July 30, 2023

Expressing Gender Roles to the Glory of God


Different by Design

This passage is complex, but its message is actually quite clear. God has created mankind in His image and for His glory as male and female. As such, we reflect His nature as a unity of diversity, and when we embrace the fact that we are equal in essence yet different in role by His wise and gracious design, we will find our greatest joy in expressing these truths at all times and especially when we worship.

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Sermon Transcript

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 [or woman] 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 [or woman] 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 [or woman] 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 a 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 recovering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

In recent years, there’s been an academic debate among theologians concerning the finer points of the function of the Trinity. The debate really boils down to the questioning of the Son’s submission to the Father and those who challenge this doctrine come, remarkably, from the evangelical feminist camp. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem ably defends the traditional understanding of the Bible’s teaching on this matter, and he offers to those who adamantly resist it this word of caution: He says,

I would caution those who object to the terms of authority and submissions to realize that we live in an age where unbelievers deeply despise any kind of authority, even the legitimate authority of parents or governments, and most of all, the authority of God. I wonder how much of the resistance people have to the idea of authority is due to accepting some of the assumptions of modern culture. 

Last Lord’s Day, we established the fact that the passage before us does indeed teach this very doctrine of the submission of the Son to the Father, which is the theological basis for the nature and function of mankind. Man was made in the image of God as male and female, and that’s a reflection of the unity and the diversity of the nature of God as a triune God: three persons in one essence as God. And just as Christ is equal to the Father in essence, yet different in role and function, so men and women are equal in essence, yet different in role and function. And Paul relays this truth in our passage by offering three reasons the proper expression of gender roles bring glory to God. And last time, if you were with us, we just waded into that first one because we spent a lot of time setting the context. If you weren’t here for that message, I would encourage you to go online and listen to it after this to give you a little better context. But we’re going to wade back into that first point, and Lord willing, make it through all three this morning. So, buckle up. 

That first point, we called the order of the Trinity. The first reason that Paul gives for gender roles and their proper expression bringing glory to God is because of the order of the Trinity. And as we said, this one is the one upon which the other two reasons are built. This is the theological foundation for them. We saw in verse three of our passage that the word head means authority and therefore Paul relays a hierarchy or an order of submission in humanity which is grounded in that submission of the three persons of the Godhead. The Spirit submits to the Son and the Father; the Son submits to the Father. That is the nature that is the function of the triune God. And as we move from that general truth into this message we see that Christians are called to express our God ordained order at all times because we are a reflection of that beautiful order of the Trinity, and we’re to do that, especially when we are worshipping. We saw that that’s the context here, not corporate worship, but worship in general. As we’ll see later on, every culture has a way of expressing the difference between genders, and in the Greco-Roman culture it was done by the wearing of head coverings. Women, especially those who were married, would wear head coverings whenever in public, which was a sign that they were under the authority of their husbands. Men would not wear a head covering, ever, except for the one time, and that is when a man would offer worship to a pagan idol and he would cover his head as he offered that worship. Since the head of every man is Christ, as we see there in verse four, then for a man to lead in prayer or to prophecy with his head covered would be to dishonor Christ, because there’s a symbolism taking place. If a head covering means submission in that culture, then, for a man to do that would be to act as he were a woman in some sort of submission, and he is to always carry himself as the one who is the glory of God. 

