1 Corinthians 11:3 ~ 20140720 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/20 1 Corinthians 11:3 Christ the Head and the Head of Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140720_1cor11_3.mp3
3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι
παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν,
κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ,
κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός.
1 Corinthians 11 [ESV2011]
2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
Last time, we looked at the big picture of this passage, what it means to bring honor or shame to others and to God. We are to eat, we are to drink, everything we do, we are to do it all to the glory of God. We are to seek not our own but that of the other, we are to seek the eternal good of others. Our goal is to bless others, that the lost might be saved and our brothers might be built up, and in all this that God would be glorified. By our conduct, by our attitude, by our appearance, by how we treat one another, by our sensitivity to the culture in which we live, we can bring honor or shame to God, and we can bring honor or shame to our brothers and sisters.
As I said last time, I want to go back to the foundational principle laid down in 11:3 and study it in more detail.
This is the core of everything Paul says in this section. How we bring honor or shame to one another and to God grows out of an understanding of what it means to be head or to have a head over us.
What 'Head' Means
At first read, this sounds like it has something to do with authority. I looked up the word 'head' in Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary. He defines it this way:
To say that the husband is the leader, the one who has first rank, the one who holds the place of honor, and to whom his wife is subordinate, is unpopular in today's political climate. To say that woman is subordinate to man and is to be under his authority may be downright dangerous. But that is what the text seems to say.
There is a feminist movement within Christianity that has attempted to re-define 'head' to mean something that avoids the idea of authority or submission. These scholars have taken 'head' to mean 'source' as in 'the head of the Mississippi river is found in northern Minnesota.' Webster does list something like this; he gives as meaning #30 for the world 'head':
But even this doesn't seem to indicate that 'head' means 'source'; rather that which is 'most remote from the mouth or opening'. But the various ways the English word is used is not essential to understanding how the word is used in the bible. We need to look at the context of the passage and the way the word is used in other places in the Bible to understand what the author intends by it.
This passage as a whole teaches that men and women are different and should appear different. It teaches that a man can bring glory or shame to God by the way he conducts himself in the public worship of the church. It teaches that a woman can bring honor or shame to her husband or father, and as a result, to God, by the way she conducts herself in the public worship of the church.
In verse 10, the word 'authority' is used, indicating that this passage has at least something to do with authority, and the normal meaning of the word 'head' implies authority.
Man under Christ
Notice, though, that the relationship between man and woman is sandwiched in this verse between the relationship between man and Christ, and Christ and God. Although issues between man and woman are central, Christ frames the passage. We can understand more about what it means to be head or to have a head by looking at these two parallel phrases.
First, he says
Christ is the head of every man. For man to cover his head in worship would bring shame to Christ. Paul gives the theological reason for this in verses 7-9
Man is the glory of God, and in worship, the glory of God must be revealed.
He balances this in verses 11-12.
There is an interdependence between man and woman. There is a sense in which man is dependent on woman. Every man since Adam was born of a woman. And all things are from God. God is supreme over all.
Man is not head of woman in any absolute unrestrained sense. Man too is under authority. Man is under the authority of Christ. Man will lead a woman well only when he is submitting well to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear from this that his authority is restrained. He has no right to overstep his bounds and exercise authority that is not Christlike authority.
We see this portrayed beautifully in Ephesians 5.
The husband is to model his leadership over his wife after the example of Christ's authority over his church. This includes, on the wife's side submission and respect; and on the husband's side loving leadership, self sacrifice, and nourishing, cherishing sanctification.
Authority Among Equals
In the three parallel statements dealing with heads, two (if we can talk this way) have to do with members of the same species, and one does not. Man and woman are different genders, but both are human. The person of Christ and the person of God the Father are one God. It is natural to expect the first statement, that man, who is a created being, would be under the authority of Christ, the uncreated Creator of all things. It is less expected to see that there is a similar authority and submission role within the human species, and it may seem downright shocking to see that within the one God, there are roles of submission and authority. Between man and God there is clear superiority and inferiority, where authority and submission seems obvious. But between man and woman, and between Christ and God, there is no superiority or inferiority, so authority and submission is a difference in role among equals.
We are told in Galatians
In Christ the social inequalities have been done away with. Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, all are equal before God. None has advantage over another. All are alike helpless sinners rescued by the benevolence of a merciful God.
Yet in Colossians we are told:
So there remain social roles among equals that are appropriate to maintain. These roles include authority and submission; wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers.
Christ Under God
The model for obedience to authority among equasl is given within the persons of the triune God.
Let's look at the divine side of this parallel. The head of Christ is God. This is an amazing statement. Earlier in 1 Corinthians, speaking of various gifted teachers in the church, Paul said:
You don't have to pick only one favorite teacher; all are yours. They are given to you for your benefit. And you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Jesus is equal in essence with his Father. He is fully God. He shares all the characteristics that are exclusive to God, he is the self-existent one, the uncreated Creator, he is all powerful, all wise, everywhere present, unchanging, without beginning or end, God will not give his glory to another (Is.42:8; 48:11), yet Jesus possesses the very glory of God (Jn.8:54; 17:5). The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one eternal God, equal in essence, yet functioning in different roles. We see this nowhere more clearly than from the statements of Jesus himself in the gospels.
Jesus' Submission in John
In John 5, Jesus was being persecuted by the Jews because he was working miracles on the Sabbath.
The equality of the Son with the Father is clearly presented in this passage. An artist creates something different than himself. A masterpiece may display the skill, the creative genius, the glory of the artist, but it is essentially different from the artist; a work of canvas, stone, metal, or wood. But when a father begets a son, he is of the same DNA, of the same stuff as the father. Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God, was uniquely claiming equality with God. But at the same time that he claims this essential equality with his Father, he asserts his dependence on his Father. The next verses read:
The Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father, yet the Son can do nothing of his own accord. He perfectly imitates his Father in everything. He perfectly submits to the will of his Father.
Jesus seeks not his own will, but the will of his Father. He is perfectly obedient.
The Father testified about the Son; 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased' (Mt.3:17; 17:5). The Father gave Jesus works to accomplish, and Jesus was joyfully obedient in everything.
Jesus did not seek his own. His aim was to honor the Father in everything. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the ideal relationship. Loving authority and joyful surrender.
There is one place in particular that we gain depth of insight into the surrender of the Son to the will of the Father. It is in the garden.
Jesus, looking toward the cup of the fury of the wrath of almighty God against the sins of the world (Is.51:17, 22, Jer.25:15) that he would drink for mankind on the cross, begged escape if at all possible. This kind of perfect submission that the Son models is not without struggle, not without hesitation, not without discussion, not without exploring other possibilities. But ultimately, there is glad surrender to authority. Hear the resolve in his voice when he rebukes Peter during the arrest.
Eternal Subjection of the Son
Lest we think that this submission of the Son to his Father is restricted to his time here on earth as the perfect man, Paul, speaking of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, says:
In the perfection of eternity, there will still be good authority and glad surrender, even among the equal persons of the triune God. Not all authority is selfish and domineering, and not all submission is fearful cowering. Paul puts authority and submission in proper perspective for us when he frames it this way:
Paul held himself up as an example of what it looks like to surrender your own rights for the eternal good of others and the glory of God, so that many would be saved. In this he invites us to imitate him as he imitates Christ.