I Cor. 11:1-16 - Role of Men & Women in the Church

Dr. Steve Viars May 5, 1992 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

I Cor. 11:1-16 - Role of Men and Women in the Church

- this evening we're going to be moving into a new section of
  material in the book of I Corinthians which begins in
  I Cor. 11:2
- Paul's going to be talking here about the issue of the
  "Role of Men and Women in the Church"
- now you might say, boy PV, we just finished working through
  the controversial subject of Christian liberty...
    - are you sure we ought to tackle this topic so soon
      after the last one?

- the answer to that is "Sure"
- that's one of the great things about the Bible in general
   and the book of I Corinthians in particular
- it's timeless--it's so practical and easy to apply

- these were important issues in the Corinthians' day, but
   they're important issues in our day as well

- we needed to study Christian liberty, but in this day and
   time we need to study the Bible's teaching on the role of
   men of women in the church.
- these subjects are great opportunities for us to learn
   important biblical truths and test our willingness to be
   in submission to God's authority and design

- now about the only difference between the section of
   Scripture we just studied and the one we're going to begin
   studying tonight is that it's shorter
- Paul took three chapters to discuss Christian liberty, he
   only takes 15 verses to discuss this topic, but (I'll tell
   you) these verses are loaded with truth, and they're
   loaded with answers to controversial questions:
    1) Should a woman wear a literal head covering today? Is
        it necessary to do so?  Will a woman go to heaven if
        she doesn't?  Is it wrong if a person does so?
    2) Who is a man to be submissive to and what is that
        submission supposed to look like?
    3) What does it mean to pray/prophesy and can a woman do
        that in public worship services in the church today?
    4) Does the Bible teach the "equality of the sexes?"  If
        so, where?  If not, what does it teach?
    5) What about hair length?  What does this passage say
        about hair length for a man?  What about hair length
        for a woman?  Are those principles applicable for
    6) What do angels have to do with all of this?

- I think we need to say this about this subject as well:
   - the subject of the role of men and women in the church
     is one of the hottest areas of disagreement in the
     church today, and if the Lord tarries, probably will
     continue to be throughout our generation.
       - issues like the ordination of women, and even
         subjects like homosexuality are affected by these verses
       - there are already a lot of churches even in our own
         community that would disagree with us on these
         subjects, and those disagreements are going to get
         nothing but sharper as time goes on.
- now we're not here to put then down, nor am I saying that
  the thrust of our ministry ought to be to change them
   - but--it's imperative that we know what we believe on
     these subjects and why we believe it.

- one other thing I'd like to say about these verses is:
   - this is a great opportunity to flex our "hermeneutical
     muscles" (principles of Bible study)
   - these questions give us an opportunity to practice
     interpreting, and understanding, and applying God's Word

- I'd like to begin studying this issue by "brainstorming"
   this question: "Roles of men and women in the church is
   one of the hottest topics of our day.  What are some
   characteristics of our society and our churches that add
   fuel to that fire?"

- I'd like to ask you to take about 2 1/2 minutes and discuss
   that with some of the folks around you.
- the reason we're doing it that way is because there are
   some very important answers to that question, but it may
   take a minute ot two to prime the pump.
     - so we'll give you an opportunity to do that and then
       we'll discuss it for a minute together


- let me give you the "plan" for how we're going to study
   these verses
- this chapter breaks down in two very distinguishable units
    - in verse 2, Paul begins with the words "now I praise
       you brethren" and then he goes on to discuss the topic
       of men and women in the church
    - in verse 17, there's a clear shift which begins with
      the words "now in this I praise you not." Then he goes
      on to discuss their behavior at the Lord's table

- now we're going to be looking at verses 2-16, but it will
  probably take us two weeks to get through the verses
- let's read the verses carefully and let me encourage you to
    be looking for principles that would guide us on this
    important subject

- READ 2-16

- The outline we're going to use for both weeks is:
   I. The Principle of Submission in the Church and Family -
        v. 3
  II. A Cultural Application of This Principle - vv. 4-6
III. Doctrinal Truths That Undergird The Principle -
       vv. 7-16