But on the other hand, the head of the wife or the woman is the man and as we noted last time in the ESV, those words are translated wife and husband. But really the words are man and woman, so if you just track right through this passage, when you see the word wife, it should be woman. And you see, even in the ESV as you get to the latter verses of this passage, they couldn’t be consistent in that because this is a general order of things that Paul is bringing out. It’s a general order of humanity. And so, when a woman is leading in prayer or prophesying, she dishonors her head if she does that with her head covered. And her head, of course, is the man. Some have argued that the covering Paul is talking about here is simply the woman’s hair, because of what he mentions in that final verse of the passage verse (well, verse 15): he says her hair is given to her for a covering. But he can’t mean that not only because of what we understand from the culture, but because of what he says in the context. He argues that this head covering is actually the symbol–the sign–of the woman’s submission, and in verse six you’ll notice that he uses hyperbole in order to impress upon the Corinthians just how dishonoring it would be for a woman to lead in prayer or prophecy without a head covering. He says that if she refuses to wear the covering, she might as well go ahead and cut off her hair. Notice that he says, but since it’s disgraceful for a wife, [or a woman] to cut off her hair or to shave her head, let her cover her head. And so, he’s using this as kind of a hyperbolic way of saying that the woman is to wear that covering when she’s doing these things. If she refuses, it’s just as bad as if she shaved off her hair. And for a woman to have short hair or a shaved head in that culture was the sign that she was either an adulteress or extremely rebellious to some degree, maybe even trying to look like a man. And for a woman not to wear a head covering in public at all was to be a sign of rebellion, much less shaving her head. If she refused to wear her head covering, she was saying to people that she is a liberated woman, and in the Roman culture during this first century there was a women’s liberation movement, sort of like we’ve seen in our feminist movement. There were women who were doing that. And we have to understand that men in that culture who were married were permitted to have all sorts of promiscuous sexual encounters outside of the marriage, and that was socially acceptable. We saw that when we looked at Chapter 6. The women, of course, could not do that. So, you can kind of understand a little bit why these unbelieving women would be pushing back a bit. But for the Christian, obviously this is something that should not be. 

Now this is a general principle that Paul is laying down. I want to remind us of that. This is not talking about corporate worship. Both men and women are to express their submission to their God ordained authorities in some outward manner, especially when they’re engaging in worship of any sort. And as we pointed out last time, because a woman is not permitted to have a role of leadership or to speak authoritatively in the gathered assembly, as Paul will make very clear in Chapter 14, verses 34 through 30, then he cannot be talking about corporate worship here. So, what’s he talking about? He’s talking about a time when a woman may be leading in prayer or prophesying when she’s teaching a group of women, or maybe a group of women and children. And for the man, he’s obviously talking about anytime he’s at worship. And so, these are general principles for anytime a man or woman is leading in some sort of worship, and the failure of a man to express his role properly in worship was to bring dishonor upon Christ, which subsequently would bring dishonor upon God Himself (upon the Father). And the failure of a woman to express her role properly in worship was to bring dishonor upon the man which would bring dishonor upon Christ, which would ultimately bring dishonor upon the Father. And this is rooted, as we said, in this triune nature of God that’s reflected in male and female. So that’s the theological basis that Paul gives. The first reason that we need to express gender roles properly to the glory of God is because they’re rooted in the very nature of God, in the order of the Trinity. 

Secondly, Paul says that we need to express gender roles to the glory of God because of the order of humanity. We see that in verses 7 through 12: the order of humanity. God has created an order for humanity. We are a reflection, as we said, of his unity and diversity. The equality of essence, yet difference in function among men and women displays the very nature of God. It’s a reflection of that triune God. And now Paul is going to flesh this out by reminding us of the order of creation in verses 7 through 12, specifically, the creation of mankind. Notice in verse seven, he says 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. Now in Genesis chapter one, verses 26 and 27 which we should know well, we read that God said let us make man in our image after our likeness. And that pronoun there is an inter-trinitarian discussion going on. So, God is conversing here, talking about what he’s going to do. He says. I’m going to make man in our likeness after our image and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens, over the livestock, over all the earth, over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. So, we see the triune God discussing what he’s going to do, and then he does it. He makes humanity in his own image, in his own likeness to reflect him. And he does so by making him a unity of diversity, both male and female, as humanity. 

