The passages that we are looking into today have led some women to ask questions like, is God a sexist? Does God exalt men above women? Does the bible teach that God diminishes or demeans women? Why can’t we pray Mother God instead of Our Father? Is the bible irrelevant in today’s society?
This is one of those passages that must be understood culturally before we can apply biblical principles for today. The passages deal primarily with the issue of head coverings in public worship. A head covering for a woman in public worship was a sign of submission, respect and reverence for God-ordained headship and authority.
The matter of wearing hats or head coverings, although seemingly insignificant for us, was a critical problem in the ancient world, because the Jewish and Gentile backgrounds were colliding here in Corinth.
Paul’s admonition in these Scriptures reveals a pastor’s heart that desired to see God-ordained, God-glorifying order in the public worship service, as well as maintain a sense of unity amongst the brethren.
11.2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (traditions), as I delivered them to you.
1 Cor 11.1,2 show us that Paul taught others two ways, by precept and by example. The most effective way of teaching is by example. The philosophy, do as I say but not as I do, is the gospel of the hypocrites.
The ordinances or traditions that Paul delivered to the Corinthian Christians were the oral teachings and practices of the apostles, as they received them from Jesus.
Keep in mind, beloved, that these oral teachings were vitally important at this point in time, because the followers of Christ had no written gospels, nor did they have many of Paul’s letters as we do today.
There is a big difference between man-made, unbiblical traditions as those mentioned in Matthew 15, and God- inspired, biblical traditions as those mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.
Other than the ordinances of water baptism and The Lord’s Supper, these oral teachings passed along the fundamental doctrines of the faith that were once delivered to the saints and matters of practical Christian living.
11.3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
With these words, Paul sets a foundation for his teaching in the rest of the chapter. Simply put, Paul makes it clear that God has established principles of headship, order, and authority. And the one word that he uses to identify this God ordained position of order and authority is the word head.
In this verse, Paul identifies three relationships of God ordained headship: (1) Christ and man. (2) Man and woman (husband and wife). (3) Christ and God.The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of every individual man, just as the husband is the “head” of his wife and God The Father is the head of Christ.
Does The Father being Jesus Christ’s head mean that Jesus was lesser than God and inferior to the Father? No. Philippians 2 makes it clear that even though Jesus was God, He chose to subject and humble Himself before The Father as Son of God, Son of Man to accomplish the redemptive purposes of God. Jesus willingly, voluntarily, gladly submitted to the authority of the Father
As we work our way through these passages, we must keep in mind that in Jesus Christ, Galatians 3.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
This verse does not deny that God has designed racial, social, and sexual distinctions among Christians, but it affirms that those do not imply spiritual inequality before God. Nor is this spiritual equality incompatible with the God- ordained roles of headship and submission in the church, society, and at home. John MacArthur
It is this principle of headship and submission to God ordained authority that is behind the subject of head coverings for women.
For the record, there are many men who only quote the middle part of verse 2, the head of the woman is the man. They want nothing to do with laying down their lives and loving their wife like Christ loves the church or dwelling with them according to knowledge. It would be better to call those kind of men dictators and not husbands.
11.4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
If a man prayed or preached with his head covered, he would be out of order, because he would be, symbolically speaking be dishonoring his Head, The Lord Jesus Christ.
Why do we see Jewish men and all men standing at the Wailing Wall praying with a prayer shawl or some kind of head covering? When Moses came down from the mountain after he met with God, he covered his face with a veil to not reveal that his glory was fading. That gave birth to a Jewish tradition that Jewish men should cover their head when they approach God. In 2 Corinthians 3, former Rabbi Paul tells us that when a man’s heart is turned to The Lord Jesus, the veil is removed.
11.5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
11.6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
In the culture of Corinth, a woman’s covered head while ministering or worshiping was a symbol to signify a subordinate relationship to her husband. It was a symbol of her willful submission and respect for God-ordained order. If a woman had her head uncovered in a church service that would be dishonoring her husband as her head. It would be perceived as a sign of rebellion against her husband and her God.
Paul says that for her to not cover her head would be like shaving her head. Keep in mind that in that day, only a prostitute or radical feminist would shave their head. Thus we see that failing to honor God ordained headship and authority is a moral issue.
The corresponding symbol of head covering for a woman today in our culture would be for a wife to wear a wedding ring. It is not my intention to start WW3 today at church, but what would possibly be the reason for any married man or woman to not wear a wedding ring? In our culture, when you see a person without a wedding ring on, what message does that send to you? That tells me that they are not married. When a man or a woman takes off their wedding ring before they go on a business trip or on a night out with the boys or the girls, what are they saying?
11.7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 11.8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
11.9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
11.10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Verses 7-11 can be summed up this way:
(1) A man ought not to cover his head, for he represents the very person and glory of God, while the woman reflects the person and glory of the man.
