HOW WE OUGHT TO PREACH THE WORD IN 1996 AND ALWAYS
By Wayne Camp
TEXT: 2 Timothy 4:1-2 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
In the passage we read Paul describes the perilous times that were faced by Timothy and by us in this day and time.
As I listened to the messages in the conference in Kansas City this summer, all of which were good, I was impressed with some things about how we ought to preach the word of God. Certainly, I was impressed with the fact that we are to preach the word. But, I was especially impressed with some thoughts on how we are to preach the word. Now, some of you may be thinking that this message should be delivered to preachers. A good number of preachers (at least 350) receive this paper. The commission to preach the gospel into all the world is given to the Lords churches and to her preachers because of their connection with her. Therefore, it is important that church members know this as well as those whom God has especially called to preach his word.
My subject is, How We Ought to Preach the Word.
WE ARE TO PREACH THE WORD EXCLUSIVELY
This does not mean we cannot or should not use illustrations or personal experiences in our teaching and preaching of the word. Jesus often used illustrations. Sometimes they were parables and other times they involved actual experiences of actual people. There are a number of parables in the New Testament. Jesus used over 50 parables in his teaching. They are recorded in the first four book of the New Testament.
A parable is a short, fictitious story of something that is common to every day life. The parables were designed to teach some great truth. The word from which our English word parable comes means "to throw along beside." It is a fictitious story thrown along beside a truth to illustrate it.
Jesus also used real accounts of things that actually happened. There is the account of the rich man and Lazarus. In parables names of persons are not used. This illustrative true story begins with the words, "There was a certain rich man . . . There was a certain beggar . . . ." It is obvious that this is no parable but Jesus is telling a true story about something that actually happened. The same is true of the story of the good neighbor who was a Samaritan. There we find the expression, "A certain man," and "a certain priest," and "a certain Samaritan." Again it is obvious this is a real and true account of something that happened which Jesus used to teach a lesson on being a good neighbor.
Paul often related experiences he had. On more than one occasion he related his experience on the road to Damascus when he was apprehended by the Lord. He also recounted his experience at Ephesus when he was ferociously attacked by the people there. He narrated his experience when he was stoned and left for dead. Though he did not name himself, most agree this was probably Paul. He did relate the experience of a man whom he knew who was caught up into the third heaven.
Any one who has read his Bible knows that one of the tools of preaching and teaching it is illustrating it. Those who would criticize the using of personal experiences, or even mere fictitious stories as long as they are classified as parables or mere illustrations, need to read the sermons and teaching found in the Bible.
We must preach the Word exclusive of our own personal prejudices. Sometimes a preacher may let his own personal tastes and prejudices affect his interpretation and presentation of the Scriptures. I grew up in the south. I grew up with some pretty strong prejudices, especially when it came to racial integration in schools, churches, etc. I confess I let these prejudices color my interpretation of some verses of Scripture. I voted for resolutions passed at Messenger meetings of the American Baptist Association which stated our stand for segregation of the races.
I first began to question this when I noted that we welcomed American Indians, East Indians, Koreans, Mexicans, and all except black people into our assemblies. In fact, one ABA missionary was married to a Japanese lady and another was a Korean and he was married to a Caucasian lady. The races were mixed in our assemblies and our passage of resolutions was not Biblically based, they were based on prejudice against one, and only one race of people, the black people.
When this began to bother me, I then took another look at the great commission. It commands us to preach the gospel into all the world and to every creature. When converts are made, we are to baptize them, regardless of the color of their skin. A study of history also revealed that in Arkansas, where I grew up, our Landmark Baptist Churches had members who were black until, after the days of slavery, the black members asked to be lettered out to organize their own churches. We would also send missionaries to countries which were populated by blacks and those who were baptized were received into the membership of all-white churches in the states.
Honest dealing with the word of God eventually led to my personal admission to myself that my former interpretations of Scripture on the racial question were in error. There is no biblical ground whatever for refusing membership in a New Testament church to any persons confessing Jesus Christ as Saviour, and who otherwise meet biblical standards for membership. Some of the problems rebuked by Paul in his letters to those early churches were grounded in racial prejudice. Jews and Gentiles made up some of those early congregations. Jewish Christians thought Gentile Christians were of a lower class than they and this caused problems of fellowship.
