Sinners Made Saints: Break Out the Hats

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Order in worship — the role of gender in worship

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Text: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Theme: Order in worship — the role of gender in worship
Date: 01/09/2022 Title: 1_Corinthinas_19 ID: NT07-11
“We’ve got to go through it!” Those words conclude each stanza of Michael Rosen’s classic children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The book consists of a family “going on a bear hunt” but constantly running into obstacles. Here’s the first stanza ...
We're going on a bear hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared.
Long wavy grass.
We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
Oh no!
We've got to go through it!
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!
There are other obstacles — a river, mud, a forest, and a snowstorm before they finally get to a cave where the bear lives. Whatever they are facing, the children learn that they can’t simply avoid the problem. They’ve got to “go through it.”
That’s how I feel about this text — I’d just as soon skip to the text on the Lord’s Supper and hope that after a six-week hiatus from 1 Corinthians you just wouldn’t notice that I’d gone over 1 Corinthians 11:2-16! When tempted to skip certain passages, we must remind ourselves that we’re dealing with God’s Word. All Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16) — even the parts we find uncomfortable or confusing, or even offensive. We shouldn’t ignore or find a hermeneutical escape route from difficult passages, but instead humbly seek their true meaning and then joyfully submit to them.
Now all that sounds pious enough, but what do we do when we read a text like 1 Corinthians 11:1–16? Do all the women in the Church need to don head coverings next Sunday? Do we need to make sure that every man’s hair is sufficiently short? (Acknowledging that some men need not be concerned?) We can’t go over this text. We can’t go under this text. We can’t ignore this text. So what do we do? We’ve got to go thorough it. I can’t promise to make this passage easy, but I can help us go through it.


“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2, ESV)
1. this is the easy part of the passage
a. the Apostle offers a word of praise to the membership of the Church at Corinth


1. no other verse in this letter offers words of praise for the Corinthian congregation
a. Paul does give thanks for the grace God has extended to them in 1 Cor. 1:4-9
b. but he then immediately launches into a reprimand for the factionalism in the church
2. no matter how dysfunctional a congregation might be, there is almost always something to praise them for
a. no church is perfect — the perfect church simply does not exist
1) the moment you think you find one ... PLEASE DO NOT JOIN IT because it will immediately become an imperfect church!
ILLUS. Charles Spurgeon, 19th century Baptist pastor in London, told his congregation one morning, “If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”
2) I love our church (that is you, the people)
a) like Paul in his opening remarks to the Philippian church, “I thank God for you all, and for the fellowship and our labor together in the gospel for the sake of Christ our Savior”
b) my constant prayer is that we would have hearts knit together so tightly, that no distraction or worldly pursuit could restrain or hinder us from loving and serving one another
c) Perfect…No! Dearest place on earth…I hope so!
b. the church at Corinth was certainly the most troubled congregation that Paul deals with, but here he takes a moment to encourage them
1) every believer and every congregation needs to hear a word of commendation from time-to-time
3. 1st, Paul commends them for remembering him in all things
a. many believers in Corinth have fond memories of Paul
1) he planted the church ... he evangelized its first converts ... he discipled them, and nurtured them, and loved them, and ministered to them
b. in response these Christians pray for Paul, and some might even be supporting him financially
4. 2nd, Paul commends them for guarding the traditions just as I delivered them to you
a. the basic problem in the Corinthian church was not about doctrine, but about morals; not about theology, but about lifestyle
b. they remembered and believed the cardinal truths about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, but they were not living Godly lives
c. Paul here praises them for their strengths before he again begins to correct their weaknesses


