Dear brethren of the GC units,
Christian greetings with Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where [is] the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk [therein].”
As the GC Ministerial and Doctrinal Committees have noticed that members in various parts of the world are in need of more instruction regarding dress reform which is one of the Biblical doctrines, these two committees have approved an article prepared by the General Conference President, Brother Davi P. Silva to be sent to all the General Conference units around the world.
This article contains also some specific instructions from the GC Ministerial and Doctrinal Committees to our church members. These instructions are based on existing resolutions of the GC Sessions.
There are many more points that could be addressed, but the intent of this article is not to cover all points regarding dress reform and christian appearance, but to address some of the points that are affecting some of our church members at this time and therefore need more prompt attention in order to help those members incurring in such problems to overcome them and also prevent others of getting involved with such practices contrary to the Biblical principles.
Please send this article to all churches in your jurisdiction and as far as possible publish it in your unit’s social media.
I am also attaching the same article in Word format to facilitate translation to your local languages.
Yours in The Blessed Hope, Eli Tenorio, GC Secretary.
On behalf of the GC Ministerial and Doctrinal Committees.
The first reference to clothing in the word of God is recorded in Genesis 2:25: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
Perhaps in your mind you may be questioning, “This text does not speak about clothing, but about nudity!” Just a moment! What type of clothing characterized the first couple before sin?
“The sinless pair wore no artificial garments; they were clothed with a covering of light and glory, such as the angels wear. So long as they lived in obedience to God, this robe of light continued to enshroud them.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 45.
It is sad to see that almost all illustrations of Adam and Eve in paradise leave the impression that they were naked, when in reality they were fully covered with the divine glory, as it occurs with the angels that have never sinned. Note the last sentence of the previous paragraph: “So long as they lived in obedience to God, this robe of light continued to enshroud them.”
What did happen with the covering of light when the sinless pair disobeyed the divine instruction?
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Genesis 3:7. Now yes, they were really naked!
“After his transgression Adam at first imagined himself entering upon a higher state of existence. But soon the thought of his sin filled him with terror. The air, which had hitherto been of a mild and uniform temperature, seemed to chill the guilty pair. The love and peace which had been theirs was gone, and in its place they felt a sense of sin, a dread of the future, a nakedness of soul. The robe of light which had enshrouded them, now disappeared, and to supply its place they endeavored to fashion for themselves a covering; for they could not, while unclothed, meet the eye of God and holy angels.” –Patriarchs and Prophet, p. 57.
There are several points worth highlighting in this inspired declaration by Ellen G. White:
After sinning, the first pair lost their peace with God and a sense of guilt overcame them. They felt a nakedness of soul. That inward nudity—in the heart—found an echo in the removal of the covering light that enshrouded them. Physically, they were also naked. They struggled to cover themselves with “fig leaves.” I can imagine that their new dress, made of leaves, must have been quite precarious and proved to be totally ineffective before the divine presence. As God searched for them, they sought to escape from their Creator. When God called Adam, he answered: “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10. What an embarrassment Adam and Eve must have felt being in the presence of God with such kind of covering! Nakedness of the soul follows physical nakedness since the inward righteousness is revealed outwardly. The soul that is covered with the righteousness of Christ covers the body with something that represents righteousness within. Physical nakedness as a general rule is the result of spiritual nakedness.
After Adam and Eve were convinced of their grievous sin, God did not abandon them but presented the plan of redemption (Genesis 3:15), and provided them with a dignified and appropriate covering. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21. Through the Gospel, God provides us with spiritual robes of Christ’s righteousness so that human beings can come again before His presence, and He also provides us with decent and appropriate clothing that reflects the righteousness of Christ in the heart.
“Righteousness within is testified to by righteousness without. He who is righteous within is not hard-hearted and unsympathetic, but day by day he grows into the image of Christ, going on from strength to strength. He who is being sanctified by the truth will be self-controlled, and will follow in the footsteps of Christ until grace is lost in glory. The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven.” –Messages to Young People, p. 35.
Before we can dress as Christians, we must become Christians. The reversal of these factors can be fatal to the soul. A Christian is someone similar to Christ, and the true Christian is willing to sacrifice all desires and practices that are contrary to the will of Christ. “If any man will come after me,” Christ said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24.
