1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ~ 20140713 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/13 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Shame or Honor; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140713_1cor11_2-16.mp3
2 Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε. 3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. 4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ· 5 πᾶσα δὲ γυνὴ προσευχομένη ἢ προφητεύουσα ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτῆς, ἓν γάρ ἐστιν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ τῇ ἐξυρημένῃ. 6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω· εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω. 7 ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων· ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν. 8 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνὴρ ἐκ γυναικός, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ ἐξ ἀνδρός· 9 καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐκτίσθη ἀνὴρ διὰ τὴν γυναῖκα, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα. 10 διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. 11 πλὴν οὔτε γυνὴ χωρὶς ἀνδρὸς οὔτε ἀνὴρ χωρὶς γυναικὸς ἐν κυρίῳ· 12 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρός, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ διὰ τῆς γυναικός· τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. 13 ἐν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς κρίνατε· πρέπον ἐστὶν γυναῖκα ἀκατακάλυπτον τῷ θεῷ προσεύχεσθαι; 14 οὐδὲ ἡ φύσις αὐτὴ διδάσκει ὑμᾶς ὅτι ἀνὴρ μὲν ἐὰν κομᾷ, ἀτιμία αὐτῷ ἐστιν, 15 γυνὴ δὲ ἐὰν κομᾷ, δόξα αὐτῇ ἐστιν; ὅτι ἡ κόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται. 16 εἰ δέ τις δοκεῖ φιλόνεικος εἶναι, ἡμεῖς τοιαύτην συνήθειαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, οὐδὲ αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ θεοῦ.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been called by many the most difficult passage to interpret in all of the Bible. There are about as many different opinions on how it should be understood as there have been commentaries written. There is much debate about what was actually going on in the church in Corinth that Paul was writing to correct, on who specifically is being addressed, on what some of the key words and phrases even mean, on what the cultural and historical background really was, on how this all fits with other verses in 1 Corinthians and in the rest of the New Testament, and maybe most important, on how (or even if) we should apply it to life today. Several people have seen this passage coming in the text and asked me how I plan to handle it, including my own mom. This may be one of the texts Peter was referring to when he said of Paul's writings:
So I think the best thing for us to do is avoid it and go on to the next passage. Skip forward to 11:17 and we will pick up there today. Passing over verses 2-16, we move on to 1 Corinthians 11 verse 17...
That was a test. We will study this passage, as difficult as it is, because I believe with all my heart that:
All Scripture is profitable. The central issues of Christianity are unmistakably clear. Salvation is through faith in Christ Jesus alone. The good news that salvation comes to us by God's undeserved grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone rings clear and loud throughout all of Scripture. Other issues, secondary issues, may be more obscure, but I believe they are still breathed out by God and profitable, so it is worth our while to carefully work through this passage. Some of the details we will have to hold loosely, as we simply can't know for certain. I'm sure the original readers of this passage understood exactly what Paul intended to communicate. I wonder if some new discovery will shed light on the things that we find puzzling. But if we don't lose sight of the forest for the trees, I believe there will be much here that is encouraging, edifying, and applicable even to us today.
So, by God's grace and with his help, we will do our best to understand the text before us, to seek to learn what God would teach us through it eager to obey him, and to extend patience and grace to one another when we just see things a different way.
The Big Picture
It is essential that we see this passage as a connected section of the letter it is part of. To extract it out of its context and beat each other over the head with it would be to violate some of the very truths it is intended to convey.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing divisions in the church. The believers are quarreling, they are boasting, they are wise in their own eyes, they think they are spiritual, they are puffed up in favor of one against another. So Paul takes them back to the basic message of the gospel, the simple message of the cross, the foolish message of Christ crucified. He reminds them that everything; life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption; everything is a gift from God. So if a believer boasts, his boast must only be in the Lord (1:30-31).
