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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Greetings and welcome to HBS.
Introduction to 1 Corinthians 11
In this chapter Paul reproofs the Corinthian’s disrespectful behavior during the worship services (11:2-16) and while commemorating the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34).
Verse 1 of chapter 11 should be the ending verse of chapter 10: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” – this should be the conclusion of Paul’s discussion of the previous topics. I understand the Bible translators confusion as to this verse’s placement since it also works as an introductory verse to the passage we are about to study; for from beginning to end verses 2-16 speak of Christian Order in the church.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 11:1
1 Corinthians 11
Let’s begin with Paul’s statement: Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
When it comes to Scripture, I’m a stickler for the details. By this I mean to say I pay attention to every jot and tittle, each and every word; what it says and what it does not say. Please note what Paul doesn’t say here. He doesn’t say “Follow me as I follow Jesus;” he said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” This may not mean much to the casual Bible reader, but for the avid student of God’s Word it means a good deal.
Jesus was the God-given name by which our Lord and Savior was known during His earthly ministry in which He served His people with His twelve apostles (Luke 1:31). But here’s the thing. Paul had not been saved at that time and definitely was not counted as one of Jesus’ “followers.” Christ is Jesus’ title as the anointed of God. Peter made this declaration during his Pentecostal address: Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36).
It was as Lord and Christ, resurrected from the dead, ascended and glorified in heaven (Psalm 110:1); where God (the Father had) highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,” that Paul knew Him and followed Him as, by direct revelation, the Lord committed to him the glorious mystery (secret) kept hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints (Colossians 1:26).
Due to the extreme paganism and carnality of the Corinthians, Paul could not “dig deeper” into this body of truth for their spiritual benefit, but he did preach and teach “Jesus Christ crucified,” upon which it was founded (2:1-2, 3:10-11), which brings us to this statement from Paul:
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you (v2). The truths Paul had preached, as God’s apostle to the Gentiles, some of these Believers had evidently received with joy and still held firmly to, which is why he offers them praise. There were exceptions, of course.
Furthermore, it should be recognized at this point, some of these folks continued to look to Paul for additional spiritual enlightenment. 1 Corinthians 1:12 speaks more of factions based on personalities rather than doctrinal teachings. We know Apollos watered what Paul had planted (3:6), and Peter confirmed Paul’s letters to the churches as “the present truth” or Logos the divine word of God (2 Peter 1:12; 3:15-18; Acts 15:9-11; Galatians 2:2-9). Thus, the divisive statements “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” “I am of Cephas,” and “I am of Christ” indicate personal preferences based on personality or rank rather than divisions based on church doctrine.
Please note Paul follows his word of praise in verse 2 with the word “b-u-t,” for there were questions as to authority in this church on which they still needed instructions and guidance.
But (behold the underlying truth) I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ (v3).
With this statement, Paul sets the foundation for his teaching in the rest of this chapter. Simply put, Paul makes it clear that God has established principles of order, authority, and accountability within His church.
Head is an important word in this chapter. Some people consider head to mean nothing more than source, as in the head of a river is its source. Though this word can certainly mean this, Paul is not simply saying, “Man came from Jesus, woman came from man, and Jesus came from God.” Although this is true, it goes much deeper than that. From God’s standpoint a source has innate authority. Thus, if something comes from me, for example, then I have some innate authority over it; Parental authority is one example of this principle.
Biblically speaking, in its fullest sense, head has the idea of headship and authority. It means to have the appropriate responsibility to lead, and the matching accountability. Scripture teaches it is not only right it’s appropriate to submit to someone who is our head (Romans 13:1; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 2:13-15).
With this understanding now in place, we see Paul describing three headship relationships: Jesus is head of every man; man is the head of woman, and God (the Father) is head of Christ. Because Paul connects these three relationships, the principles of headship are the same among them.
