rebelling against low expectations

John Piper: The Purpose of Clothing


In the second of a series of messages on the topic of marriage, John Piper turned his attention, briefly, to the issue of clothing, for men and women.

The sermon was delivered this past Sunday, providential timing for all of us as we prepare for the release of the Modesty Survey results. What is more exciting, Piper hinted at the possibility of a full message on the topic of clothing in the near future.

Take a minute or two to read and digest what Piper says in the following excerpt from his sermon manuscript. You can read, watch or listen to the sermon here.

Then God Clothed Them
By John Piper ©

What does it mean that God clothed [Adam and Eve]? Was he confirming their hypocrisy? Was he aiding and abetting their pretense? If they were naked and shame-free before the Fall, and if they put on clothes to minimize their shame after the Fall, then what is God doing by clothing them even better than they can clothe themselves?

I think the answer is that he is doing something with a negative message and something with a positive message.

Negatively, he is saying: You are not what you were and you are not what you ought to be. The chasm between what you are and what you ought to be is huge. Covering yourself with clothing is a right response to this—not to conceal it, but to confess it.

Henceforth, you shall wear clothing, not to conceal that you are not what you should be, but to confess that you are not what you should be. One practical implication of this is that public nudity today is not a return to innocence but rebellion against moral reality. God ordains clothes to witness to the glory we have lost, and it is added rebellion to throw them off.

And for those who rebel in the other direction and make clothes themselves a means of power and prestige and attention getting, God’s answer is not a return to nudity but a return to simplicity (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Clothes are not meant to make people think about what is under them. Clothes are meant to direct attention to what is not under them: Arms and hands that serve others in the name of Christ, “beautiful” feet that carry the gospel to where it is needed, and the brightness of a face that has beheld the glory of Jesus.

Additional Modesty Resources

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Hmm, I never considered WHY God clothed Adam and Eve, other than the fact that the killed lamb represented Jesus’ future life and death. The except was intruiging!
    God bless you again with his grace and love,

  • One other point would be Revelation 1:5, where it says we are washed in His Blood. It sounds kind of sick, but then again, what else can take away sin? Like Prudence said, it was a picture of our being clothed in the righteousness of Chirst by His shed blood.

  • Thank you for the new thoughts. I’ve never really thought about the purpose of clothes before, even chuckled at the title. I’ve always had the view that we wore clothes for modesty’s sake, but never thought about he wearing of clothes as being a confession of our sin.
    Thanks for posting this 🙂

  • A confession of the chasm between what we ought to be and what we are! The reality of our sinful state makes the gospel all the more precious—-oh how we need saving!!

    Listen to the whole message and follow this series if you can—powerful and life changing is the Word of God!

  • Wow…how beautiful. Thanks for sharing this. The modesty survey is turning out to be such a blessing…and the results haven’t even been released yet!

  • I appreciated that excerpt.

    You likely know this already, but if you look at the Hebrew word that is used for “aprons” in Gen. 3:7, it means ” a belt or girdle”. And the word used in verse 21 for “coats” means pretty much “a cloak or robe”. So as a friend of mine (SDA evangelist and director of ARISE Institute in MI, David Asscherick) said, “Adam and Eve made themselves underwear and God made them clothes.”

  • That was so awesome! I have never heard it put that way b4. and what he said about the hands and feet of Christ, now our modesty makes sense. I mean, I always knew we weren’t supposed to lead our Christian brothers into temptation, but I still felt like there was a bigger reason. now I know.

  • That is so incredibly insightful! John Piper is an amazing man with so much insight, and we are so blessed that we can learn from him.

    ~Elisabeth Gruber

  • Wow! I never thought about why God clothed Adam and Eve before. This makes a lot of sense to me… and could come in handy if I ever have a friend considering a nudist colony, haha.
    Thank you again, John Piper!

  • Wow! I never thought about why God clothed Adam and Eve before. This makes a lot of sense to me… and could come in handy if I ever have a friend considering a nudist colony, haha.
    Thank you again, John Piper!

  • What I notice about most of what I have seen in the comments on this site it that they are mostly very tightly related to 20th and 21st century American culture. Our culture has developed inappropriate attitudes toward sex, and for most this seems to have spilled over to create inappropriate attitudes about clothing and nudity. Part of this is because we seem to have become experts at using jewelry, makeup, and clothing (or the lack of it) to promote the inappropriate approach to sex. In fact, many people seem to think there is a solid link between nudity and immoral sexual activity.

    God designed every part of our bodies, and when He was done, He said it was good. There is not any part of the body which is shameful. In Old Testament times people bathed in public areas. In New Testament times people were baptized while nude. Elijah preached to large crowds for three years nude. (Some students of Hebrew say that the passage about Elijah going nude for three years really should be interpreted as his being in his underwear, but even if that is correct, it would still not be considered modest in today’s America. Most Christians would certainly condemn his attire.)

    In many cultures over the centuries people have worn little or no clothing as both children and adults. Even in some “western” cultures today, nude or nearly nude sun bathing or swimming is common, and not associated with sexual activity. Young people living on the western frontiers of America 150 years ago would swim nude (or sometimes in their bloomers and such) in the local creeks. Few would ever own special clothing for swimming.

