In Reference to Modest Dress, Are We Binding The Old Testament?

By Kurt Jones

There are occasions when in the study of morality and in particular the issue of modest dress, that we will consider definitions and examples in the Old Testament to further clarify our understanding of what God requires. When this is done, there sometimes is an element of backlash and an accusation that we are “binding the Old Testament.” In fact on one occasion a well known gospel preacher made the statement on the issue as he discussed modest dress in a sermon that he was “not one of these popes who takes it upon himself to bind the Old Testament on people in the matter.” While this sentiment seems a bit harsh and over stated, the basic premise should be considered as we “prove all things, [and] hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Are we binding the Old Testament when we define such terms as “nakedness” from its pages? Let us consider the scriptures on the subject.

As we begin the study we must note that it is true that we are not bound to keep the Law of Moses. Paul clearly noted that the “handwriting of requirements—Moses’ Law—has been “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). It is clearly understood that children of God are not subject to this law. The Hebrew writer shows that Christ through his death brought about a new covenant. James would refer to it as the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). Thus, we should understand that we must not bind laws upon people that God did not bind upon them. This includes the precepts of Moses’ law.

That point being stated, we also note that Paul deemed the Old Testament a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Paul notes in this passage that we are not subject to the Law of Moses in the sense that we must keep its precepts and regulations. However the fact that the Holy Spirit designated it a “schoolmaster” notes that it does have a purpose in teaching us something. Paul would also note as he addressed the church of Christ at Rome For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4). Thus, clearly the apostle notes that there are at least some things that we can learn from the Old Testament. It is upon this basis that we can grow in understanding of the nature of God, the nature of man, and of what God expects of man in regard to divine law. That we grow in this understanding does not imply that we are binding the old law.

There are a number of things that we learn from the old law that help us to be faithful to God in this day and age. For instance, God’s law provides the definition of marriage. In Genesis 2:24 we note that in marriage a man and a woman become “one flesh.” Jesus would support this principal in Matthew 19 in answering a question regarding divorce. Christ when defining marriage, looked back prior to Moses’ law and gave the original definition based upon God’s intent. We still use this same standard today to understand who may marry, and what marriage is.

In the same context of Genesis 2 we find that God describes the nature of nakedness. In Genesis 2:25 we learn that man and woman were naked but were “not ashamed” As man was innocent before God, he had no shame in nakedness. Yet when he sinned in the next chapter, his attitude toward nakedness changed. It changed insomuch that man in his shame, sought to cover himself with fig leaves and then to hide from God. (Genesis 3:7‑10). The Lord was not satisfied with their attempt to cover in this manner, so He provided them “coats of skin” in order to clothe them and cover their nakedness (vs. 21). From the time of this fall and throughout the scriptures, the concept of improper nakedness is always associated with shame (cf. Genesis 9:22; Exodus 20:26; Lamentations 1:8; Ezekiel 16:36‑37; Isaiah 20:2‑4; Revelation 3:18 etc.). Much like the definition of marriage that we gain from consulting the Old Testament, we can learn regarding the biblical concept of nakedness.

In addition to basic definitions we also note that in relation to modesty, the apostle Peter in the New Testament, appeals to women to look to Sara as an example. Peter writes:

Do not let your adorning be externalthe braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wearbut let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in Gods sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:5).

Peter notes that godly women, when they adorn themselves ought to look to the Old Testament example of Sara, and dress to bring reverence to their husbands. This clearly shows the concept of gaining understanding regarding modest dress from Old Testament example.

Inasmuch as God has commanded that Christians adorn themselves in modest apparel ( 1 Timothy2:9‑11; 1 Peter 3:2‑6), it would be ludicrous to think He provided no standard for understanding what “modesty” is. All Christians should consider the nature of biblical teaching. While it is true that we are not subject to the Old Testament as law to govern our lives today, there is much that we can learn from its pages. It indeed was “written for our learning” (Romans 15:4). When we look to the Old Testament to help us to better understand God’s definitions and the requirements he has given us in this covenant, we are not “binding the Old Law” but rather we are “rightly dividing the word of truth” ( 2 Timothy 2:15). Http://

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