scripture, a revelation of the most marvelous comprehensiveness. The Spirit of God, using that economy of words that only God can use, uses very few terms to express vast amounts of truth in a comprehensive manner. Because of that, we need to give careful attention to all that is said in the passage. And when it is complete, we will have a consummate statement on God’s design for women in the church.
Now I think it’s apparent to everyone here that this is a battleground today. The dialogue, and debate, and even conflict that goes on over the issue of the role of women in the church has reached massive proportions. It is amazing to me that it all began with a sort of self-justifying effort on the part of a group of lesbians who wanted to have their day in the sun and gave birth to the modern feminist movement. Feminism rises out of sinful perversion, and yet in spite of its origin it has found its way into the culture of our society in almost every area, and even lately into the church.
And the church for years committed to certain standards of behavior for men and women is systematically and rather progressively throwing aside all of its former doctrines in favor of newer ones. I am amazed at how many evangelical churches, schools, and even seminaries are fast jettisoning things that they have for all their life long held to be biblical truths.
Books are coming out written by people who have for all their ministry been known as evangelicals, now denying the things they’ve always believed and affirming new truth regarding the role of women. They’re going back to passages in the Scripture and saying they have to be reinterpreted. Some are saying they have to be ignored, they reflect only Paul’s anti-female bias. Others are saying they were added later by editors and they do not reflect the intent of the biblical writer or even his own verbiage.
One or another kind of approach is used to do away with what has been the traditional interpretation of the Word of God. In fact, interpreting passages which are so patently obvious that even a rather brief reading of the passage, as I have just done, leaves you in little doubt as to the intent of its meaning.
But nonetheless, the church, which is to be the last bastion of the truth of God, is falling fast to the march of the feminist army. And it’s my own covenant and vow in my own heart that Grace Community Church, and myself, and the integrity of our teaching of the Word of God, will not become victim to what is going on in the society around us. We need only to go back to the Word of God and affirm what it says to hold our ground.
Now we are aware, I trust, that all of this kind of effort is really not the effort of men, but is the effort of the archenemy of God, the God-hater himself, Satan, who desires to use sinful human agents to attain his goals. But really, his goal is to overthrow the plan and design of God for His church. And that’s why it’s so tragic when the church capitulates, when the church falls in to the lies of Satan, and becomes a part of his own system of attack on the plan of God.
God has designed a place for man and a place for woman in society, in the family, and in the church that is very clear in Scripture and we need to go back and reaffirm that for us and for all who will listen to the Word of God.
Now, frankly, I could take a lot of time demonstrating how far-reaching the feminist movement is. I could quote all kinds of people and we could look at all kinds of incidents. We could go into the schools, and seminaries, and the books, and the things that are indicating to us that the capitulation is wholesale in many areas of the church. But we’re all aware of that. I really don’t think that would serve any purpose to go over all of that data and it would take up a lot of our time.
So, in view of the fact that we all know about the march of feminism, we all know about the capitulation that is going on, it seems to me most needful to simply look at the Word of God. And having understood what the Word of God says, we then have the wherewithal to deal with any error that we might face. And, frankly, no passage is more direct, more helpful, more comprehensive than the one before us today. I wish we could cover it all in one time, but you don’t want to be here five hours, so we’re not going to do that. But over the next few weeks, we are going to cover this passage. And I believe you’re going to see very clearly and concisely what the Word of God has to say about the role of women. We will also tie in related passages which are necessary because Scripture interprets Scripture. And when we’re done, it will be only a question of whether or not we desire to respond positively to God’s Word, or join those who are rebelling against it.
Now in looking at our passage, I want you to note there are six features in regard to the role of women in the church that the Apostle deals with: Their appearance, their attitude, their testimony, their role, their design, and their contribution. Each of these opens up a whole area of thought and understanding to us. And for this morning, we’re going to take the first two. I had hoped to be able to take the first three, but was not able to get through that third one so we’ll take the first two this time.
Now I want you to remember the context so that you understand the setting of this. The letter is written from the Apostle Paul to his protege, his son in the faith, his dear friend and co-laborer, Timothy. Paul has concluded his three missionary journeys. He has just been released from his first imprisonment in Rome. He is now a free man. The book of Acts is completed. And as he moves out of prison, he meets Timothy in the city of Ephesus.
Apparently word has reached him that things in Ephesus are not as they ought to be. And Ephesus and the church there was close to his heart. He had spent three years of his ministry there. He had poured his soul into that church. He had said about that ministry that he had not failed in Ephesus to declare all the council of God. He had warned them night and day for three years that error would come from the outside and evil would rise from the inside. And sure enough, his worst fears had come to pass. The church had entered into doctrinal error. The church had entered into ungodly living, and many things were wrong in that church. Most significantly of all, the leadership had been corrupted doctrinally and morally. The church then had pastors, and elders, and those who were the official deacons of the church who needed to be replaced with godly people.
