Well, after chapter 10, I have to tell you, I have trouble remembering where we are, so I need to bring us all back to speed with a summary of where we have been. You must always keep in the back of your mind that this letter is the second of four corrective letters to the church at Corinth, clearly the one that had the most issues that we read about in the new Testament. We must not initiate the building of theology from this letter without understanding the greater context of the Scriptures as a whole before using 1 Corinthians to draw any theological conclusions. You’ll see what I mean when we talk about our second paragraph this study.
In chapter 1, we learned that basically, everyone is some kind of fool, and concluded from our study that if we have to play the fool anyway, we should play the part of God’s fool, because the so-called “foolishness” of our sovereign God will put any of the logic or wisdom of the world to shame. Come, give your life for a carpenter’s son – for “a madman who died for a dream,” according to Dr. Albert Schweitzer. But only the foolish can tell of the wonderful grace of God in their own salvation and the wisdom found in His word through His Spirit.
That brought us to chapter 2, where we had opportunity to examine the nature of this heavenly wisdom, that the world calls foolish. We learned that not only was that true wisdom a spiritual, and nor earthly wisdom, but also that such wisdom could only be revealed to those who are aiming at maturity in Christ by walking “in the Spirit,” where for lack of better words, we obey what the Holy Spirit informs us through the Word of God and the New Nature that Christ gave us to walk in instead of the old nature that we are still very capable of falling into no matter how long you have been a real Christian.
Then in chapter 3, we considered that God’s reality is the reality to which attention must be paid. We like to manufacture our own at times to avoid responsibility toward God, but believers cannot afford that luxury – all believers are doing a great work, and Paul speaks to the details of that. Our conclusion is that because we are actually collectively building the naos of God, that is the Sanctuary, where God sits and lives and speaks and works, we must take great care with the construction in terms of the material we use. There are good and bad choices, and we want to make the best possible choices, because if we are careless, then we will suffer loss. And that loss is unimaginable, though we will still be saved – “yet so as through the fire, according to Paul.
Then the Apostle presents a choice in chapter 4 – which Paul would you like to face? The angry disciplinarian that wrote the letter to the Galatians, or the loving, humble, meek servant that wrote Ephesians and Philippians, etc.? It seems that the dividers were already hard at work trying to separate the sheep from the fold in Corinth, and it had to be explained that although Paul and his fellow servants perhaps appeared to be without honour, instead of discarding them, they should rather be imitated – because the kingdom of God does not exist in eloquent speeches, but in the power of changed lives, and that should be the measure for a preacher. It seems that we need to obey God and walk in the Spirit at this point, because that is what the Lord is mandating.
That brought us to chapter 5 and an example of the use of church discipline. We saw that it was to be used seldomly if possible, relying on the Holy Spirit to resolve our minor differences, but in the case of the persistent sin being expressed without any kind of repentance, it should be engaged to remove the covering of protection from an individual so that he may begin to understand through his own wrong choices that brought him into the place where he is so as to make him repent, and even be brought back in as occasion allows. It is specifically used in cases where a brother or sister WILL not repent, but because most of us want to become more like Christ, it should remain a rare thing.
That brought us to chapter 6 and a consideration about our spiritual choices, because you must remember that Christianity is a faith based on our motivations and choices of heart and mind, not an external religion of liturgy and external ritual, or of refined and well-presented words, but in the demonstration of power that comes from a changed life. Two things became clear. 1 – if your life is not changed as a result of turning to Christ, something is wrong. 2. If you ARE His, you are no longer your own, you don’t get to do what you want, you have been bought with a price – His lifeblood. And if that is true of you, how could you NOT follow Him? Really, how DARE you not follow Him?
That brings us to the first part of chapter 7, which we will now call 7A. We looked at verses 1-24, where we learned that although there were some things about marriage we needed to pay attention to, that again, Christianity is not a religion of rules, ritual, and rote, but instead is one of heart and attitude. One thing is very sure – the need to pay attention to the principles of marriage in the New Testament show that God still has His Law in place to be obeyed; so much for unhitching from the Old Testament, Andy. In the next portion of 7, which we called 7B, we learned that Paul was actually applying a biblical principle to a number of issues, and that principle is that anything we do should be done “in the Lord,” as Paul informs the Corinthians believers. We discovered through this that the principle of walking with the Lord and following His instructions that the Holy Spirit illuminates for us in His word applies to pretty much everything in life and practice.