But Paul says that man is the image of God. And woman is the glory of man. Notice he doesn’t say the woman is the image of the man. He says they’re both the image of God. But the woman is the glory of man as to where man is the glory of God. So what does he mean by this differentiation here? Well, he’s reminding us of the order of creation as he’s going to go on to show us in verses 8 through 9. Notice he says, for man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. What is Paul doing here? He’s giving us a shorthand, abbreviated version of the account that we have in Genesis 2 of the creation of man. Turn back there with me for a moment: back to the beginning, Genesis chapter 2. And I just want to make some observations here. Genesis 2 is a zoomed-in look at the sixth day of creation and specifically focusing on the creation of man. It’s like God has seen fit to put verses 26 through 27 of chapter 1 under the microscope so that we could see exactly what was going on in detail. And from chapter 1, verse 1 of Genesis all the way to chapter 2, verse 18, God had pronounced everything he had made as good. But now we come to a place in verse 18 where God says something is not good. It’s not good that man should be alone. And it’s not as if, you know, God created Adam and then stepped back and, you know, rubbed his chin for a moment and decided, I missed something. What was it? Not at all. God is simply bringing to our attention that he’s not finished yet–that he’s got a few more brushes, strokes of the brush on the canvas that are going to make this just beautiful–just right. And what was not good here yet? What was unfinished in God’s work of creation was the fact that the man was alone. Adam needed a companion. He was made in the image of God. God is a personal being in, you know, three persons, one essence, and the definition of a person is the ability to think and feel and act. But at a more basic level, it’s the ability to relate to another person. That’s what it means to be a person, to be personal. And God has perfect fellowship within his triune being. He’s a personal God because he’s Father, Son, Holy Spirit. He had perfect fellowship, as we read in John 17 specifically; he had perfect love within himself in that triune communion from all eternity. But he makes man and man is made in his image as a person, and of course, he had perfect fellowship with God from the beginning. But what God is saying is that he needs someone like him. He needs another person that’s like him. He needs a companion that matches him. And so, God’s finishing touch to this work of creation was to make Adam a helper who was fit for him. 

Notice that in verse 18: I will make him a helper fit for him. I like to say that the God is not just the matchmaker, but he’s the maker of the match. He creates her especially for Adam, and what’s wonderful about this is that this perfect companion was not exactly like him. She was like him, she is made in the image of God, she’s a human being just like him with all the faculties he has, and yet she’s different in a wonderful way. The Hebrew words used here for man and woman are ish and ishah. Ish and Ishah: man and woman, which communicates that both are the same in essence, in quality, in worth in value. But there’s a difference, and the difference is visible and the difference is going to be defined as a different kind of role from the very beginning. This woman is created as a helper that’s fit for him. This isn’t something post fall. This is pre-fall. This is God’s perfect design of a different kind of role here for the man and the woman. She’s made to perfectly complement the man, to be his other half, and together they will glorify God. And her role again is to be a helper. And that’s something that really grates against those who don’t know better. Those in society, and even those evangelical feminists, or egalitarians–that grates against them–the woman being a helper. But guess what? God calls himself a helper! He uses this exact word: etzer. He uses it at least three times in Scripture to say that he is a helper. Deuteronomy 33:29, God calls himself the shield of Israel’s help. He’s Israel’s helper. Psalm 33:20, Our soul waits for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. Psalm 124:8, Our help is the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. So listen, if God is a helper, how dare we say that that is some inferior role that he has assigned to anyone. It’s a wonderful role. It’s a beautiful role. The woman is the man’s confidant, his encourager his strength, and this is the idea, communicated well by that old adage that behind every good man is a great woman. And I can certainly attest to that. I know that many of you here can as well. Beyond all of this, though, at a basic level, God created the woman as a companion for the man. A companion, and this companionship is reciprocal. In fact, that word fit there literally means something that corresponds perfectly to. It just fits. It really is kind of like the other half, and as many of us would say, probably the better one, right? But it’s really a reciprocation, a perfect fit that God has designed for the man and the woman. And as we’ve noted, if someone is single, that does not mean that they’re not the full image of God or cannot glorify God. In fact, Paul really glorifies singleness, doesn’t he, in Chapter 7? So, this says nothing about what we are apart from each other. But even as a whole, without women, men would be nothing. And we’re going to see that as we get into this a little further. 

And I want you to note that even the order in which he made them and the way that he made them communicates all of this. God is doing all of this symbolically to communicate all of these things that he’s telling us, that this is a corresponding companion who’s a helper that’s a perfect fit. Man was made first and then in Genesis 2 verses 20 and 21–look down there. Notice what he says. He performs the first surgery here. The Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up the place with the flesh and the rib that the Lord had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man makes that beautiful declaration: She’s now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. 

