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He/Her/Xem and Head Coverings

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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March 21, 2023 9:00 am

He/Her/Xem and Head Coverings

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 21, 2023 9:00 am

Pastor J.D. walks through one of the most confusing and misinterpreted passages in the entire New Testament. Along the way, we’ll learn just how relevant first-century head coverings are for the hot button questions about gender (and gender identity) in the twenty-first


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Though Jesus was fully equal with the Father, he looked at the Father as his head. If it was not an assault on Jesus's dignity to do that, it's not an assault on you or me when we are in a relationship where we submit either.

Submission is a Christ-like quality that all of us have to learn, and it doesn't imply inequality. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, Pastor J.D. walks through one of the most confusing and misinterpreted passages in the entire New Testament. We've all read it, right, ladies?

Along the way, we'll learn just how relevant first century head coverings are for the hot button questions about gender and gender identity that we're all facing here in the 21st century. And more importantly, we'll see that in Christ's service, every brother and sister finds unimaginable grace and eternal purpose. If you'd like to catch up on the previous messages in this study of 1 Corinthians called Cutting Through the Noise, you can find them free of charge at Now let's get started with today's sermon. Here's Pastor J.D. If you have your Bibles, I want you to take them out and open them to 1 Corinthians 11. 1 Corinthians 11, as we continue our march through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

Today, today is varsity level week. Congratulations for being here. The following message is going to be one of the most difficult yet, I think, most important messages that you've ever heard. I say that because you're not likely to hear what I'm about to say anywhere else besides a Bible teaching church. You wonder where Christians seem like oddballs or where we are like aliens to the world.

You're gonna see it today. I want you to remember that Paul's letter to the Corinthians, and we're just going through. I'm not picking the topics.

I'm just taking them as he brings them up. Paul's letter to the Corinthians is divided into five major sections. Part one, that we discussed the first few weeks, Paul addressed divisions in the church. That was chapters one through four. The second section were questions surrounding sex and singleness. That was chapters five through seven.

Then we looked at Paul discussing how to navigate. Thirdly, controversy surrounded meat that was offered to idols. In the bigger picture, controversies in the church that keep them from reaching people and make them suspicious of each other. Today, this weekend, we're gonna enter into this fourth section, which begins in chapter 11, and I would just call this one corporate worship wars. Then after we spend a few weeks here, we're gonna hit the final section, which is the fifth section, which deals with questions about the resurrection.

This fourth section is a doozy, so for the next couple of weeks, I need you to put on your theological flak jackets because there's gonna be a lot of shrapnel that's flying about, okay? The subject today is women and men in the church. Some of the most confusing, misinterpreted statements found anywhere in the New Testament are in these verses that we are about to read. Because of some of these confusing phrases, there are a lot of people who just ignore this passage. I'm going to dare say that for some of you that have been in church most of your life, you've never actually heard a message on this passage.

You've heard it referred to, but never walked through it. The tragedy of that is in so doing, they miss out on some incredibly timely and important things that the Holy Spirit is trying to say to the church in every generation. I want you to listen, okay? Every single word of Scripture is life, and it is all written for our good, even the hard to understand and the difficult parts of it. I want to know all of it, all of it. So I'm gonna teach you not just what this passage says.

I also want to try to show you how to read a difficult passage like this one. You ready? You ready? Everybody take a deep breath, okay?

Take a deep breath, not too deep, but here we go. Verse 2. Now I praise you because you remember me and everything and hold fast to the traditions, to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaven.

Verse 6. For if a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then let her head be covered.

Verse 7. A man should not cover his head because he is the image and the glory of God. So too, woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman was created for the sake of man. This is why, verse 10, a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels. And the Lord, however, woman is not to be independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman now. We're all born through a mother, and all things come from God.

Verse 13. Judge for yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him? But that if a woman has long hair, that's her glory. For her hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.

So what could possibly be confusing or controversial about this? Right? Self-explanatory. Let's pray and let's go home. No. I told you.

What are we supposed to do with that? That was last weekend. I was at the Duke Miami game last Saturday night when Duke lost a heartbreaker right at the last second. They were down by two, and you thought for sure, because Duke had the ball, that they were going to hit that last shot because they always seem to do that. And the guy had an open look, but he just missed. And when he missed, the place went from absolute pandemonium, if you've ever been in Cameron Indoor Stadium, went from absolute pandemonium to just dead silence.

It was like a UNC fan's dream of heaven. As Coach K walked out of the arena, he was not far from where I was sitting, as he walked out of the arena, being escorted by police, he had his head kind of cocked back like this. He wasn't saying anything.

