Our Church Service on August 28 will take place at 4734 Samish Point Rd, Bow WA 98232 at 11 am

Gender Distinction and The Glory of God - 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Oct 2, 2022    Andrey Bulanov


God created both men and women equal in his glorious image.
God created men and women with differing characteristics and callings, which uniquely bring glory to him.
All women are not under authority of all men, but under their husbands
Male headship does not mean female subservience or subordination, it means strong Christ-like love
Male headship is leadership from the inside.
The church must be a place of healthy gender distinction
The glory of God, not people, must be at the center when God's people gather.

Is your understanding of men and women in the church shaped more by culture or by Scripture?
Do you work to intentionally cultivate healthy masculinity and femininity in your life and relationships? Do you welcome the complexity of these conversations?
Is the primary aim of your life and relationships in the church to honor and spotlight Christ?

Scripture References:
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Genesis 1:26-28

Living as honest followers of Jesus in a broken world is a challenge in any age. Although God's truth is clear, black and white - the task of constantly and faithfully applying God's word to our specific personal, cultural and historical situations is always challenging and always changing.

Today we return to our study of 1 Corinthians where one of the big themes is the call for Christians to live distinct and different from the world around.

Corinth was the ancient equivalent of combining New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It was a center of both business, religion and the arts in the ancient world.

The christians in Corinth were coming from a wide variety of backgrounds including pagan and jewish backgrounds.

As we have studied in the previous chapters the Corinthians were being naive in their relationship to the world - especially the world of pagan idolatry.

Paul comes along to help address various specifics on how we navigate our identity as christians in a broken world:
1. Divisions in the church (chapters 1 – 4);
2. Questions surrounding sex and singleness (5 – 7);
3. How to navigate controversies surrounding meat offered to idols (and other controversies that kept them from reaching people) (8 – 10)

Chapters 11-14 are all built around how we as christians must approach our worship together when we gather.

As I mentioned a minute ago - even though God's word is clear, our process of application of his truth to our cultural settings is often challenging and requires maturity and wisdom.

Every generation of disciples to Jesus faces this constantly renewing task - to receive the traditions and practices from previous generations, to look into God's Word, to assess their culture - and to live as faithfully as they are able.

One of these constantly contentious topics is the roles of men and women in the church and in the family.

As we dive into this book today, we are diving into one of the most complex passages in the NT. It is one of the key passages in the NT about gender distinctions. And yet it also contains numerous confusing statements that have often been totally misunderstood.

When it comes to complex passages in the Bible, we need to learn to work from the obvious and clear points down to the more confusing parts.

My approach is to build mostly off the stuff we know for sure Paul is saying - which is most of the text. From there, we work to the more confusing parts, which OFTEN will iron themselves out once we understand the big picture.

As we have said, a lot of confusion existed in the Corinthian church regarding gender.

Historical background:

In the Roman world, one of the key features of healthy womanhood was the characteristic of modesty and respectability. One of the ways that this was expressed was in the wearing of a covering or a shall .

For a woman to wear her hair down in public places and especially in religious contexts - was considered sexually promiscuous - a sign that she is available and attracting attention of men.

Paul had come to the Corinthians in the past, and taught them that in Christ, all are one. That we are equally brothers and sisters in Christ and none of us is considered more significant to God because of our gender or our social status.

It's clear that some women in the church were taking this point a little too far. They were participating in the worship service with their heads uncovered.

If you remember from the previous chapters, there were a few weird expressions of "higher spirituality" including some women who decided they needed to not have any physical intimacy with their husbands.

Putting all these things together, we can see there was a confusing and disruptive situation going on in which some women were making it look like they were no longer acknowledging the leadership and authority of their husbands and making themselves look promiscuous by wearing their hair down.

How does Paul go about bringing clarity to this issue?

God created both men and women equal in his glorious image.

The question of the difference between male and female - and the proper way to make those distinctions is one of the most vicious debates in our culture today - AND in the church.

There are two extremes we see in history (both in the church and the world)
Exaggerated difference - usually male dominated, repressing women and their value compared to men.
Exaggerated sameness - usually female dominated, repressing any gender distinction or restriction leading to sexual confusion and sin.

Gender distinction is BOTH universal AND culturally defined. Every culture until now has affirmed some form of difference between male and female, and yet every culture has had different expressions of male and female.

Our challenge is to affirm the universality and importance of gender distinction while also avoiding the mistakes of embracing culturally flawed expressions of gender.

this is what Paul is trying to do here. He is pushing back against abusive authoritarian male domination, while also affirming a healthy biblical distinction.

All throughout this text, Paul is affirming that men and women are both equal in worth and value.

This happens in a number of ways in the text.

the clearest place we see that is verse 11-12

11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.

Paul says that one gender is not more worthy and valuable than the other because all come from God, and because both are interdependent upon each other.