You’re one in a very unique sense, and all of this is what Paul is communicating back there in first Corinthians 11. Go back there with me. First Corinthians 11. This is what he’s communicating very concisely in verses 8 through 9 of Chapter 11. Notice, he says the woman was not made from man, but man from woman. He’s pointing out here in the Genesis account that there was an order of creation of man in both sequence and substance. He created the man first and then he created the woman, and he created the woman out of the man This is all declaring something that is a beautiful picture of the roles of men and women: equal in essence; different in function. And notice he goes on: Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. And that is the declaration of function. The woman was created for man as his helper, as his fit. That’s what Paul’s bringing out here. So, he’s giving us sort of a shorthand account. This is Genesis chapter 2. He’s teaching us that the sequence of God’s creation of man communicates those roles assigned to man and woman, not post fall, but from creation. And they reflect God’s nature, and they bring glory to him because this is his perfect design. And when a man embraces and expresses his God-given role, he glorifies God. And what is that? What did he make the man to do? He made him to lead, to have dominion, to rule over his creation. Men are by nature to be leaders. And that’s why we have commands in Scripture about us specifically leading in our homes and leading in the church because these are the basic places. But in all creation, we are to be those who lead, who have dominion. And women who embrace their God-given role of coming alongside and helping it, complementing the man glorify God in their role. And this is perfect. This is highly esteemed. 

This is why God is glorified in this, and so the application in our context here is that leading in worship in the Church of Corinth here, for a man to avoid wearing a head covering when leading in any context of worship is to bring glory to God. If he were to cover his head, he would not glorify the Lord the way that he is supposed to because he’s symbolically saying something that he is He is forfeiting that position of leadership. And for a woman to refused to wear the head covering when leading in a context of worship where she’s leading with women and children, even in that context would say that she is now taking on the role of leadership. She is no longer submitting to God’s order. And everybody in that culture would have understood it that way. We don’t really get it. That’s why the head covering thing seems so awkward to us. But in that culture, it would have said something very clear. This is the reasoning of verse 10. Look at that verse: That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Now the Greek text here just says she is to have authority on her head, but the translators are absolutely correct to add the word symbol because that’s what he’s talking about in the context. This would make no sense otherwise. How can you have authority on your head? Is the man supposed to sit on your head? I don’t think so. And so, she’s supposed to have this head covering on in this culture. And he says this is why she ought to have that. 

But what about that little phrase, because of the angels? It’s all kind of tracking, right? And then he says, because of the angels. This seems kind of foreign to the flow of the text, and it seems to introduce another reason for why a woman should wear a head covering in addition to what he’s already said in verses 8 and 9. That makes perfect sense. That’s why this phrase has been a source of confusion for many, and much, much ink has been spilled trying to figure out what this little phrase means–because of the angels. And most commentators come down to two positions, mainly just one. But there’s a minority view that’s presented in the footnote of the ESV, if you have that there, and it is that by messengers he is talking about human (or I’m sorry by angels) he’s talking about human messengers, because the word anggelos can mean messengers. So, the view is that he’s talking about human messengers that are either being sent into the assembly by the Roman authorities to spy out what’s going on with these Christians, or perhaps these are messengers that Paul is sending into the assembly to report back to him about what’s going on, and so forth. The majority view is that this is a reference to angelic beings who are present in some way in the worship of God’s people, and most people take this to be talking about corporate worship, whether it is or not (which I I’m sure it’s not). It’s just talking generally, but it would make sense that angels are involved somehow in corporate worship. Now that first view that it’s human messenger seems highly unlikely and most commentators dismiss it out of hand. I’m surprised the ESV has it. Most just dismiss it because it’s bringing something into the text that is completely foreign to the context with no explanation. What messengers? Someone may say, well, you know, the Corinthians knew what he’s talking about. Well, maybe. I don’t think so. The second one is certainly possible because Scripture does reference angels attending and looking into the things that we do. In fact, First Peter chapter 1, verse 12 specifically says that the mystery of salvation offered to men is something that angels are very interested in looking into. But I just believe that that’s pretty foreign to the context as well. It doesn’t make sense. 

