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August 15, 2022 2:00 am
Would remain standing on God's word is read it together tonight if you would please turn with me to first convince Chapter 11 word verses two through 16 in his letter to the Corinthian Christians.
Paul is responding to several questions of the Corinthians that asked of him in a previous letter that they had sent in our text tonight addresses the next question in the list of one that had to do with gender distinctions among Christians. It's interesting, isn't it, that despite the cultural shifts and changes that happen over the centuries mankind since the fall has been wrestling with essentially the same moral questions. There really is nothing new under the sun. When our gender confused world.
Let's take a few moments tonight to see how the apostle Paul instructed the first century church with regard to distinctions between man and woman, first convince 11 beginning at verse two. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
I want to understand the head of every man is Christ, the head of the wife 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 who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. Since it is the same as if her head were shaven referral wife will not cover her head and she should cut her hair short.
But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head that her cover her head. 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 for man, neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why 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 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 is 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.
Her hair is given to her for recovering.
If anyone is inclined to be contentious. We have no such practice or to the churches of God is the word of the Lord's prayer by your law is perfect, reviving the soul. Your testimony is sure, making wise the simple. Your precepts are right, rejoicing the heart commandment is sure enlightening the eyes.
The fear of you Lord is clean, enduring forever your rules are true and righteous altogether more to be desired are they than gold sweeter also than honey by keeping your rules. There is great room so May the words of our mouths. The meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight tonight.
Lord I rock in our Redeemer man be seated.
Peter said in his second epistle that Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand and add the text before us tonight is certainly one of those difficult to understand. Pauline passages out. I'll tell you at the outset that I don't understand a lot of what Paul is saying these verses. I'll do my best to explain what I'd I think I do understand about this is going to have to be one of those places in Scripture that I just come back to over and over again until the Holy Spirit gives sufficient illumination.
Having said that, I also want to acknowledge that much of what Paul says in these verses is very clear what's what's difficult about the clear stuff is that it runs so contrary to the cultural moment in which we find ourselves, and this makes it difficult not to understand, but difficult for some to embrace and obey nothing whenever we find a passage of Scripture like this will that runs contrary to the prevailing sensibilities and taste of our moment in history. It can be a great test case for evaluating our posture toward Scripture is my posture.
One of eager, trusting, submission, or is it one of hesitancy and and resistance do I want to know what God is saying or my more concerned with with how to make the word of God seemed palatable to my own flesh or palatable to an unbelieving world is God's word require something of us even something that is radically countercultural, we should be willing and eager to do it right. Scripture not not culture or scientific consensus or social tastes and and customs. Scripture is our authoritative word. Now, does that mean that Scripture will always contradict earthly authorities in matters of truth and reality. No, not necessarily just because are the cultures doing it or the scientific community affirms that it is amino things are wrong.
I just because a custom is broadly accepted as normal doesn't mean it's a bad customer. In fact, I think we should expect that much of what we discover in the natural world will confirm and agree with the special revelation of Scripture, but our commitment as followers of Christ first and foremost, and chiefly is to the word of God in Scripture since that word is the most direct and that the least arbitrated source of truth that we have access to source starting point with a passage of Scripture, but especially a passage that runs in direct contradiction to the norms of our age must be one of of joyful unqualified submission to whatever God says. Only then am I in a position to properly evaluate the customs and practices of the world around me like text we just read is about gender distinctions and I'll have to tell you that the subject of gender distinctions is is arguably the most polarizing topic of our generation and on the one hand it seems absurd that this would even be a polarizing topic right because after all, what could be more basic and plain than human gender.
On the other hand, isn't it interesting that Paul writing some 2000 years ago had to address the same issue that our world today is all up in arms and confused and polarized over. This is not a new issue. Therefore the truth regarding these matters must not be as obvious to the fallen mind is perhaps we think it should be. This confusion is not new, and so we conclude gender confusion is not an American thing.
It's not a Western culture thing or a modern thing.
It's a falling human being thing we get backwards and upside down on this topic not because were the product of the Enlightenment or or Modernism or postmodernism, but because were sons and daughters of Adam and E first couple of many who would disregard what God hath said in order to believe and do whatever they wanted to believe and do with those things in mind, let's go to God's word tonight, hopefully with an eagerness and gladness to agree with whatever God has said and let's let's hear from him tonight, for the sake of clarity I want to divide our text into two parts.
