1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 70
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|God has an order of how things should function and of how things are designed to be. He’s the potter, we’re the clay. The clay never messes with the potter, because the clay doesn’t understand fully what the design is all about.|
1 Corinthians 11:11
Respecting God’s Order – Part 2
I remember when I was growing up I had a good buddy who loved to trout fish like I did. We used to fish the rivers and the streams in Virginia. When summer time would come it was wonderful. We’d take our socks off and put on a pair of shorts. We put tennis shoes on so we wouldn’t hurt out feet on those rocks. We’d just walk up and down those streams mainly to get wet and stay cool. We had a wonderful time.
One day we had finished fishing, and we were really just goofing off. We were walking back to the car right down the middle of the stream just singing to the top of our lungs. We were singing as loud as we could sing, Christian choruses and songs. I had a dumb-looking hat on. I knew the water was deep in places, but I didn’t know it had some holes in it like this one. All of a sudden I stepped into a hole. You could have put two cars end to end in that thing. When I went under, I never did hit the bottom. I was trying to get up. There was water in my tennis shoes. My friend said, “The funniest part of it was your hat kept sailing right down the river, but you had disappeared.” He said that I was so deep you couldn’t even see the tip of my rod. That’s how deep I went down into that hole.
I don’t know why I brought that up except to say that in studying 1 Corinthians I feel like I have just stepped into a hole in chapter 11. This water is deep. It’s way over my head. I hope you’re praying for me as we work our way through it. God has an order of how things should function and of how things are designed to be. He’s the potter, we’re the clay. The clay never messes with the potter, because the clay doesn’t understand fully what the design is all about. When I’m willing and when you’re willing to submit to Christ and let Jesus be everything in you and in me, what happens is He gives us a deep respect for His order and whatever order that may be, whatever function that may be. It may be a wife to her husband. It may be a husband and his walk with God or whatever. But in that order we have a respect for it.
Why? Because we’ve solved the first step. The first step is our absolute abandonment unto Christ. When I’m submitted that way, then whatever other design God has is really no problem to me at all. However, if I’m not willing to submit and abandon myself to Christ, then God’s order becomes an issue with me and I’m always trying to turn upside down what God says should be right side up.
A question has been asked of the apostle Paul. We don’t know what the question is. We just have the answers. That’s what’s been difficult since chapter 7, when you have the answers but you don’t have the questions. This question, evidently, had to do with the role of women in the church, particularly, the role of wives to their husbands. Again, we don’t have the question, but we do have Paul’s answer.
Verse 1 of chapter 11, to me, is the key verse for the rest of the chapter. It seems to me like that’s the well everything else flows out of. At first I didn’t see it, but now I see clearly how it attaches itself to what he’s going to say. He says in verse 1 of chapter 11, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Now if you think imitating Christ like Paul said he did, if you think you can imitate Christ, you’ve got another thing coming. When Christ would walk by a man who was dead, sometimes he would raise him from the dead. Help yourself. When He would walk by someone at the pool of Siloam and he was sick, He healed him. You can’t walk like Jesus. However, there is something about Jesus and the way He lived that Paul imitated that Paul wants us to imitate. What is that? Jesus chose to be absolutely in submission to His Father. That was a choice He made. Equal to His Father, but when He became the God Man, He chose to line Himself up under His Father.
The problem with submission
The third thing we’re going to look at is the problem with submission. I mentioned it a while ago. The problem is some man somewhere hears the fact that he’s the head of his wife and he begins to think in his eyes that he’s more important to God than a woman is. This is so ridiculous. Chauvinism, male chauvinism, is just as much a sin as feminism. On both sides you’ve got wrong. There are equals here but you have order and God has established them that way. Man’s authority over his wife is something that’s simply delegated by God. We’ll have to get to Heaven to understand all of that. We’re here to submit and respect the way God set it up, believing the fact that He who created us has the right to do that.
Look in verse 11. “However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” If you want to take that in a general sense, you can realize in this world how we need one another. But I think it’s more narrow than that. I think it is more to the husband and the wife because there is a team effort there. You can say that in the church, certainly, because there are women who have wonderful gifts and God uses them. How we need each other.