I believe there’s another understanding that actually makes complete sense in the context. And as we’ve seen, the argument that Paul makes is rooted in the order of creation of man. That’s the flow of thought, right, verses 8 through 9? He’s pointing to Genesis chapter 2. Well, there’s another parallel passage where he makes the same exact argument about the same exact issue, and that’s First Timothy chapter 2. So, turn over there with me for a moment. First Timothy Chapter 2. If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, I think we’re going to figure out what he’s talking about here with this phrase, because of the angels. Notice in First Timothy chapter 2, just pick it up in verse 11 and 12 just for the sake of time, he says: Let a woman learn quietly and all submissiveness. So immediately we understand this is the same kind of context because that’s the order, right–that Paul is talking about in First Corinthians 11, in our passage. Nobody would dispute that. Same subject. In verse 12 he says, I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man. Rather, she is to remain quiet. Okay, so same subject. Now notice the reasoning Paul gives: for–he’s explaining, just like he’s explaining in verses 8 through 9 of First Corinthians 11. He’s going to explain why there is this prohibition and he says for Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. So he’s pointing back clearly again to Genesis 2 and then he’s bringing in a bit from Genesis Chapter 3. So, the basis of the prohibition for women teaching men is argued from that first order of creation, that man was formed first. And when the woman removed herself from the authority of her husband, she became vulnerable and was deceived. That’s the point that Paul’s making, not that she is not as smart as the man or something like that. He’s making the point that she removed herself from her husband’s leadership and she went out on her own and listened to the serpent and made a decision, and was deceived. So, he’s pointing back to the creation account. That’s my point. Now we’ve already established that both First Corinthians 11 verses 3 through 16 and first Timothy 2 verses 11 through 15 are grounded in the Genesis account. I think that’s very clear. Let’s look at one more passage: First Corinthians chapter 14, which we touched on last week and I’ve already referenced. And there in verses 34 and 35. He says, the women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission. So we know it’s the same subject, right? Same subject, same sort of issue going on. Note the reasoning he gives here, it’s very brief. What is it? As the law also says. As the law also says. Now, when we see the word law in the New Testament, it can have a few different meanings. It can mean, you know, maybe the moral code. It can mean, you know, just the first five books of the Old Testament. It can mean the entire Old Testament. Here, I think it certainly means the first five books because I think it’s clear as we put that statement against what he says in First Timothy 2, especially that he’s talking about the Genesis account–same reasoning why is a woman not permitted to speak in church? Well, because the law says. Where does it say that? In Genesis 2, right? This is the creation order. She’s to be submissive. So you ask, what does all this have to do with angels, right? I mean, what are you getting at? Where are you going with this? Well, listen, we’re told in a few places in the New Testament that the Angels were involved in the relaying of the law. Galatians chapter 3, verse 19 says that the law was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Hebrews 2:2, speaking of the law, calls it the message declared by angels. Act 7:53, when Steven is speaking, he says, the law was delivered by angels. Now we’re not told exactly what the role of the angels was in relaying the law, but it’s clear that God used angels to deliver his law to Moses. And so, it seems to me that when Paul says that a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels, he’s speaking of the message that was delivered by the angels. That’s what he’s talking about, which is the law. That’s the reasoning. So he’s not introducing something for him to the text. He’s saying the same reason I just said verses 8 through 9. It’s the message that was delivered by the angels, which is the law. Now you can take that or leave it. But I’m pretty happy with that. 

Now to round this all out, Paul makes the most interesting statement in verses 11 through 12. The Greek text actually reads like this: Nevertheless, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman in the Lord, for just as the woman was from man so also the man is through the woman. I believe that Paul is getting at two things here, and the most obvious is that both men and women are dependent upon one another for their existence. Woman was taken out of man in the sense that the first woman was taken out of his rib and God formed and fashioned her out of the man as we saw, and so forth. And then every man subsequently is from a woman, right? In fact, the Greek text actually says through the woman, so through the womb of the woman. So, they’re interdependent upon one another for their physical existence. That’s what God is saying. 

