Male and Female Apparel
All commentaries on Scripture agree that it was the will of the Creator that there should be a difference between the sexes, and the difference should be evident. This is an institution and an ordinance of God.
Deut. 22 is also built upon that concept.
Although the clothing in the East is different than ours in the West, still there was a clear difference between the clothing of the men and that of the women.
If this were not so, Deut. 22:5 would be senseless.
Our clothing is not just only an external matter, that has nothing to do with the one who wears it. Although the externals do not always perfectly agree with the internals, yet we must remember that the saying: "Clothes make the man", is based on fact.
Our clothing tells something about us. Thus we have mourning clothes, work clothes, uniforms, etc. The clothes we wear tell us not only something about our external circumstances, but also about our character, our taste, our personality. It tells about our lifestyle.
Very important is the answer of Scripture to the question, why and for what purpose do we have clothes?
Genesis 1, 2 and 3 are sufficiently known to each of us. Those chapters tell us two things about what our clothing testifies: (1) It testifies against us, for it speaks of our sin against God, our Creator; (2) It testifies of the grace of God in Christ, for in Christ the shame of our nakedness is covered.
God gives man good and serviceable clothing that is also useful for our temporal life: (1) to protect us from heat and cold, from rain and wind, and (2) to protect us against the sin of adultery.
In this connection I think of our form for the confirmation of marriage, which tells us that the woman is to walk in all honesty, virtue and modesty, without sinful pride. Our clothing is given for our covering and not for uncovering.
Deut. 22:5 is a text that clearly shows that Israel had to be different than the heathens round about them, and the heathens in their midst. In this text the reference is to the cultural-religious customs and practices of idolatry. Many temples of idols were at the same time places of so-called "holy prostitution". Israel was strictly warned against it. In this type of immorality it often happened that men dressed as women and vice versa. The text strongly condemns this. There was then a mingling of sexes, they did not know who was who, and did not know each other because of this disguise. Add to this the festal mood, the stirring music and alcohol and the results are uncontrollable. The differences between the sexes disappear and God's precepts are set aside. Immorality abounds. Moreover, it is no imaginary danger that such conduct would encourage homosexuality.
Who introduced men's clothing for women? The answer is evident, that the world introduced it, and in this matter the church follows the world, and conforms to it, and even itself becomes world. Even the external distinction is gone.
It can be useful to know from which side a certain tendency arises that casts aside and changes the traditions that have been established of old. Together with the form also the contents changes. Or rather, the contents, the view of life, has changed and therefore the external form of the past must also pass away.
They say that slacks for girls and women certainly are not men's clothing. Be that as it may, it certainly is an imitation of men's clothing. Let us be honest.
Style is fashioned according to worldly motives, without regard for ethical-moral values, and even less for religious values. Style only considers the economy, production, turnover, salability, and speculates on human, that is fleshly emotions, according to worldly standards of beauty and a worldly opinion of the body, disregarding entirely all we have mentioned above. It is evident that anyone who seriously wants to live according to God's holy and infallible Word, can never appeal to style. The style makes us slaves to sin.
What is the important thing: the will of God or the will of fashion? Men's clothing for women intends, indeed, to wipe out the difference between the sexes as we can see in the development of the so-called unisex clothing.
This is also related to the Equal Rights Movement, sponsored by so many who hold to unscriptural principles and an unbiblical opinion of the relation between husband and wife, or between man and woman.
If we consider all these things, we see that men's clothing for women is involved with the whole matter of sex. We live in the same situation with Deut. 22. Deut. 22 is not only a civil law, but it has its roots in creation, and is made by the Creator for all people and for all times. This is not a civil law only for Israel.
This text is related to the seventh of the ten commandments, which is also a law for all times and places, and peoples. The warning of Deut. 22:5 is certainly in our days not an empty gesture.
History teaches us that a civilization declines when a woman begins to be less covered, and more exposed. We mention mini-skirts, mini-trousers, all kinds of bathing suits, and tight-fitting clothes.
It is sad but true, that when a sin becomes national, it is not considered a sin any more. In all these cases people disregard the warnings of Scripture against immorality and adultery. Let Christians and churches take heed, and be warned. Let women who walk more unclothed than clothed consider:
that they are a temptation to sin …
that the opportunity makes the sinner …
that they arouse desires and lusts …
that tempting one to do evil is also sin …
Watch against conformity to the world. While we are in the world we must not be of the world. The church must be different than the world. Israel had to be different than the heathen Canaanites.
A Christian may and should be recognized by his talk, by his walk, and by his clothes.
Where Christianity comes the clothing changes, and when the heart is renewed the clothing also changes. A baptized forehead obliges one to a new life. When we say that we differ from the world, and then still follow it slavishly in all things, we give the world occasion to mock us. Our form for the confirmation of marriage speaks of modest apparel.
You may say that clothes are only external things, but remember that they reveal the inclination of the heart, and the wicked heart reveals itself in its outward appearance.
Notice the words of the text: "for all that do so"; it is very broadly stated. "Abomination", which is a very strong word. "The LORD thy God", the sin is great because it is against the LORD, the faithful Covenant God, Who does everything for His people, and then he says again "thy God".
These words are spoken to the covenant people as a whole, therefore to all those that belong to the covenant externally. Also this text is inspired.
People say that this is an Old Testament law that does not apply to us. Even if that were so, then it still has something to say to us, for the essence of the text does not become old. That retains its force. Moreover, Christ did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law. Further, Christian liberty is not dissoluteness, nor is it being free from the law of the Lord.
Scripture does not forbid wearing skirts and gowns, which are evidently women's clothes, but it does forbid men's clothing for women.
Why change a custom that has been prevalent everywhere for ages, namely that the sexes should also be different in their clothes? What is the intention? Who profits by it?
The apostle writes that we must do all things to the honor of God. In this case we ask: Is it to the honor of God if women wear men's clothing? Proper and modest clothing shows respect for God, and respect for His service.
But, aside from all this, everyone knows that if clothes did not make a difference between the sexes, the door would be opened for all kinds of uncleanness. If for no other reason, this law was wise and good. The body must be a temple to glorify God. He reigns in His temple and regulates all things according to His order. Is that so with you?
Based upon what we have said, we believe the truth stated in Deut. 22:5 is immutably true: "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."
If we practice this injunction our girls and women shall perhaps stand alone. But this is no reason to conform to the world. Do not God's children often stand alone in the world? Will it not be so even more in the future? Is it not better to stand alone in the way of God's Word, than to have many with us in ways that are contrary to God's Word? "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
It is another matter when girls must stand alone because we as Christians have become so weak and complaisant. If in all our families we followed the same standards, they would not stand alone. It is often our fault as parents that our children stand alone, because the whole of the congregation, of the Christian community lets them stand alone.
The saying is true: "In isolation lies our strength." That "our" indicates the fellowship with, and responsibility for each other.