July 23, 2023

Gender Roles and the Glory of God


A Reflection of God's Triune Nature

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is somewhat enigmatic, but when the primary point of the text is understood, the rest falls into place. That point is the authority and submission structure for men and women that God created to be a reflection of who He is in His triune being.

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Sermon Transcript

Well, let’s turn in our Bibles to First Corinthians, Chapter 11. We come to Chapter 11. If this is your first time with us this passage is going to seem a bit odd to you, but it’s what happens when we go verse by verse through a book of the Bible. We’re not skipping over anything, and so we come to this passage this morning that we’re going to be dealing with, and it’s First Corinthians Chapter 11. We’re going to be looking at verses two and three in particular, but we’re going to read all the way down to verse 16. So, follow along as I read, beginning in verse 2. The apostle Paul 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 prophecies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every wife who prays or prophesied 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 air. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman, whereas woman was made for 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. 

I mentioned recently my personal aversion to fishing a couple of weeks ago. There are many reasons that I dislike fishing, but the one that stands out far above all the rest is the fact that I typically spend most of my time when I’m fishing, not fishing but untangling my fishing line.

I wish I could say it was the kids’ fault, but the fact of the matter is, if I were honest, that somehow I always get my line tangled into such a frustrating mess that I just have to take a deep breath and recognize that I’m going to be spending the next 45 minutes or so untangling the intricacies of this bundle of fishing line. So that once I’ve sorted it all out, I can fish for about 15 minutes before it’s all tangled up again somehow. As I’ve studied in preparation to preach the passage before us, I have to confess that I’ve had moments where I feel like I’m doing more untangling than fishing. If there were a Gordian knot in the word of God, this passage would probably be it. 

The real fault, of course, is not the passage itself. The Holy Spirit has communicated clearly to us here. The fault is my own limitation. And compounding my limitation with the limitations of all the various commentators who all give their two cents and all quote each other, and then criticize each other. And here we go on and on and on. Beyond all those limitations is the fact that this passage has been the subject of intense debate among evangelicals for the past several decades due to the rise and infiltration of the feminist movement in the church. One commentator rightfully notes that 

…the understanding of this text has been complicated by the resurgence in the 1960s of the concern for women’s rights both within and with the both within and outside of the church, so that many of the studies on this text were specifically the result of that movement. 

It’s not surprising that this passage would be a key focal point in that debate, because even if some of it were to be unclear to us at first, what is clear to anyone with just a cursory reading of the passage is that it does indeed address the roles of men and women. Historically, this passage, along with several other passages in the New Testament, has been understood to teach a hierarchy within the relationships between men and women in both the home and the church. That is, it addresses an order of roles that concern the issues of authority and submission. The pushback comes with that idea of submission, which we’ll come back to later on. But that idea of submission is the problem that feminists have with the scriptures, because they equate the idea of submission with inferiority, as if to say that if you have a difference in role, you’re somehow inferior. 

Feminism holds that men and women are completely equal in every way, and there are to be absolutely no distinctions between the sexes whatsoever. And yet the fallacy of that ideology is being paraded before our eyes as it’s running its full course in our society and coming to its logical conclusion: that if men and women are indeed equal in every way, then there really is no difference between them. So, a man can identify as a woman and a woman can identify as a man. Ironically, you now have feminists colliding with transgender advocates over the participation of biological men in women’s sports. And so, we see that the fruit of feminism has shown itself to result in cultural chaos. 

Some evangelicals have embraced the basic tenets of feminism, though. And they attempt to justify it, either by offering sophisticated reinterpretations of the passages that deal with this subject, that for the past nearly 2,000 years have been understood at face value to reveal just the opposite, or in some cases, they willingly dismiss these passages. The position of evangelical feminists is typically referred to as egalitarianism. I tell you that because you need to be aware of it. Egalitarianism. Remember that term, if you’re not familiar with it already. It’s a word that comes from the Latin root aequalitas, which has the basic meaning of equality. That’s evangelical feminism. That’s egalitarianism. The traditional understanding of the biblical teaching on gender roles is called complementarianism, which is what we hold here at Firm Foundation Bible Church, which is what the Bible teaches. It comes from the Latin word complere, which means to complete. It’s the idea that men and women have different but complementary roles. We could easily skip over these definitions. Maybe you’ve already checked out. But wake up, because we could easily skip over these things and race through this passage if we weren’t in such a cultural milieu. And we dare not miss the opportunity to take our time to understand what the word of God does indeed teach on this matter. So we’re going to take our time here. 