The idea of headship and authority (subject’s mankind has struggled with since their expulsion from Eden) is important to God the Father. In His great plan for the ages (dispensations) one of the characteristics He looks for in both men and women is voluntary submission, i.e. humility instead of pride, a.k.a. arrogance. During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ assumed the role of the humble servant, providing a living demonstration of what it means to serve all. God the Father looks for this same trait in us (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 66:2; Luke 22:42; Ephesians 4:2; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).
It is essential to understand a couple of things before we proceed: the terms “man” and “woman” can mean husband and wife, however, in the context of this letter this is not what Paul means to say. Paul’s talking about the order of creation (Genesis 2). The other thing is this, being under one’s God-ordained authority does not equal inferiority. Jesus was wholly under the authority of God the Father during His earthly ministry (John 5:19, 8:28), yet He is equally God. This means just because we know Him as the Son of God in Scripture doesn’t mean He is lower in rank, subordinate to the Father, or sits at the “kiddy table” at family events (John 1:1, 8:58, 10:30). When God calls believing women in the church to recognize the headship of men, it’s not because women are inferior to men, but because there is a God-ordained order of authority to be respected.
Paul begins to deal with this issue by discussing a custom which prevailed among them at that time. It was a good custom, but nothing more than that; it certainly was not part of the Mosaic Law or any command from Scripture. That is was only a custom and nothing more is confirmed by verse 16. The idea of a head covering was important in this (and many other) ancient cultures.
To wear the head covering (or veil) in some Bible translations, sent a clear and definite message; it was a public symbol of being under the authority and protection of another in the Greek and Roman cultures. The only women seen outside without a veil in those days were women of weak or worldly character, i.e. prostitutes, etc.
So, should a man be observed praying or prophesying, having his head covered was saying by his actions, “I am not in authority. I am under the authority of others.” This was unacceptable, since God has established the head of a woman is man (11:3) it actually dishonors Christ, his head, for a man to communicate to bystanders that he under no authority by having his head covered.
For a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered says by her actions “I am not under authority” and since God the Father has established the head of a woman is man (11:3) it dishonors the man, her (God appointed) head, for a woman to communicate this to those in attendance by refusing to wear a head covering.
Paul addressed this matter by saying: Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying (sharing or preaching the gospel publicly) disgraces his head (Christ). But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head (her husband), for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved (v4-5).
Since our Apostle Paul is discussing Christian Order in the church, he does not say the man should wear a covering in prayer as an acknowledgement of his subjection to Christ the Lord, but that he should forego wearing a covering since he represents Christ, who is the head of the body, in his headship over the woman (See Ephesians 5:22-24). Moreover, in verse 7 he adds: For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
Paul wants the Corinthians (and us) to know with the woman it is different. Long, beautiful hair is given to the woman as a natural covering, and it is in their nature to fuss over her hair. Notice how she combs and brushes it daily. She may add a shiny doo-dad or a pretty ribbon to it to make it look more attractive, and this is why Paul said, “…the woman is the glory of man.” How proud is the man of a modest wife, who keeps herself looking attractive and her hair is certainly part and parcel of looking attractive as is “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which, in the sight of God, is of great price” (1 Peter 2:3-4). However, a brazen woman, who can be attracted to her except for worldly reasons?
Therefore the additional covering Paul dealt with in this passage is the woman’s voluntary acknowledgement of her husband as her head, and collectively, of the man as head over the woman, and of Christ as Head over the church.
If the woman objects to wearing this covering, Paul said: “Let her be cut off.” Paul isn’t speaking figuratively here, he’s speaking sensibly, for without the proper covering in church she may as well of walked into the church with her hair cut off (v5). Paul goes on to say: For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head (v6).
If a woman refuses to demonstrate being under authority, she may as well be shaved. In some ancient cultures, the shaving of a woman’s head was the punishment given to an adulteress. But having a woman’s head shorn or shaved meant different things in different cultures. In Jewish law, it was the mark of adultery (Numbers 5:11-31). In the Greek culture, it could be the mark of a prostitute or a lesbian. During WW II, French women who were caught collaborating with German soldiers had their hair shorn and they were made to walk through the streets of France in that condition – a most degrading humiliation. So much do women think of their hair, as we know, virtually no women walk around completely bald. A man walking down the street sans hair is not a rare sight at all, but to catch sight of a woman without hair walking around in public is as rare as spotting a unicorn waiting on a bus at the corner; this is a lesson from nature.