There are so many areas where, if we are not extremely careful, we will let our personal prejudices affect our interpretation of Scripture and then our preaching. We must, we simply must preach the word without letting our personal prejudices affect our preaching. It is very difficult to give up our prejudices when they come into conflict with the word of God, but love for God and his word demand that we do so.
I remember one article written by a prominent preacher, in which his personal prejudices against cowboy boots came out. He wrote about "Cowboy Preachers." In his message he was extremely critical of any preacher who wore cowboy boots to church. He ranted on about how vain it was for them to wear cowboy boots into the pulpit. Where did he get his Scripture for this diatribe? Out of his book called, My Personal Opinion. Legalism and prejudice will really affect our preaching if we are not careful. We will be guilty of hard-nosed dogmatism and unfounded intolerance if we let our personal prejudices affect our preaching.
We must preach the Word exclusively as the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
We need no additional information on church government. I remember a book (it burned) someone gave me years ago on the work of deacons in a New Testament church. In that book all kinds of things were named over which the deacons had authority. The deacons were over all the material possessions of the church. The deacons were responsible to keep watch over the pastor to be certain he did not preach something that was wrong. On and on it went. The truth is, there was no Bible to back up anything the book claimed. But, this was a book that was sent out to churches in one prominent Baptist group, to give them information on church polity and administration.
I remember a deacons ordination I attended in my early years as a pastor. One preacher said to the men who were being ordained, "Now brethren, you realize that a part of your duty as deacons is to guard that pulpit." Since when? Since when is that a job designated for deacons? When I asked him privately for Scripture to back up that declaration he sputtered and fumed a little bit and finally admitted he was merely repeating what others had said. God forbid that we pass on things like that without checking to see if they are backed up by the word of God.
We need no further information on the qualifications of pastors. The Bible is very clear on the qualifications of pastors. Yet, some churches can set up a list as long as your arm on the qualifications they are looking for in a pastor. Neither Jesus nor Paul could meet those qualifications. It is interesting that there are some Baptist churches that now require that a pastor have a doctors degree in something to be pastor. Yet, the men whom Jesus chose to fill the apostolic office were not learned in the theological schools of the day. Now, I am for preachers getting a good education, when they can. I am not an enemy of good, sound, local-church-owned-and-controlled schools. But, I get sick of brethren in the ministry always attaching their degrees to their names.
I recently received a paper announcing a big Bible conference. I was reading the list of speakers and there was Dr. So-in-So; and Dr. Did-This, and on and on. Most of the speakers were Doctors. It read like the speakers for a medical convention, not a place where Christians might be edified. Have Baptists forgotten that "We be brethren"? There were two or three preachers who did not have a degree. I found myself feeling sorry for them. Just a little old lowly "Brother" was attached to their names.
We need no further information on how to handle discipline. Some churches and/or pastors write up a lot of rules about church discipline. At one time, I was guilty of this. If you dont attend for two months you are excluded from the fellowship of the church. Some use an "inactive list" in lieu of church discipline. Where in Gods Bible is that found? I suggest it is nothing more than a subterfuge to get around church discipline. Other methods to avoid the Scriptural function of church discipline are used.
We need no further information on how to receive members and who should be members. I once was listening to a missionary from Mexico speak. He talked of how they did not immediately receive members into their churches in Mexico. They were placed on probation for six months before being received "as candidates for membership." Several men in the audience gave a hearty "AMEN!" I raised my hand and asked, "Bro. R____, where did you get the Scripture for putting those new converts on probation for six months?" He stammered around a little and said, "I dont know if there is any Scripture for it, but it sure prevents us a lot of problems." I answered, "There is no Scripture for such a practice. Paul taught us to receive the weak in the faith. Your practice appears to me to not only be without Biblical foundation, but it appears to be a contradiction to Pauls instruction given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." Why must we add to the Word of God with our traditions? Jesus rebuked such traditions.