And furthermore, while evangelical egalitarianism may seem like something foreign to us, it’s actually closer to the door than we may think. I mentioned just a couple of weeks ago that Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church was disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention in February of this year. And the reason why was specifically for ordaining women to the role of pastor. The church’s position was clearly outside the bounds of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which is the standard doctrinal statement that all Southern Baptist churches adhere to, and it says specifically in that statement (which I looked up). And yes, they have ratified it, modified it a little bit since then but I looked up the original 2000 statement and it says this specifically: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” So, Saddleback had clearly gone beyond those bounds and instead of accepting the dismissal, Rick Warren officially appealed the decision and heavily criticized the SBC, accusing it of hypocrisy and obviously trying to use his influence to push the envelope. And I bring this up because it’s public knowledge. I’m not slandering anyone here. It’s public knowledge because Rick Warren has not only written an open letter to the SBC, but he’s also criticized them on social media. Warren is known as America’s pastor. He’s the pastor of (well, he’s retired now) He’s passed it off to a man and his wife, who are now co-pastors, and that’s the issue. But it’s one of the largest churches in America. And with that sort of influence within the ranks of evangelicalism, along with the persistent pressure of our culture, I fear that it won’t be long before conservative churches begin to just fall like dominoes because the wave of compromise just begins slowly and begins to sweep through. Like I said, it’s like eating an elephant. One little compromise at a time. 

Well, why would the SBC take such a controversial stand against this issue? It wasn’t easy for them to do. Why would they do that? Why would they do that, especially if it’s being painted by Warren and so many other evangelicals as such a minor point? Well, it’s because they’re endeavoring, number one, to be faithful to Scripture. But they also realize that the reason Scripture is emphatically clear on this issue is because this issue has to do with the glory of God. If the fruit of egalitarianism is chaos in our culture, so it will be when it’s embraced in the church. And God will not be glorified as he ought to be. First Corinthians 14 says that God is not a God of confusion, but a God of peace, and therefore all things should be done decently and in order. God has ordained an order in the realm of gender roles that reflects his very nature. And that’s the very subject of the passage before us. And that’s why this passage, while so misunderstood at times, is so critically important, and why God gave it to us. As we said, there’s a lot to unravel here. So, I want to use a very appropriate pun right now and ask you all, both men and women, to put your thinking caps on, okay? Put your thinking caps on this morning as we look at this passage that speaks of head coverings. 

Now when it comes to interpretation, context is king. So, before we dive into this text, we need to make sure that we see it in its larger context. We noted back in Chapter 7 and verse one that Paul has been answering questions that were put to him by the Corinthians in a letter that had been delivered to him. And many commentators believe that Paul is continuing on in answering those questions, and they seek to lump chapters 11 through 14 together as a unit and say that Paul in that unit is giving instructions about corporate worship. But I believe that Chapter 11 is actually connected to what Paul has said in Chapters 8 through 10. It’s kind of a parentheses before he moves on. And I think this for several reasons. 

One is that it seems that when Paul is addressing one of the Corinthians questions, he uses this phrase “now concerning such and such.” In fact, look at Chapter 7 for just a moment, and verse one. There he kicks it off with this: “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” So “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote…” Now look at Chapter 8, verse one: “Now concerning food offered to idols.” Look at chapter 12 with me, verse one: “Now concerning spiritual gifts.” But notice in Chapter 11 that he doesn’t use that phrase. He instead deals with two issues in this passage that are not really answering a question, but offering a commendation to them and a correction about either of these issues. In other words, he doesn’t seem to have moved on to another subject quite yet. He’s dealing with something in between, and this seems to me to be settled by verse 34 of Chapter 11. Notice that there with me, that last sentence: “About the other things I will give directions when I come.” And then in Chapter 12, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…” So it seems that there were other matters of this sort of nature that Paul speaks of as traditions in Chapter 11 that he’s going to address when he comes and he doesn’t want to take any more time in this letter to do that, he’s going to move on to their next question. 