That brought us to chapter 8, where we considered the defining mark of God’s servants – His agape love. With all the “stuff” we know here at BereanNation.com, we run a real risk of the arrogance that such knowledge can bring. Because we know it, it can be a natural thing to just think ourselves smarter than you, and therefore better than you. My prayer is that such a thing will never be from us. And when we compare what the world “knows” compared with the heavenly reality that all real believers should be aware of, it becomes clear that those of us who know the truths of God need to be gracious and approach people on the ground of their needs, and not our own – just like Jesus did for us when He came the first time.
This chapter is important to understanding the whole of what has just been said in chapters 8 and 9 about the identifying mark of agape love for biblical Christians (Ch.8) and the subsequent rights and responsibilities of those who really do belong to Christ (Ch.9). Then we have a list of examples from the Old Testament of how not to be (Ch.10). We have to be given the list of behaviours to avoid because it is there we see what we need to stay away from – it is not always clear what we are moving towards.
That brings us to chapter 11, and in particular the first 16 verses. I broke our text down this way:
KV11: This is about God’s Order and Authority, not about men and women
“However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.”
1: Be an imitator of Christ (and use Paul as an example)
2-16: On the Nature and Order of Authority in God’s House
21. Covering the Head.
1 Corinthians 11:2-10. No soul is complete in itself. The man is not complete apart from Christ, as the woman is not complete apart from man. As God is the head of the nature of Jesus on its human side, so must Jesus be head of man, and man of woman. But in each case the headship is not one of authority and rule, but of the impartation of resources of love, wisdom, and strength, without which the best cannot be realized. The covered head of woman in our sanctuaries as contrasted with the uncovered head of man is a sign and symbol of this interdependence.
But it is very interesting to notice that while the Gospel so clearly insists on the divine order, it has elevated woman to be man’s true helpmeet, and has caused her to be honored and loved as the glory of man. Neither society, nor family life, nor woman herself, can be happy unless she attains her true position. On the other hand she finds her completion in man; on the other she is his queen and he ministers to her in all gentleness and tenderness and strength.”
Vs. 2-16. Here begin particulars respecting the public assemblies, ch. 14. In the abundance of spiritual gifts bestowed on the Corinthians, some abuses had crept in; but as Christ did the will, and sought the honor of God, so the Christian should avow his subjection to Christ, doing his will and seeking his glory. We should, even in our dress and habit, avoid every thing that may dishonor Christ. The woman was made subject to man, because made for his help and comfort. And she should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, which looked like a claim of being equal. She ought to have “power,” that is, a veil, on her head, because of the angels. Their presence should keep Christians from all that is wrong while in the worship of God. Nevertheless, the man and the woman were made for one another. They were to be mutual comforts and blessings, not one a slave, and the other a tyrant. God has so settled matters, both in the kingdom of providence and that of grace, that the authority and subjection of each party should be for mutual help and benefit. It was the common usage of the churches, for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was right that they should do so. The Christian religion sanctions national customs wherever these are not against the great principles of truth and holiness; affected singularities receive no countenance from any thing in the Bible.
MacArthur’s NT Commentary on 1 Corinthians:
Lots of good stuff, consult hard copy.]
There are a number of sources and teachers that feel that 1:11 should actually be 10:34, and there are some good arguments for that, because you will recall that neither chapter divisions nor verse divisions are actually a part of the inspiration of God as concerns the Scriptures, just the original text. The chapter divisions came in sometime mid 1300s, and the verse divisions about 300 years later, and only for more accurate scholarship in the Bible itself. However, because we did not deal with it last week, we will this evening. So let’s have a look at what the chapter says.
KV11: This is about God’s Order and Authority, not about men and women
“However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.”
Many modern liberal scholars take real issue with Paul’s teachings in the text that is our subject in this study. I truly find most work today a blurring of truth with a discernable agenda behind it, and depending on the agenda, coupled with various arguments about God’s plans, sexuality, and command and control issues, believe it or not. We’ll do our best to navigate that in our usual systematic fashion, one verse-sized bite at a time.
