A Clean Vesselby A. K. Chancellor
"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" (Matt 23:25-26).
Jesus did not say to cleanse only the inside, or just the outside, but both are to be cleansed. He also did not say that if you cleansed only the inside that the outside would be clean, but he did say to cleanse first the inside, which upon the doing of this the outside is washed.
Reach the heart, the affections, if the heart is not touched the actions will not be clean, even though they may be made to appear clean. It is not hard to get someone to correct their dress habits if their heart is set on things above. When the attitudes are pure, the motives right, the person will change appearance to conform to the Bible.
It seems that the Pharisees worked hard to appear righteous, but that is never a substitute for actually being righteous. It is not the doctrine of Jesus to ignore the outer appearance, he specifically left the impression that he wants the vessel to be clean, to appear so.
On the other hand, if the outward man is all that we are concerned with, if inner feelings are not set in order those impulses will make their way to the surface. It is a dead and formal religion where all men speak about or pay attention to is the outward man. Just to look beautiful, the Pharisees could do that, they appeared as whited sepulchers. Boast of a man's appearance and he will react, but when you discern his heart problem, then he is apt to sulk.
Both Paul and Peter left us with the admonition to adorn the person with modesty and the grace of God, they gave sound advice on caring for the outer man, but no less did they tell us how to care for the inner man. We are to clean up the person, for it is a meaningful saying that cleanliness is next to godliness, but that S not the sum total.
Our body is not to be polluted, we are not to be cigarette sucking, or snuff dipping people, it is not in the least comely for a saint to be filthy in his habits. Drunkards will have their part in the lake of fire, not in heaven. You can see by this that God looks on the outward man no less than on the inward, for if the inner man be affected with righteous principles, that light will shine out to the world around.
There are not a few religious folks around who think nothing of adorning their physical person with gold and silver, fancy clothing, expensive garments, painted faces, and nearly nude bodies. Their religion does not require much of them, nor does it offer them much in return. All they appear to have is a faint hope of heaven some day, though admitting to rebellion in their heart against God in the form of pleasurable sins.
Apparently some folks have not yet discovered what the lusts of the flesh are, or on the other hand they excuse them as necessary evils which they suppose the Lord just overlooks in love. Such is an affront to the precious blood of Christ which as shed to cleanse and free from sin
This treasure we have in earthen vessels, the gift of salvation with the giver himself indwelling. How is it that we should cast such a wrong impression upon our guest by allowing ourselves to be careless in our outward appearance. But, excuses are plentiful for the comfort of the body, and so men and women undress, or dress contrary to holiness.
"I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 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" (1 Tim 2:8-10).
The apparel with which men and women are to adorn themselves is itself to be modest, it is to avoid either extreme. It should not be rich clothing, overly bright In colors and mixtures, neither expensive. It is to sufficiently cover the body which means the neck area and proper portions of the legs and arms. By the neck area I do not mean the high necked attire of pride, but certainly there should not be low necked dresses which expose part of the body by lack of sufficient material, or material too thin, neither should the clothing be hanging indecently loose in those areas.
The saints are to avoid dressing in any clothing that is sexy in suggestion, that is, that which is too tight and revealing of the contours of the body to the extreme. There are some whose clothing is so tight it appears they were almost poured into them, that is indecent!
The standard which Paul established was, that "which becometh women professing godliness" or God likeness. If the clothing is modest before it is put on, and the proper fit, then the one wearing it will be modest in appearance.
Women who sit around carelessly expose parts of their body which ought to remain covered. Then they resent being told, some of them do, because they do not possess shamefacedness. Part of this problem stems from the lack of clarity in preaching for it is not preached on enough in some places, while in others it is used as a hobby horse to the neglect of other important subjects. When the dress lengths are not adequate there 'will not be sufficient covering when the wearer sits down. Women who are heavier need to allow for the extra length so that when they sit, stoop, or move about they will not be Indecently exposing their body.
To make light of that which is the standard does not require the use of words, for one need merely shrug the shoulders and that plainly speaks the sentiment of the heart. There are many who close their ears to the truth on this subject, and Paul describes it by saying they turn away their ears unto fables.
How can you tell if people are really listening to the gospel? By the way they react, it shows up in what they do with what is taught. You see the fruit they bear and by that you know the stand they are taking. a great message is spoken without them saying any thing, yet you can tell they have rejected'. the counsel.
