We now turn our attention to what Paul writes concerning what is proper and becoming for women in the congregation.
I believe that we should keep in mind three things in connection with Paul’s address to the women. It is important that this be kept in mind lest we forget the extremely spiritual nature of these exhortations.
In the first place, it should be remembered that Paul is here addressing women “professing godliness.” They do not simply profess to be religious; they do not simply “belong” to the church, and nothing more; they are not simply “ladies” in distinction from “gentlemen.” On the contrary they are those who profess that they know what “godliness” is. Godliness is profound reverence before God. It means that we keep His commandments, and that we would glorify and praise God in our whole life, and that as much as we love our life we would do nothing contrary to His will in the church, the home and in all of our life in the world. It means for the Christian: working out our salvation with fear and trembling! Hence, Paul is not addressing a group of worldly-minded Jezebels, but he is speaking to women who fall in the class of a Sarah of old who called her husband “my lord,” When we think of women professing godliness we think of women of renown as Rebekah, Leah, Miriam, Jochebed, Ruth, Hannah, Huldah, Elizabeth, Mary, Eunice and Lois, the mother of Timothy. Holy women, the most holy of whom had but a small beginning of the new obedience, yet so, that they began to live not only according to some but according to all of God’s commandments. Such are women professing godliness!
In the second place, Paul is speaking to women in the church, as she is the fellowship of saints. Such women are one in Christ with their husbands and with all the believers in the Lord. For in Christ is neither man nor woman, male nor female, bond nor free. For as many as have put on Christ are the children of Abraham, and heirs of the promise. These are therefore the women, who, when they are mothers, are clothed with authority together with the fathers over the children, as it is written: “Honor thy father and thy mother that it may go well with thee and that thou mayest live long upon the earth.”
In the third place, it should be remembered that Paul here addresses the women as they are women, according to the ordinance of creation from the beginning. This is not just simply a little advice based upon utilitarian motives and objectives, but it is most assuredly the eternal word of God for women as rooted in creation, augmented by the fall, and as they, as women, now have their own peculiar place in the dispensation of redemption and grace. We must, therefore, not follow the opinion of those who hold that Paul was simply writing for his day and culture, but that this is not a word which has validity in this enlightened age of the twentieth century, characterized by woman suffrage, the emancipated woman. The free woman in Christ is a far cry from the emancipated woman of this twentieth century. We must not ascribe the “emancipation” of the woman to the application of the Biblical principle of the freedom in Christ. For freedom and licentiousness are not the same. Let it be remembered! And, therefore, we hold that this word of God here is the rule of faith for the woman in the church.
Space will not allow us to reflect upon all of the verses 9 through 15. We shall limit ourselves to the verses 9-10. We read here: “In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with steadfastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment, but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works.”
I do not believe that the Bible speaks of men adorning themselves. When one studies the Scriptures on this point it soon becomes evident that it is the woman who not only adorns herself, but who is also the one whoneeds adornment. A man puts on his apparel; a woman puts on her adornment. And what adorns a woman, degrades a man, should he wear it. A man may lose his hair in part and remain manly, but let a woman lose her hair and all her beauty, her physical attractiveness is gone. Such is the teaching of nature. For a man is the image and the glory of God, but a woman is the glory of the man. I Cor. 11:7.
The Hebrew term for adornment is “Adah.” It was the name of one of the wives of Lamech, born from Cain. The term in the Greek for adornment is “kosmion.” This is the word employed by Paul here in the text. It means: well-arranged, becoming. It is the term which we recognize in the English cosmetics, which is often mistaken for true beauty. This mistaken notion concerning “cosmetics” as it is known and practiced today (often even in the church!) is evident from what the Bible teaches concerning adornment in various passages.
I refer, first of all, to Titus 2:10: “Exhort servants to be in subjection to their masters, and to be well-pleasing to them in all things; not gainsaying, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” It is fitting for a servant to obey. That is the beauty of a servant. It is really the beauty of grace revealed in a servant. Thus an obedient servant adorns the doctrine in a walk of thankfulness. He is a Christian servant. He works out his salvation! That is his adornment now. Such is a well-arranged life, a truly becoming walk!
