Much has changed over the years. The cultural view of women has gone from lower class to upper class, lower quality to higher quality, feminine to feminist, etc. It is a subject that always seems to be changing depending on the times we are in. The same can be said for men. However, there is one constant that we can depend on. We can look to God’s Holy Word for the answers.
The Bible is not silent when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of men and women. Unfortunately, many Christians choose to skip over those parts in favor of what the world teaches. As Christians, we are called to be in the world but not of it. Instead of conforming our views to the world, we are to conform them to Christ. The only way to do this is by conforming our views to that of Scripture.
Ask congregation what they believe the roles of men and women to be.
1 Corinthians has a lot to say on the subject of men and women. In fact, it has so much to say on the matter that many in the church today, corrupted by the world, refuse to acknowledge it as truth. They teach that it is sexist and was only for a particular culture. They teach that to follow the same practice today would be to take 10 steps back in the progress we have made regarding women’s rights. The problem is that these people have no idea what Scripture really says. The bigger problem is that they are forsaking the truth in lieu of worldly wisdom and are threatening a design that God created. The simple truth of the matter can be found in 1 Corinthians 11:3.
1 Corinthians 11:3
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.
Paul apparently knew this was an issue that he had to carefully explain. We can see it in his wording of, “But I want you to understand…” We can see a sense of importance but we also see a sense of sensitivity. It was a touchy subject but it needed to be taught. As with back then, it is a touchy subject even today. Nobody wants to hear that because it sounds sexist. However, further examination shows a much different story. Instead of being sexist, it is actually an honor.
If we left it at saying man is the head of every woman, it would be incomplete. It goes on to say God is the head of Christ. If the Bible were putting down women, one would have to conclude it is putting down Christ as well. Christ was a wonderful leader but he was also the ultimate role model in submissiveness. He was submissive to the Father unto the point of death! Through his submissiveness, salvation is possible. Here, we see submissiveness being painted in an entirely different light from what the world describes.
Furthermore, it says Christ is the head of every man. God submits to nobody, man submits to Christ, and woman submits to man. All have a very important purpose in their submission. As we already covered, Christ submitted to the Father for the purpose of salvation and reconciliation. Tonight, we are going to get into the roles of man and woman regarding submissiveness and headship.
Christ was submissive to the Father yet men are to submit to him. This is because he holds absolute authority.
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Not only does God have a plan as outlined in verse 3, we are also commanded to show a sign of our roles.
1 Corinthians 11:4-5
Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 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.
We see the basic concept here is that man is to remain uncovered while praying or prophesying yet women are to remain covered. At first, this can seem a little confusing. To fully understand it, we need to look at the bigger picture.
1 Corinthians 11:14-15
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
We can clearly see women are being described as having a natural covering of their long hair whereas men are not. In the same way, this is the idea behind the symbol of a covering. Some form of head covering was to be used by women as a symbol of submission. While this is seen as ludicrous in America today, many places in the world still subscribe to this practice. When I went on a mission trip to Ukraine, this was a part of the briefing. The women out there wear a covering, often a cloth wrap, around their head. It is out of the ordinary when someone does not do this. The purpose of verses 4 to 5 telling men not to wear a head covering and women to have their head covered is another way of telling us not to cross over into the roles of the other gender. It is disgraceful for a man to take on the role of a woman and vice versa. The head covering is the woman’s outward symbol of submission within the church under God.
While it may not seem like a big deal to us, Paul makes it known to be a very big deal.
1 Corinthians 11:5-6
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. 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.
To get the full effect, we need to understand what a woman with a shaved head meant. A woman with a shaved head was a sign of a prostitute. It was meant to be a public symbol of shame. Much the opposite, a head covering is meant to be a public symbol of honor and obedience. If a woman desires to not have her head covered in church, let her shave her head and look like a prostitute. If she does not want to look like a prostitute and be associated with prostitution, let her cover her head. It was as simple as that.
This leads us to question why only women had their head covered if both women and men are submissive to some higher authority. The answer to this one is also found in Scripture.
1 Corinthians 11:7-10
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. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Simply put, man is made in the image of God whereas woman is made in the image of man. God is the Supreme Authority. He submits to no one. Men are made in the image of God. We submit to God but we do not wear a head covering. Our gender alone symbolizes our role. Man is proof of the glory of God and what He can create. However, women are made in the image and glory of man and what can be created from man. While it sounds sexist, it is still God’s plan and we know God is good in all ways. We see in verse 10 that it says a woman should have her head covered because of the angels.
Ask congregation what they think “because of the angels” means.
Angels are created beings meant to worship, submit to, and serve God. That is their whole purpose for existence. They are used by God in any way He chooses. However, in the beginning, a third of the angels decided to follow Lucifer. Lucifer desired to be God and he convinced many angels to follow him. This was the ultimate act of disobedience and refusal to submit to authority. As a result, Lucifer and the fallen angels were cast out of Heaven by God. This should be remembered by all. It should always be in the back of our mind to show the importance of submission. Because of the incident that took place in the beginning, always submit to the authority placed over you and do it gladly.
So far this entire lesson makes God out to be a male chauvinist. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.
1 Corinthians 11:11-12
However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
It was important for Paul to teach on this as well. It is very easy to get carried away with the previous verses and take on a position of a master with his servants. This is not the design God created. While it is true that woman was made from man and is the glory of man, without woman, man would cease to exist. She has a very important role that God has blessed her with. Equality was important even back then.