1 Corinthians 11:3-7
1. for modern Americans this is one of the most controversial texts in the New Testament
a. at the least many see it as patriarchal — supporting male dominance over women in every section of society
b. at the worst many see it as misogynistic — supporting a sexist attitude against women
c. the text begs the question: Is the Apostle advocating a woman’s second-class, inferior status in marriage and the life of the church?
1) is Paul telling women to “sit down and shut up?”
2) this is one of several passages … that have raised the ire of many women, particularly in the ‘Women’s Liberation’ movement
ILLUS. In 1968, the National Organization for Women called for a “National Unveiling” by Catholic women to protest their denomination’s tradition of requiring women to cover their heads in church. The “Easter Bonnet Rebellion” took place the following Easter. The National Organization for Women asked church women across the nation to send them their Sunday hats and veils to be publically burned to protest second-class status of women in the church.
d. how do we interpret this battleground passage?
1) do we take it literally? if so do we require women to wear hats and veils to church and ask our men to get crew cuts?
2) do we ignore it altogether as culturally antiquated and irrelevant? if so, what other portions of Scripture can we ignore?
3) do we find the meaning in the text and apply it to the church today?
a) this, IMHO, seems
2. context for this passage is everything (actually, that’s true for every verse in the Bible)
a. as the Apostle arrives at chapter eleven there is a topic change
1) Paul has spent several chapters dealing with Christian liberty, and the Corinthian believer’s misunderstanding and abuse of Christian liberty
2) now he is going to spend several chapters dealing with Christian worship, and the Corinthians believer’s misunderstanding and abuse of Christian worship
3) Paul will begin on the foundational level which involves the role of men and women in the worship of the church


1. Paul is absolutely insistent or order within the Church
a. in chapter 14, while still dealing with the topic of worship, the Apostle tells the church, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40, ESV)
b. part of that order entails men looking like men and taking the spiritual lead in worship, and women looking like women and being under male authority in worship
2. you cannot read this passage and not conclude that Paul is advocating that the church maintain the clear cultural markers that distinguish male and female — in this case by their respective hairstyles
a. from time immemorial God has made a distinction between man and woman
1) God created them, in the beginning, male and female
2) and, God is saying that a woman is to look like a woman, a man is to look like a man, and that the unisex idea, and the merging and the blending of the sexes goes against God’s created order
3. in vs. 3-16 the Apostle established the role of women in the worship life of the Church, and he deals with two issues — 1) Headship and 2) Head Covering
a. unfortunately we don’t have the letter that the Corinthian church wrote to Paul outlining the issues the church is dealing with
1) therefore we have to draw some conclusions based on how Paul is responding in his letter
2) one of the issues at Corinth is that there evidently were some women who, enjoying their new-found freedom in Christ, were using that freedom to act in ways that were disruptive to the worship services
3) in doing so Paul asserts that they are bring shame to their husbands, and in bringing shame to their husband were bringing shame to Christ and his Church
4. the gospel and the implication of the gospel in one’s life was enormously liberating
a. as opposed to the 1st-century culture at large, Christianity taught that all people, regardless of gender, were equal before God, and that all believers were one in Jesus Christ
1) Paul, himself, taught this
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, ESV)
2) we know from his letters that Paul frequently commends Christian women for their ministry to him and with him
b. the local church was perhaps the only community in the Roman Empire that welcomed people regardless of nationality, social status, gender, or economic position, and allowed women to broadly participate in the life and leadership of the church
5. the issue at Corinth seems to be that some women in the church were putting their self-interest above the congregation’s growth in grace and the church’s gospel witness to outsiders by promoting behavior that dishonored their husbands, and the male leaders of the church
a. in 1st-Century Roman culture for women to appear at a public meeting without a head covering was disrespectful to their husbands, and in being disrespectful to their husband being disrespectful to the Lord
b. an issue of Christian liberty is affecting the worship life of the church, and so Paul must lay down some spiritual principles to establish order


