"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."
In fundamental churches in the last 10 years, probably no one verse in the Bible has been the center of as much controversy as this one. As fashions, even among conservative people, have changed drastically, society's fashion values have also changed the church. Until recently it was difficult to find an Independent Baptist Church, Nazarene Church, or Church of God that didn't preach against pants, slacks, and jeans on women. Now, it is becoming difficult to find one that does.
As one preacher put it, "Either we were lying to the people then, or we are lying to them today." One thing is certain, the Bible didn't change. It seems that a growing number of fundamentalist preachers spend more time preaching against Deuteronomy 22:5, than they do the abomination of Deuteronomy 22:5. Probably more people have left good soul-winning fundamental churches over this issue, than any other. When looking for a church, the question is not, "Does the preacher believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the fundamentals of the faith, godly living for God's people, and the winning of souls?" Today, the deciding factor for many is, "Does the preacher preach against pants on women?"
A former member once told me that he could never attend a church where the preacher smoked. He also mentioned that he did not agree with my view that pants on women were wrong. A few weeks later he left the church over the latter issue and joined a church where the preacher smoked.
Unfortunately, in many churches, the issue has become centered around personalities rather than the Scriptures. It does not really matter who agrees or disagrees, but what does the Scripture teach? Too many approach the issue not really caring about what the Scripture teaches. They know how they feel and are not going to change, no matter what. Is there a Bible basis for using Deuteronomy 22:5 today? Can it be used as "instruction in righteousness" for the church today? We will look at the Scriptures to see if there is merit to the teaching of this verse, or whether we can ignore it.
At the beginning, two observations need to be made. First, neither obedience nor disobedience to this verse has anything to do with getting a person to, or keeping him or her out of, heaven. Salvation is by grace through faith. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life..." (John 3:36). As covered in the chapter on "legalism," to add obedience to this verse as an essential to being saved, would be preaching a false gospel. However, to say it is not important would leave the door open to throw out most of the Scriptures concerning Christian living with the same excuse.
Second, God used the same term regarding those who wear the opposite sex's clothing that He did concerning the homosexuals — abomination. He used the same term concerning those who sow discord among the brethren. He used the same term concerning idolaters. He used the same term concerning the froward. We are not talking about something which God feels lightly about. Evidently, we are not talking about something which makes little difference with God. Considering the term God used, we had better be sure as to whether or not this verse is meant for us.
Some have become so paranoid about this subject that as soon as they hear the words "Deuteronomy" or "abomination" they begin parroting objections to Deuteronomy 22:5. "But that's in the Old Testament." "But what about verses 9-12?" "But didn't they all wear robes?" "That is legalism." "I'm not convicted about it yet." "But my pants zip up the side." Concerning the statement about the verse being in the Old Testament, they should be commended for their insight. Yes, it is in the Old Testament. That means it is part of Scripture. That also means it is part of the Scripture given for "doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).
Dr. John R. Rice stated in his book Dr. Rice, Here Are More Questions:
"The New Testament clearly teaches that the Old Testament laws about the relations of men and women are still binding. First Corinthians 14:34 says: 'Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.' Here the law means, of course, the first five books of the Bible. So the same doctrine of the Pentateuch is the doctrine of the New Testament, when it comes to the relationship of men and women.." (Page 484)
Concerning "legalism," you need to reread chapter two. Concerning the question of whether or not you are convicted about it yet, you need to reread chapter three. But, let's discuss some of the other objections.
"Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou has sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. "Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together. "Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of this vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself."
If we must obey verse 5, should we have to obey these verses as well?
There were three different kinds of laws given to Israel in the Old Testament: dietary laws, ceremonial laws, and moral laws. Some would put the dietary laws under the ceremonial laws, however, a distinction can be made.
Obviously, dietary laws restricted the items Israel was allowed to eat. This was mostly for health reasons. One needs to understand that Israel did not have all the modern conveniences for insuring the safety of their food. Neither did they have government agencies to guard the food quality.
Ceremonial laws were given to teach Israel spiritual lessons. Not that there was anything inherently evil in the prohibited practices, but Israel needed to learn some important Spiritual principles. For instance, Deuteronomy 22:9,11 taught Israel the doctrine of separation. They were not to marry the heathen, nor accept their ways. This principle was carried over to the New Testament in II Corinthians 6:14, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."
Moral laws were prohibitions against practices contrary to the nature of God's holiness. Since God's nature has not changed, moral laws are still to be obeyed today. For instance, "Thou shalt not kill" was a moral law. Since man was made in the image of God, to kill a man is to strike out against God.
Of the Ten Commandments, 9 were moral laws and one was ceremonial. How can we know? We can know by reading the Scripture. Exodus 31:14 clearly states that the Sabbath was to be a sign between God and Israel. Verse 17 states, "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever..." Colossians 2:14- 17 informs the church that the observance of Sabbath days was blotted out at the cross and is not binding upon the New Testament Church.
However, man is still to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:39). Man should still keep himself from the graven images of idolatry (II Cor. 6:16). The Lord's name should not be taken in vain (Rom. 2:24; Jas. 2:7). When Paul commanded children to honor their parents (Eph. 6:4) his reason was that it "is the first commandment with promise." Committing adultery, lying, and stealing, are still sins because God's holiness has not changed (Mal. 3:6).
How do we know that Deuteronomy 22:5 is part of the moral law of God? The answer is found in the verse: "All that do so are an abomination unto the Lord." Since God has not changed, that which was an abomination to Him 3000 years ago is still an abomination to Him today.
Compare Deuteronomy 22:5 with Leviticus 11:10 and you will discover that the word "abomination" was used in the dietary laws. However, certain foods were to be an abomination unto Israel, they were never said to be an abomination to God.
Deuteronomy 22:5 cannot be set aside when deciding which clothes are right and wrong. Its principle remains for the New Testament Church as "correction and instruction in righteousness."
No, men and women did not all wear robes. A study of The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible will clear up the differences in the fashions of men and women in Bible times. Even a quick look at the pictures of dress in Bible times reveals obvious differences. It is interesting to see that Merrill Tenney, editor of the encyclopedia, has a section entitled "Men's garments," and another entitled "Women's garments."
The women's garments resembled floor-length dresses. These dresses did not accent the figure, and were even modest when the ladies were bending over, working in the fields. The men's garments allowed much freedom of movement. The bottom of the garment could be brought up and girded about the waist to allow more freedom for working, running, or battle.
This argument was common a few years ago, but not any longer. As women began to enjoy looking more like men, they have naturally gone to attiring themselves in men's jeans, showing no concern for the location of the zipper. However, the same argument would put our Christian men in dresses, as long as the zipper was in front.
Unless this seems far-fetched to you, two major television networks in January of 1984 showed the latest in men's fashions for the office. You guessed it — dresses. One designer stated, "In a few years, this will be the acceptable fashion for the office." Since women are already wearing their pants (even jeans) to the office, this latest development is not so surprising. The Scriptures we explained away, to allow our women to be more masculine, will make pretty lads out of our men.
Those who told the women to ignore Deuteronomy 22:5 concerning their dress will be hard pressed to defend their feelings about men (or whatever) who decide to wear dresses. In the Scriptures we are told to depart from evil, hate evil, and avoid all appearance of evil. Surely, that which is an abomination to God is evil. Therefore, we ought to avoid the very appearance of it. There should be definite distinctions in the fashions of Christian men and women.
Deuteronomy 22:5 must be one guideline for Christians when considering clothes. However, there are many others, too. We will consider those in the next chapter.