Ah, and speaking of traditions, we need no list of traditions to enhance our worship and service for the Lord. We have the all-sufficient Word of God. I am reminded of the words on Jesus on this matter. Some of the religious leaders of Israel had come to him concerning the matter of his disciples eating without first going through the ceremonial washing of hands which had been added to the law by the "fathers" of Israel. Matthew 15:1-3 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? I have no problem with traditions if they do not pervert or violate the word of God and if they do not become law. Let me illustrate. In some Baptist ranks, it became a tradition to have deacons sit on presbyteries to ordain pastors. This tradition originated with the Episcopalians, was adopted by the American Baptist Convention (formerly the Northern Baptist Convention), a rankly liberal group who erroneously wear the name "Baptist." From the ABC the tradition was picked up by the Southern Baptist Convention and from there it spread to other Baptists, associational and independent. What was first an effort to honor more men than preachers by inviting them to participate became a law written in stone. The problem is, a presbytery is a council of elders, or pastors, it is not a council of pastors and deacons. When I began to preach and teach this, I was branded as a "deacon hater." The danger of traditions is that many will take them above the word of God. How dare a preacher have the unmitigated gall and the illimitable temerity to teach anything contrary to someones tradition.
I am concerned when men are affirming the sufficiency of the Scriptures and at the same time trying to justify having something in addition to the Scriptures. Let us never tire of teaching, preaching and hearing the word of God. Let us preach it exclusively. Let us be governed by it exclusively. Let it be the guide for our moral standards. Let it be the guide in our church polity. We need nothing further. God has provided in his word absolutely all we need regardless of how we may seek to rationalize other things. Surely God knew every problem his people would ever face when he inspired those holy men to write his word!
WE OUGHT TO PREACH THE WORD THOROUGHLY
We are to preach the word. 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. We are to declare all the counsel of God. Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
We are to preach the word because that is what makes men wise unto salvation. 2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ set forth in Gods word is the power of God unto salvation. Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. It has pleased God to use the preaching of the gospel to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Of the salvation of Gods elect Paul wrote, 2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It was the determination of Paul to preach at all costs because the salvation with eternal glory is obtained in connection with the preaching of the gospel. Paul, when warned not to go to Jerusalem because of the dangers faced there, indicated that he was willing to suffer and die to testify the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24).
We are to preach the word without the mixture of tradition, prejudice, and opinion, because that is the chief function of any God called-preacher and any true church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to preach the word thoroughly because of the practice of Jesus. Luke 4:16-21 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. It was the practice of Jesus to preach the word. When under attack by Satan he appealed to the word of God to put down the Devil. God has magnified his word above all his name. Christ magnified the word by constantly appealing to it as the very word of God. Let us preach it thoroughly.
We ought to preach the word because this is what men are to live by. Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. It is the sanctifying effect of the word of God that we need for our lives to measure up to what God expects. John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
We ought to preach the word thoroughly for it is through the word and the power of the Holy Spirit that men are regenerated. James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Paul told the Corinthians that he had begotten them by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
We ought to preach the word thoroughly for it is used of God in giving men faith. Romans 10:14-15 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! One cannot call on one in whom he has not believed and one cannot believe on him of whom he has not heard. Imagine the ridiculous notion that one can believe on Christ without ever hearing of him. How we do need to preach the word of God thoroughly if men are to hear of Christ and be granted faith. Disciple making is clearly and obviously the result of preaching the gospel in the power and demonstration of the Spirit.