“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3, ESV)
1. this brings us back to Biblical basics
a. God is a God of order, and that order reaches back to the creation of the cosmos and the creation of mankind
ILLUS. We see an illustration of God’s passion for order and precision in the laws of the universe. Stars and planets and even entire galaxies move so precisely that astronomers can predict what the night sky looked like five-thousand years ago, and what it will look like five-thousand years into the future (if the Lord tarries that long). Scientists of all worldviews agree that the physical constants of our universe and the conditions of the early universe are exquisitely fine-tuned for life. When viewed through the eyes of faith, we see a personal God crafting an abundant, complex universe that includes our life-giving Earth and it all runs very precisely.
2. God’s order extends into human affairs including government, the home and the church
a. in terms of human relationships, women are under the headship of men — first their father, then their husband
3. well that begs the question: What does the Bible mean by “headship?”
a. it refers to priority in function
1) that is what the head of our body does; it runs the body; it is in charge; it is the direction setter of the body
2) used metaphorically, therefore, the word head means primarily leadership, and thus it is used in this passage
b. it means that men are assigned ultimate responsibility and authority in the home and the church
ILLUS. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and Oprah Winfrey will “gag” over this, and certainly rebel against it, but God’s Church cannot ignore the plain meaning of the Scripture.
c. if the Bible is good for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction no amount or argument or denial is going to change the meaning of the God’s Word — we can either choose to ignore it or find ways to be obedient to it
4. let me quickly say that male headship does not mean that man is an unlimited monarch of the home or the church
a. male headship in these two institutions does not imply a woman’s inferiority
b. Paul describes a man’s responsibility — particularly a husband’s responsibility — clearly
1) he is to cherish and nurture his wife as his own body (Eph 5:28)
2) he may not deprive her of what she needs for her happiness and well-being (1 Cor 7:3)
3) he must be understanding, considerate, and respectful of her as a joint heir of life and a joint heir of Christ (1 Peter 3:7)
4) his love for her ought to be the same kind of sacrificial love Christ has for the church (Eph. 5:31-32)
c. Christian men must acknowledge the we, too, are under headship — the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ
1) it means that our headship in the home and in the church is always, always, always expressed in humble spiritual leadership that seeks the good of others
d. this is essentially what Paul is advocating for in the worship at Corinth — worship that is bound to the principles of Christian fellowship and fellowship
5. attempts to defy God’s pattern for order will only lead to breakdown and chaos
ILLUS. When you purchase and appliance or a piece of equipment it normally comes with the manufacturer’s instructions and warranty. Usually the warranty is valid only so long as the instructions are heeded. The manufacturer knows the nature and complexity of the equipment better than anyone. If the instructions come with the warning, “Press button ‘A’ before pressing button ‘B’ it is because of some requirement connected with the operation of the machine. If the owner decides “I think I’ll press button ‘B’ before I press button ‘A’” and then the appliance sparks and begins to smoke the owner has no one to blame but himself for an appliance that no loner works.
a. human society is for more complex than any man-made appliance
b. believers, more than any others, would do well to heed the Maker’s instructions
6. submission, whether it is a woman’s submission in the home or in the worship of the church, or whether it is a man’s submission to the Lordship of Christ, it is a voluntary submission, carried out in practice out of a conviction that God's will is best achieved by this means


“For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” (1 Corinthians 11:6–7, ESV)
1. when a man takes a leadership role in the worship of the church, such as praying or preaching, he is to leave his head uncovered in order to display his submission to the authority of Christ in his life
a. in the synagogue exactly the opposite was practiced — Jewish tradition requires men to cover the head as a sign of humility before God even thought it is not commanded anywhere in the Old Testament
2. on the contrary, Paul says that when a women is taking a leadership role in worship, she should do so with her head covered as a sign that she is under male authority
a. Paul’s explanation that for a woman who takes a public role in worship on her own authority — that is not under the authority of a man — that it is a disgraceful thing and she might as well complete her disgrace by shaving her head
ILLUS. Some of you who know the history of war know that during an enemy’s occupation of a territory, it is not unusual for women to collaborate with soldiers of the occupying force. Unfortunately, they often do so in order to survive. However, when the enemy is driven out of the country, the fellow citizens of those collaborating women often show their anger at such compromise by seizing the women and shaving off all their hair. They thus become objects of public shame and disgrace.
b. Paul is painting a similar picture to illustrate how strongly the Holy Spirit feels about either men or women disrespecting the honor of God during worship by making it all about themselves
3. the confusion arises from what Paul considers a “head covering”
“Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” (1 Corinthians 11:14–15, ESV)
4. here, I think, is the beauty of the Scripture
a. this was not written just for Corinth, or even for the 1st century, but for any and every age
b. this is what the apostle means ...
1) in a culture where the wearing of veils is not a custom, then a woman's long hair (longer than her husband's), is an adequate expression of the principle of headship
2) hopefully this will help us today when the wearing of veils has lost all its original significance
5. but, because in the Roman world veil-wearing was still the custom, he concludes the passage with these words ...
“If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16, ESV)
a. there is no need to argue the point, he says — the universal custom in the Roman world was for the woman to declare this principle of headship by wearing a veil, therefore there is no point in arguing about it
b. in those places where wearing a veil is not customary, a Christian woman’s longer hair declares this principle of headship, and therefore there is no point in arguing about it