Getting back to the Corinthian women, more than a few of them thought of themselves as being deeply “spiritual” and since Jesus, they did not feel the need to demonstrate by wearing a head covering that they were under anyone’s authority. Paul is saying, “If you’re going to give up your head covering, why not go all the way and shave your head. Identify yourself with the women of the world, in all their shame.”
In the next few verses Paul tells us why it is important to respect the principle of headship in the church.
7: For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
8: For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
9: for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but the woman for the man’s sake.
10: Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
The first reason Paul stated in 11:3: the man is the head of a woman; God has established an order of authority which is the principle of male headship, both in His Church (1 Corinthians 11; 1 Timothy 2) and in the home (Ephesians 5:23).
He is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man. The second reason is found in the order of creation: God created the man first and gave him dominion over the entire earth. Thus when the woman was created from man and she was brought to the man she became his responsibility (Genesis 2).
Since male headship existed before the fall, this passage makes it clear before and after the fall God has ordained there be differences in the roles between genders, even in the church. The fall did not cause the difference to come about or alter the gender roles (in the church or in the home), and the difference in roles is not erased by our new life in Christ Jesus.
God has created the woman so that by her innate nature she wants to please and help her man. Simply put, the woman was created to be a helper to the man: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18). This verse tosses a “wet rag” on the idea of Women’s Lib, but the concept isn’t biblical from the get-go.
The King James Bible translators used the term “help meet.” In the Hebrew language this translates to the word “Ezer” (pronounced: ay’-zer), Noun Masculine; Strong’s Hebrew #5828, from the root word Azar – meaning: to surround: i.e. to protect or aid; help, succor. What this breaks down to is this: it’s in the woman’s nature to assist or help the man (Genesis 2:28) and how many times over the years have we seen this done? How often have we heard the phrase, “The woman behind the man?” And it’s for real because women are acting on the basis, “He needs me” or “I may be able to help him with this…?” Consequently, many a man owes his success to the woman behind the scene. I’m referring to such women as: Mrs. June Carter Cash, Mrs. Billy Graham, Mrs. C.S. Lewis, Mrs. Albert Einstein, Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, Mrs. Oskar Schindler, and Mrs. June Heitzman to list only a few who have fulfilled God’s purpose in their marriage.
How many men are the husbands they ought to be simply because their wives are the women God created them to be? How many believing men had their temper curtailed, their smoking and drinking eradicated, their cursing held in check or eliminated, and their short-sightedness overcome because of their wife’s sense of duty to God and to their husband, i.e. knowing their husband “needs me to be the woman God has called me to be?” Thank God for loving, godly women!
I’d like to add before we move on to the next verse that nowhere in Paul’s writings does he command women to submit to all men in society, only in the home and in the church. God has not given men control over every woman – that’s absurd. Instead, Paul is teaching the church, which includes men and women, the women come under the authority of men who lead God’s church on earth, therefore, they must respect their authority, as long as they are respecting God’s Word (the two go hand-in-hand; you have to hold them accountable) and not necessarily because of their gender, but because of the office they hold.
The failure of men to lead in the home and in the church, and I’m referring to the way the Lord Jesus Christ led; for He came to show us how to walk in this ungodly world, has been the chief cause of the rejection of male authority in these latter days and it’s not only contrary to Scripture it’s unacceptable.
I could spend more time talking about how Hollywood, Television, and the media in general deliberately dumb-down the American male, presenting fathers and men in the home and in the work place as useless buffoons, and thereby undermining their God-given authority. Clark Griswold and Homer Simpson come immediately to mind. Just be aware this isn’t accidental it is by design just as is the dumbing down of the American Educational System and the ongoing attack on same-sex marriage and the family in general - check it out.
