What Shall I Wear?

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: In the extreme temperatures and near-vacuum of interplanetary space, astronauts need special clothing in order to survive. Their spacesuits supply them with oxygen, keep their bodies at controlled temperatures, remove moisture from the air around them, and monitor their blood pressure and heart rhythm.

When Neil Armstrong went on the Apollo 11 mission that sealed his place in history as the first man to land on the moon, his suit was specially designed to provide a life-sustaining environment during periods of extra vehicular activity or unpressurized spacecraft operation. The custom-fitted spacesuit permitted maximum mobility and was designed to be worn with relative comfort for up to 115 hours outside the spacecraft or for 14 days in an unpressurized mode.

Astronauts must put an enormous amount of trust in their spacesuits. One said it was eerie to realize that while outside the space capsule, there was just one-quarter of an inch between him and eternity. Now that’s important clothing!


Man is different from every other creature in regard to clothing. All of the other creatures in God’s kingdom were “born with their clothes on,” so to speak. The covering they need grows from the inside out, and some animals even shed their old clothes periodically and develop new ones. Man is the only creature whose clothes must come from the outside.

The Bible tells us that artificial clothing was first introduced after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:7 says that “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

The Hebrew word for “aprons” is the equivalent of “belts.” In an attempt to cover their nakedness, using their own resourcefulness, they sewed themselves belts of fig leaves. Until that time Adam and Eve had never witnessed death, so they probably thought the leaves would work just fine as a permanent cover-up for their shame. However, when the fig leaves began to shrivel, Adam and Eve discovered that their homespun remedy wasn’t going to work.

God had to tell the wayward couple that their skimpy fig belts were not appropriate. He also explained that the sacrifice of another creature would be required in order for them to be properly clothed.

The Bible says, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, NKJV). The phrase “tunics of skin” used there literally means “robes of skin.” Man had fashioned miniskirts, but God made robes instead.

Why Do We Wear Clothes?
This brings us to the first reason we wear clothes: for modesty. The principle reason why God distributed clothing was to cover Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness. Consequently, when those of us who are Christians come to worship the Lord, we need to be sure that everything we wear is high enough, low enough, and loose enough to cover our bodies because we are in the presence of a holy God. In Isaiah 6:2-3 we find that even the angels around the throne of God, who minister in His presence, veil their faces and their feet and cry, “Holy, holy, holy.”

In addition to modesty, another reason we wear clothing is to protect us from harsh temperatures and climates. In certain parts of the world clothing must keep us warm, while in other parts it must keep us cool and protect us from too much sun or wind.

There’s a very touching story in the last letter Paul wrote before he was executed. Paul was in prison, and he knew that his remaining days were few. He said: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight,

I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7).

At the end of the letter, Paul included several special requests directed to his dear friend Timothy. He said, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments” (verse 13, NKJV).

Back then, prisons didn’t have air conditioning or heat, and the only luxuries a prisoner might enjoy had to be supplied by his friends or family. Paul was getting old, and he was cold. I can empathize with the aged apostle when he says, Please bring my cloak that I left (verse 13), and come quickly (verse 9)—before winter (verse 21). For me it’s easier to endure heat than cold, so I’m thankful that God gave us clothing to protect us from the elements.

Another reason we wear clothing is to show respect. What we wear says something about what we are doing, where we are going, and whom we are planning to see.

Different clothing is appropriate for different occasions. For instance, you wouldn’t wear the same outfit to go out picnicking with your family as you would to go to work at Taco Bell or Burger King. Likewise, when you come to worship before the Lord, you would not wear the same clothes that you’d wear if going to the beach.

This is something that I believe is very important. Those of us on the church staff at Sacramento Central usually do a lot of cleaning and yard work at the church on Fridays to get ready for Sabbath, so we don’t wear our suits. Friday is our casual day.

Not too long ago I went to the church on a Friday wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, tennis shoes, and a baseball cap. There was so much to do that I didn’t have time to go home and change before the prophecy Bible study that evening. Fortunately my associate, Pastor Art Branner, was teaching. However, I had to help him set up the projector and the computer beforehand. About the time that I finished, people were starting to arrive for the study and I was embarrassed because I had a day and a half’s worth of beard—which on me doesn’t look very good. So I snuck out around the side of the building and went into the youth room to listen. I just did not feel right about being in a sacred place for a formal gathering while looking like that.

Some of you might say, “It doesn’t matter what we wear to church, because God looks on your heart.”