The first part gets at the heart of the issue by laying down a universal truth. The second part then gets into the weeds a little bit of applying that universal truth to situations and circumstances that are relative and changing and complicated soap part one is the universal principle part two is the relative and complex application of that principle so first, the universal principles found in verse three also has I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the wife is her husband and the head of Christ is God word head in this verse speaks of authority of the right and responsibility to lead and rule notice then that Christ and man and woman are all under someone's authority under someone's headship. Christ is under God's authority. Man is under Christ's authority and woman is under man's authority. Was it mean to be under someone's authority well it means to have a moral obligation to obey the authority it means to yield to the one in authority to surrender one's personal preferences and choices up to the authority to serve and honor and obey. And so Paul is saying that a roll of subjection describes Christ's relationship to God the father, and it describes man's relationship to Christ and it describes woman's relationship to man is a hierarchy. There's a chain of command is very interesting that Paul grounds his discussion of gender distinctions between men and women in this broader context of the distinctions between God the son and God the father and between Christ and man.
I think this analogy has has two effects.
First of all, it prevents us from raising an objection to women being subjected to men because whatever objection we raise with regard to women were also raising with regard to Christ if we say for example that this arrangement is demeaning to women. We are logically saying that Christ's submission to his heavenly father is demeaning to Christ were also saying that man's submission to Christ is demeaning to men on the other hand, this comparison of the man woman relationship to the relationship than the Godhead prevents us. I think from abusing the principle of authority back by carrying it too far to say that women are subject to men like Christ is subject to God the father, I think, is an acknowledgment that man's headship over woman is not without some very important qualifications and limitations. We know only that God the father and God the son are of the same substance and are both along with the Holy Spirit equal in power and glory, God the son was not eternally subject to God the father when Jesus Christ took on flesh and became a man, became a human being. Scripture says, he emptied himself at that moment of certain divine prerogatives, he subjected himself as a man to the will of the father, and so we see in the Gospels, Christ subjecting himself to the father throughout his earthly ministry. We hear him saying things like the Son of Man can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the father doing. We hear Christ praying things like father. If you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. Christ voluntarily subjected himself as a man to the will and headship of the father, but that was a limited submission in time and space.
The purpose of making atonement for men sent it in no way diminished his value or his equality with God.
Similarly, woman submission to the headship of a man in no way diminishes her intrinsic value, nor is it an unqualified license for man to exercise his headship in an absolute or authoritarian sort of way of bringing the Trinity into this analogy removes any basis for women to object to her.
Her role or for man to abuse his role because both to object an end to abuse this concept of headship is to misunderstand the very relationship that exists between God the father and God the son, the universal principle then is that men and women have differing roles but one is to lead the other is to follow in his hierarchical arrangement is not the product of of mere cultural customs or historical trends.
It's a universal reality that's built into the very fabric of the human race and is as good and healthy as the father-son relationship within the Godhead know if it's that big of a deal, it makes sense doesn't it, that men and women would resist this reality so strongly fallen men and women mean this is one of the crucial points at which as preachers we demonstrate God's image so it stands to reason that fallen sinners hate the restrictions of order and authority and structure. In fact, a significant part of God's curse on man at the fall had to do with human beings willingness to accept their God-given role in Genesis 316 God says to Eve and to every daughter who would come after her. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you is very clear. Men are to lead and women are to follow, but I can't even get those words out of my mouth without our minds revolting and objecting with 100 warnings for God as to why that's a bad idea church that reaction is itself a part of the curse. We don't like being under authority because it threatens our sense of autonomy.
Yet we love to be in authority because it strengthens our author autonomy. But God says every son or daughter of Adam will be under someone's authority.
Even my own son when he takes on human flesh because headship and submission are good and helpful and wise. This is the universal principle that Paul is calling us to embrace and calling us to live by God's leading Christ. Christ is leading men and men are leading women in this arrangement of headship and submission is good. The question then becomes how does this headship and submission play out in real life. Was it look like say on Sunday mornings when the Saints are gathered for worship. That was the specific question. Evidently, that the Corinthians were asking of Paul and so Paul explains some of the complexities involved in applying this universal print reversal principle and in a world that is constantly trying to distort the concept and practice of headship, so this brings us the end of the second point tonight, which is a complex application in verses four through 15 just walk as quickly through these verses and give some some brief explanation and comment, and I want to suggest three lenses through which we can consider the application of the headship principle lenses that I think are embedded in Paul's application here verses 15 set the context in which Paul is applying the headship principle. He says every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered, dishonors his head but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head praying and prophesying is shorthand I think for leading in public worship. In fact, for the next several chapters.
