Summary: The role of women in public worship
I mentioned last week that it’s our practice here at Shiloh to teach through books of the Bible passage by passage. In this way we can be exposed to and learn the whole counsel of God.
Now, that method of Bible teaching is not always easy. Because sooner or later you’re bound to run across a passage of Scripture that’s a challenge to interpret and apply to 21st century Christianity.
We encounter such a passage this morning. I refer to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Dr. Thomas Schreiner is a Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He considers 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 one of the most difficult and controversial passages in the Bible.
Is Dr. Schreiner correct? Let me read the passage to you and let you decide. In 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul writes, “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you. 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. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. 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. 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. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”
What does Paul mean by all this? What is this head covering that he insists women wear? What does her wearing it have to do with angels? And what is the deal with men’s and women’s hair length? And what does all of this have to do with us today?
We’ll answer these questions this morning as we work our way through this passage verse by verse. But first let’s discover the context of this passage.
Last week we concluded our study of chapters 8-10 where Paul deals with Christian liberty. And now, in chapters 11-14, he deals with decorum and order in the church in regard to worship—11:2-16; the Lord’s Table—11:17-34; and spiritual gifts—chapters 12-14.
So in 11:2-16, Paul teaches the Corinthians concerning decorum and order when the church meets together for worship. And the main point that Paul is emphasizing is this: Women should wear head coverings during public worship.
Look at verses 5 and 13. “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.” Verse 13: “Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?”
Why does Paul say this? Well, I think we need to understand the significance of a head covering in the 1st century. Back in Paul’s day, a head covering was not a veil that covered a woman’s face—like a bride would wear on her wedding day. Rather, a head covering was more like a shawl that covered the top and back of a woman’s head. And in the culture of that day, a woman would wear a shawl—a head covering—in public as a sign of submission to her husband. And Paul says the Corinthians should follow that practice when they meet together for public worship.
And in verse 3-16, Paul gives 5 reasons why the Corinthian women should wear head coverings in public worship to demonstrate submission.
The first reason for the head covering is because of …
1. ESTABLISHED AUTHORITY
I see this in verses 3-6.
Verse 3 says, “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.”