And you could just tell the expression on his face was, I'm way too old for this. That is how I feel with this passage right here. There are a number of interpretive challenges in this passage. For one, we're not sure if by head covering, Paul means an actual covering like a veil or a shawl, or if Paul is talking about just having long hair.

Paul seems to imply both things in this passage. What's he really concerned about? Second, we're not exactly sure why he is concerned about women wearing a shawl. Is it a modesty thing? Is it a gender distinction thing? Is it a show of respect thing?

He seems to pivot back and forth on that too. Third, what does it mean that the man is the head of the wife or the man is the head of the woman? If you are familiar with biblical scholarship, you might know that that question has killed a lot of trees. You see, kephale, the word in Greek Paul uses for head, it usually means authority like head of school or head of the staff.

But in some context, kephale can mean source, like the headwaters of a river. So which does Paul mean here? Is he talking about man as the source of the woman or man as the authority over the woman?

Fourth, even after we figure all this out, we're not quite sure how to apply it in our context. Is Paul saying in this passage that women ought to wear shawls or veils in church? Is it a sin for a woman to come in here with a bobbed haircut? Were my independent Baptist forefathers correct in saying that based on this passage, long hair on a man is sinful? How many of you grew up in a church where this verse was quoted to say that men should not have long hair?

How many of you? Anybody remember the song that went with it? This may be just me, but if your hair's too long, there's sin in your heart. Get it cut today, make a brand new start. You'll live a life of fear and dread with that tangled mess upon your head.

Is that a minute? We knew the song. Is that what this is saying? One more reason that this passage is particularly challenging is we get understandably sensitive when we talk about gender issues in our society because there's been so much misinformation and confusion and stereotypes and, quite frankly, oppression around these topics. Maybe you've seen women subjugated or disrespected and oppressed.

Maybe that was especially in the church. Maybe you grew up in a church where men were the only ones who ever really did anything. They said that women were equal. They taught that, but their role in the church, women's role in the church, was basically to make coffee and copies and organize the potluck suppers.

They didn't really have any input in decision-making. They weren't really treated as people that had a lot to contribute to ministry. Men did all those things.

So that's one side. On the other side, we now live in a culture that says that all gender distinctions, well, they're just sociological constructs. You can be biological sex he, but gender identified her were non-binary, they, them, them. If you insist on saying gender is a real thing, well, you can lose your job.

Just ask J.K. Rowling. If it helps encourage you, the context that Paul was writing in was perhaps even more contentious than ours is. On the one hand, you had the Jews in Paul's congregation who were uber-traditional and very patriarchal. On the other side, Corinth was one of the most, we've seen this already, sexually confused societies in history. Remember I told you that the word Corinthianized in Greek was actually used in the Roman Empire as a verb, to Corinthianize somebody meant to sexually corrupt them.

Well, they got Corinthianized. Sexual promiscuity was rampant in the city. Historians tell us there was a really large gay and lesbian community there. Transgenderism was a big deal down there, too. Cross-dressing was common by both genders.

There was even a division of the gladiator games that were hosted there where women would shave their heads and, let's just say, conceal their femininity and enter the arena and fight as if they were men. That's the context into which the apostle Paul says these things. Now, he's speaking into this. He's correcting both audiences at the same time.

Keep that in mind. I got four questions for this passage. First, we're gonna look at what does it mean when Paul says that the man is the head of the woman? Second, isn't that just a cultural thing? Haven't we moved on past that?

Wasn't Paul just making an accommodation for an ancient people, something no longer applicable to us? Third, what's the deal with the head coverings? And fourth, what does that mean for us?

That's what we're gonna do this weekend. Number one, what does it mean for the man to be the head of the woman? All right, another deep breath. Here we go.

I'm getting way too old for this. I promise. As I mentioned, the word for head in Greek is katholah, and it can mean either authority like the head of the staff or source like the headwaters of a river. It is pretty clear in this passage that Paul means both and that one of them for him implies the other. According to Genesis, Eve was created out of the side of man. He was her source, so to speak, and that order has some kinds of implications. According to verses 8, 9, and 10, there is a flow of authority, even a flow of glory in how God set up the relationship of men and women. While they are a complementing pair, both being made in the image of God, there is a sense in which woman comes from the man and was created for the man that is not true in the reverse.

Right? He, the man, was created first. She was created from his side.

She was called the edzer kenegdo, the helper. In other places, Paul directly connects this idea of headship to submission. In Ephesians 5, for example, Paul is going to say this, verse 22, wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord because the husband, see this, is the head of the wife. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Christ being the head of the church implies a submission. The man being the head implies a submission in certain relationships as well. The writer Hannah Anderson, from whom I've learned a lot, she puts it this way, at its most basic, Scripture makes two claims about the ministry of men and women. First, that men and women are equal image bearers worthy of equal honor and value.

