Question 26 (ABM) - Is it OK for a woman to wear pants?
The following are a series of questions and answers between one of our editors (referred to as BTS) and an anonymous Branham minister (referred to as ABM). This series of Q&A relates to William Branham's doctrine and teaching. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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Question 26 - Is it OK for a woman to wear pants?
I really had to chuckle when you stated, “We would argue we are the true continuation of Bro. Branham's followers.” That is precisely what every message group would say of themselves. Personally, I do not think that is the goal of a true Christian.
My goal is simply to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. I also firmly believe that following William Branham will lead a person away from being a true follower of Christ. But that is for a subsequent question.
Staying on the topic of the legalistic nature of William Branham’s doctrine, I want to move to the next logical question: Is it OK for a woman to wear pants?
William Branham appears to say (and I expect you will argue against him again, but perhaps not) that if a woman wears pants, she simply isn’t a Christian:
But I do not think that the New Testament also one to bring Old Testament law into the new covenant.
I do believe that the New Testament holds women to a standard of modesty (1 Tim. 2:9). But it is not an issue of salvation. And it is not an issue of the type of garment.
I have seen message women wear a dress in an immodest fashion and I have seen women in pants that I would consider quite modest.
Deuteronomy 22:5 states,
But we are no longer under the Mosaic law. We are not under the old covenant.
Paul clearly teaches that Christians are no longer under the law covenant instituted under Moses. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 3:14 the Mosaic covenant is identified as “the old covenant” in contrast with “the new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6) of which Paul is a minister. The phrase “old covenant” implies that that covenant enacted with Moses is no longer in force and that it has been replaced by the new covenant. The old covenant is clearly identified with the law, for the letters engraved on stone, which are clearly the Ten Commandments, reflect the content of the covenant (2 Cor. 3:6–7). 2 Corinthians 3:7–18 teaches that the old covenant has passed away.
It follows that if the Mosaic covenant is no longer in effect because it has been replaced by the “new covenant,” then the laws, which belong to that covenant, are no longer binding either.
The letter to the Galatians supports the interpretation proposed for 2 Corinthians 3. Paul’s aim in the letter is to persuade the Galatians to refuse to accept circumcision as the initiation rite into the church of Jesus Christ, even though circumcision was required to belong to the covenant people of Israel (Lev. 12:3). In Galatians 2:15–3:14 Paul emphasizes that circumcision is unnecessary since the Galatians are justified by faith and not works of law. Furthermore, they received the Spirit by faith; hence one becomes a son of Abraham by faith and not by works of law.
In Galatians 3:15–18 Paul specifically distinguishes the Mosaic covenant from the covenant with Abraham. The latter came 430 years before the former, and thus the provisions and stipulations of the Sinai covenant cannot nullify the promises of the covenant made with Abraham.
The Mosaic covenant and law were added by God for a limited period of time (Gal. 3:19); and now that Christ has come as the promised seed, the law is no longer valid. It was God’s intention all along that the law would last only until faith in Christ became a reality (Gal. 3:23). Now that Christ has arrived, the era of the “guardian” (Gal. 3:24–25) has ended. It seems hard to imagine how Paul could be any clearer in saying that the era of the law has ended. But in case his readers have not grasped what he is saying, he revisits the issue in Galatians 4:1–7. Here he uses the illustration of an heir who is a minor so that the time of his inheritance has not yet arrived. The time of slavery before the promise was fulfilled is identified as the epoch when Israel was “under the law” (Galatians 4:4–5). Now that the “fullness of time” has come and God has sent his Son to liberate those under law, the era of the law has ceased.
This is also clear in Romans. First, Paul says believers are no longer “under law” (Rom. 6:14). Romans 10:4 asserts that Christ is “the end of the law.” The word translated “end” here is telos, which can be translated as “end” or “goal.” Christ is the goal to which the law points; and when the goal is reached, the law also comes to an end. Believers are no longer under the Mosaic law.
Paul’s discussion in Romans 5:12–21 views the Mosaic covenant as no longer operative. History is dominated by two figures: Adam and Christ. Adam introduced sin and death into the world, but Christ triumphed over Adam, so that righteousness and life now reign through him.
We see another indication that the law has come to an end from Romans 7:6, where believers are released from the law through the death of Christ. Release from the law intimates that the law is no longer in force.
