Adorning with Good Works

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

As stated last week, we move into some verses that can be controversial in our culture, in our day. I don’t want to make them that. If they are as they stand on their own that is fine, but it is not my aim to make any part of the Scripture any more or less inflammatory than it already may be, that is as it relates to the ever changing tides of the culture. I will also not work hard to soften the message or to make it more palatable to everyone. That doesn’t mean I will have some kind of in your face attitude about it, that is not me, that is not my way. This passage talks about how a godly woman is to present herself, or you could say how a woman can present herself in a way that is pleasing to her Lord.

This passage on modesty and dress is not a passage primarily focused on keeping others from sin, or loving a weaker brother, or how to please your husband, father, mother, or friend. It is primarily about how to live, in the presentation of yourself, ladies, in a way which is pleasing to God. I think that is an important first point. I say this because way too often the discussion on women and modesty swings rapidly to men and how men do or might respond to a woman and how she dresses. This seems to leave women, at times, in this awkward place of somehow being responsible for other people’s sin. Can how women dress cause temptation for a man? Sure. Can a woman’s choice of dress make a man sin? No. Men are responsible for what goes on in their heads, no matter what people around them are doing. I mean that very emphatically. Men, don’t blame it on others if you struggle with lust. That is my point. Now, can women love their neighbors and dress appropriately? Yes. But again, I don’t think that should be a first motive. Loving God, loving Christ is first, a first place motive for obedience, it should always be, and wanting, desiring to please Him is why we should obey the way we obey. So all that we talk about this morning is first of all between a woman and her God, her Lord, before it is about anyone else.

Having said that, none of us live in a vacuum. What we do, the choices we make do affect other people. And we are called to be concerned for one another. We are called to look out for each other, so let’s not overlook that great principle by being consumed simply with our own desires and needs.

Now remember that Paul’s great emphasis here is church life, how members conduct themselves in worship. That is the emphasis in this passage. This does not mean there is no overlap into other areas or occasions outside of church worship. There will be overlap. But I want us to be clear in this passage where the emphasis is.

What we are going to find in verses 9 and 10 is an emphasis on the inner woman, the heart of a woman, and how a godly heart reflects her outward visible self, or her adornment. That God is most concerned with the inward man and woman is nothing new, but our inwardness, our inward self does impact our outward, more visible self.

Paul says this: “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel.” The “likewise” is a transition from addressing men to addressing women. The women are being instructed to adorn themselves in a way that is fitting to worship of the Lord.

“Adorn” is from a word that basically means to arrange or to put in order. We actually get our English word “cosmetic” from this Greek word. And so this could be said that women are to arrange themselves or put themselves in order with respectable apparel. And so there is a type of adorning of oneself that would be fitting for a godly woman. Their apparel should be respectable or proper. There is then clothing that will be proper or respectable for women to wear who profess godliness.

Now already, we can see that there is not a lot of very specific instruction here. There is a great deal that has to be worked out with wisdom and discernment regarding dress, regarding outward adornment. So far, many of you have ideas swirling in your minds of what is proper adornment, dress that is respectable for a woman professing godliness. And all of these ideas may not line up with each other. So Paul takes us a little bit further. He adds, “with modesty and self-control,”

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9a)

The word modesty here carries with it the idea of shame or disgrace. It means that a woman should not dress in such a way as to dishonor her Lord. I think the overriding idea here is that of not dressing in a way that draws, or tries to draw, great attention to self through provocative clothing, and that might in essence draw attention away from the Lord, especially in this context of worship. Modesty is a type of humility. It is a willingness to not draw attention away from God by making much of oneself.

Just, again, think of the worship service setting. We are to be here to worship our Lord. Now, unfortunately, we do not all come exactly for that. We may be here to see friends, to have social life, to relieve guilt, to try to cozy up to God, we may be here for many reasons. Some may even be here to try and gain the attention of others, to show off new clothing, to impress. That is in essence competing with God. Isn’t it? We are to be here to worship God, that is to give our attention to Him, to value His worth, to make much of Him, and yet we can be a distraction to that by saying, “Look at me.” This is where the humility in dress comes in. Ladies, you can then, and really any of us can, in a variety of ways, be distracting others from God.