WE OUGHT TO PREACH THE WORD PROPORTIONATELY, OR WITH BALANCE
I am sometimes amazed at how often and how strongly some people preach on certain matters which are barely, if at all, mentioned in the Scriptures. I was puzzled recently when a dear brother took issue with me over my stand on translations of the Scripture. He is a strong advocate of "KJV Onlyism." He referred in his letter to two brethren whom I esteem highly. He said he had heard both of them preach on the fact that the KJV 1611 is the only version to be used today. He climaxed his statement with the exclamation, "Praise God!" I thought, "I wonder what text they used. I have searched the KJV and it makes no mention of itself. The translators of the AV 1611 did not believe it was the only authoritative version nor did they believe it should be the final translation. Read their remarks to the readers. What is interesting, I have heard both brethren preach whom he named in his letter and neither of them used an AV 1611 in the pulpit. They used a 1769 revision. But, that be as it may. I still wonder what text you would use to prove that the KJV 1611 is the only version of the Bible to be used when the KJV 1611 is not so much as mentioned in the word of God. It is not mentioned in the Textus Receptus, the Geneva, the Wycliff, or any other version. If I use a text for a message I want it to at least make mention of my subject. Maybe someone can cite me a verse of Scripture that I have not found! The brother also sent me a tract which declares that the AV 1611 is the only Bible which God uses. I cannot believe anyone would shut God up to an English version that no one had until A. D. 1611. Poor God! He is shut up to a version of the Bible that was translated (what was not copied from another English translation) by a group of Church of England clergymen. As much as I love the KJV I will not be guilty of the farcical proposition that God cannot and does not use any version of his word except the AV 1611. That proposition leaves all non-English speaking and reading people without a Bible.
I believe we ought to speak often of those things of which God often speaks and sparingly of those things of which God speaks sparingly. There are certain subjects of which God often speaks in his word. I doubt that any will question my declaration that Jesus Christ is the preeminent message of the Word of God indicating that he should be the preeminent theme of our preaching. I doubt that any will deny that sin is a very prominent theme in Scripture and, therefore should be a major theme in our preaching. Though some will deny it, I assure you that the doctrine of election is a prominent theme in the Scriptures and ought, therefore, to be prominent in our preaching. The Bible teaches that all who are saved were chosen to salvation from the beginning. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. The Bible teaches that all who are saved were given to Christ. John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. The Bible teaches that men believe on Christ because they are his sheep, given to him by the Father. John 10:26-27 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. The Bible teaches that those who believe do so because they were ordained to eternal life. Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. The Bible teaches that we were chosen to salvation before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4-5 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. The Bible teaches that the saved have a calling and election of which they can be certain. 2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. The Bible teaches that the folks who cannot be deceived into following a false Christ are Gods elect. Matthew 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. The Bible teaches that when Christ shall return and gather his people together it will be his elect whom he will gather. Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. God revealed to Paul that he was an elect vessel unto him. Acts 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Paul tells us that we can know that we are the elect of God. 1 Thessalonians 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. The Bible tells us that this election is of grace. Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;). Romans 11:5-6 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Jesus referred to this doctrine of election a number of times. Luke 18:7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. God revealed his election of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. The Bible teaches us that the faith that causes us to lay hold of Christ is the faith of Gods elect, faith that is given to Gods elect. Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. The Bible teaches us that the many things Paul suffered were endured for the sake of Gods elect people so that they would obtain the salvation to which he had chosen them. 2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The Bible teaches that we are to conduct ourselves as knowing we are the elect of God. Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering. The Bible teaches that our election is according to the foreordination of God. Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. The Bible teaches that it is the elect who are caused to approach unto God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. According to the word of God election assures the calling, justification, and glorification of the elect. Romans 8:29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. The Bible teaches that no charge can be successfully laid to the charge of Gods elect because he has justified us. Romans 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
If you will admit this doctrine is in the Bible and begin a study of it you will learn that I have barely scratched the surface in showing how prominent it is set forth in the word of God. Since the Bible speaks so often of this doctrine, should it not be prominent in our preaching, also? Since the writers and preachers who were inspired by God spoke and wrote often of the doctrine of election should we not speak and write often of the doctrine of election? Since the Bible says so much about the doctrine of election, ought not we also give it prominence in our preaching and teaching?
These are not all the doctrines that are prominent in the Bible and ought to be given prominence in our preaching. There are many others but these will suffice to illustrate my point. If God brings the matter up often, should not we bring it up often?
There are doctrines which are spoken of sparingly in Scripture and ought therefore to not be prominent in our preaching. The Bible does not say a whole lot about how a man ought to wear his hair and should, therefore not receive a lot of attention in our preaching. Aside from the Old Testament discussions of the Nazarite, I know of but one Old Testament reference to long hairthe hair of Absalom. 2 Samuel 14:26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight.