- tonight, we'll look at these first two points
   - one of the major emphases of our study will be that we
     have to learn to distinguish things that clearly differ
   - thats an important principle of hermeneutics
  - in this passage, we have to determine what (if any) of
     Paul's teaching in these verses was especially directed
     at the Corinthian culture (and therefore would not be
     applicable today)
      - and what part (if any) is doctrinal and therefore
        must be applied to all cultures

- so, (repeat the outline)

let's begin by talking about:

I. The Principle of Submission in the Church and Family

    - it's interesting that Paul begins this section of
       Scripture by commending the Corinthians
    - the Corinthians had a lot that they needed to work on,
       but Paul throughout this book looked for ways to
       commend them for what they were doing that was right
    - INPUT - what did Paul commend them for in verse 2?
        (following his teachings, being submissive to his
         apostolic authority)
           - that’s one thing you could say about this whole
             section of Scripture beginning at chapter 7
           - its all responses to questions they had asked
           - they may have been doing a lot of things wrong,
           but at least they were asking questions

    - so he starts by commending them for something they're
      doing that was right
      - there's undoubtedly a lesson there about how to
         approach sticky issues

- now, in verse 3, there's three levels of submission taking
- Paul talks about:

    A. The submission of our Saviour to the Father

        - now, I realize you could say--well you switched the
        - that’s true-but I did so because if we understand
          our model of submission, we'll be in a much better
          position to fit into our submissive roles in the
          home and church

        1. The Lord went "out of His way" to communicate that
           He was in submission to the Father.

           (farm out verses)

            John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, I Cor. 3:23

        2. However, our Lord was "100% God," completely equal
           to the Father.

            cf. John 10:29-30 (picture of the balance between
              Christ's submission and His deity)

     - theologians refer to this concept as the "economic

     - word economy literally means "An orderly management or
        arrangement of parts" (a meaning that has largely
        been lost in our day and age)
     - but theologians spoke of the economic trinity because
       of the Scriptures teaching that each Person of the
       Godhead is equal - "100% deity"
         - yet for purposes of management and administration,
            there is submission
         - The Father SENT the Son, the Son SENT the Spirit

    - the Trinity is the Perfect example of perfect
       organization of perfect Persons
         - and still there is submission in that model of
             organization - Paul wants us to remember that

- Paul also wants us to remember:

    B. The submission of men to Christ

        - often when people think of submission, they
          automatically think of women
        - that’s not right
        - a church that's growing and pleasing the Lord is
          characterized by submissive men

INPUT - what are some ways men can and must be submissive to
     the Lord?

- Every time I've ever counseled a couple where the wide was
   struggling with submission to her husband, there was also
   a husband who was not modeling submission in his own life.
- that doesn't mean she can blame her sin on him, but it does
   mean that God is greatly pleased by men who see submission
   as an area they want to grow in.

- illus - I think of a case of an older couple
   - sharp people in a lot of ways
   - he had had a very successful career
   - they had a lot of material things as a result
      - knew how to dress, act in public
      - if they walked in tonight, you'd be attracted to them
          because of their positive qualities
      - but he admitted that he hadn't had much time for
         spiritual things
      - had attended a nominal church and was happy to do so
      - as a result, there were all kinds of unsolved
          problems in the marriage that kept getting swept
          under the rug
      - he said to me "you know, just because you're a
         successful leader in business doesn't mean you're
         going to be a successful leader at home"
          - one of the first sessions, I asked him to read a
            verse from the Scripture and tell me what it
          - it was truly pitiful - he couldn't even begin to
             understand even the simplest of verses or even
             come close to applying it to his life and
          - here's a nice guy, friendly guy, popular guy
             - but he was in deep trouble because all his he
               never worked at being submissive to the Lord.

