June 23, 2010 David Balzer

1 Corinthians 11:2-16: God’s Order in God’s Church

I’m big on the idea that God’s Word is CLEAR, and EASY TO UNDERSTAND. That you don’t need to have a theological degree to understand most of what the Bible is saying. Perhaps 90% of it makes sense to 90% of Christians.

Well, this is part of the OTHER 10%.

And while we might wonder why God made it so difficult for us to understand. Perhaps we’re better off thinking about it this way. It’s pretty amazing that we can understand ANYTHING. After all, THIS LETTER was written in a different language, 1900 years ago, to a group of people with almost nothing in common with us, and about whom we know almost nothing.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that we have to work hard sometimes to makes sense of what’s going on. And that’s what we’re going to do today.

As we try and read between the lines, there’s a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t seem to mean anything to us today. Women having their heads covered. Men NOT having their heads covered. Shaved heads, Long hair. Shame, dishonour.

And people down through the centuries have tried to make sense of what’s going on. Were these head-coverings something to do with the existing Roman culture? Or left-overs from the Greek culture that was on the way out? Or perhaps from Jewish culture? Was it from every-day life, or was it special religious costume.

And everyone seems to have a different opinion.

But I think a lot of these questions are just RED HERRINGS. That get us off the track. Because, ultimately, it doesn’t matter WHAT the existing culture was like. What matters is what goes on INSIDE the church. And that’s Paul’s priority. To change the culture IN THE CHURCH. That’s what he’s interested in.

People who should be considering others. And putting them first. Weren’t doing that. There were factions, and cliques. And arguments. Lack of respect. And even law-suits.

And that’s not what God’s people should be like. WHATEVER the culture AROUND it looks like, the church should reflect GOD’S order of things. The culture of the HEAVENLY kingdom.

Have you ever been to Canberra, and seen the various Embassies? A lot of them are built to look like traditional buildings from their country. They’ve got the same sorts of gardens and plants. Sometimes they even wear traditional costumes

(Show overhead transparency)

They represent their countries even though they’re in Australia. But they don’t just REPRESENT. They also REFLECT. They’re ON SHOW to the whole of Australia. Showing US what it’s like to live in Thailand, or America, or China.

And in the same way, God’s given US a similar job to do. The church is to REFLECT his order of things to each other, and to those around. To show by what we do, that we’re part of God’s kingdom. With Christ as our king. The one who guides us, and the one we listen to.

1. God’s order (3)

And so Paul starts with a THEOLOGICAL statement. Not a cultural one. Before he can get onto practicalities. He’s got to look at the bigger question of the way God’s designed things.

And so he starts with GOD’S ORDER of things. Look at verse 3.

(1 Cor 11:3 NIV)  Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

The way God’s designed things is that God the Father is the head of Christ – God the Son. And Christ is the head of every man. And the husband is the head of his wife.

Let’s think about that order for a few minutes.

You might think, “Hang on a minute, Dave!” It doesn’t say husband and wife. It says man and woman”.

The problem is/ that Greek doesn’t have different words for man/ and husband. There’s only one word. And it can mean EITHER. And there’s only one word for woman, and wife, too.

And I think, in verse 3, it’s talking about husband and wife. “The head of a wife is the husband” Although this argument isn’t perfect. Christ is the head of EVERY man. But the head of THE woman is THE man. Singular.

NOT/ MEN are the head of WOMEN. It’s talking about ONE woman and ONE man who reflect God’s order of things in their marriage.

That’s the way God designed the very FIRST marriage. Adam and Eve. And what he expects in every OTHER marriage SINCE then.

Flick over to Eph 5 (p 829). Look at v22.

(Eph 5:22-25 NIV)  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. {23} For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. {24} Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. {25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Now we’ll come back to that passage a bit later. But the point at the moment, is that God’s order is for wives to submit to their husbands. That means to RECOGNISE the God-given RESPONSIBILITY their husbands have for them.

And it’s ONLY in the context of MARRIAGE that your average man is head over your average woman. Women are to submit to THEIR OWN husband. Not to anyone else’s. So for example, Jeff is responsible before God only for Sue, but not for Katrina, or Andrea, or for Caron. Which, for Jeff, is quite a relief really!

And for Katrina, or Andrea, who AREN’T married at the moment, God doesn’t require them to submit to the average Christian man.

Let me qualify that with ONE comment. Things are a little different when it comes to the way THE CHURCH works. There are SOME men who God DOES want them to listen to. God has designed CHURCH so that male leaders are responsible for the flock. That’s Pastors and Elders.

