Christ Covenant Church
Series: Sex, Drugs, Rocks & Roles and the Message of the Cross
Text – 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
As you know we have been doing a mini-series called Sex, Drugs, Rocks & Roles (and the Message of the Cross).
These messages are intended to serve as conversation starters that will help us carry, communicate, or connect the cross to our culture and community in wise and powerful way.
The main thing I want you to learn from this series is that the message of the cross constitutes a life-and worldview for all baptized believers.
As I have said before, the message of the cross has something to say about everything. And everything Paul says in 1 Corinthians is based on the message of the cross. 1 Corinthians reads like an extensive and intensive pastoral application of the wisdom and power of cross to ordinary, every day, real life.
It’s Paul’s way of applying the Christian worldview to sex, drugs, rocks, and roles and much much more.
Today we are going to touch on one of the most volatile issues within the Christian community — the roles of men and women, and the responsibilities of husbands and wives, within the church.
Our sermon text is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Hear the word of the Lord:
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
May God add his blessing to the reading, hearing, and preaching of his word.
By all accounts, this is one of the strangest and more challenging texts in all the New Testament. Instead of getting bogged down in all the cultural background issues, I want to focus on the principles and practices and show why they matter and how they relate to us right here, right now.
Let’s walk through this text together.
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
This text starts and ends with the traditions of the apostles.
Tradition was such a good word to Paul, but it is such a bad word to many people around us. Unless it refers to politics or sports. Then tradition is good.
But when it refers to religion people start acting crazy.
For example, some people have actually complained and criticized our church for being “too traditional, and not contemporary enough.” (Whatever that means!) That sort of thing always makes me laugh, because other people think we are too contemporary and not traditional enough. Go figure!
The question we must learn to ask our critics is this: By what standard? By what standard do you think we are too traditional, and not contemporary enough? Or, by what standard do you think we are too contemporary and not traditional enough?
If the standard is anything other the word of God — anything other than the apostolic tradition — then it is no real standard at all.
So let me ask you: Is there anything wrong with being quote-unquote “traditional”?
To be fair, there is a difference between tradition and traditionalism. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” So tradition is good, but traditionalism is bad.
This text says that Paul praised the Corinthian church for being traditional. He commended them for holding fast to the traditions and practices that he delivered to them — and to other churches.
But what do you think he would have said if they had not been so traditional? He would have corrected them and brought them into conformity with the rest of God’s churches.
At the end of the day, all that really matters is whether God is pleased with us, with our worship, our life, and our mission. Not whether men are pleased with those things.
But there is always room to grow. That is why Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand his reasons for the traditions.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
The Greek word for head is kephale. It can mean source or authority depending on the context. But, as many scholars point out, in Paul’s writings it almost always means authority.
So, Paul’s point is that God has authority over Christ; Christ has authority over man — male and female; and a husband has authority over his wife.
The fact that a man has authority over a woman in Christ does not mean that women are inferior, or that men are superior (Thomas Schreiner, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, p 130). It simply means that God has established distinct roles and responsibilities for men and women.
That is the order of creation and the order of redemption.
As the Scripture says:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.” (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)
Moses’ point is that male and female are one, but they’re not the same. Or, as Tim Keller puts it, “They are equal, but not equivalent.”
When God created man, male and female were both created in the image and likeness of God. And both represent God in uniques ways; and both were given distinct roles and responsibilities.
The man was created first, then the woman was created after man, and from man. The man was given the responsibility of leadership; and the woman was given the responsibility of partnership. The man was called to name the animals, tend the garden, and lead his wife according to God’s word; the woman was called to follow her husband’s lead according to God’s word.
The point here is that the husband is the head of his wife — and with authority comes responsibility. In the order of creation and in the order of redemption, women are equal to men in reality, but they are not equivalent to men in roles and responsibilities.
As Christ submitted to Father-God, so a wife must submit to her husband. A husband who leads his wife graciously and lovingly is like God. A wife who follows her husband respectfully and submissively is like Jesus Christ.
This is the foundational principle in the order of creation, and in the order of redemption.
But what are the practices that flow out of that principle?
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head (Christ), but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head (husband), since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
Before we get bogged down in the murky details of Corinthians culture, let me point out that Paul’s main point is that men and women should be careful to acknowledge and maintain their own gender.
In other words, Paul is making a case for gender distinctions against gender blenders. This is a relevant point even in our day. In recent years our culture has seen the rise of people who are confused about basic things like gender and sexual identity.
We have already seen that the effeminate and homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Among other things, their problem is that they exchange creational sexuality for cultural sexuality. They exchange creational male-female distinctions for cultural androgynous, transgender amalgamations.