- Paul said – that’s got to be happening in the church

- now a couple of things we need to say about these first two
  before we move to the next one
- we're talking about submission out of love
   - there's nothing negative about these statements at all
      - our Lord submitted to the Father out of love for
      - men are to submit to their Lord out of love for Him

   - also, there's great joy in this arrangement
   - there's nothing tyrannical about this at all

- it's positive, loving, and right
- now, with those same thoughts in mind, Paul says:

    - Paul goes on to say--the third kind of submission that
      must be going on in the church is between men and women

    C. The submission of men to women

        - he says - the head of the woman is the man
        - now, the rest of the verses are a development of
           this third kind of submission

- now, there's a lot of other things we need to say about
   this topic, but I think any time we get around the subject
   of submission--we need to ask some questions.
- 1) How are you doing on the issue of being submissive to
     the authorities the Lord has placed in your life?
       - if we asked those authorities--what would they say?
  2) Do you view this as a negative concept, or a positive
  3) Is it possible that some of the world's philosophies on
      this subject have crept into your thinking and
      therefore affected your speaking or behavior?
  4) Do you see submission as an opportunity to be more like
      our Savior, and do you joyfully seek to be like Him in
      this critical area of life?

- in the next series of verses, Paul is going to give an
  application of this principle.

II. A Cultural Application of This Principle

- Paul is going to illustrate the principle of submission
  with the issue of praying and prophesying with your head
- there are several questions we need to think about in
   connection to that.

    A. What is praying or prophesying?

        - generally speaking, praying means talking to God
           about men
           - prophesying means talking to men about God

        - now, of course, there is no need for the gift of
           prophesying today because we have the Scriptures.
        - but before the Scriptures were completed, people
          did prophesy in the church
            - and that gift was given to both men and women.
    - in Acts 21:9, Phillip's four daughters all had the gift
       of prophecy.

- now, we need to see that that was an incredible turn of
   events for women in that culture.
- women in the Roman empire were often treated like slaves
    - many husbands just treated them like personal property

- as a result of the abuses, there was a strong feminist
    - who attacked marriage and childbearing as infringement
      on their rights

- now, the Christian message on this subject must have been a
  shock for women in Bible times

- they are reading verses like Gal. 3:28 - "there is neither
    male nor female" and I Peter 3:7 - "grant her honor as a
    fellow heir of the grace of life."
       - those verses clearly taught the equality of the
       - there is no intrinsic difference in quality between
         men and women

- the fact that women were able to be involved in ministries
   of the church by praying and prophesying was nothing short
   of liberating for women in Bible times.

- now, I think we need to put some balance on that:

    B. Where was this praying or prophesying done?

       - remember, we've always got to compare Scripture
         with Scripture.
       - we'd have difficulty if we interpreted these verses
         to mean that Paul was saying women could pray and
         prophesy in the public worship services of the
           because that would contradict other clear passages
           on the subject.

        1. could not have been in formal public worship

           I Cor. 14:34 - "Let your women keep silence in the
             churches; for it is not permitted unto them to

           I Tim. 2:12 - "But I permit not a woman to teach,
             or to usurp authority over the man, but to be in

- so in order to understand this passage in a way that is
   consistent with other clear verses, (some even from the
   same book), we've got to say that Paul's talking about
   other public ministry settings where a woman was praying
   or prophesying -- but not one of the formal worship
   services of the church.

- now, you might say - "what kind of settings?"
  1) a situation where a husband and wife are telling a
      group of people who don't know the Lord about the
      Savior.  (there's examples of that in the Scripture)
  2) an older woman is teaching the Word to other younger
      women in the church.
  3) where a group of Christian brothers and sisters are
      praying together.

        2. compare many examples in Scripture where women
           had significant and effective ministries in the
           church.  (next week)

- Question is - how would God's divine order be fleshed out
   in the way men and women ministered in the church in the
   Corinthian culture?

- Paul answer to that is - "by the appropriate people having
   their heads properly covered."
- now, let's talk about:

    C. What was this head covering?

        - the head covering that Paul is talking about here
          is a veil that women, saved or unsaved,  in that
          culture already wore.
        - you know that that's even done in some Near Eastern
          countries today.
           - if you asked a woman, saved or unsaved, why she
             wore that covering--she'd tell you
              - it's to signify that she won't expose
                herself to other men, that her beauties and
                charms are reserved entirely for her husband.
              - she doesn't want to be noticed by other men.
         - now the point isn't whether the practice was right
           or wrong
             - the point is that it was part of their culture
               and had definite cultural significance that
               everybody understood.