Well, Paul met Timothy there, and I believe personally dealt with Hymenaeus and Alexander, as mentioned in 1:20. Then Paul had to leave to go west for further ministry, but left Timothy there in Ephesus. And Timothy was to straighten out the rest of the issues in the church. Paul’s only been gone a few weeks, and he writes this letter back to Timothy to strengthen his hand, to encourage him in the task, and to make sharp his focus as to what he was to be about.
Now many things were wrong in the church. We know that because of the character of this letter and the subjects which it addresses. But you’ll notice 3:14-15 sort of give us the overall intent of the letter. “These things write I to you, hoping to come to you shortly: But in case I have to tarry, long, I'm writing that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” In other words, I’m writing you so you know how the church ought to function. This is a letter to set the church in proper order.
Now there were many problems in that church. One of them - one of them - related to the place of women. Obviously, if the church was entering into areas of false doctrine, obviously, if it was ungodly in its behavior, this would impact the women in the church as well as the men. And since usually there are more women in a church then there are men, this could have indicated a great proliferation of problems. Things were not right in that church and it impacted the women.
There is a reminder in chapter 5, if you’ll notice, in verse 2 that women are to maintain purity. Since there is a polemic nature to this epistle, that is to say it is written to deal with problems, it is written to attack issues, we can assume that the indication here about women having all purity might mark out that some did not.
Further into that chapter we would note in verse 6, for example, that some women were living in pleasure and were really dead while they were alive. Some women then had abandoned purity, perhaps. Some had desired to live only for pleasure. We find further in the passage in verse 11 that some younger widows had made vows and promises to Christ which they could not keep but in their lust were in danger of great violation of those promises, and thus to bring upon themselves in verse 12 condemnation for being unfaithful to their original pledge. We find in verse 13, that some of them had become idle, wandering around from house to house. They were tale bearers, busybodies, saying things that ought not to be said. Verse 15, some of them had already turned aside after Satan. In his 2nd letter to Timothy at Ephesus, 2 Timothy 3:6, he notes there were silly women who were laden with lusts, who were easily led astray by those teaching lies.
Now back to chapter 2. In this passage, we learn that not only were women having problems with purity, not only were they turning aside to Satan, breaking pledges they had made to Christ, being led around by their own diverse lusts, but here there were some of these women who were acting indecently. That is to say bringing these improprieties, impurities, and immoralities into the worship of the church. And under the pretense of coming to worship God were flaunting themselves, and desecrating that worship by the dress and demeanor that betrayed an evil intent rather than a heart of worship.
Now it is important in the church that worship be central. Is that not so? We’re committed to that here and we have studied much about worship. So in the list of priorities as Paul sets these things down for Timothy, this comes near the top. In chapter 2 when he began the discussion of matters in the church, he began with the issue of evangelistic praying, didn’t he? Calling for the church to pray for the salvation of all men because God wants all men to be saved. And that was the most important issue for Paul to deal with, because the church at Ephesus had developed an exclusive doctrine of redemption that said only a few elite Jews who keep the law can be saved, or a few elite Gentiles who can rise to the level of mystical knowledge can be saved, and it’s not for everybody. And this exclusive mentality had literally cut the cord to world evangelization. And so he dealt initially with the need to realize that God wants all men to be saved.
The second subject that is in his mind is the subject of worship. And the worship was being polluted by women who saw it as a way to flaunt their wealth, to demonstrate their beauty, to put on a sexually attractive demonstration to men that would draw their focus away from the living God to things not fitting, certainly not fitting in a worship environment. And so it is the worship issue that is dealt with, and that takes Paul right into the whole matter of the role of a woman within the context of the Christian faith.
Now remember that in the matter of evangelistic praying, he spoke to the men in verse 8. And said that the men are to do the praying, publicly, and they are to do so not only with holy hands, that is with a clean life; but without anger and dissension, that is with a pure heart. So the life and the heart of men were the issue in verse 8, and now the life and the heart of women become the issue in verse 9.
Since clothing is an issue of some importance with the fairer sex, Paul begins with a discussion of their appearance. And that is the first point that I want you to see. He discusses their appearance. And without question in my mind, he is revealing a problem in the church at Ephesus, and not only there but, no doubt, their problems were symptomatic of problems in the church everywhere.
So, he says in verse 9 - let’s look at it - “In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves - ” literally the Greek says, “in adorning apparel.” And then skipping down to the end of the verse, he gets very specific, “Not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls or expensive clothes.”
Now you really cannot have a problem understanding what he says. It’s very, very simple and very clear. But I want you to understand the intent of it in full so I want you to look at it in detail. First of all, the phrase “in like manner” takes us back to verse 8, where he said “I will that men - ” behave in this way “ - in like manner, women - ” in this way. “In like manner” introduces a new subject, but a related one. It is a new dimension of the total subject of how men and women conduct themselves in the worship in the assembly of the believers. The word “like manner” transitions within a broad subject matter to another emphasis.