“But while God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ’s righteousness while practicing known sins or neglecting known duties. God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place; and in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul.” –Faith and Works, p. 100.
The Blue Ribbon
God gave specific instructions to ancient Israel regarding their clothing: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.” Numbers 15:37-40.
Ellen G. White draws a parallel between the blue ribbon given to the Israelites and the dress reform that should characterize the people of God today: “I was referred to Numbers 15:38-41 [cited above]: Here God expressly commanded a very simple arrangement of dress for the children of Israel for the purpose of distinguishing them from the idolatrous nations around them. As they looked upon their peculiarity of dress, they were to remember that they were God’s commandment-keeping people, and that He had wrought in a miraculous manner to bring them from Egyptian bondage to serve Him, to be a holy people unto Him. They were not to serve their own desires, or to imitate the idolatrous nations around them, but to remain a distinct, separate people, that all who looked upon them might say: These are they whom God brought out of the land of Egypt, who keep the law of Ten Commandments. An Israelite was known to be such as soon as seen, for God through simple means distinguished him as His.
“The order given by God to the children of Israel to place a ribbon of blue in their garments was to have no direct influence on their health, only as God would bless them by obedience, and the ribbon would keep in their memory the high claims of Jehovah and prevent them from mingling with other nations, uniting in their drunken feasts, and eating swine’s flesh and luxurious food detrimental to health. God would now have His people adopt the reform dress, not only to distinguish them from the world as His “peculiar people,” but because a reform in dress is essential to physical and mental health. God’s people have, to a great extent, lost their peculiarity, and have been gradually patterning after the world, and mingling with them, until they have in many respects become like them. This is displeasing to God. He directs them, as He directed the children of Israel anciently, to come out from the world and forsake their idolatrous practices, not following their own hearts (for their hearts are unsanctified) or their own eyes, which have led them to depart from God and to unite with the world.
“Something must arise to lessen the hold of God’s people upon the world. The reform dress is simple and healthful, yet there is a cross in it. I thank God for the cross and cheerfully bow to lift it. We have been so united with the world that we have lost sight of the cross and do not suffer for Christ’s sake.
“We should not wish to invent something to make a cross; but if God presents to us a cross, we should cheerfully bear it. In the acceptance of the cross we are distinguished from the world, who love us not and ridicule our peculiarity. Christ was hated by the world because He was not of the world. Can His followers expect to fare better than their Master? If we pass along without receiving censure or frowns from the world we may be alarmed, for it is our conformity to the world which makes us so much like them that there is nothing to arouse their envy or malice; there is no collision of spirits. The world despises the cross. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14.” –Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 524, 525.
Clothing and Worship
God clearly instructed His people about the appropriate clothing to be worn when worshipping in the sanctuary. Referring to the priestly garments, it is written: “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.” Exodus 28:42, 43. “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” Exodus 20:26.
Let’s consider some important details. Moses received specific instructions concerning the apparel of the priests. One of the Lord’s instructions giving in detail, somehow does not seem to be that important, but God had a purpose for it: “that thy nakedness be not discovered.” Considering the verses already mentioned in chapter 28 verses 42 and 43, where it says that the linen breeches should cover “from the loins even unto the thighs,” what kind of nakedness is mentioned in Exodus 20:26? The part of the thigh down. In other words, that partial nudity was condemned by the Lord. Therefore, when the word of God speaks of nakedness, it does not always refers to a total absence of clothes. Partial nudity is also condemned by the Lord, both for men and women. Imagine a worshiper in a sacred temple, and there sees someone just partially naked, enough to draw his mind away from God. The attention that should be directed exclusively to worship would be diverted because of exposure to partial nakedness.
Someone may say: “We cannot apply the rules referring to the priests to the people in general.” Let’s not forget that the people of God in the Christian dispensation is known as the “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” 1 Peter 2:9 (first part). What is the purpose of God for His people? “That ye should shew forth the praises ofo him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The Apostle Peter adds: “Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 2: 9, 10.
In the popular churches, in some special cases, those in charge take necessary steps to ensure that when a sister goes to the podium, that she be properly protected by something that will not expose an inappropriate apparel that would serve to distract a worshiper from proper worship.
The vision of three patterns for women’s clothing
In the nineteenth century, when the “goddess of fashion” enslaved especially women with a style of dress that was only causing problems in every sense of the word—physically, morally, and financially—and God sent special light to His people about the need of a reform.