The position Paul takes in the text, and therefore our own position is that all of the fighting about equality between men and women today is missing the very point of Scripture here. Of course men and women are equal. Women are not inferior as male chauvinists would have us believe, and they are also not superior as feminists would have us believe. Both positions are in gross rebellion against God. In fact chauvinists have only anecdotal observation as argument, and the feminists in retaliation have adopted the Marxist-based “Standpoint Theory” which I think started with a lady named Dorothy Smith. It can be traced back to Georg Hegel and Karl Marx and their dialectic model of how classes of things clash in a (violent) struggle to arrive at a new paradigm. You’ll forgive the buzz words, they actually do have real meanings, though I tire of hearing them. They make me weary. Chauvinists simply say because men are stronger, women should serve them. They offer no proof. Feminists offer this Marxist theory as a way to leverage support for their paradigm by saying that if you don’t have female body parts, you are not capable of understanding the repression (hmmm – sounds a lot like CRT/I, doesn’t it – because they share the same historical roots). Neither of those are interested in knowing the truth, but for the record, the truth MUST be clearly stated, and Paul does so. That’s the short of it.
The arguments about the authority structure of the universe is in question, as is how we are to live under such a structure and order. I believe my very first thought unit to be the a key in understanding and living the Christian life in a hostile and opposing worldview.
1: Be an imitator of Christ (and use Paul as an example)
Paul’s call at the beginning of this chapter stands as a general call for all of those that want to be true Christians and do the will of God in the world and be transformed by the renewing of their minds. The duty of the Christian is not simply to read the Scriptures, and face Jerusalem to pray, and give to the poor, and the like. All those things may be important (except facing toward Jerusalem, God is everywhere), but it is the renewing and transforming of our mind, that is our soul, and it’s sanctification that is of the main point. If this isn’t being done, you are not really walking with Christ. And look, no one should have to help you. You should have the living God in the person of the Holy Spirit living inside you to do that. But in case you need to be taught, pay attention, here we go.
1: Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
- That phrase “Be imitators of me” is Paul speaking directly to the Corinthians here. Now please pay attention, I have to explain a little bit of Greek grammar to make the point. The Greek word here is mimetes, meaning one who imitates. Think about what that involves – they look to see what someone is saying or doing, and they imitate that activity. One who learns by examining examples. Who are they supposed to be an imitator of? Why, the Apostle Paul.
- Paul has a proviso here. Imitate Him in the way that he imitates Christ. Paul had bad habits like the rest of us I am sure. Certainly he had a propensity to speak the truth at times that were not good for his health. On occasion,, he was even beaten or stoned and left for dead. What did he do? He kept imitating Christ.
- Now – what about us? If we’re put out because something that you needed to happen was interrupted because of things beyond your control, how did you respond to that? Did you praise the Lord? Or are you more like me and do you become hostile and even snide in your tone and language? What did Jesus do? He did what the Father told Him, did He not? Through the power of His Holy Spirit living inside us, we ARE able to make that choice. Did you? No? Repent, and when you do, decide to face it and choose like an adult and face it.
I once heard an actual sermon from R. C. Sproul that dealt with the legal concept of “judicial abandonment.” This is the legal scenario where the court abandons a person to their legal fate, a result of the consequences of their own actions. The Apostle John talks about this in Rev. 22:11. “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” He is telling us that world is being left to its own devices until it returns, and that mankind will be held accountable for choosing what they choose. Couple that with the last half of the representative list in the second half of Romans 1, and that will show you WHY we as a race has been judicially abandoned to the fate we will earn for ourselves with our choices. I can only say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only plea that will result in a verdict of innocence and acquittal. Turn to Him in repentance and faith.
Don’t be a fool and try to clean up your proverbial act first – you can’t – you can, however, come just as you are! After that, God will HELP you clean up the mess you call a life. Just really turn and really believe Jesus died on the cross in your place for real. That’s all it takes to become a follower of Christ, or a “disciple.”