For example, in chapter 3 he begins to talk about the bishop, or elder, or pastor. Then in verse 8 he says, “In like manner the deacon - ” in verse 11, “In like manner the women - ” And there what he’s doing is within the context of those who are officially recognized as servants of the church, he transitions from elders, to deacons, to what we know as deaconesses. So the little word “in like manner,” which is one word in the Greek, is the transition within a large subject to another dimension of that discussion. So, he is moving then from the general attitude of men in worship to the general attitude and demeanor of women.
Now go back to the beginning of verse 8 and you will notice the verb “I will.” This is boulomai. This is the will of intent. This is the will of purpose. This is the will of determination. This is the will of command. This is not thelō, the will of a wish, the will of emotion. This is “I command.” It carries apostolic intent. It carries divine authority. He is commanding that men pray and that women adorn themselves in a proper way.
Now then after stating the intent is to command, we get an idea that this is serious business. And what is it specifically that he is after? “That women, also,” the “also” being there to indicate men are to behave in this way, and also women in this, “They are to adorn themselves.”
Now let me just talk about the word “adorn.” The word “adorn” is kosmeō. We get the word “cosmetic” from it. It has to do with how a woman prepares herself. It means basically “to arrange, to put in order, to make ready.” And he is saying a woman is to make herself ready. I want to start with that very simple thought.
When a woman comes to worship, there is a preparation involved. A woman should prepare herself for worship. She should make herself ready. That is assumed, that is a given. And when they prepare themselves, it should be in adorning apparel. And here is another form of the word kosmeō from the same root, this is an adjective, kosmios and it simply carries the same idea. She is to prepare herself with the proper preparation. She is to adorn herself with the proper adornment. The word kosmios, the adjective form, means “orderly, becomingly, properly, well-ordered, well-arranged.” So a woman, then, is to come to worship properly arranged. That is to say that there is some preparation for worship, obviously.
Now the word that is translated in the King James by the term “apparel” is really a bigger term than that. It means not only clothing, but is used in many places to mean demeanor, or attitude, or action. It can be the deportment of a woman. The idea then is here is a total preparation. When a woman comes to worship, she is to be totally prepared. She is to be adorned from the inside out. And one demonstration of that is in the proper kind of apparel.
Now we said the word kosmeō is to arrange and kosmios speaks of the orderness, orderliness, of that arrangement. The noun that comes from that same root is the word kosmos from which we get the word “world.” It’s translated very often “world.” It really means “order” or “system.” And the opposite of kosmos is chaos. And so we could conclude that a woman is not to come to worship in a chaotic fashion. That is in disorder, disarray, without a proper preparation, with an unbecoming demeanor, or an unbecoming wardrobe.
Now the idea we know here emphasis-wise is clothing, but the underlying idea is attitude, which we’ll get to in a moment, which is godly fear and self-control. But he is talking about clothing because he’s very specific about hair, gold, pearls, and expensive garments.
The point is this. Initially, a woman is to prepare herself for worship. And that preparation involves a heart attitude and it involves a proper adornment on the outside. She is to come not in a disarray in spirit, and not in a disarray in clothing, not in a disarray in any way, but in proper respect for the matter of worship. She is to be dressed in a manner that is well-suited to worship, that is orderly, that fits the God-intended spiritual purpose of the meeting of the church. Her clothing should reflect a worshiping heart focused on God and focused on God’s glory.
Now Paul does not just leave with that general exhortation, but he gets very specific at the end of verse 9. Let’s look at it. He says - just in case you might miss what I’m talking about - “not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes.” Now here the Apostle hits at some very specific styles of extravagance that corrupted the worship of the church at Ephesus and perhaps other churches, as well. It is very straightforward and very practical and it needs our attention and understanding.
Now Paul, let me say this, is not saying that women ought to come to church tacky, or slovenly, or sloppy, or indifferent. He is not saying that. He is not saying that they should not be nicely dressed. He has just finished saying that they ought to come with a right preparation, which assumes that they would be properly dressed, in a way that is becoming both to the grace and beauty of a woman and to the purpose and intent of worshiping God. But as the tendency of men was to perhaps dissent, and quarrel, and maybe carry a grudge, and maybe dirty their hands in the things of life, and come with their sins, the tendency of a woman might be to be preoccupied with her outward adornment so that she would abuse the worship service.
Now let me give you a little idea of what the culture was like and where these things might come from. There was a man by the name of Juvenal who lived about 40 to - about 60 - to 140 A.D. He was a poet and he has written many things that we have found, and so we get a little characterization of that time in the Roman Empire by reading his writing. In one document that has been found, he wrote this. “There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do. Nothing that she deems shameful. And when she encircles her neck with green emeralds and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears, so important is the business of beautification. So numerous are the tiers and stories piled one another on her head that she pays no attention to her own husband.”