But I think this has more to do with the authority structure He’s already set up. A husband needs his wife, but a wife needs her husband. You can’t live independent of each other. The word “independent” means to be without, to be separate or apart from something, or by itself. You’re not that way. The wife needs the husband. The husband needs the wife. They are helpmates to each other. They’re a team.
In all the years I’ve been in sports, I don’t care what team you have, you’ve got to have a quarterback. You’ve got to have somebody who calls the plays. So what he’s saying is there is equality among the two, but somebody has got to be the head and God’s order—not ours, not man’s, not woman’s—is that the man, the husband, be the one who’s the head over the woman.
Paul, again, shows the order does not come from man or woman but comes from God. Look in verse 12. It’s sort of subtle. The last part of it is the key: “For as the woman originates from the man [actually the word “from” is ek, out of], so also the man has his birth through [dia] the woman.” The symbolism is beautiful here. And then it says, “and all things [everything] originate from [ek, out of] God.”
In other words, “Hey, guys, what are you doing? You came from Me. I know Adam. She came from you, but I made you. All things come from Me.” It’s like He’s putting a big exclamation point: “Hey, what are you arguing about? If I made all things, and all things come from Me, and everything originates from Me, then I have a right to set the order the way I want to set it.” It’s God’s order, and it’s His prerogative to set it the way He wants to set it. When a man thinks he’s better than a woman, that’s just not so. God is the One from whom all things come, but He has delegated man to be the head of the woman. She’s his equal, but she has to submit to him in the sense of the married situation.
The problem comes when man does not realize God is the one who established the order, or the woman does not realize that God is the one who has established the order.
So we’ve got the portrait of submission. The purpose of submission is to show you respect the order of God. The problem of submission is you begin to equate submission with equality and think that because somebody has to submit to you, that you are more important to God than that person. That’s a terrible error that people make even today. Men think that submission of their wife is from some inferior person to himself. Remember, in the culture of this time women were treated like dirt. Thank God for the Gospel, because it raised and elevated the position of the woman. She’s equal with man in God’s eyes. There’s neither male nor female in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, in the marriage situation that we live in God has to have an order and we must respect that order.
The prerequisite of submission
The final thing that I want to share is the prerequisite of submission. What I mean by that is the prerequisite for anybody understanding the order of God is that submission, going back to verse 1 of chapter 11. It’s an absolute must in our life that we live surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no big I’s or little you’s. The ground is equal and level at the cross. The same responsibility you have is the same responsibility I have.
Paul now says that there’s another teacher besides himself. He says, “I’m just going to step aside for a minute.” He says, “You’ve heard me. I’ve taught you. I hope you now understand what I taught you, but I want to back out. I want to let something else teach you.” He wants the Corinthians to look around them and see that they can already see in nature a distinction of man and woman. Men and women are different.
We’re different in the way we think, the way we look, but especially there’s another difference and it goes back to the beginnings of history. Nobody can even begin to argue with this. Short hair for a man and long hair for a woman has been from the birth of history the way in which they were separated in their appearance, which also later on led them to be separated in their roles.
One can see this in the Nazirite vow. It was a shame for a man to wear long hair. But when a person would put themselves under a Nazirite vow, he had to bear the shame of being looked at with long hair because he was obedient unto God in that vow. Paul put himself under a Nazirite vow. In all the historical findings that they have of drawings of mankind, men had short cropped hair and the women had long hair. It’s been that way since the beginnings of time. This is a distinctive way, not just one of them, but a distinctive way in which we see woman and men being separate from one another.
Now, look how Paul approaches this in verse 13. He says, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered?” The word “judge” is krino. Make a decision. Look around you. Take what I said. Look around you and see some other things but come to a decision. Come to a conclusion. Is it proper?
The word “proper” is the word prepo. It means to be conspicuous, but it has an implied meaning of fitting or proper or suitable. Paul says, “I’m going to let you decide for yourself. Look around you at the conspicuous things that seem to be fitting or seem to be suitable for man and suitable for woman. Without anything from me, you just look around yourself.”
Verse 14 reads, “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him.” Now, he mentions nature. We throw that term around loosely, but the word is a significant word. It’s translated “nature.” It’s used several times in scripture. I want to show you how it’s used so you kind of get an idea of it. It’s the constitution of something; it’s how something is made. It’s like if you want to know what something is, you go to the root of it. You go to the core of it and see what’s on the inside. That’s kind of the idea of the word “nature.”
