In the first three installments of this series, we addressed questions related to God’s command not to do “work” on the Sabbath; not to pursue our own “pleasure”; not to engage in “business”; whether it is permissible to eat out in a restaurant on the Sabbath; and attendance of Church services. In this installment, we will address guidelines for proper appearance in our worship services. The next and final installment in this series will address proper conduct during our Church services.
In addressing our proper dress code during Church services, we stated the following in our Q&A on wedding rings:
“Some have raised the issue that the wearing of rings… especially by women… allegedly violates biblical injunctions… This assumption is wrong… James 2:2-4 speaks about a ‘man with gold rings, in fine apparel,’ coming into our assembly or church services. James is not saying that the man should stop wearing gold rings or fine clothes; rather, his point is that the brethren should not show favoritism towards him and look down on those in the church who do not possess such fine things…”
We elaborated on this in our Q&A on James 2:2-4, as follows:
“If we apply James’ statements to worship services on the weekly or annual Sabbaths, two factors have to be kept in mind. First, James is drawing a comparison. He compares the appearance of a rich and prosperous man — who is aware of his riches and manifests them without any sense of recognition or compassion for others — with the appearance of a poor man. The translation of the words ‘with filthy clothes’ in James 2:2 (‘vile raiment’ in the Authorized Version) is somewhat misleading in the context. The Greek word for ‘filthy’ or ‘vile’ is ‘rhuparos’ and can ALSO have the meaning of ‘relatively cheap’ (compare Strong’s under No. 4508)…
“Second, if applied in that sense, it is important to note that the context speaks of a person ‘coming into your assembly.’ James does not seem to be talking about regular Church members (who know how they ought to dress when they appear before God), but a newcomer or a guest.
“But others are not to condemn a ‘poor’ person who is visiting for the first time or who has just begun attending because he is not dressed in an appropriate way. In addition, the way in which he is dressed might be the best the person can do… rather than condemning a person or looking down on him for not dressing up, we should be lending a helping hand and give the needy what is necessary to meet the proper standard…”
Regarding proper standard and dress code for men and women in Church services, we continued to state the following in our Q&A on wedding rings:
“The… passages in 1 Peter 3:3-6 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10 do not prohibit women to wear jewelry or fine clothes or rings per se… but as we also read in Isaiah 3:16-23, they warn against the overemphasis and misuse of the same for wrong purposes, in order to draw undue attention to themselves and their riches… the Living Bible renders 1 Peter 3:3 as follows, by accurately conveying the intended meaning: ‘Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God.’
“At the same time, these passages do not say that women should dress inappropriately or sloppy, without adorning themselves in some way, when attending Sabbath services. The Sabbath is a holy feast day, and we are appearing in front of God on that day, who is our King. We would not appear before a worldly king with dirty clothes or in a sloppy and casual attire…
“When God gave instructions for the creation of ‘holy garments’ for the priests of Israel, He specifically wanted them made ‘for GLORY and for BEAUTY’ (Exodus 28:2). Regarding how both men and women dress when attending Church services, we find a meaningful example in the time when the children of Israel were commanded to wash their clothes in advance of appearing before God (Compare Exodus 19:10,14)…
“Likewise, the priests were to wash themselves when appearing before God (Compare Exodus 30:19-20); and, they were to wear special clothing… Note that we are today a ‘holy’ and a ‘royal priesthood,’ as 1 Peter 2:5, 9 points out, also showing our duty to appear before God during Sabbath services with washed and special clothing…
“It has been the practice of the Church of God to recognize that we are appearing before God when we assemble for Sabbath services along with other special commanded assemblies as given by God [such as commanded worship services throughout the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, even though only the first day is a Holy Day]. As such, we do recommend that each person present himself or herself in the best apparel they have available. The foremost idea is to specially prepare to appear before God to honor HIM!”
In a related Q&A on proper appearance in our worship services, we stated the following:
“That we ought to appear properly dressed for worship services, has been the long-standing teaching of the Church of God, and for good reason:
“We must understand that we are appearing before GOD. God is a great King. God is the Creator of everything that is good and costly and priceless. He is the Creator of beauty. He most certainly is the Creator of quality. He owns all the gold and silver, and it is He who made it all. If we were to be invited by an earthly king, how would we appear in front of him?… Would you want to appear in unwashed, dirty clothing, wearing washed-out jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers?
“How much more should we appear before GOD, the KING over His creation, in proper clothes! The famous parable in Matthew 22:10-13 about the king’s wedding feast for his son contains a spiritual lesson, but it also describes a physical principle–that we dress appropriately for the occasion. It DID matter to the king–God the Father–how the guests were dressed for the wedding of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“In this context, we must not neglect culture. In the Western World, it is normally appropriate for men to wear a suit, or a nice combination, with a shirt and a tie… In the U.S.A., Canada or in England [and we might include continental Europe as well], men don’t dress up, when they appear in worship services with an open shirt, a T-shirt or jeans.