When the subject of dress was receiving its greatest attention, a vision was given to Ellen G. White of three groups wearing different style of dresses.
“Three companies of females passed before me, with their dresses as follows with respect to length:
“The first were of fashionable length, burdening the limbs, impeding the step, and sweeping the street and gathering its filth; the evil results of which I have fully stated. This class, who were slaves to fashion, appeared feeble and languid.
“The dress of the second class which passed before me was in many respects as it should be. The limbs were well clad. They were free from the burdens which the tyrant, Fashion, had imposed upon the first class; but had gone to that extreme in the short dress as to disgust and prejudice good people, and destroy in a great measure their own influence. . . . It does not reach to the knee. I need not say that this style of dress was shown me to be too short.” –The Review and Herald, October 8, 1867 [3SM, 278].
Let’s consider some important details about this second class. This group was, shall we say, more than 50% well dressed, parts of the body were well covered. Which parts? Not the legs because the deficient aspect in this style was exactly the shortness of the dress. We conclude that the arms were well covered, correct? If the dress did not reach to the knees, and the body was well covered, that means that the arms were well protected, and not the legs.
Let’s consider the third group:
“A third class passed before me with cheerful countenances, and free, elastic step. Their dress was the length I have described as proper, modest and healthful. It cleared the filth of the street and side-walk a few inches under all circumstances, such as ascending and descending steps, etc.” –Ibid.
Highlights of the third group: 1. cheerful countenances; 2. free, elastic steps as their dresses did not sweep the streets; 3. appropriate length. We will arrive to the ideal length, according to the instructions of the servant of the Lord. “As I have before stated, the length was not given me in inches . . .
Relationship of the vision in writing and in practice
“And here I would state that although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.
“As I wrote upon the subject of dress the view of those three companies revived in my mind as plain as when I was viewing them in vision; but I was left to describe the length of the proper dress in my own language the best I could, which I have done by stating that the bottom of the dress should reach near the top of a lady’s boot, which would be necessary in order to clear the filth of the streets under the circumstances before named.
“I put on the dress, in length as near as I had seen and described as I could judge. My sisters in Northern Michigan also adopted it. And when the subject of inches came up in order to secure uniformity as to length everywhere, a rule was brought and it was found that the length of our dresses ranged from eight to ten inches from the floor. Some of these were a little longer than the sample shown me, while others were a little shorter.”—Ibid.
Please note an important detail: “Our dresses ranged from eight to ten inches from the floor.”
The inch is the standard measurement used in the United States, equivalent to 2.54 centimeters. Eight inches, therefore, result in 20.32 centimeters, and ten inches equals 25.4 centimeters, correct?
The length of the recommended dress ranged between these two measurements depending on the height of the person.
Understanding Deuteronomy 22:5
Another issue that has affected some sisters in some places is the temptation to wear long pants or trousers. What does the Inspiration say about this? “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy 22:5. “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this” (NIV).
What is the purpose of Satan in making the clothes of women and men so similar?
In today’s society we often confuse a person by his/her appearance. We see men with long hair and women with short hair. “Men” with female gestures and mannerisms, and “women” with behaviors appropriate for men. Their clothes have also created many identity problems. Satan wants to make men and women so similar that it would eliminate the characteristics which identify them, creating a similarity that leads to sinful promiscuity.
“There is still another style of dress which will be adopted by a class of so-called dress reformers. They will imitate the opposite sex, as nearly as possible. . . . In this style of dress God’s order has been reversed, and his special directions disregarded. Deuteronomy 22:5. “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” This style of dress, God would not have his people adopt. It is not modest apparel, and is not at all fitting for modest, humble females who profess to be Christ’s followers. God’s prohibitions are lightly regarded by all who would advocate the doing away of the distinction of dress between males and females.
“God designed there should be a plain distinction between male and female dress, and has considered the matter of sufficient importance to give explicit directions in regard to it; for the same dress worn by both sexes would cause confusion, and great increase of crime.” –Selected Messages, vol. 2, pp. 477, 478.
Many servants of God in the past were identified by their clothing. The prophets Elijah and John the Baptist had similar characteristics and were recognized by kings and people by the messages they preached and by their style of clothing. The king Ahaziah identified the prophet Elijah when he heard the description of his clothing.