Again, Paul’s main point is that men and women should be careful to acknowledge, cultivate, and maintain clear gender distinctions.
Men should dress and act like men, especially when they are worshiping God. And women should dress and act like women, especially when they are worshiping God. Men should never dress like women or act like women, and women should never dress like men or act like men, especially when they are worshiping.
Paul gives a few reasons why this is so important.
If a man draws near to worship God, dressing or acting like a woman, then he dishonors his head which is Christ. If a woman draws near to worship God, dressing or acting like a man, then she dishonors her head which is her husband and Christ.
The deeper point here is that when men and women draw near to God in worship, they draw near as men and women made in the image and likeness of God. So they should draw near to God as he made them, for his glory and honor, and not for their own.
For one, if a woman/wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.
Paul argues that if a woman/wife is unwilling to cover head, that is, to show that she is under the authority of her husband, and under the authority of her ministers, then she should do something to show that she is a rebellious woman.
If she will not dress and act like a woman, especially in worship, then she should go all out and dress and act like a man — starting with cutting her hair short.
Now, in Paul’s time, a woman’s hair was her glory. So, a woman with short hair was looked down upon by others. Some associated a woman with short hair with prostitution. Others associated a woman with short with homosexuality and gender confusion: a woman with short-hair seemed more masculine and less feminine.
Of course, Paul did not want any woman to cut her hair and bring shame on herself, her husband, or on Christ. He just wanted women to understand the gravity of the situation.
If a woman who refused to show that she was under authority cut her hair short that would not solve the problem of her rebellious heart; it would only make it obvious to everyone that she had a rebellious heart. And there is no place in the kingdom of God for rebels, for rebellion is like the sin of divination, and presumption is like iniquity and idolatry. Those who reject the word of the LORD, will also be rejected by the Lord.
So what is the take away?
The take away from this text is that women should draw near to God as women, for the praise of God’s glory, and not for their own.
And the same goes for men.
For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but a woman/wife is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
Paul argues that no man should ever clothe himself or conduct himself in such a way that makes it appear that he is under the authority of a husband, instead of the authority of Christ, especially in worship.
The order of creation and the order of redemption dictate that he must not dress or act like a woman, especially in worship.
One, man is the image and glory of God. Man was formed by the hands of the Potter, and filled with the breath of life before God formed woman.
As the Scripture says,
The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:7-8 ESV)
Two, man was not made from woman, but woman from man.
And it is written,
The LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman. (Genesis 2:21)
Three, man was not created for woman, but woman for man.
And it is written,
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So the LORD God brought the woman to the man. (Genesis 2:18, 22)
Four, a woman/wife is the glory of man.
And again it is written,
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23)
The point I want you to grasp here is that God formed man for leadership, and he formed woman for partnership. That principle holds true in marriage and in ministry.
In marriage, a husband is the head of his wife. He has the authority to lead her, and she has the responsibility to follow him. He is accountable for how he leads as her head; and she is accountable for how she follows as his helper.
In ministry, men have authority to lead the church as shepherds, elders, and overseers. Men have authority to lead the church as ministers of the word. The church has the responsibility to follow the leaders. They are accountable for how they lead; and she is accountable for how she follows.
God formed man for leadership and woman for partnership.
Since all these things are true, a wife ought to have authority on her head because of the angels.
Some of your translations say a wife ought to have a “sign” or “symbol” of authority, but the Greek just says “authority”.
As I said earlier, wives must show that they are under the authority of their husbands by their character, conduct, and clothing.
In cultures where women’s head coverings were a sign of being married and under authority, women were required to wear head coverings. In cultures where head covering are not a sign of being married, wives do not need to cover their heads in worship, but they could obey this command by wearing some other physical symbol of being married.
According to apostolic tradition, wives are required to show they are under the authority of their husbands by their character, conduct, and clothing.
In Corinth that was accomplished by wearing a veil on the head and by letting hair grow long. In Mesquite that can be accomplished by wearing feminine clothes, dressing modestly, and/or wearing a wedding ring.
Another reason wives and women must demonstrate that they are under the authority of their husbands and ministers is because of the angels.
What in the world does that mean? In the words of a Coldplay song, “Your guess is as good as mine!”
There are many theories, but here are three that I find plausible.
One, the angels could refer to the angels who gather with us in worship. As the Scripture says, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering.” (Hebrews 12:22 ESV)
Two, the angels could refer to the fiery creatures who are zealous for the holiness of God, and even cover their faces when they draw near to worship him (Isaiah 6:1ff). If that is how angelic creatures draw near to God, how much more should we draw near to God with reverence and obedience in light of his holiness?!
