We live in a time and age when it has become an oddity to talk about dressing even in conservative churches. Raise a voice about this issue and you will quickly hear the charge of “legalism”. Thus, many a church have abandoned any form of biblical standard with regards to how Christians should respond to fashion. This has resulted in professing Christians becoming brazen in their dressing not just in their daily life but also in the church.  

Of course, it is wrong for any church or Christians to draw pride from their self-imposed dress standards as though it is any “badge of honour” to impress others of their “holiness”. We must not be pharisaic fashion police, regarding the strict observation of external forms of religion without any regard of the spirit. That will be nothing but pride and arrogancy. Our obedience must be rooted in a genuine love for God and His Word. 

Nevertheless, there must be some form of biblical principle and standard of dressing in the church. Cloud rightly laments concerning this lack of standards: 

Those who are crying “legalism” today are hypocritical in this matter. They decry the old-time preacher for the lines he draws, but they, too, draw lines for clothing. Will they allow a woman to teach a Sunday School class in a bikini? No, and there are other types of attire they do not allow. They draw lines; they have some sort of standards. And if it is right to draw a line in clothing, it is wise to draw the line after the Bible’s principles rather than the world’s. 

The following are two Bible passages that explicitly teach principles about how Christians (and especially ladies) should dress: 

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” (1 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 coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 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 is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Pet. 3:1-4) 

Let us focus on certain key terms in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. First, we have the words “adorn” and “modest apparel”. These two words come from the root word kosmeō (κοσμεω) which describes how things should be “in order”. When applied to dressing, it speaks of how one must dress to fit the original purpose of clothing. In Genesis 3:21, God provided a coat of skins in order to cover the shame of Adam and Eve from their sin. Thus, clothing should seek to cover shame and not to expose. 

Secondly, we have the term “shamefacedness” (aidous, αιδους). This term tells us that we must dress in a way that commands respect and promote holiness. There must be a sense of shame in our dressing. 

Thirdly, the term “sobriety” (sōphrosunēs, σωφροσυνης) tell us how there is a conscious effort of choice. In other words, the Christian must be one who voluntarily submits himself to God’s Word because he loves Christ. This includes the scriptural standards for dressing. Peter teaches us the same principle that the adorning of the Christian must be that of a “meek and quiet spirit”. Instead of focusing on dressing like the world, the Christian will take good care to be the very model of true godliness which springs forth from the heart.  

Alas, what we see in the church today runs contrary to the principles taught in the passages above. We have skirts which go higher and higher from the knee (something which is still not permitted in our public schools). Then, we have necklines which plunge lower and lower revealing the cleavage. There is simply no sense of shame and sobriety. When this shameless spirit slips into the public ministry of the church such as the Sunday School, the choir, and members who stand before the congregation in the worship service, you know that there is a serious issue at hand. 

Let us be very careful with how we dress, especially in public ministry. Clothing conveys a message, and this message gets louder when one serves in the public ministry. When the dressing and fashion reflects the world in public ministry, will not the younger generation learn to do the same? Therefore, be conscious of what we wear and how we dress. Do not dress like a harlot (Prov. 7:10). Watch our hair (and hair colour). Watch the clothes that we wear. Choose that which bring across the message of sobriety and modesty. And let us do so because we love our Lord. 

May the Lord help us to dress properly in our walk before him.


The following was shared by Elder John Leong in the Adult Bible Study WhatsApp. It is hereby reproduced for everybody’s remembrance, reflection and learning. 

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”   

The Annotated Luther, Volume 4: Pastoral Writings, page 404. 

Yours affectionately
Pastor Clement Chew