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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:The Lord provides the clothing needed to cover our shame
Text:Genesis 3:21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 APV Book of Praise
Bible translation: NKJV
Note: the 7th sermon in a series on Christian parenting: Can be used on its own.

Hymn 5:1,3,4

Psalm 119:47

Hymn 25:1,2,4

Psalm 31:1,13,14

Psalm 40:7


Read: Genesis 2:25-3:24;  Matthew 27:27-44;  1 Peter 3:1-6

Text:  Genesis 3:21.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is sometimes said that the clothes make the man but it is probably more correct to say that the clothes reveal the man.  What we wear tells a lot about ourselves such as whether we are male or female, how old we are (or would like to be), what country or culture we are from, and perhaps even how rich or poor we are.  Our clothes may reveal whether we are happy, sad, content with life or angry at society.  Our dress may reveal what sort of a job we have – a soldier or a nurse or a farmer or a lawyer.  Our clothes may reveal whether we are going to school, staying at home, going to the gym or going to church. 

  What we choose to wear and how we present ourselves matters, and it matters a lot.  And for this reason while a mother might be standing in front of the mirror asking “does this make me look fat?” the father of the house might be saying to his son or daughter, “You aren’t leaving the house looking like that!”


Most of us are quite concerned about our personal image, about what we look like and what others think of our appearance.  Many of us, both men and women, are very sensitive to what others think or say about the way we dress, the way we have our hair, get our nails done, use make-up and so forth.  And many of our children are very sensitive to what they look like and how people see them.  To be criticized for how you dress – whether your clothes are too short or too frumpy or too tight or too dumpy can be quite devastating.  And so any kind of lecture – including one from the pulpit – that has anything to do with clothing or physical adornment can make us nervous and uncomfortable.


But we have promised to instruct our children and to raise them in the fear of the Lord.  And therefore we and our children must know what the Bible has to say about these things.  The world of fashion and of glamour never stops, day or night, from telling us what to wear and how to look.  But since we belong with body and soul to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, and since we are called to glorify God in our bodies, and since our bodies are even temples of the Holy Spirit it is most important that we turn to God Himself, to His Word, to learn what He has to say about the clothes that we wear and how we are to present ourselves as His redeemed children.  And we will do that this morning by hearing from the Word of God in Genesis 3:21 and in the light of Matthew 27 and 1 Peter 3.  I preach to you the Word of the LORD under the following theme:

The Lord provides the clothing needed to cover our shame.

1.    The need for clothing.

2.    The provision of clothing.

3.    The wearing of clothing.

1. The need for clothing.

We need our clothes and we can not really function without them.  To be exposed is a reason for great embarrassment, for humility and shame.  It should never happen, therefore, that people have their clothes forcefully removed from them.


But that is what happened to our Lord Jesus Christ - not once, but twice on the night that He was betrayed and crucified.  Matthew 27:27,28 says,

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus in to the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.  And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.”

They stripped Him.  In public.  Before a whole garrison of jeering soldiers.  Yes, they dressed Him again – but in different clothes.  They stripped Him and then played “dress-up” with Him so that they might mock our Lord and Saviour.


Then they removed the scarlet robe, those dress-up clothes from Him, they put His own clothes back on Him and took Him away to be crucified.


But then when our Lord was crucified, they took His clothes from Him once more.  And this time they did not clothe Him again.  Naked He hung on the cross while the soldiers divided His garments among them, casting lots for His tunic. 


That was terrible.  That was shameful.  Too shameful, really, to think about.


But there was a time when man did not need clothes, when being naked was not a cause for shame or embarrassment at all.  After the creation of man and after the woman was given to the man, Genesis 2:25 says,

 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”


But things did not stay this way, for with the fall into sin came the shameful awareness of being naked before one another and before holy God.  Genesis 3:7,

 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”

And verse 9-11,

“Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”  So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”  And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?”

The nakedness that Genesis 2 and 3 speak about is clearly physical:  Adam and Eve had no clothes before the Fall into sin, but immediately after they sinned, they felt compelled to cover up.  But there was more than something simply physical that was at stake here.  Before the Fall Adam and Eve were fully exposed before the LORD and it was very good!  There was nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of before God and before each other.  Adam and Eve were completely perfect, without sin and the very idea of hiding or covering up before God or one another would not even have entered their minds.  But after they ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil their eyes were opened to the shame and stain of sin.  By falling into sin, Adam and Eve were disrobed of the glory and honor in which they had been created, they could no longer stand before Holy God, they were filled with shame and with guilt and therefore they had to find a way to cover up. 


And Adam and Eve did so – or at least they tried to.  They hastily sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.  Now these fig leaves were no fashion statement.  This was no delightful first attempt at sewing, at making something useful and practical.  This was the desperate act of desperate man: desperate to hide from themselves, from one another, and especially from Holy God. 