Second, that men and women hold different roles with men exercising a headship that corresponds to a particular kind of authority in the church and in the home. You are listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. For more information about this ministry, visit us at We'll get right back to our teaching in just a moment, but before we continue, I wanted to remind you about a new resource that you won't want to miss. Pastor J.D. Greer has just released his latest book called Essential Christianity.

In this book, J.D. draws on passages from Romans 1 to 12 to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Christian message. If you're looking for a resource that will help you understand the gospel and how it addresses your most pressing questions, then this book is a must read.

Or maybe you have a friend who is seeking answers. This just might be the perfect resource. Order your copy of Essential Christianity today at forward slash essential or wherever you go to get your books. Don't miss out on this opportunity to deepen your knowledge and understanding of Christianity by getting this resource today. Now, if there were ever a loaded concept to talk about in church, headship and submission would be it. So let me stop and tell you a few things that headship does not mean. Number one, male headship does not mean, or we'll just say letter A, letter A.

Male headship does not mean the inferiority of the woman. The book of Genesis that Paul quotes from is clear that both men and women are made in the image of God. Differently, yes, each revealing God's glory and character in different ways, complementary ways.

Differently, yes, but equally. Paul in another place, Galatians 3, 28, is going to say that there's no distinction between male and female in Christ. And what he means is that it's not that we're not gendered anymore, it's that we both have equal value in our identity in Christ. Even in saying, verse 7, that the woman is the glory of the man, Paul is not demeaning her. She was created as a glorious complement to the man.

In many ways, better. I remember one time in our family devotions, my family, we were discussing this. And I pointed out how when the writer of Genesis describes the creation of Adam and Eve, the writer uses two different words for create, for Adam. The creation of Adam, he uses the word banah, which just means create. He uses a different word for the creation of Eve, uses the word banah, which means fashioned or designed. The man was just created, the woman was designed. Our daughter, Allie, who was seven years old at the time said, oh, it's like Adam was God's sloppy copy before he made it prettier with Eve.

And I said, I guess you could probably see it that way. Andrew Wilson, the British theologian, uses this illustration. He says, the apple is the glory of the apple tree. The tree is the source of the apple. So which is better?

Neither. But apples shouldn't act like trees and trees shouldn't act like apples. They're both good and useful, but they have a unique relationship with one another that is good and right and should not be muddled. To muddle this relationship is to say that God's design is not good. Men and women can play different roles in relationships without implying the superiority or inferiority of one or the other.

Here's how I know that. You see what Paul says in verse three? Paul says in verse three, he says, but I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. God is the head of Christ. God there, by the way, means Father. God exists eternally as a Trinity, which means there are three distinct persons in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father's not the Son, the Son's not the Spirit, but there's only one God.

Jesus, of course, being the Son of God, is not any less than God because he is of the same essence of God. He's the same essence of the Father, which means that he is fully equal to the Father. But when Jesus came to earth, he submitted to the Father. So when he was on earth, he said things like, Not my will, Father, but yours be done.

Though Jesus was fully equal with the Father, he looked at the Father as his head. That was not an assault on his dignity, nor did it reduce his equality with God. The point is, if it was not an assault on Jesus's dignity to do that, it's not an assault on you or me when we are in a relationship where we submit either. Submission is something that God commands of all of us in various capacities. Submission is a Christ-like quality that all of us have to learn, all of us have to learn, and it doesn't imply inequality.

Think of it this way. One of our elders here at the Summit Church is a policeman, which means that when we're doing church stuff, I'm his head. I'm his authority. But the moment we step out on the road, he becomes my authority because he has the blue and red lights of headship. Being in submission to me in here does not imply his inferiority or vice versa.

That's the first thing it doesn't mean. Secondly, male headship does not imply the subservience of the woman, as if my wife exists as a serf in my house. While the command that is given to her to submit to me as the head, while that's the command given to her, the command given to me is to lay down my life for her, to love her like Christ loved the church.

I would very humbly suggest that I have the harder of the two commands. I have to get up every day and think, how do I lay down my life for Veronica today? How do I put her first?

Where do I need to suffer so that she can thrive? If I am obeying this command, by the way, it means that I will lose 95 percent of the disagreements in my house voluntarily, because in every situation and every argument, I'm putting her needs and her interests above my own. Yes, I've been given some authority to lead, but it is not an authority to get done what I want to get done. It's authority to help her and the family flourish. It's like Pastor Tony Evans says, spiritual headship for the man is not licensed to do whatever you want to do. It is empowerment to do what you ought to do, which is to lay down your life for your wife. Guys, if you as a man are not regularly asking your wife, how can I serve you, and if you're not losing about 95 percent of the disagreements, you are not fulfilling your role in your marriage.