But the Bible teaches also against the wearing of gold, or silver, or pearls, and so we may gather from this that the Bible teaches against wearing jewelry of any kind, or for any reason. Men and women do not need wedding bands or rings as some suggest, for if they conduct themselves as they ought no one will question their status. Rings of any kind and necklaces, just plain jewelry of any kind does not belong on the saints, all such things are for show to display the flesh and have no spiritual values.
Peter, in addressing the wives, admonishes them to have chaste conversation and reverence, that is, their daily conduct is to be such that it will not reflect any evil tendencies in them, even toward their unsaved husbands.
"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" (1 Pet 3:3-4).
In both cases, that of Paul and Peter, in dealing with this subject of adornment, both the men are to dress in modest apparel, that is, in simple and not expensive clothing. Gaudiness attractsattention to the flesh, it puts self on display, and fancy clothing is more of a lure than any thing else.
Neither should the people of God, believers, dress in shabby clothes for the purpose of making some kind of impression. There are times when people do have to wear what ever is given to them, some not having the means to purchase for themselves, and in all such cases there is no pretense involved. But to select clothing just to look affluent, or poor, is contrary to sound judgment.
Modest suggests not going to either extreme in dress. Does not the word of God condemn excesses? It surely does! On the thought of women wearing men's clothing1 such as pant suits, slacks, such is not proper, it is not becoming women professing holiness. The principle of the thing was recorded in the law, "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" (Deut 22:5).
From the knee and upwards, including the whole knee which is part of the thigh, and the body, from the neck downward, including parts of the arms next to the shoulders, should not be exposed as they are of the trunk of the body. Sleeveless and near sleeveless dresses are not the attire of saints. Those little fake sleeves are not becoming the saints either. The wearing of shorts or of swimming suits does not become the saints, although such fits in well down in Babylon.
There has to be a limitation, some restraints on what we wear, and all who indulge in the wrong kind of dress are a reproach to God and his cause. We are not of the world and therefore are not to dress or act like the world.
Not only should women wear dresses, but they should make them so as to cover the entire body, extending the hemline far enough below the knees that whether stooping; bending, or sitting they will be properly covered, and that should be held as the minimum standard for holiness. I am well aware that some do not do this, but I take it they are not sincere as they ought to be in the things of God.
Now some might wonder why we go to such great lengths to spell this out so plain. With the adversary so cunning, and the weaknesses in humanity ever present, some things cannot be left up to the individual's discretion. People are always looking for exceptions to the rule, and if they do not know of one they might tend to think one up.
I recall once when a certain preacher who did not like to deal with specifics made the statement that he dealt in generalities and let the Holy Ghost show each individual. It we are the mouth pieces for God we will speak the mind of God regardless of who accepts it or resents it.
When we spell out what God requires there is no room left for bickering and second guessing. If God's Spirit is able to show the minister what is the standard, and puts him as watchman on the wall, if he sees something not normal for the saints, it is his place to cry out against it, and if it be something practiced by a person in a leading position, if they do not correct their fault he is to remove them, he has that power vested in him by reason of the office he holds.
The Corinthians were a people of variety, and Paul, knowing that some of the women had developed a taste for finery in dress, rebuked such. It is needful that we all in the one body of Christ speak just one sound doctrine. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that YE ALL SPEAK THE SAME THING, and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you; but that ye be PERFECTLY JOINED TOGETHER in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10). Is Christ Jesus who is the Word of God, the Doctrine sent down from God the Father, divided? If we cannot as the people of God hold the same standard of dress, on what issue can we all see alike, or to what standard can we hold?
If something is essential to the body of Christ in any area on any matter, if it has cause to be an issue, it applies equally to all alike as a standard. Required of one, it is likewise required of all. There is no standard short of application to every member of the body alike!
God does not run a loose organization in which each person selects the way they are going to look and act. He put the stars in their place and appointed the bounds of the sun, moon, seas, and habits of animals. Every thing goes under Divinely appointed laws, referred to as laws or nature. We call them laws of nature because it is natural for every thing to follow a set pattern generation after generation. The course has been set and the things appointed for that course follow therein. Seeing that God was that detailed that which is to perish1 how much more in things pertaining to eternal values.
It is the world, those living in sin who want to put the flesh on display and make a mock of sin. Once people get salvation their life style is far different, and as Paul said, Old things, habits, desires, are passed away, and behold, all things become new and meaningful. Any person who picks up a profession without some drastic changes in their life, being more pronounced in those who have gone deep into sin, is to be held in question.