The second reason I believe that this stands alone is the nature of the two issues that Paul talks about in this chapter. They seem to be connected to chapter 10. Like I said, note in verse two that Paul’s commendation of the Corinthians is very personal. He says, “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything…” and he springs off of that first verse that was the ending of that whole unit, from chapters 8 through 10, if you remember, where he says, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” And so, this kind of works in both directions. He’s wrapping up that unit and he’s springing off of it into something else that still relates to it. And given the context of what he addresses in this chapter, I think before moving on to their question about spiritual gifts, he’s circling back to what he spoke about specifically in chapter 10 about the custom of pagans and contrasting those with those of genuine believers. And I think we see that clearly in verses 17 through 34 where he talks about the Lords Table, because remember, in chapter 10 he speaks of the Lord’s Table in contrast to the worship of the pagans. Remember that he says, that, you know, we can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of pagans. We can’t come to the table of the Lord and the table of pagans. Now he’s going to flesh out a little bit about the Lords Table and the problems they were having with that, how to rightly observe it and contrast that with how the pagans do their sort of work. And I also believe it explains why Paul goes right into this issue of head coverings that (let’s all be honest), just seems sort of awkward, doesn’t it? This is all of a sudden, this passage about head coverings and things. It seems random. Why would he go right into this? Well, the focus of verses 2 through 16 seems to be more on women. And I think it is in a sense, but you need to realize that it addresses both men and women in reality, and the application actually begins with verse four. Notice what he says in verse 4: “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.” And then look at verse 7: “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God.” So, there’s something going on here where the man covering his head is wrong. And listen, Roman custom was for a man who was leading a Pagan ritual to pull his toga over his head. It was called the capite velato, which literally means with covered head, and you could look at statues of ancient Romans, men who have their toga over their head. And what’s interesting about that is typically the women would wear the toga pulled over the head. But in pagan worship services, where there were libations being offered to pagan idols, the man would lead that and he would cover his head. So, it seems to me that Paul is countering that pagan custom with the opposite practice for Christians, which parallels his instructions about abstaining from attendance at idol worship in Chapter 10. And the way he introduces the topic in verses two to three seems to indicate that the Corinthians were actually following Paul’s instructions. Notice that he says, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.” And then he says, “But I want you to understand…” And then he begins to give instruction. And so, I think what he’s doing is commending them for following this practice, but he wants to use it as kind of a positive springboard to get into some of the issues that were beginning to swirl in the church because–here’s another cultural contextual thing we need to take into account–and that’s the fact that while women typically did wear a covering in public and so forth, and that would show their submission to their husband, in that culture, there were a lot of women who were beginning to remove that head covering, and they were beginning to just act like they were their own person. Some of them were even going to the extent where they were cutting their hair and beginning to look like men. Why would they do that? Well, the same reason we see women doing that in our culture. Same exact reason. Because the human heart hasn’t changed and they wanted to push back against these cultural signs that were actually appropriate in God’s design. 

Finally, contrary to what almost everyone takes for granted in this passage, I don’t believe that this passage is addressing the context of corporate worship. I don’t think he’s talking about corporate worship here. I think he’s giving general instruction about the proper expression of gender roles in regard to worship in general. And the reason is that Paul seems to be very specific when he addresses matters of corporate worship. He either says when you come together or he uses the word ekklesia, which is church and he uses it with the little word in–in church. So, in the assembly or when you come together. I want you to track with me, I want you to note this. Look down at Chapter 11, verse 17. He moves from the issue of the head coverings right into instruction about the Lord’s Table and notice how he prefaces it. He says, “But in the following instructions, I do not commend you because [note] when you come together, it is not for the better, but for the worse. For in the first place when you come together as a church I hear that there are divisions among you…” and so forth. Now it seems interesting to me that Paul would be so emphatic about this when he is moving into a different subject. If the context was corporate worship, why would he have to be so emphatic? In fact, look at verse 20, he says again, “when you come together, it’s not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” Verse 33, “When you come together…” Verse 34, “if anyone’s hungry, let him eat at home so that when you come together…” So, if the context of this chapter was already concerning the corporate worship of the church, the gathered assembly, why would he have to be so emphatic in this section about when you come together? Because if you’ll note in verses 2 through 16, he says nothing about coming together. He says nothing about being in church. The only use of the word church is in the last verse where he speaks of church is and he’s speaking there of the practice of other local assemblies in the sense of general that, you know, the Christians over there in that place. Furthermore, I want you to turn over to Chapter 14 with me and I want you to note something. Look at verses 18 through 19. We’re just going to parachute right into this. He’s addressing the issue of spiritual gifts and he says in verse 18, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Now what I want you to note here–just get the issue of tongues out of your mind for a minute. We’ll come to that in the in the proper time–but what I want you to note here is that Paul’s making a distinction between using his gift out there in the world when he’s evangelizing, and in the assembly. Right, you get that? Look at verse 23. He again makes a differentiation between what’s done outside the church and what’s done in the assembly. He says, “If therefore the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues and outsiders or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you’re out of your mind?” So again, he’s saying, Hey, tongues are out there, but when you come together and you’re doing this and he gives instruction, so he’s making a differentiation between what happens outside the assembly and what happens inside. Now, again, I want you to note verses 2 through 16 say nothing about coming together. They say nothing about being in church, in the assembly. He doesn’t use the word ekklesia until that last verse, like I said, and he’s not talking about being together in the assembly. 

