The Question: What Is the Nature of the Head Covering of Verses 5 and 6?
Some insist that the covering is a veil or shawl of some type. On the other hand, some take the covering to refer to her hair. Whatever position one takes, it is important to note that the same basic prin- ciples emerge relating to the place of women in the church.
Three Considerations in Studying the New Testament
The Existing Conditions the Passage Addresses
In many cases, the condition addressed by Paul is a problem or deficiency of some sort. Paul responds to the condition with the instruction, correction, or guidance that is appropriate.
The Historical Manifestation the Passage Expresses
While the problems of the church are universal, the historical manifestations are not. This is easily illustrated by the instruction concerning eating meat offered to idols in chapter 10. The problem was the use of liberty; the historical manifestation was the idol temples of Corinth. We do not live in an age where we have to deal with meats offered to idols, but we do have to deal with the prob- lem of the exercise of liberty in the cultural setting in which we find ourselves.
The Eternal Principles the Passage Enunciates
These are the principles to be used no matter what the cultural setting may be. These cultural conditions vary from nation to nation, decade to decade, and even church to church. It is my conviction that we cannot fill in all the historical details and cultur- al implications of the head covering of I Corinthians 11. This belief, however, is matched by the conviction that the text provides all we need to know to arrive at the eternal principles needed to function to the glory of God in the local church.
THE COMMENDATION OF THE CHURCH 11:2
“Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmlyto the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.”
Praise Before Condemnation
It is the practice of the New Testament to offer praise before con- demnation. This can be demonstrated by the letters of Revelation written to the seven churches. Christ always mentions the good before the bad. This is also evident in all of Paul’s epistles and is evident here. Verse 2 says, “I praise you”; and verse 17 says, “I do not praise you.” The praise was based on facts so it was not flattery; it was based on truth so it was not slander.
Holding the Traditions
Tradition in the Bible may be good or bad depending on its content and source. The Lord’s supper is an example of the good tradition (I Corinthians 11:23). The teaching of the apostles formed a body of tradition (II Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6). The New Testament also refers to some tradition that is bad. The uninspired mass of Jewish tradi- tion often ran counter to truth (Matthew 15:6) and was elevated above the word of God (Mark 7:8).
THE REMINDER TO THE CHURCH 11:3
“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”
The Importance of Headship
Every institution must have order, and order requires authority. The order presented here is that of God, Christ, man, and woman. It is important to remember that authority in function does not imply superiority in nature. God the Father and God the Son are equal in nature but not the same in function. The Son always does that which pleases the Father, but both are equal in terms of Deity. Authority is expressed in this chapter by the noun head. In the Greek, the word occurs nine times in the first ten verses (three in verse 3, two in verse 4, two in verse 5, one in verse 7, and one in verse 10). The metaphor of the head conveys the idea of ruling organ.
The Realms of Headship
Man is head in two realms. First, he is head in marriage (I Peter 3:1); second, he is head in the church (I Timothy 2:11-14). Does this headship extend beyond these two relationships, i.e., in the business world? If it extends beyond the above realms, the fact is arguable, but not provable. It seems best to keep the headship within the realms designated by Scripture rather than extend it to other areas.
THE APPLICATION TO THE CHURCH 11:4-10
Activity in the Church 11:4-6
The Activity of the Man 11:4
“Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying,disgraces his head.”
Both the man and the woman are described as praying and proph- esying. There are three oral communications gifts. First, the gift of apostle is linked to obtaining truth. Second, the gift of prophet is linked to proclaiming truth. Third, the gift of teaching is linked to explaining truth. The assumption is that the covered head is sym- bolic of submission. What head is referred to? Does the head mean physical head, or does it mean spiritual head, as described in verse 3. It seems best to assume the meaning of head as stated in verse 3. The head of the man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man.
The Activity of the Woman 11:5-6
“But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or proph- esying,disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. 6For if a woman does not cover her head,let her also have her haır cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.”
The head she dishonors is her husband. One whose head was shaved was often an adulteress. An adulteress was brazen; she recognized submission to no man. The issue is not the nature of the symbol but the presence of submission, however it is manifested.
Propriety in the Church 11:7-10
Propriety as Demanded by Creation 11:7-9
“For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.8For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
If Paul had said man was in the image of God, the woman could respond that she also was made in the image of God. However, Paul adds that man was made in the image and glory of God. Why is the man God’s glory in a special way? First, because he was created prior to woman chronologically. Second, because he was created to reflect God’s authority in a special way. Why is woman the glory of man? First, she is from him (11:8); and second, she is for him (11:9).
Propriety as Demanded by Angels 11:10
“Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”
Angels minister to believers (Hebrews 1:14); and, as seen here, angels observe the activity of the church.
