I Cor. 11:7-16 - Role of Women in the Church #2

Dr. Steve Viars May 12, 1992 1 Corinthians 11:7-16

- we're in the middle of a very important (and some might
  even say controversial) passage of Scripture - I Cor. 11
- Paul's talking about the role of women in the church

- understanding how this passage breaks down is a very
  important part of understanding what Paul is saying about
  this subject
     - so let's think through the verses together

- we said verse 1 goes with chapter 10 (if you have a version
  that divides the verses by paragraphs or "units of
  thought," I'm almost sure that your Bible has verse 1 up
  with chapter ten because it is the perfect capstone for
  what Paul had said about Christian liberty

- verse 2 is an introduction and a statement of commendation
  for the Corinthians
- its important, but its really not part of the discussion at

- so the subject of the role of men and women in the church
  begins at verse 3, and ends in verse 16
- so far, we've studied verses 3-6

- it's very important to remember that so far, two important
  truths have been given
- there's been a principle, and then what we called a
  cultural application of that principle

INPUT - what was the principle, and in what verse is it
        found?  (principle of submission - man/Christ,
        woman/man, Christ/Father)

INPUT - what was the cultural application of the principle?
        - when women were ministering publicly (not in the
            formal worship services) ...
        - they were to wear a veil (literally coming down
            from the head)
        - that’s what women (saved and unsaved) in that
            culture wore as a sign of submission to their
              - the only women who didn't do that were
                adulterers or prostitutes, and they even cut
                their hair to look like a man, or some even
                shaved their heads.
        - apparently in the Corinthian church, some of the
          ladies were so excited about their newfound
           freedoms in Christ...
              - and their freedom to minister in any fashion
                for the Lord
              - some went overboard and wanted to minister
                publicly without the veil, against the
                cultural habits of the day.
- Paul said, no--because of the unchanging principle of
  submission -- in your cultural you are free to minister
(within the parameters we've already discussed)
    - but men must minister without their heads covered
    - and ladies must do so with their heads covered
- now, after we've answered the question of "what did the
   passage mean in that day?"
     - the next question is always what?  (INPUT)
     - what does the passage mean to us today?
        - 1) how would the Lord want me to apply this passage
          2) what does he want me to me working on?
          3) What does he want me to be changing?
          4) What part of my life do I need to examine and
             adjust as a result of studying these verses?

- what we presented last week was this.
- Verse three is a clear principle of Scripture that never
    - the argument makes that clear.
       - the submission of Christ to the Father is not
         temporary.  Jesus Christ always has been and always
         will be in submission to the Father.
           - that never changes
    - men must always be in submission to Christ.
       - we worked hard on applying that to men and the way
         they live and the way they lead.
            - that principle of submission never changes.

    - ladies must always be in submission to their husbands.
       - ladies must be in submission in the church.
           - that principle never changes.

- Verse 3 is the "topic sentence" for this whole passage of
   Scripture, and it is based on the unchanging truth of God.

- but we also said this - the cultural application may
- what I presented last week, (which by the way is
   consistent with what most conservative churches and
   pastors have believed on this subject for centuries) ...
    - was that a women would no longer have to wear a veil
      while ministering publicly in our culture.
    - we gave a number of reasons for that position.

- so to summarize what we said
- there are two issues here
   - a principle and a cultural application
   - we said that the principle cannot and does not change,
      but in a few cases (like this one) the cultural
      application may

- now, someone asked an excellent question last week and I'd
   like to spend some time talking about it.
- In fact, we will be spending as much, if not more time
   tonight, talking about how to study, interpret and apply
   the Bible, as we are going to talk about the role of men
   and women in the church
- but that's one of the nice things about Wednesday nights-
  you can go into issues like this in a little more depth
    - these verses do illustrate some important principles of
      Bible study

- question was: "How do we distinguish whether something is
   cultural or not?"

     - the question is a good one, because some would say
        that all of Paul's teaching on the Roles of men and
        women in the church is cultural, and therefore none
        of it would apply today.
      - you can see where that leads--some would say "all
         that Paul taught about monogamous marriage was only
          - once that "barn door" is open--there's no telling
            what kind of strange critters are going to come

- now, I'd like to come back and answer that question
   specifically in a minute, but before we do--I think it
   would be very beneficial if we did this:

    - let's think through all the positions a person could
      possibly take on these verses (and then we'll rank them
      on which ones are worse and which ones are better)
- I'd like to suggest five.  (I'm going to assume that each
   position agrees with what has been said about the veil,
   the public ministry setting, etc.)