In the New Testament, I know of only one mention of the matter. 1 Corinthians 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? From some of the preaching I have heard on the mans correct style of hair one would think there are at least 150 references to it but there is just very little said about it. I remember an advertisement that I received from a school for preachers in the Detroit, Michigan, area which proudly assured all who received it, "You will never see a man with hair that touches his ears or a beard at this school." I thought, "Jesus could not have gone to that school because his beard was long enough they could pluck it off his face." Why would a school make this one of its major issues when it is so sparingly spoken of in Scripture?
I am not suggesting that something that is rarely mentioned in Scripture is not important, but let us give it relative importance to other things mentioned in the word of God. Balanced preaching of the Word would cause us to say little about the matter of the length of a mans hair in comparison with what we say about other things more prominent in Scripture.
The Bible does not have a lot to say about womens clothing and has nothing to say about the structural design of womens clothing. The Bible speaks of women wearing modest apparel, but says nothing about the structural design of that apparel. 1 Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. Now, the fact that I prefer a certain structural design in womens clothing does not mean that is what they must wear. I am not God and have no authority in the matter.
Solomon wrote of the clothing of the virtuous woman specifying that she makes it herself but makes no reference to the structural style of these coverings. Proverbs 31:22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. And, of course, there is the verse that is always cited and taken out of its context, concerning men not wearing that which pertains to a woman and women not wearing that which pertains to a man. But that verse makes absolutely no reference to the structural design of either clothing. 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.
If we are to deal with this verse honestly and in its historical context we must remember that Israel was about to enter the land of Canaan. That heathen land was steeped in paganism. They were without God.
It was a custom in heathen temples and heathen worship for men to disguise themselves as women and vice-versa. In the worship of Venus, Ashtaroth, or Astarte a man would dress up in flashy womens dress. In the worship of Mars, women would put on the armor of a male warrior.
All idolaters sometimes confounded the sexes of their deitiessometimes representing them as male, at other times as female; their worshipers fell into the habit of cross dressing. There were also those who dressed as the opposite sex out of perverted sexual preferences just as today.
To try to make that which pertains to a man mean pants such as we commonly wear in this part of the world and that which pertains to a woman refer to a dress or skirt and blouse is to totally disregard the setting. The verse was written in a time when both men and women in Israel customarily wore robes, though their design was different so as to distinguish them sexually.
I have been in several nations in that part of the world where many of the men and women still wear robes. Even though the structural design of their clothes is basically the same, I never saw a man whose robe looked like a womans robe nor a woman whose robe looked like a mans robe. There is a difference that is readily distinguishable, but the structural design is basically the same.
When the children of Israel were getting ready to eat the Passover they were given instructions which clearly indicate they wore robes. When they ate the first Passover they were to eat it with their loins girt, which meant they were to pull the skirts of their robes up into the girdle and fasten them there so the feet and knees would be free for action. There are many references to the robes men wore, from peasant to potentate. There is no way this verse can legitimately and honestly be used to prohibit slacks on women, if they are distinctly designed for women, any more than it can be used to prove men ought to wear pants.
There is nothing about the structural design of the clothing of either men or women in this verse. If the robe was designed for a woman; a man should not wear it. If the robe was designed for a man, a woman should not wear it.
The primary idea in this verse seems to be that women were not to disguise themselves as men for whatever reason, and men were not to so dress as to appear to be women, whatever their evil motive in so doing. The motive in cross dressing may have been sexual perversion. The motive may have been to gain entrance into places forbidden to women or vice-versa. The motive may have been to get into a position to seduce a man or to molest a woman.
The idea, some scholars believe, had to do with women who wanted to go to war and were not allowed because of their sex, or men who wanted to stay out of the military. A woman who wanted to go to war might disguise herself as a man since women were not allowed to go to war in Israel. A man who wanted to avoid going to war might disguise himself as a woman in order to escape military duty. It had absolutely nothing to do with a woman wearing slacks or other modest clothing that is specifically designed for women. Those who use it that way are ignoring several rules of interpretation in order to make it fit their personal desires concerning dress. I repeat, "Of this we can be absolutely certain, it has nothing to do with a woman wearing a pair of slacks designed specifically for a woman and which no real man would dare wear."