“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3, ESV)
1. here is our model — or example — of headship in the home, and especially in the Church
ILLUS. John Phillips, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians writes that the Apostle places the phrase and the head of Christ is God, in such a way so as humble men, and soften any possible blow to the woman’s pride.
a. this is a profound mystery — that the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus the Son, while in his humanity, — subjected himself to the authority of the First Person of the Godhead, God the Father
1) and he did so in all things going so far as to tell his disciples that he only says what he hears that Father say, and only does what he sees the Father do (John 5:19-20)
b. God has His own order with the Godhead itself
1) Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each eternally, equally, and essentially One God
2) through the incarnation, Immanuel became a man, but in doing so in no sense did he give up his deity
3) speaking of Jesus, Paul is clear ... “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6–7, ESV)
2. as the incarnate Son, Jesus completely and joyfully submitted himself to the authority of the Father
a. he is our example in how we both exercise authority and submit to authority


A. 1st, We Need to Commend the Good and Correct the Messy

1. Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 11:2 teach us two things ...
a. 1st, like the Corinthians believers, our Christian lives (and therefore our church) can be “messy” at times (I was reminded of that this week in a conversation with one of our members and a situation in their home)
1) the Christian life, no matter who is living it, is not a straight line of spiritual progress
a) we all live lives of starts and stops, of spiritual triumphs followed by epic failure
2) it’s a reminder that we need grace, and we need to constantly offer grace
ILLUS. Jesus loved messy people — smelly fisherman, hated tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers and half-breeds who had rejected God’s Law. This is good news for us. In Christ, God enables us to have our “mess” forgiven and provides strength to clean our messes up.
3) that said, the believer must never excuse the messiness of their life in a vain effort to normalize their sin — a temptation we all face
a) the question is not do Christians backslide, but when we do will we repent and work at sliding forward?

B. 2nd, The Public Ministry of Worship Must Be Done God’s Way

1. Christ is the head of His Church, and we are to be guided by his Holy Spirit, and the Holy Scriptures
a. if the Church is Christ’s and Christ has revealed how to worship him, then it behooves us to press the right buttons in the right order
2. Christian worship must be a place where both men and women can worship in truth and in spirit fully participating in the worship life of the church in accordance with biblically established parameters
a. the key is what is in your heart
1) any woman is capable of wearing a head coverings without having any genuine reverence for God’s established order of authority
2) it is possible for a man to wear a baseball cap in church and yet have a heart full of reverence and awe for the Lord, but it is equally possible for a man to remove his hat in church yet disdain God in his soul
ILLUS. Adrian Rogers, in a sermon on this same passage, writes, “When the Bible says that a woman is to be subject, that doesn’t mean that she’s inferior. Everybody knows that a woman is infinitely superior to a man … at being a woman; and a man is infinitely superior to a woman … at being a man. But, God has given a chain of command, and it has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority.”

C. 3rd, Gender Roles Matter Even in Public Christian Worship

1. when women minister in a public place of worship let them do so with humility and respect for the male leadership of the church
a. in the Baptist tradition that’s the pastor and deacons
1) while it’s a sermon for another time, the New Testament is very clear about the spiritual qualities of the men who are called to those positions
2) we are not rulers of the church, but servants of the church called to guide the spiritual life and spiritual activities of the church
2. the men of the church, particularly the pastor and deacons, are to submit to the authority of Christ
a. in their stewardship of worship they must recognize that Christian women in the church have gifts and abilities and testimonies that will enhance the worship of the church
b. guys, let me encourage you to be appropriately masculine and surrender your masculinity to the headship of Christ making him Lord of your life
c. ladies, let me encourage you to be appropriately feminine, and submit yourself freely to the headship of your husband, and in doing so to the Lordship of Christ
d. to the singles of either gender, let me encourage you to be appropriately the gender God created you to be, and submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Church’s spiritual leaders when it comes to your worship
Many believe that this passage is one of the most difficult in the whole New Testament to thoroughly understand. I’ve tried to take us “through it” so that we might better understand it. I suppose if I could bring the passage down to it’s essence: Our worship is not about us — it’s not about the church advancing the culture’s gender objectives. It’s not about self-aggrandizement. It’s not about asserting personal writes or my Christian liberty. Our worship is about God — asserting His glory, and His agenda, and He has established spiritual principles for doing that.
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