Now Juvenal gives us a little insight into women who were preoccupied with their appearance. And certainly we would agree today that our culture is preoccupied with that. Our culture has the cult of worshiping the human anatomy, and worshiping fashion, and worshiping hairdos. I mean, it’s just - it’s our culture. And if the church today falls influence to that system, why should we expect anything different in the early church? It’s always the world system that endeavors to encroach on the church, and tragically the church sooner or later seems to welcome that encroachment.
There were women in the church in that time whose life was frankly centered on their appearance, as there are women today in the church who have that same mentality. They come to church with the intent of making an elaborate display of their clothing and their hairdo.
In Philo’s description of a prostitute, which is quite interesting, in his writing called The Sacrifices of Cain and Abel, he writes this. “A prostitute is often described as having hair dressed in elaborate braids, her eyes with pencil lines, her eyebrows smothered in paint, and her expensive clothes embroidered lavishly with flowers, and bracelets, and necklaces of gold and jewels hanging all over her.”
Now in that particular culture, then, the woman of the world, the woman who wanted to flaunt her wealth, and flaunt her beauty, and call attention to herself and attract everybody’s interest, and sexually allure someone was the woman who was overdressed, over-made up, and over painted in every sense. Now this was the woman of the world. This marked out the prostitute or the garish, gaudy, lavish kind of person. And what the apostle Paul is saying. That cannot come into a worship service without being an overt statement. “Folks, I’m not here to worship God. I’m here to attract your attention.” That’s his intent.
In Rome, for example, Pliny tells of the bride of Caligula, whose name was Lollia Paulina, and it said that very often when attending some very special event, she was arrayed in pearls, emeralds, and gold which exceeded in value one million dollars.
Now in contrast to the woman of the world, who was gaudy and showy, and wanted to be alluring, and attractive, and draw attention to herself; it is interesting to note that if you study the cults of Rome, that is the cultic religious systems, and study the mystery religions of that time, you will find that they had very stringent rules about the dress and the appearance of the women who came into those worship times. The cults were very strong on this.
For example, there is one inscription that has been discovered that reads like this. “A consecrated woman shall not have gold ornaments, nor rouge, nor face whitening, nor a headband, nor braided hair, nor shoes, except they be of felt or the skins of sacrificed animals.”
Now that religious cult was saying that no woman can come in here unless she is properly dressed. That’s still very much a part of the cults and religions of the world. If you were to go, for example, to visit a Muslim mosque anywhere in the world - I’ve been in several of them in the Middle East, particularly the one in Jerusalem - if you try to go into that place as a woman and are not properly dressed, they will not admit you. In fact, they will dress you appropriately to go in. In many cases those cultic operations of religion have a higher standard than the church has through the years.
So, you can see the tension that is existing in the Ephesian congregation that is concerning Paul and Timothy. And that is the fact that here is the church sitting in the middle of the corrupt world, endeavoring to be a testimony of godliness to everyone around it. And if the church catches the disease of the world, then it brings reproach on Christ, and it destroys its own testimony. To have the women in the church who are supposed to be the epitome of godliness appear like prostitutes or gaudy, showy women trying to call attention to themselves, or to have them come with the intent of alluring other men and making them discontent with their own wife, or even worse, to allure them into a sexual relationship, would be to blaspheme the intent of the church, certainly when it comes together to worship the living and holy God.
So, the point in all of this is that the world of that day and the world of this day has always had a preoccupation with the adornment of women. And there are always women who want to put themselves on display. And it’s a very delicate balance and a very fine line for a godly woman to know when she is properly dressed to demonstrate the grace and the beauty of womanhood, to show her love for her own husband and submission to him, and yet to avoid being the center of attraction that causes people’s thoughts to turn away from God to those things which are shameful.
Now you have to understand, also, that in that particular time, there was great poverty among the masses of people. And a wealthy person could put on a demonstration that was really hard to match. Frankly, today I can’t tell a $500.00 dress from a $45.00 one. I’ve got to tell you the truth, ladies. I’m not sure how you tell. Maybe you are. It’s a different time. It’s a different day. But I want you to get a little idea of that day so you can understand what the issue is here.
In that day, people were very poor. In fact, for example, a very costly dress worn by a very wealthy woman would cost up to 7,000 denarii. Now a denarius is one day’s pay for a common laborer. So 7,000 days pay for one of those dresses. And she would come flowing into church in one of these very expensive garments and the whole focus of worship would turn to her, and everything would be lost. And the women would feel second class, and the men would take a look at their wife and look at her - (snap) - why couldn’t I have married a rich one, you know? It just did not contribute to worship.
And then there were those women, frankly, who had their intent set on alluring men. And so they would come dressed in clothing that was not modest, clothing that demonstrated sensuality, passion, lust, desire, that was intended to allure and attract. And thus with those lustful purposes did they betray and desecrate the spirit of worship.