        - so there's two very important points emerging here

           1) Paul's talking about something that was to be
              done in connection with public ministries of
              the church (not the worship services, but some
              form of church ministry.)
                - He's not commenting on how women should or
                  shouldn't dress 7 days a week.
                - there's other passages of Scripture on
                  that, but not in reference to a woman
                  covering her head seven days a week.
            2) We're clearly talking about a cultural issue.
               - practically everybody in that culture knew
                 the significance of a woman having her head
                 covered in public, and the significance of
                 her not having it covered.
               - that is surely not true today--and we'll
                 talk about that more in a few moments.

    D. What was Paul's point to the men?

        - verse 4 says a man ought not to pray or prophesy
          with his head covered.
        - we're not talking about the Jewish yamicas that
          orthodox Jews wear today.
            - there's no historical evidence that Jewish men
              used them until much later and for an entirely
              different reason.

        - now you might ask, is Paul talking about a man
          wearing a veil?
        - if he is, there's surely no historical evidence
           that that's the case.
        - I think the point is - Paul's setting up a
          "hypothetically ludicrous" picture of a man
           ministering with a "veil-like" covering
             - and saying--just as ludicrous for a man to
               minister with a covering is a woman to
               minister publicly without one

- So Paul is saying that as men and women minister together
   in the church, he wants all involved to be sensitive to
   the divinely ordained order laid out in verse 3 and
   cultural issues of the day were a part of that

- now, we'll talk about some contemporary applications in a
- we need to get one for idea on the table:

    E. What was Paul's point to women?

        - according to verse 5, they ought to wear the veil.
        - apparently, some women in the church had not
           controlled their new-found freedom in the Lord and
           were acting like some of the feminists of the day
        - Paul says - if you're going to take your veil off
           and violate God's divine order, then why not take
           the next step of shaving your head
             - which in that day was a sign of a prostitute
               or adulterer.

- So, just like to the men,  Paul is saying that as men and
   women minister together in the church, he wants all
   involved to be sensitive to the divinely ordained order
   laid out in verse 3 and cultural issues of the day were a
   part of that

- now, that’s been a lot of content, but we needed to get that
   "out on the table" so we were prepared to make some right
    applications to today.

    F. Applications for today?

        1. to the men

            a. Be spiritual leaders

                - we'll never know this side of heaven
                  whether a man in Corinth actually ever
                  ministered publicly in the church with
                  his head covered.
    - but regardless, there's no question, that in the
      Corinthians church, just like in every church--there
      were men who were not taking the spiritual lead in the
      church and in their homes.
    - we ought to recognize that as every bit as bad,
        - and every bit of a violation of God's order
        - as a woman doing the opposite.

    - for some reason, I think we have those two problems in
      different categories of importance in our mind.
    - if a woman stood up in this service tonight and
      challenged publicly what I've been saying,
       ...most of us would gasp -- and automatically view
          that as a terrible violation of Scripture.
      - but what about the man who sits in the service and
         doesn't concentrate or listen?
      - or nods off to sleep?
      - or won't study any more on this subject at home?
      - or puts off his wife's questions on the subject at

- in our American minds, somehow that’s more acceptable
- Paul's given us a bizarre picture to help us see that
   issue for what it really is.

- it's every bit as wrong as a woman violating her role.
- in fact, it's like a guy coming to church with a veil on
     his head like one of the girls.

    2. don't minimize the importance and potential
       effectiveness of the spiritual ministry women have in
       the church (within biblical guidelines.)

       - here's where I'm coming from on that:

       - an important principle of hermeneutics is thinking
         through how that passage would have been
         taken/understood by the original hearers.
       - I think we miss that point because we view these
         kinds of passages as Americans instead of 1st
         Century believers.

