We noticed in 1 Corinthians 10 that Paul used God’s dealings with Israel as a spiritual lesson for the congregation in Corinth (10:1-13). The LORD had chosen Israel, and brought the nation out of Egypt as one body and one people (10:1-4). Yet, though all Israel benefited from God’s protection and provision, the people were not of one heart (10:5-6). There were idolaters, fornicators (sexually immoral), rebels, and murmurers (complainers) in the midst of the people (10:7-10). They broke covenant with the LORD, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and “were overthrown in the wilderness” (10:5). Paul challenged the believers in Corinth to learn from Israel’s failures, and not repeat their sins (10:11-13).
The balance of 1 Corinthians 10 addressed the doctrine of liberty (10:14-33). In the congregation were believers who pursued liberties (eating things “offered in sacrifice unto idols,” 8:4), even though it offended others (10:24). To them, Paul wrote, “do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offence…33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (10:31-33).
The theme of love and a selfless life continued in chapter 11, when Paul exhorted, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (11:1). Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to follow his example, even as he followed and conformed his life to Christ’s example. In essence, the apostle exhorted believers to live not only selfless lives, but to do so in submission to God’s order and authority (11:1-10).
The Role and Place of the Husband and Wife (11:1-16)
Perhaps in answer to a question that was raised in a letter from Corinth (7:1), Paul addressed the role of the woman, her relationship with men, and role in the church (11:3). Like the majority of the ancient world, Corinthians might have looked upon women as second-class citizens, and on a parr with servants of the household. Perhaps the doctrine of liberty had given rise to confusion in the church, or even a defiance that threatened the peace and unity of the church in Corinth.
Paul wrote, “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” (11:3). Given the rebellious state of our world and the rise of feminism, I fear that verse may cause some to bristle with resentment. What was Paul teaching?
That our Creator, in His infinite wisdom, has determined a pattern of order in His creation. What is the pattern? God the Father is the head of Christ, His Son (11:3d), and “the head of every man is Christ” (11:3b). Because “Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23), every believer must accept Christ’s authority in his life (and follow His example). As a man submits to Christ and His authority, the woman is to accept her husband’s authority, for he is “the head of the woman (11:3b).
The issue was not one of superiority, but divine order. (11:4-6, 15)
A man’s submission to God was to be portrayed in him not covering his head when praying or teaching (“prophesying,” 11:4). Doing so would dishonor “his head” (his head and authority being Jesus Christ). As a contrast with that principle, even today, it befits a man to remove his hat or cap in the presence of another as a sign of respect. Thus, it was, and is important that men who pray and teach will have their heads uncovered, lest they offend the Lord.
The woman, by contrast, was commanded to keep her head covered (with a veil or shawl) when she prayed or taught (“prophesieth,” 11:5). Failure to cover her head was a sign of dishonoring God and her husband. For a woman to not cover her head was a disgrace equated with a woman shaving her head (11:6). In verse 15, Paul stated, “long hair…is a [woman’s] glory…for her hair is given her for a covering” (11:15). Yet, for a man to have long hair was said to be against God’s natural order, and “a shame unto him” (11:14).
Closing thoughts (11:7-9) – The current state of our world makes the principles recorded in 1 Corinthians 11 more necessary than ever. Feminism has given rise to a spirit that is a cancer to marriages, families, and society. Because the world has rejected God’s created order, we find ourselves living in a society unable to agree on something as obvious as the definition of male and female. God is Creator, and His plan and purposes are perfect: “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (11:8-9).
By defying God’s design, women have sacrificed their exalted role as “the glory of the man” (his honor, his ornament, his pride, 11:7), and destroyed marriages and families. The wife is her husband’s “help meet,” his completer (Genesis 2:18).
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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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