So Paul hits at that very directly and look what he says. First he deals with braided hair. Now this idea of plaiting, the old word is plaiting, P-L-A-I-T-I-N-G. We don’t exactly know specifically what that was. It was some way of weaving the hair. Does this mean it’s a sin to put pigtails on your little girl or braid your hair? No. That’s not the intent. The intent is that it was a sin to overdo and to develop such an elaborate hairdo that it did nothing but call attention to yourself. And what happened was the women would literally take their gold, and silver, and pearls, and jewelry, and these tortoise shell combs, and things like that, and they would stack their fortune on their head. This was the custom.
A braid is one thing, a braid woven with a gold chain, another braid woven with pearls is something else. This was a way of flaunting wealth. And that’s what Paul speaks to, the elaborate braiding of a fortune in jewelry in the hair. Gold, of course, has always been valuable. It was then, and in those days pearls were about three times the value of gold, so a woman could put a fortune on her head. The women also wore gold on their fingers. They wore them on their ears. They wore them on their sandals. They even hung gold on their dresses. And it was out of place.
Now that is not to say that you shouldn’t own gold and pearls. I gave my wife a gold ring when I married her and I bought her some pearls. And I’ve told her she can wear them. I’ve got $60.00 in those things. But I notice she didn’t wear them this morning. She knew what I was going to preach on. There’s nothing in the Scripture to indicate that God wants everybody poor. And I remember so well, and you do, too, don’t you, remember reading in Song of Solomon 1:9-11 how that the bride is decked in beautiful things around her neck? And I’m reminded of the Proverbs 31 woman in verse 22 who had such beautiful clothing in order to honor her husband and appear beautiful in his presence. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that when that becomes the focus of your attention and the intent that you have is to draw attention to yourself by that, and you know that in your environment, and in your culture that’s exactly what it does, you have violated the spirit of worship.
So women are to come not for the purpose of alluring men from their own wives by putting on a display of lust or sexuality, not for the purpose of parading their wealth, not for the purpose of showing off in any of those ways, but women do that, and very often do that to allure men.
After a sermon some time back, I walked out the door there and a woman met me there, a woman who was overly dressed, and not appropriately attired for church, and she held out her hand and handed me something, and I took it, and opened it, and in it was, well, an expensive piece of jewelry and a gold chain and a note soliciting me. Now that’s pretty overt. I don’t know how it could be more overt.
But there are much more subtle solicitations that go on all the time in the church. If you don’t think so, your head is in the sand. Just look how many pastors fall. Just look how much immorality exists in a church. It’s not new, folks. It’s that which he’s dealing with right here, that people should be discontent with their own wife, or their own economic status is not certainly the purpose for which a woman comes to worship. So we might say the curtain comes down on the fashion show in the church in this passage.
Dressing on the part of women with sexual desires, or insubordination to their husbands, or to flaunt their wealth, or to flaunt their beauty, make themselves attractive to someone other than their husband is a desecration of worship. To show you how old this is, John Chrysostom, one of the early church fathers, wrote this. “And what then is modest apparel?” Commenting on this passage. “Such as covers them completely and decently, and not with superfluous ornaments, for the one is decent and the other is not. What? Do you approach God to pray with braided hair and ornaments of gold? Are you come to a ball? To a marriage feast? To a carnival? There such costly things might have been seasonable. Here not one of them is wanted. You are come to pray, to ask pardon for your sins, to plead for your offenses, beseeching the Lord and hoping to render Him propitious to you. Away with such hypocrisy.”
So a Christian woman should attract attention to her character, not her clothing. A Christian woman should show by her dress and her demeanor her love and devotion to her own husband. She should show by her dress and desire that she has no intent to flaunt her wealth, but that she is in appearance and attitude marked out by a humble heart that is obviously committed to worshiping the living God.
And some single women are going to say, “But wait a minute. I’m not married. And I’ve got to attract somebody soon.” I can understand that. But the worship service isn’t the place to do that. That’s not the worship service function. Furthermore, it might just be that the person you want to attract will be most attracted by your godly character. I hope so. You’d hate to get stuck with somebody who was attracted by everything but that. And by the way, I’m going to say a word before this series is over about you men that ought to be attracted to godly character and aren’t showing that you’re being attracted by it. It’s time for a lot of you to get married. But we’ll get into that later. Some of these godly women have made sufficient the point of their godliness, and some of you men need to respond. Now back to the point.