       - see, we look at a passage like this one, and other
          passages on the subject of the role of men and
          women in the church and immediately focus on the
          negative.  (what a woman can't do)
       - I'm convinced, that in light of their culture, that
          is not the way these verses would have been
          received by the Corinthians.

          - the fact that they could pray and prophesy in any
          - the fact that Paul said in Galatians that in
              Christ there is no "male or female."
          - the fact that Peter reminded husbands that their
              wives were "fellow heirs of the grace of life."
          - the fact that the Bible is filled with examples
              of how women ministered effectively in the
- all of that was greatly liberating to women in that day.

- while their are limits because of the divine order set out
   in verse 3, there was also great freedom to minister.

- a man (or anyone for that matter) has no right to minimize
   the importance and potential effectiveness of that ministry
   as long as it is carried out in line with biblical

- if time (Feori illus - a million dollars/one condition/no

    B. to the women

        1. not--wear a veil to church.

            - we do not believe that this passage requires a
              woman in our culture to wear a head covering 7
              days a week, or even to church.

            - now, I guess there's nothing wrong with a
              person doing that if they choose to:
                a. as long as they're not viewing that act as
                    part of what gets them into heaven.
                b. as long as they're not trying to push that
                    belief off on someone else.

- now, having said that--I recognize that we have folks who
   attend our services who do that.
- some of them are personal friends with Kris and I.
    - they knew I was going to be speaking about this
    - they're not uptight about it--neither should we be.

- we need to say to folks who wear a small head covering

    1) that is not the kind of head covering spoken of in
        this passage.
          - Paul's clearly talking about a veil here just
            like women in the Near East wear today.
    2) the veil clearly does not have any cultural
        significance to the average person today.
          - I know that because Kris and I have had unsaved
            people ask us why some folks do that.

- now, in case you're uncomfortable saying that this isn't
  for our culture
    - let me say--you have to take that position on certain
    - there are certain things that had cultural significance
      in that day that they would never do that we are free
      to do
        - and there are certain things that had no cultural
          significance in that day that they were free to do
          that we would never do today.

- for example, what would you say if I showed up tonight in
  an outfit that was kind of a "cross between a dress and a
    - it has some nice gold lace around the neck
    - maybe some ornamental piping around the sleeves

- are you getting the picture?
- what would you do?
- why, you'd collectively pick me up and stuff me in the
   dumpster - and probably pummel me a few times for good

- Dress is largely cultural
   - unless it's immodest or sexually suggestive...
   - it has no moral or spiritual significance unless the
      culture gives it that significance.

- men dressed the way I just described all the time in
   Corinth and there was nothing wrong with that in their
- but do it today--it would say something you wouldn't want a
   Christian man to be saying

- the same is true with the holy kiss
    - it was perfectly acceptable for a man in the first
      century church to greet another man with a holy kiss
    - hey-try that today
       - try that in front of some unbelievers and see what
          it communicates to them

- so we're not saying a woman ought to carry out the
   cultural application of this principle by covering her
    head today

- however, that doesn’t negate the principle of submission
  found in verse 3:
    - next week we'll study all the doctrinal reasons for the
    - the cultural application may change, but the biblical
       and doctrinal principle remains the same

    2. look for opportunities to demonstrate your submission
        in the church and in the home

        - some ladies really struggle with this.
        - the professional couple I mentioned earlier where
           the husband wasn't God's kind of leader.
        - when he did finally begin taking the lead
            - the wife really chafed under that
            - so at the family gathering, she would take her
               husband into the back room and bawl him out
               because she didn't like his prayer before the

        - she was openly critical of him and demeaned his
          efforts to lead spiritually
        - she had been the self-appointed spiritual leader in
           the family and it threatened her that she might
           lose that position

        - some churches are filled with that women like that

        - it doesn't matter if they've got big hats, veils or
          whatever on while they're doing it
            - that kind of lack of submission is a violation
              of the principle that's set forth in these

    3. Rejoice in your freedom to serve and minister

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video