Summary: Exposition of 1 Corinthians 11 regarding what to think about head coverings. God’s created order goes much deeper into our lives that we can imagine. Things actually work better if we do it God’s way!
Text: 1 Cor 11:2-16, Title: Bald-Headed Women, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/4/11, AM
A. Opening illustration: my conversation with a prominent pastor about the fact that he told his congregation when he dealt with this passage: I have no earthly idea what it means.
B. Background to passage: OK, remember that Paul is answering questions from the church about lots of things, lawsuits, marriage, immorality, eating meat offered to idols, and now for the next four chapters, he deals with issues related to public worship and church life. And the first issue he takes up is this thing of head coverings in the church. Now with the things that he says, I will probably offend someone here by simply reading the text. But let me remind you of some things, and assure you of some things.
C. Be reminded that God inspired every word of the text, every verb tense, word order, thought, idea, and argument in the bible. Be reminded that it is not our place to sit in judgment over the Word, but to understand it and obey it. Be reminded that Jesus didn’t shy away from difficult teaching, and there are some difficult teachings.
D. Be assured that even though parts of this text may be unclear, we have been given enough to understand what we need to understand. Be assured that I have done my best not to let personal preconceptions ruin the meaning of the text. That having been said, I will probably offend some of you here today, especially the ladies. But know that I do not have that intention, and I will try to choose my words carefully, so as to explain, but not needlessly offend. Good scholars disagree on these things, and I am more than open to discuss the interpretive issues of this text. But let me leave you with rule #1 of dating according to my brother: “If I say something that can be taken in two ways, one good and one bad, always assume that I meant it in the good sense of the word.” And rule #2 is that when you are in doubt, refer to rule #1.
E. Main thought: What to think about head coverings
A. What is he talking about? (v. )
1. This is a very odd passage with a lot of interpretive issues: headship, women prophesying, head coverings, glory of God and glory of man, authority, angels, long hair, nature…explain bits and pieces of these. He grounds these two issues in the Trinity and in creation and the created order. But the main two points that he is dealing with are:
i. Male and Female distinctions: Much like our women’s liberation movement that has done women a few favors and many injustices, these ladies in Corinth were using this new freedom to throw off social norms about the way that men and women were “supposed” to act. And that is where the head coverings come in. The marks of loose, rebellious women of the time were to shave their heads or cut their hair short like that of a man. So when the Corinthian women “let down their hair” and removed head coverings symbolizing their freedom, they did more than that. They were indicating to the culture disrespect for men, for God, for authority, for creation, etc. Not too dissimilar to the eating in temples, and to refraining from marital relations. It was embarrassing to the men in the church.
ii. Reasons: After comparing this throwing off dishonor to having your head shaved, he gives some reasons: 1) v. 7 - Man is the glory of God, woman is the glory of man. Not denying that woman bears the image of God (note that image is left out of the second part of the verse), but saying that man was created after the image of God and glorifies Him, and woman was created after the image of man, and glorifies Him. So in some way it shows respect or honor to the man if she is covered. 2) v. 8 - Man was not created from woman, but the other way around. 3) v. 9 – Man was not created for the woman, but the other way around. Note that he also said that they are not independent from each other. 4) v. 14-15 – Even nature teaches you that men should have short hair.
iii. Male Authority and Female attitudes: What is really important here is attitude. The way these women were acting demonstrated a rebellion against a created order. Paul says that the attitude of submission should be demonstrated from woman to man, man to Christ, and Christ to God. This may be one of the most difficult aspects of this text. Just a quick reminder that the bible never tells men to exercise authority, only women to put themselves in submission. This text is about dressing and acting in a way that shows authority to men.