The Church and its Women
1 Cor. 11:1-16
Paul was tackling many issues within the church. This time it’s about women. This issue is a bit
controversial because what maybe applicable during that time may not be applicable to us now.
While the New Testament does not seem to permit women elders (1 Tim. 3:2), women in the early
church who had the gift of prophecy were allowed to exercise it. They were also permitted to pray in
the public meetings. However, they were not permitted to usurp authority over the men (1 Tim.
2:11-15) or to judge the messages of the other prophets (1 Cor. 14:27-35). If they had any
questions, they were to ask their husbands (or other men) outside of the church meeting.
I. Follow Paul’s example (1 Cor. 11:1)
A. The word follower here is “imitator”
1. As Christians we must not misuse our liberty in Christ (I Cor. 10:33). We ought to
follow Paul in giving up our liberty for the “profit of many, that they may be
saved”! The preacher is a leader and is bound to set an example or pattern for
others (Titus 2:7).
2. Observe that we follow Christ by following the apostles. Basically, the Apostles
were used by the Holy Spirit to write the Bible. We don’t know anything for
certain about Christ or His will apart from the revelation of Him given in the
B. “Keep the ordinances…” (I Cor. 11:2):
1. “Now I praise you” Paul is praising the Corinthian Christians in following the
ordinances he has delivered to them.
2. The term “ordinances” is from the Greek word “paradosis” and means a precept
or law. It is used 13 times in the New Testament and is usually translated
“tradition.” It can refer to the uninspired tradition of men (Col. 2:8) or to the
inspired traditions given by the apostles (2 Th. 2:15; 3:6). The latter is how it is
used in 1 Cor. 11:2. It does not refer merely to the ordinances of baptism and
the Lord’s Supper but to all of the authoritative teachings of the apostles in the
New Testament Scriptures.
II. The headship of the Man (1 Cor. 11:3-16)
A. In urging the headship of the man, Paul represents the woman’s headdress as a
symbol of her subordination to the man, as the man in turn is subordinated to
B. Paul uses the OT to show that man is made in the image and for the glory of God
C. When praying or prophesying, he should not have his head covered, in token of
God’s order among the sexes (v. 7). Man was created first. The woman was made
from the man (v. 8). Hence, man’s headship.
D. Therefore, the Christian woman ought to have the badge of her husbands authority
on her head “because of the angels” (v. 10), i.e., because of the divine order that
prevails among the elect unfallen angels (Ps. 103:20) who are looking on the human
Illustration 1: Image of God
Dignity, Destiny, Freedom
The image of God in which man was and is made has been variously explained in detail. Although
scholars may differ on the nuances of the phrase, there is general agreement that it has to do with
dignity, destiny, and freedom.
The assertion that man is made in God’s image shows each man his true dignity and worth. As God’s
image-bearer, he merits infinite respect. God’s claims on us must be taken with total seriousness. No
human being should ever be thought of as simply a cog in a machine, or mere means to an end.
The assertion points also to each man’s true destiny. Our Maker so designed us that our nature finds
final satisfaction and fulfilment only in a relationship of responsive Godlikeness—which means,
precisely, that state of correspondence between our acts and God’s will which we call obedience.
Living that is obedient will thus be teleological—progressively realizing our telos (Greek for “end” or
Also the assertion confirms the genuineness of each man’s freedom. Experience tells us that we are
free, in the sense that we make real choices between alternatives and could have chosen differently,
and theology agrees. Self-determining freedom of choice is what sets God and his rational creatures
apart from, say, birds and bees, as moral beings.
Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for February 23.
III. Rules concerning clothing
A. Nowhere in the Bible are we given the divine length for a woman’s hemline or for
that of a man’s haircut. Here in this chapter Paul lists some principle that should
govern the personal appearance of believers, especially while in the house of God.
1. The man’s appearance
a. The man is to wear nothing in his head (as mentioned earlier)
b. We can say that no male in a Christian service should wear a hat, as did the
Roman priests and Jewish Rabbis, who wore a head covering called as tallis.
The custom began due to the misinterpretation of Moses and his veil (Ex.
34:33, 2 Cor. 3:13)
c. The man is to wear his hair shorter than that of a woman. Two factors may
have led to the divine rule.
(1). Because of the general implications. 1 Corinthians 11:14 Doth not even
nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
In Paul’s day, long hair on a male was associated with being effeminate.
Today is suggest (to some extent) rebellion against authority.
(2). Because of a specific holy vow. This was the Old Testament Nazarite
vow. (Num. 6:1-22, Judges 13:4, 5; 1 Sam. 1:11, Lk. 1:15).
2. The woman’s appearance
a. She is to wear her hair long to demonstrate:
(1). To demonstrate her submission to her husband.
(2). Her standards to the world. Harlots and slaves wore their hair short in
Paul’s time. A Christian woman was decidedly neither!
b. She is to wear something upon her head “because of the angels” (11:10).
Some believe this passage suggests church members may share their pews with
angels! (Ps. 138:1, Eph. 3:10, 1 Tim. 5:21, Heb. 1:14, 1 Pet. 1:10, 12).
(Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible).
Illustration 2: Woman
Was “taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23), and therefore the man has the preeminence. “The head of the
woman is the man;” but yet honour is to be shown to the wife, “as unto the weaker vessel” (1Cor.
11:3, 8, 9; 1Pet. 3:7). Several women are mentioned in Scripture as having been endowed with
prophetic gifts, as Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Jdg. 4:4, 5), Huldah (2Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Neh.
6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36, 37), and the daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8, 9). Women are
forbidden to teach publicly (1Cor. 14:34, 35; 1Ti 2:11, 12). Among the Hebrews it devolved upon
women to prepare the meals for the household (Gen. 18:6; 2Sam. 13:8), to attend to the work of
spinning (Ex. 35:26; Prov. 31:19), and making clothes (1Sam. 2:19; Prov. 31:21), to bring water
from the well (Gen. 24:15; 1Sam. 9:11), and to care for the flocks (Gen. 29:6; Ex. 2:16).
The word “woman,” as used in Mat. 15:28; John 2:4 and John 20:13, 15, implies tenderness and
courtesy and not disrespect. Only where revelation is known has woman her due place of honour
assigned to her. Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography,
Doctrine, and Literature.
The Word of God tells us that regardless of race or sex, we are all equal before our
Creator, and that all believers were one in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:28). However, the head of
the woman is the man because she was created from the man. Man’s headship should
never be challenged or contested by women for it is God who willed it.