Wrong. For me, it does matter because I know better and I think it would be a bad witness if I came into the house of the Lord looking grubby when we’re studying God’s Word. Out of respect for God, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

Sometimes people come to church looking like they’re going to the beach or on some other casual outing. Now if those are the best clothes they own, then God will certainly bless and they should come anyway. But if they have better clothes hanging in their closet, they need to choose those to wear to church.

Let’s face it. Most people, if invited to the governor’s house for dinner, wouldn’t wear blue jeans or beach clothes. How sad to show more respect for a politician, a mere earthly ruler, than for the King of the universe! If we give our best to sinful mortals and show more regard for men than we do for our Creator and Redeemer, then we have misplaced our priorities. When we come before the Lord, we should wear our best—whatever it happens to be.

Another reason we wear clothing is identification. For example, it is important at times to be able to recognize a police officer. When he is undercover and working without a uniform, you can’t spot him in a crowd. If you were in trouble, you would have to rely on him noticing you because you wouldn’t know that help was nearby.

During the Gulf War, it was important for the U.S. soldiers to wear uniforms identifying them as Americans so that they wouldn’t accidentally be killed from friendly fire.

My parents sent me to military school when I was 5 years old, and we had three different kinds of uniforms there. One was for class, one was for parades, and another was for dirty work. I actually liked it because I never had to wonder what to wear. They told us every single day.

Many schools are currently debating whether or not it is best to require students to wear uniforms. I feel that uniforms are better. I went to 14 different schools when I was a kid—public schools, private schools, and Catholic schools. Some had uniforms, and some did not. I found that the students at schools where uniforms were required typically were not as preoccupied with who was better than whom. They could focus more on relationships and schoolwork than on making a fashion statement of who was rich and who was poor.

Clothing was used as identification in Bible times, as well. For example, Jacob gave Joseph a multicolored robe (Genesis 37:3), which was an ancient symbol for royalty that was given only to very special children. King David’s daughters also wore coats of many colors (2 Samuel 13:18). In another story, the crafty Gibeonites tricked the Israelites into believing they were ambassadors from a distant country by wearing old tattered clothes, patched sandals, and by carrying moldy bread and worn-out canteens (Joshua 9:3-16). In the New Testament, we find that John the Baptist stood out in the crowd because he wore simple, modest clothing in a day when the political and religious leaders loved to wear ornaments and long, flowing robes. Mark 1:6 says that he wore a robe of camel hair and a belt of skin around his waist. It’s no wonder that the Jews who saw John were reminded of the prophet Elijah, who also wore a garment of hair and was girded with a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8).

Last but not least, two women are mentioned in Revelation chapters 12 and 17. One woman represents God’s church, while the other represents an apostate, or fallen, church. These women never speak. Not once in the Bible do they open their mouths to utter a word. Yet we can identify who they are because the Bible tells us what they are wearing (Revelation 12:1; 17:4-5) and what they are doing (Revelation 12:2, 5-6; 17:1-3, 6).

The fact that clothing is used as identification leads us to a very important point. It is said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but most people do. If a publisher wants a book to sell well, then it better have a good cover. Even though it may not be fair, that’s the way it works. Likewise, people should not necessarily judge others by the clothes they are wearing, but they do. So as a Christian, you don’t want to wear anything that might give someone the wrong impression of whose servant you are.

So What Shall We Wear?
The Bible mentions several things we should remember to wear. One thing that everybody should put on is a smile. Now you’re probably thinking, “That’s really cute, but it’s not biblical.”

Actually, it is biblical. Job 9:27 (NKJV) says, “I will put off my sad face and wear a smile.” So the first thing we want to put on is a cheerful countenance. Many of us could do a lot more to advertise for Jesus simply by being happier. Too many Christians go around looking like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice, then they wonder why their friends and family aren’t interested in hearing their testimony. I believe that many more individuals would want to be Christians if we would look more positive and happy about our relationship with Jesus.

In addition to a smile, we need to put on the armor of God. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” God supplies it for us, but you and I must make time to put it on each day.

Have you heard Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale entitled The Emperor’s New Clothes? In this story, two scoundrels take advantage of their vain emperor by claiming that they have invented a method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible to all who are too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality. They supposedly present the emperor with a garment made of this cloth, which of course he can’t see. Not wanting to look ignorant, however, he pretends to admire its fine workmanship and beautiful colors. The scoundrels encourage the emperor to take a ride through the city to show off his beautiful new “garment.” He does so, and the people praise and compliment him because they don’t want to look like fools either. A little boy finally points out the obvious: the emperor is naked!