2-16: On the Nature and Order of Authority in God’s House
This is one such area where we have the opportunity to turn. God, in His creation, set a certain order or pattern of authority that He want’s followed, and as such, most humans today seem to run away from that as far and as fast as they can. They even try to tell us that “Jesus never specifically mentioned [fill in the blank] [even if He did] so that means it is okay to do it.” Last week we saw one such example in Andy Stanley, where he tells the world that “Jesus never specifically said for us to meet, so that means it’s okay if we don’t go to church.” Goodness, there is a lot wrong with that statement, starting with its’ actual truthfulness – Jesus told us to meet to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the very least, and it is to be a time of the common sharing of the emblems of bread, symbolic of His body which was offered for our sakes, and of wine (or grape juice, non-alcohol-based wine-just fruit of the vine) which is representative of the New Covenant that was sealed by the shedding of His blood. In fact we are told to meet to do this often, right up until He returns to the planet physically. I won’t continue with this, because it is clear to me that Mister Stanley has indeed lost the plot here.
The authority structures in the house of God are not well taught today, and because of that, are less well understood by both men and women. It is clear from a plain reading of Scripture what is intended by God, and as much as the world, particularly feminists, hates it, it is the intended design for the house of God. This also is not new, it is recorded from the Garden of Eden, and an analysis of this text will bring us to some very unpopular conclusions. However, they are necessary to obey if you are serious about following Christ. So let’s jump in and see what we find.
2: Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
- Paul starts with a little praise for the Corinthian believers because they are essentially doing what Paul taught them to do, and because it was Paul that taught them to do it, which is worth something considering all the opposition there was to Paul in Corinth at this time.
- What I think is in Paul’s mind here is that he is trying to establish a baseline right behaviour so that he can explain some more advanced concepts. Moving on…
3: 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.
- Here it is, right up front – God’s created order, whether you like or agree with it or not. This is what we are going to attempt to analyze, and to do so we will have to consider the truth of what it says, what God means, and then what we need to do about it, IN THAT ORDER. Basically, we are going to use the inductive method of Bible study to see what the truth is so we can apply it. Wait – that sounds like a chapter summary! Well, it’s exactly like one, so this should be easy, right? Heh…we’ll see.
- So what does it say? Well, the way I read it, there is what we used to call on the farm, an established pecking order. I’ll put it in the order of most to least authoritative. God, then Christ, then man, then woman, based on the statements of headship. God being the supreme being in charge of everything, that first statement is understandable and logical. Christ, who is also God, but is God the Son and ALSO Man, it makes sense that He goes next. He is subordinate to God the Father, but is over all human affairs. Now is where it becomes contentious. Paul then puts Man next, then Woman. I can hear all the feminists gasping and gearing up for a counter-attack. Ladies, let’s finish the study before we allow for our knee-jerk reactions, Paul has some other things to say that will clarify what Paul means.
4: Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.
- Sometimes I don’t know whether to define phrases that are going to become relevant when they first appear or when they become relevant. I’m going to leave the definitions of praying and prophesying until they become relevant in the next verse I think.
- You know how I always say you have to understand the cultural context of what the text says? This is one of the reasons why. Paul is actually citing common Corinthian social practice here. It was a common thing for such a paganist society to both pray and speak the words of their gods (small g), and men did it without coverings on their heads and women wore some kind of veil. Interestingly, Paul is about to tell the Corinthians that this lines up with God’s created order, or the natural order of things.
- Interestingly, the Jewish men covering their head to pray results from a mistaken Rabbinic tradition that is the result of misinterpreting Exodus 34:33-35, which says:
- “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.”
- Somehow, the Rabbi responsible mistook the meaning of the veil Moses wore to mean that men must cover themselves when they speak to God. That’s ridiculous to use this text for that. Moses wore the veil when he spoke with the children of Israel. He was uncovered when he met with God, according to the text. Paul actually explains this in his subsequent letter to Coring in 2 Cor. 3:13, which says:
- “…and [we] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.”
- Basically, Moses did not want them to see how God’s glory, received in the very presence of God, was fading away from his own face. The Jewish Yarmulke is therefore a human tradition, not a divine pronouncement. Hey, those traditions all started somewhere.
- What are we saying here? For a man to pray when he covers his head is a disgrace to the man? I don’t know that for sure, but it is the wearing of a sign of a subordinate if he does. Say, wear a hat in the sanctuary today.
5: But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.
- Okay, I hear all the ladies starting to murmur again. Sisters, hang in there, this about roles within a structure, not about equality with men. Remember, there is some cultural practice that Paul is referring to here, and it is relevant to the discussion.
