Fig Leaves or Lambs Wool?Many years ago as a Bible Worker Trainee with a senior pastor, we were visiting various isolated members and interests.
In one place we wanted to see a church member whom neither one of us had ever met, so I wondered how we were going to recognize her. Observing many people coming out of elevators in the lobby where we were to meet, one lady walked out and im-mediately we knew this was our sister.
The reason we immediately recognized this woman as a member of our church was because she clearly distinguished herself from all the other women in that establishment. God made it plain that He will have a people that are very distinct and separate from all other peoples on the face of this earth. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18). When God says that His people are to come out from the world, that His people are to come out of Babylon, He expects us to come all the way out— not just part of the way. It is only when we decide to separate completely from anything that He calls an abomination that we actually become the sons and daughters of the Almighty. We realize that we are His posses-sion because Jesus came to this world and paid the purchase price for our redemption. However, it is only when we voluntarily accept the sacrifice of Jesus and commit ourselves fully to Him, that we enter into that special relationship as sons and daughters. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). “Christ’s followers are required to come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean, and they have the promise of being the sons and daughters of the Most High, members of the royal family. But if the conditions are not complied with on their part, they will not, cannot, realize the fulfillment of the promise. A profession of Christianity is nothing in the sight of God; but true, humble, willing obedience to His requirements designates the children of His adop-tion, the recipients of His grace, the partakers of His great salvation. Such will be peculiar, a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. Their peculiar, holy character will be discern-ible, and will distinctly separate them from the world, from its affections and lust.”1
God loves His people so much that He wants to spend eternity with them. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revela-tion 21:1–3). Can you imagine that the great God of the universe wants to tabernacle with His people and live with them throughout all eternal ages? This is not only speaking of a future life that we only speak about in theo-logical circles. God wants to begin living with us right here, right now—today. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4). And it is through the Holy Spirit that this constant living with us is accomplished. “Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlast-ing life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal.”2
As we look to the future when the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon God’s people in the fullness of the Latter Rain experience, we have many lessons to learn from the early Chris-tian church. What did it make possible for them to receive the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit in their time? Why did this relatively unknown people, who for all intents and pur-poses could not attract any followers to their new religion, terrify the world? “The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people. Their blameless de-portment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner’s peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and doctrines were known.”3 It was not just their new teaching that was provoking an interest. It was this lethal combination of doctrine and character that disturbed the entire Roman empire as well as any culture and religion that met with this unique people. The world could tolerate another idea or teaching. However, it was this doctrine that actually had power to change the character that made it so powerful. “The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ’s day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jeal-ous regard for what is termed theologi-cal truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life.”4
It was this truth that the early Christians actually experienced. We as Adventists often talk about the coming Sunday decree and when it will come upon this world. In reality, it will never come until there is a people that actually experience the truth in their lives to such an extent that they are living the life of Jesus in their daily experiences. That they in reality are Christians—ones who are like Christ. So the real question we need to be asking ourselves is, Are we in reality Christians—or are we such only in pro-fession? It is impossible for us to serve both the world and Jesus. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). When we speak of separation from the world, we have to understand that it primarily includes three specific issues. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (verse 25). It involves what we eat; what we drink; and how we clothe ourselves. This is why, in speaking of dress reform, the Spirit of the Lord gives us a sobering evaluation. “Let the fashion change, and convenience would no longer be mentioned. It is the duty of every child of God to inquire: ‘Wherein am I separate from the world?’ let us suffer a little inconvenience, and be on the safe side. What crosses do God’s people bear? They mingle with the world, partake of their spirit, dress, talk, and act like them.”5
Does this mean that they don’t care what they eat or how they dress? “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (verse 26). Quite obviously the birds care for the type of food they eat. However, they are not preoccupied with these things. In the same way, the people of God will not be preoccupied with their food and clothing. They will always do these things to God’s honor and glory, but never be so occupied with these things that it takes them away from their spiritual experience with the Lord as their primary goal in life.