Romans 1:26 says, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” You see it? The thing that they’re made out of, the thing that’s always been there, the thing that determines them, distinguishes them, they’ve changed it. Romans 2:14 reads, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law.” You don’t even have to be taught. It’s just something that comes instinctively. Romans 11:24 says, “For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree.” You see, the idea of what something is in its very essence, that which it does without even thinking. It’s instinctive. Ephesians 2:3 uses the word. He says, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
So when you think of nature, you think of that which doesn’t have to think. It’s just something that has evolved that way. It’s become that way and as a result of that, he says, “Look around you. Look at how women wear their hair. Look how men wear their hair. It will tell you something that’s been here all along, the distinctive, different role of men and women and that hair for the woman has been a covering ever since she was born. So should she not wear a covering on her head when she comes to pray or prophesy?”
Verse 14 again says “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him [then reverses it in verse 15], but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” In other words, if she didn’t have a veil, God had already given her a covering. That’s her long hair. He already has set her aside in her role and in her difference from the man. The man has the short hair. That’s what he was saying.
Now, it comes down to a verse here that I wrestled with. Do you ever wrestle with verses and just wonder what in the world is this thing saying? I beat my head against the wall practically trying to understand why Paul brings this up. I’m going to shoot at it.
Now, we’re the Bereans. Go check it out and see if it be so. If you disagree, you disagree. I’m not telling you that you have to take this home and say this is what God said because I’m still struggling with it. Here’s what I see in verse 16. Look at this, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.” What in the world is he talking about? Let’s work our way through it and I’ll tell you where I am on it and then you work your way through it and tell me where you are on it.
Look at this statement: “if one is inclined to be contentious.” The word “inclined” is dokeo. It’s translated “seem to be” contentious in the King James Version. It means to be of the reputation or to think or to suppose himself.
But the word “contentious” comes from two Greek words. One means a lover of, somebody’s fond of something. It’s the word for friend, philos. The other word means strife. Here’s a person who loves strife. He loves to be contentious. He loves to use something that’s been clearly taught to bring contention in the body of Christ.
He says, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.” Do you know what I think he’s doing here?—Lord, help me; I’m going to step out here—I think he’s saying, “Some of you want me to go on and say that I need to determine the dress and I need to determine the hair length of you people there in Corinth. You love this teaching and it’s clear as a bell to you, but you love to use even what’s teaching, that which is meant to free people, you love to use it to put them right back into bondage.” I think what he’s saying is that in the church we are to never put a rule on how somebody dresses or how long their hair should be or whether they wear a hat or don’t wear a hat. But what we do put the rule on is that a person within the body of Christ is to submit to Christ inwardly. And if you’re living inwardly subjected to Him, it will show outwardly with respect to Him and respect for His order and respect for the way you look at others because you’re drawing attention to Him. You’re not drawing attention to yourself. That’s what I think he’s doing.
You know, there are people who love passages like this. They love it. Oh, they feed off of it. They breathe contention with God’s teaching in the Word of God. They take something that’s right and make it something that’s full of strife in the body of Christ. Can you imagine? There are people here in this town who say if you have hair over your ears, it’s too long and you have sin in your heart. I say that if you have hair over your heart, you have sin in your ears.
Let me just throw something at you. I’ve been thinking this thing through. Let’s just say we heard the teaching from Paul. Now, remember, it’s cultural and eternal, two roads running side by side. We don’t have that culture today so, therefore, it’s difficult for us to enter into exactly what he’s talking about. We don’t wear robes. We don’t exactly dress the way they did. Let’s just say we took that thing literally. First of all, we’re going to have to all go out and throw your clothes away and buy robes. We’re going to have to determine today what color those robe need to be, because red is a color of an immoral person—no, it’s not; but I’m saying we’ll come up with this.
Secondly, we have to get a committee to decide the length of the robes. I remember I went to a camp one time. This camp had rules. You could wear shorts but they had to be able to put a dollar bill from the bottom of the shorts to the knee. You don’t love God if you have a pair of shorts that you can put more than a dollar bill between your knee and those shorts. So am I spiritual or not spiritual.
