Why do Pastor Wear Preaching Robes
Pastors wear preaching and clerical robes because most believe it signifies something greater than themselves. It does not and as a Christian, we were never commissioned to wear “vestments” as did the Levitical priesthood. Does that mean it is wrong, however? We will discuss that a bit later.
Many who wear clerical robes do so for varying reasons. For instance, most believe it bestows some form of authority in the eyes of others. No robe can either confer, or deny, that which is ordained of God! Unfortunately, religious interests exploit the ignorant and unlearned through such subtlety.
I will share the reasons I wear clerical garb from time to time. Unlike most who receive a Pastorate earlier, mine did not arrive until my mid-40s. There was another minister in our church who desired to Pastor. I have often written about that period, the challenges, and its difficulties. Nevertheless, I used the robe for one practical reason: the minister needed a “visual” sign to reinforce the congregation’s decision.
He was one (1) of those guys who valued the symbolism of robes, preaching licenses, and ordinations. None of this is prescribed in scripture and there are thousands who God sent to preach yet they possess none of these! However, I knew once he saw me in the robe, he would understand. My discernment was spot on. It was not the robe which ordained the authority, it was the Lord. In his mind, wearing the robe only meant he had been “cheated” out of what was his but its impact was still not diminished. Like all “snakes”, he slithered away to “ply his religious trade” elsewhere.
There are several more reasons I wear these robes, or some form of pullover, which are much more practical:
1. I sweat when preaching - as a Pastor of the more traditional congregation, I preach in a way that the hearer will both receive the Word and be blessed by it. This means getting intense to a point of rhythmic song. Such effort causes me to sweat quite a bit which, in turn, ruins shirts and suit coats. In the African American Church, this is known as: “sweating suits out”. I do not have a lot of money to keep replacing these so Robes make more sense. They can be washed at home (no dry cleaning) and are much cheaper to replace.
2. Some require symbolism to hear – In Paul’s ministry, he often spoke about formerly being a religious “Pharisee”. The symbolism of this assisted with getting through to some who would not hear the message otherwise. Typically, only a church leader is allowed to wear this robe when speaking. Again, the visual value opens both ears and minds to the message as silly as it may seem.
3. Other church leaders expect this - largely, this depends on the reason for the fellowship with other churches. However, there are certain ceremonial practices which necessitate all Pastors present wear clerical robes. One such occasion can be the funeral of another Pastor. What is interesting, is at funerals of God’s people, no such ceremonial roles are required. I guess you understand “who is more important than who”, right?
In summary, most wear robes because they believe it signifies something greater than themselves. For the biblical record, there is no theological evidence this is true for those of us under the "grace covenant". While it may symbolize a "different" function, it never means a "greater" (than anyone else).
What is the Significance of Clerical Robing
As was hinted at in the previous section, the significance of clerical robing is purely symbolic. There are various robes for different “religious” purposes. I am not going to waste your time listing those because all are nonsense. Someone preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, on the street corner, is just as important as those “preachers” you see on television. Many wearing robes are not sent by God yet soldier on in their fantasy of being so. Doesn’t scripture command: “try those spirits whether they are of God or not because many false prophets have gone out into the world”?
So why wear them at all when there is no biblical instruction to do so? The Lord allows His people to do many things, in His name, which may not specifically be commanded in the scriptures but serve a righteous purpose. For example, I have married couples but have found no scripture outlining a marriage ceremony. Since this ceremony, and the Word spoken at it are not in scripture, is the marriage then made invalid? God forbid!
Here are a few biblical examples of “priestly clothing” being commanded (but not for New Testament Preachers):
1. Exodus 28:2-4: in this text, God tells Moses to make sacred garments for his brother, Aaron, which will represent dignity and honor within the priesthood. Of course, Moses did not make the garments, himself, but there were skilled workers among the children of Israel who did.
