Family Dress Code

Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
28 January 2018
Sermon Text: Colossians 3:11-17
Rules for the Whole Family
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Listen or Download Audio

[ sketch notes ]


One of the tasks a pastor is called to do is teach people how they “ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15)

In my experience, some people appreciate this very much; other people, not so much. Some people want to taught how to live in God’s family; others just want to do whatever they feel like doing.

Depending on what kind of person you are, you will either love or hate this series on Household Rules for the Family of God. Either way, I must discharge the duties of my ministry without apology, so here we go.

The last two series I preached required me to speak with the voice of a prophet. This series requires me to speak with the voice of a pastor. So you should notice a difference both in the style and substance, the texture and tone, of these messages.

Our focus for the next few weeks will be on the Household Rules in Colossians 3:11-21.

Today we will consider the family dress code.

If you are willing and able, stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word.

The word of the Lord.

Every family has it’s own culture and style. Most families tend to look alike, dress alike, act alike. Members wear the same color schemes and styles, et al.

God’s family is no different.

Today we will consider the family dress code. What we should wear and why it matter?

According to Psychology Today,

“a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology coined the phrase “embodied cognition” to describe the idea that we think not just with our brains but also with our bodies. The researchers found that clothes influence how we view and interact with the world: When they gave participants white coats they said belonged to doctors, the subjects’ ability to pay attention increased. When they were told the coats belonged to painters, their ability to pay attention flat lined. What this means: Clothes can, and do, influence a wearer’s psychological processes. Dressing casually, or carelessly, could cause you — and people around you — to feel less focused and less alert. Less engaged and present.”

The article goes on to say that

“Clothes also dictate the role the people wearing them take on…one study found that people’s perception of their own responsibility, competence, honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness, among other qualities, was heightened when they took a little more care in the clothing they put on.”


Now, here’s what that has to do with us.

Every member of God’s household is required to dress a certain way. This dress code is for their own good and God’s glory.

It will do you no good to play your ethnic card, or appeal to your social status, or cling to your personal style, or wave your cultural flag. It doesn’t matter if you’re a geek, a jock, a princess, a basket case, a hipster, or a prep, or a loner — you must wear whoever and whatever the Father wants you to wear.

His family, his rules.

When stars walk the red carpet at an awards show they are always asked, “Who are you wearing?” — Who designed your outfit and ensemble?

As silly as that questions seems, it is a question that our Father asks each and every one of us — and a question that we must ask each other. Who are you wearing? If we cannot answer Jesus Christ, we might as well be wearing fig leaves, filthy rags, or nothing at all.

Here, in God’s family, Christ is all, and in all. He is what makes the members of God’s family.

That is why we are told (in so many words) to put on Christ from the inside out.

The Father’s sovereignty in election establishes our responsibility in action:

So, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Dress like a member of God’s family from the inside out.

The household rules are the same for all of us, from oldest to youngest.


We must put on Christ and his virtues one layer at a time. In this way, we cover our attitudes and our actions with the Spirit of Christ.

  • compassionate hearts — bowels of mercy
  • kindness – a general friendliness
  • humility – low-minded, yet not dumbed-down
  • meekness – power under control, bridled strength
  • patience – long-suffering / “We are here for the long haul, we measure time in terms of eternity.”
  • tolerance / bear, put up with one another

The phrase one another means in community with our other adopted siblings.

We are members of the same family by God’s electing grace; we are one, but we’re not the same. Christ is all, and in all.

Like all families, sometimes we get on each other’s nerves, we rub each other the wrong way, we frustrate and irritate one another.

So what must we do if/when one has a complaint against another?

Get even? Go tell everyone? Go away? Grudge up?

No! forgive each other. Literally, show grace.

As the Lord has forgiven [shown you grace] you, so you also must forgive.

Take a moment and think on all your own failings, weaknesses, trespasses, and sins.

You have been forgiven so much. Why would you withhold forgiveness for so little?