Do you see what you’re getting into when you get into this kind of stuff? Paul is simply answering a question. It is never the church’s prerogative to set such a dress code. When I used to sit up on the stage area of our church I saw people walk in the back door. If we had had those rules, we would have kicked them out on the streets. But if I had the nerve to embarrass them, I’d bring them up here today and show you the difference that the Word of God made in their lives because they came and heard the message, got up under Christ, and as a result of that dressed differently from that point on and nobody told them.
You could take this thing and make a cookbook out of it if you had somebody who was bent toward strife and contention. That’s a person who’s never submitted their hearts to Jesus Christ. They love the rules to use them to break somebody else with them.
I think what Paul is saying is, we have no such moral code. He says, “We don’t have that kind of moral code in the church, nor do any other churches.” Your culture is going to tell you something; and if the culture is there, don’t rise up with the contentiousness and go the other route with that and say, “I’m going to change just because of the culture.” No. If people already have that mind-set, don’t allow that to dictate to you what you need to be and to do. Show proper respect for the order of God. Don’t go make this a law or you’ve got huge problems.
How about the veil? What color are we going to make the veil? How long are we going to make it? “Your veil is too short. It came to the top of your nose instead of the bottom of your nose.” Can’t you see the Pharisees enforcing something like this? Paul’s the greatest teacher on grace in the Scriptures. But I want to tell you something else. He’s the wisest man I’ve ever studied, apart from Jesus. He knows how to get in this situation and allow God to so sensitize him that even the culture doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t try to rebel against it. He allows it to be used for the purpose of showing others that he’s submissive to Christ and respects the order of God.
He can move to another one over here and switch gears again. His direction the whole time was pointing right toward Christ. His focus was Christ. When you’re submitted to Christ, you have no trouble with the order of God. But if you’re not submitted to Christ, you’re going to take this teaching of a woman’s role and you’re going to browbeat somebody with it. You’re going to be the very one who’s going to try and turn the whole thing upside down because you have not bought it. Until you come to the point of abandonment in your life, your role will never be fully grasped or understood. There will always be those, however, that will take a clear teaching and make a law out of it and bring strife and contention to the body of Christ.
Well, look over in Ephesians 5. I want to show you something. I want to tell you, folks. People are running every direction about what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. Let me show you one of the things that reflects the fact that you’re under the control of the Holy Spirit of God.
Ephesians 5, beginning with verse 18, reads, “And do not get drunk with wine [that’s something from the outside you take to the inside that controls you], for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit [the word “filled” has the idea of being under the dominance of something, to be under the control of something], speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” I’m telling you, God just puts a song in your heart when you’re living and walking in that kind of submission. You can be in the midst of the worst situation in your life, but the song is louder and louder as you can hear it because it’s God giving you that overwhelming joy, the fruit of His Spirit.
Verse 20 says, “always giving thanks for all things.” Oh, goodness gracious! These people who say, “Well, I’ve got the gift of tongues,” or “I was healed,” or whatever else, I want to tell you something. If you’re not thankful for all things in your life, then you have not yet come to the place that the Holy Spirit of God has absolute control of you. It looks back as well as up, as well as forward.
Look at verse 21, “and be subject to one another.” Do you know what that word “subject” is? Hupotasso, which means submissive. Be willing to allow the order of God to so affect you that you’re willing to subject yourself even to the Christ in others. How do you do that? He says, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
You see, I think somehow we’ve gotten this thing turned upside down. One of the first ways that you see that a person is filled with the Spirit of God, totally subjected unto Him, is the respect for God’s order and willingness even to subject to the Christ in others with the attitude of awesome respect for, and a deep reverential awe of, who the Lord Jesus is. They’re willing to live that way. I know that there are men who have started companies and you submit to nobody. That’s alright. That’s okay in your business world. But don’t ever carry that attitude from the business world into your life as a Christian, because God says it won’t work. Christ is the head of every man. The man is the head of his wife. And the ultimate picture that should settle it for all of us, that Christ chose to become submissive to His Father.
So he says to the wives, whatever question was asked, “You do what you do. You ought to have a covering over your head whenever you pray or prophesy if nothing else, in respect for the angels who are there watching you. It would be a reproach to the divine order of God to take His function and order and to turn it upside down.”
Wouldn’t it be great if people would just live so surrendered to Christ that they’d allow that to dictate the way they dress and look to others? That’s the key. Not from the outside in, but it’s from the inside out.