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Men and Women in Church – 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

July 19th, 2010

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This is a difficult passage and is controversial in our day and age, but we need to humbly submit ourselves to it and listen to what it is saying to us, rather than force our own interpretation on it.

1. What is instructed here?

  • v.4
  • Because of the freedom that has been bought for us through Christ, we can sometimes “over do” it and take our liberties too far, throwing off every rule and principle. One of the things we can do is blur gender
  • Jesus promoted a new freedom, a new way of equality between the sexes – and this is what Paul is also promoting
  • When this letter was written, it seemed as though women in the Corinthian church were not following the normal protocol/dress code of the day – it could be that they were not wearing their headcoverings, which distinguished them from the men, or that they were wearing their hair like immoral women would
  • The principle here is that men should be men and women should be women – and it should be visibly seen that way

2. Why is it instructed?

  • v.3
  • Paul wants there to be an understanding of the beautiful and honourable principles of authority and submission, and distinction within gender
  • The key phrase here is ‘the head of Christ is God’ – it all comes back to and originates within the Trinity – 1 God, 3 persons, where there is order, headship and submission
  • Equality of essence does not diminish distinction of roles
  • Authority does not mean a higher importance, higher value or more envied position
  • Jesus is glad to submit to the Father
  • The woman is the glory of man – woman was made from and for man. She was made in the image of God as man’s equal, but with a different role
  • Paul wants the church to shine with complementarianism and equality
  • The word “helper” used to describe the role of the woman is not a derogatory word; the exact same word is used to describe God the Holy Spirit. God does not mind being called a helper! It is an honourable thing

3. How is this fair?

  • Paul stresses that both sexes are equal before God
  • The key phrase is in v.11 – ‘in the Lord’ – this all works in the Lord
  • In God all of this works in joy and harmony – and it was the same with Adam and Eve in the garden
  • What ruined everything was sin – it brought on gender wars, oppression of women, etc. Women desire to control men and men oppress and rule over women
  • It’s not that there is a problem with headship and submission are wrong – is that there is a problem with us
  • Men are supposed to lead and use their power with humility – like Christ, who did not boss people around or lord his authority over people; He serves and He loves
  • Jesus used his power and authority wisely – husbands are to do the same
  • Jesus is also the model for wives in that He submits to the Father with gladness, honour and joy, trusting the Father

4. What now?

  • ‘Judge for yourselves’ – it is obvious to us what makes our gender distinctives in our culture
  • We need to know that God cares about gender, even if our culture doesn’t
  • Women are only called to submit to their husbands, and men only have authority over their wives – but we can have echoes within the church of men taking responsibility and serving as a way of leading, and women can come alongside and be of great help
  • Look to Jesus – as the role model and as the strength to be able to carry out our roles