John MacArthur has a great way of explaining the importance of headship and submission among men and women in the church.
John MacArthur, Commentary on 1 Corinthians
[Paul] makes no distinction between men and women as far as personal worth, abilities, intellect, or spirituality are concerned. Both as human beings and as Christians, women in general are completely equal to men spiritually. Some women obviously are even superior to some men in abilities, intellect, maturity, and spirituality. God established the principle of male authority and female subordination for the purpose of order and complementation, not on the basis of and innate superiority of males. An employee may be more intelligent and more skilled than his boss, but a company cannot be run without submission to proper authority, even if some of those in authority are not as capable as they ought to be.
Just because man is placed over woman in headship does not mean man is better. It just means that is the way God designed it and we are to follow it because it is His will. Unfortunately, many men and women fall short in this because of the world’s influence. Satan has crept into the Church in many ways and this is yet another one of them. If he can’t take something out of Scripture, he will try his hardest to get people to misinterpret it so that they will think it no longer applies and was strictly cultural. This is the belief of many female pastors today.
Ask congregation what they think of female pastors.
1 Corinthians 14:34
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.
Many have taken this to mean that women are not allowed to speak in church at all. Because of this, they either look down at women or take the passage to be invalid today. We must never take a single verse and attempt to interpret it on our own. We must always take Scripture as a whole. Let’s look at the entire passage in context.
1 Corinthians 14:31-35
For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
We can see it is not saying women are to remain silent in all forms. We can clearly see it is referring to prophecy. However, if you will remember, 1 Corinthians 11:5 tells a woman to have her head covered if she is going to prophesy. Why the apparent contradiction? It is because people fail to properly interpret what is being said.
First of all, if you will remember our recent lesson on spiritual gifts, you will recall that prophecy was not just telling the future but was actually a gift of proclaiming publicly the truth of God and was not limited to new revelation but was often the already existing Word. Women are not prohibited from speaking out and teaching the Word. If you look again, 11:5 does not mention the church. It is speaking in general. There is nothing to prohibit a woman from teaching. In fact, women are all over the Old and New Testament with teaching examples. Women are free to teach all women studies. They are free to teach children. They are free to minister alongside their husbands as Aquila and Priscilla did in Scripture. However, in accordance with chapter 14, a woman is never to be in that position when placed over men in a church environment. She is to subject herself to man. If she desires to speak forth in a church environment for the purpose of edifying the church and teaching the church, let her do it at home with her husband. The concept of female pastors, which is becoming more and more accepted, is a highly unbiblical concept.
Even the people of Corinth apparently thought it was a cultural thing Paul was teaching as he felt the need to squash this idea.
1 Corinthians 11:16
But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.
It was not just something that belonged to another region. It was not something that belonged to another time period. Paul says if anyone is inclined to be contentious, if anyone desires to argue his teaching as cultural, there is no other practice in all the churches of God. Every single church of God practices these things.
Obviously, the church in Corinth was a valid church of God. What Paul is saying is that anybody who claims to follow God should incorporate these practices into their local body as well. It was not a standard of man in a local church. It was a standard of God that He set forth for the Church as a whole to follow. We may not like it because of our culture but it is still the Word of God regardless and as stated in the beginning, it is not a sign of dishonor but rather, a symbol of honor.
This honor carries over into marriage as well.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
This is another area that is horribly misinterpreted as well as avoided in today’s culture. Wives look at it and say nobody can tell them what to do or control them. Men look at it and think the have absolute control over their wives in all things. Both of these are erroneous. In fact, Paul clarifies this with a very strong stipulation.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
Husbands are to love their wives just a Christ loved the Church. Christ loved the Church to the point of death. In a recent lesson, we covered the different types of love in the Greek language. The type of love portrayed here is agape love. It was totally selfless and sacrificial. This is the same type of love we are to have for our wives. We are given authority over our wives so that we may flourish; not have a servant. We are to love our wives just as we love ourselves. In fact, we are to love our wives greater than we love ourselves just as Christ loved the Church greater than himself.
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
In many polls over the years, a simple question has been posed: “Would you rather feel loved or respected?” The majority of men say they would rather feel respected while the majority of women say they would rather feel loved. Typically, a man feels loved when he has genuine respect while a woman feels respected when she feels genuinely loved but it does not work the other way around for either party. These results are not surprising. In fact, they were not surprising even during the time that Paul was writing to the church of Ephesus. This is why it does not tell men to respect their wives and for wives to love their husbands. Women are to respect their husbands through submission in all areas. Husbands are to love their loves sacrificially and ensure she feels it and is taken care of. Through the love shown by the husband, the wife will have a desire to submit because she will know she is taken care of and that the authority is not being abused. The results of the poll are based on our emotional responses and needs. These are controlled by nature itself. It is only when our culture gets in the way that we reject nature to look for an alternative way. Unfortunately, these alternative ways will fail.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Again, in God’s eyes, man and woman are equal. There is nothing in His plan that makes one superior to the other. They are not independent of each other. There is simply a design of authority and submission that must be followed in the Church if we claim to be followers of His Word. Stop trying to find another way and look at Scripture for what it is in the proper light. God created an order and He saw that it was good. Who are we to say otherwise?