In I Peter 3:4 adornment is also spoken of. It is “the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible (apparel) of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Not simply the apparel from the outside. It is not simply the matter of the body, the physical, the external, but it is something which deals with the “hidden man of the heart.” As the heart is thus is man. If he has an evil heart he will reveal this evil heart in a haughty spirit; he will not humble himself and thus be lifted up by the Lord in due time. And of this true beauty a woman such as Sarah, and all the holy women, had a small beginning!
In Rev. 21:2 we read: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” This must needs be the true adornment of the church of the living God, adorned in the spotless raiments, the righteousness of the saints. Here is the church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing which Christ has cleansed for himself. Of this church the woman, as a bride, is an earthly picture. The beauty of an earthly bride is not so much her beautiful attire as her radiant joy to meet her husband! The inner joy manifest is the adornment.
From the foregoing we may possibly draw the following inferences:
1. That adornment is something not to be frowned upon. No misuse of any creature can ever be urged against its proper and God-intended use. Adornment is in itself not evil.
2. That there is a distinct difference between sinful, carnal adornment and the sanctified, holy adornment. The carnal adornment is rooted in sinful pride, must needs always be out of good taste, and emphasizes the mere creaturely rather than the Creator. True adornment is always the manifestation of the beauty of holiness and is worship of the Lord.
3. This is ever true in the adornment of a woman. She is ever in need of adornment naturally, as we saw above. And this natural adornment must be a true reflection of the inner adornment of the hidden woman, which is of great price before God.
4. Only thus shall she be a picture of the “mystery” of Christ and His Church. He that findeth such a woman findeth a good thing and obtained grace from the Lord.
Such women Paul enjoins the Ephesian women to be.
Also here Paul really says “I will,” that is, upon solid, theological considerations, I will that women adorn themselves with shamefastness and sobriety.
What is Paul referring to when he says “with shamefastness?” It means that there be a studied attempt to so dress as not to embarrass others! It is rooted in the feeling that you would not make others feel uncomfortable because of your dress. This is certainly a spiritual art which the Parisian stylers of women’s clothing do not understand, and are not able to practice. Not embarrass others!! The calloused indifference on this score is appalling. And in the church it often reflects an utter lack of understanding the things that differ, as rooted in a delicate spiritual sensitiveness and sanctified Christian conscience. Paris and Hollywood do not understand. They wallow in their own obscene godlessness. But Paul is speaking to women professing godliness. And godly women have a spiritual understanding! What has Paul to do with those who are without; he speaks to the women in the church. And such women, it must be said, are sober women. Hence, they are enjoined to dress in “sobriety.” This is really spiritual self-control over the passions of the flesh, worldly pride. One has aptly defined this virtue of “sobriety” as “that habitual inner self-government, with its constant reign over all the passions and desires, which would hinder the temptation from arising, or at all events from arising in such strength, as should overbear the checks and barriers which ‘shamefastness’ opposed to it.” New Testament Synonyms, Archbishop Trench.
Such is the inner strength of a woman professing godliness.
It is ever the harlotous woman who adorns herself not to meet her husband but to attract attention of men, to be seen and observed. She is interested in braiding of hair, jewels, pearls, costly raiment; she looks for adornment which is from without. It is cheap, external adornment, revealing lack of inner adornment of the hidden woman which is precious before God.
Certainly our Christian girls should be more than “ladies.” And that they are too. It ill befits our girls to pluck their eyebrows, replace them with a pencil on the wrong place, go all out for the latest fads which “cosmetic” sellers trump up. I recently saw a young lady who looked more like the coal miner who couldn’t get all the coal dust out of his eyes by washing, than one who was adorned. Yet this perverted notion of adornment had evidently so enamored her that she became its victim. However, I believe that she herself felt uncomfortable. She did not only lack shamefastness toward others, but even toward herself.
These things ought not so to be!
A rule of do’s and don’t’s?
Paul does not ever do that in the church. He does not say how the women are to adorn themselves. He does not buy them their dresses and their perfumes and other cosmetics. He gives the principle. He says: you are women professing godliness. Now work out your own salvation. You have spiritual understanding concerning what is becoming and what is fitting for one who goes to church to worship God, meet with the saints, give alms to the poor, and in this life cease all the days from sin, and thus begin the eternal Sabbath in this life.
Let your inner adornment be seen in your outward apparel.
Be true daughters of Sarah, so that your names be among those who are holy women!