Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 4 Page 13 April 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles
By Louis Rushmore

Wearing Revealing
Outfits Tastefully?

Dear Mr. Rushmore, I read your article “Modesty:  Biblical Investigation, Contemporary Application” . . . It was a very interesting article, but I became a little concerned about some of the things that were written. I know a very beautiful woman who likes to wear revealing outfits and she does it very tastefully. She also loves and worships the Lord and her character is very holy and very admirable, in my opinion. When I see her, I recognize that her outer beauty was a true blessing from above, but I never lose sight of her inner beauty. But is she still committing a sin just because there may be other men out there that might have different (perhaps lustful) thoughts when they see her in these revealing clothes? Shouldn’t it be the men that see these kinds of women and lust after them that are the sinners rather than the women themselves? What about men like myself that see these women, recognize their beauty (both inner and outer), yet they don’t lust after them? ~ Sincerely, Concerned Male, Syracuse, NY

Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, were created by God and placed into the Garden of Eden. They were naked - with God’s implicit approval (Genesis 2:25; cf. 3:11). It well may have been the case that had sin never entered the world (i.e., neither through Adam and Eve nor through any of their descendants), we might all be running around naked in paradise - with at least God’s implicit approval.

However, the introduction of sin into the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve forever altered man’s habitation. Several consequences ensued that changed both the habitat in which mankind lives as well as the circumstances attending his domicile on earth.  These changes from the mankind’s former blissful existence in paradise include: (1) Adam and Eve (representative of their subsequent posterity, too) became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed (Genesis 3:7). (2) Adam and Eve became afraid of God (Genesis 3:8-9).  (3) Eve (and subsequently all women) was assigned labor pains in childbirth and consigned to the rule of her husband (Genesis 3:16).  (4) Adam was charged to laboriously farm unwilling fields infested with weeds and thorns (Genesis 3:17-19). (5) Adam and Eve lost their access to the tree of life (and the Eden paradise itself) and were advised that they would experience death (Genesis 3:19, 22-24). (6) God explicitly withdrew his approval of mankind’s nakedness by clothing Adam and Eve (at that time still the only two human beings on the planet) (Genesis 3:21).

Adam and Eve derived their first clothing from “fig leaves” and made “aprons” (Genesis 3:7). These “aprons” were essentially loin-cloths,” which is what the original Hebrew word translated “aprons” means. God apparently disapproved of their “aprons” and instead clothed Adam and Eve with “coats” made from animal skins (Genesis 3:21).  The “coats” with which God clothed Adam and Eve were long shirt-like garments.  The original Hebrew word that is translated “coat” also appears as “garment” and “robe.” Despite Adam and Eve’s meager efforts to clothe themselves, God obviously considered them yet unclothed and needing yet to be clothed.  Following Adam and Eve’s sin in Eden, a sense of modesty awakened in them, which though they attempted to address, they did not address it to God’s satisfaction.  Therefore, God essentially defined modesty for them (and us) by substituting garments of his choosing for the first couple’s fig leaves.

Throughout the religious historical periods of Patriarchy and Judaism (in the Old Testament) and Christianity (in the New Testament), God continued to enjoin his definition of modesty upon humanity. For instance, one opting for provocative attire in Old Testament times was acknowledged as a sinner. “And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart” (Proverbs 7:10). Likewise, persons in the New Testament are also commanded to practice modesty (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Finally, notice the text of 1 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.”
Modesty is coupled with godliness and contrasted with immodesty in this citation. From the time Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, immodesty or degrees of undress and godliness have been and continue to be biblically incompatible. Therefore, anyone who dresses immodestly in public sins and further contributes to the sins others may embrace, such as lust, because of that immodesty. Friends don’t let friends dress immodestly (Ephesians 5:11)!

Degrees of
Punishment and Reward?

Does the Bible teach that there will be degrees of punishment and rewards? ~ Don Puryear
There are a few topics of which the Bible speaks, but about which the pages of inspiration say very little. Yes, the Bible does teach that there will be degrees of punishment and reward, though not much is said regarding either. We must content ourselves with the Bible’s affirmation, howbeit perhaps in passing, regarding punishments and rewards. Likewise, we must not concern ourselves overly with the details that may not be attainable in this life. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

One passage that seems to suggest degrees of punishment is 2 Peter 2:20-22. It reads:

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Those who ‘escape the pollutions of the world (i.e., the state of being lost in sin) through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (i.e., John 8:32)’ are Christians. To be ‘again entangled therein, and overcome’ equates to apostatizing. Contrary to popular Calvinistic dogma, a child of God can sin so as to be lost (eternally lost if he remains in that condition). The phrase that says ‘the latter end is worse with them than the beginning’ teaches that somehow it is worse for a Christian who apostatizes than being in the condition in which he was before he became a Christian (i.e., lost). This expression is reinforced with the statement that reads “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”

In what sense is that so? One might argue that the awareness alone (as one experiences eternity away from God in hell) that once he was saved and enjoyed the prospect of spending eternity in heaven with God sufficiently explains the reference under review in this passage. Yet, it may well be that what we have here is a passing reference to degrees of punishment in hell. It is difficult to imagine from this side of eternity how differing degrees of punishment matter. Certainly, suffering some lesser degree of punishment in hell than what others may experience will be no consolation at all.

Elsewhere, the Bible seems to suggest degrees of reward. It seems reasonable to suppose that if there are degrees of punishment that there also would be degrees of reward (and vice versa). Notice the following passage.

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
The apostle Paul wrote about his labors or the labors of others in the Gospel, namely evangelism. Paul illustrated the fruits of his work for the Lord, converts, with the series ‘gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble.’ According to the illustration, each convert is assayed with fire to determine purity, much like metals are purified by fire to extract the impurities. It is clear that one’s converts are discussed here rather than the salvation of the evangelist or personal worker. “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”

The summary of the passage is that the evangelist whose labors result in the salvation of several souls (who continue to be obedient) will receive a greater eternal reward than the evangelist some whose converts do not remain faithful. Both personal workers in the above scenario receive the eternal reward of heaven, though the one in some way receives an added reward. Again, one might argue that one’s awareness (while enjoying the bliss of heaven) that other souls in heaven are there due one’s efforts is sufficient to explain the passage. However, the passage may well be a reference, though without the extent of detail we might prefer, to degrees of reward in heaven.

Both the 2 Peter 2:20-22 and 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 passages contain biblical principles that are valuable to Christian living and service irrespective of whether we concur or disagree regarding degrees of punishment and reward. I tend to favor interpretations that embrace degrees of punishment and reward. However, the subject of degrees of punishments and rewards is not something over which the children of God need to be dogmatic. It is not something critical to our redemption, worship, Christian living or Christian service which without agreeing upon will rob us of our eternal heritage. There are several other biblical topics which deserve greater attention, especially due to their gravity and their frequent abuse today.

Copyright 1999, conditions of use
Gospel Gazette Online
Louis Rushmore, Editor
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