1) "Cut it out" position.  Yes, this passage is talking
    submission and about a literal veil/head covering to be
    worn by women ministering in public (not formal worship
    services), but I don't like that teaching, so I'm going
    to cut it out of the Bible.

    Result - no submission, no veil/covering at any time.

2) "Add to it and doctor it up" Yes, this passage
    is talking submission and about a literal veil/head
    covering to be worn by women ministering in public (not
    formal worship services), but we're going to add to it by
    asking/requiring women to wear the covering seven days a
    week, but we're going to cut down the size of the
    covering so it's smaller than a veil.

    Result - submission (often by their definition), smaller
     head covering worn at all times.

3) "The whole thing is cultural" position. Yes, this passage
    is talking submission and about a literal veil/head
    covering to be worn by women ministering in public (not
    formal worship services), but submission and a literal
    head covering is passe`. It fit Paul's day, but it
    doesn't fit ours, so we'll "throw out" the entire
      Result - no submission, no head covering.

    - there's a significant difference between position #1
      and position #3.  Even though the result is the same,
      position #1 people did it because they believe they
      have the right to decide what part of the Bible they
      should obey and what part they shouldn't.  Position 3
      people want to believe the Bible, they just "cut out"
      things that don't fit the current culture.

    - now, before we go to the other positions--let's
      evaluate these first three.

    - INPUT - what's your evaluation of the first one?
        (we can never cut anything out of the Bible.  "For
         verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth shall
         pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass
         from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matt. 5:18)

    - INPUT - what is your evaluation of the second one?
     - we have no right to add to the Scripture.  Jesus said
        in Rev. 22:18 - "For I testify unto every man that
        heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any
        man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto
        him the plagues that are written in this book."
- INPUT - your evaluation of the third one?
   (it doesn't distinguish things that truly differ)
   (the threefold principle of submission cannot change.
     - Paul puts man's submission to Christ, and woman's
       submission to man
         - in direct parallelism to Christ's submission to
           the Father
         - to say that part of that equation can change is
           to say that it all can change.
         - that would be a serious theological error.
            - to suggest that Jesus Christ was not eternally
              submissive to the Father would be nothing short
              of heresy.
            - you can't take the position that all of this is

- now, having said that--there are at least two other
   positions you could take:

4) "Principle is unchanging, cultural application may change
    from time to time." That’s the position we've been taking

    Result - Submission as outlined in verse 3, no head
      covering in today's culture.

- One other possible position is this:

5) (A person could say - I'm not comfortable saying that
   anything from this passage is really cultural--
   therefore...) The whole passage, both the principle of
   submission and the cultural application of the
   head covering, is binding today.

    Result - Submission as outlined in verse 3, veil worn
     by ladies when they are involved in public ministry
     (teaching SS, witnessing, praying, etc)

- now, we need to ask two more questions:
1) if we were going to rank these positions from worst to
   best (how would you rank them)
     - in fact (let me ask you to do that with the person
       next to you for a minute)
       (our lists might come out a little different, but I
        think you'll get the "gist" of what I'm going after."

     - INPUT?  I think the ranking would be exactly the same
        order as they were given.
          - surely the worst one is #1.

          - #2, though those kinds of folks want to some off
             as "super spiritual" is a close second because
             it's just as bad to add to the word as it is to
             take away. - #3 is bad for the reasons we've
          already stated. - #4 is better at least in the
          sense that's it's
              consistent and cautious with the Scripture.

          - obviously we would say #5 is best for the reasons
              we've already given.

- now, let me ask you to do this with the list.
    - if we were going to draw a line saying which positions
      were acceptable and which ones weren't -- where would
      you draw the line?
    - in other words, sometimes a person holds a position
      different than yours, and you could say
        - well, that's not the one I hold, but at least I see
          where you're coming from.
        - the position is consistent even though I think
          there's a better one.

- I think we would draw the line between 3 and 4.

- in other words, #4 is acceptable.  However, I don't know of
   anyone anywhere, and surely not in our country, who truly
   holds #4.
- my point is - if you're going to argue against culture
    entering this equation in any sense---then get the veils
      - if we're going to take it as literally and culturally
        binding today--then let's do what the verses
        literally say.

- now, let’s turn this question over and look at it from
  another perspective
- what about the person who would be here tonight, and would
  say, "but I thought we believed in interpreting the Bible

- let me ask you to think about that for a minute.
- do we believe that?  Do we believe in interpreting the
  Bible literally?

- the answer to that question is:  Absolutely!  Yes, we
    believe in interpreting the Bible literally.

    - But literal interpretation takes into account things
      like figures of speech and cultural application.
    - let me give you an example that is parallel to our
      subject tonight.