Let’s go to verse 10:
Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority (some translations use the word power instead of authority) on her head, because of the angels (v10). I have no idea what Paul meant to say here, so I read a commentary by Albert Barnes, a man I respect, and he had this to say: “There’s scarcely a passage in the Scriptures which has more exercised the ingenuity of commentators than this verse… There can perhaps, be no doubt the word “power” has reference to a veil, or to a covering for her head; but why it is called power I confess I do not understand; and most of the comments on the word are, in my view, egregious trifling.” And as to the phrase, “because of angels,” he said: “I do not know what it means; and I regard it as one of the very few passages in the Bible whose meaning as yet is wholly inexplicable.”
I’d rather have someone offer me honesty such as this then an opinion not based on fact. I’ve often said over the years, “The Bible may not tell us everything we want to know, but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.” I’m not able to explain this verse for you, so instead of offering my “opinion,” which I can’t support with Scripture, we’re going to leave it right where we found it and move on to verses 11-12 (Deuteronomy 29:29). We can all ask Paul what he meant say when we see him…
11-12: However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
In these two verses Paul balances his previous statements with a strong statement concerning the equality of women in the church and in marriage. As Paul indicated earlier in verse 3 there is no inferiority between genders. In our society today most people are aware that gender bias exists. Phrases such as “The Glass Ceiling,” in the corporate world, and the fact that women’s salaries do not equal men’s salaries even though they hold similar if not the same position or title are unfortunately the norm in a business world controlled by men who do not know God or His ways. Nevertheless, in Christ Jesus, the original intent has not been disrupted. Our Apostle Paul has declared that man and woman cannot exist without each other: For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman. They are equal, yet distinct sexes; they are to function in a divinely given order because all things originate from God. Therefore, the man who operates his church or manages his home without love and without recognizing the important and vital place God has given women is not doing God’s will on earth.
Now Paul returns to the matter of hair or wearing a veil. This is the second time Paul argues this point but now he comes at it from a different angle; he approaches it from nature.
Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Paul directs this comment to the Believers who were of the Jewish environment. In the Jewish community, even men covered their heads while praying. It was therefore inconceivable for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered. Their own experience had taught them that women should observe the custom of the head covering when the church meets.
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering (v13-15).
Paul’s saying nature itself indicates a man with long hair dishonors himself, while a woman with long hair is honored by it. In both the Jewish and Greek cultures, short hair was the norm. Therefore it was a dishonor for a man to wear long hair, because most people considered it feminine.
As I said, earlier, because Paul pointed it out for us, women are different. For her hair is given to her for a covering – it is a glory to her; (an ornament and adorning). Because women wear their hair longer than men do, Paul is saying their hair is “nature’s veil.” If nature has given women long hair as a covering, that in itself points to the woman’s need to be covered (according the ancient Corinthian custom).
But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God (v16).
In this appeal to apostolic authority, Paul tells the Corinthians Believers to not be contentious, especially because the other churches of God have adopted their (the apostle’s) custom according to God’s truth.
I close this lesson with these final thoughts. Paul’s teachings re: women in the church and their hair not covered, and men praying or prophesying with their head covered, while praying or talking to someone about the gospel are as far removed from us in the church today as eating meat sacrificed to idols would be. This information is here for our instruction. These were customs practiced in Paul’s day and customs and traditions often change. As I pointed out earlier, my mother complied with the mandate of wearing a hat and veil to our church when it was the custom back in the 1960s and 70s, but when that practice was lifted, she stopped doing it.
Customs come and customs go, but the Word of God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).
Our Apostle Paul made it quite clear God has established principles of order, authority, and accountability both in His Church and in the home. Male headship existed before the fall and is based on the order of creation: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. In other words, man’s fall from grace did not cause the difference in the gender roles to come about, and it did not alter man or woman’s roles in the church and in the home.
(To be continued)
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