And so they made coverings for themselves, loincloths, fig-leaf skirts.  But how can a fig leaf hide you from God?  How can a skimpy covering of fig leaves cover the guilt and the ugliness and the corruption of sin before the eyes of  our all-seeing God?  These fig leaves were useless, for God could see straight through them!  He could see straight through them not just to see the shame of their nakedness but to see that shame of their sin-filled hearts!  And there was nothing they could do about it.


And so Genesis 3:8 goes on to say,

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”


They hid themselves, but God called them out.  And then He asked them the question:

“Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”


There was no hiding from God, no hiding from the fact that they were now filled with the shame and the pollution of sin.  They could not go on!  They could not stand before the presence of holy God.  They could not even stand before one another with their sin-filled state exposed for all to see.  They needed to be clothed.  But they could not clothe themselves.  They needed a Saviour.  They needed someone to come to cover the shame of their nakedness, the shame of their sin and misery.  And so we come to our second point.


2. The provision of clothing. 

 It was the fall into sin that led to the need for clothing, and the need for clothing arose with the need to cover up.  While the use of clothing today is broader than that with our clothes being an expression of who we are, what we are doing and also what role we have in society, we should never forget that primary role of clothing is “to cover up”.  That is the primary role of clothing at home, at school, at work, at church, at the gym, and also at the beach.  While other parts of the Bible make it clear that we may dress and adorn ourselves to look nice, to look attractive, even attractive as women or as men, this can only be done in the context of “covering up.”  It is necessary to understand this because many items of clothing today are designed not to cover but to reveal.  For men to show off a buff body; for women to draw one’s eyes to the legs, the buttocks and the breast.  When it comes to fashion, Christians have often been encouraged not to be the first one into a new fashion, and not the last one out of it.  And while there may be some wisdom in such advice since we do not want to dress to attract undue attention to ourselves, when a fashion or a design is intended to turn you into an object of lust or anything else other than a child of God, the right thing to do as a child of God is to put that piece of clothing back on the rack and to choose something that leaves you not in a state of undress but of dress.  And this is something that we need to teach our children!  If the world would have it their way, our children would learn more about how to dress from Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian than they would from the Bible.  If the world would have their way, our children would be taught to dress like the world and not like a young woman, a young man, of virtue and of Christian modesty.


But clothes, man-made clothes, can never be enough.  The fig leaves that Adam and Eve had stitched together failed to cover the shame of their nakedness not because they were too skimpy – although perhaps they were that – but because our own man-made clothes can never provide us with the covering that we need.  And the reason for that is that our clothing can never truly hide – let alone change – who we are on the inside.  Homer Hoeksema wrote in his commentary on Genesis 3,

“It is impossible to cleanse and purify a well by washing the pump handle, or to deceive the Holy One by covering up the spots of the leopard.  Nor is it possible to hide the sinner by a nice suit of clothes.”

A covering of fig leaves, no matter how elaborate, will never cover the guilt and the ugliness and the corruption of sin before the eyes of God.  And that is why, even though Adam and Eve had covered themselves with fig leaves, when they heard the sound of the LORD God in the garden, they ran away and hid.  Notwithstanding the fact that Adam and Eve had done something about their nakedness, when the LORD asked Adam “Where are you?” Adam replied and said,

“I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

But God would not leave Adam and Eve trembling and hiding from Him in their shame!  When Adam and Eve ran and hid from Him, He came to seek them out.  And while He clearly spelled out the consequences of the misery of their sin-filled state, the Lord also gave to them the Mother of all promises, the promise of One who was to come, a Child to be born who would crush the head of the Serpent.  In the face of death, the LORD promised a way to life!  And receiving this promise by faith, Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.


And then the LORD Himself did something great.  He took animal skins, made garments or tunics from them, and with them the LORD clothed the man and the woman.  Just how the LORD actually did this is hardly the point here.  A number of commentators including John Calvin think that we should not imagine God coming down, physically slaughtering some animals, skinning them, fashioning their skins into clothes and then putting these garments on Adam and Eve.  But however the LORD did this, what is clearly taught here is that God Himself clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of animals.  Through the death of these animals the LORD provided a covering for Adam and Eve that would work where their own attempt at fig leaves did not. 


And notice this:  For Adam and Eve to be clothed by God, animals had to die.  Up until this point, nothing in all creation had died.  When Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, they must have expected death at any moment since the LORD had told them that they would surely die.  But now that death first occurs, it was not their own death, but animals who died in their place so that they might be covered in the sight of God and of each other.  In the garments with which that the LORD clothed Adam and Eve, therefore, we can see a promise of what was to come, of the full and the true covering that the Lord would give for sin.  For the Lord had just given the Mother of all promises, that salvation would come for His people that the head of Satan would be bruised.  And this would happen through the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ. 


But when our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross, His Father did not provide him with an animal skin to cover Him.  No, He did not even have a covering of fig leaves.  Our Lord Jesus Christ had His clothes stripped from Him and He was hung on the cross, exposed for all to see.  And so He bore our human shame to the very end.  As it says in our Form for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper,

“On the cross He humbled Himself, in body and soul, to the very deepest shame and anguish of hell.”

