1 Corinthians 11 – Issues with Men and Women

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Paul recognized the revolutionary nature of God’s kingdom. It called into question every relationship where people could attempt to claim superiority over another.

He wrote, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.28).

Paul made it clear that what really counts in the Christian life is our relationship to Jesus and not our gender, ethnic background or station in life. Life with Jesus transcends these social designations.

What is truly shameful about the church is that we have twisted God’s word to accommodate the work of Christ to the customs of the world, when instead we should be challenging those customs.

The church has often used the Bible to the continuation of sexism, racism and economic inequity.

The eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians is an example of a chapter in the Bible that has been used to keep women in an inferior position to men.

A proper understanding of this chapter is needed to free the church this kind of behavior.

Both Men and Women Pray and Prophesy

The chapter assumes that both men and women will pray and prophesy in the church. This means that both men and women were expected to engage in prayer and the proclamation of God’s message in the worship services.

1 Cor. 11.4-5Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head,

5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head — it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved.

The Greek citizens of Corinth derived their status from being able to speak well. The Romans of the city obtained their status from how well they dressed.

Men in the church were tempted to imitate the Greeks with so-called wisdom. They were also tempted to follow the customs of the Romans and impress the crowd with elaborate head-covering and clothes.

Paul’s point was that neither speech nor dress should draw attention to the men. Jesus was to be the only one to receive glory in the church.

Paul knew that “if a woman has long hair, it is her glory” (Verse 15). Just as with the men, the focal point of a woman’s prayer or speech was not to be her beautiful hair.

The focal point of both men and women was to be the glory of Jesus Christ.

The entire discussion about head-coverings for women indicate that they have authority from God to participate in worship services. This was God’s plan in A.D. 50 and is true in 2021.

Men and women are mutually interdependent, not independent.

Both men and women owe our existence to our Creator God. God made us in such a way that we are dependent on each other. We are also clearly dependent on God.

1 Cor. 11.11-12Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman.

12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.

Jesus welcomed the partnership of women in his mission. Faithful women served Jesus, stood with him at the cross, and were the first to experience the risen Lord.

Luke recorded the role of women who were among his followers.

“The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources” (Luke 8.1-3).

Paul frequently mentioned women as coworkers in his ministry. It is possible that he categorized a woman as one of the apostles in his final greetings to the Romans.

“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Romans 16.7).

No doubt, the language of 1 Corinthians is not easy to untangle. However, the overall message is that God made both men and women to compliment each other and to give glory to him.

Following Jesus

When God called Abraham he laid the foundation for how his people were to live in the world. This was Abraham’s mission and it is ours, too.

“I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12.2-3).

We are abundantly blessed by our loving God. And, we are to be a blessing to all the families of the earth.

The people of God have an uneven experience of being a blessing to the world.

In some cases, the church has been instrumental to break race, economic and male/female boundaries.

The Reverend Martin Luther King and many other less notable black clergy were instrumental to further civil rights in America.

Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong are two of Southern Baptist’s best known missionaries.

Dr. Paul Farmer is a committed Catholic and powerful advocate for people in poverty to obtain health care as a right and not as a commodity.

It is sad to note that the church has joined with the prevailing culture and denied the freedoms that Jesus came to give us.

While I was in seminary, the First Baptist Church of Jackson Mississippi refused to allow African Americans to enter their sanctuary for a worship service.

While we celebrate Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, I am aware of a time when one of the most effective missionaries I know was denied the ability to speak at a mission’s week event, because she was female.

While Farmer, a Harvard trained doctor, serves the impoverished in Haiti, Rwanda and prisoners in Russia, many Christians maintain that health care in America should be tied to employment. As Farmer states, this makes the ability to be healthy a commodity and not a right.

What Can We Do?

Readers of this blog are not going to change the world with regard to income inequality, gender equality, and racial injustice. What can we do?

First, we can live devoted lives to Jesus and treat one another with self-giving love. People around us will be blessed, even if our actions don’t change the world.

Second, we can view our identity as one determined by our relationship with Jesus, instead of how well we are accepted by our peers. If Jesus has called us friends (John 15), why should we care so much about the opinion of others.

Third, we can embrace the differences that God has created and enjoy the different gifts each bring to the world.

Jesus has changed the world and has broken down our culture’s divisions among men and women, rich and poor, and different races.

May We Pray for You?

The prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church is honored to pray for you. Please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook with your prayer request. We will pray for you.

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