Forget about submission for a while. You focus on God wants from you, and you might find that submission from her begins to come a lot more easily. Number three, or letter C, male headship does not imply independent decision-making on the part of the man. God gave to each gender a different set of filters through which they see situations, and they work best when they're leading together. Listen, ladies, even though God always refers to himself as a he in the Bible, he often compares himself to a woman.

You ever noticed that? There are certain qualities of his character that are better revealed in women than in men. For example, he often talks about how he relates to his people in terms of a mother, a brokenhearted mother. In Isaiah, he says that he's more attentive to his children than a doting mother.

In Matthew, he says he cares for his prodigal child Israel like a brokenhearted mother. Women in general have a stronger relational sensitivity and a stronger nurturing instinct than men do, and that is by design. Those instincts bring invaluable perspective into every decision in the family and the church. Churches or families where men make all the decisions alone are going to end up in trouble. No, saying that man is the head and that the wife should submit to the husband does not mean that women are absent from decision-making. It just means that in a tie, the man bears the weight of making the final decision. Tim and Kathy Keller use this great example in their book, The Meaning of Marriage.

I would commend that book to all of you. He talks about the decision they made back in the early 90s to move to New York City. He was a pastor of a small church in Hopewell, Virginia.

They had a very comfortable life there, loved the people, people loved them. But he was feeling like, man, there was this opportunity in Manhattan to go plant a church, and he was feeling like, I think we should do this. She, after praying about it, felt like the answer was no. For about six months, he said they were just stymied, and they could not. He felt strongly yes, he felt strongly no. The time had come, the do-or-die moment, to make the decision.

They couldn't put off the decision any longer. So he said, I conceded. He said, okay, if you don't want to go, we're not going to go. I love this story. His wife, Kathy, said, oh, no, you don't. You coward. You are not going to make me bear the weight of this decision.

You have to make it. He had to make the decision after getting her input and wrestling with it for what God wanted for the family. Again, spiritual headship is not license to do what you want to do. It's empowerment to do what you ought to do.

I will tell you, the number of times this has actually happened in my marriage, I can count on one hand. It's not often, but there are times that, yes, I get the tie-breaking vote. So headship in the whole means that in a tie, the man has to cast the deciding vote. In the church, the headship of men means that they bear the weight of occupying the office of pastor or elder. In several places, here in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Paul makes clear that the office of pastor or elder, by the way, in the New Testament, those are the same office. It's not pastor or elder. They're the same thing. There's no distinction. That office, he says, which carries the weight of the official teaching ministry of the church, the governance and the guidance and the guardianship of the church, that office sits on the shoulders of qualified men because that's how God designed it, which is why here at the Summit Church, only men serve in the capacity of pastor or elders.

That's going to lead me to D. This is a really important one. Male headship does not mean that women cannot teach and lead in the church. Notice in this passage, Paul assumes that women are praying and are prophesying publicly in the church. Verse 5, women, when you stand up and pray, not if, but when, when you stand up and prophesy in the church service, when you deliver a Spirit-given word from God like Mary did in the Gospel of Luke or Deborah did in the Book of Judges or Huldah did in 2 Chronicles or Priscilla did in Acts or Phoebe did in the Book of Romans, when you're proclaiming God's message, do it in a way that doesn't overturn God's design for the genders.

That is, don't do it in the capacity of an elder or pastor. I hope you've been enjoying this series through 1 Corinthians as much as I have. In the book, Paul tackles a lot of different issues because, quite frankly, the church at Corinth had a lot of issues. So, JD, help us out. What exactly went wrong in the church at Corinth? Yeah, you're exactly right, Molly.

That's actually a great way to ask the question. I mean, just as a reminder, after Paul left, he was concerned because the church seemed to be divided politically, relationally. They had sexual and romantic confusion within the church.

There were differences among them about what good Christians were allowed to do, what they shouldn't do, not to mention that their church services were just, I don't know any other word, just chaotic. And so, Paul, systematically in this letter, addresses all these problems. By walking through these instructions, you'll see that Paul answers a lot of questions that are still relevant to us, but even more importantly, you'll develop a gospel instinct that will help you answer questions that you encounter in life. And so, to go along with this series, we've produced this, it's like a 14-part Bible study that'll give you a key question, an insight, and a way to apply it. This resource, I think, will really help you get out of the Book of 1 Corinthians what the Holy Spirit wants you to have.

Take a moment, check this out. Go to We'd love to provide you with a copy of Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians. Simply make a contribution of $35 or more to this ministry, and we'll send it straight to you with our thanks.

To give, call us at 866-335-5220, or visit us at I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to tune in on Wednesday for part two of the message that we began today, right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-21 10:44:43 / 2023-03-21 10:55:37 / 11

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