Title & Purpose

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.

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and why we reject the many perversions of the Scriptures, including those so beloved of many neo-evangelicals at present such as ESV & NKJV.

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Biblical doctrine of Separation Part 3

The substance of five sermons preached in Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church on the distinctive of being a sanctified, separated Church. 
An audio recording can be listened to on the Church's Sermonaudio site.

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - The Christian is to be separate in their Affections

Part 3
The Christian is to be separate in their Appearance
In Numbers 6:5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow, the Nazarite was never to shave their head along as they had taken this Nazarite vow. This requirement will illustrate the wider principle of separation as applied to our appearance.

The Christian's appearance must not be that which is associated with a sinful or a worldly style of living. In the Scriptures we read of styles of dress and appearance that are particularly associated with different things:
[1] There is a style of dress and appearance that is associated with sorrow and mourning. We read of people wearing sackcloth and ashes.
[2] There is the dress of the widow. Tamar put her widow’s garments off from her, Genesis 38:14.
[3] There is the dress of the harlot, Proverbs 7:10 And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.
[4] You have the appearance of Jezebel where she painted her face or her eyes as the margin says, 2 Kings 9:30 And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.

The Scriptures that we are to flee all appearance of evil. This will apply to the manner of our appearance. 1 Peter 3:3,4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 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. That which is to interest the Christian more is not the vanity of the outward appearance but godliness in the heart. It is not outward paint and powder, it is inward grace and holiness.

The desire of a Christian should never be to draw attention to themselves by what they wear or how little they wear. Rather it should always be to have people pointed towards Christ, who they see in us.

We live in a day when this is the spirit of the age. It is a case of people dressing to draw attention to themselves, with short hemlines and low necklines. This is not how a Christian is to live. Neither are we to draw attention to themselves for being dowdy, or frumpy.

Rather we are to adorn the gospel by our appearance and show to the world that we have put on Christ. The Christian by their life is to draw attention to the spiritual and not the physical. This is what is of primary important to a born again believer.

Our appearance must therefore be modest1 Timothy 2:9,10 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. Our appearance must be that which becometh the profession that we make of the Gospel.

[1] Clothes have been given for a purpose. They are to cover the shame of sin. The waring of clothes is an acknowledgment of the reality of the Fall. Nudity/Naturism is a denial of the Fall. cf. Deuteronomy 22:12 …thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself. We are to cover the body with clothes.

[2] The word ‘modest’, 1 Timothy 2:9, means well arranged, seemly or orderly. It comes from a form which is used to describe God’s arrangement of the physical world and His governance over that world. Our clothes are to govern the body and not the body govern the clothes. This exhortation to modesty will deal with the fit of our clothes. Extremely tight fitting clothes can never be described as being modest, seemly or well ordered when they draw someone's attention to the physical and not the spiritual.

Furthermore, it refers to dressing, or behaving in such a way, so as to avoid impropriety or indecency, especially to avoid attracting sexual attention. If someone dresses, or acts in such a way, as to arouse or stir those sinful lusts within someone they are not dressing modestly. For this reason 'immodest dress' is listed as one of the things forbidden in the seventh commandment in the Larger Catechism no 139:
The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

[3]. The word ‘apparel’, 1 Timothy 2:9 literally means ‘a garment let down’. It has the thought of covering the body. We are back to the purpose of clothes, they are to cover the body. The rule for the child of God will not be, as with the world, where it is the least amount of covering that is desired at times. This is against God’s Word. The Christian will at all times adequately appropriately dress so that the parts of the body that give rise to sexual lusts are covered. A form of this word is also used elsewhere in the New Testament to denote someone whose passions are stirred, cf. Acts 19:35,36.

Styles and fashions change from generation to generation but it must be noted that the Bible principles of modesty don't. The Scriptures do define what nakedness in dress is: Isaiah 47:1-3. It is the uncovering of the thigh, either when walking, sitting or bending over to pick something up.

Our appearance must reflect God’s order in creation. At the beginning God made us male and female. There is a difference in the composition of men and women. Males and females are created differently. This principle of separation is applicable in the difference that there is to be in dress and appearance.

[1]. The Word of God teaches a distinction between male and females in a number of ways. There is to be a difference in respective temperaments; in positions and responsibilities in family life; in the nature of our service for Christ. Males and females are not the same, they are designed to complement one another. Eve was given as a helpmeet to Adam. This is another reason why same-sex relationships are morally wrong, repugnant and an abomination to God. The Bible requirement is one man and one woman in marriage until death do them part.