But I think he’s saying something else here that’s even greater and less obvious. And the reason why is because he uses that little phrase in the Lord. It’s easy to just brush over that phrase, but the phrase in the Lord in the New Testament always is speaking of union with Christ. It’s always a reference to the state of salvation that a believer enjoys through Christ. And so I think the greater reality that’s just wonderful (it makes me smile) here is the fact that Paul is referencing the promise and fulfillment that the Messiah would come through the woman. Remember back in Genesis 3:15, right after the curse, when God is actually pronouncing the curse on the serpent, he says to him, I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring, or seed–between your seed and her seed, he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Now, from the early days of church history, that verse has been called the protoeuangelion, the first gospel. This is the first reference in Scripture to a Redeemer, the seed of the woman who would come. And that seed is then traced throughout the entirety of the Bible until you get to Galatians 4:4 when we read that when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. So, the point he’s making here is that not only do men and women depend upon one another for physical life, but we depend upon one another for eternal life in a sense, because it was only through the seed of the woman that the perfect man would come to redeem fallen humanity. 

Paul wraps up this reason why gender roles are to be expressed to the glory of God here–this second reason–with this statement. Notice he says all things are from God. That is to say, all things in creation in general and all things in life in general, both physical and eternal, all this comes from God. So, we’re dependent upon one another, but ultimately we’re dependent on God, who’s our Creator, the one to whom all the glory goes. That’s why a man ought not to cover his head when he’s leading worship in First century Corinth, because he’s the image and glory of God. And that’s why a woman ought to cover her head when she leads in prayer or prophesying with a group of women or children, even when her husband is not around, even when none of the elders are around, she should still show herself to be in a place of submission because that’s right and that’s good and it brings glory to God. 

Proper expression of gender roles brings glory to God, as we’ve seen, because they’re grounded in the order of the Trinity, because they’re manifested in the order of humanity. Third and finally (and quickly), I want you to know that they’re recognized in the order of inherency. That’s a weird word, I know, but it fits! The word inherency comes from the word inherent. We understand what that means, right? It’s the notion behind the word that’s translated nature in verse 14. You see that? Does not nature itself teach you? It’s the idea of what is intrinsic or basic to something, something that’s clearly understood as being natural to something or someone, something that is recognized in the way that a child recognizes his mother. It’s just understood. That is the basic meaning of that word, phusis there. Paul’s question to the Corinthians in verse 13, notice, is rhetorical. He’s saying, you tell me, right? Judge for yourselves. You tell me. Is this right? Is it right? Is it proper for a wife or a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? And again, this is the idea of leading in prayer. She’s standing up in front of a group of other women, women and children, maybe. Is it right for her to do that without her head covered? And it’s a rhetorical question, which expects the answer, of course not! Now we don’t quite get that. But the Corinthians would have. Oh yeah, that, doesn’t fit. That’s not proper. And the reasoning behind it, the reason they got it is because nature itself teaches us something that’s basic to the differences of the sexes. And it’s a disgrace for a woman to have long hair is what he says. He goes on to say that it’s a disgrace (I’m sorry, for a man to have long hair!), but for a woman to have long hair, he says. That’s her glory. It resonates the essence of her femininity as a natural covering. But Paul’s getting at something deeper because I looked this up, and if a man does not cut his hair, his hair will grow just as long as a woman’s. We see people in our society like that, don’t we? Especially in the 80s there were a lot of them! But what Paul’s getting at is something that underlies this, okay? In the Roman culture, and our culture still, for the most part, and most cultures throughout the world, men did have short hair. And this was definitely the style in first century Corinth because the Caesars had popularized the haircut that we call a Caesar haircut today, which is a short haircut on a man (kind of like mine). It’s that kind of cut. It’s a short cut that you see in the statues of the Caesars. And so, for a man to have long hair in that first century was a disgrace and they would say that a man like that was acting effeminate. Remember back in chapter 6 we saw that there were those who were the effeminate ones, those who would play the role of the woman in a homosexual relationship. That would be the man who had long hair. Women, on the other hand, had long hair, and for a woman to cut her hair short or shave her head would be a disgrace. It would be a sign that she was either an adulteress or prostitute, maybe, or just a rebellious woman that was trying to look like a man, maybe even a homosexual herself. But I just want to note that the point is not necessarily that it’s a sin for a man to have longer hair because, you know, he’s not giving any parameters here. I mean, how long can it be? And for a woman to have short hair, I mean, a lot of you women have short hair and it looks very nice, right? And very feminine. And I would just remind us of the Nazarite vow that Paul himself took at one point, as we know from the book of Acts, required a man not to shave his hair for an extended period of time. Think of Samson, right? Remember his hair, that was the source of his strength in God’s design as a Nazarite? But the thing is, is that in Roman culture, and again, overall in most societies, on the whole, hair length does indicate a difference between the sexes. And it’s not just the length of it, but it’s the style of it. And there’s other things too, right? Facial hair, styles of clothing, jewelry, cosmetics., and just the general demeanor of a person and the way they carry themselves. In the Roman culture, the head covering for women was a clear marker not only of a difference of the sexes, but that the woman was under the authority of her husband. And so, his point here is very powerful. And the point is this, that even in lost, perverted Pagan societies there is an understanding that is inherent, that there is a difference between men and women, and they even create symbols to differentiate them. And if you push back against that, I would just remind us about how pagan that society was. I don’t need to go back through all of that; we’ve looked at it, just laden with all the immoralities that we see just breaking into our society. That was just society in general. The world may try to suppress those markers. That’s what our society is doing. But they’ll always shine through. There will always be within a culture those markers that shine through, whatever they may be. 