    Should girls in the USA today be conscious and conscientious about modesty? Yes. But it is a sad commentary on where our culture has come. There are likely many influences that contribute to the men of American having such an obsession with sex. And it may be reasonable for them to ask the ladies to “help out’ by covering up, but the men should also work on developing a healthier attitude. If a man cannot look at a scantily clad lady without becoming sexually aroused or having immoral thoughts, he should be examining what the problem is and seeking a solution that is not dependent on how women dress. I can understand that non-Christians may be quite conflicted in this area; but Christians, having been placed into a right relationship with God, should be more able to appreciate the way we were made without perverting it.

  • WOW. I never thought of it like that before! Interesting. All the comments here also are interesting. I’m kinda blown away… I mean… this is pretty powerful stuff, I guess. But, in a cool way. I’ll remeber this.

  • Well that was right!!! Y do some people seem not to understand that. Partucuarly the kind who participate in strip clubs and similar things.

  • Hi! Love your site!
    Okay, I’m just looking for advice… I am a really artsy girl who loves clothes and fashion. Ever since I was really little I’ve wanted to design clothes. Is it right for a young Christian girl to be in the clothing industry even if her clothes are modest? Would it be too challenging for my faith? I know that nothing is impossible with God but there are such things as stumbling blocks even for Christians… 🙂

  • Modesty is INCREDIBLY important!! God tells us to be pure. We are to dress modestly if thats a struggle you need to think how much do you love the Lord if you truly love God you will truly value purity not because it’s required but because you want to honor the Lord!

  • i love that! i (like alot of other ppl, apparently,) have never thought of it like that b4! but, if we could get the word around good enough, maybe this “baggy pants” trend could very soon be just an emberassing memory :banaboogie:

  • John is right. The purpose of clothing is not to prevent lusting, but to show that we are not who we were. We used to be innocent and in no need of Christ’s redemption, but now we wear clothes to symbolize Jesus’s atonement covering our sins. Of course, removing clothes to try to invoke lusting is not good; then again, the purpose of clothing is not to try to prevent people from lusting, either (of course, in that case, we would overtime add more and more clothes until we looked like muslims). We must dress to be neutral.

  • I do not agree with this article. Nevertheless, I had researched with Yahoo and I’ve found out that you’re correct and I seemed to be thinking in the incorrect way. Continue writing high quality articles such as this.

  • Wow:) It’s cool that u took the time to understand the purpose of clothing. And u took it back all the way to Genesis, where man first received the concept of clothing. Okay this kinda jumps topic a little bit but don’t u think that it’s interesting that pretty much everything that God does is symbolic, like he don’t just do it to be doing it…there’s always a deeper meaning behind it for us to come to understand.

  • I am sad to say I need to let go of my Glock so I am posting it on milwaukee. This gun is the perfect self-defense gun, especially for open carry – but the fact that I am selling it online shows how silly the laws are in this state. I am a good judge of character and I will follow the laws to the letter when selling it, but the fact of the matter is that this system is completely reliant on the purchaser telling the truth. I am selling the gun because I lost my job, not because I want to, and I am selling it privately because I am legally allowed to do so, but I don’t believe I should be.

  • I think in society we have gotten over board with clothing with all the fashion designs and the “what not to wear” tv shows. We are who we.

  • my sunday school teacher said that by clothing Adam and Eve God made the first sacrifice.
    case you know God had to kill a beast in order to make there clothes.the depth of this story is amazing i do not think you could ever get or under stand the Bible in all. it amazes me every day.

    Good work on the paper I rely in joyed it.

    Bonnie James =)

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  • I am posting as the survey came up in a very recent blog. Consider this as to Adam & Eve. (Assuming this translation, not all translations assume killing of an animal) The clothing required the shedding of blood, this presages the Crucifixion. Equally important however is the violence in the act. God could very well have sheared a lamb without killing it, or made clothing out of grass, or some other material that did not require a killing. This demonstrates that the World, as opposed to Eden, is a harsh and violent place. God asked Adam who told him he was naked. God did not tell him he should not be naked, or that he should be ashamed to be naked. His nudity was not shameful. Nor did God say, you are immodest in that fig leaf, you should be ashamed. God covered them more because the fig leaf was at the time and place inadequate protection from the world they were entering, not because the fig leaf was immodest, just as slacks and an Oxford shirt are inadequate, but not necessarily immodest covering in an Arctic winter.

    The clothing of Adam & Eve, fig leaf or tunic, has nothing to do with modesty. In addition to the lessons above teaches that one should not be ashamed of one’s body.

    A grass skirt and nothing else for men and for women was perfectly appropriate and therefore modest in pre-colonial Polynesia. Yet even Polynesia is a violent place with tropical storms, the killing of fish, the danger of the sea, etc.

    In a German or Finnish sauna, complete nudity is acceptable and required. The participants are not immodest. Modesty in that situation is required nonetheless, body positioning, conversation, etc. The participants are not “nudists” the sauna is not a “nudist colony.”

rebelling against low expectations

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