April 15, 2018
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. [1 Corinthians 11:3]
One of greatest witnesses in the church is how the church assembles in the assembly, i.e., how the church operates on Sunday mornings. Is there order? This is an important question because God is a God of order. “Let all things be done decently and in order.” [1 Cor 14:40] “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” [1 Cor 14:33] The context of these passages is in exercising spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues. There were problems in the Corinthian church regarding the gifts of the Spirit. They were being used indecently and disorderly, contrary to what God desired. The thing to note is that the disorderly conduct was a particular problem with certain women in the church [ref. 14:33-36]. This gives us valuable background to our 1 Cor 11 passage this morning.
The culture in Corinth was not friendly to women, an unfortunate reality common throughout the Roman Empire. In that day women were treated almost like slaves. Interestingly enough it was the Christian faith that helped to change that. It is a bona fide truth that wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ thrived that freedom for women advanced. One need only look at the cultures that have rejected the Gospel to know this to be true. For the Christian, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal. 3:28]. This does not mean that we are the same [i.e., conformity]; what it does mean is that we are one [i.e., we operate as a unit]. We can have unity in our diversity.
But this was a challenge for the Corinthian church, as it is in churches today. The problem described in 1 Cor 11 is that certain women were “carrying their newfound freedom to excess” [Wiersbe]. They enjoyed their liberty in Christ to pray out loud in the assembly, and to prophesy and speak in tongues, but they were using their freedom in a way that was causing others to stumble.
Sound familiar? Perhaps their freedom could have been forfeited for the sake of others? Remember Paul’s admonition in chapters 8-10: Being sensitive to others’ conscience. And so Paul in chapter 11 outlines an order of authority within a worship service so that things are done “decently and in order.” In God’s economy, there is order in the assembly.