And the flock – whether male or female – are to submit to these leaders. For the good of EVERYONE. Male, female. Leaders or non-leaders. Listen to what Heb 13:17 says.

(Heb 13:17 NIV)  Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

That’s the way God’s designed things. Between husband and wife. And between Christ and the church. And God the Father is head over everyone.

Well, that’s Paul’s first point.

2. Reflecting God’s order

And Paul’s second point is that Christians have a responsibility to REFLECT God’s order. In the way they behave. And even in the way they DRESS.

As best we can work out, in Paul’s time, the done thing was for wives to wear some sort of head-covering. Like a scarf. To SHOW that they recognised their husbands responsibility over them.

And when they DIDN’T do that, it showed DISRESPECT to their husband. Or as v 5 says, it DISHONOURED HER HEAD – ie her husband.

And it became really obvious when they did this in front of EVERYONE. That’s when the lack of consideration was at it’s worst.

It seemed like some women, when they came up the front. To lead the congregation in prayer. Or to speak a word of prophecy. Took their head-coverings off. And Paul says, that’s WRONG.

And that sent the message that they didn’t LIKE the way God has set things up. It sent the message that they didn’t WANT to recognise their husbands authority over them.

And so Paul says it’s inappropriate to take off the head-covering. It’s there in v5 of 1 Corinthians 11.

(1 Cor 11:5 NIV)  And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head

And also down in v10.

(1 Cor 11:10 NIV)  For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

(We’ll get to the angels later)

It was really just a SYMBOLIC thing. But it had REAL CONSEQUENCES. People weren’t being considerate to each other. They weren’t acting like the body of Christ.

And for US TODAY the situations’s the same. We don’t have the same cultural symbols. But we’re still called to REFLECT GOD’S ORDER. And at a very general level, that means treating each other with respect and honour. Valuing each member as important. And with something to contribute. After all – that’s the way God’s put things together in the church. So we need to repsect that. And work to reflect that.

And we’ll look at these ideas a bit more in the next few weeks. Because the Corinthians were getting the same thing wrong in OTHER AREAS TOO. Having the Lord’s Supper together. Using spiritual gifts. Especially bragging about speaking in tongues.

And the REAL PROBLEM is that they weren’t showing LOVE. That’s what Ch 13 is about.

But back to THIS specific problem. God’s provided ANOTHER powerful way to reflect his order of things. In our MARRIAGES.

That’s what the Eph 5 passage talks about. The husband is the head of the wife LIKE Christ is the head of the church. And a wife submits to her husband LIKE the church submits to Christ.

The basic reality. God’s order of things. Is that the Christ and the church are JOINED TOGETHER. In fact, down in v31 of Eph 5 it says that when husbands and wives become ONE FLESH in marriage, it’s only a reflection of the UNITY that Christ has with his bride, the church.

The way a husband and wife relate should reflect the way Christ and his church relate. Does YOUR marriage do that? How do you speak about your spouse to others? Do you put your husband or wife down in front of other people? Do you undermine the way the other person disciplines the kids? Do you VALUE what they do, and say?

3. God’s creation

Paul’s not convinced they’re going to take what he has to say on board. So he backs it up with some arguments. Some proofs. And the first one’s to do with God’s creation. The way he made men and women in the beginning. Look at v7.

(1 Cor 11:7-9 NIV)  A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. {8} For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; {9} neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

He’s obviously talking about Adam and Eve. And when Adam was made, he was made in God’s IMAGE. Made to REPRESENT God. To REFLECT God.

And Paul adds that that makes him the GLORY of God. The one who BRINGS glory to God. Who brings JOY and SATISFACTION to God. When God had finished making the world – with man as the pinnacle, he said it was VERY GOOD. He got a buzz out if the world. He still does!

And while that’s the relationship between God and man. Paul says that Eve was made to be the glory of man. Eve’s job was to be Adam’s helper. And friend. In a way that none of the other animals could do. And when Adam saw Eve, he said, “Wow!” Now THIS is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! Who said A DOG was man’s best friend!?”

Woman is the glory of man!

And Paul wraps up the argument, by stating his position. What his argument has proved. V10, “For this reason, a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.”

And then he adds the strange detail “because of the angels.” Noone’s really sure about what it means. My biggest, fattest commentary mentions an old suggestion, but then says “We can rule this option out at once. But beyond that, we are pretty much in the dark”

Thanks for nothing!