Here’s another reason I believe that he cannot be speaking about corporate worship. I’m going to take it that far, and you know, going up against pretty much everybody. I don’t think he can be speaking about corporate worship here. But he’s giving general instruction. And the reason why is because I want you to note in verse five that we’re told that the woman prays or prophesies. Now it’s clear from this passage and other passages in the New Testament that women did indeed have the gift of prophecy. And we’ll look more at that in detail as I said, when we get to chapters 12 through 14. But the gift of prophecy is the ability to speak direct revelation from God. That’s what the gift of prophecy is. Some have tried to redefine it, or to define it differently in different contexts when it’s convenient. But the fact is that while all words have a semantic range, the majority of the uses of this word in the New Testament consistently speak of it as the gift of prophecy, which was the gift to give direct revelation from God. And there’s no clue in this passage to tell us that Paul is defining prophecy in any other way. But here’s the thing. Rather than digressing too far on the issue of prophecy right now, here’s the thing. Even if you define it differently, as some have, like Wayne Grudem, who says that prophecy is a revelation from God that’s communicated through a fallible human being so the end product may not be fully the word of God–which we’re going to talk about that later on. I think that’s really weird and off base–but even if it is that, it’s still some sort of revelation from God, is it not? So, it has to carry some authority. Or others will define prophecy as preaching–what I’m doing now–which I don’t think it means that either. But even if it did, that’s definitely authoritative teaching in the church, is it not? So, any way you slice it, it can’t be speaking of the corporate assembly here, because look again at Chapter 14. Paul is going to state in no uncertain terms that a woman is not to speak authoritatively in the assembly. Look at chapter 14. And I want you to know verse 26. He’s beginning a new paragraph here where he’s summarizing and he’s talking about order in the worship service. In fact the ESV, if you have that it, it has the heading there, Orderly Worship. That’s the theme of this passage. In verse 26 he says, “What then, brothers, when you come together…”  Okay, so he’s saying when you’re assembled again in the assembly, now drop down to verses 34 and 35. Notice what he says: “The women should keep silent in the churches in the assembly. For they are not permitted to speak but should be in submission as the law also says. If there is anything that they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Now we’ll address those verses in detail in the future, but when we harmonize those with First Timothy, Chapter 2 and verse 12 (and we will), we’re going to see that the issue is not that women weren’t allowed to speak at all in church. It’s not that women wouldn’t even be able to come up and give an announcement or anything like that, but what it does mean is that women are not permitted to speak authoritatively when the assembly is gathered. Because you have a mixture of men and women in the corporate worship service. That’s why Paul says in First Timothy 2, verse 12, “a woman is not to teach or exercise authority over a man. Rather, she is to remain quiet.” So, the question is, where would a woman pray or prophecy? And by the way, when he says pray, I think he means leading in prayer. Where would a woman–because I don’t think it’s wrong for a woman to be praying here when we’re gathered, okay? Praying privately–but where would a woman lead in prayer? Or where would a woman prophecy? Well, Titus 2 verses 3 through 5 actually instructs the older women to teach the younger women, and so it seems that what Paul has in mind when he mentions women prophesying or praying is some sort of a gathering where men are not present. And maybe it’s just ladies, ladies and children. Something like that. And even there the instruction of this passage applies. That’s the issue here. Even in that sort of gathering, the instruction here applies that the woman is to express her submission both to her husband, if she’s married, but also to the elders of the local church to which she belongs. She’s supposed to give some sort of an expression, which in that culture was wearing a covering on her head, to show that she’s not going rogue. She’s not Joyce Meyer, okay? That’s the idea. 

