8 May 2003 Editorial: Jewelry: Can I Wear it and Be a Seventh-day Adventist?

Larry Kirkpatrick

Editorial #124

[Editor's note: This site generates a copious amount of email. We are constantly answering questions with both Adventists and non-Adventists from all over the world. From time to time, we will run a mailbag editorial like the one that follows, where we have answered a question from someone, in hopes that the answer will be a help to others. We will not publish the whole name of the individual or their email address in order that we might preserve their privacy. We are also accepting at face-value that the email is a genuine inquiry -- Larry Kirkpatrick]

From the mailbag:

Can you be a Seventh-day Adventist and wear modest, appropriate jewelry? If you wear jewelry can you go to your churches? It seems like an amazing church, but salvation is found by grace not works or dogma. I was drawn here because of your concern for healthy living that has a soundly founded basis. But what is sinful about jewelry if it is modest? -- Crystal

Hi Crystal:

Thank you for your very interesting question! Here is what I understand you to be asking: Does wearing modest, appropriate jewelry bar a person from becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian? You are impressed by the church, in part because of its stand on healthy living. You recognize that we are not saved by our own works -- by anything can do on our own apart from God. You want to understand the Bible viewpoint concerning the relationship between salvation by grace through faith and church standards, such as those that involve jewelry and adornment.

Let's be biblical and start with grace.

We must be clear that we cannot be saved by anything that we can do on our own apart from God. We have fallen natures, and any obedience we can give back to God earns us nothing. We can only obey because He grants us strength from on high in order that we can obey Him. Even when we obey, our obedience does not earn us salvation.

We are saved by grace through faith. Our salvation does not come from our works, so we have nothing to boast of, nothing to get credit for when we are saved. You read these things in Ephesians 2:8-9. But along with that comes Ephesians 2:10, which also says that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, and that God's plan from the beginning is that we would live our lives in a manner that lets out the good works that God wants to put into them. Why? So that God will be glorified, and our lives will provide evidence to our fellow humans that God's grace makes a difference!

Our lives testify of God's love and what His kingdom is about. Here is the basis for the lifestyle of Adventists that you find so appealing. Clean living attracts. Yes, our natures are fallen, but even Jesus said that parents who are evil by nature want to give good gifts to their children. Although drawn to that which is morally wrong, we still have in us a desire at least for that which is morally right. This desire doesn't change our fundamentally sinful orientation, but it remains as an echo of the original image of God which He designed into man.

Paul says much concerning grace in the New Testament that is not often repeated. A couple of examples: Titus 2:11-14 tells us that grace teaches us to live lives that deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. It says that we are to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, or present age. I don't often hear that part of what Paul said recounted by most who teach "grace" these days. Go to the next chapter in Titus and see Titus 3:4-7, which says that while we are not saved by works of righteousness that we have done, God saves us according to His mercy. What is in this salvation? "The washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." That is, salvation includes an internal work; it is not limited to Jesus' death for us on the cross. There is a part of salvation that is outside of us, and there is a part of salvation that is inside of us. The legal, outside part is Jesus dies on the Cross as our substitute. The regenerating, mind-changing inner work is part of salvation -- part of grace -- too! It would not be possible if Jesus didn't make it available for us. And it would not be possible if we did not, by His power, accept His mighty work inside to renew our minds.

And so, grace is not only something that we don't earn; it is also power to obey God. While we are to be in harmony with God's law, we are not saved by the works of the law. Yet it remains equally true that we cannot be saved without obedience. We cannot possibly keep the commandments of God without the regenerating grace of Christ. Jesus alone can cleanse us from all sin. He does not save us by law, neither will He save us in disobedience to law. To summarize then, we do not earn grace or earn salvation. And yet grace is both what Jesus did outside of us at the Cross, legally, to save us, and it is also what the Holy Spirit does inside of us with our consent to change us. Grace is an expensive gift that is a package deal. If we permit it into our lives, it will lead us to live responsible lives that send the right message to others about Jesus. The life of grace will be one in which worldly lusts -- worldly desires -- are overcome. Our works are to shine before every candidate for eternity we meet who still does not know God.

Which brings us at last to jewelry. Before sin entered the world, we see little, if any record of jewelry in the Bible. Even the original wedding ceremony in Genesis two has no ring for Eve. After the fall you see jewelry entering the world. The Egyptians had it and when God's people left Egypt they took some of it with them. But soon God made their wearing of it a test of their loyalty to Him. He wanted to see whether they would give evidence of their repentance and commanded them to remove it (Exodus 33:5). It is also true that in the Bible, earrings are associated with slavery (See Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 15). But Christians are not be be in bondage or slavery to the world.