I have spent a good deal of time on this because this verse is so often misunderstood, misinterpreted, and therefore, misconstrued to mean something it does not mean, and is, in a few instances, used to try to force ones own preferences, traditions, and ideas on others.
I hereby offer a reward of $50.00 to the person who can show me from the word of God that "that which pertaineth to a man" in this verse refers to a pair of pants with two legs, and belt loops, and a zipper or buttons up the front. I offer the same reward to the person who can show me from the word of God that "that which pertaineth to a woman" in this verse is referring to a dress which a woman may slip over her head or over her feet, or a skirt which may slipped on either way and a blouse.
If you hold that "that which pertaineth to a man" in this verse is pants or slacks such as we men commonly wear, come up to the lick log and prove it and claim the reward. If you hold that "that which pertaineth to a woman" in this verse is a dress or skirt and blouse, as women wear today, come on up to the lick log and prove it and claim the reward. If you cant prove it, why not quit using, or rather misusing the verse to prove something to which it has no reference.
As far as I can find, the word of God never gives the structural design for the clothing of men or women. There are basically two requirements for the clothing of women that can be proved from Scripture. It should be modest, and it should be feminine. Mens clothing should be masculine and modest. Beyond that we must venture onto the margins of, or clear out of the word of God to establish dress codes such as many advocate. That is a venture into legalism and doctrines and commandments of men and I care not to go with you to that land.
Let me suggest we ought not to spend a great deal of time in preaching and teaching about the structural design of womens clothing, or mens clothing, for that matter. If it is not dealt with in Scripture, we certainly ought to question our dealing with it in our preaching. If God does not speak of it much, should we?
I will mention one other matter about which the Bible says very little but about which some preachers are prone to say a great deal; the matter of an artificial head covering for women. To my knowledge the whole counsel of God on this matter is found in I Cor. 11:1-15. I am not giving the text of that passage for it is not my purpose here to argue this issue one way or the other. My point is simply this, "Since the Bible has little to say on the matter, it should not become a major thrust of our preaching and teaching from either position."
Let us be careful to keep a good balance; a good balance after the biblical pattern. Let us speak much of what God speaks much and let us speak sparingly of that of which God speaks sparingly.
WE OUGHT TO PREACH THE WORD OF GOD ALWAYS
Let us preach it when those who hear us would much rather hear something else. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Let us preach it at funerals for there men are confronted with the reality of death, judgment, and life after death. Let us preach it when it is in season and convenient and readily received. 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season. Let us preach it when it is out of season and not convenient and is rejected. We ought to preach it when it is necessary to reprove and rebuke. ". . . reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
LET US PREACH THE WORD WHOLEHEARTEDLY
Preach with conviction that it is the word of God. One of the kindest compliments I ever had paid me happened 20 or more years ago. I had preached a rather strong message in a revival meeting in the state of Alabama. After the service a lady came to me and said, "I dont know whether or not I believe what you preached. But, I am convinced you believe what you preached." Dear Brethren in the gospel ministry, when we preach the word of God, let us not leave any one wondering if we believe it or not. Let us preach the word with conviction.
Let us preach with evidence that we love the word of God and the God of the Word. Half-hearted preaching does little to profit the hearers. Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Sermonettes beget Christianettes. Strong, thorough preaching of the word begets strong, well-grounded Christians.
I know there is much more that could probably be said on this subject. It would be good sometime to make a study of the preaching patterns of Biblical preachers. See what they spoke much of and of what they spoke little. See the enthusiasm and dedication in their preaching. See how they combined evangelistic and doctrinal preaching. See how they condemned sin and magnified Christ. Learn from them the importance of the word of God. Learn from them that we need nothing else to guide us in our personal life, our home life, or our church life. And learn from them that we need nothing else to give men that will make them wise unto salvation.
Finally, my preacher brethren, "Preach the word!"
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This article last modified March 04, 2011.