Now, with all of that in mind we’ve come full circle to the issue of submission, which is really the theme of this passage, because the passage again has to do with an orderliness with authority and submission to the authority. Even though that word submission does not appear here, as we’ll see in the cross references–we’ve already seen in First Corinthians 14, verses 34 and 35–that word does appear there. That’s the issue that’s going on here. And here in our passage, Paul is relaying how men and women are to express their God-given roles to the glory of God. And he does so in three sections, really that build upon one another. In fact, you’ll see the word for come up several times. That’s the idea of explanation. And so, these three sections build upon each other. And so, we’re going to call them three reasons that the proper expression of gender roles bring glory to God. The first one is going to be in verses 3 through 6 and he’s going to argue from the order of the Trinity. The order of the Trinity. In verses 7 through 12, he’s going to argue from the order of humanity. And then in verses 13 to 15, he’s going to argue from the order of inherency, which is not inerrancy but inherency, which means something that’s inherent, or something that’s of nature. And so, we’re just going to wade into this. We’re not even going to cover the whole first point this morning. We’re going to focus primarily on verse 3, but if you’re taking notes, I want to start with that heading. 

The first reason that the proper expression of gender roles glorify God is because of the order of the Trinity. And this is the overarching reason for the proper expression of gender roles. It’s the theological foundation that the other reasons are going to build on. And what the Corinthians need to understand, and brothers and sisters, what we need to understand clearly is this, that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. And actually I want you to note that in the second phrase, the ESV translates the word gune, which means a woman, and the word andros, which means man as wife and husband. But I don’t believe those are the right translations. If you have any other conservative translation, you’ll see that it says man and woman. And the reason why is because Paul is talking generally here. He’s talking about men and women. He’s not talking about husbands and wives here. He’s talking about men and women, and you’re going to see that as we go on. In fact, the translators of the ESV couldn’t sustain that all the way through. You’ll note down in verse 8 he’ll say the man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Man was created for woman, woman for man. So as the passage continues to unfold, it just doesn’t sustain. So, he’s talking generally here about men and women. 

Now, the primary principle of this passage hinges on the word head. You notice how many times that word head is used in the passage. You probably noticed that just reading through it. That word head is used nine times in this passage. And in order to translate some of the other words in the passage, the words specifically that mean head covering, the English word head has to be added another five times. So, it actually shows up 13 times, but the Greek word kephale, which is the word head, is in the text 9 times. And the word kephale has a literal sense that’s used here of the cranium of a man or a woman, right? So, when you talk about putting something on your head, it’s clearly talking about your head, this thing right? But it’s also used in a metaphorical sense to refer to one who stands as an authority, and that’s clear in verse 3, isn’t it? The head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is the man, the head of Christ is God, and so forth. Now, since, as we’ve said, the primary principle communicated in this passage is this word, it’s meaning has been the focal point of the entire debate over this passage. And I want to bring this up because I think it’s important that you’re aware of this. Those who hold to the egalitarian position–remember what that is–evangelical feminist–egalitarian position? They say that this word means source. Source. So they would translate it, “I want you to understand that the source of every man is Christ, the source of a woman is a man, and the source of Christ is God.” And they try to argue this lexically and contextually, but there’s some big problems with that. 

Number one, all the major lexicons that are not, you know, done by Christians, they’re done by either total unbelievers or really, theological liberals, typically. Sometimes you’ll have actual evangelicals in there, but the main lexicons that we look to are those that are done by people who don’t hold what we hold to, and all of them render this word as someone who’s superior in rank. Someone who is in a position of authority. Studies of the word’s usage in ancient Greek literature actually have revealed that this word always meant authority whenever it was used in a metaphorical sense. It always means something superior. And furthermore, in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word rosh means head, and that word is always rendered with kephale and in the context it always means either a literal cranium or it means authority. So that’s what the word means. In fact, if you look at the New Testament, kephale is the same word used in Ephesians 1:22 that says that the father has put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church. It’s the same word used in Ephesians 5:23 that says the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. And then he goes on to speak of submission to a head, right? 