- Gerry, are you saying that women need to wear “head coverings?” NO, I AM NOT! I used to fellowship in a place where this was taught as a tradition that Paul passed down to us, by the way. Can you imagine the shock to my worldview at this revelation in some historic texts from the city of Corinth? Remember, Paul is using something in the culture of Corinth to explain his point, and that’s all there is to this; we spoke of this in the last verse a little. Here is where it becomes relevant.
- So what is Paul’s point? Here is where I have to define a couple of terms, though they occurred last verse, because here is where it becomes relevant for us. The women, it seems were allowed both to pray and to prophesy in the actual house of God in Corinth. And why not? They are capable of speech and spirituality in the good and godly sense.
- Praying is communication with God, or if you like, vertical communication. Prophesying is speaking the word of God as it is relevant to people, or horizontal communication, if you like. There is no biblical reason that a sister must remain silent by default in ministry. They can preach the gospel, and they can pray just as well as any man, and some even better. In fact, I know a few ladies that are more proficient at theology than most men will ever be. It is noteworthy that the same language is used in the same way here as it is with men in the previous verse.
- Now – can a woman pray without wearing, say, a hat? (We used to have what looked for all the world like lace doilies to me for the women to wear – and some of them were quite beautiful, I thought.) Actually, it does, and here is why. The woman naturally HAS a head covering in her own hair. What Paul is actually setting up here isn’t some object lesson to the angels as I was originally taught about head coverings. He is pointing out the natural created order of things using a cultural reference that was true for Corinth. He did this because it mirrors creation, he is NOT setting up an arbitrary rule about women being made to wear a hat of some kind. You know, there are other places where he tells ladies to dress modestly, and that is speaking of fashion, but that was done for sake of human testimony. The angels need no object lesson from us, they are already greater than we are in intelligence.
- So what is with the shaved head? Well, it seems that day was like this day, in that women were rebelling (so were the men, that’s not an exclusive statement) against authority. Corinth was a terribly depraved culture (sound familiar yet?) where women were basically ignored and regarded as not much more than sex objects, sadly. Men even bought wives for themselves. I don’t know this for sure, but I think the practice of trading in your 40-year-old wife for two 20-year-olds probably started in Corinth. (Which leads me to ask if they waited until 60 did they get 3?) Okay, misplaced humour there.
- But seriously – have you ever noticed those ladies that want to lead the rebellion to – well, whatever it is they are rebelling against, it isn’t always clear – have shaved heads? I remember when three ladies here in Ottawa wanted to defy provincial laws regarding female modesty. It clearly said that the woman should not be able to bare their breasts in public, largely because they are part of the reproductive system of a female I suspect, and these ladies saw a man going topless, so they wanted that “right.” Three of them walked up to Parliament Hill, to a mixed crowd of supporters and lustful men, and tore their t-shirts over their heads to reveal their breasts. And every single one of them had a shaved head. I don’t know what that connection means, but I think it has something to do with what happens to a person when they willingly remove protections designed by God from themselves. It became a big deal at the time, and the laws in Ontario were changed. Women began to go topless, and car accidents started to go up as a result. You might think I’m making this up, but all of this is verifiable. It is my understanding that the law legalizing women in Ontario to go topless was very quietly repealed a couple years later.
- Basically, Paul is saying that God set it up that there could be no mistaking the difference between men and women. And there are clear differences, no matter what similarities we may also have.
6: 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.
- Paul here is just confirming what we have already discussed. “Look, your local custom says that if a woman is going to pray without her veil, she may as well have all her hair chopped off. So if she’s going to be a godly woman, let her follow the local custom or ordinance of covering her head. This should make sense to you people!” (It’s a R. C. moment! What’s wrong with you people?)
- And ladies, Paul is not speaking of the occasional styling of the hair. I do think it probably precludes a buzz cut, but some women actually look good in shorter hair. Some don’t, but there is still no mistaking them for men because of any haircut they might get other than a buzz cut, like I said.
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.
- Now Paul is going to explain these principles based on who gets the glory, which I am sure all of you Bereans out there will say, it should be God.