And He did that for us!  Our Lord Jesus Christ took our shame upon Himself.  He died clothed in the shame of our nakedness.  He died so that in Him we do not have to die in the shame, in the horror of our spiritual and moral nakedness before God.  He died so that we might receive an eternal covering of forgiveness for our sins and for our shame.


And now we who are in Christ Jesus are once more clothed!  But the clothes with which the Lord provides us are not those of animal skins but we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ!  And so we may rejoice with the words of Isaiah 61:10,

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness!”


And those are the clothes that we must wear!  There are times when we use our physical clothing not to cover up but more as a mask.  There are times when we and our teenaged children do not dare to face the world if there is one hair out of place or if we have not applied our makeup to change the way we look on the outside.  There are times when we would not want to be seen dead in that outfit or in those clothes.  Our choice of clothing – even a choice to wear skimpy clothing, bold hairstyles and excessive makeup – can often be a sign of our own insecurities, of wanting to put on a persona to hide who we really are or what we are really feeling deep down inside.  And that is also part of the reason why, when someone criticizes what we wear or how we look, we can be so deeply offended, so easily hurt.  But that is not why God provides you with clothing!  He provided animal skins to Adam and Eve because the fig leaves could not work.  And He clothes you His children with the garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness so that in Jesus Christ you can face both God and the world with nothing more to hide.


3. The wearing of clothing.

If we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, however, that raises the question:  does it still matter what we wear and how we present ourselves?  If it is the heart that counts and our heart is made right before God, shouldn’t all this talk about clothing and piercings and makeup and hairstyles be put aside as something that is of no consequence, of Christian freedom? 


No it does not, and the New Testament makes that clear by speaking very pointedly about matters of dress and deportment in places such as 1 Timothy 2, James 2 and 1 Peter 3.  Of course we can have an unhealthy focus on dress and the matter of Christian clothing has been spoken of in legalistic and unspiritual ways.  The heart of Christianity is not a dress code.  However, as one person put it, “The heart of our Christian faith does not consist in what we wear but what we wear does reflect our inward condition.”  In other words, what we are and who we are on the inside must be evident by how we present ourselves on the outside!  For how can one who is a part of the bride of Christ be dressed up like a harlot?  How can one who lives for the glory of God deliberately and consistently present himself as a slob?  How can one talk about the things of God while his T-shirt has a slogan that is telling you to love the things of this world? 

  Brothers and sisters, boys and girls: what does your clothing say about you?  Does it scream out that you are rich?  Does it suggest that you are ready to party, to enjoy the godlessness of this world?  Does your choice of clothing present you as an object of lust rather than a woman or a man of virtue? Or does it suggest, perhaps, that in rejecting everything society expects you to be, you wish to live and promote an alternative – but equally godless - sort of a life style?  We need to remember that we have been bought, body and soul, by our Saviour Jesus Christ.  We have to realize that every square inch of our lives, even our wardrobes, our hairstyles, our faces and our toe nails must reflect the fact that we belong to Him.  And for that reason  1 Peter 3:3,4 says,

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

No, the Bible is not saying here that we may never arrange our hair or put on nice clothes.  You do not have to go further than Proverbs 31 to read that a woman of virtue can have clothing of fine linen and purple.  But what it is saying is that our clothing and our hairstyles and all the rest that comes with it must reflect godly and not worldly values.  The way we dress and the way we present ourselves should not be saying “Look at me” and “I am with the world” but the way that we dress and the way that present ourselves should be a reflection of a heart that lives for Christ.  And so next time you try on that dress, that shirt, those jeans, the first question you should ask is not “Does this make me look fat?” but instead “Does this reflect the fact that I belong to God?  Does it show that I have been covered in the righteousness of Christ?”  And if it does not, then put it back.  And do not be surprised if you end up putting a lot of things back: after all the fashion industry does not want you to think in those ways.  But do it anyway for your body is not a temple in which to display the latest fashion; your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.


And so let us be clothed ourselves and let us teach our children to be clothed as those clothed in the righteousness of Christ, as those who belong to Christ, as those who are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Let our clothes be evidence that we have been covered with a covering not made with human hands.  And let us wear our clothes not with our eyes fixed on the world around us, but with our eyes fixed on the throne room of heaven.  For we live in the sure hope that one day we too will be there.  And notice this:  when we are there, we will still be wearing clothes!  Please turn with me to Revelation 7:9,10.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”


And verse 13-15 of Revelation 7,

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”  And I said, “Sir, you know.”  So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.  And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”

In the garden of Eden the Lord clothed Adam and his wife with the skins of animals.  Clothing them in this way was an act of God’s grace, but those clothes were not a sufficient covering for them to remain in His presence.  And for that reason Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.  But one day we will stand before Him without shame, for we will be seen to be clothed in robes that have been washed white by the blood of the Lamb, of Jesus Christ!  And so let us live, and so let us be dressed, as those who have been clothed in Christ!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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