The Pauline discussion on food in Romans 14:1–15:6 suggests that the law is no longer normative. The Old Testament law clearly forbids the eating of certain foods (Lev. 11:1–44; Deut. 14:3–21). Paul, however, identifies the weak as those who have a restricted diet (Rom. 14:2), whereas those who are strong feel free to eat anything. Paul clearly speaks about the food laws in the Old Testament when he declares, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (Rom. 14:14). The word koinos (“common”) is regularly used elsewhere of foods deemed to be unclean in the Old Testament (cf. 1 Macc. 1:47, 62; Acts 10:14; 11:8). It is quite clear that the legitimacy of eating foods forbidden by the Old Testament is the subject of discussion in Romans 14:20: “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.” The term translated “clean” (katharos) often refers to what is considered to be pure (e.g., Lev. 10:10; Deut. 14:20; 23:11 LXX). What is remarkable is that Paul declares foods that are forbidden by the Old Testament law and the Mosaic covenant to be clean (cf. also Col. 2:16, 20–22). Such a conclusion indicates that believers are no longer required to obey the stipulations of the Mosaic law, and this in turn suggests that the Mosaic covenant is no longer in force.
Finally, a few other observations confirm that the Mosaic law is no longer in force. Circumcision was mandated in the Mosaic law (Lev. 12:3). Indeed, Moses was nearly killed by the Lord himself because his son was uncircumcised (Exod. 4:24–26). Furthermore, Israel could not enter the Land of Promise without being circumcised (Josh. 5:1–9). But Paul clearly teaches that circumcision is no longer necessary to belong to the people of God (Rom. 4:9–12; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:2–4, 6; 6:15).
If the initiation rite into the Mosaic covenant is no longer required, then it follows that the covenant itself is no longer operative. In the same way, the Sabbath was a central part of the Mosaic covenant (e.g., Exod. 20:8–11), but Paul identifies the Sabbath along with the food laws as part of the shadows that give way to the substance, who is Christ himself (Col. 2:16–17).
Similarly, in Romans Paul is unconcerned if one considers every day to be alike (Rom. 14:5–6). He almost certainly thinks of the Sabbath here, but he reckons it to be a matter of inconsequence. Paul’s attitude of indifference relative to the Sabbath indicates that it is no longer normative. A new era has dawned in which the Mosaic covenant has passed away. This reading is confirmed by Ephesians 2:15. Jews and Gentiles in Christ are now one new man, for Christ has “[abolished] the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” In other words, one reason Jews and Gentiles are unified is that the requirements of the Mosaic covenant, which separated Jews from Gentiles, have become passé.
My question is - What gives William Branham the right to go against the clear teachings of Paul and to drag one of the Mosaic laws back into the new covenant?
Response from ABM
This answer will follow along the same line as my answer concerning short hair. I apologize for the length of this email.
The women of our sect do not wear pants, we teach that wearing pants is inappropriate for a woman. You quote the old testatement scripture in the law which forbids women to wear a man's clothes, so we can see men and women were not permitted to wear each other's garments in the days of Old Testament. You are perfectly correct though, we are not bound to keep the precepts of the law, but we are however bound to fulfill the spirit of the law. It must be wrote on our heart. The holy life I live today is a fulfillment of the type (or shadow) of holiness established in the law. The spiritual fulfillment of the applicable passage of the law is the establishment of a principle that God does not want men to change themselves to appear as women, or women to change themselves to appear as man. There is an outward component, obviously. But God is most concerned about the inward component of the fulfillment. Our heart. It is not the our outward act which fulfills this precept of the law, but rather a change in our heart. As a Christian who is led by the spirit, I have no desire in my heart to look like a woman. Likewise a woman led by the spirit will have no desire to look like a man.
If I am a Christian, who has been properly taught scripture, I am going to endeavor to maintain an outward difference in my appearance when compared to the opposite sex and conform to the societal norms of presentation of my gender.
Dresses and skirts, for the last several centuries of western society, are viewed as clearly feminine. Pants, for the majority of the last 2500 years have been viewed as clearly masculine. In modern society, western women largely wear either skirts or pants now. In African and Eastern society, they still primarily wear dresses or skirts.
