I Cor. 11: 3 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. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonours his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved.
Remember, Paul has moved from discussing idolatry in chapters 8-10 to a discussion of worship in chapters 11-14. This is logical, in that having discussed false worship, Paul is now prepared to discuss how to worship God in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). In this context I find it fascinating that the first thing Paul discusses is the hierarchy of relationships that exist within the Godhead and within the home. And why would he do that? Because
The worship of God matters.
- It matters that we worship. (Self-conscious, intentional, directed worship)
- It matters that we worship the right person. (Worship either lifts us and builds us or else it lowers us and eventually undoes us.)
- It matters that we worship aright. (If our worship is offensive we would have been better off never to have come into God’s presence.)
- Part of worshipping aright is getting our relationships right. We cannot relate to God properly unless we relate properly to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words we cannot love God and worship Him aright unless love characterizes our relationships with one another.
Paul connects worship and relationships all through this section. Later in this same chapter (11), he points out that the Corinthians were damaging their relationship with God because they were taking the Lord’s Supper without regard to how they were treating one another. In verse 30 he actually says that some of the Corinthians had died because they participated in the Lord’s Supper while behaving arrogantly toward fellow Christians. And let me remind you that the most beautiful chapter in all the Bible, the “Love Chapter,” chapter 13, is a part of Paul’s discussion of worship. In other words, Paul is saying that we cannot worship God if we do not love the members of the body of Christ.
He is also saying that we cannot worship God aright unless we worship in a way specific to the person He made us. Whatever else our text means, it at least means that if I am a man, I need to worship God as a man. If I am a woman I need to worship God as a woman. I also need to worship with gratitude in my heart for what God has made me. I cannot worship if I resent God for what I am. Neither can I worship if I resent God for having made the opposite sex the way they are. “Why couldn’t You make women more like men?” is not a question conducive to worship. Nor is it helpful is we come into God’s presence asking, “Why couldn’t You make men more like women?
Yet these are the very questions that the modern world inspires. Why can’t women do whatever men do? Why can’t men take on the so-called women’s tasks? Why do we have to talk about men’s roles, or women’s roles? Isn’t the very idea that men should inhabit certain roles in the church and the home, and that women should inhabit other roles in church and at home just a product of cultural conditioning?
Quite honestly, in my best understanding the Bible answers that last question with a resounding “No!” According to the Word of God the differences between men and women are built in from creation!
The creation principle
Remember, it was Jesus Who established the principle of going back to Genesis, before the fall, to figure out how men and women were supposed to relate to one another.
3 Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” 5 and He also said:
“For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh?
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
Principle: Just as Jesus referred back to the pre-fall world to tell us what God intended for marriage, so He would have us go back to the pre-fall world for all the fundamentals of how God intends men and women to relate to one another. In fact, in the Bible differentiated roles for men and women are never traced back to the fall of man and woman into sin.
Principle: The purpose of salvation is to restore in us the things that were lost in the fall. Actually, our restoration goes much further than that. The New Jerusalem in Revelation is a much richer place than the garden in Genesis. But think about it. The miracle of tongues in Acts 2 is a reversal of the confusion of tongues at Babel. The filling of the Spirit that comes to us at salvation is much richer than God merely walking with our fore-parents in the cool of the evening. Now we have fellowship with God 24/7. And in the same way, salvation is designed to restore in our marriage relationships the things that were lost in the fall, not least the leadership of the husband and the follow-ship of the wife, and for both of them, the joy that all creatures should feel simply from being a part of God’s creation as He made us!
Gen 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (KJV) (meet = archaic use of the word meaning “suitable”, “proper”, “made to fit”—these words show up in one or another of the translations)
Gen 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” (HCSB)
Before the Fall
- Adam was made first (Gen. 2:7)
- Adam was commissioned to care for the garden (Gen. 2:15)
- Adam was instructed as to proper behaviour within the garden (Gen. 2:16-17)
- God noted that Adam suffered from aloneness (Gen. 2:18)
- God described the person who would end Adam’s aloneness with two words, “helper” and “complement.” (Gen. 2:18)
At the beginning, before the fall, when everything was “very good” God made woman to join man in fulfilling his assigned tasks. As his complement, she was to be what he could not be. She was also able to make him be with her what he could not be apart from her. He could not, for instance, “multiply and fill the earth,” without her. (I mean, Adam only had so many ribs to give away.) But it was more than that. Man could not rule over the earth without the woman at his side. Of course there is the division of chores, but I’m thinking more deeply. A man is a better man under a good wife’s influence.