Life is too short to hold a grudge or to get even. If the Lord has shown you grace, who are you to stick it to others?

Now, we’re almost dressed, but we need to add another layer of grace to our Christ-wear.

“Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

In other words, love is the belt that pulls the outfit together. It is the band that completes the ensemble. Without love, the rest of the outfit does not work; it does not fit right, or stay together.

Now that we are dressed up, what shall we do? Where shall we go?


We go to church. We gather with the rest of the family in the body of Christ. Not with anger and rage, but with peace in our hearts. Not with grumbling, but gratitude.

The word for rule means direct, control, guide. It means let the peace of Christ, not the petty desires of the flesh, call the shots.

Calvin says the word “rule” was used among wrestlers:

“He who has vanquished all the others carries off the [prize], so [Paul] would have the peace of God be superior to all carnal emotions, which often hurry us on to contentions, disagreements, quarrels, secret grudges…the peace of God must be a bridle, by which carnal [emotions] may be restrained.”

Sometimes we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to drive across town, see other people, walk through the door, kneel in prayer, sing an old hymn, sit under preaching, come to the table, or deal with anyone.

We feel the inner turmoil and conflict in our hearts. But we must submit to the peace of Christ humbly and meekly that it may rule in our hearts, that it may restrain our fleshly passions and worldly pride.

In order for the peace of Christ to rule your heart, you must remember the gospel and rest in it:

The Father chose you in Christ. The Father clothed you in Christ. The Father called you in Christ. You are here, in this family, because this is where the Father wants you to be. You belong here because of what Christ has done for you. You may make yourself at home because the Spirit makes his home in you.

So, here you are — all dressed up with somewhere to go.

You are wearing Christ — he is your Sunday best.

You are clothed in Christ and called to his church.

So you and your siblings come into the corpus Christi, the body of Christ. But what for? What are you supposed to do here?

You are supposed to eat, drink, and be merry in Christ!

Eat and Drink: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.

inhabit, indwell = move in and make it home in you; permanent resident, not a fly-by-night guest

Invisible words — by means of teaching and counseling in community / SS, MC, sermon, private devotions, et al.

Visible words — sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper / water, bread, wine

wisdom / not worldly philosophy but gospel truth (2:6-8)

Be Merry: Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness (good-grace) in your hearts to God.

Calvin rightly explains that “a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while and spiritual songs contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles.”

Psalms come from the OT book of Psalms. Hymns are worship songs like the ones we sing. Spiritual songs are odes, lyrical poems, spoken word, (sorta like rap perhaps) delivered with or without instrumental music.

Sing with grace in your hearts, not grudges — gratitude, not grumbling. And sing with grace in your hearts to God.


After we have gotten dressed, then gone to church, finally we go out into the world on mission (still) clothed in Christ.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We must know that God’s family is a missionary family. As a people clothed in Christ, we represent God’s family wherever we go whatever we do.

So you see there is a rhyme and reason for the rules.

The Father commands us to put on Christ, day after day, from the inside out — so that we may be conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

This is all of grace, from start to finish. From the grace of forgiveness to the grace of thanksgiving.

Last week I was counseling with some friends I met at Starbucks. The husband told me a story about how he looked up to his big brother and liked to wear his shirts even though they were too big. He said that on cold mornings he would put on one of his brother’s shirt and stand in front of the wall heater in the bathroom because he loved to feel the warm air blowing up through the shirt. It made him feel bigger and stronger. It made him feel connected to his brother.

When you put on Christ the same thing happens. You find your identity in Christ and the Spirit blows up through your Christ-wear and conforms you to his image. It makes you feel bigger and stronger. And connected to your big brother — Jesus Christ.

That makes you feel better about yourself and each other — just knowing that you are in the same family and that your identity is found in Christ because you are all in Christ, and Christ is all, and in all.


Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who sets the lonely in families: We commend to your continual care the homes in which your people dwell. Put far from them, we ask you, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and turn our hearts to the Father, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit; and so kindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kind and affectionate to one another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Common Prayer)