But with all of that in mind–I mean, that that does it for me–but if you just look at the context of our passage, it has to mean authority because of the argument that Paul makes. You might be able to say that source works for the issue of you know, a man being created by Christ. You might say that it would work with man being the source of a woman in some sense, since woman was taken out of man, and they’ll even argue that that Paul brings some of that up here. But you get into some really dangerous theological waters if you try to say that God is the source of Christ. Because really what you would be saying there is that the Father is the source of life for the Son. Whenever you see the proper name God in close conjunction with Christ in the New Testament, God is almost always speaking of the Father and no one would argue that that’s what’s going on here. So, you’d have to say that the father is the source of Christ in the same sort of parallel sense that we’re saying that about the woman and the man and Christ. And so, you’d have to be saying that the father is the source of life for the Son. Egalitarians don’t seem to see a problem with that. But I see a big problem with it, because nowhere in Scripture do we find that the Father is the source of life for the Son. Of course, we have statements that the father has begotten the son (Hebrews chapter 2), but those statements speak of the relationship between the Father and the Son. Scripture maintains consistently that Christ is eternal God. In fact, look at John one with me just for a moment, just to remind ourselves of this. John chapter one and the very first verse tells us in the beginning was the Word, and we know that the Word is Jesus Christ in the context, very clear. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was God. That statement is very clear that Jesus Christ is the same essence as the Father. So, to assign the word kephale, the meaning of source is to sacrifice the universal teaching about the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ for an agenda. And as we’ve noted, the reason egalitarians are willing to do this is because they make the false assumption that there’s a difference in role that makes a difference in worth or value. 

But listen, here’s the point of this passage. This is the very issue that Paul is clarifying: that if Christ is equal in essence to the Father (and Scripture affirms that he is, as we’ve seen), and if the Father is the authority of Christ, then a difference in roles says nothing about difference in essence. It says nothing about worth or value. It says nothing about being. Nothing at all. And Christians have from the very beginning held these two aspects of God’s nature in perfect harmony. They speak of it in theological terms of the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity, in the sense that God in his being–all three persons, Father, son, and Holy Spirit–are perfectly equal in essence. And yet we see a submission within the Godhead. We see the Son submitting to the Father. And we see the Spirit submitting to the Father and the Son, and we see this all over the place. 

But turn to John 5 for just a moment with me. John Chapter 5. Just a beautiful example of this. And by the way, when we see it, we don’t just see it, but we see it in all its glory. It’s beautiful. John Chapter 5 and look at verse 18. We’re just going to jump right into this passage, but it says: “This is why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him. Christ, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own father, making himself equal with God.” You see, they understood what Jesus was saying. Jesus was claiming to be God, John 8:58, right? He says it very clearly, that “before Abraham was I am.” They understood what Jesus was doing all along. Look at verse 19:

So Jesus said to them truly. Truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing for whatever the Father does. The Son does likewise for the Father, loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him so that you may marvel, for as the Father raises the dead and gives him life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 

You see, Jesus is submitting to the Father. I only do what the Father tells me. I only do what the father does. The Father’s given me all authority and we share it. I glorify him and he glorifies me. You see that this is just the perfect way that we see the Trinity working. Now, look at Chapter 16 of John. I’d go to more, but I don’t want to take too much time with this it. It’s pretty well understood in Christianity, you know, for the last 2,000 years, but just to be clear, look at verse 13 of Chapter 16:

When the Spirit of truth comes He will guide you into all the truth. [This is Jesus speaking here.] When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority. But whatever he hears, he will speak and he will declare to you things that are to come. He will glorify me for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. Therefore, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 

So here we see the Spirit now submitting to the Son and the Father and only speaking what the Son tells him to speak and bringing glory to the Son. When we get to chapters 12 through 14, we’re going to find that evangelicalism has been kind of turned upside down with the charismatic movement because they want to bring a bunch of glory to the Holy Spirit. When, as appropriate as that is, because he is God, actually the Spirit is happy to glorify the Son. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. 