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! (Matthew 18:1-7)

The point is, it is a terrible thing, a grievous thing to God to in any way lead someone into sin. And leading someone away from the worship of God in the worship service would be leading another into sin. You cannot make anyone sin, I get that, but let’s be sure we are not leading anyone toward sin. And in this passage from 1 Timothy, this relates specifically to women and how you choose to dress. Dressing modestly, without shame in humility, is pleasing to our Lord.

He also adds, “with…self-control.” This is from a rare Greek word and means “habitual inner self government.” It is self-restraint. It is having command over passions and desires. Relating this to dress, it is being willing to dress to please God rather than to give into a temptation to please self that may be contrary to what God wants. 

The question needs to be considered, “Why do I dress the way I do?” What am I trying to communicate to those around me? How do I want others to think of me? Does my dress somehow reflect my love for God and my understanding of His Word, or is it simply my outlet to be who I desire to be in the eyes of others?

not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire (1 Timothy 2:9b)

Paul includes these few words on what not to do. Now, this is not a statement on jewelry of any kind or even braids in general. The church in Ephesus would have gotten this message very clearly. Ephesus was a very affluent society, there were a lot of very wealthy people there, wealthy women. It has been said that some of the women would be very gaudy as they would labor to put themselves on display in a very showy way. Some would go to great lengths to arrange their hair elaborately with braids and curls, somehow piling it really high like towers, and then decorate it all with gems and gold and pearls. This would definitely be a distraction to many, and probably particularly to the poor. It would be a very self-centered approach to fashion and dress and such, dramatically drawing attention from others. I don’t see that particular kind of style around here, but we can consider, it is good to consider if there are things you may do that accomplish the same thing, that may be lacking in a humble presentation of self. 

This whole thing of dress can just be difficult. Here are two suggestions that I have. First of all, be honest with yourself and answer the question, “Do I really want to dress in a way that honors God first?” If the answer to that question is yes, then I would say go and ask those in authority over you, your parents, your husband, ask them, “Will you help me with your input regarding how I dress? Because I really want to honor God with how I dress.” So, honestly ask, “Do I want to please God?” And second get some accountablilty in that area, ask for it. 

Now if you aren’t sure if you really want to dress to honor God, then that is another issue. This is a heart issue. It is always an issue of the heart. This is not just about rules of dress. We have to think about inward motivation. If self-seeking rules within a person then there won’t be modest dress with self-restraint on the outside. In this case there is a need to seek the Lord, asking for His work to change your heart. “Lord, give me a heart that wants to please you. Lord, work in me a desire to glorify you in how I dress, in how I present myself to others. God, please increase my love for you and lead me to full obedience.”

Lastly, Paul gets to the heart of the matter…

but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:10)

Let me read both verses together, and as I do, focus in on verse 10.

9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

He is saying for women to adorn themselves properly in appearance, and beyond that to adorn themselves in how they live, with good works. There is in society, and I guess this has been true in all societies, an emphasis on outward appearance. But there way too often is a lacking in good behavior, good works, or works of godliness. Where Paul says “women who profess godliness,” that is like a public proclamation. It would be women who profess Christ, women who proclaim to be Christians. Good works should, must be the true mark of a godly woman. This would be a woman who loves, honors, and fears the Lord.

This reminds me of 1 Peter 3:1-4. As I read this notice the similarities with our passage in 1 Timothy regarding outward appearance and inward beauty that is revealed through godly behavior. Notice here what God values and what we too should value…

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:1-4)

It is the inner spirit of a godly woman that is precious to the Lord, the focus on the heart, the inner person. Ladies, as you look into the mirror and begin your routine of getting yourself fixed up and ready to go out, and especially to come to worship, take the time to seek the Lord, to examine your inner self, to consider your desires for obedience to Him, the one who has loved you so much and who always will. Where do you stand in this matter of loving obedience?

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

Paul clearly recognized the need for the Lord to strengthen us to live for Him. We see this in his prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-19. Let’s not assume obedience is easy, if it were we would not need the strength of Christ, but we do, and so Paul prayed this…

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

And then notice as Paul continues this prayer, notice his confidence in God’s response…

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

And so if you struggle with how to dress, how to dress for God’s glory, and how to do good works and live with a more consistent desire for that over how you look, then remember God is here for you and His strength is available for you, and He is able to do great things in you!

The Lord is good to show us how we can better live for Him, glorify Him. And this can even be done with dress. And it most assuredly can be done with godly good works, works that are pleasing and honoring to Him!

9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)