Throughout this text Paul is constantly alluding to Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

Notice the important emphasis on equality. Both are created in God's image. Both are blessed. Both are given the command to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the world and rule over the animals.

Another way Paul shows their equality is that in verse 3 man is called the "head" but in verse 7 the woman is called the 'glory" of man.

She has a glory, she is made second, not necessarily meaning lower but meaning she is the completion of the man. If man was the crown of creation, she was the crown of the crown.

Finally we see that Paul compares the relationship of man and woman to the relationship of Christ and God the Father. Just as the Son and the Father same the same nature and glory, man and woman share the same nature and glory - though they have different roles.

This goes against the culture of the day. The greco roman world viewed the woman as a deformed man, of lower status and value.

This goes against a lot of unhealthy tradition in the church regarding male headship where women are seen as inferior and less important than men.

Women are seen as having no role in the church when it comes to spiritual depth and insight and a genuine contribution to the life of the church.

Paul himself here is talking about the importance of women "praying and prophesying" in the church.

Throughout the NT we see numerous examples of women who were bringing important spiritual contribution and insight to the life of the church.
Anna prophesied about Jesus
Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to learn
Pricilla, the wife of Aquila worked together with her husband to instruct Apollos

So ladies, just because your husband is called to be the leader, it does not mean that you role and spiritual depth and contribution is less significant.

One of the mistaken assumption of christian teaching on gender often seems to be that women's spiritual depth is less important and their spiritual contribution to the life of the church is less significant than the men. The result is shallow and naive women.

Sometimes this is because men make women feel inferior and frown upon them when they contribute to meaningful conversation.

Sometimes it is because the women themselves take a back seat and don't see the importance of deep discipleship for themselves.

If the church affirms an equal spiritual value to both men and women, that means that the church must work to cultivate a culture where the thoughts of both men and women are valuable.

Its interesting that many who use this text to stress the lower status of women because it says the husband is the head of the wife, often fail to see that this whole text revolves around the idea of women praying and prophesying in the church.

Paul says it is totally appropriate for women to pray and prophesy in the church gathering, they just need to do this in a way that is not making it look like they are rebelling against their husbands.

In our church we believe the gift of prophesy was given in the early NT church time to build up the church while the Bible is being written, so we don't believe the gift of prophecy is still functional today.

But how does this apply today?

Women are encouraged to share in the groups and fellowship gatherings. There is nothing more godly about a woman who sits and says nothing. The woman is a sister in Christ and has just as much to share about how God is working and what she is learning as the men.
Women are encouraged to learn and grow in biblical doctrine. Just because women are called to support their husbands leadership does not mean she does not need to cultivate biblical depth. All are called to be disciples and disciple makers.
Woman are encouraged to teach, counsel, and disciple other women and kids.
Women are called into evangelism and many other kinds of ministries where their spiritual insight is required.

God created men and women with differing characteristics and callings, which uniquely bring glory to him.

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.

8 For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. 9 Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.

The central thrust of this text is to push back on the sexual promiscuity and gender confusion of the church.

God created men and women in a structure of authority and function which is expressed most clearly in the family and in the church.

Men are created as the head of their wives who submit to Christ and lead in a way that honors Christ. Women are created as the glory of man which empower his leadership, support him, nurture and bring beauty to life around the home and society in a way that only a woman can.

Man - responsibility, provision, protection, leadership, love
Woman - support and submit to healthy leadership, cultivate, nurture, beautify, empower.
"for the sake of man..." - not as a servant, but as a companion to the mission and charge that God had already given Adam.
Within the church this also means that only qualified men are called to be pastors/elders.
All women are not called to submit to all men, but to their husbands
There has been a number of unhealthy and not-so-helpful ways that biblical manhood and womanhood has been taught in the last 50 years.
Some books instruct women how they need to be careful if a man asks them for directions, and in giving him directions, they don't impose on his masculinity. they need to give him directions in a way that still expresses submission.
This is not right.
Scripture calls women to submit to their own husbands. Yes there is a way that a woman carries herself in public that is feminine and beautiful. But Paul's focus is on women not being rebellious and sexually promiscuous.
The NT calls us to live as brothers and sisters in the body. Headship and submission is expressed in the family, and it is expressed in the church submitting to healthy male pastoral leadership.
We need to be careful not to OVER DO the prescription of men and women.
Male headship does not mean female subservience or subordination, it means strong Christ-like love
We can see countless examples of women treated as second class citizens and servants.
Ungodly and immature christian men have used this text as an excuse to mistreat their wives and demand their service like slaves.
Yes women are called to submit and respect their husbands. But men are called with use their position of authorities to love their wives as Christ loved this church.
This leadership is loving, protective and honest. It assumes responsibility for the good of the wife and the kids - not for personal good at the expense of the wife and kids.
The relationship is not of a slave to a master, but of a king and a queen. this is DIRECTLY what we see in Genesis 1:27.
This is also what you see in Paul's statement that the women is the "glory of a man"
She is the reflection of his love, strength and leadership.
Male headship is leadership from the inside.
Jsut as the church follows Jesus, women are called to follow their husbands. But this also implies that the husband leads in a way that is not pressing his authority and forcing his way. Rather he is leading in a way that wins the woman's heart and trust - in way that makes her want to follow his leadership.