THE CLARIFICATION FOR THE CHURCH 11:11-16
Both Men and Women in the Church Should Glory in their Assigned
“However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.”
They Should Glory in Their Mutual Dependence 11:11
Separate functions make men and women dependent upon one another. The function of each is absolutely essential to the function of the other.
They Should Glory in Their Mutual Uniqueness 11:12a
Though the first woman was taken from the man, every man is born of a woman. Were there no women, there would be no more men. It is only when they recognize their unique and necessary roles that there is the balance that God intended.
They Should Glory in Their Mutual Origin 11:12b
The role of each comes from God and is not defined by man or created by man. We are talking about God’s order, which is always for His glory and man’s benefit.
Both Men and Women Should Understand the Logic Involved in God’s
“Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered?14Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15but if a woman has long hair,it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.16But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”
The Judgment of the Believer Argues for Submission 11:13
The Judgment of Nature Argues for Submission 11:14-16
Verse 15 is a strong argument that the nature of the covering was her hair, not a veil. The normal word for hair is not used in these verses. The word which is used implies hair-do. The word translat- ed practice means custom.
OBSERVATIONS ON I CORINTHIANS 11:2-16
• Believers in a local church should worship together in the light of the unity of the trinity (11:3).
• Men and women in the church should glory in their uniqueness and in their mutual contribution to one another (11:12)
• Men and women in the church should remain aware of their mutual dependence (11:11).
• Believers should recognize that there is no relationship of any kind or on any level that does not revolve about divinely desig- nated authority.
THE BEHAVIOR OF ALL AT THE LORD’S SUPPER 11:17-34
THE PROBLEM OF MOCKERY OF THE LORD’S TABLE 11:17-22
The Problem in General 11:17-19
“But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse.18For, in the firstplace, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. 19For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.”
The Effect of the Problem 11:17
The conduct at the Lord’s table was damaging to the church in that it was harmful (11:17) and degrading (11:22). This verse shows that every time the church meets, two potentials exist. It also shows that any condition that hinders the purpose for which the church meets, namely edification, should be corrected, not overlooked.
The Nature of the Problem 11:18
The word for introduces the justification for what Paul has just said. The words in the firstplace would lead us to look for a problem in addition to the one being discussed. However, we look in vain for the words in the second place, or even next. The problem is solved by noting that in verse 34 Paul says, “And the remaining matters I shall arrange when I come.”
The Benefitof the Problem 11:19
It sounds a bit contradictory to expect benefits to arise out of prob- lems. God’s sovereignty, however, is able to bring us blessing from all things. Gnosticism brought us Colossians; legalism brought us Galatians; and factions and divisions brought us I Corinthians. The good benefit of factions is to cause those who are approved to stand out by way of contrast.
The Problem in Particular 11:20-22
“Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21for in your eating each one takes his own supper first;and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God, and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.”
The Negation of the Problem 11:20
Verse 20 is capable of two translations. It may be translated, “It is not the Lord’s supper you eat.” This would be understood as a cutting remark like saying, “This is not the Lord’s supper; this is a debacle!” On the other hand, it could be translated, “It is not possi- ble to eat the Lord’s supper.” This would be saying they were invalidating the spiritual significance of the Lord’s supper. Either way, their conduct was negating the significance of the supper.
The Manifestation of the Problem 11:21
What we call the Lord’s supper was often preceded by what they called the agapaor the love feast. It was a meal intended to establish an equality between the poor and the rich in the church. The essence of the Corinthian behavior was self-centeredness, shown in this verse by the position of the words each and his own. They are the first words of the verse, giving them great emphasis. It was not even a common supper, much less the Lord’s supper.
The Rebuke of the Problem 11:22
This verse is divided into two portions by the word and. In the first half of the verse, Paul charges that their conduct is a sin against the church as a whole. Then as the word and introduces the second half of the verse, he charges that they sin against the poor as individu- als.
A REVIEW OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LORD’S TABLE 11:23-26
The Lord’s supper was directly instituted by Jesus as is found in Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:17-20. It was celebrated in connection with Passover, and the significance of each is the same. Passover anticipates the cross, whereas the Lord’s Supper commemorates the cross.
The Authority for the Lord’s Supper 11:23a
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you...”
The chain from the Lord to Paul to the church demonstrates the doctrine of revelation. Revelation is the “top-side-down” doctrine of Scripture. It means that the Bible is not the product of human thought and research—it is not man’s reach upward but God’s communication downward.
Revelation from God carries with it an obligation, i.e., the responsi- bility to pass it on unaltered and unmodified. This is Paul’s claim in this verse.
The Time of the Lord’s Supper 11:23b
“…that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread...”