- Referencing their local custom again, Paul says something like, “Nature agrees with your local customs here. Men were created in the image of God, and ARE the glory of God BY CREATION.” That’s all Paul is really saying – the man therefore should not hide the glory of God. He doesn’t say it here, but it’s coming. Glory conveys authority.
- Women by contrast are created in the image of God by Him, but they were created for Man, after God created man, and were taken from man in their creation. They are the glory of man, in a very real and honourable sense. My wife is my glory, and that is a sure thing, and she proves it every day. This does NOT mean she is less of a person, it does NOT mean she isn’t everything any man could be, it means her glory was for a different and necessary purpose, to bring authority to man.
8: For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
- Paul is here simply stating a biological fact. Woman came from man. You can see where the Scriptures talk about this in Genesis 2:21-23:
- So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
- Look, I know the Bible wasn’t written as a science text, but to say that it contains no facts in a creation story because “we know [how?] that things evolved over billions of years from cosmic goo,” is as completely as unscientific as they accuse me of being. If there really is a God (and I know there is, the same way you “know” there isn’t), He could have done it any way He liked. My argument is that He told us how He did it. Your “explanation” has more to do with a subconscious desire to continue sinning and avoiding responsibility to a personal God that you can’t admit to or you feel horrible guilt. (Further, let me ask with honest concern: How is that working for you? If it isn’t to your satisfaction, you know how to reach me and my biology degree.)
- It clearly says woman was taken from man. This isn’t talking about any level of subordination, either. However, since you’re so insistent about not being subordinate in creation, I will wholeheartedly agree, sisters! Note, you also are not in charge of the man, though. You were not taken from a portion of his skull so that you would have the headship.
- Now for those men that just laughed at the women or stifled one (same thing), I have to hastily and strongly inform you that she was also not taken from the foot area so that you cannot trample all over her, and if you are doing that, you are ALSO rebelling against God’s natural order of things.
- No, beloved, woman was taken from the ribs bone. I think that means she is to be close to the side for companionship, and close to the heart for love. What kind of love? (Yes, recall the four kinds of love we discussed in chapter 8 here, it is appropriate.) Eros love between a man and his wife is not only okay, but expected and blessed by the Lord! Phileos love should be understood. Hey, if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should be at least friends, and probably very close friends (I think this is where the world goes wrong by the way – they don’t put enough emphasis on this first). Storge love is love within a family, and that is necessary, though it sometimes takes just a little extra time to develop. It can only start after the marriage is consummated, really. And agape love? That’s REQUIRED, beloved. So what kind of love? Why, all of it, of course!
- The context of the few verses I shared is of course more expansive than that, and they show that woman was specifically created by God to meet man’s biggest need for someone to – pay attention here – “come alongside to aid.” You may recognize that as the Greek word parakaleo, and if you did, extra points. The term in Genesis is “helpmeet.” Not helpmate, helpmeet. The meaning is different. She is to be the one who comes alongside to aid him. Not a buddy with fringe benefits, guys. They are equals in every way spiritually and intellectually, despite physical and psychic [not the new age term, differences in psyche] differences. A great synonym is used in Young’s Literal Translation: “counterpart.”
9: for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
- Paul here is simply saying what we have just discussed in terms of the woman’s role regarding man. She is to be his “helper.” The root Hebrew word for this is azar, meaning to hep or to succor. The equivalent Greek word is “parakletos,” the name given to the Holy Spirit by our Lord Jesus Christ in John 14:16-17:
- I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
- The woman is to be man’s divine help in the same way that the Holy Spirit is a help. Brothers, did you know that the very JOB of the Holy Spirit is to convince and convict you of your own sin? Don’t get snotty with your wife when she does that very same thing. It is divinely anointed and inspired! (hahahaha) And although I am half joking with that, I am ONLY half joking. Up until recently, the woman has been a cleansing and preserving control on men in the western world. That is a DIRECT result of the teachings of Christ regarding women, which was carried through all the apostles as well, and the protections that they taught were God-ordained for women. Men are supposed to protect women, and women are supposed to help men and keep them honest. Stop trying to buck the Lord on this, married guys! And don’t romanticize the notion, single guys and gals!
10: Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
- Now, I was taught a long time ago that this sealed the whole “sisters are to wear doilies on their head” thing, because it was an object lesson to the angels. I had my eyes opened here, brothers. It started a little at a time, and then the big reveal.