But there is ONE reference to angels in 1 Corinthians which MIGHT be helpful. Back in Ch 4, Paul’s talking about what life’s like as an apostle. And in v 9, he says

(1 Cor 4:9 NIV)  For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.

Which gives the impression that the angels are looking on at all the events in the world. Spectators in the grandstands. And especially what’s going on in the CHURCH.

And so if angels are looking on/ as these women thumb their noses at God’s order of things/ then they’ll be BOOING rather than CHEERING.

So Paul says, women are to have a sign of authority on their head, on account of the angel-spectators.

That’s the best I can do!

4. Christ’s NEW creation (11-12)

Paul continues his argument. The women were uncovering their heads. They thought they didn’t NEED their husbands anymore. But Paul says in v11, that the woman ISN’T independent of the man.

And neither is man independent of woman. (Just in case the women thought they could abandon their husbands.)

Paul’s described God’s order. And how the church should reflect that. But now he REFINES the description. The church is to reflect a NEW Order. Christ’s NEW CREATION.

When men and women are IN THE LORD. In other words – following Jesus, then there is a mutual dependence on each other.

When relationships are IN THE LORD, things are different. The rest of the world treats submission, and authority, and headship in ONE WAY. But it’s not to be like that IN THE CHURCH.

Headship DOESN’T mean that woman is independent of man. Or vice-versa. One can’t do without the other. Each DEPENDS on the other. No one is BETTER. Or MORE IMPORTANT. Husbands have a DIFFERENT role from WIVES.

And I’m sure each of us who are married can agree with that. We depend on our spouse. They do things we can’t. They fill in the gaps. And that works itself out in different ways for different .

But there’s a mutual interdependence within marriage. And within the church, too.

5. And another thing! (13-16)

Paul finishes with one last argument. “Use your eyes”, he says. “Don’t they tell you it’s only that women have a built-in head-covering, and men don’t?”

Look at v13.

(1 Cor 11:13-15 NIV)  Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? {14} Does not THE VERY NATURE OF THINGS teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, {15} but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For LONG HAIR is given to her as a covering.

I don’t think Paul’s saying anything all that special about long hair. Other than “as a general rule, women have long hair, and men don’t. So it’s NORMAL for women to have a head covering, and men not to.”

It’s doesn’t seem to be a super-persuasive argument to me. And perhaps Paul’s not positive the women are going to be convinced either. Because he finishes with a strong command. Verse 16

(1 Cor 11:16 NIV)  If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice–nor do the churches of God.

Noone else is doing this. If you keep it up, you’ll be on your own!

6. So what?

Well, that’s what the passage is about. But the big question is/ what does that mean for US? Do we have to follow it LITERALLY? Some churches do that. The women all have long hair, and scarves on their heads.

I don’t agree. But I DO believe there are a number of PRINCIPLES we need to follow. And they’re printed there in the news sheet.

1. All God’s people are to SHOW God’s order.

God’s design is that Christ is the head of the church. We are to show our submission in obedience to him. After all – he loved us, and gave himself up for us.

Show consideration for ALL God’s people. Respect and honour them in the way you speak, and think, and in the things you do.

If you’re married, then God’s design is that wives submit to husbands. That they recognise their husbands responsibility for them. And husbands are to love and serve his wife. We’re to take Christ as our example.

That’s the background principle. But there are other principles which are more to do with what we do at church.

2. All God’s people depend on each other

Principle No. 2. All God’s people depend on each other. Men and women are interdependent. We each complement each other. Fill in the gaps. Some are good at one thing, and others at other things. That’s what’s so good about a church.

So don’t get too big for your boots. You need other people. You can’t do it all yourself.

And on the other hand. Don’t think you’ve got NOTHING to offer. Don’t stay away from church, or stay in the background, for one reason or another. Others DEPEND on YOU to be here. And to minister.

3. All God’s people can pray and prophesy

Third principle. All God’s people can pray and prophesy.

Unfortunately, many churches have tried to solve the problem of men and women, and authority, by STOPPING women from doing things up front. But these women were praying and prophesying. Leading the church in talking to God, and declaring to the congregation what God had been teaching them. We must make sure that women are given that chance. Because men aren’t independent of women.

Let’s pray that God would give us the strength and the wisdom to make our church a place like that. Where all God’s people to SHOW God’s order.All God’s people depend on each other. All God’s people can pray and prophesy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.