Friday, August 10, 2018

Paul's First Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 25, Covering The Head In Worship, Part One

Today we are going to begin our look at a complicated and even controversial piece of advice that Paul gives to the church at Corinth. While reading it we need to remember that he is speaking of holding to traditions. In his day women wore head coverings. The head covering of Paul's day accomplished several purposes, one of the most important being that it marked the woman as a respectable woman. Prostitutes and women of loose morals usually did not wear a covering, so going without a covering might suggest to the public that the woman is not godly. Another purpose the covering served was to protect the modesty of the woman from the roving eyes of men on the street, for it marked her as a woman under the protection of a man. A young unmarried woman was protected by the authority of her father. A married woman was protected by the authority of her husband. And another purpose, as Paul will explain today, is to demonstrate the woman's willing submission to the authority of God and to the authority of her husband.

Our culture has drastically changed what is meant by the word "submission" in the Bible. It does not mean a person is inferior to another person. After all, Christ submitted Himself to the Father although He was equal to the Father. (Philippians 2:5-8) Christ was not inferior to the Father in any way, yet He placed Himself under the authority of the Father in order to accomplish redemption for mankind. We will see in Chapter 11 that everything God does is orderly, and because He is orderly there must be a hierarchy in place. God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of his household. The woman is not inferior to the man or something less than the man anymore than Christ is inferior to the Father or something less than the Father. The plan God chose for the family is that the man is the head of the household, which doesn't give the man the right to abuse his wife or disregard her opinion. Did God abuse Christ or disregard His opinion? No, and we have to keep in mind that Paul is talking to Christian men. He is not talking to men who don't love their wives.or to men who abuse their wives physically or emotionally. He is talking to men who want to treat their wives as Christ would have them treat them.

Paul begins by saying, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) This verse actually belongs at the end of Chapter 10, for it has to do with respecting and honoring the consciences of others. In Chapter 10 he talked about not engaging in any behavior that offends a fellow believer. He said it is not showing love to them if we do things that trouble our fellow believer. Paul strives to treat others as Christ would treat them, so he advises us to follow this example.

"I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you." (1 Corinthians 11:2) Most Christian denominations today don't have the tradition of women covering their heads with a veil in church. The advice Paul gives regarding these coverings applies to the time and place in which he lived. No one is going to think I'm a "loose woman" if I appear in my Baptist church without my head covered. No one is going to think I'm disrespecting the Lord or my husband if I go out in public without my head covered.

What we ought to still do in our modern times is dress modestly in public. I don't mean we have to put on a turtleneck with long sleeves and wear a skirt that goes to the floor, but I mean that we shouldn't wear low-necked tops or short skirts that invite men to stare at us and think lustful thoughts about us. Having our cleavage hanging out or wearing a skirt that barely covers our bottom conveys the message that we welcome the lustful attention of men. This is not the message we want to send. Young single women are not going to attract the right type of man by wearing provocative clothing because godly young men are not going to consider women like that "marriage material". When married women dress provocatively in public they are disrespecting their husbands by sending a message to other men that they might be available for illicit relationships. Despite what our culture tells us, we have much more to offer than sex appeal. God created women to be more than ornamental: He created us for a relationship with Him. He made us intelligent and creative and gifted. When choosing clothing, ladies, remember who you are. You are the daughters of the living God! You are princesses worthy of respect and honor, so respect and honor yourselves. If you respect and honor yourselves, men will treat you with respect and honor.

"But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3) Without order we would have chaos. There can only be one Lord and Leader of all creation. There can only be one leader of the household. This doesn't mean men aren't to listen to the opinions of their wives. I know we joke about "women's intuition", but scientific studies have shown that (generally speaking) women tend to be a bit better at judging character than men. Women often pick up on body language and other non-verbal cues to judge whether a person is sincere or not. Perhaps God gifted women with this extra perception because He created us physically smaller than men. He may have granted this extra perception for our own protection. But a godly man will respect and listen to his wife's opinions, and we have to remember that Paul is talking to men who are supposed to be godly. Paul is not telling women to submit to abuse. He's not telling women to allow themselves to be treated with disrespect as if they are the property of men. He's talking to Christian couples where the man and woman are supposed to be loving each other in a Christlike way.

"Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head." (1 Corinthians 11:4-5a) The man who covers his literal head dishonors his spiritual head (Christ). The man's uncovered head signifies that, although he is under the authority of Christ, he is the head of his home. His uncovered head demonstrates that he is accepting the responsibility of setting a Christian example in his home. When the woman does not cover her physical head in Paul's day she is disrespecting her spiritual head (her husband). She is demonstrating a rebellious personality that does not want to submit to God's structure for the Christian home. I want to point out that this whole structure breaks down in a home when one or both of the marriage partners is not a Christian. The man who is not a Christian cannot set a spiritual example because is living in disobedience to the Lord. The Christian woman who is married to an unbeliever has no example to follow. The Christian man who is married to an unbeliever will have difficulty getting his wife to follow the Christian principle of submitting to his spiritual authority because she will not care about spiritual matters. He can set the example but she may not follow it.

We are going to get deeper into the subject of head coverings, the headship of Christ, and the headship of the husband as we continue Chapter 11. My family and I are going out of state in the morning to visit my mother-in-law for several days. Our plans right now are to come home a week from today, so we should be picking back up with our study on August 18th. I will miss studying with you while I'm gone. I love you and wish you every blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ!

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