    - What did Jesus say in the passage that we refer to now
      as the "radical amputation" passage?
        - He said - (Matt. 5:19 - "If you right eye offends
            thee, pluck it out!)
        - now, how do we interpret a verse like that?
***Is the answer - we change our principles of hermeneutics
    (Bible study) with verses like that?


    - no--we interpret it literally--for what it literally
         - it is a literal figure of speech.
         - our Lord was using "hyperbole" (English teachers
             call it) purposeful exaggeration to prove a
         - so we interpret a verse like that literally
            - its a literal figure of speech

- our principles of Bible study remain the same -- we simply
   allow language to do what it was intended to do
  - in the case I just mentioned - the language was intended
    to communicate a point through purposeful exaggeration
- now, if you apply that same idea back to I Cor. 11 -- you
   find that we are interpreting and applying this passage
     - it was a literal principle of submission - and we are
          applying that literally
     - it was a literal cultural application - and we are
          interpreting and applying that literally as well

- so the question still remains, how do you know if something
   is cultural?
- to be sure, we have to be very careful on this.
- here's a list of questions to ask:

  1) Is this practice unique to this geographic area?  (The
      answer in this case is yes.  While the practice was
      widespread, it was not universal.)

  2) Is this practice unique to this period of time? (The
      answer in this case is again, "Yes")

  3) Would continuing this practice be counterproductive to
      the present day work of the Lord?  (The answer to this
      one is certainly "yes.") -- this isn't the only issue
      to be considered, but it certainly is one of them.

  4) Does the practice itself have "moral significance" or is
      the real issue what the practice represents?  (In this
      case, wearing a veil has absolutely no moral
      significance.  There's nothing immoral about a woman's
      forehead, or her nose.  (Frankly, a nose is a nose.)
      The issue here is what the practice represented in that

- OK, I've tried to be as thorough as I could on that--if
   you'd like to chat about that some more, I'll be happy to
   do that.

- There are still some very important points left in these
   verses--let's take the time we have left to look at some
   of them.

- in verses 7-16, Paul gives:

III. Three Differences Between Men and Women That Undergird
     This Principle

- when we say "this principle," we're talking about the
   principle of submission that was given in verse 3

- so following the argument is essential

- verse 3 - the principle of submission - that cannot change
     for the reasons we've already given
- verses 4-6 - the cultural application - that may change for
     the reasons we've given
- verses 7-16 - biblical truths that undergird the principle
   of submission - of course those can't change either

- now remember what we made a big point of last week--
    submission does not mean inequality
     - the Son is in submission yet He is 100% deity

- the issue is not inequality--but the issue has a lot to do
    with creation
- these next verses take us back to the creation of men and
    women -- and why they were created, and what roles they
    were given
- even the angels are called on because they were witnesses
   at the time of creation -- and we ought not to offend
   them by misusing the biblical material God has given us
   about the role of men and women in the home and in the

- you may want to jot down I Tim. 2:11-15 here
- we won't have time to read that passage, but Paul is
   discussing this same subject in that passage, and he
   follows the same line of reasoning
     - he talks about the role of men and women, and then he
       goes back to creation to undergird his teaching

- let's see what he says about creation in these verses
- READ 7-12
- Paul says the creation gives us three differences between
   men and women

    A. Who(m) they are to glorify

        - the passage says, a man is the image and glory of
        - and the women, while of course also being in the
          image of God, IS THE GLORY OF THE MAN

- now surely we don't want to be like those folks who cut
  things out of their Bibles--so let's try to carefully
  understand what Paul is talking about here
- both men and women can/must glorify God
- in fact, we recently studied a verse that stated that
- INPUT? (I Cor 10:31 - Whether, therefore, you eat or
    drink...) - written to both men and women

- So why does this passage say - "a man brings glory to God,
    a woman brings glory to a man?"
- the answer comes from remembering the context
   - remember--these verses are about roles
   - when a man is functioning in his proper role, he will
      bring glory to God, when a woman is functioning in her
      proper role, she will bring glory to her husband.

- now it's a lot easier to get ahold of that if we understand
   what glory means

    1. meaning of the word "glory."

        literally means "brightness, splendor, radiance,
          magnificence, fame, reknown"

        - a good illustration is Acts 22:11 - (Paul
          recounting his conversion of the road to Damascus)
          - "I could not see for the glory of the light."