Take into consideration what God the Father has done for every one of us in sending his Son to earth to live and die to redeem and deliver us out of sin, for we who are saved can say he "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col 1:13).
To change kingdoms, from the carnally minded to the spiritually minded, is to change customs and affections. The first kingdom into which we are born is carnal, it is earthly, and sensual, devilish, full of darkness, it spawns evil appetites and brings about ungodly deeds. That is the state of all who have not been born again!
The other kingdom is the kingdom of God into which we enter through the new birth, and upon entering see it as being vastly different from that out of which we have newly come. It is a kingdom of light, and within it is happiness, joy, peace, true love of God, clean habits of life, and the power to restrain one's appetites so that the heart follows after that which is good and right. It is not normal for a child of God to want to deck out their body with jewels and worldly garbage, scanty clothing or suggestive apparel. ?;'either do they indulge in mannerisms foreign to the light shed upon their path by the Spirit of God.
God's people are different, they are NOT OF THE WORLD! Worldly people who are religious are false, they are in a deception that leads nowhere but to hell. Without a change of heart and affection one is still of the world. (2 Cor 5:17).
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us CLEANSE OURSELVES from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1). The flesh is the outer man, and the spirit is the inner man - both are to be made clean, purified. It is necessary that this vessel in which we live, and into which the Spirit of Christ comes at repentance, and the Holy Ghost indwells through sanctification, be clean, both in its appearance and actual being. Every one who looks upon you should see the effects of the Spirit of Christ upon your life. You should be hid away with Christ in God!
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb 10:22). You should not go about smelling like a hog's pen, looking like a scarecrow, when you are a child of God.
What is it that effects such great changes as this? Preaching the Word of God in its unadulterated form and those hearing it measuring to all of its mandates. When God's word is taught in its purity, that is what constitutes the STANDARD! This is what every believer is to live by. Allowing deviations, making exceptions, disregarding certain parts, those are things which void the simplicity of the gospel and breaks up the standard until there is no certain sound going out any more, and the people do as they please.
"husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" 4 (Eph 5:25, 27) And how was he to accomplish this? "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word" (Eph 5:26).
The gospel when preached in the correct manner, under the anointing of the Spirit of God, will effect a cleansing both of the soul and body. There is also no less of a need for believers to continue sitting under the sound of the gospel to keep them clean. The enemy of the soul is always trying by some means to overthrow the faith of the saved, and to take them in some kind of snare.
Saints are not glorifying God when they go about looking crabby, sour, unhappy, or deserted. They are to be a praise unto God, an example to all who see them of victory over sin, the world, the flesh and devil. They are not to look tickle either, or to dress gaudy, nor be worldly minded. Although the world is made up mostly of sin loving people, yet the saints as the salt of the earth are having some effect on the way they dress, and did so in a greater way when the church was a burning light. So even if they do tend to dress indecently, yet the examples of the believers is before them and wields some weight.
When the church becomes affected by worldly dress the whole lot sinks down into the mire of corruption. We who are believers have a great responsibility to keep ourselves free from the world and clothed in garments becoming people professing to be the children of God.
To the Jews the following message was addressed in prophetic tones, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa 60:1-3). What a grand and glorious heritage the Israelites rejected! But to those who did receive Christ as the Savior this came to pass, and the glory still lingers on in the hearts and lives of these who receive a love of God and of his truths.
If the world looks like the church, or the church looks like the world, where are the marks of distinction? God's people are marked, they are shining lights to a lost world out in sin, they are lifted up for the world to see, and in them is seen the beauty of holiness, which is the glory of God. Thus the words of the Lord, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt 5:16).
Here then is the proof that when we get the light of God in our hearts there is such a change that the world has no trouble seeing there is a difference. Our conduct, dress, and manner of walk is changed, our habits are cleansed and changed as becomes the gospel. Shortly after getting saved a believer begins to shuck off worldly things, they get a new wardrobe in some instances. They do not keep going to the same places of worldly amusement, and their once perverted appetites are cleansed.
A clean vessel means a clean body, which is normally the fruit of a clean heart. God expects and demands this truth to be taught! As further proof, in the experience of sanctification the physical body becomes a living sacrifice, presented by the seeker in the manner Paul instructed the Romans. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, THAT YE PRESENT YOUR BODIES A LIVING SACTRIFICE, HOLY, ACCEPTABLE unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom 12:1). From a state of justification before God one is to advance on into an experience of perfection, properly called sanctification.