“And [Ahaziah] said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words? And they answered him, he was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.” 2 Kings 1:7, 8.
Regarding John’s clothing, it is written: “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” Matthew 3:4.
“In the time of John the Baptist, greed for riches, and the love of luxury and display had become widespread. Sensuous pleasures, feasting and drinking, were causing physical disease and degeneracy, benumbing the spiritual perceptions, and lessening the sensibility to sin. John was to stand as a reformer. By his abstemious life and plain dress he was to rebuke the excesses of his time.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 100, 101.
Dress reform is an essential part of the message of the Reform Movement as it was for the prophetic ministry of Elijah and John the Baptist; however, this reform must come from the inside of a heart where Jesus reigns. This will be evident in the outside practices of our daily life.
Jesus affirmed, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” Matthew 17:11.
A solemn warning
“There is a terrible sin upon us as a people, that we have permitted our church members to dress in a manner inconsistent with their faith. We must arise at once and close the door against the allurements of fashion. Unless we do this, our churches will become demoralized.” –Testimony Treasures, vol. 1, p. 600.
“All exhibitions of pride in dress, which is forbidden in the word of God, should be sufficient reason for church discipline. If there is a continuance, in face of warnings and appeals and entreaties, to still follow the perverse will, it may be regarded as proof that the heart is in no way assimilated to Christ. Self, and only self, is the object of adoration, and one such professed Christian will lead many away from God.” –Ibid.
“Talk of Christ, and when the heart is converted, everything that is out of harmony with the word of God will drop off. It is only labor in vain to pick leaves off a living tree. The leaves will reappear. The ax must be laid at the root of the tree, and then the leaves will fall off, never to return. In order to teach men and women the worthlessness of earthly things, you must lead them to the living Fountain, and get them to drink of Christ, until their hearts are filled with the love of God, and Christ is in them, a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” –The Signs of the Times, July 1, 1889.
“Cleanse the fountain, and the streams will be pure. If the heart is right, your words, your dress, your acts will all be right.” –Testimony Treasures, vol. 1, p. 51.
Revival and Reformation
We need to understand the purpose of a true revival of the primitive piety among God’s people and the connection that this revival brings with its effects in our daily life.
Revival without reformation leads to a mere emotional religion. Reformation without a revival leads to a cold and critical legalism. Therefore, both must be united and complement each other.
“A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord, not because God is not willing to bestow His blessing upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive it. Our heavenly Father is more willing to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him, than are earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing. A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer. While the people are so destitute of God’s Holy spirit, they cannot appreciate the preaching of the Word; but when the Spirit’s power touches their hearts, then the discourses given will not be without effect. Guided by the teachings of God’s Word, with the manifestation of His Spirit, in the exercise of sound discretion, those who attend our meetings will gain a precious experience, and returning home, will be prepared to exert a healthful influence.” –Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 121.
Please note some key expressions in this paragraph: “But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing.
“God calls for a spiritual revival and a spiritual reformation. Unless this takes place, those who are lukewarm will continue to grow more abhorrent to the Lord, until He will refuse to acknowledge them as His children.
“A revival and a reformation must take place, under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.” –Ibid., p. 128.
A legitimate revival precedes a true reformation, and a true reformation is the result of a real revival. These two elements must be intimately connected or we will fall into an extreme liberalism or into an extreme fanaticism. This balance is only possible if we look to Jesus and accept Him as our all sufficient Savior and Lord of our life.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1, 2.
Therefore, based on the orientation of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, the General Conference Ministerial and Doctrinal Committee appeal to all our members around the world to give careful attention to and obey the principles of dress reform. Here are some specific instructions on this regard:
1. It is inappropriate for our brothers, sisters and candidates for baptism to wear shorts, jewelry, sleeveless clothes and see through fabrics.
2. It is inappropriate for our sisters to wear long pants (trousers), high heels, cutting of the hair, makeup, coloring or lacquering of nails or similar vanities.
“I saw that the outside appearance is an index to the heart. When the exterior is hung with ribbons, collars, and needless things, it plainly shows that the love for all this is in the heart; unless such persons are cleansed from their corruption, they can never see God, for only the pure in heart will see Him.” –1T 136 (1856).
Are we willing to accept the cross before we can receive the crown? There is no other way. May God give us his marvelous grace to fulfill the conditions of discipleship!