Whatever subject we consider, we always need to compare present ideas and practices to God’s original design for His people. “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” (Jeremiah 6:16). Jesus Himself when on earth had to make many corrections based on the original plan. He could say, “but from the begin-ning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). When God made our first parents, they were different than any other cre-ation. “All heaven took a deep and joy-ful interest in the creation of the world and of man. Human beings were a new and distinct order.”6 They were actually made in God’s image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). Since humankind was made in the image of God, do we ever consider what type of clothing God wears? Does He wear anything? “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain” (Psalm 18 104:1, 2). Yes! God wears honor, maj-esty, and light. So we can expect that our first parents, as they were frolicking around in the garden, were clothed in honor, majesty, and light as they were created in God’s very own image. It is a very worldly-minded picture of Adam and Eve naked in the garden of Eden as we understand nakedness today. It is true that in one sense they were naked without any clothes. “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). However, this nakedness must be distinguished from the condi-tion in which they were in after they sinned. “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). As soon as they sinned, they knew they had lost something, and they tried to cover what they had lost by making a garment of fig leaves. “God instructed our first parents in regard to the tree of knowledge, and they were fully informed relative to the fall of Satan, and the danger of listening to his suggestions. He did not deprive them of the power of eating the forbid-den fruit. He left them as free moral agents to believe His word, obey His commandments and live, or believe the tempter, disobey, and perish. They both ate, and the great wisdom they obtained was the knowledge of sin and a sense of guilt. The covering of light about them soon disappeared, and under a sense of guilt and loss of their divine covering, a shivering seized them, and they tried to cover their exposed forms.”7
Why was it that they made this garment of fig leaves? They had regular times for meeting with their Creator and because they knew they were com-ing into His presence, they knew they had to be clothed. They could not be fully clothed as they had been with the garment of light, so they put on what they could find. It is interesting to note that the more people fall into sin, the more they want to come into the presence of God na-ked—or at least with less and less cloth-ing. This is why years ago when people entered a church, they would make sure they were clothed sufficiently. Nowa-days we see tight and/or embarrassingly low-cut tops revealing much of the chest area, short sleeves or no sleeves at all, along with shorts or short dresses in the church, all showing clearly that we are becoming desensitized to sin and are coming in the presence of God with our aprons of fig leaves. And yet the reverence of holy angels who have never sinned is remarkable as they cover themselves when they approach the great God in His holy temple. “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly” (Isaiah 6:1, 2). Having said all that, it is better that a person comes into the presence of God with his or her scantily clad fig-leaved garments rather than not coming at all. As sinners, God wants us to come to Him just as we are, because He has a remedy for our miserable, rotten condition as sinners.
The plan of redemption
Adam and Eve came before God, not only clothed outwardly in a manner un-fit for God’s presence, but their inward condition was like that described by Isaiah of the professed people of God in his own time. “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no sound-ness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither molli-fied with ointment” (Isaiah 1:6). And what did Christ do with such sinners whom He loved so much that He was willing to exchange His life with theirs? After explaining the plan of redemption to Adam and to his wife and the sacrifice that needed to be made to redeem them from such degradation, the Lord God did “make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). God practically illustrates His sacrifice for the sinner, and He then embeds it into their memory by exchanging their fig-leafed garments with coats of skins that fitly represents the plan of redemption, be-cause of the sacrifice made of an animal to benefit them.