When one is not yet sanctified there may be occasions when the lack shows up in one's dress. The body is still wanting to display some likeness to this worldly attire, proving there is still depravity around. The real problem is not in the physical body, but in the heart. The soul that is sanctified can give God a wholehearted service.
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Rom 12:2). Strangely enough, a believer is not to be conformed to the world, that is, to the rebellious element common to a depraved heart. Those who are of this world are self seeking, presumptuous, lovers of sinful and forbidden pleasures. They who are strangers to God will deck out their bodies with paint, jewelry, scanty clothing, and any thing that is a reproach to their Maker. Saints are to have a different mind, their desires are to be clean.
Even so, a code of dress alone does not make one to be part of the body of Christ. Nevertheless, the church is to have a standard of dress and it is modesty. It may be argued that customs change with time, and to an extent that is true, but never is modesty to change, nor holiness. In any generation decency must be maintained by all lovers of truth.
When men and women dress alike, cut their hair alike to look the same, that is an abomination to God, it is detested in his sight, and those who do such are under a curse. But in a world that is highly religious you can expect perverted living because of the perversion in people's hearts. Those who worship as pleases them will rebel against God's standard. They will eat their own bread, that is, they will formulate a creed of their own to go by, be it ever so contrary to God's word, and they will establish, if it can be called that, a dress code which is to do as one pleases. Such poor deluded souls are motivated by a spirit, but it is not the Spirit of God.
There is discipline in the church of God for all of its members alike. God has appointed pastors who are to oversee the worship services, and to enforce the standard of God's Word upon those who profess. When there is need of reproof he is to give it in the Spirit of love.
To be a clean vessel one must be of the right temperament, attitudes and disposition must be right. It is not just our outward appearance, but our tone of voice, our motions, our life is to be seasoned with grace, which means our words spoken must convey the Spirit of Christ.
Only a soul that is saved, justified, is able to present its body as a living sacrifice. Sinners cannot do this! God gives the Holy Ghost to them that obey, those who are walking in the light of justification. The act of consecration is that of a complete sell out, a total submission to God to do his whole will in all things. The body that is placed upon the golden altar in dedication must be holy, it cannot be a body that is foul with the sins of the world. The power of sin is broken in the first work of grace, and when that soul is convinced of its need for sanctification it can meet all of the requirements of God to be sanctified.
The religious cult that emphasizes the gift of tongues as evidence of having the Holy Ghost, many if not all of them live in sin, they dwell in darkness. The light of God soon sheds conviction upon a soul to get out of such places and to come to Zion.
There are some people who want to be accepted, and they can act so nice, until the judgments of God fall upon their idol, then they show what sort of spirit they are of.
It is in order at this point to say that when every soul who is saved by the grace of God, is on fire and in the light of God1 is united together for the world to see, that their manifestation of love to each other convinces of the grace of God. But so long as the hearts of professors are deceived and spoiled by divisions, and they are unwilling to submit to the truth, there will be divisions, which are a reproach to the intelligence and holiness of God. Having the same mind and same judgment does not belong to people of the world so far as truth is concerned.
A preacher that can please those in his midst who profess and dress like the world, it is because he is not a man of God, but a worldly preacher. No Holy Ghost anointed preacher will be making allowances for people to live like the world, for those are made by hypocritical blind dogs.
Back under the first covenant God commanded Israel on what they could and could not eat, where they were to live or not live, and some in particular what they could or could not wear. He put upon them many restrictions, and it displeased him if they did not abide therein. Why then do we think it should be so vastly different in this our day? Even in the very beginning after man fell in the garden, having chosen for himself a fig leaf apron, God rejected that and provided him with an animal skin for a covering, and his wife also. To say that how we dress makes no difference is to abide in the worst kind of deception.
The only reason a person would think that God doesn't care how they dress is because they want to dress like the world and will not allow that God will be displeased. Their heart is not right with God, it is not in line with the gospel. God does not leave it up to every one's own decision or taste as to what they do, say, wear, or the places they go. If they go their own way it is because they are not children of God, for his children obey him!
The people of God are as described by Peter (1 Pet 2:9), "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;" and it is these people alone who can show forth the praises of God by how they adorn their physical bodies, and how they manifest a right spirit, all of which is visibly seen in their conduct. God has called souls out of darkness into the glorious light of his Son, and those who go right on living like the world are still of the world, not converted.
I have laid great stress upon the necessity of proper outward adornment, which without doubt needs to be emphasized, but there is also a need to go farther and point out the other evils associated with the outward man besides how he or she is clothed.