2. Leviticus 16:4: this is also speaking about the putting on of a sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments, and tying a sash around a priest.
3. 1st Timothy 4:12: The closest thing I could locate in the New Testament, was Paul’s encouragement to a young pastor named Timothy. He told Timothy to cover (conduct) himself with purity. This is a long way from physical robe covering, however.
In summary, even the most beautiful robe cannot cover an unregenerate heart. People who attend church dress well and on a regular basis. However, it is more important to have the covering of holiness than to appear in a “holy appearing” garment. Unfortunately, there are millions who have dressed in the finest robes yet are lifting their eyes up in hell.
Should New Pastors Wear Clerical Robing
The answer to whether new Pastor should where clerical robing is it depends on the expectations of the church they serve. I am as radical as they come from a Pastoral perspective. Most believers have seen people on street corners, holding signs, with the microphone, preaching in public. I am one of those guys! This is not appreciated by other Pastors who believe it looks undignified. I guess Jesus, and His Apostles, must be undignified as well. Whether in the Gospels or the Book of Acts, one (1) cannot hide that the church was built from such marketplace preaching.
Nevertheless, if the church expects you to wear a robe, why wouldn’t you? The government tells us we must have a Social Security card, driver’s license, and employers demand uniforms. If your new church, which is an employer in a way, requires these uniforms, why would you fight them? Clerical robing did not, as some of my brother Prophets propose, originate with the apostate Catholic Church. Priestly robing originated in the Jewish tabernacle and later Temple. Since our “faith” origin point is Judaism, how are clerical/priestly robes then traced to Catholicism? Judaism, and the Levitical priesthood, pre-date the apostate Catholics at least 3,000 years.
Here are three (3) reasons you need to consider wearing clerical robing:
1. It is not unbiblical: no one can prove that wearing a simple robe is un-biblical. Even those who cite the apostate Catholic faith are simply assuming Protestants do so because Catholics did prior. These are the same who propose we worship on Sunday because of Catholicism. That is untrue as well. We worship on Sunday because the Apostle Paul indicated the early church gathered “early on the first day of the week” to hear the preaching. Granted, early on the first day of the week was probably Saturday evening as opposed to Sunday morning. Point taken! However, that still does not prove a Catholic origin point. “Sun day” “disk worship” blah, blah, blah. Please be wary of “Google preachers” who not only provide false answers, but do not ask Google “the right questions”!
2. Humility is required - no robe will ever define your anointing by God, but humility will. There will be a time when you will be able to “serve strong meat”. If you are new, the authority does not yet exist to do so. Our relationships with God’s Sheep, like any other, takes time to build. There is “necessary” offense and “unnecessary” offense in the faith. It is necessary to speak “truth in love” even when people get offended. For instance, Hell is real, and no matter how angry the hearer, that will not change. Unnecessary offense, however, is speaking or doing something before the time is right. There will be a time to humbly put on the robe and then another, in humility, to put it in storage.
3. You may be “swallowing a camel” - in this famous teaching of Jesus Christ, the Lord exhorted that while focusing on the small things, bigger issues are missed. His exact wording was: “you swallow a camel and strain at a gnat”. You believe the Lord brought you into this world to share the gospel, correct? Whether wearing a suit coat, collared shirt, T-shirt, or clerical role, it is the message which matters, and not the “package” it is wrapped in!
In summary, whether Pastors should wear preacher robes is not the question. The bigger question is your level of obedience to the Lord. You will have plenty of opportunities to make your stand. However, fighting such a useless battle is not worthy of a messenger from God. Why did Jesus sometimes answer questions and at others remain silent?
Let me be clear: if you’re church insists on having a Halloween party for children, you must fight that battle immediately. If you’re church believes that Santa Claus is a part of the birth of Jesus, you must intervene to at least teach truth. Those things are in doctrinal, wicked, and evil. However, a simple robe? How is wearing a “collar” worse than wearing a “tie”?
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