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1 Corinthians 11:11–12

“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.”

The order of creation establishes distinctions between men and women. Although men and women are equal before the Lord in terms of their salvation, this equality does not abolish a hierarchy of authority in the church, where qualified men alone are appointed elders to lead local congregations. This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament, as seen in texts such as 1 Timothy 2:8–15 and Titus 1:1–9. As we have seen, Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:2–10 emphasizes the grounding of this authority in the order of creation and teaches that the distinction in authority is reflected in public worship by having Christian wives wear head coverings. In fact, the wife’s head covering as a visual symbol of the husband’s authority is so important that the Apostle says the wearing of the head covering is also “because of the angels” (v. 10). This is one of the most difficult verses to interpret in the New Testament. However, keeping in mind that other biblical texts teach that the church enters heaven itself during corporate worship (Heb. 12:18–24) will help us here. The idea seems to be something like this: the holy angels respect the distinctions God has placed in the created order, and they are offended when God’s people do not do the same; therefore, we should recognize these distinctions through head coverings so as not to offend the holy angels.

In any case, Paul does not want husbands to get puffed up with pride regarding their place of authority in their homes or for males to wield authority in the church in tyrannical ways. That is why in today’s passage he reminds us that while the husband is the head of the wife, he is not independent of the wife. God made the first woman from the side of the man, but since then, men come from women. All men since Adam have mothers. Husbands and wives must come together to produce new life. Men and women are distinct but inseparable and interdependent. Male chauvinism, pride, and abuse of authority deny this fundamental principle and must have no place in the home or the church. Such things arise from a failure to recognize that authority is for the purpose of serving others and that men need women if both are to carry out their vocations. John Chrysostom writes, “In the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. . . . Each one of the two is the cause of the other, God being the cause of all.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Men and women need each other to fulfill their common vocation of taking dominion over the earth for God’s glory (Gen. 1:26–28). We follow the order of authority and submission in the church and home because it reflects the need of the sexes for one another and is established by God as the way to best glorify Him as the Lord of order. By respecting loving male leadership and mindful female submission, we bear witness to the one true God.

For Further Study
  • Genesis 2:18–25
  • Proverbs 23:25
  • Matthew 19:1–12
  • 1 Peter 3:7

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From the May 2021 Issue
May 2021 Issue