In the New Testament, passages concerning adornment such as 1 Peter 3:3-5 use the word kosmoeo or derivatives in speaking of adornment. We get the words "cosmetics" and "cosmos" from that word, whose root meaning comes out literally roughly as 'that which is of the world." In 1 Timothy 2:9-10 we find the counsel again, women are not to adorn themselves in gold or pearls or the like, but rather with good works.

In the book of Revelation, we find two women, each symbolizing a church. Revelation 12 shows a woman in white, a pure woman. Aside from a crown, she is unadorned, and the crown she wears is a stephanos, a crown of victory. She represents a pure church. In contrast to her is a harlot, found in Revelation 17 and 18. She is dressed in scarlet and purple and quite fully adorned with jewelry. She represents an apostate church that makes war on those whom Jesus died for.

There are two facets we are looking at: our internal situation and our external. Internally, we all have a fallen nature, a nature that wants to glorify self, wants to make us prominent. It is an unsafe nature to have. Unfortunately, the situation is universal. Everyone has it. Before they fell Adam and Eve did not have it, but after they did. Remember, what was the first thing that Adam and Eve did after they sinned, they ran, hid, and found some fig leaves to clothe themselves. Those fig leaves represented their own works. When we adorn ourselves, we are saying that we are not satisfied with our appearance as God made us. We are adding to the work of God. We are drawing attention to ourselves. The problem is pride.

Selfishness and self-glorying lead us to try to put ourselves above others, to differentiate ourselves in ways that show we have extra value, are more successful, more beautiful. We have an insecurity about who we are. We are in danger of putting our value in our physical appearance rather than in the fact that God loves us and sent His Son Jesus to die for us, and that our value must always be found first in Him. Is the human race becoming less fallen or more fallen? Our degeneration as a race will increase until the very end. In other words, we are becoming less and less safe, less and less well, more and more prone to evil than the generations that came before us. If jewelry wasn't safe for fallen humans thousands of years ago, today it is that much more dangerous.

Then there is the external part -- how what we wear may affect our influence over others or how it may perpetuate the wrong ideas in our world. After all, if a Christian is not secure in their personal value, and has to "improve" upon what God made us, then what does that say to the world about Jesus? It sends the wrong message. Remember, we are to live in a manner that honors our God before the world now, in this present age. And where does one stop? What you might call modest, someone else might see as immodest, or vice versa. What one drinker of alcohol considers to be a small amount and what another considers to be a small amount may differ. The fact is that alcohol in whatever amount impairs mental functioning. Really, we want to look clean as we walk through life, because we are here as ambassadors for heaven. We are representing Jesus!

Because Seventh-day Adventists seek to live in a manner that will glorify God, send the right message about Him to others, and to base their lifestyle standards upon the inspired record, we take the counsels and commands of Scripture very seriously. While we are not saved by our works, we still have unsafe natures. We still want to avoid giving the wrong messages to others. We want, insofar as we can, to have a saving influence upon those who see us. And the world is watching.

For many of these reasons, Seventh-day Adventists have chosen to, as a church, forego the wearing of jewelry, even jewelry which some might feel is modest. It just isn't safe for ourselves or for others. The wearing of jewelry is a stumbling block. Many of us are persuaded that the practice of adorning oneself with jewelry cannot be reconciled with the true biblical doctrine of grace. Thus, for sound Bible reasons, we do not wear jewelry. We want to give the right message about Jesus and His gospel of grace. We want to look clean for our Savior. I believe these the very things that motivate you, Crystal, and I invite you to think these things over carefully, Bible in hand. As the Holy Spirit brings clarity to your understanding, be ready to act on what heaven is showing you. Show all the world bound for destruction that our God is good and He will clothe us with His amazing grace that changes us, and does our Father's will on earth as in heaven. Every plant that He has not planted will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13). For Bible Christians, the time to start enjoying the privilege of freedom from the bondage of pagan traditions is here and now. May He bless you as you weigh these things. He loves you as a daughter and calls you up higher -- where you really want to be anyway. Thanks for listening.

Your friend in Christ Jesus,

Pr. Larry Kirkpatrick


Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick is an ordained minister of the gospel. Since 1994 he has served in the American Southwest as pastor to several churches. He received his BA in Religion from Southern Adventist University in 1994 and a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in 1999 with a specialization in Adventist Studies. While in Michigan he was employed by the General Conference at the White Estate Berrien Springs branch office. More important than his scholastic preparation has been his immersion in the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy materials. He is author of the 2003 book Real Grace for Real People. Presently he serves as Pastor of the Mentone Church of Seventh-day Adventists, located near Loma Linda, California. Larry is married to Pamela. The couple presently live in Highland, California along with their two children, Etienne and Melinda.

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Freely reproduce these materials
A statement regarding donations
To Email the GCO editor: larry@greatcontroversy.org
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