So, as we conclude, what does all this mean for us? Well, many today dismiss this passage as difficult to understand and culturally bound to the first century and therefore virtually irrelevant to us, so let’s just move on. A small minority understand that it teaches that women should wear head coverings in corporate worship at all times. It seems to me that from what we’ve learned, as we’ve endeavored to carefully work our way through it, that there’s a present application for us. There is indeed an application and it’s somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. And the point of the passage, as I remind us, is that there is a God-ordained difference between the sexes that speaks of an order of designed creation that reflects the glory of God. And it ought to be expressed. Every culture, however warped it may be, has an expression of that to some degree. So, we as Christians should embrace God’s design and seek to express it in a way that’s very clear to everyone, to our culture, and especially to one another within the confines of the family of God. And we’re to do that at all times. And this, in a general sense, certainly has some application for us to the way we ought to view our world today and what’s going on. As Christians, we ought to be adamantly opposed to any form of transgenderism, not merely because it goes against nature and ‘that just ain’t right’, but because the Bible says so–right here. God says it. It’s an affront to his glory. And we need to protect our children from this. 

But specifically in this context, Paul is talking about worship in general. So, whenever a man is leading worship at any time, whether it’s to be in the corporate assembly or in a small gathering, we should never do anything that would give us a signal to anyone that we are taking on some submissive role like a woman. We should never be effeminate. And this does not mean that we need to, you know, pump it up and be macho either, right? The world is so confused about masculinity. We just need to lead. And brothers and sisters, we don’t have time to go into it this morning, but let me just remind us of what our Lord Jesus said about leading. What does that really look like? It looks like being a slave to all, doesn’t it? It looks like being humble and gentle. It looks like laying our lives down for others and protecting others. To not bring glory to ourselves, but to lay our lives down like our Lord Jesus did. As Jesus said, he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. So, you want a real leader? You want real masculinity? You want to know what that really looks like in our culture? It looks like that, and all the signs and signals that go along with it–the hair, the dress. You know, not trying to look cool and trendy and feminine like so many men are following the trends of the culture. Just looking like a man. And that doesn’t mean you have to be in style. I’ve never been in style! It just means you’ve gotta look like a man, and I think we all know what that means inherently, don’t we? Because nature teaches us that. Specifically, for women who lead in some form of worship–we understand from other passages that this must never take place in the gathered assembly–we get that, and we’ll come back to that in Chapter 14–but we learn from this passage that women can lead. And according to Titus 2 they should lead other women and children. That’s wonderful. But when they do, they also need to give the signal that they are a submissive woman who is submissive to their husbands if they’re married, and/or to the elders of the local church to which they belong. And as I said last week, they’re not going rogue. They’re not giving signals that they’re just trying to do their own thing. That doesn’t mean they have to wear a head covering. And I say that because that doesn’t mean anything to our society. We’d have to just create a whole new thing here: all you women from now on, you got to wear a head covering and we all are going to understand that that means that you’re under submission to your husband, okay? That doesn’t make any sense. Our culture doesn’t do that. Do you want to wear a head covering? That’s great. It looks great. I see a couple of you out there, it looks really nice. And if that’s your personal conviction, by the way, then please do it. Please follow that conviction if you believe this passage is indeed teaching that, do it. Don’t violate your conscience. But I am hesitant to bind the conscience about something that does indeed seem so foreign to us and seems very bound culturally. The principle is what stands. And so, here’s what I think I think. First Timothy 2 gives us an idea of what this sort of differentiation should look like for a woman. And in First Timothy 2, verses 9 through 10, it says there that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness with good works. Now again, I don’t think this is a prohibition against braiding your hair or wearing some jewelry. But I think what we understand from this clearly is that it’s not someone drawing attention to themselves, flaunting themselves in some way. And especially, although I don’t think this passage necessarily teaches this, but especially not trying to look masculine. These are principles that we need to make sure that we maintain among the fellowship. The general sense seems to be a presentation of oneself that’s not flaunting, drawing attention, but being submissive in appearance and demeanor. 