In Bro. Branham's day, the women wearing pants were very clearly and purposefully bucking historic norms and their transition to wearing pants was an obvious sign of their rebellion against God. So Bro. Branham can very fairly make the statements he did at the tim judging women who were so dressed. His statements were accurate for the facts and reality of his day.
Pants are still an ambiguous thing in society and not yet established as fully feminine in my opinion (and the opinion of many). Women still very commonly wear skirts in western society. Skirts are clearly perceived as feminine, and more so than pants. I believe society still perceives pants as masculine. Maybe this is not the case everywhere, but I feel it is true in the community where I live. (I live in an area with many holiness churches of the Wesleyan tradition, Amish, Mennonites, and probably about four thousand message believers in about thirty-five churches in the area.) I never fail to see women dressed in traditional holiness attire when shopping at the stores. So the historic pattern is very much alive here. Besides that, skirts are still commonly wore by women of a non-holiness persuasion. While pants are somewhat ambiguous, skirts are most certainly still universally viewed as feminine.
Ultimately I am of the belief you are, that God wants us to maintain the distinction between the sexes based on the custom of the society we live in. The difficulty we face with this issue in western society is that the trend for women to embrace pants (and short hair, etc) is relatively recent in historic terms. The current societal custom is still fresh so we have to determine, is it now the new societal norm, or is it still an act of rebellion against the historic norm? Based on how we answer that question is how we determine whether it is appropriate or not. Pants have been around for 2500 years, but only for the last forty or so of those years have they been widely worn by women. So for the first 2460 years they were a garment almost strictly worn by men, but the last 40ish years now women wear them commonly too. I do no feel like I can say with certainty that pants are now a feminine garment. I still think many women view them as a masculine garment, including many of the women who wear them.
Given the uncertainty, I believe a Christian, who has a heart committed to pleasing God, will err on the side of caution. Because what is the downside of wearing a skirt? It is still pretty common. As long as the connotation exists in society that pants are masculine, I do not think a Christian woman should wear them. This violates the principle that men and women should not want to look like the opposite sex. (The "want to" being more important in the eyes of God than the actual act)
So you ask in the title of your email, is it OK for women to wear pants? In most cases, it is not ok for a Christian woman to wear pants. In some limited cases, it may be ok. A working woman may have a need to wear pants for example. I do feel we have moved beyond being able to blanket condemn it as Bro. Branham was able to do, and it is viewed case by case now. But the majority of cases still favor a woman not wearing pants.
The Law of Moses
The deeper question you ask is about bringing the law of Moses into the new covenant, or perhaps more aptly stated as mixing law and grace. I am not sure we truly disagree here. Let me explain our teachings, which we derived from Bro. Branham's teaching, who derived it from traditional Wesleyan teaching, and see what you think. I feel like you are taking specific instances, like a women's style of dress, and taking it out of context. Those are specific implementations of a principle in the gospel. The principle in the gospel is the truth and the revelation. The specific implementation of that truth may vary based on the specific case, time, or people. Bro. Branham's implementation, I feel, was completely appropriate for the time and society in which he lived. I had no problem with it then, I have no problem looking back on it now.
The idolaters though completely miss the underlying biblical principles, and thus they missed the revelation. So they have ended up holding onto specific implementations which are no longer a fulfillment of the underlying scriptural principles. They do not even see the equation which led Bro. Branham to make his statement, they only see the result. So they fail to understand that an important value in the equation was variable, thus leading to a somewhat different result if the same equation were calculated today. I hope this makes some sense to you. Bro. Branham changed his specific implementations of things over time, a review of this position on different things will reveal that. Likewise he improved his understand of scripture over time. One time Bro. Branham said "Today I can think something, and tomorrow I can think better." We see no reason whatsoever that this progressive improvement of our understanding of scripture should have stopped with the death of Bro. Branham... I think this thought of ours perhaps best explains the state of our beliefs today.
So what is the principles that drove Bro. Branham to do what you consider an act that would "drag one of the Mosaic laws back into the new covenant"?
When Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, he laid out an important part of the foundation of the new covenant. He established the principles of holiness under the new covenant in that sermon. He says something profound.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:17-19
Jesus here does not require the believers of the covenant of grace to observe the precepts of the law, but he does oblige them to fulfill the type they established. He goes on to prove his point, and to explain that while the keeping of the law of Moses was merely outward, the fulfillment of the law he would bring would be a greater righteousness and would be inward.
