Biblical Dress in Worship 


In the Old Testament God dwelt in a house made with hands – and was worshipped with devices crafted with men’s hands (as a shadow of the true worship to come)

Ex 25:8-9

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

But today Jesus says God requires that we worship him in spirit and in truth – from the heart and according to His word

John 4:23

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

Jesus taught that there is not a particular sacred place (like the Old Testament temple) where we must approach God and offer our worship – can meet in a barn or in a park or under a tree or in a house – true worship takes place in the heart

John 4:21-23

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

Today God says he does not require a special assembly house designed for true worship – God dwells not in temples made with hands -- he doesn’t need beautiful cathedrals with stained glass windows

Acts 17:24

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

And likewise, God does not require special worship paraphernalia made with men’s hands -- like prayer beads, crucifixes, mechanical instruments, or ecclesiastical garb

Acts 17:25

Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

Worship to God can occur in any place, without having to run and get special worship paraphenalia

Abraham’s servant -- upon finding Rebekah for Isaac -- worshipped God at a well (Gen 24:26-27)

Patriarch Jacob -- worshipped God while leaning on the top of his staff (Heb 11:21)

The Israelite elders -- upon hearing that they would be delivered from bondage – bowed their heads and worshipped God (Ex 4:31)

The Israelite people -- upon seeing the cloudy pillar -- worshipped God in their tent doors (Ex 33:10)

Moses on Mount Sinai – bowed his head and worshipped God -- asking for forgiveness of the Israelites’ sins (Ex 34:8-9)

King David – when fleeing from Absalom – worshipped God on top of a mountain (2 Sam 15:32)

Ezra and the people – upon the reading of the law – worshipped God in a street (Neh 8:5-6)

Patriarch Job -- upon learning of the loss of family and fortune -- fell to the ground and worshipped (Job 1:20-21)

The Wise Men upon seeing the child Jesus -- worshipped Jesus in the house (Matt 2:11)

A Ruler worshipped Jesus in a house – asking for the life of his daughter (Matt 9:18)

Jesus’ disciples – after being saved from a violent storm -- worshipped Jesus in a ship (Matt 14:33)

Some women coming back from the tomb, saw Jesus on a road – and they worshipped him on the road (Matt 28:9)

Paul and Silas worshipped God in a prison (Acts 16:25)

These people didn’t have to run home and get their prayer beads or crucifixes or put on ecclesiastical garb and go worship God in a cathedral – they worshipped God as they were.

So we should not have an Old Testament “temple worship” mentality. Today we are the temple of God, the church of the living God, built by God, and God dwells in us, in our hearts by faith – and we are to worship Him every day

Heb 8:1-2

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

Eph 2:19-22

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

And continually, every day -- we are to offer to God the sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of doing good and distributing to (helping) others

Heb 13:15-16

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

So there is no particular place or paraphernalia necessary to worship God. We worship God in spirit and truth. Consequently, there is no particular ecclesiastical garb we are to wear in worship. A very touchy subject with some brethren!!!

A few years ago during a gospel meeting -- A preaching brother and I taught a gentleman the gospel. We invited the fellow to services, and he (wearing jeans) was really concerned that he didn’t have anything better to wear. We told him to come as he was – that the church of Christ did not have a dress code! Unfortunately, some churches do have a very strict dress code! Some exclude blue jeans, ladies’ slacks, and either tacitly or overtly require dressing up to come to worship. Does God really legislate a special dress code?

Need to be respectful in worship, not profane. We are to be pure in thought and deed, and avoid evil at all times – from our mouths (no filthy talk), in our literature (spiritual, not material), or on our clothing (like a beer ad, or picture of Grateful Dead).

Eph 5:3-4

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

But shouldn’t go overboard and cast something in a bad light just because of some abuse. Certainly shouldn’t condemn the wearing of some clothes, like lady’s slacks and pantsuits – just because some choose to wear them immodestly tight. If we do then we will have to condemn the wearing of dresses – because some choose to wear dresses immodestly tight.

Need to be careful not to superimpose human regulations on our worship as the Pharisees did, and run the risk of making our worship vain.

Mark 7:1-8

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

Nothing wrong with washing hands! We encourage our children to so do. But the Pharisees said that people had to wash hands before meals to please God! And today there are some that say we have to “dress up” (go formal) in worship to please God.

Suppose someone comes in to our assembly wearing fine clothes and someone comes in wearing shabby clothes – do we treat the nicely dressed person more favorably than the poorly dressed person? Or do we treat them as equals? Are we as friendly toward both?

The Bible says we need to treat them equally!!

James 2:1-4

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

In some congregational worship “dressing up” for worship is stressed. We may sometimes sub-consciously, or consciously make it a law. We may unknowingly or worse yet knowingly cause people to shy away because of our scruples on clothing. I am told that sometimes in some assemblies people have been made to feel uncomfortable and haven’t come back!!

I know of no passage that says that we have to dress up in good clothing to go to worship? That may be personal preference, but let’s don’t make personal preference a law. Let’s judge righteous judgment.

Lev 19:15

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

And we shouldn’t enforce our personal preferences on others

Rom 14:3-4

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

For whose benefit is it when we dress up? Is it for our benefit -- or God’s benefit? Who pays more attention to dress – man or God?

1 Sam 16:7

7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

If I thought God wanted me to dress up for worship for his sake -- and that he was the one that got a benefit out of it – then at home before I would say a prayer to God I would go to the closet and put on a suit and tie! Because, God is always among us, and prayer to Him is worship.

Acts 17:27-28

That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being

Too much attention to the outward appearance, could be an indicator that all is not right on the inside

Matt 23:25-28

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

The Bible actually warns us about placing too much emphasis on “dressing up” (wearing more fancy clothing) – but doesn’t warn us about “dressing down” (wearing more humble clothing). Paul says modest apparel and costly array are opposites.

1 Tim 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.

I believe the Bible teaches us to be conservative in dress. Look at what the prevailing custom is and follow it as long as it is modest and pure, but don’t wear gaudy, expensive clothing on the leading edge of the latest fashion change – that makes you stand out among others.

Jesus’ appearance and clothing caused him to blend into the crowd – he didn’t stand out

Isa 53:2

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Jesus could easily blend into a crowd

John 8:59

Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Jesus actually had to be pointed out when in a crowd

Matt 26:48

Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

So where is the passage that teaches a special dress code for worship? The Bible just says dress modestly!!

Some believe that to impress God, we need to give him our best in clothing. Well then, what is our best? Do we really want to impress God? Then let not our emphasis be on the outward adorning, but rather let our emphasis be on the inward adorning, the hidden man of the heart. Before God that is our best.

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.