Each day as they placed this cloth-ing upon their bodies that God had prepared specifically for them, they would be reminded that they had ac-cepted Christ as their righteousness. In this manner, their change of clothing actually affects their character. “Perhaps no question has ever come up among us which has caused such development of character as has the dress reform.”8
For this reason, when we see a person dressing in the wrong way, what do we know? “I saw that the outside appear-ance is an index to the heart. . . . Unless such persons are cleansed from their corruption, they can never see god, for only the pure in heart will see Him.”9
Have we accepted Jesus as our personal Saviour? If so, then there will be a corresponding change in our outward appearance. It is true that one can change the outward appearance without the inward change; however, one cannot change the inward without showing it on the outside. If we look at the various changes with our first parents, it is remarkable to see that each time their spirituality changed, so did their outward appear-ance. First they were clothed with a full garment of light. As soon as they sinned, there was an automatic change in their outward appearance—the light disappeared. If we are living a Christian life and then lose our connection with the Lord, one of the first signs is the change in the way we dress. For many years I have watched church members as they begin the road to apostasy, the very first change is in the way they dress. When Adam and Eve remembered that they needed to meet with God for His regular appointments with them, they realize their sense of nakedness and shame and tried to do their best to cover up their exposed forms. It was self-righteousness at best as they tried to appear before God as if nothing had happened. But our God was not deceived. He loved them too much to leave them the way they were then. After they understood the plan that Deity had to save humanity and they personally accepted that plan, immediately there was a change in the way they were dressed. God did not leave them with their fig leaves or replicate some kind of “caveman-style” clothing, He made them coats of skins. He fully clothed them with garments that symbolized the plan of redemption. In the same way, when a person finally accepts Christ as his or her personal Saviour, immediately there is seen a change in the way he or she dresses. Instead of fig leaves, people are fully clothed, as will be discussed in the next article. In the same manner as Adam and Eve looked upon their new clothing, they would remember that Christ died so that they could live. We also would, when we accept Jesus as our personal Saviour, have a change of clothing. Whenever we look at the principles of dress reform as given to the people of God in the last days and even see a cross attached to it at times, we remember the plan of redemption for sinners and that Christ is our righteousness. “The dress reform is treated by some with great indifference and by others with contempt, because there is a cross attached to it. For this cross I thank God. It is just what we need to distinguish and separate God’s commandment-keeping people from the world.”10
“I saw that the ax must be laid at the root of the tree. Such pride should not be suffered in the church. It is these things that separate god from his people, that shut the ark away from them. Israel have been asleep to the pride, and fashion, and conformity to the world, in the very midst of them. They advance every month in pride, covetousness, selfishness, and love of the world. When their hearts are affected by the truth, it will cause a death to the world, and they will lay aside the ribbons, laces, and collars; and, if they are dead, the laugh, the jeer, and scorn of unbelievers will not move them. They will feel an anxious desire to be separate from the world, like their Master. They will not imitate its pride, fashions, or customs. The noble object will be ever before them, to glorify God and gain the immortal inheritance. This prospect will swallow up all beside of an earthly nature. god will have a people separate and dis-tinct from the world. And as soon as
any have a desire to imitate the fashions of the world, that they do not immedi-ately subdue, just so soon God ceases to acknowledge them as His children.”1 1
God gave Israel the principles of dress reform not only as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for humanity, but also for the purpose of identifying His people. As we read Numbers 15:37–41, God made a simple arrangement of placing a ribbon of blue to iden-tify who are His people. “Here God expressly commanded a very simple ar-rangement of dress for the children of Israel for the purpose of distinguish-ing 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 chil-dren 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.”12
By looking at all these statements from the Bible and the Spirit of Proph-ecy, we can see that our God really loves us. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwell-eth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). He gives us the principles of dress reform from His perspective of love. It is for our benefit to follow these principles for physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being. Not only does it benefit us personally, but it identifies us as His peculiar people in this world. Every time we feel it is a cross to dress in the prescribed manner that God gives us through the inspired writings, we are to remember that this manner of dressing symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus for a lost world. The most important question for you today is, Have you seen yourself as a sinner in need of a Saviour? Have you seen Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins? Have you accepted Him as your personal Redeemer? If you have not, then now is the time to make this decision to accept Him wholeheartedly and gladly accept the coats of skins (principles of dress reform) as a symbol of that acceptance. R
1 Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 441. [Emphasis supplied.] 2 The Desire of Ages, p. 388. 3 The Great Controversy, p. 46. [Emphasis sup-plied.] 4 The Desire of Ages, p. 309. 5 Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 278. [Emphasis sup-plied.] 6 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 1, p. 1081. 7 The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 40. [Empha-sis supplied.] 8 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 636. 9 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 136. [Emphasis supplied.] 10 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 171. 1 1 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 136, 137. [Emphasis sup-plied.] 12 Ibid., pp. 524, 525. [Emphasis supplied.]