We have seen that chapters 8-10 form one unit dealing with idolatry. Now we will see that chapters 8-14 form a unit that deals with the central theme of worship. 8-10 deal with avoiding the false worship of idols, 11:2-16 deals with the way men and women ought to worship together in the church, 11:17-34 addresses the way rich and poor ought to worship together in the church, and chapters 12-14 deal with the role of the Holy Spirit and how spiritual gifts ought to be used in the worship of the church.
As we see the theme of worship throughout these chapters, we can also see some basic principles woven through these chapters. Paul begins in chapter 8 with the Christian principle of love, love for God and love that builds others up. He warns against self-centeredness that harms others by insisting on our own rights. As he sums up in 10:31-33, everything is to be done for the eternal good of others, so that God is glorified and others are benefited. 11:17-34 confronts their lack of love in the Lord's supper, where they shamed the poor and honored the rich. Chapter 12 addresses their lack of love in the exercise of spiritual gifts, priding themselves in the more spectacular gifts, and shaming others as unnecessary parts of the body. He encourages them to have the same care for one another. In chapter 13, he invites them to rise to a more excellent way, the way of self sacrificial love. In chapter 14, he teaches that the way of love is for the good of others and the glory of God, and our gifts must be used so that believers are built up, unbelievers are saved, and God is honored. It is into this context of loving God and loving others, of glorifying God and seeking the good of others that Paul speaks to the issue of men and women in the church, how they can bring shame or glory to God, and how they can shame or honor one another.
Seeing the structure of the passage will be helpful. David Garland in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (BECNT p.511) has detailed the chiastic pattern (or X shaped pattern), like a mirror with a central assertion and the parts on either side reflecting each other. We can start in the center and work out:
A. Commendation for maintaining traditions handed on by Paul; basic assertion that everyone has a head (11:2-3)
B. Shame about coverings for men and women (11:4-5)
Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered; theological impropriety for a man to be covered (11:6-7)
Theological explanation from the creation account (11:8-9)
E. Central assertion: for this reason a woman ought
to have authority over her head (11:10)
'D. Theological caveat from procreation (11:11-12)
'C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered (11:13)
'B. Shame (and glory): lessons from nature about coverings for men
and women (11:14-15)
'A. Admonition to conform to Paul's customs and those of the churches of God (11:16)
The only imperative in the text (other than his exhortation to 'judge for yourselves' in 11:13) is found in 11:6 'let her cover her head'. What is at stake in this passage is honor or dishonor; shame or glory. And this finds expression in covering or uncovering the head. This is a cultural custom that is foreign to us. David Garland describes the cultural issue this way: “The head covering 'is ...worn in public to mark her off as a private person intent on guarding her purity, and so maintaining the honour of her husband and her father.' ...It communicates to others in public that the woman is demure, chaste, and modest, and that she intends to stay that way. …no male wanted his wife or a female in his charge to appear in public in a way that hints, intentionally or unintentionally, that the opposite might be true.” (BECNT, p.509-510).
Paul starts off by praising the Corinthians.
In verse 17, he will say 'I do not commend you.; But here, he praises them for remembering him and holding on to his teachings. The 'traditions' would have been the teaching he delivered when he first came to Corinth to proclaim the gospel and plant the church. We now have his teaching expanded and clarified in the New Testament letters. He may have taught them something like what he wrote in Galatians 3.
He may have taught them something like what he will say in 2 Corinthians 3.
In Christ Jesus there is no male or female. When one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. We all with unveiled faces are beholding the glory of the Lord. So throw off your head covering! We are free in Christ! There are no more gender distinctions!
Paul says 'but'. But I want you to understand. You do not yet have the full picture.
There are gender distinctions. There are differences in roles. There are legitimate authority structures in place. Even within the triune God. God, Christ, man, woman. This is huge, what he says here is foundational, and I want to come back to it next week to give it the time it deserves.