“Ladies should also wear appropriate clothing, of course. In addition, their dresses should not be too short or too tight or too revealing…
“God gives us the freedom to determine what is appropriate clothing, within the acceptability of proper dress in our cultures, but to clarify, God does not give us the freedom to violate His specific instructions so that we can follow our culture. For example, God has told us how to wear our hair. We are told that it is a shame for a man – young or old – to wear long hair…
“God takes great exception to the self-absorbed and self-willed practices of people who lose all restraint. This applies to inappropriate sloppy appearance, as well as to the over-emphasis on wealth and riches… Our responsibility is to dress modestly and yet to dress with quality garments that reflect our honoring of God…”
As we pointed out in our previous Q&A (“How Are We to Keep the Sabbath?,” Part 3), young children should attend Church services with their parents. The rules of proper dress code apply to our children as well. We are not saying, of course, that our young boys need to appear in a suit (even though some might wish to dress them up in such a “cute” way), nor, that our young girls need to wear a “wedding dress,” but our children should not appear sloppy and uncombed, wearing “every-day” street clothes, washed-out or torn jeans, T-Shirts or Sneakers. Their appearance should reflect the sanctity and holiness of Sabbath services.
Regarding the proper dress code during participation in our live Internet services, we stated the following in the above-mentioned Q&A:
“We realize that for some brethren, it is impossible or very difficult to attend our Church services in person. They might be scattered; they might be too sick or handicapped; or there might be other valid reasons preventing them to attend in person. Since they cannot physically join with other members on the Sabbath, they listen to sermon CDs, or they sit in and listen to live Internet worship services… if scattered brethren have Sabbath worship services ‘in their home,’ while listening to CDs, to our sermonettes and sermons which are posted online, or to live Internet Church services, they still appear before God during that time in a SACRED assembly, and we don’t want to appear before God uncombed, unshaved and unwashed, or by just wearing our pajamas.
“The requirement of proper attire does of course not apply to somebody who is sick and in bed; or to those who might be listening to CDs or tapes during the week or after the Sabbath is over. Nor does it apply to those who might be listening in to live services from overseas, after the Sabbath has already passed for them. We are strictly addressing live Internet services for those participating in Sabbath services in lieu of attending in person, simply because they are scattered or are suffering, for example, from a flu, which would not prevent them from being dressed appropriately…”
To emphasize the fact that participants in our live Internet services appear before God in a sacred assembly, we have published the following statement on our LiveStream page regarding “Attending Live Internet Church Services”:
“The Church of the Eternal God broadcasts weekly and annual live services over the Internet for those who are unable to attend our local services in person. We emphasize that the live broadcasts of our Church services are holy and sacred convocations. Participants over the Internet should conduct themselves appropriately during services, in accordance with our doctrines and practices, and this includes proper dress when we are appearing before God. We encourage any person interested in participating over the Internet to contact the ministry to receive guidance and answers to any questions.”
These same principles apply to those who use CDs or tapes for their Sabbath services at home, in lieu of participating in Church services in person.
Before ending this installment, we would like to make the following observations:
We are presenting these Q&A’s on proper Sabbath observance to provide a balanced approach, based on God’s Word. We also need to emphasize that God’s true ministers are the custodians or “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1); and that God’s Church is the “pillar and ground of [God’s] truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), speaking with godly authority on administrative matters (Matthew 18:18), such as how to keep the Sabbath properly. The question arises whether God will accept worship from members or prospective members when they devise their own practices, and whether He will inspire and lead people who reject His ministry. The biblical record has strong warnings for those who refuse the clear instructions and principles established by God in His Word and faithfully taught by His ministers (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 13:17).
The Jews of Jesus’ time had warped the keeping of the Sabbath by replacing the godly approach with their own customs and traditions. Those actions led them to seek to kill Jesus over the way He properly taught and kept the Sabbath. The keeping of the Sabbath in our generation is still the subject of false teachings, and the Church of God, under God’s inspiration, upholds the truth of correct Sabbath observance.
In addition, we need to ask whether knowledge of TRUE Sabbath observance has been lost and is being rejected by some. All kinds of people in their own groups and all kinds of people in their own minds talk about keeping the Sabbath. As Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong used to say about the differing “Christian” denominations—“they can’t all be right!”
After Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, the new administration of the Worldwide Church of God began to disembowel the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days—to water them down—to provide alternate observances, until it completely rejected the weekly and annual Sabbaths in their entirety. This was not unlike the way King Jeroboam set up more “convenient places” than Jerusalem and the Temple of God for worship.
The residue of people who once attended the Worldwide Church of God have mostly thrown away Sabbath keeping. Various Church of God groups are hanging on, but the question must be asked whether the grip of some has been slipping with the passage of time. Right Sabbath keeping is so much more than just knowing ABOUT the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days—God expects obedience concerning the sacred times He has established!
When God looks across this earth during His weekly Sabbaths and His annual Holy Days, how many faithful Sabbath keepers does He see? Our series on the right way of Sabbath keeping should be viewed as a clarion call for the people of God to WAKE UP!
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writers: Norbert Link and Dave Harris