I mean, we’re all aware of 1 Samuel 16, aren't we? First Samuel 16:7 says, “man looks on the outward appearance but God looks - ” where? “ - on the heart.” And that’s what he’s saying here. And if you’re worried about how do I know if it’s right? How do I know if I’m dressed right? Just check your heart. I don’t believe we need to get specific. I don’t think we’re going to have a dress check. I’m not going to stand at the door and say, “You’re okay. You’re not okay. You’re okay. You’re not okay.” I know there’s a black pastor in L.A. told me a lady came to his church door one time and he said to her - this is the way he said it - “Baby, you can’t come in here.” And she said to him, “Why?” He said, “You aren’t dressed right. Now you go home and you get yourself dressed properly.” And he said to me, he said, “She came back a half an hour later and I was up at the front, and she walked through the door, and I stopped and I said, ‘Honey, you look good. Come on in.’ ” And he said, “That’s how we deal with that problem.”
Well, we’re not going to hire somebody to check you out at the door. I really don’t feel that that’s necessary. I think that’s between you and the Holy Spirit. And all you have to do is do a motive check. How’s your spirit? What’s your intent? Why are you dressed the way you’re dressed? What’s your goal? What’s your object? Are you going to do everything you can to draw everyone’s attention to God, or are you trying to draw their attention to you?
Matthew chapter 6, Jesus said, “Why do you take any thought about your apparel?” Right? Why do you give that any thought? “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things shall be added.” God will provide that.
Look at 1 Peter chapter 3, and that’s the parallel passage that’s so important. First Peter chapter 3. He’s talking about husbands and wives and their relationship together. And as he talks about this, he gets to verse 3 and speaks of the adornment of the woman. And he says a woman’s adornment - and here he’s not only talking particularly about the church, but he seems to have even stretched beyond that and is talking about how a godly wife wins over an ungodly husband. “Your adorning,” he says, “let it not be that outward adorning of braiding the hair.” And he refers to that same custom of spending too much time, and too much money, and too much effort on your hair. Let it not be that. “Or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing, but let it be the hidden man of the heart in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is really valuable.” Now he says when you women think about your adornment, don’t think about your hair, and don’t think about your clothes, and don’t think about your jewelry, think about your - what? - your heart. Your heart.
Now I want you to know that this is not forbidding you to wear pearls. It’s not forbidding you to wear gold. I’ll show you why it can’t be doing that. Look at verse 3 again. "Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, or of wearing gold, or putting on apparel.” Now if he means you can’t braid your hair, and you can’t wear gold, he also means you can’t put on clothes. Now we know he doesn’t mean that. What he means is let that not be that which is the preoccupation of your adornment. Put on your clothes, and wear whatever jewelry you choose to wear in discretion, modesty, and humility, and fix your hair in such a way that it is not distracting.
And by the way, the other extreme may be as bad as this one. Coming to church with no preparation will cause attention to be drawn to you, as well. And it’s amazing. The world is coming to a, what looks to me like an anti-beauty fashion. Do you feel that way? I tell you, I have never seen so many ugly hairdos and wardrobes in my life. It’s almost as if women have bought the lie that womanhood is bad and they want to make it as ugly as possible. It’s amazing. Amazing.
The point that I’m making is that the woman’s adornment is to be that she has an adorned heart, she has a beautiful heart, she has a beautiful character. You show me a woman with a beautiful character, you show me a woman with a meek and quiet spirit, you show me a woman who has an incorruptible heart, you show me a woman who comes to worship God, and I’ll show you a woman whose wardrobe you don’t have to worry about because the heart dictates that issue.
So, Paul calls Christian women then, as does Peter, to an adornment that exalts God, especially in the time of worship. Now when you have a wedding, you can dress like a bride. And when you go to some very formal occasion, you may dress properly for that. And there may be a special time for everything. But the worship of the church is a time for humility. It’s a time for meekness. It’s a time for a broken and a contrite spirit. It’s a time for confessing your sin.
Now that comes through in the second point. The first is their appearance. Let’s go back to verse 9 again. The second is their attitude. This is just a brief point. Just two words, “their attitude.” Their attitude in preparation for worship, the attitude of women, is to be godly fear, and the Authorized says “sobriety.” That’s a bad word for us because we think of someone who’s not a drunk. But that isn’t what it means. It is the word “self-control.” On the one hand, godly fear. On the other hand, self-control.
A woman’s adornment starts with the heart. Ladies, it all starts with the heart. Godly fear is a word used only here, the word aidōs, it means modesty mixed with humility. It’s a marvelous word. It has at its heart the sense of shame. That’s right. It has at its heart the sense of shame. The root idea is a sense of shame.
What do you mean by that, I’m ashamed to be a woman? No. I’m ashamed of my clothes? No. I’m ashamed of my husband? No. I’m ashamed of my hair? No. I am ashamed if I, in any way, would ever contribute to someone else’s thought being an evil thought, a lustful thought, a thought of illicit desire, or that I should ever distract anyone from a proper worship of God. It’s that kind of shame.
And a woman with a proper sense of shame will dress in such a way as not to be alluring and not to be the source of temptation. The word carries in it the innate idea of morally rejecting anything dishonorable to God, of shrinking way back from the limits of womanly modesty. One lexicographer, that is one translator of the Greek, suggests that the word implies something as strong as grief over the sense of sin, that a woman would be so grieved and so sensitive to sin, so hating sin that offends God that she would never come close to doing anything that could generate in another person’s mind any sinful attitude.