Society itself recognises this when the media speak of the 'ladette' culture - particularly referring to young women who behave in a boisterously assertive or crude manner and given to engaging in heavy drinking.

We live in a day when women show the traits of male character and where men show the traits of female character. There are characteristics associated with being female. We may speak about being ladylike, gentle, graceful and rightly so for the Bible does likewise, for example: Jeremiah 6:2 I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman; Isaiah 47:1 Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. The word 'delicate' has the idea of elegant.

For some unknown reason the world today wants to minimise and lessen these female characteristics as if they are something to be ashamed of. The Christian woman should never seek to minimise these for they are given by God and enhance female beauty.

We have the blight on society of effeminate men. Those who are unmanly, 1 Corinthians 6:9 effeminate; same word as 'soft' in Luke 7:25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. Two points are highlighted about effeminate men:
1. an over emphasis on dress and
2. sensual behaviour.
The word 'delicately' that appears in Luke 7:25 is the word used of women's characteristics.

[2]. A distinction in hair length between men and women, 1 Corinthians 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But for a woman to have long hair it is a glory unto her v15. This distinction in hair length is to maintain God’s order.

[3]. A distinction in the clothes that men and women wear. Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

The word ‘garment’ signifies ‘an outer garment’, the one most visible to the eye. That suggests there is to be an obvious, immediate distinction in appearance between males and females. It is not little style differences that are hardly noticed. The difference is to be in the outer garment.

Men and women are to dress in such a way that maintains the distinction between the two sexes and avoids the confusion that leads to perversion.

The Scriptures highlight two points about dress/appearance:
[1] Our appearance should be modest and not fail to cover the parts of the body God says should be covered. It should not draw attention to the physical shape of the body and incite lust in someone else.

[2] It should be immediately obvious whether the person before you is a male or a female. If this is not immediately obvious by length of hair or by the distinction in clothes then you are forced to look at the shape of their body to make that distinction and when you are forced to do that then you are on the road to putting yourself in the way of temptation.

Remember Christians are duty bound by God not to do anything which offends another believer or causes them to stumbleRom 14:19-21 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 

It is particularly important to note v21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. We are not just to live unto ourselves, we are to live with regard to our fellow believers and not cause them offense by anything that we do.

If that rule was applied in dress then it would alone solve a lot of the immodesty that abounds in Christian circles.

An excellent article on this subject can be read and listened to on Sermonaudio. I would recommend it to all who are interested in this subject from a Biblical point of view.
The preacher is the Rev David Silversides, minister in Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian ChurchAudio file          PDF text file


Michael said...

Rev McClung,

On Biblical separation.

It's difficult to know when to cut ourselves off from other brethren that are potentially saved by the blood of the lamb, but are misguided on certain things.

I've been to churches (one in particular) where they love the Lord and accept the doctrines of grace and other great doctrines, but they would be standing in starbucks after the sunday service. In America it's common to go for dinner in a restaurant after service.

Speaking in tongues, dancing during worship, trading on the Lord's day, having women mininisters/elders, being relaxed about drinking (and even smoking), seeing head-covering as cultural, using modern translations, etc

Where do you draw the line between what's essential to be called church and what isn't?

Rev Brian McClung said...


It is always very important to make a distinction between what is necessary for salvation and what is obedience to God's Word for the way that a believer lives in this world. From what you have written I think you understand that.

With regards to the other issues that you highlight it is also important to distinguish between fundamentals and non-fundamentals. For example, the Free Presbyterian Church both in Ulster and North America hold an open position on the mode and subjects of baptism and issues around the Lord's return such as the existence and nature of the millennium.

We agree to differ on these points and there are ministers and members in our denomination who hold different viewpoints on these subjects. This has been the case for 60 years and it has seldom become a divisive issue. We don't believe that these are issues that believers should be using as reasons for separation.

There are however other issues that we believe the Scriptures assert to be fundamental. We believe that the Word of God has much to say about each of these other issues that you mention. This has been the historic position of Biblical Christianity. If churches want to move way from the old paths then it is they who are bringing about the separation.

There cannot be a divided mind about what the Scriptures clearly teach on issues deemed to be fundamental. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

The issues that you highlight are really departures from historic, orthodox, Biblical Christianity that have come into Reformed churches over the last century or so. Many of them involve departures from previously held positions in doctrinal creeds etc. I don't believe it to be right that positions deemed to be important to our forefathers are abandoned by the present generation in a day of coldness and backsliding.

I trust this answers your query.

Brian McClung