When we talk about the armor of God, we are not simply describing imaginary clothes. The Bible says that we are to wear the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, and the gospel shoes (Ephesians 6:14-17). These are real, tangible things that we must put on each day. We do this, for example, by putting the Word of God in our hearts and our minds and by taking it wherever we go. These various implements really do work. They are exactly what Jesus used to combat the devil in the wilderness of temptation (Luke 4:1-13), and they are available for us everyday.

If we’re going to be effective in saving others, we need to be properly clad. Romans 13:12 tells us: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” Jesus said that people ought to look at us and see that we’ve got a light. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

I like the story in the Old Testament where Jonathan—Saul’s son, the crown prince—took off his armor, robe, sword, and belt and gave them to David (1 Samuel 18:4). Many of you know that Karen and I named our youngest son Nathan, which means “gift.” Jonathan means “Jehovah’s gift.” Isn’t it interesting that Jehovah’s gift gave David his armor, his robe, his sword, and his spear? Jesus gives us these same things, too. He provides His armor for us.

Do Our Clothes Matter?
In Matthew chapter 22 we find a parable Jesus told about the king who planned a wedding feast and invited all of his servants to come.

At most low-budget weddings today, the bridesmaids buy their own dresses and the groomsmen rent their own tuxedoes. However, at some of the more lavish weddings, the couple’s sponsors will buy all of the dresses and pay for the tuxedoes. When the king has a wedding for his son, you can be sure that he will supply the necessary garments. That was automatically understood in this parable, especially when you consider that the king had to go out in the highways and the byways and the hedges to get people to come to the wedding banquet. Those poor people certainly didn’t have appropriate wedding garments. The king provided the clothing at his own expense.

Incredibly, however, the Bible tells us that someone showed up without the wedding garment. When asked how he could have been so careless, the man was speechless (verse 12). He had no excuse. The king had purchased a garment for him; he simply didn’t take the time or energy to don the garment that had been provided. Consequently, the king said to his servants: “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 13).

This parable is especially relevant for us today, because it’s important to be wearing the right type of clothing when Jesus comes. Scripture tells us that the Lord is coming soon for His special bride. “As Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

You might be thinking, “How do I get garments that are without spot or without wrinkle?” In Revelation 3:18 Jesus says, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” Our pure white garments come from Jesus. He does not charge a high price for them; salvation is a free gift (Romans 6:23). The Lord wants nothing but the gold of our faith and the silver of our love. That is the currency we use to secure this fine new clothing.

The next question you might have is “Once I get the spotless white garment, how do I keep it clean?”

Revelation 7:14 gives us the answer. Our garments are washed in the blood of the Lamb. When you come to Jesus, He gives you a spotless white robe. This is justification, which means that you come to the Lord just as you are and He covers you with His perfect robe of righteousness. What follows is sanctification, a process in which you learn how to keep that robe clean and during which your very nature is cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. His blood is readily available, but it is infinitely precious so we don’t want to carelessly soil the pure robes He gives us.

Take Action!
Many of us have had easy access to a washer and dryer our entire lives, but others have not. One thing I’ve discovered is that when you have a washer and dryer right at hand, you’re not as particular about keeping your clothes clean. One time when the washer and dryer broke at our cabin in the hills, I found myself wearing the same thing for several days because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of washing them by hand. I also began to be a little more careful to keep my clothes clean since I knew that we didn’t have a washer and dryer available.

I believe the Lord is now trying to teach us how to keep the spotless clothes He gives us forever clean. Many of us are waiting for some sort of special prescription to be handed out in the future that will teach us how to live victorious lives, but it has actually already been given to us.

Today the grace of Jesus is constantly available to wash our sins away when we ask Him. We too often forget, however, that it won’t always be that way. A day is coming when Christ will proclaim that the “laundromat” is closed. “He which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still” (Revelation 22:11).

Perhaps, like me, you’re filled with amazement at God’s generosity and can’t comprehend how a life that has been so scarred and filthy can be suddenly washed and clothed in pure white. Remember that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Notice how the Bible says, “Put on the armor” and “Buy from me white garments” and “Put on Christ.” God is inviting us to take action—to wear these things He has provided. In so doing, we will be putting on the characteristics of Christ that will serve as a powerful witness to others of the love and graciousness of God.


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