That is why there is no room for gender blending in the church of Jesus Christ. Men should dress and act like men, especially when they are worshiping God. And women should dress and act like women, especially when they are worshiping God. Men should never dress like women or act like women, and women should never dress like men or act like men, especially when they are worshiping.
Now, some folks like to twist Paul’s words to make him say something he did not say.
Paul did not say that men are superior to women. He did not say that women are inferior to men. He did not say that men and women do not need each other.
Rather, he said that in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.
According to the order of creation and redemption, men and women need each other, and husbands and wives need each other, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.”
As the Scripture says:
the LORD God said to the woman, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children …” And the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. …Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:16, 20, 23)
We are inter-dependent, not independent. A woman can bear children, but not without the seed of man. A man cannot bear children, but he was borne of woman.
Man works for woman, and woman helps man. In pain, man brings forth bread from the ground. In pain woman brings forth children from the womb.
We need each other in order to survive and thrive. Neither is superior nor inferior.
“We’re one, but we’re not the same, we get to carry each other.” (U2, One)
So, in the order of creation and redemption, man was formed out of dust, and woman was formed out of man and for man, and man is born of woman.
And all things are from God.
God is the source, the means, and the goal of all things.
As the Scripture says: God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.” (Genesis 1:27)
And it says: the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
All things are from God; in him we exist, move, and live.
In conclusion, Paul commands us to judge whether it is proper for a wife or a woman to dress and act like a man in worship. Rather than base our answers on culture, we must base our answers on scripture and nature.
Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
“Paul’s point is that men should look like men in that culture, and women should look like women in that culture, rather than seeking to deny or disparage the God-given differences between the sexes.” (ESV SB Notes)
So we have barely scratched the surface on a sensitive topic. And since I know it is a volatile issue, I must echo Paul’s warning:
If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
Why would anyone be contentious about this (or any other) apostolic tradition? The answer is found in one word: sin.
As we saw last week, sin distorts, deceives, destroys, and divides. Even a quick reading of the story of Adam and Eve bears this out.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve were allies. But after the fall, they were rivals.
As the scripture says:
The Hebrew term here translated “desire” (teshuqah) is rarely found in the OT. But when it is used it frequently has a negative connotation (cp Gen 4:6-8).
This kind of desire is not a sexual or romantic desire. That would be more like a blessing than a curse. No, the desire described here is much worse than that. It is more like the desire to control and dominate her husband. (Some even suggest that it is a desire to demonize her husband, or even to deify her husband).
This needs to be fleshed out some more, but the point I want to make here is that feminists and egalitarians who are inclined to be contentious about this apostolic tradition are not walking in line with the truth of God’s word.
Like Eve, they are doubting, denying, and disobeying the word of God. Like Adam, they are abdicating their responsibilities. Like Adam and Eve, they are exchanging the truth of the Savior for the lies of the serpent.
Note: One of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage. (ESV SB Notes on Gen 3:16)
Not only do we see rivalry between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but we also see rivalry between men and women in the church at Corinth; and we see rivalries in our own marriages and in church ministries. This should not be!
This text starts and ends with tradition.
It says that Paul praised the Corinthian church for being traditional. He commended them for holding fast to the traditions and practices that he delivered to them — and to other churches.
And this practice of men dressing and acting like men, especially when they are worshiping God; and women dressing and acting like women, especially when they are worshiping God, is just part of the apostolic tradition practiced in all the churches of God.
So, if we wish to be commended by God, we must conform our life and doctrine to this practice.
The wisdom of the cross teaches us that man is made in the image and likeness of God, male and female he created them.
The cross teaches us that there are real differences between men and women; and those differences should be appreciated and cultivated.
The cross teaches us that we must learn to celebrate the unity and diversity of mankind in Christ without blending or blurring male-female gender distinctions.
The cross teaches us to respect the order of creation and the distinct roles and responsibilities of men and women, in marriage and ministry.
The cross teaches us that men and women may participate in the worship of God because they are equal in their relation to Christ, but not equivalent in their roles and responsibilities.
The cross teaches us that in marriage leadership is given to husbands and partnership is given wives; and in ministry leadership is given to men and partnership is given to the church.
The power of the cross enables us to obey God in all these things.
Duncan, J. Ligon et al. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Redesign edition. S.l.: Crossway, 2012. Print.
Ware, Bruce A. et al. Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood. Ed. Wayne Grudem. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2002. Print.