Believers, men and women alike, are not to drink alcoholic beverages, or use tobacco in any form. They are not to attend movies, or watch them at home on a TV, for it is not pro-per to even have a TV, and someone with strong convictions will not be guilty of possessing one. Then they should not read obscene or perverted books either. Some books are full of the filth of the flesh, they are not fit to be read by saints. This is part of our appearance before the eyes of the world. We are not of the world!
You ought to comprehend by now that it takes more than a profession or going by the right name to be in the church of God. A new birth is a must if one is going to have spiritual
life. One's affections must be made pure. It is self deception to think or convince one's self that it doesn't make any difference with God, we can go our own way, do our own thing or make our own creed to live by.
Another area in which there has been too much leaning toward the world is in the area of how men and women do, or take care of their hair. You can find about any opinion that men and women look for who do not want to follow after the Bible. Some of the modern styles are suggestive, too loose, too worldly. We should avoid all extremes for so the word modest implies. Apostasy and super spirituality are to be shunned as neither will benefit the soul.
Paul the apostle and Peter both told women how not to fix their hair, and that should suffice to teach women of today to keep clear of worldliness. Simplicity resulting from the preaching of a simple gospel is what it takes to please God.
The Bible should be kept simple and to the point, but the many interpretations, opinions, theological turns and twists all add up to justify the many splits and divisions which are nothing less than carnal outcroppings of the flesh. Pure doctrine is vital to a pure church, and to pure lives. As a man believes, so will he practice. People do get to the place they think they can get by and still go to God's heaven, though out of step with God's word.
I would have to say that women who are unable to live with the gospel requirements for dress and appearance, and men as well, have a problem with the "lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life." (1 John 2:15). What the Bible does say is that it is the glory of the woman to have long hair, and a shame for man to have long hair. To add too much to the word perverts it and brings in commandments of men in place of the pure Word. Traditions are easily started when men without a clear vision work to erect some kind of monument to their name that has some strangeness about it. They mistakenly think that God is going to reward them for their efforts to erect a church after their own liking, and imagination of what God's church ought to be like. Often they build up another sect instead of the great church of God.
It is acceptable for men and women to be modest in every respect, neat and clean - the Bible does teach us cleanliness, but to use excesses in adornment is not sound doctrine. All of our actions, standing, sitting, walking, or what ever, if it be done with a wrong motive behind it, then it is immoral, it is sinful.
As ministers begin to cool off in their own spiritual life, they begin to make allowances, they gradually and craftily lower the standard of the Word. They will ease off on the pressure to be holy, and such moves is what takes groups down into the depths of apostasy.
Our change of views from what we received at and immediately following conversion becomes a serious matter. If we were at first informed wrongly, the Spirit will teach us the way of truth. But to see someone spiritual, zealous, and on fire for God, begin to ease off, taking a lesser position on matters of external appearance only to gratify the flesh, death is in the pot, they are feasting on carnal vanities, not the truth.
The reason there is some uniformity in the church of God is because of its uniformity in doctrine. It is not "to each his own," but all have a commitment to each other to live by the Word of God, meaning that we imitate Christ.
Some have developed, no doubt by the help of the devil, the attitude that it doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere. That attitude makes every man the originator of his own creed, his religion is a product of his own making, with nothing in it being divine.
Our salvation is of God, therefore our standard must also be of God. A clean vessel, cleansed by the blood of Christ through faith, else God will not dwell within! It is by the grace of God that we are saved, and by which we also stand. That same grace is a constant issue from the Holy Ghost, not a come and go thing that is seasonal.
If man subscribes to God' clan of salvation, why should there be, and how can there be a variety of opinions? Paul made no allowance for the many differences of opinion, he said to the Corinthians they were to all speak the same thing, be of the same mind and same judgment. That is the standard for God's church!
The idea that people of foreign nations are to keep their own customs
and do their thing is not gospel. If they are idolaters, or adulterers,
or thieves, or liars, they are to be changed by the gospel. So if they
go about indecently dressed, there is still one gospel, clean up the vessel
and adorn it according to the Bible. The idea that a person is saved while
still wallowing in their sins is not sound doctrine. If the truth will
produce a church in this country of the USA, it will produce nothing less
in any country, if the truth is properly proclaimed. A clean vessel for
the truth is the lowest standard taught in the Word.
© Copyright February 1985
A. K. Chancellor