(2) Man does not exist because woman exists, but vice versa. Man was not created originally for the sake of woman, but woman was created for the sake of man.
(3) For this reason a woman ought to bear on her head an outward sign of man’s authority for all the angels to see.
Why because of angels? While we cannot be dogmatic about what this means, let me give you something to ponder.
According to Job 38:4, 7, the angels were present at creation, when God designed the order of authority for men and women. Angels are very “order” conscious. Therefore, the covering on the head of a woman who is praying or prophesying in the congregation could have sent a message to the angels that she was not immoral and out of order, but that she is under the authority of her husband.
11.11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
11.12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
In the creation account, Eve was created by God to be Adam’s helpmeet. But since then, no man comes into this world except by a woman. Thus, both man and woman owe their existence and subjection to God.
Ladies, when you read in the Genesis account that God created you to be your husband’s helpmeet, please do not think Hamburger Helper. To be a helpmeet meant that you were created by God to come alongside of your husband to help complete him. It was not good for Adam to be alone.
In both the created and redemptive order as well, both man and woman were created to live under the headship and authority of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1.18 And He is the head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.
Ephesians 1.22,23 And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
Paul does not deny that the woman was equally made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). He appeals to the creation order to reiterate that male headship in marriage continues through all generations, though some cultural expressions of that principle of headship (e. g., that women should wear head coverings) may vary.
11.13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? (The answer would be no).
11.14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
11.15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
In talking about length of hair, Paul is saying that believers should look and behave in ways that are honorable in their own culture. In some cultures, long hair on men is considered appropriate and masculine. In Corinth, long hair was thought to be a sign of male prostitution in the pagan temples. And women with short hair were labeled prostitutes. Thus, length of hair for a man was a shame.
So Paul was saying that in the Corinthian culture, Christian women should keep their hair long. Because short hair on women was a sign of prostitution, then a Christian woman would not want to have short hair because she would not want to project herself as an immoral or loose woman. Her insistence on having short hair would cause others to find it difficult to take her avowed love and witness for Jesus Christ seriously. To have short hair would mean that she was a morally loose woman who was available for sexual purposes.
My dear sisters in Christ, if you do not believe that dressing provocatively is sending a bad message to the opposite sex, you are either naïve or on the prowl. The Puritans said that if it was sin for a man to lust after a woman (an it is), it was more sinful for a woman to dress in a way that would provoke a man to lust after her.
Keep in mind, beloved, that Corinth was one of the most licentious and promiscuous cities in the world. Paul’s point of view was that in such an immoral climate, it was far better for the church to err on the side of being too modest and conservative rather than to do anything that might borderline immodesty or displays a lack of reverence for God and the sacred institution of marriage.
11.16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
Paul is not saying that if a person disagrees with these God-ordained principles of headship, reverence, submission and modesty, it is no big deal. He is saying that in the church of The Lord Jesus Christ, “any such teaching” from those who disagree with the Bible’s teaching on headship, modesty, reverence and respect for God ordained authority are to be rejected.
Practical Lessons for us
Respect for and submission to God ordained headship, order and authority are vital to the health and well being of the family.
There is a serious absence of Godly reverence and respect for God ordained authority today not only in society, but in the family, and the consequences of rebellion are evident all across our land.
There are many “Christian women” who regard the God ordained headship of their husband as out of step with the times and no longer relevant. When Eve is the head of the home and not Adam, what you are left with the Addams Family.
There are many sons and daughters who no longer believe that they need to regard the biblical command to honor your father and mother.
God ordained distinctions of genders
There is a gender revolution in our society. Society wants us to believe that there is no difference at all between men and women. One of the crystal clear teaching throughout Scripture is the importance of maintaining God ordained gender distinctions. Men are not women and women are not men. Men and women are physiologically different.
Genesis 5.1,2 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created
Deut 22.6 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.
Transvestism, also called cross-dressing, or the practice of wearing the clothes of the opposite sex was common in the ancient world and many of the pagan religious rituals. There is nothing new under the sun.
Deut 22.6 is not a statement about clothing styles. It’s not the clothing style that offends God, but using the style to act out a different sex role. God had a purpose in making us uniquely male and female. When a man begins to act and dress like a woman and a woman begins to act and dress like a man, that is a tragic disorder of how God created them. The distinction of genders was established at creation and is to be maintained in all spheres of life. We should celebrate our gender differences, not blur them or fight against them.
May the love of God, and the power of the gospel by grace, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, set us free from any and all inversions or perversion of God ordained headship and authority for His glory and Namesake.
God told Hezekiah to set his house in order….Lord Jesus, set our homes and this portion of your body according to Your God-ordained order and design.