- Who are angels? Well, barring the evil angels from this discussion, they are the most holy and powerful servants of God. However, their power is both derived (from and by God) and submissive to God. These messengers of God are also the heavenly protectors of the Church. They are its perpetual guardians, according to Dr. John MacArthur (p. 259 of his NT Commentary on 1 Corinthians).
- Women are to have a symbol of subordination on them so as not to offend their heavenly guardians with non-submissiveness. Think about this – the obedient angels are the most submissive to God of all creatures. According to the Midrash, a Jewish antiquity of sorts, angels are the guardians of the created order of things. We should not offend them. And lest you say, “Who cares about what angels think,” we should. The ideas about caring about what angels think is seen in Matt. 18:10:
- “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
- It is also seen in Eph. 3:9-10 where Paul speaks of that mystery and how the administration of it has now been brought to light so that the wisdom of God might be made plain through the church to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places (i.e., angels). It is clearly never a wise thing to revile an angelic majesty. Let us not start with this.
11: However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
- Having said all that, it must become clear that these individual men and individual women are NOT separate species, though all the current joking goes in that direction. A modern book pokes fun at the clear differences with its’ title: Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. No, beloved, as funny to me as that reference is, we are decidedly connected and members of the human race. Paul is about to detail this.
- However, before He does, I need to take the time to say something very deliberate to the men who sit out there in judgement over women who are becoming active in the church. Brothers and sisters, the reason in my experience that women become active in a small church is because the men are refusing to step up to do the jobs that the women are doing. This is also a form of rebellion against God’s order. If all you want to do is sit there and criticize the women who are only trying to help, the very thing for which they were created, you had better take stock about why YOU aren’t doing the job, “bro.” Face it boys, you have failed to be men and let the whole thing go sideways. The current crisis has as much to do with men abdicating their responsibilities in the house of God as it does women taking over spots on the deacon’s board, and that’s a fact. You don’t like it, maybe you want to speak proactively to the person that looks after filling those positions in the church.
- If this is happening at the denominational level, it’s a whole other kind of thing, but hey, downgrade typically starts in the rank and file and then takes a compromised set of ministers to allow it into church life. We are where we deserve to be at the denominational level, make no mistake.
12: For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
- Paul hasn’t lost the plot, beloved. Woman came from man. But men are born from women now. What? Who set up that crazy order? Well, “all things originate from God.” What does that mean, Gerry?
- Well, what do the Scriptures say about who God is? He is that holy, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, One that He has always been. He is our creator, and He gets to do whatever He wants with us. That’s who He is. As more than one person has said, the clay has no right to tell the potter what to do with it. Especially if your maker is the Potter with a CAPITAL P.
- The point here is that it is our all-knowing, all-powerful God that set up this current system, and what is happening right now is according to His will or it would not be happening, something else would be. This order is what HE created.
13: Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
- This to me is fascinating. Paul, as an Apostle with a capital A, could just tell them what to do – but he doesn’t. Instead, he askes them to disregard his own apostolic authority for a moment. “Judge for yourselves,” he says. His point? The principle of the chain of authority is not only given by God in divine revelation, but it is also seen in the creation itself.
- What Paul is getting at is that a woman’s subordination to men is supposed to be a natural thing. As you might expect, this was messed up in the fall as well. Genesis 3 talks about this (v.16) in that the desire of the woman will be to usurp your husband, that is rule over him instead of how the order is supposed to be, and yet he will retain the rule over you. We can certainly see both sides of that locally today.
- I like Paul’s appeal to nature. Did you know that between men and women, that hair grows differently? It turns out that testosterone makes men’s hair reach its “fallout” stage faster, and therefore women keep their hair longer and have longer hair as a result. In fact, women rarely even reach stage three, though I have seen it. One of our lab demonstrators in 3rd year biology suffered from a genetic condition that gave her hair that fell out at low levels of testosterone. She had patches of hair, and bald patches. She just never let it bother her.
- All this to say, yes, a woman should have her head covered – with hair, preferably. And an interesting side note: The Greek word for “long hair,” [kome] can also mean a cool hairdo. I think as long as they can’t be mistaken for men because they shaved it all off, they’re fine. It is their natural head covering, and it tells us that it is their glory.