The word 'head' is used with a double meaning. By inappropriately covering or uncovering the head, he or she brings shame on his or her own head, where 'head' stands for the person. By acting inappropriately you shame yourself. But 'head' also refers back to verse 3, where it says the head of man is Christ and the head of woman is man. There is evidence that at the time, men offering sacrifices to their pagan gods would perform the rituals with their heads covered. For a man to worship the true God with his head covered would bring shame to Christ, his head. There is a clear and essential difference between men and women. The very thing that is shameful for man is essential for woman. For a woman to worship uncovered in that culture would bring great shame on her husband or her father. It would be as shocking as if she showed up with a shaved head.
It is a shame on herself and on her husband or father to be shaven. Paul argues that being uncovered is just as shameful, so 'let her cover her head'.
An Issue of Glory
Paul gives here the theological reason why a man ought not to cover his head, but the woman ought to cover her head.
Paul goes back to the order of creation in Genesis to defend this principle. Both man and woman were made in the image of God. But Eve was made by God from the side of Adam. She was to be his helper, a companion who corresponds to him, one who completes him. She was made from him and for him. And she is his glory. She is truly his better half.
She has the potential to bring shame or great glory to her husband. But in worship, the glory of God alone is to shine unrivaled, so it is inappropriate for woman, who is the glory of man, to be uncovered. All glory must go to God.
Literally this verse reads 'on account of this the woman ought to have authority on [or over] her head'. It could be that authority stands for the symbol of authority, the head covering demonstrates that she is under authority, or it could mean that she has authority over her own head, that she has her head under control. She exercises control over her physical head so as not to expose herself or her head to indignity.
Puzzling is the cryptic phrase 'because of the angels'. Angels who are also under authority, who keep their proper place, angels who cover their faces with one pair wings and their feet with another pair of wings in the presence of God, angels who are unseen guests wherever believers gather to worship, angels who are eager to learn about the salvation we enjoy? We don't know exactly why the angels are mentioned here.
Paul is careful to balance the equation. Woman is from man and for man in creation, but subsequent to creation, every man has been born of woman and dependent on woman. In the Lord woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. Different genders, distinct roles, but equal value, dignity, and worth. In Christ, there is neither male nor female; every individual must come to God through Jesus. All things are from God. Everyone is dependent on God. God is sovereign over man and woman. God is preeminent.
Paul now invites them to apply their own innate sense of what is proper to the situation.
He has argued from the relationship between God and Christ, from the created order, from what brings honor and shame, and now he argues from their own culturally conditioned sense of what is appropriate, what is shameful, what brings honor. It is natural for men to appear masculine and women to appear feminine. It would be shameful for a woman to pray uncovered.
He concludes with a warning against an argumentative spirit, and an appeal to the common practice of all the churches.
So what do we do with this? We want to obey God and his word. Does this mean all the men need to cut their hair short and all the women need to grow their hair long and wear a head covering? Some churches do that. I think that would be the easy way around dealing with the real issue. As my mother so wisely said many years ago as my own church was wrestling with some of these issues 'any problem that can be solved with a pair of scissors is not a very serious problem'. I could have my head shaved in half an hour and it wouldn't change the state of my heart one little bit.
Where is my heart? What do I most want? Do I want to bring glory to God above all else, to bring honor to God and build up my brothers and sisters? Do I desperately want the lost to hear and believe the gospel and be saved? Or do I insist on my rights, my comfort, my convenience, my preference, my own benefit, even if it dishonors God and shames the people around me? Do I love God and love others and seek to build them up, or do I love self and seek to build myself up?
If my heart is right, if I truly love the glory of God in the gospel more than my own good, then what Paul is saying here is that externals are not irrelevant. Some seemingly trivial superficial things do matter. Is there something in my appearance, in my demeanor, in my attitude, in the way I carry myself, in the way I relate to others, that brings shame to Christ or to his followers, is there anything in me that hinders people from listening to the gospel? Then get rid of it! Cut it off and throw it away! Is there anything, even little things that I could do that would bring glory to God and build up his people? Are there ways I can identify with lost people so that I can bring them the gospel? Am I not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, that they may be saved? Am I doing everything, whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, to the glory of God?