The Old English word translated originally in the King James was shamefacedness. Shamefacedness. This should be the attitude of every Christian woman. No desire to go beyond what is honorable, no desire to exceed what is pure, what is modest, what is proper before God, no desire to attract men, no desire to flaunt sexuality, but a sense of shame that fits true modesty and faithfulness to one’s own husband. And even as I said earlier, for a single woman that same modesty, that same beauty of godly character should become the most attractive thing there is about you in the proper sense. And when women come together in the fellowship of redeemed saints to worship God, they are here for that purpose and everything they do, as well as everything men do should draw our hearts toward God.
The second word is the word self-control. It could be translated a lot of ways. Some have translated it “good sense,” but that is really too thin a translation. It does nothing with the richness of the term. It really speaks of self-mastery. In fact, it has as sexual nuance to it in extra-biblical literature, and it has the idea of controlling totally your passion and your desire, totally controlling your desires. Plato said it is one of the four cardinal virtues, and when applied to women said it has to do with their sexual desires being totally controlled.
It speaks of the habitual self-control of constant reign over your passion. That’s to mark the women, that they have total control of that area, that they are here for the purpose of worshiping God, exclusively committed to godly fear, a sense of shame that they should ever be a source of temptation for anyone.
Now the point of all this is obvious. The church can be a place where worship happens. Or the church can be a place devoted whole-heartedly to people putting on a show. You see, this is what so deeply bothers me when I see, very often, on television, people who say they represent Christianity, people who claim to be workers and servants of the Lord who betray an absolutely consuming preoccupation with their own appearance. It’s just the antithesis of everything they claim, and certainly should not mark the church.
But there are some self-centered women who are using the occasion of the church meeting together to call attention to themselves, flaunt their beauty, flaunt their wealth, their attractiveness before men because they lack humility, they lack meekness, they lacked modesty and control over their own desires. And it brings great tragedy to the church.
I believe it brought great tragedy to this church. I’ll show you right where. Look at chapter 3. Here as he gives the qualifications for a leader in the church, a pastor, a bishop, an elder, he says this man who oversees the church, the pastor, must be blameless, verse 2, and then the Greek says “a one-woman man.” It has nothing to do with divorce. It has nothing to do with polygamy, as such. What it is saying is this, that a man who leads the church of Jesus Christ must be a one-woman man, that is in his marriage, in his mind, in his heart, he is devoted to one woman. And I believe that that was one of the major problems in that church and that’s why that follows immediately on this section, that there were men in the leadership of that church with bad theology, with ungodly lives, and one manifestation of it was pastors who were not faithful to their own wives. And that’s why that is a first issue. After the overarching idea of blameless, of which all the rest are elements, the first one listed is a one-woman man, because Satan would love to bring alluring women into the church to destroy the leadership. And he does it all the time. And it’s not to say the women are alone at fault, that is not so. But they are who do that at fault.
Look at verse 12. It not only had impacted those who were elders in the church, but even the deacons. And so in introducing this thought to the deacons we find a parallel. “Let the deacons be one-woman men.” And 5:14, “Get those young women married.” You know what is a danger to the church? Beloved, I really believe this with all my heart. The mass of single women we have in today’s society poses a very grave danger to the church, because you have many unmarried women who have strong desire for marriage moving around in the church that creates tremendous problems. And that’s why the word is they need to get married. And that’s why I say to some of you men, it’s hard for them if you won’t ask them. And in verse 15 he says, “some of you have already turned aside to Satan.” Some of the women had gone that far.
Titus chapter 2, when Paul writes to Titus a similar thing, he says, “The aged women - ” the older women, 2:4, are to “ - teach the young women to be sober minded, to love their husbands, love their children, be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” Apparently the same problem was going on in Crete. There were women who were not faithful to their husbands, not loyal to their children, not staying home, not doing what they should, not pure, not chaste. And the woman who comes to the church trying to stir up trouble by making herself attractive violates the Word of God.
Look at 1 Corinthians. I want to show you, this is a very clear illustration of this very problem. 1 Corinthians 5, just briefly, and then one other passage. First Corinthians 5. It is reported commonly. It’s reported. It’s known. It’s around. And not only by one or two sources, but it’s common knowledge. Everybody knows that in the church at Corinth there is porneia, fornication, pornography, sexual sin. “And such fornication as is not even named among the pagans, that one should have his father’s wife,” incest. A form of incest, a son having a sexual affair with his step-mother, most likely. Most likely not his mother, or it would have said that. “His father’s wife” being a way to express the fact that this is his father’s wife and yet not the mother of the son, a later marriage, but nonetheless a form of incest that a man should have his father’s wife. And verse 2 makes it worse. Instead of mourning over it, you’re proud of it. You’re puffed up. Inconceivable, absolutely inconceivable in the church. They are tolerating immorality, incest, and not only are they tolerating it, they’re proud about it, so they talk about it, so they get the reputation of it, and it’s commonly known.
