Summary: Men and women, head coverings, improper use of communion - Paul tackles these and other controversial subjects in this chapter - we look at the one key verse that makes it all make sense.
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There are three things that we need to keep in mind as we read this chapter.
1. It’s all about being like Jesus
2. Paul is talking about conduct in public worship
3. There were cultural realities in Corinth that do not necessarily apply to us today
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
It’d be great if we could just stop right there. This is a wonderful verse – and one I try to live by. The Corinthians were guilty of man-worship – putting loyalty to a man in too high a place. But Paul says – you can follow my example – as I follow the example of Christ.
Jesus Christ IS our example. If I or Paul or anyone does anything that is out of the character of Christ, then by all means DON’T follow my example.
God will never tell you to violate His character in order to do His will.
So, skipping on chapter 12 …
The rest of this chapter is filled with hard to understand and controversial subjects, which I will try to explain – but I think we need to keep verse 1 in context as we read the rest of the chapter – everything, and I mean everything should be done in keeping with the character of Jesus Christ.
3 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.
Notice here that Christ is over the man – if a woman is married to someone who is not in subjection to Christ – then she is under no obligation to submit to ungodly behavior – as Chuck Smith says – she must “skip the missing link” and be submissive to Christ – remember – the goal here is imitate Christ’s behavior.
And remember the context here is about head-coverings.
4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head-it is just as though her head were shaved. 6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7 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. 10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.
Culturally, women wore veils – if she didn’t she was saying “I’m available” to a man. As the Christian women of Corinth came to understand their freedom in Christ they were perhaps rebelling against the veil thing – but Paul warns them not to do something that would say the wrong thing culturally.
This is in line with his arguments in chapter 9 “To win the Jews I became like a Jew” and so forth. And then in chapter 10 “do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jew or Greek.” We have to be aware of the cultural ramifications of our behavior because they can speak louder than our words of the gospel.
As far as the men were concerned – it’s a little odd that Paul would tell them to uncover their heads – today of course, Jewish men cover their heads with little yamakas.
But the point here is that Paul wants the Corinthian husbands and wives to honor the cultural norms surrounding them regarding public conduct. Otherwise God is dishonored. One example that fits today – a man appearing to be gay or unfaithful to his wife as a Christian – or a woman acting like a lesbian or unfaithful to her husband. These would bring disgrace to the Lord – so our conduct in public does matter. We don’t want people focusing on the wrong things – on us, instead on what God is doing through us.
As far as the last verse there – “because of the angels” is a bit troubling to interpret. The consensus is that angels watch out for the worship of God by His people and want things to be done properly and in order.
The next part of Paul’s argument seems to run counter to what he said in verse 3.