Paul's going to be addressing matters that pertain to the public worship of the church and so a good place to evaluate and learn how to properly apply the principle of headship with exercise of authority is in the corporate gathering of the church. Now there are a couple of more than a couple there's a lot of linguistic ambiguities in these verses. That's why I'd I opened by saying this is a difficult passage is a lot of ambiguity. First of all, the word head is the same Greek word that's used back in verses two and three so verses four and five might be referring to a man or a woman dishonoring their literal physical head or going back to doing three dishonoring their figurative head that is that the authority figure is over them. It's ambiguous it could mean either one. Also, the word woman and the word wife are used interchangeably in the ESV at least, it's the same Greek word. It's an ambiguous word in the Greek that can mean either woman or wife is nonspecific and so it requires that we make an interpretive decision in translating it so back to the text in verses four and five, Paul makes an interesting connection between honorable conduct and the way we dress, particularly with regard to our hairstyle and Paul loads his comments with what I think must be cultural, and stylistic customs that were normative in the first century. That's also up for grabs.
I'm not certain of that. But I think so. We try to unravel some of those customs if if I can in first century Rome men who were engaged in pagan worship would often pull their robe, their clothing up over their heads as an active devotion to whatever faults God they were worshiping if if Christian men then in Christian worship were to observe that custom, they would be unhelpfully identifying with the pagan worship practices of their day all, says that would be dishonoring to man's head and he was man's head verse three Christ is man's head. So by the simple act of following up normative pagan custom Christian men would have been associating Christ with these pagan deities of the time it would've been dishonoring to Christ for first century women on the other hand, it was customary for them to wear head coverings in public as a sign of submission to their husbands. Again, there is an ambiguity here is unclear whether the head covering referred to an actual veil of some sort or to the woman's hair itself being put up on their head, us both like a bun or something in in first century culture the letting down or loosening of a woman's hair was associated with sexual intimacy. So when Paul speaks here of a woman having her hair covered he might be referring to an actual covering a separate object symbol that she put on or to her simply having her hair put up on her head in public. Either way, what matters was that a covering of some sort was used. Why did it matter it mattered because that was the custom of the age and to not follow the custom would be to communicate in that setting.
Insubordination or worse adultery first century women who were caught in adultery were in some places publicly identified and humiliated by having their head shaved and so Paul is saying by not following the customs of the day with regard to stylistic gender distinctions Christian women would be sending the wrong message. They would be displaying an attitude toward their God-given femininity. It would be contrary to God's created order. It would dishonor their head and he was there head verse three, head of the wife is her husband, Paul summarizes all of this in verse seven man ought not to cover his head since he is the image and glory of God covering his head would buy Association communicate that Christ is on par with these false Roman gods and conversely women ought to cover their heads with a veil or with their actual hair, because verse seven woman is the glory of man and to not cover their heads would buy Association communicate that they are not insubordination to their husbands.
So in verses four through seven look to cultural customs to maintain gender distinctions in verses 8 to 12 look to creation in order to define and and maintain gender distinctions all makes the point that creation man was not made for or from woman, but rather woman was made for and from man. In verses 13 through 15 then Paul looks to the natural world to demonstrate that distinctions between men and women between that which is masculine and that which is feminine are not arbitrary either not random or incidental accidents know they are features of how God made us.
Verse 14 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 is her glory so so he's moving beyond mere first century custom and looking broadly to nature. Now we need to be careful not to say more than Paul is saying he doesn't, for example, define the word long, not some biblically conclusive standard that define the fines how long a woman's ear ought to be or how short a man's ear ought to be. That's not really the point. The point is, men and women are different and that difference shows up in even the most fundamental expressions of style and appearance.
Furthermore, that difference is something we ought to relish and preserve because it's a God-given difference God-given at creation. There is an order of function and purpose that is distinct between men and women and that distinction is intuitive in the natural order of things it's reinforced in the biological and psychological differences between men and women. It has been demonstrated generation after generation through the various expressions of custom and culture and it's even exemplified by way of analogy within the relationships of the persons of the Godhead authority delineation between male and female is natural and God-given and morally wholesome and culturally expressed, and so as Christians we ought to value the preserving and maintaining of those distinct distinctions that the specifics of how those distinctions manifest manifest themselves is going to vary from culture to culture from generation to generation. But we ought to study how those distinctions are best expressed in our culture.