- glory means brightness, splendor, magnificence
    - it grabs your attention and everything else pales in

- now, I've given you some other uses of that word in the
  books of I and II Corinthians

    2. uses of "glory" in I and II Corinthians

        a. I Cor. 2:7 - "...which God ordained before the
           ages for our glory."

        b. I Cor. 2:8 - "...they would not have crucified the
           Lord of glory."

        c. I Cor. 11:7, 15 - (our text)

        d. I Cor. 15:40 - "but the glory of the celestial is
           one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another."

        e. I Cor. 15:41 - "There is one glory of the sun, and
           another glory of the moon..."

        f. I Cor. 15:43 - "It is sown in dishonor, it is
           raised in glory..."

        g. II Cor. 3:18 - "But we all, with unveiled face
           beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
           are changed into the same image from glory to
           glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

        h. II Cor. 4:4 - "...the light of the glorious

        i. II Cor. 4:6 - "For God, who commanded the light to
           shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts,
           to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
           God in the face of Jesus Christ."

        j. II Cor. 4:15 - "...that the abundant grace might
           through the thanksgiving of many redound to the
           glory of God."

        k. II Cor. 4:17 - "For our light affliction, which is
           but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
           exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

- so the word "Glory" in the book of Corinthians:

    1. revealing or explaining something not previously

    2. revealing or explaining something not readily
       understood by unbelievers
    3. putting attention, focus, honor, on our Lord.

- this is very similar to John the Baptist's statement "He
   must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn. 3:30)

- now let's factor that back into our discussion of roles

- some key questions when I think about roles is:
   - Who do I want to glorify as I carry out my God-given
       - where do I want the focus to be?
       - where do I want the attention to go?
       - who do I want to look good?
       - whose opinion/reputation am I most concerned about
       - who do I want to glorify in the way I carry out my

- the answer for men needs to be - I want the glory to be on
   the Lord.
     - He must increase, but I must decrease
     - a man ought to say - "I want people to watch the way I
        lead spiritually in the home and in the church and
        get a better picture of our Lord"
          - I want to move into the shadows as the attention
            and honor is focused on God.
          - I want to give the right opinion of Him.
          - I want our Lord to look good to an unbelieving
              world because of the way they see me function
              in my role.

- the passage says - a wife ought to think that same way
   about her husband.
     - I want him to look good.
     - I want to enhance his spiritual leadership and
        complement it.
     - I want attention to be focused on his spiritual
        leadership as he is focused on the Lord.

- a good question to ask tonight would be - "where do you
   want the attention to be focused as you carry out your
   God-given role?"

- now, I realize what we're talking about tonight would be
   met by scorn and ridicule by the lost world.
- if I taught from this passage at a lecture hall at Purdue,
    I'd probably be tarred and feathered!

- but let me ask this:
   1) How's it working with people exercising their roles to
       glorify themselves?
        - when men lead selfishly for what they can get?
        - to bring honor to themselves?

        - when wives undercut the authority of their
          husbands, or just flat out refuse to be in
          submission to anyone.

        - let's move this out to the workplace?  How's it
          working when people are concerned primarily about
          their reputation, about what they're not getting,
          and what they're not going to do for the company,
          and on and on?

        - how's it working in the world when people aren't
          concerned about bring glory to the people they are
          in submission to?

        - Can I answer that question?  It stinks!
           - you've got husbands and wives at each other's
             throats, and bitter over the years of power
             struggles and confused roles.

           - you've got companies that are aren't nearly as
             productive as they could be because people hate
             their authority and undercut their authority
             instead of wanting to work for it, wanting to
             make it look good.

- Can you imagine what it would be like if every employee at
  every company in Lafayette went to work tomorrow saying:
    - What's most important to me today is that my company in
      general looks good, and my boss in particular looks
      good by the way I work today.
    - Can you imagine the change that would make?

    - I-65 would be jammed by semis carrying the extra
      products out of here!

- Can you imagine if every husband and wife did that

- see, maybe, just maybe, the Lord knows more about the
  people He created than we sometimes give Him credit for.

- see, when you think about your role--who are you trying to
    bring glory to?

- another question we need to ask about those who would
    object to this is:

    2) What's so wrong with trying to bring glory to someone
       other than myself?
         - Isn't that exactly what our Savior did?
         - John 17:4 - I have glorified thee on earth, I have
             finished the work thou gavest me to do.

- Paul mentions some other differences:

    B. Order of Creation  - v. 8 - "the man is not of the
         woman, but the woman of the man."

- let's take these last ones together:

    C. Purpose of creation - v. 9

        - the woman was created for the man

        - the point of all of this is that the principle of
          submission is consistent with the very creation.
- the cultural application of the head covering may change
   from time to time, but the principle of submission from
   verse 3 cannot change because of it's connection with
   creation doctrine

- there's one more step in the argument that I'd like to
   mention tonight and that is:

IV. An Important Truth That Keeps Us In Balance In This Area

    - vs. 11-12

    - we need each other

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