A Biblical Theology of Clothing

Genesis 3 and the problem of spiritual nakedness and the correlation to physical nakedness

The biblical teaching about the first and last Adam helps us understand a biblical theology of clothing. The first Adam disobediently ate from, self-righteously sought covering from and shamefully hid behind a tree. The second Adam hung naked and shamed on a tree in order to heal, cover and accept us as righteous in His sight. In the last Adam we have our glorious dress renewed and restored forever.



Many years ago I was involved with an evangelistic ministry in New Jersey. A group of us would go out on the Boardwalk ask people if we could talk with them about the Gospel. In the course of our conversations, I would sometimes ask if they knew why they wore clothing. The humorous responses that we received were almost singularly worth the experience; however, the most common answer I would get was, “Because people would laugh at me if I didn’t!” While it may seem like a trite question, it actually has profound importance regarding the Scriptural teaching about our need to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. In order to understand a biblical theology of clothing we have to go back to Genesis 3 and understand the problem of spiritual nakedness and the correlation that it holds to physical nakedness. Consider the following:

 1. At creation, man was clothed with the righteousness, glory and beauty of God. In Human Nature in its Fourfold State, Thomas Boston explained that Adam was clothed in the reflected glory of God as he lived righteously in perfect, unbroken fellowship with Him. He wrote:

Man was then a very glorious creature. We have reason, to suppose, that as Moses’ face shone when he came down from the mount, so man had a very lightsome and pleasant countenance, and beautiful body, while as yet there was no darkness of sin in him at all. But seeing God Himself is glorious in holiness, (Exod. 15:11) surely that spiritual comeliness the Lord put upon man at his creation made him a very glorious creature…There was no impurity to be seen without; no squint look in the eyes, after any unclean thing; the tongue spoke nothing but the language of Heaven: And, in a word. The King’s son was all glorious within, and his clothing of wrought gold.1

2. In the fall, Adam striped himself–and all of his descendants–bare of the righteousness and glory that he had possessed. The guilt and the shame of the nakedness that our first parents experienced was commensurate with the act of disobeying God.When Adam and Eve sinned against God they lost their original righteousness. This became evident to them in the way in which they perceived that they were naked and they sought to hide themselves from the LORD. Their physical nakedness became a symbol of their spiritual nakedness (i.e. their want of righteous standing before God).  Numerous attempts have been made at explaining the nature of the shame that Adam and Eve experienced. Geerhardus Vos gives the three main explanations when he wrote:

According to some, the physical nakedness is the exponent of the inner nakedness of the soul, deprived of the divine image. According to others, the shame of sin is localized where it is in order to bring out that sin is a race matter. According to still others, shame is the reflex in the body of the principle of corruption introduced by sin into the soul. Shame would be then the instinctive perception of the degradation and decay of human nature.2

All three explanations have merit and it is possible that all three are intended from the Genesis narrative.

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