The institution of the Lord’s Supper is fixed chronologically by the betrayal of Judas. The verse does not say “on Passover evening He took bread” or “on the eve of His death He took bread.” It does say He took bread “in the night in which He was betrayed.” The word betrayed is a continuous action verb. The betrayal was in progress
as the Lord’s Supper was instituted.
This fact tells us three things about Christ’s death. First, it tells us the kind of men for whom He died. He died, not merely for weak men, but also for those who were His enemies (Romans 5:10). Second, it shows the kind of salvation He brings. It is a salvation by grace, not a salvation of human merit. Third, it shows the kind of love that His death demonstrates. He gave Himself for men in the face of one who betrayed Him.
The Initiation of the Lord’s Supper 11:24a
“…and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you…’ ”
Since this is part of a Passover meal, we can be reasonably certain that the bread was unleavened. Since leaven consistently repre- sents sin, its absence from the bread is significant. It is the sinless Son of God who is to die. All accounts note that He broke the bread, which would symbolically point to the bruised and battered body of the Lord in His death.
The words for you are important. The preposition for means on behalf of and points to the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death. In a very real sense, He was there in our place bearing the guilt and penalty of sin that was rightly ours.
The Obligation of the Lord’s Supper 11:24b-25
“…do this in remembrance of Me.25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ ”
The obligation to observe the Lord’s Supper is found in the twice repeated verb do this. It is present tense, involving repeated and continuous action, and imperative mood, showing command, and thus, obligation.
The Significanceof the Lord’s Supper 11:24b-25
Once again, we have a twice repeated phrase, in remembrance of Me. The word remembrancemeans to call to mind. It is a vigorous word that denotes intense mental activity and reflection. The Lord’s table is unique in that it is a call to look away from ourselves and to fix our eyes on the person and work of Christ.
The Proclamation of the Lord’s Supper 11:26
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
To proclaim the Lord’s death does not merely mean to proclaim the fact of His death. To proclaim His death is to proclaim the signifi- cance of His death in the sense that it was a substitutionary death for sinners. The Lord’s Supper not only commemorates but is also a proclamation of the gospel.
This proclamation is the age-long privilege of the church and is to be done until He comes. At the return of Christ, the symbols termi- nate. No further symbol of the body is needed when the body itself returns. What will happen to this table when Christ returns? Matthew 26:29 gives us our answer saying, “ ‘But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’ ” Instead of drinking in memory of Him, we will drink with Him as He reigns in His kingdom.
A WARNING ABOUT PARTAKING OF THE LORD’S TABLE 11:27-34
THE POTENTIAL SIN 11:27
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner,shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
The Nature of the Sin 11:27a
What does it mean to partake of the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner? The adverb describes how they partake—the manner in which they partake. It has nothing to do with the personal worthi- ness of the one who takes. They were treating the Lord’s table as a common meal, almost a grand party (11:20-21)! The Lord’s Supper demands dignity, sobriety, and reverence.
The Consequence of the Sin 11:27b
The words guilty of mean to be guilty of violating the body and blood of the Lord; to be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.To dishonor the symbols is to dishonor what they represent. Their actions were an insult to the person of Christ.
THE PROVIDED PROTECTION 11:28-32
The Need for Self-examination 11:28-29
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”
The word examinemeans to put something to a test.One should ask, “Am I in the proper state of mind for commemorating and pro- claiming the death of Christ?” The assumption of these verses is that the believer will find that he is in right condition to partake, or he will take the necessary means to become so.
The word himself assumes that the believer needs no assistance in this examination and also shows that others are not his concern at this point. Chrysostom said, “He does not order one man to test another, but each man himself; thus making the court a private one and the verdict without witnesses.” The word man is singular, meaning each individual is to conduct his own personal examina- tion.
The Need for Divine Discipline 11:30-32
“For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
The discipline spoken of is not potential but real. Verse 30 shows that some illnesses, and even deaths, in the Corinthian church were due to divine discipline. This can be avoided only by self- examina- tion. Verse 32 makes it clear that discipline is only temporal, not eternal.
THE REFORMED AGAPA 11:33-34
“So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one anoth- er. 34If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you may not come together for judgment. And the remaining matters I shall arrange when I come.”
All of this argues for preparation and respect when the church assembles together. The Lord is not passive toward wrong conduct in the church.
APPLICATIONS FOR LIVING
In a day when so many are struggling to findtheir place in life, it is refresh- ing to know that God has an order of things, and this order should be appre- ciated (11:11-12).
The significanceof the Lord’s supper should be kept in mind, noting that it is the only thing that the Lord has asked us to do for Himpersonally (11:24).If we take this lightly, the Lord will respond with discipline.
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