Now back to First Corinthians 11:3. Paul is firmly rooting the distinction and roles between men and women in the very nature of God. That’s what he’s doing here. He’s rooting the distinction and roles between men and women in the nature of the triune God. And that’s why that last phrase is just that: the head of Christ is God. He’s making it very clear here that there’s no difference between men and women in any sort of, you know, inferiority/superiority sort of spectrum. Here, there’s just a God-given role. And when we apply ourselves to the God-given roles, then we bring glory to God the way he has designed it to be. 

Authority implies subjection or submission, which is a willingness to come under the leadership of another. And the Greek word for submission that we find in the New Testament is hupotasso, which was originally a military term that means to place under. And despite what some may claim, the Bible does not teach a mutual submission. That’s actually an oxymoron, because the word wouldn’t mean anything if you had mutual submission. If you’ve been in the military, you understand what I mean. It would just be laughable. It would be ridiculous for a private to call a five-star general to line up under him, wouldn’t it? But if a five-star general comes on the base, what is a private going to do, right? He’s getting ready. He’s saluting. And so, we understand that and that’s the term. It’s a military term. It means to come willingly underneath an authority. There’s no such thing as a mutual submission and even if you have that you nobody would really know what to do. 

Somebody’s got to come under. And here’s the thing, folks: the Lord Jesus Christ willingly submits to the father and has for all eternity. That’s the nature of their relationship. And rather than it being a drudgery, it’s a delight. Jesus glories in submitting to the Father. And the Spirit of God glories in bringing glory to the Son and to the Father. In fact, look at Chapter 15 if you doubt this. Look at chapter 15. Look at verse 23 or verse 22. Let’s start there:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 

That last phrase, God may be all in all–so that he’ll receive all the proper glory–that it was all for. The head of every man is Christ, and therefore when a man submits to Christ, he finds fullness of joy. Now I want you to know back in Chapter 11. Verse three, that second phrase. The head of the woman is man. The head of the woman is man. That certainly applies to the general marriage relationship, but in an ontological sense, as we’re going to see when we look at what Paul argues, man was created and the woman is the glory of man, and therefore that’s the natural flow of humanity. That the woman submits to the authority of the man and that brings glory to Christ and Christ brings glory to the Father. That’s what we see here. This is a beautiful, beautiful thing. And we want to buck against it, don’t we? We want to push back against. All of our authorities. You work for a boss you don’t like, you want to push back. You don’t like the governing authority, you want to push back. See, whenever we’re under some authority in our lives, we tend to think that it’s taking something away from us. And yet God says no, no, no. I’ve designed authority to be this beautiful thing that allows you to thrive and that brings glory to God as we live in a world that has order. And God requires that in the home specifically and in his church. 

Well, we’ve only untangled A portion of that knot, right? But it’s the most important portion. It’s sort of like when, you know, I’m untangling that ball of fishing line and I get to that point where I find the big knot. And I got that one undone and it kind of gives me hope that the rest of it’s going to come along, you know? I’ve only got maybe 15 more minutes of this and I’m going to be done. That’s what we see here. God is a God of order. And that’s seen in his very nature. He’s communicated that order to us and making us as men and women equal in essence yet different in role. And when we stop pushing back against those distinctions and instead embrace them and express them with a heart of humility and joy and love for God, God is glorified as we reflect his glorious character. 

Now, next Lords Day, we’re going to begin to unpack what it looks like for us to do that as we unpack what it looked like for the Corinthians. But this morning we’re out of time. So, you’re going to have to wait till next time. Make sure you’re here. Let’s bow together. 

Father, we thank you for all of your word. And we thank you this morning as we’ve just meditated upon really one verse, that we see your glorious nature and we see the glorious design that you have given to your created order and for men and women, and how you’re ultimately glorified, all wrapped up in this concise, beautiful little nutshell of a verse in verse 3. And Lord, we are excited to see how we can properly express that. And I pray that we would have hearts of submission. And if there’s anyone here that does not, I pray that we would bow the knee to you, the God of all creation, the one to whom we will give an account, and that you would do a work in our hearts and cause us, Lord, to humble ourselves before you, that we might seek to glorify you, whatever it means for us. Give us that kind of heart, we pray. And I pray that starting with myself. We ask it all for your glory, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.