Now how did they justify it? Chapter 6 verse 13. They justified it with this little sort of ancient Greek proverb, “Food for the body and the body for food.” Food for the body and the body for food. What is that to say? It’s biological. Sex is biological. Just biology, what’s the difference? I mean, we’re men, they’re women. We were made for each other. Sex is just a biological act. Don’t worry about it.
He says, “God’s going to destroy both it and them and the body is not for fornication.” And he goes on to talk about how it is for them to join Christ to a harlot, and have they forgotten their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? And verse 18 says, “Run from fornication.” And so forth.
So, the church at Corinth had gotten into sexual evil. There’s little question in my mind that the same kind of alluring stuff was going on in the church there as was going on in Ephesus when Paul penned 1 Timothy. And it brings tragedy to the church. And today it is rampant in the church, rampant. And so women need to understand what God’s principle is. Yes, there’s a place for a woman to look graceful, and lovely, and gracious, and to allow the beauty of the fairer sex that God has bestowed upon them to be appreciated. And yes, there’s no place for a dowdy indifference to any kind of preparation for worship. But there is a limit. And that perfect balance is found by those whose hearts are right.
I want to close by reading you a portion of Isaiah chapter 3, so turn to your Old Testament, 3:16. Uzziah is still on the throne. And under King Uzziah, who reigned for 52 years, there was great prosperity among the people. They had peace from their enemies. They had a strong position in the cold war. They had economic growth. Even their religion flourished on the surface. There was wealth. As a result of it, the women entered into a gross materialism.
And in Isaiah 3:16-24 God pronounces judgment on them and I want you to see why, beginning in verse 16. “Moreover the Lord saith, ‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty - ” that is proud “ - and walk with stretched forth necks and lustful eyes - ” they’re in the business of alluring “ - walking and mincing - ” mincing would be sort of a sexual walk. It’s a short little step, just a short little step like that drawing attention to yourself, and also they would “ - make a tinkling - ” because they had bells on their feet. So here are women. They’re out putting on a show to allure men.
“Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will uncover their secret parts.” That’s symbolic of the judgment of God. “In that day the Lord will take away the audacity of their tinkling anklets, and their headbands, and their crescents like the moon, the pendants, and the bracelets, and the veils, the headdresses, the armlets, and the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets, the rings, and nose rings, the festival robes, the mantles, the cloaks, the handbags, the hand mirrors, the linen wrappers, the turbans, and the veils. And it shall come to pass that instead of sweet fragrance there shall be rottenness; instead of a girdle a rope; instead of well set hair baldness; instead of a robe, a girdle of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.”
Those women who are haughty, those women who are lustful, those women who call attention to themselves for their own evil intent and purpose will be judged. This is the Word of God. All of those things in themselves are not evil. To put a ring on a woman’s finger is not evil. For a woman to wear a sash is not evil. But to overdo it, to adorn for the sake of wantonness or lust, or flaunting wealth is evil, and particularly so among the congregation of the righteous. Showy clothes, elaborate hairdos, gaudy jewelry, sexual desire, hardly express a broken and a contrite heart which the Lord seeks. Let’s bow in prayer.
I want to say something to you as we close. I have preached the Word of God as the Word of God, but in my heart I have realized that I have preached it by way of reminder. And I must say to you that I thank God for the grace, and the sensitivity, and the godliness of the women of this church. In no way do I intend in the message to speak evil against the women of this church.
It’s been my joy through these years to note by the grace of God that this church has never been hit with any great moral scandal. I praise God for godly women. This church has never been a place where fashion dominated, and where people were preoccupied with their appearance, and I bless God for that. And I commend the godly women of this congregation for their virtue, their modesty, their sensitivity, their grace, and their beauty, and for that meek and quiet spirit which is the true ornament of the heart. I thank God for that.
But while I am thankful, I am also watchful, as all of us must be, lest when we think we stand we fall. And so we have much to thank God for and I thank you for demonstrating your love of God and commitment to worshiping Him, and I remind us all of the need to continue to pursue such a holy perspective.
Father, I do thank You for these people in this congregation. I thank You for men with pure hearts and holy hands, for women marked by godly fear and self-control, whose lives are a testimony to Christ and not a reproach. And I ask, Lord, that You would make all of us ever sensitive to that perfect balance between being what You have designed us to be in beauty and in grace, and yet not overstepping the limits of modesty.
I pray that You’ll help every woman in this congregation to know that place and that You’ll develop in every heart the meek and quiet spirit, which is the true beauty of a woman. And in every man, the holy life and pure heart that is true manhood. And these things I ask because I know they’re consistent with the will of Jesus Christ, amen.
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