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:20
The Lord then goes on to explain what he means by exceeding their righteousness. In each case, he shows that his followers will actually experience a change of the inward motivation to be unrighteous. Thus they would not merely keep holiness outwardly, but the desire to rebel against the the righteousness of God would also be taken away. For example, the law forbid murder, but not the anger that led to murder. The Lord explains that through the new covenant, the absence of the anger itself if the greater righteousness. The law forbid adultery, but the absence desire itself to lust will be the greater righteousness. As we read the Lord's sermon, we find he explains repeatedly this new standard of holiness. It is inward in nature, but with an outward result.
We cannot ignore that this life we live as Christians is the fulfillment of the type of holiness established in the law.
What causes us to be holy? It is something repeated over and over again: holiness is the result of doing the will of God out of the love of our heart towards him.
There are many scriptures on this topic. But I trust you are familiar with the Wesleyan teachings on this topic. I am not intending to communicate anything beyond classic Wesleyan thought. Jesus brought us grace and truth. Grace to save us, truth to sanctify us. As believers, we are in need of both of these things to fully please God. Salvation is a free gift, received by grace through faith, and thus justifying us. Sanctification is maintained through living the word of God out of our love for God. It is called a second work of grace, separate and in addition to our salvation by faith. Many modern Christians have dismissed the Wesleyan view of sanctification.
The law of Moses is made up of multiple components. One component established a foreshadow through the many sacrifices of the law. It established the principle of a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, whereby peace is made between God and man. The death and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled that type, bringing forgiveness for sin to anyone who will accept his atonement. Another component of the law are the portions which symbolized important events of the future. The feast of Pentecost, for example, was pointing to the events that occurred on the day of Pentecost when the church was born. Most elements like this of the law have been fulfilled, but the feast of trumpets and of tabernacles is not yet fulfilled. So in that sense, the law is not yet entirely fulfilled. So there are still elements in that component of law which are useful for our learning and understanding in that regard. Finally, there is the component of the law which represented holiness. Under the law holiness was only ritual and symbolic, but under the new covenant it is what Paul called "true holiness". That is the kind of holiness Christ described in his sermon on the mount, the principles of holiness in the law are brought to life in through the spirit of God.
So the law contains the spirit, or principles, or a foreshadow, of true holiness. We fulfill that in our lives. This fact is inherently obvious in the New Testament. Consider this for example: on what basis did Paul tell women they should dress modestly? Christ never issued such a statement. Paul drew upon the law to inform his view of what Christians should dress and appear like. He explains this in Galatians where he calls the law a "schoolmaster", a tool useful from which to learn. He did not require the keeping of the precepts of the law, but he distilled the principle in the law in combination of the teachings of Christ, to inform his views and used it to create a specific implementation for the Corinthians, for example. That implementation was not strictly the gospel, but the principle behind it was. Paul explains this multiple times saying things like, "I have no commandments of the Lord, but I give you my judgement". Peter likewise did the same in his letter, recommending a particular style of dress, and he specifically sited the old testament as the source of his opinion (1 Pet 3). We find the same with James in his writings, referencing the old testament to establish principles.
So if it is wrong for Bro. Branham to use the law to inform his understanding, why was it ok for Peter, Paul, and James to use the law to do the same in their day?
When I consider the full picture, I realize that Bro. Branham was not bringing the law forward into the present, but was instead using the principles set forth in the law just like Paul did. At the time he was alive, Bro. Branham witnessed the transition from a centuries long established societal norm, to the sexual revolution. Given the context of the time, I feel his implementation of the scripture was perfectly justified. The principle behind his position remains as solid as ever. When you pick his statements though, and give no context, it makes him look like a mad man. I feel you do a disservice to people by not giving the full context to your readers. (I am sure you will Bro. Branham did the disservice by not giving the context himself. But I believe he did. That is how I learned it.)
Having spent your time in the message with the idolators, you probably never even heard this subject approached in this manner while you were with them, and reflecting back you see their flawed attempt to implement his teachings word for word, without the light of the revelation which was behind and assume would hold the same position were he still living. It does not seem fair to me that you do not at least put yourself in his shoes and consider the reality of the 1940s and 1950s.