Now if we pull all of this together that we’ve learned from these verses and we just put it into one word–try that: this passage in one word! I did that, and I think it’s the word that we’ve seen throughout this study of this letter. In fact, it’s the word that’s the title of the study of this letter, if you remember what that is. It’s the word humility. You see, once again, I think Paul is going after the pride of the Corinthians, and saying stop doing things that draw attention to yourself, that try to get out of God’s design, that go rogue. You humbly submit to the order that God has given in creation in general. In the family and in the family of God. You know, if we’re humble, we’re not going to be pushing back against God’s design, we’re going to be embracing it. We’re going to be eager to express it that others might not make much of us, but make much of our Father in heaven. And I think that’s the gist of what Paul is saying in verse 16. Notice that. If anyone is inclined to be contentious we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. I think Paul’s being a little sarcastic, maybe, here. I think what he’s saying is that the church does not have a custom. He’s been talking about customs or traditions, right? He’s talked about this one. He’s going to talk about the Lord’s table. He’s talking about the ways we do things in the family of God and he says we don’t have a custom of contentiousness against the order that God has created. We don’t do that. The church of Corinth doesn’t do that. Other local churches don’t do that. The church in general doesn’t do that. And these are the reasons why. Because this is an order that’s rooted in the Trinity, the very nature of God, it’s an order that’s rooted in the creation of humanity. And it’s an order that’s rooted in what nature itself teaches us, what is inherent to all of us, to all humanity. So, in other words, those who refuse to be humble and express God’s design, especially in the context of worship, are not going against some local custom. They’re going against God. You’re going against God. And my prayer, brothers and sisters, is that we would be a church that would take this seriously. That we would always, no matter what our culture does, always, always, always be characterized by a humble expression of submission to the Lord. That our men would be men who lead by dying to self and serving others. Not by being macho men who want to be served, and not by wearing skinny jeans and trying to be cool, but that we would be those who give the clear signal of genuine masculinity like our Lord Jesus. And that our women would be those who would always have a demeanor of submissiveness and modesty and honor for their husbands and for the leadership of the church, the way God has designed. Brothers and sisters, the darker it gets, the brighter that light is going to shine. Not just among us, but to the community around us. Let’s bow together. 

Father, how grateful we are that you have given us clear instruction in your word. We come to a passage like this that at first glance seems mysterious to us, and in some respects, perhaps it is. But the general teaching of it is so clear. And we’ve seen that as we’ve looked at it in its context, the way you gave it to us and as we’ve let Scriptures speak for itself and interpret itself. And we see a consistent resounding pattern that you have designed, that is ultimately anchored in your very being. And you’re making us in your image. And Father, I do pray that our hearts would be submitted to you as Lord and that you would be glorified in the fullest in the way we express those roles, now and always in the life of this church, by your grace, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.