And we ought to be careful to observe those customs insofar as they convey our acceptance and delight in God's created order just to be clear, I believe this passage is simply requiring women to wear feminine hairstyles in public worship. Some Christians I'm aware take it further than that and require an actual physical symbolic head covering of some sort, word symbol in the ESV is not in the Greek and so it's it's not as conclusive as it may appear in the Greek, the Greek is just really too vague to to know for sure. In my opinion, what's not inconclusive, though in this text is that women are to look feminine. And men are to look masculine but even in saying that we have to acknowledge that expressions of femininity and masculinity are to some extent culturally relative. I can tell you from personal observation that what is considered feminine in Kenya and what is considered feminine in Harrisburg are not the same.
And yet, femininity and masculinity are noticeably identifiable in both cultures, even though the cultural expressions of those two things are are very one of the most helpful commentators on prescriptions for me has been a British theologian by the name of Anthony for Sultan in his huge commentary on prescriptions he outlines three lenses through which to view Paul's discussion of gender distinctions and and and while this doesn't answer every ambiguity we find in this chapter, I think it does help us, put the pieces together in a in a cogent way for Sultan mentions first the lens of creation the lens of creation God has created human beings in a certain way with the predefined role or function that cannot be altered.
This is an absolute lens through which to see issues related to gender.
If God has made the human race a certain way. We don't need to go tampering with it.
We don't need to go altering it absolutes need to remain absolute and anything that is the way it is by virtue of it being created that way is an absolute affixed reality and so as Christians we affirm wholeheartedly and joyfully that gender distinctions exist. That's the creation lens but next for Sultan mentions a second lens.
The lens of culture gender distinctions by virtue of God's creative act exist but those distinctions are expressed in time and space, various customs and and practices, customs and practices that will vary from generation to generation, and we can acknowledge freely that this lens of of culture. Unlike the creation lens is relative. It fluctuates, it changes it morphs over time, but the fact remains, there are cultural expressions of gender distinctions and so as Christians we ought to try to learn those customs and and understand what they mean in our moment of history so that we can affirm the absolute principle of Scripture in culturally relevant ways is the relative lens of culture and incidentally I think a lot of our text tonight is is Paul's inspired reflection on gender distinctions through this lens of cultural relevance. This means there is a legitimate place for Christians to give consideration as to how they live out their faith in their cultural moment. I don't think this is playing fast and loose with the word of God. It's actually an attempt to faithfully live out the word of God in every context for Sultan's last lens then is the eschatological lens or we might say the gospel lens of the gospel has profound implications on the distinctions between male and female so profound in fact that Paul says in Galatians 328 in Christ there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus gospel saves men and women in the same manner and to the same extent. There's no gender distinction when it comes to salvation.
This means that although we ought to carefully and eagerly maintain distinctions between men and women and how we function and serve and live our lives on this earth. Those distinctions are of relative importance in light of eternity. We don't know what gender differences will look like in the new heavens and new earth. We do know that all who are in Christ will alike share in the glory of that day and so as Christians in the here and now we treat each other as equals in the kingdom men. If you abuse your authority, you've missed the whole point it if if you are exercising the authority you get been given an a in a self-centered, self-serving, self glorifying way you don't get it. There's nothing honorable or masculine about that. Women, if you resent your earthly role as a helpmeet to your husband. You're not only making yourself miserable.
You're also disgracing the status that yours in Christ as a co-air with man, the church can I say it as plainly as possible. Men need to act like men and women need to act like women. It is shameful and rebellious for us to do otherwise within the million dollar question is what is Biblical manhood and womanhood.
I'll tell you what it isn't. It isn't something that's defined by our favorite personality traits.
I think we all have a tendency to define concepts like masculinity or femininity in ways that highlight our natural strengths and so for instance, though the ripped athletic Christian male says typical masculinity is about toughness and and strength. The intellectual Christian male says biblical masculinity is all about truth and reason.
The dainty Christian female says biblical femininity is about being quiet like Ruth or patient like Hannah.