14: Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,
- You know, hair is a strange thing. My boy once read the story of Sampson, and refused to ever cut his hair again. He tells people that how they took Sampson down. I chuckle, but hey, he’s the one that wants to look like a girl. Well, he’s 18 now. Woman. It’s his hair…[hands raised in a “I’m staying out of it” motion]
- But seriously, this is seen in most cultures around the globe – the women have longer (and in my opinion prettier) hair than the men. And I personally prefer to keep my hair shorter.
- You know what I think is the real shame here? It isn’t the man’s length of hair. It his level of passivity in the things of God. I have to go back to something I said last week. I do not understand a man that says he wants to serve Christ and then continues to live in the old nature. If you are not wholeheartedly pursuing Christ in a headlong and carefree pursuit, you’re just not His. Why would you want to pretend that, given what it says in Scripture about those particular people, the tares, the goats, those about and to whom the Lord will say, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” That real, and really the ultimate dishonour.
15: but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
- Look, this is what the so-called “leadership” of my former place of fellowship missed. Her hair is given to her for a covering. This isn’t allegory language here. Her hair IS her head covering. Lose the doilies, bro. All that can be seen as is a hood ornament. [sly grin]
- Now, having said that, the practice should not ever be forbidden, but it should be the choice of the females of the particular gathering in whatever culture they find themselves. I know in India, for example, the shoulder covering is lifted over the head for Christian worship in an attempt at the woman covering her head in submission to the created order.
16: But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.
- What I see here is that for pretty much every era of the church, some people have disagreed with the order of subordination, and have wanted to change it to suit themselves. In fact, they would be willing to fight the created order. For such contentious people (that’s word Paul uses at least), I think he knew there was nothing he could ever say to convince them otherwise. I like what Dr. MacArthur has to say about Paul’s mindset. It’s like Paul is saying, “Look, if you want to find a sympathetic ear to your dissent, you aren’t going to fine one among the apostles or in the churches.” “We have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”
- In other words, the apostles and the other churches were committed to the idea of women having longer hair than men, and having distinctly female hairdos. If custom warrants, put a doily over your head. And if you don’t like that – well, go pound sand. We don’t do it any other way.
A great deal of focus has been put on the order of submission in the church this study. This is the definitive passage about submission in the house of God, and it needs to be taken seriously. Remember how I said one could not derive a solid theology from a corrective letter? That is still true. All of this appears elsewhere in the New Testament, and if I were a professor giving homework, I would tell you to find all of those references again, because I have only stated a few of them as sufficient for the purpose this evening.
What I do think is important to see here is that we are ALL submissive to someone. Everyone is submissive to God the Father, and all people are submissive to Christ as head of the church. Women are supposed to willingly subordinate themselves in the church to men. Does that apply outside the church? No. I have had really excellent female bosses. In fact, one of them got me a special assignment where I met Don Heron, the Canadian actor that some of you might recognize as Charlie Farquharson from the TV show Hee Haw. I’ve had others beside, and some were good, and some were bad, but all of them were my BOSS. And I was accountable to them and responsible if I messed up.
Having said that, the church is a different story. But you know what it isn’t supposed to be about in the church? It’s not supposed to be about who is BOSS. We KNOW who that is – it our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone else trying to be a boss in that scenario will have to answer to Him. Are women subordinate in the church? Well, yes, by divine mandate. But it isn’t about who is in charge there. It is about who can submit to Him the best if you have to make it some kind of contest. And I don’t think that’s what it is about either.
Beloved, you MUST understand that men and women were created to be in an equal relationship. Remember, rib from the side, not bone from the head or the foot. And they were actually created to love each other fully and completely, in every sense of the word love, and she is to be a help for him, and he is to be a protection for her. If you haven’t got that as an underlying set of conditions, all you have is a nightmare. And if you try to carry that nightmare into the church, you have the modern church, and I cannot apologize for speaking that truth. For those of you that in our day and age wish to argue the point, please go elsewhere to do so, and don’t let the door hit you in your personality on the way out.
That’s what I saw in the first 16 verses of Chapter 11. Our next study will look at some context and the Lord’s supper! Looking forward to seeing you there!