Men are called to take the initiative, to pursue godly strength, to have a clear sense of mission in life from God, to make his wife and family feel protected and provided for.
A lot of men want the benefits of being treated as a head when they act like they are not the head - selfish, lazy, passive and weak.
The church must be a place of healthy and beautiful gender distinction
4 Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head.
5 Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved.
14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?

Once again - gender distinction is BOTH universal in creation AND culturally defined.

The challenge for christians is to see the principle here and apply it to their cultural setting.

In the Corinthian church people were creating a spotlight for themselves. Some women wanted to show how spiritual they were by not wearing any coverings on their heads during worship. If you remember in the previous chapters, there were also some women who were refusing to have physical intimacy with their husbands because they were too spiritual.

But this was just confusing and distracting - make the church seem to be a place of sexual promiscuity and confusion.

The same thing with men and long hair. In the greco roman world, a man with longer hair was a man who was actively trying to look like a woman.

Paul says, "you should not do that". A woman is to behave in a way that shows that she supports the authority of her husband and the authority of God in the church.

A man is to dress and behave in a way that shows that he is a man.

Clearly, we can see that head coverings and men with long hair don't mean the same thing today, as they did in Paul's time.

this is where we need to see the core principle of the text and apply it to our time properly.

If a woman was raised in a setting where the head covering was a key expression of femininity, and she ways to wear it - this is great! No problem.

But the deeper question is - why are the ways that we express and live out healthy masculinity in the church?

Clear expression of qualified male pastoral leadership in the church.
This is a job that God said is specifically given to some men who fit the calling and the qualification, who are affirmed by the church.
Healthy femininity dresses and behaves in such a way that demonstrates that it upholds the proper leader ship of their husbands and the men in their lives.
Healthy masculinity that takes seriously the calling of spiritual leadership in the home. Men who are passive or fearful to lead in the home are abandoning their God given callings.

What about single people? The commands here are specifically directed at the married folks.

Masculinity and femininity don't depend on marriage - you are still men and women
Cultivate healthy expressions of your gender in your singleness and practice for the callings of marriage in various ways
Single women are not lower in the church than single men just because they are women

The glory of God, not people, must be at the center when God's people gather.

As we finish up, it is very important to see Paul's deeper aim in this text. His goal is not just to establish some sort male dominating leadership.

His focus is to point to the fact that God is to be the center of our life as the church.

"2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 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 dishonors his head. 5 Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head..."
Paul begins the text by giving them a universal biblical principle. And then he goes on to apply that biblical principle to their specific problem.

A lot of people miss the forest for the trees here by jumping to the gender stuff but his deeper purpose here is the fact that the authority structures between men and women that God has placed, especially in the church - all flow back to the glory of God.

The headship structures create a flow of authority which ultimately shows honor to the head. When we disrupt this order we are dishonoring the head.

"man...dishonors his head...woman dishonors her head..."

The ultimate head being dishonored is Christ.

this is his chief concern.

Later in the text the conversation switches to the concept of "glory" but the idea is the same - men who don't act like men are disgracing the glory of God. Women who don't act like women are disgracing the glory of man and - ultimately and most importantly - God.

There is a great temptation always for people to replace the glory and honor of God in the worship service and life of the church - to the glory of people - whether it be men or women.

Paul is making a deeper point - this is God's church. This is the place where we come to honor and glorify HIM. The church is not a platform for the glory of people - when it becomes that, it disgraces and dishonors God.

We will see this deeper concept trace through the next 4 chapters in the questions of practicing the Lord's Supper and in spiritual gifts. And here we see it applied to the gender distinctions that we embrace as Christians.

What you do with your body - how you behave as a man or a woman in the church - is ultimately bringing glory or shame to God.

And the most important place in the world to see the glory of God on display is in the community and life of the church.

Our gender is one of the important aspects of how God has created us has his unique image bearers.

That glory is marred and tainted by sin.

And it is through the work of Jesus, becoming a man, taking sin upon himself and triumphing over death in new life - that God is restoring that glory.

the only way that our humanity is restored is not by trying to be better men and women on our own - but through Christ's transforming work in our hearts.

He is the one who restores our identity - and in him we live as a community of his people that honor him. Husbands as heads, lead and love as Christ loves. Wives follow, support, cultivate. Church leaders exercise oversight. The diversity of the body that works together to honor Christ.

Is your understanding of men and women in the church shaped more by culture or by Scripture?
Do you work to intentionally cultivate healthy masculinity and femininity in your life and relationships? Do you welcome the complexity of these conversations?
Is the primary aim of your life and relationships in the church to honor and spotlight Christ?