Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 10 months ago

The Honor of God

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1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Word to First Corinthians Eleven, if you would remained standing. Please remain standing, if you're able. First Corinthians Eleven, versus one through sixteen. The Apostle Peter says in one of his letters that there are places in the apostle Paul's writings that are difficult to understand, that are challenging, and so if Peter can say that, I feel like I can say that too, and this is one of those. It is a really challenging passage for all kinds of reasons, exogetically, understanding how to interpret it and, of course, as with all of scripture, are challenging on our hearts as well. As we approach it, we will do so with humility and with honor and with reverence, and I'm asking, as we already have done, for the Lord's Blessing. So let's hear God's word. First Corinthians Eleven, one through sixteen, be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me and everything and maintain the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesied with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 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 her hair, to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 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, for man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 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. Judge for yourselves. Is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does Not Nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is a disgrace for him. But if a woman has long hair, it is her glory, for her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious. We have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. Amen, you maybe see. So I want to start by just saying that I'm as I mentioned, it is a difficult passage and it's difficult for several reasons. One of them is that in almost every single verse, and in Sometimes Multiple Times in one verse, you have many reasonable choices, interpretive choices that can be made and as you read commentators, modern, past, reformed, non reformed, even within the narrow camps, even in places where there's a lot of theological agreement and trusted scholars and people that you would normally look to, is your kind of go to folks for help on these issues, you'll find that there's a lot of variation because there's a lot of different possibilities and as you take each...

...possibility, it affects all the others. I've kind of been comparing it to a Rubik's cube in my mind. As you move one side, everything else changes, and then you change this and everything I'll change. You kind of have to solve the puzzle all at once. You have to kind of keep every single verse of all of its choices in your mind find at the same time and and that's difficult to do. That being said, what I want to say, then, is that my goal today is not to run through every possible choice and tell you why I've come to every single conclusion that I have. We'd be here for weeks. I will not also try to recount the history of various interpreters and quote lots of authors. And if you're interested in a particular question, in a particular verse, how things fit together, I'm more than happy to talk to you about it and point you to places where you can do some work on this in your own my goal today is to present very clearly and simply my best understanding of this passage, and my hope is that it is faithful to the Lord and compelling to you as the word of God, with that throat clearing, as they say. In writing. I want to begin with this. There's this universal truth that we human beings express ourselves in our clothing. Find this across cultures, across time. Now, this varies a lot from place to place. If you go and you can look up an article on the history of clothing in and then you...

...name the country, any country, you will find all kinds of fascinating things, varying from even within the same region, from time and place. There's a lot of variations, regional variations, variations in time, culture, political environments, all kinds of things. Clothing change it a lot, but it's true, even though the outward forms of clothing changes in there are some consistencies here there, that we express ourselves through clothing, sometimes very intentionally, sometimes not so intentionally. Sometimes it's just what is sort of clean, sometimes it's what you can afford. