Women

Women Should Keep Silent? (Let’s Talk Context!)

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50 - Should Women keep silent

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“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)

Oh boy, have I ever been looking forward to preaching on this passage…

 

No one likes to be told to shut up – least of all, in my experience, women. If I tell my guy friends or my sons to “shut up” it goes a lot better than if I were to tell my wife, daughters, or female friends.

But, unfortunately, that’s a reputation that some pastors, churches and Christians have. One accusation consistently brought against the Christian church is that we are anti-female, oppressing and restricting women. And of course, horrible stories like the homeschooling parents who kept their children starving and chained to their beds, or the various reports of religious communes and cults that force women and children into servitude don’t help because they are invariably called “devout Christians” at some point by the media.[1] [2] [3] And, in our post-Christian, post-church culture, it’s natural to lump everyone who calls themselves Christian together with them. The pastors are cult leaders, the men are mysogonist pigs, the women are fools or terrorized, and the children treated no better than slaves.

I’ve heard from a few of you that some people around this area have even wondered if Beckwith Baptist Church is a cult. Long gone are the days when the small, local, Baptist church was seen as a beacon of morality. Now, the most basic Christian terms like “Christian”, “pastor”, “elder”, “deacon”, “biblical “authority”, “submission”, evoke among the culture pictures of abuse, brainwashing, and financial exploitation. People don’t know the difference between David Koresh and Jamestown, Westboro Baptist Church, or the evangelical church around the corner. Conversations with people about “going to church” or “being a Christian” these days have a lot of baggage, so it’s little wonder that some are ashamed to admit it.

And when it comes to a passage like we are looking at today, it’s even worse. Christians aren’t automatically given the benefit of the doubt to explain what it means, but instead beaten over the head with it as it’s used as confirmation bias for outsiders to spread false beliefs about what goes on here.

And within the church this is the kind of verse that people tend to avoid. They like the Gospels and Proverbs and Psalms and whatnot, even Revelation and Romans, but when it comes to this kind of verse, it’s just easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t work, does it? There’s always that nagging voice inside of you that says, “What have you gotten yourself into? These people look all nice and happy now, but there’s a secret underbelly where some really bad stuff happens. These women aren’t happy, their afraid – you just don’t see it yet. These kids aren’t loved, they’re terrified to show their true feelings. These church men are all the same – they preach love and grace but secretly they are using religion to control women, harm their kids, and take people’s money. Be careful. Don’t get sucked in.”

These Christians tend to stay on the outside, never really giving themselves fully to Jesus, God, or their church, because they’re afraid they are going to be let down. They feel drawn to God, drawn to worship, drawn to Jesus. They love the message of Salvation, the idea of having a community of believers, and the practical ways that the Bible is changing their lives, but they are secretly afraid of learning too much, seeing too much, engaging too much, of finding out what Christianity is really all about.

Then a terrifying thought hits their brain: “You’re being lied to. You’re being manipulated. This church says that they’re not a cult, but that’s what all cults say isn’t it? It’s when you get into the inner circle that things start to get scary and oppressive.”

So they come to church on edge, waiting for confirmation of this little voice in their head. They start to watch the news with new eyes, seeing how much damage religion is doing around the world, and the horrible things people have done in the name of Christ. They start to remember personal stories of difficult times when they went to church as a kid, or stories their family has told, and remember that there was a lot of hurt there. Now when they attend it feels different. Now the people seem a little stranger, less trustworthy, and all the messages seem to be about judging and hating others, giving more money, and unquestioning submission to some human authority.

They usually come for a while, hoping all this isn’t true, but then, without fail, someone says or does something to confirm everything they’re thinking. A pastor commits adultery, a youth worker abuses a child, a trustee is caught stealing, a small group leader starts a fight. And their fears are confirmed so they leave angry, sad, frustrated, feeling stupid and used, vowing never to get fooled again.

They still have a hunger for God in their heart, but they keep that all to themselves now. They stay home, read the bible themselves, or start to experiment with other religions.

This story has been played out over and over in the church. Perhaps you know someone who has gone through it, or perhaps you secretly thinking some of this yourself.

So what do we do at times like this? It is my belief that everything I just described is a direct Satanic attack on the souls of people seeking God and who believe in Him. He’s a liar, a master deceiver, a manipulator who has been playing this game for a long time. So what is the solution to these sorts of lies? What are we to do when we come across a difficult passage like this that stirs up so much inside us? The only way to defeat a lie is with the truth, and so instead of avoiding these passages, we have to dig into them. We need to confront our biases and our fears and be willing to allow God’s Word to tell us what He is really saying.

So I want to do that today. I want to give us four questions to ask when it comes to these types of difficult passages so we can have a deeper faith, more trust in God, and a stronger witness to the unbelieving world.

Does this Sound like the Biblical God?

The first question I want you to ask yourself is “Does my interpretation of this passage sounds like what Jesus preached and what the rest of the Bible teaches?”

Let’s read it again,

“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

What does that sound like to your modern ears? Based on your personal history and worldview, what does that sound like? It sounds like the Apostle Paul is telling all women everywhere to keep their mouth shut when they come to church, right? He cites God Law as his authority and in verses 37, which we didn’t read, he says, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” It sounds like he’s saying, “God says women in all churches for all time need to shut up. Jesus says a woman asking questions is terrible.”

Sounds close, right? But is it? Does that interpretation line up with what the rest of the Bible says? Not even close. What does the Bible say? It says God created woman as the other half of His image, a compliment and gift to man, different in many ways, but equal in dignity, worth, purpose (Gen 2). It was sin that turned men against women making them use their physical strength to oppress, subjugate and enslave them.

When God gave Israel His Law, they had come from a world full of violence, superstition, oppression, and evil. His people were to be different so He broke them away from the norm and gave them a higher set of standards that elevated the status of women and children, giving them rights and protections under the Law they never had before.[4]

And it gets better. In the New Testament. Jesus treated women and children with so much more respect and care than the culture ever did. He didn’t see women as sexual objects, or judge them by their beauty, age, marital status or anything else. He simply saw them as genuine persons worthy of love and respect. He met with them, protected them, listened to them, taught them, and cared for them as no one else would, and then taught his followers to do the same.[5]

I want to play a clip from a man named Todd Friel who is the host of Wretched TV and Radio. He talks a little funny, but he’s a good, Christian guy and I think this clip helps us understand something important about the Christian view of women.

         

I could do a whole sermon on the biblical view of women, but that’s not the point today. Does the Bible teach that men should oppress women? No. Now, does it teach that women should shut up in church?

Well, in the same letter in chapter 11 it says that women are allowed to pray and prophecy in the church. It says, “…but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” I won’t get back into the issue of head-coverings, but notice that there were women praying and prophesying in church. In the Old Testament we have women like Meriam and Deborah leading worship and speaking publically to the people. Psalm 68:11 (NET) says, “The Lord speaks; many, many women spread the good news…” In the New Testament we see the Prophetess Anna speaking at the temple (Luke 2:36-38), Philip the Evangelist’s four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9), and the Apostle Peter saying at Pentecost, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dream…” (Acts 2:17).

Clearly, from scripture, we can say that women have the same spiritual availability to not only teach, prophecy, and share God’s Word but were doing it in the Christian church right from its inception.

So if Jesus elevated the status of women, and the church has been a champion of women’s rights, and so many other places in scripture say women can speak in church, what’s going on here?

What’s the Historical Context?

That’s the second question: “What’s the historical context?”

Notice that he’s not just telling women to change their behavior, but everyone! He tells those coming to church and eating all the food to stop it (let’s be honest, that’s probably the men). He tells those who are getting drunk at church to stop it. He tells those who are flipping out like they did at the pagan temples to stop it. He tells everyone who is being noisy and disorderly to stop it. He tells those who are yelling and singing over each other to stop it. He tells the tongues speakers to limit themselves. He tells the prophets and preachers to take turns. That’s men and women.

He’s like the referees at a hockey game where a brawl has broken out. He’s blowing his whistle, separating fighters, sending some folks to the bench and others to the locker room. He’s restoring order.

And another issue he’s dealing with is that there were a specific group of women who were disrupting the church services with questions. Whether it was because they didn’t understand what was going on and wanted to learn, or they were arguing with the points the teachers were making, or something else, these women were causing trouble in the church.

We’ve talked a lot about context over the past while so I won’t bore you with a repeat, but there are two things I want you to remember: the situation with the headdresses and the problem of disorderly worship.

Remember how messed up and chaotic the church services in Corinth were. Everyone in the church was doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, as loudly as they wanted, right? Remember the context of 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul is talking about what it means to be orderly in church. That’s a really important part of what’s going here. Paul’s not singling out women, but listing a whole bunch of things that are going wrong in their church services. One of those things, among many, was this group of women.

It’s likely the same group of women who were being addressed in the head coverings controversy. Remember when we talked about them we saw that there were some women that were coming to church and were not only causing disturbances but were embarrassing their husbands by they causing scenes, flaunting their sexuality and independence, and were being a bad witness to the church and the rest of society. In that lesson, we talked about how one of the big issues was that these women were disobeying God by refusing to submit to the biblical teachings of complementarianism and male headship (again, something I’m not going to repeat here). That’s very, very similar to what’s going on here.

It’s not that these women weren’t allowed to pray, prophecy, speak in tongues, worship, or serve – it was that they were part of the disorderly service problem and needed specific correction. They were asking so many questions that it was causing a ruckus (just like those speaking in tongues were). Sure, they were allowed to learn, but the worship service wasn’t the time to be interrupting with a bunch of questions.

Notice as well that this is addressed to wives. That’s what gives us a clue that this is connected to the headdress and male headship issue. It’s likely that these women weren’t just politely asking too many questions, but were actually making a scene, being out of control with their words, and reflecting badly on their husbands and families. So Paul gives them the same message as before – respect your husbands enough to show some self-control and bring your spiritual concerns to them privately first.

I wonder if this also speaks to the women who refuse to talk to their husbands about anything spiritual at all, but instead keep all those conversations for their Christian girlfriends, small groups, pastors, and Christian professionals. They have so little respect for their husband’s spirituality that they leave them completely out of the conversation. They have an issue in their heart and need counsel, a question about the Bible, need some wisdom or direction, or help with some other part of life, and don’t even talk to their husbands about it, but immediately go to their pastor, small group leader, or Christian friends. What does that say about how much they value and respect their husbands opinions? That it has zero value. That’s hurtful to the marriage disrespectful to the husband. Wives, talk to your husbands first about what’s going on in your heart. Don’t leave him out of the mix.

Application

The first question is, “Does my interpretation of this passage line up with what the rest of the Bible teaches?” and the second question is “What is the greater historical context of this difficult passage?” . So, the third and fourth questions are simply, “What does this passage mean?” and “Will I submit myself to it?”

So, what does this passage mean? It means that the Bible elevates women, not degrades them. They have equal access to God’s Holy Spirit and are invited to learn and participate in church worship services just like men, and are under the same rules to keep it orderly. But, it also means that there is a lesson there about self-control and humbly submitting to how God wants to do things. It means that you don’t get to say whatever you want to say whenever you want to say it. It means practicing patience and submission to authority. It means respecting your husband enough to include him your spiritual walk, asking his thoughts, listening to his answers, even if it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t feel like he’s up to it.

In the end, once we study this passage, and strip away our own bias, what we see here are some verses about the godly attitudes of humility and respect? Humility and respect toward God and His rules for how we live our life. Humility and respect for your church family, placing their desires above your own. And humility and toward your husband, and that’s something that, I think, everyone can understand and agree on.

I encourage you to be introspective this week about this. Have you let Jesus take control of your tongue, your pride, and the openness between you and your spouse in your marriage? Are you practicing humility and respect in these areas?

 

[1] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/christian-couple-who-starved-held-11859360

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42701297

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/waco-tv-series-siege-truth-what-really-happened-david-koresh-branch-davidians-cult-fbi-paramount-a8179936.html

[4] https://www.gotquestions.org/womens-rights.html

 

[5] https://www.crossway.org/articles/how-jesus-viewed-and-valued-women/

Head Coverings: A Matter of the Heart

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43 - Head Coverings

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We’re still in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16  and when we began studying this last week I asked you to lay aside for a moment, the first presenting issue that we see when we read this passage – namely the head coverings and discussion of male female relations. Instead, we looked at the roots of the passage, the foundation on which the teaching is built. And, if you recall, there were 5: Apostolic Authority, The Trinity, Creation, Biology, and Common Church Practice.

And then I asked you to do some heart work this week in asking yourself if you are willing to submit yourself to God’s authority or not. Essentially, if you are a Christian today and have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, are you also willing to accept Him as Lord, even if His commands go against your feelings or upbringing? Are you willing to humble yourself before your Creator, your Saviour, your Lord and your God?

It’s still amazing to me that Jesus leaves this open as an option to humanity. We read part of Philippians 2 last week and I think it would be good to read part of it again because it really drives home our need for humility, the example of Christ’s humility, but also His absolute Lordship over all creation.

It says in Philippians 2:3-11, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

That’s all about humility, right? Humble before others, humble and obedient to God, following the perfect example of Jesus. But even though Jesus laid aside His divine majesty and took on the form of a servant, even to the point of dying in our place on a sinners cross, the passage doesn’t leave Him there, but continues from His humiliation to his glorification:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

It should amaze us that Jesus gives us the option to disobey Him. It’s amazing to me. He is Almighty God, Creator, Lord of all, worthy of all worship and praise – and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Christians are merely the ones who get to do it first, of our own volition, by our own choice – but one day, everyone who has ever lived, every creature, every country, every leader, will bow before Jesus as Lord – His glory and His power will make them bow, will make them confess.

Part of the Christian life is acknowledging that fact today. It’s in the prayer Jesus taught us: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed (or worshipped or held high) be your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Christians claim God as our highest authority in all areas of our life, our King, And we acknowledge this every time we pray the Lord’s prayer! And then we ask Him to submit all the world, including us, to His divine will, causing everyone to worship and obey Him, just as they do in heaven. Because we believe His Kingship, His leadership, His way, His Will is the best plan for joy, peace, happiness, and justice that that humanity could ever hope for.

This was the main topic last week: Will you, in all areas of your life, submit yourself to the will of God? The answer to that question will dramatically affect how you respond to the Bible. So let’s read 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and see what it says:

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 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. 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. 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. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”

Historical Context

As with all passages, it’s important to start with the context. Last week I said over and over that this passage isn’t rooted in culture. Whatever God is telling us through the Apostle Paul goes beyond hair and clothing styles or historical understandings of gender roles. It’s deeper than that.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t take the cultural context into consideration. In the city of Corinth, in Greek culture, and like many Middle Eastern countries today, most men and women wore something on their head like a veil, turban or headscarf to protect against the sun. But like today, they were more than a practical fashion accessory. What they were made of and how they were decorated would tell you a lot about how wealthy or important someone was.

And, like today the women’s version was way more complicated than the men’s. The fabric was of different quality and the veil could be was pinned to a stiff hat and set with jewels and ornaments. If the woman was married, the headdress got very complicated with even more decorations, even putting important coins in the front to signify her dowry. And of course, as the head covering and veil got more complicated, so did the style of the hair. Competitive fashion is nothing new and this status symbol competition had gotten so out of control that the Apostle Peter actually took time in his letter to warn Christian women about this (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Like today, it was common practice for a man to take off their head covering during a worship time to signify their respect for and submission to their deity, like we do when we take off our hats for prayer or to sing the national anthem. It’s a sign of respect. For a man to choose to cover his head during worship showed there was something wrong with his attitude. It was the opposite for women. At that time in Greece, only immoral women would be seen with their heads uncovered.[1] [2]

We understand this concept today because we have the same fashion issues, right? Certain styles of clothes signify certain events. A man’s hair, beard, and clothing signify something about them. Some guys are very concerned about this, some are less concerned, but none of us get dressed by accident. Our clothing choices reflect something about us.

And I think that whatever pressures men feel must be a hundred-fold for women. Every day, no matter what country they are in or what job they do, women are judged more by how they look than almost anything else. Judged by everyone – men and women are all very hard on women for their clothing choices. And whether we like it or not, those choices reflect something about us to the people around us. A high skirt and crop top sends a different message than a t-shirt and jeans. A sweatshirt and pair of leggings gets a different societal reaction than a cocktail dress. When a woman leaves the house, whether they like it or not, even though it’s not fair, they are forced by society and their own inward drive to consider every part of their appearance – hair length and style, jewels, pants or skirt, length, tightness or looseness, how deep the V neck goes – even their perfume is going to be judged.

All of this is not new and has been happening forever.

The Problem

Now, what was happening in the Christian church in Corinth was that, because of their newfound freedom in Christ, some people were breaking from societal norms – especially the women. The Christian church was different than all the other religions around them. Christians taught that women and men are equal in dignity and worth, both worthy of the same respect and honour. Both men and women have the same level of access to God through Jesus Christ, and the same Holy Spirit within them. No longer were women considered inferior, unfit for teaching or learning – as they were in the rest of society – now they were invited to sit alongside their fathers and husbands and listen to the same teacher, ask questions, and even, after some time of maturing and study, to teach! There were even times when God would show up in a special way and give a message, a prophecy, through one of the women in the church.

This was amazing to everyone! The women in Corinth were obeying God and were praying publically and prophesying in church, speaking out words from scripture and explaining passages to people, right in front of everybody, and it was an awesome thing to witness. This was all approved of by the Apostles and the scriptures, Old and New Testament, give examples of women prophets and teachers all over the place (Exo 15:20-21; Luke 2:36; Acts 2:17-18, 21:9) This level of freedom and respect was unlike anything they had ever experienced – and being human, they took it too far.

When they spoke during the worship times they were, apparently uncovering their head, like the men did. This was a problem. In their freedom, they were “flaunting social convention and sending ambiguous signals”[3] to everyone around them. Remember, their head covering was more than just a hat to keep the sun out, but was like a billboard with all sorts of information. To take it off in church, during a worship time, was to send a signal about your sexual freedom, your marital status, your religious commitment, your respect for your husband and family.

Without question, the head covering was a cultural convention, neither commanded nor prohibited by God, but it still had very important meaning. And remember, one of the most important messages that keep coming up in 1st Corinthians is that the church needs to take other people into consideration when we do things – we just covered this over and over in our study of the last few chapters, right?

To disregard the social conventions and expectations of their culture wasn’t a small thing. They were experiencing an intoxicating level of freedom in Christ. To learn they are as loved by God and as useful to God as any man was an awesome thing. So, some of them figured, “Why do I have to wear this head covering, then? Jesus doesn’t command me to, and He’s my Lord. I don’t have to listen to anyone else, so forget this thing, I’m going to be like the men and uncover my head during worship.” And herein lay the problem. For them to do that showed there was something bigger going on in their hearts.

Their fashion choice wasn’t just about the fashion, it was about the heart. Casting aside their head covering was doing a lot of damage. It disrespected their fathers, husbands, and family, flaunted their sexuality, and hurt their testimony before all of the new believers and the watching world who would be utterly shocked and unable to understand what was going on. It also blurred the biblical distinctions between males and females, something very important to God in scripture, and something we will cover next week.

So, when we read this section, we aren’t really reading about head coverings, are we? This section, on the first pass, ends up reading like an oppressive command that tells women they always need to wear hats and veils. And some people get that far and stop. Certainly, some religions demand this, but there are also Christian churches that still require all women to wear a head covering during church. Someone told me this week that some women took this so literally that they would even wear hats to bed because they would often pray before they went to sleep. But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about head coverings, it’s about what’s happening in the heart of the women and the church.

The Heart of the Issue

With all that in mind, the historical and literary context of the passage, let’s go through it together and take it apart so we can better understand it. Verse 2-3, “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 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.”

One of the questions that was sent to Paul was evidently about this head covering issue that was dividing the church. We talked a little about the root of this passage last week, in that it is rooted in Apostolic Authority, as important as the teachings about the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, but look at where it goes. Paul says, “You do well to ask me, and thereby ask Jesus, about what He thinks of everything you do, but you need to understand something important when it comes to head coverings: it’s not just about the fabric covering a woman’s head but what it represents is going on in the woman’s heart.”

So Paul uses the question about heads to talk about real and true headship as it’s presented in the Bible. “You think this is about a fashion accessory and cultural conformity, but it’s about so much more.” “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” “So, women”, Paul seems to be saying, “When you cast aside your head covering, are you still obeying Christ as your head, your Lord, and still respecting your husband? Probably not, right? You’re making it all about you, your freedom, your choices, your desires – and completely forgetting about Jesus, your husband, (or father if you’re unmarried), and all the believers around you. When you come to church dressed the way you are, what message are you sending about yourself, your marriage, your faith, and your submission to God’s order? Instead of bringing glory to God and to your husbands, you bring them shame and that isn’t good.”

Imagine the picture there, right? A man brings his wife to church. They attend for some months, grow in God, learn some scripture, tastes freedom in Christ. She learns that her sins are forgiven and she is free from all the horrible things the culture around her has been telling her about women. It’s a big adjustment, but they learn to live as equals, share with each other, learn from each other, serve together. Eventually, they become deacons in the church. He administrates and she has a talent for singing and reading scripture.

But then one day she comes to church – and I’m grasping for a modern equivalent here so bear with me – and she’s wearing a short, strapless party dress, heels, and a huge, gaudy necklace. She proceeds down the aisle and as she nears the front, she takes off her engagement ring and tosses it into the offering plate, declaring that since men don’t have to wear them, neither does she anymore. She heads up to the platform, grabs the mic and says,

“Before we do our opening song and read scripture, I just want to let you know about the freedom I’ve found in Jesus. For years society, even my husband, has told me how to dress, and I realized that I don’t have to anymore. God gave me this body and I can decorate it however I want. And I encourage you to join me, ladies. Take off those oppressive diamonds, change those drab, uncomfortable clothes and let’s worship God the way we all want to! Why should the world have all the fun! Let’s bring the same energy as we would on a Friday night with our friends! This is a place without judgement, without fear, where men and women are free to do whatever they want because Jesus has freed them from the Law and from culture! So either sit or stand or whatever you want and let’s sing and really dance together!”

That’s as best as I can do to give a modern equivalent to what was happening in the Corinthian church – except to remind you that in their culture worship and sex were completely tied together and most of the church would have had a very messed up, sexualized history. Basically, it was like a church full of former sex and porn addicts.

Everyone in the church, including the husband, is shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Why? What would you think in that situation? What would go through your head as she walked the aisle and spoke? She’s technically not altogether wrong with what she’s saying. Men and women are equal before God. Society does oppress and judge women, and the Christian church isn’t supposed to. Engagement rings are not in the Bible. God did give her that body and there’s a lot of freedom in how Christians can dress.” So is she wrong? What’s going on there?

The reason we have a reaction to that situation is because it’s not about the dress or the shoes or the jewelry. It’s about the effect on the people at the church. It’s about disrespecting and embarrassing her husband. It’s about the example being set for other believers and the message that is sent to any non-Christians. Are you going to that woman for marriage advice? If you walked into a church and saw everyone dressed the way they would dress in a night-club or at a rave, what would you think? That’s a lot of what’s going on here.

Our scripture addresses it this way. Look at verse 4-7:

“Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 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. 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. 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.”

It says to the men and the women: you can’t dress and comport yourself, or conduct your life in an irreverent, rude, disrespectful way, while at the same time saying your marriage, family, and spiritual life is ok. What is happening on the outside shows what’s going on on the inside. If you are disrespecting yourself and your spouse in public, dressing with a great, prideful concern for your looks or for how seductive you are – your relationship with God and your spouse is probably quite a mess.

It says, in effect, “Showing up with your head uncovered should have the same effect on you as if you were to show up bald. The shame you would feel if all your hair fell out is the same shame you should feel if you are disrespecting yourself, your spouse, or your church.”

In any culture, your hair and your clothes mean something. It shows how much you respect yourself, your culture, your spouse, your family, and your church. To break cultural convention because it’s sinful or wrong or because it goes against your conscience is perfectly fine. But to do it simply because you want some shameless attention or declare yourself better than everyone else, is sin. You are stealing God’s glory and disrespecting those around you. Recall what we said in Philippians 2.

Your Look Says a Lot

I want to get into the male headship aspect of verses 8-16, but hopefully you see how this ties to last week and many of our other studies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Christian, it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. And Jesus commands us and gives us the example of humbling ourselves before God and each other. So, in your clothing styles, in your hair styles, are you being humble?

And this doesn’t just have to be expensive or seductive clothes, or strange and complicated hair styles. This attitude can be conveyed with any type of clothing. There are people who dress like slobs and never shave because they want to declare to everyone how little they care about themselves or what anyone else thinks. There are people who only wear certain brands or have a certain beard because they convey a certain message – that they’re tough, cool, smart, trendy, sexually liberated, or counter-culture. There are women who put on skin-tight clothes in the morning and think, “I don’t care what anyone else says, this is comfortable.” and head out not giving and regard to how it affects those around them. Or men who put on the same shirt every day, the one that their wife begs them to change and is so embarrassed by, even wearing it when company is over, and keep doing it because they like it. They don’t care what anyone else thinks.

Clothing can say a lot about the heart: There are men who wear suits to church simply so they can judge those who don’t. There are women who wear conservative clothes because they have a real fear of the men around them. There are men who hate women simply because of their clothes, and women who look at their closets and hate themselves. There are beautiful people that try to cover their beauty because they have been told it’s shameful. And others who have been treated like commodities and objects for so long that they feel their only worth is in how they look. It’s a mess.

So, this isn’t a prescription for how to dress. I’m not telling you how to dress at all, nor should I. I’m not saying wear dresses or don’t, have a beard or don’t, wear tights or don’t, wax your mustache or don’t. That’s between you, your spouse, your parents, your culture, and God. But, when you get dressed, when you choose a hair style, when you buy that piece of clothing, will you submit that choice to God’s leadership? Will you see that decision through God’s lens, asking yourself, “What does this say about me? How does this reflect on my spouse and family? How does this affect my testimony? How will this affect others today? What does this say about my faith in God? Is God honoured by this choice? Does this bring glory to Him? Will this help my witness and encourage people?”

Let me close with the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, only a few verses before our passage today: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”

[1] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Head Covering. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 936). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] NIV Archeological Study Bible, Pg 1875

[3] NIV Archeological Study Bible, Pg 1875

God’s Established Order: 5 Roots of Authority in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

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42 - God's Established Order

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A lot of people today really hate the concept of authority. We think that this problem is just for kids who don’t want to listen to their parents – freaking out in the cereal aisle or complaining about a gift when they don’t get what they want. It’s just more obvious in children when they do things like wanting to paint their bedroom black, refuse to clean their room, or more serious things like quitting school, dating someone dangerous, or running away.

But rebelling against authority doesn’t stop when we turn 18 or move out of the house. Rebelling against authority is woven into our very natures and is a continuous struggle every day of our life.

Our boss tells us what to do and we decide to do something else because we either don’t want to or we think we know better. The government sends an evacuation notice during a disaster and people sit in their homes instead. Police tell us not to look at our phone when driving. In fact, even the new update on my iPhone figures out when I’m in the car and whenever I want to do something it forces me to the “I’m not driving” button. But do I listen? It’s helped, but no, not always. I’m used to looking down at my phone at red lights, so I sit in the car, hit the button and then lie to my phone, telling it I’m not driving – even though I totally am. That would probably get me a ticket if I got caught, so why do I do it? Because I think I’m smarter than everyone else, I’m the exception, and I don’t like being told what to do.

Politically, the Right tells the government to leave them alone, to let them make their own decisions, to get off their land, and to let them buy whatever they want. The Left rebels against authority just as much, seeking to throw off the fetters that are trying to be imposed by teachers, moralists, religion, and anything else. Both sides cry out, “Nobody can tell us what to do!”

We Need God’s Authority

But of course, this isn’t just about human authority, right? The first part of the gospel story is that we have all committed “cosmic treason”, rebelled against the authority of God, our Creator and Lord, and have set ourselves up as our own highest authority. That was the original problem, back in Eden. God said, “Don’t eat the fruit or you’ll die.” Satan, the first rebel said, “You won’t die. God lied. Take the fruit and you’ll be like Him.” In other words, don’t be under God’s authority, make yourself the highest authority and usurp God. And they did – and we’ve been doing the same thing ever since.

That’s why the scriptures say, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one…. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-12; 18)

Part of fearing God means doing what He says, and none of us does that all the time. One of the most amazing things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God sent His Son into a world full of rebels. We don’t want to do things His way, we hate Him to His face, we argue with His teaching and His plan, we corrupt His Law and His Word, and in our rebellion we become blind, lame, and deaf to truth. We can’t change our hearts. We won’t choose Him as our Lord. And God’s response was to send Jesus to break the power of sin and make it possible for us to come back to Him. He takes a world of rebels and invites them to admit He is King.

One of the main things that Christians recognize, that non-believers don’t, is that we absolutely need God to be our highest authority. We’re no good on our own. When humans set things up without listening to God, we end up creating all sorts of horrible and dangerous chaos. Quintessentially, look at the atheist nations of the past century – the ones who have abandoned God completely and choose to live as though they are the highest authority, like China, Cuba, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, and even Nazi Germany, are or were the most terrible places to live.[1]

Christianity seeks to help the weak, sick, hopeless, helpless, downtrodden, poor, and outcast. We champion peace and humility. Godless countries, or ones that have turned from the God of the Bible, are not a good place to be weak or sick. It is not good to be a baby, or handicapped, or a woman, or sick, or elderly, or even simply different, in those places. It is in the nations that were set up with God as the final authority that those groups have been able to gain respect, protection, help, and equality.

When humans abandon God’s rule and authority and set up our own kingdoms, we utterly mess things up. Why? Because in this world there are only two teams: Jesus and Satan. And where God’s Son is abandoned there is only one team left, and it isn’t a good one.

God’s Authority

With that in mind, please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and let’s read it together. We’re going to study this passage for a couple of weeks because there’s a lot going on there, but this week I want to concentrate on one part of it: God’s Established Order.

This is going to get into a lot of heart issues, but the foundation of this must start here: Do you believe that Jesus is our Lord and is your Highest Authority or not? If you are a Christian today, then you must declare that Jesus is both your Saviour and your Lord. You can’t have one but not the other. He cannot be your Saviour but not your Lord. If you believe that you are your own highest authority then what we talk about over the next couple of weeks is going to anger you. If you have rebellion in your heart against God, and have been privately holding a grudge against Him for all the things He has told you to do, then this is going to bring that out. If you are used to getting your way and are merely a cultural Christian who takes what they want from Jesus, but rejects whatever they don’t like, then you are going to have a problem. If you have bought into the secular and worldly point of view that some of the Bible is good to read for some things but is mostly of date for others, or that you have permission to ignore parts that you don’t like, then Jesus is not your highest authority because you believe you stand higher than His word. Before we read, check your heart in this and ask yourself: Is Jesus my Saviour and my Lord, or not?

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 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. 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. 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. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”

Ok, so I know there’s a lot going on in that passage, and a lot of contentious issues there. In fact, one of my commentaries said of verse 10, “‘There is scarcely a passage in the New Testament which has so much taxed the learning and ingenuity of commentators as this.’…’ In the difficulty of its several portions it stands alone in the New Testament…’”[2] So, yeah, this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks, but the place I want to start is a more simple one and one that all Christians agree on: do you submit to God’s authority?

If you attended the Bible Study Group on Sunday night then you’ll remember this theme came up in our study of Daniel – as well it should, since it’s perhaps the most important question the bible asks. Daniel is taken from Jerusalem, the city of God, to Babylon, the city of evil ruled by one of the most terrifying despots in history, and he is constantly put to the test. First he’s offered food that Jews weren’t allowed to eat. He responds, in essence, “Sorry, I can’t do that, God won’t allow it. Don’t worry, God will take care of us.” Then the king has a dream and says he’ll kill anyone who can’t tell him what it is. Then Daniel’s friends are commanded to worship a golden idol or they’ll be killed in a terrible way. They respond, “Sorry, I can’t do that, God won’t allow it. Don’t worry, God will take care of us.”

Then God says to the King in a dream, “If you don’t admit that God is the highest authority in your kingdom and not you, then you’ll be driven mad until you do.” After a year, the king won’t say it, and God follows through on the threat until seven years later when he finally looked up to heaven he says,

“I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35)

It’s all about God as the final and greatest authority. It’s the first commandment! “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other god’s before me.” (Exo 20:2-3). When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was, He spoke of complete submission to God, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36-37) But isn’t that all about love, not obedience? Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Text and Context

So, putting aside all the contentious issues about the relationship between men and women and headship and headdresses and all the rest, the root of the text we are studying today is all about God’s ultimate authority and the established order He set up in this world. Before we get into the other stuff I want to make sure we understand this and get our hearts in the right place. Let’s look at the roots of this passage – not at the teaching but at the authority behind the teaching.

Remember the context of whom this is written to. The Corinthian church was having a really hard time with having God as their highest authority because they were surrounded by a lot of sinful temptation and bad teaching, and some of that was creeping into the church. Concerned people had gone to find Paul in Ephesus to tell him what was going on, and others had brought a list of questions about some important matters that were splitting the church. This section we just read is sandwiched between serious warnings about the Lord’s Supper and the worship of demons. This section comes in between those two. Now we know we should take worshipping demons pretty seriously, and we know that we should take the Lord’s Supper pretty seriously, but then, when it comes to a passage like this one – which is right in the middle – we like to say things like, “Oh, that doesn’t matter today. I don’t agree with that.” Which is crazy, when you look at the context.

Apostolic Authority

Now look at verse 2: “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” The first root we see is what we will call apostolic authority. Paul commends the church for taking the time to consider what Paul would have to say about all the things happening in their church – which ultimately is asking what Jesus would have to say.

The word “traditions” is stronger than we usually give it credit for. We usually don’t give tradition much authority, but think of this word more like “ordinances”, like when we speak of the Lord’s Supper or Baptism. They were directions given by the Apostles, the messengers of Jesus, to instruct the church as to how to do things. We’re not talking about ceremonies or decorations, but authoritative teachings. Notice he says, “as I delivered them to you.”  Meaning, he was the mailman who brought the message from Jesus and then delivered it. Paul’s authority didn’t come from himself, but from His position as the chosen man of God tasked to instruct the church.  The first root of the teaching is apostolic authority. Will you submit to the scriptures, as the writings of the Apostles, as they carry the authority of Jesus?

The Trinity

Verse 3 has the next root: “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.” The second root of this teaching is in the Trinity or the Godhead. The line of authority, what Christians usually call “God’s established order” or “God’s hierarchy”.

The “head” is an authoritatively positional term. That last part is really important because it shows where this authority, this statement, this teaching is rooted. It’s not rooted in culture or opinion. It’s rooted in the Godhead, the Trinity. Jesus, though He is exactly the same in dignity and worth, submits Himself to the Father.

Philippians 2:5-6 says, “…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (or “used for advantage”)…”

Jesus says in John 5:19, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.”  In John 14:28 Jesus says, “…the Father is greater than I.”

There is a positional authority in the Trinity. God the Father, then the Son, then God the Holy Spirit. Each is God, each is perfect, each it each is worthy of worship, each is equal. The second root of this teaching is the divinely ordained positional authority structure.