But it was more even than that. Not only does Scripture tell us this, but everything we’ve learned over the past 4,000 years tells us that children are better off with both parents. Ordinarily, for a child to be whole there are things only a father can give, and there are things only a mother can give, and all these things are related to the uniqueness of their sex. But it’s not just about the children. It’s about the union of flesh and spirit that is only possible when a man and woman come together in a covenant marriage. Approached properly, that union changes both of them, and usually for the better.
Time to define terms
There are two points of view competing for attention in today’s world.
Egalitarianism: The basic definition of egalitarian is “one who believes in the equality of the all people.” But feminists, including most Christian feminists, argue that hierarchically structured relationships, by their nature, create conditions of inequality. To them, “different” means “unequal.” For 1,900 years and more, the classical Christian position has been that equality and hierarchy were mutually inclusive and harmonious, both with Scripture and in life. No more. In step with secular feminists, many Christian feminists seek to overcome all differences and become just like men, both in the church and in the home.
Complementarianism: The belief that God created male and female as complementary expressions of the image of God—male and female are counterparts in reflecting His glory. Having two sexes expands the view. Though both sexes bear God’s image fully on their own, each does so in a unique and distinct way. Male and female in relationship reflect truths about Jesus that are not reflected by male alone or female alone.
Masculinity: At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.
Femininity: At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.
Why this matters: The Danvers Statement
Certain developments in society ought to concern Christians greatly:
- The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;
- the tragic effects of this confusion in unravelling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;
- the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;
- the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality;
- the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;
- the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness;
- and behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture.
- Throughout this series of sermons I will be speaking of principles, not rules. Principles set us free. Rules put us in prison.
- I will be promoting ideals, while fully aware that we live in an imperfect, fallen world in which many ideals are simply unattainable. But we should not jettison God’s ideals simply because we cannot reach them personally.
- I fully recognize that in His Providential plan for our lives, God doesn’t always give us everything that even He declares is ideal. He doesn’t give everyone a spouse. He doesn’t give children to every married couple. But even here it is important that we learn to praise God for His perfect plan. The same Heavenly Father who sent His Son to the cross, only to raise Him to glory, also asks each of us to bear a cross now so that we can join in His glory!
- Reaction vs. renewal or revival: I am fully aware that one of the problems facing those who teach complementarianism is the sense that men have had it their way for far too long, that even in the Christian world, men have abused their privileges of leadership and headship. No doubt this has happened, and it is always wrong, of course. But the question is, will we react to unBiblical behaviour on the part of some men by having Christian women adopt an aggressive and unBiblical stance of radical equality with men? The fact is, when people react they almost always over-react. Instead of reacting, why should godly women and godly men not work together to recover God’s ideal for both sexes?
- Although relatively rare, Sanctified Singleness is just as important as marriage in God’s plan. But notice I said “sanctified singleness,” that is, a life of singleness devoted to God’s service. The modern approach to the single life, postponing marriage but not sex, waiting until middle age to have children, etc. This is simply not of God. If you are called to pour your life into service in such a way that there simply isn’t room for a spouse, then praise God. But if you are just running from children and responsibility, then repent.
Complementarianism and Revival
Some of the greatest Christians I know are either egalitarians or lean in that direction. But even though a number of years ago this church officially adopted a complementarian position, in the end each of us needs to be persuaded in their own minds. But I will close with this. If the Bible teaches complementarianism, and I believe with all my heart that it does, then is it possible that the refusal to embrace this position from the heart is a huge barrier to revival in our times? How could God pour out revival on people who resent what He has made them to be, and what He has made them for?
This definition of egalitarianism is a paraphrase of Mary A. Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, page 206.
From a blog post by Mary A. Kassian, Complementarianism for Dummies, http://cbmw.org/uncategorized/complementarianism-for-dummies
Definitions for masculinity and femininity taken from Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper and Wayne Grudem editors, Kindle edition, Location 765.