You may wonder what the above has to do with each other. Rest assured, there is a connection!
We celebrated Jesus’ resurrection yesterday—triumphing over sin, death, the grave, the Pharisees, Satan, and the Law of Moses. Yes, the Law of Moses. Remember Romans 7?
Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
This verse tells us the importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the relationship we have with the Law. Before His death, there was no way to be free from the Law. Now, however, we can die to that Law and be married to Jesus, who is risen from the dead.
For many years, I believed that it was wrong for a woman to wear pants, because Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “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.” Because it says this is an abomination, I believed that we needed to follow this passage by forbidding women to wear pants, which, arguably, pertain to a man.
But recently, God changed my thinking on this subject, as we studied what the New Testament teaches us about the Law of Moses. Repeating everything that we found could probably triple (or quadruple) the size of this article, but I’ll just summarize here: We are dead to the Law of Moses. Let that sink in. Romans 7:1-4 tells us, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
The only parts of the Law that we need to keep as such are those mentioned in Acts 15:29: “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well, Fare ye well.” There are other commands re-stated in the New Covenant—-where the new law is Christ’s commandments—like “Honor thy father and thy mother” and “Thou shalt not covet”. But we are to keep them because they are part of Christ’s commands, not because they are part of the Ten Commandments or the rest of the Law.
This does not mean that we are free from all laws or commandments. Jesus says that if we love Him, we must keep His commandments (John 14:15). This is where some have tripped up: the difference between being dead to the Law of Moses and being dead to all laws, period.
But that’s not all. A closer investigation of Deuteronomy 22:5 casts some doubt on the “no pants” interpretation. First of all, the word translated “man” here (Strong’s #1397) means “properly a valiant man or warrior; generally a person simply: – every one, man, X mighty.” It is different from the usual Hebrew word for “man”—Strong’s #376: “a man as an individual or a male person; often used as an adjunct to a more definite term (and in such cases frequently not expressed in translation.)…” (The word “woman” is the common Hebrew word for “woman”, Strong’s #802.) So the “man” here seems to specifically mean a “warrior”. A man or warrior was not to put on a woman’s garment. That much is clear.
The first part is not so clear. It does not say, “A woman shall not put on a man’s garment”, but rather, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man (Strong’s #1397)”. The word “wear” is Strong’s #1961, which means “to exist, that is, be or become, come
pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary): – beacon, X altogether, be (-come, accomplished, committed, like), break, cause, come (to pass), continue, do, faint, fall, + follow, happen, X have, last, pertain, quit (one-) self, require, X use.” This is the only place in the Bible where it is translated “wear”. “That which pertaineth” comes from Strong’s #3627, which means “something prepared, that is, any apparatus (as an implement, utensil, dress, vessel or weapon): – armour ([-bearer]), artillery, bag, carriage, + furnish, furniture, instrument, jewel, that is made of, X one from another, that which pertaineth, pot, + psaltery, sack, stuff, thing, tool, vessel, ware, weapon, + whatsoever.” This is the only place it is translated as “pertaineth”.
So this passage could also be translated, “The woman shall not use the weapon of a warrior”, or, “The woman shall not wear the armor of a warrior”. It is not a clear-cut prohibition against pants.
We must also ask the question: “After women have worn pants for eighty years or more, and probably well over 90% of women wear pants on a regular basis, are pants still solely a man’s garment?” Or to put it another way: “How long must women wear pants before they become women’s clothing?”
And so we come full circle back to where we started: we are not under the Law of Moses. Nowhere in the New Testament does God command that women wear garments distinctively different from men. He does command that they dress modestly. And here we come upon yet another twist: in some cases, pants are more modest than dresses. If a girl climbs a tree in a dress, anyone can stand below her and see up underneath her dress. Or if a woman in a dress climbs a ladder, the same problem occurs. Wearing pants or shorts underneath a skirt does not solve the problem, because the real problem is the eye attractant factor: “Look up under here!”
You might now be asking the question: “And what about men wearing women’s clothing? Is that acceptable?” We have a New Testament answer to that, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Frankly, if a man going around in women’s clothing isn’t effeminate, what is?
This was not an easy subject for me to come to the truth on. After believing for my entire life that women should not wear pants, I have come to this conclusion after being dragged to it by my Heavenly Father. (You can probably find some pretty deep heel marks in the dust behind me.)
The headcovering is usually coupled with dresses-and-skirts-only doctrine. In fact, I assumed that they went together—and I am not alone. However, let’s compare the two doctrines: the headcovering is a New Testament command; “skirts-only” is based on a command from the Old Covenant. The headcovering is based on clear commands that have their root in eternal principles (order, headship, angels); “skirts-only” is based on a “could be” interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5, and comes under cultural standards of what constitutes male and female attire. The headcovering is something that we need to follow today; “skirts-only” is not.
We cannot afford to waste time, energy and witness on something that is inessential. It is not essential for a woman to wear skirts and dresses. God has not called us to look different from the world, other than following His commands on modesty and decency. He has not mandated that men and women wear two different styles of clothing so that we can see a difference between the sexes. Instead, He says:
1 Corinthians 11:14-15 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
A man is to have short hair; a woman is to have long hair. That is God’s plan for being able to tell, at a glance, whether someone is male or female.
Lest you doubt the above, let me finish with a quote from one of the early Christian writers:
I say, then, that man requires clothes for nothing else than the covering of the body, for defence against excess of cold and intensity of heat, lest the inclemency of the air injure us. And if this is the object of clothing, see that one kind be not assigned to men and another to women. For it is common to both to be covered, as it is to eat and drink. The necessity, then, being common, we judge that the provision ought to be similar. For as it is common to both to require things to cover them, so also their coverings ought to be similar; although such a covering ought to be assumed as is requisite for covering the eyes of women. For if the female sex, on account of their weakness, desire more, we ought to blame the habit of that evil training, by which often men reared up in bad habits become more effeminate than women. But this must not be yielded to. (Clement of Alexandria – Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 2, “The Instructor”, Book II, Chapter 11)
Note that Clement believed that, for modesty’s sake, women ought to cover their faces, a subject that Dad took up at The Christian Woman’s Headcovering: The Style and How Much Should It Cover? But taking his words for what they are, I find it quite interesting that this man who studied the Scriptures did not see any reason for men and women to wear two different types of clothing, but rather encouraged that they purposely wear similar clothing.
Let us not get dragged down by the weight of the Old Law, and the sin which so easily besets us. Let us lay aside every weight, stand fast in liberty (Gal. 5:1) and run the race that Christ would have us run!