The ambitious Christian female says biblical femininity is is about being a leader like Deborah or bold like Esther we get all eager to display gender distinctives, but we define those distinctives in ways that play to our personal strengths. That's probably just pride hiding behind an important biblical principle we need to be careful to let Scripture define masculinity and femininity for us, lest we unknowingly fall prey to whatever the current evangelical sentiments happen to be. And so while there is a culturally relative element in all of this. I think it means that the creation and the gospel lens is our primary in the cultural lens. A secondary just keep in mind that we can't dismiss any of these lenses because Paul alludes to all of them in our text is no way we could exhaustively cover the subjects of masculine and feminine distinctions tonight but perhaps I can just kinda point us in the general direction as we close. There are a number of important Scripture passages that highlight the differences between men and women. These passages ought to be our starting place with regard to femininity. Consider Genesis 2, which describes woman as a helper and companion. Those qualities are going to be central to your femininity, ladies first Timothy 29 through 12 emphasizes the feminine traits of modest adornment and self-control with regard to physical appearance. This implies that women are blessed with physical beauty that can be used in a noble and pure way, or in an improper and sensual way. You need to be on guard. You need to be wise in your physical appearance.
Titus two describes the godly woman's use of speech in time. She is to pursue reverence in her behavior. She is to foster both in herself and in the women around her contentment in domestic pursuits is a feminine trait contentment and domestic pursuits is not something to be despised. Even though our culture despises first Peter 3136 describes the feminine ideal as a respectful sure, gentle, quiet, and again warns of giving too much attention to merely outward beauty. And, of course, Proverbs 31 is the quintessential passage of biblical womanhood. It it presents to us an ideal to which every Christian woman ought to look with admiration and expectation that one day in glory she will attain to this ideal, but in the meantime be striving for these qualities, it's, it's who God made you to be. As for biblical masculinity. In Genesis 1 we see God commissioning man to exercise dominion rule over all the earth, man is is seeing growing food and organizing and naming things so as to have mastery over this world and in so doing, he bears the image of his creator.
First Timothy two as well as first Peter three speak of man as a praying creature who is charged with coming into the presence of God as a mediator of sorts, a representative of his family and the prerequisite for this priestly duty is holiness. Let men lift holy hands to the Lord in prayer.
Another prerequisite is understanding and deference and how he relates to his wife so that his prayers may not be hindered. Man is called in Titus two to be sober minded to be sound in faith is called to be steadfast, not prone to fluctuation with every wind of change is called to demonstrate integrity and dignity. All of these are the biblical definition of masculinity in first John two men are described as victors, who have fought against the evil one and overcome in first Corinthians 1613 the masculine man is brave and strong brothers and sisters, we are called to love these traits even when the world despises them.
Recall to develop these traits, each in our respective roles, even when the world dismisses them or distorts them as into some caricature of what God intends them to be weird to encourage each other to pursue these ideal if wives are called to have a gentle and quiet spirit than men be the kind of husband that fosters a gentle and quiet spirit and your wife women. If men are supposed to live with their wives in an understanding way then please be understandable to your husband help him be the man. Help her be the woman closes this passage them with an admonition that anticipates some resistance to what he has said verse 16. If anyone is inclined to be contentious about your role as a manager role as a woman. We have no such practice of being contentious in order. The churches of God. When you resist this most basic function of being a human being created in the image of God, your actions and attitudes are not consistent with the follower of Christ is close by addressing the young people in the room.
The young people you are coming up in a world that has lost sight of these crews and credibly breathtaking sort of way, and I have no doubt that this assault on God's created order with regard to gender will continue. Here's what I want you to remember gender distinctions are God's invention, not ours, and as such, God and God alone has the right to define those distinctions. I also want you to remember. Remember that your greatest joy and fulfillment in this area of gender, or in any area of life comes as you submit yourself to the one who is your head Lord Jesus Christ follow his rules.
He really doesn't know what will make you happiest.
What will make you most filled with joy. The world will always be trying to invent new ways of rebelling against God. You be faithful you honor your creator by bearing his image well. Pray for the world is at enmity with you. You told us it would be that way, help us not to be shot or influenced by that enmity, especially when it seeks to put pressure on us to conform to its rebellious ways you have done such a work in us that your word calls us new creations in Christ you help us by the power of your Holy Spirit in us to rest in that work and to pursue attitudes and behavior and thought processes that reflect the character and calling of of those who been redeemed by sovereign grace make us men and women who make the world jealous for the joy that only you can give pray in Jesus name for his honor.