by Kent Brandenburg
Genesis 1:27 says: ” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” God created two distinct genders or sexes, male and female, with two separate, unique roles. Throughout Scripture we see that God expects men and women to keep the distinctions that He designed—the man the head, the woman the helpmeet (Genesis 2:18-25; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 14:29-35; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Psalm 127-128; Romans 1:26-27). Man and woman have different roles, but are the same in essence (Gal 3:28). God designed men and women different, gave them different roles, and out of respect for Him, wants them to honor His design. To show agreement with His design, God gave this order in Deuteronomy 22:5.
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.
The words are specific and easy to be understood. The Hebrew and the English say the same thing. There's no problem with the translation here. The verse prohibits certain activity. You've got three parts—one for the woman, another for the man, and the consequence for not obeying the order. The cultures who have cared about the Bible have understood and practiced this verse the same way for centuries.
You see what the verse says. The verse doesn't say:
None of these have been how Christians have believed and practiced this verse. The verse is not a euphemism for something else. It isn't idiomatic. It is very straightforward. And in the end, God says a man or woman who disobeys this prohibition is himself or herself an abomination to Him.
The woman is not to have on a male article. The man is not to put on a woman's clothing. Both sides assume that a certain article or certain articles of clothing in a God-honoring culture have been designated exclusively male and a certain article or certain articles of clothing in a God-honoring culture have been designated exclusively female. It is obvious from the verse that God wants men and women distinguished from one another in appearance, but the verse says more than that.
I believe that in principle we are helped in understanding God's will in this matter by looking at 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, we are reminded of the point of the instruction about dress and appearance: male headship and female submission. Arguments are made for Christians to continue differentiating themselves in gender and role with their appearance, and in particular a symbol of submission and then male headship, the head-covering. Despite women being equal in essence to men, God expected His designed role distinctions to be honored in appearance. Why? Creation order (1 Cor 11:7-9). A testimony to angels (1 Cor 11:10). To honor God (1 Cor 11:12). To not be a shame but to be a glory (1 Cor 11:7, 13-15).
There is a reason why the problem today is women wearing a male article, not men wearing a female. This is clear by seeing the problem in Corinth. It is a headship and submission issue. It is the woman wearing the pants, not men wearing the skirt. Today men may hide behind a woman's apron, but it started with women wearing the pants.
Obedience to Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 is more than a testimony or stumbling block issue. Obedience to these is a statement to God. It is an act of worship to Him. It is a deed of deferment to His greatness and goodness. By obeying the prohibition, we are saying to Him, “You are wise. You know what you are doing. You know what's best for us.” Angels were there at the creation of male and female, so they were there to see what God had in mind. I think there is more to it, but that isn't as important. For instance, I believe that we learn sexuality and gender and role by appearance. This is a means by which children grow up and see the differences. In other words, without the clear delineation in the roles by means of the symbols of male headship and female submission, we have role confusion. This in part explains the rampant homosexuality. Sexuality is in part learned and we haven't taught it as a culture.
Deuteronomy 22:5 doesn't mention pant-skirt. It, however, assumes that God's people would have such articles that were exclusive to each gender. And it is true that we have had that in our culture and because of Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. What is it that in our culture has symbolized male headship, an article that was uniquely designated for the male, to be seen as a testimony to God and others of our agreement with Him in His design? Let's think about it. Is it the hat? Is it the shirt? Is it underwear? Is it shoes? Is it the cape? Is it socks? No and no and no and no and no. Is it pants? Yes. Does history show this? Yes.
So why did women start wearing pants? It wasn't out of conviction. It wasn't acceptable to Christians and not really accepted by anyone when our culture reflected more Judeo-Christian ethics. Was it a group of godly people who got together to pray about being obedient to to God's will? Of course not. It was in defiance of the idea of male authority. It was women's liberation. It was convenience. Today it is just normal. Women don't want to stick out, want to fit in. So now it is worldliness, going along with the spirit of the age, and even in churches. Here is a church that has that crazy skirts-only-on-women standard and the women wear pants in the other church—which one will I choose?
I'm not going to argue about whether it should be obeyed any longer because it is Old Testament law. That is a johnny-come-lately argument that goes along with the licentiousness and antinomianism of our day. Men use grace as an occasion to the flesh. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. As it applies to Deuteronomy 22:5, this argument wasn't even around until women started wanting to wear pants.
You've got those who use the “they wore robes” argument. Let's jump right to their point. They say that men wear men's pants and women wear women's pants. Christians or this culture have never made that designation. We have never stated the unique design of the woman's pant. What makes “women's pants” to be “women's pants?” There isn't any distinction. Again, that's just an argument after the fact. The whole point of pants was to take away differences and distinctions. Everyone knows this. Every history says this. The purpose of Deuteronomy 22:5 is distinction and difference. The purpose of pants was sameness. The robes argument doesn't work because even if they were robes, which the passage doesn't say, there would have been a unique male robe and a unique female robe. We haven't done the same thing with pants.
The biggest argument that I hear is that the whole conversation is just stupid, tiresome, or ridiculous. The people that talk about it “have an infatuation with a different era and want everyone else to have the same.” Or, “you legalists!” The whole thing is actually about God and what he said. Christians should care. However, believers have decided to go along with the spirit of the age. Sad, but true.
If it isn't about how crazy this discussion is, then it is about how that instead of focusing in on such a minor doctrinal point, why don't we spend our time on the grand, important issues, like justification and grace and the trinity and the love of Christ. Or, “stop juding people's external appearances and start looking at their heart and how much they love the Lord.” Whoever says those things ought to think of this: “abomination to God.” The very fact that God put this in the Bible makes it important enough, but we know that there is more to it than only a dress and externals issue. It does have to do with the heart.