Creation/Creator

The third root is the authority of God as Creator. Look at verse 8, “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. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

Don’t get caught up on the head covering thing right now. What I want you to look at is what the teaching is rooted in: Creation. We’re not talking about Greek or Jewish culture here. What is being taught doesn’t come from human choice and philosophy, it comes from before there was culture, before mankind was even created. In Genesis 1 it says that all of mankind, men and women, are made in God’s image.

Whatever the Apostle is delivering here, whatever is being taught by the one who has been given the authority to teach as Christ would teach, is establishing what he is saying before the creation of culture, before sin, before mankind. That gives it special authority. That means it’s not something we came up with, it’s something God designed into the fabric of the universe, the fabric of what it means to be human. God created the universe and mankind in a very orderly, specific way. Humanity was to be the crown of his creation. Man was created from the dust, and woman was created, as verse 8 says, “from man”. We don’t read that as quaint poetry or silly, pre-science myths that we just skip over. The Order of Creation all means something very important, and continues to show up in passage after passage of the Bible. Therefore whatever the teaching is, we ought to take this root quite seriously and not dismiss it as merely old, bygone, optional, or cultural. Are you willing to submit yourself to that?

Biology

A fourth root we see is in verses 11:12, which roots the teaching in biology. “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.” This root has its own root! The phrase “in the Lord” means, “by God’s directed order” or “as God has willed it”, both man and women are biologically dependant on each other. Despite what progressives would argue, it is written into the order of the universe that male and female are important distinctions. God ordered that the continuation of the species depends on males and females working together to make more babies. Whatever this teaching is, it’s rooted in God’s design for natural, human biology, not human constructs. Will you submit, “in the Lord” to how God has designed human biology to work?

Common Church Practice

The fifth root of authority that we see in this passage is found in verse 16 which says, “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” Here, Paul says, “If you want to fight about this, don’t. You’re not special. This is the rule literally everywhere.” He does this over and over, telling the Corinthians that the teachings they have received weren’t specially designed for them, but were the same teaching he gave everywhere else. Jerusalem, Ephesus, Athens, everywhere got the same talk. They’re not being singled out and are therefore not the exception to the rule!  That’s another argument we make against authority, right. “Well, I’m the exception. This isn’t fair! No one else has to do this!” To which the reply comes, “No, you’re not the exception. This is fair. Everyone else has to do this.” That’s parenting or policing 101.

So the fourth rule is the universality of this teaching in all churches everywhere. Whatever is being taught there wasn’t a special message to Corinth, but a universal message to all Christians. The question for you is, will you submit to that authority or will you see yourself as the exception who wants to be “contentious” and argue with what Jesus is saying through the Apostle Paul?

Conclusion

There’s a lot of heart work to be done here. We haven’t even gotten into the actual teaching, but this is critically important. If you are saved this morning, then you have admitted you are a sinner in need of a Saviour, and Jesus has saved you by trading His life for yours on the cross. But, have you also accepted Him as your Lord in all areas of your life? That’s just as critical a question.

This isn’t just about God being your boss, but about you trusting that God’s way is better, higher, more right than yours. It’s about letting go of your belief that your way is best and allowing God to lead you. As Proverbs 3:5-8 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”… we usually stop there, but it continues… “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Do you need healing in your flesh and refreshment in your bones? Then start with acknowledging God in all your ways and letting Him set out your path.

[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/03/atheist-governments-of-the-20th-century-the-death-toll-of-godless-goodness/

[2] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Kling, C. F., & Poor, D. W. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Corinthians (p. 225). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Women and the Church (Carnivore Theology Ep. 66)

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Women in the Church Christel HumfreyIn this week’s SUPER SIZED episode we talk with blogger Christel Humfrey (Foretaste of Heaven) about common women’s issues in the church, relationships between men and women, and feminism.

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The Abortion Episode – Part 2 (with WeNeedaLAW.ca’s Mike Schouten) (Carnivore Theology Ep. 64)

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Abortion is a controversial, but incredibly important topic. Did you know that Canada is the only country in the western world without abortion legislation? This is the second of a two-part series where we are talking with Mike Schouten, Campaign Director of weneedaLAW.ca who’s mission is to build a groundswell of support from across Canada for abortion legislation.

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The Abortion Episode – Part 1 (with WeNeedaLAW.ca’s Mike Schouten) (Carnivore Theology Ep. 63)

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Abortion 1.PNG

Abortion is a controversial, but incredibly important topic. Did you know that Canada is the only country in the western world without abortion legislation? This is the first of a two part series where we are talking with Mike Schouten, Campaign Director of weneedaLAW.ca who’s mission is to build a groundswell of support from across Canada for abortion legislation.

*** Plus, we announce our “Like and Share” contest winners! ***

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How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?

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2. Record a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page! (Or Facebook or E-mail!)

3. Comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, and iTunes!

4. Share www.CarnivoreTheology.com with your friends. Sharing is caring!

5. Give financially: If you’d like to help us with our productiong costs, send us a financial gift through PayPal by clicking here. (We are not a registered charity, so you won’t get a tax receipt — but you will have the good feelings that come with helping out a friend!)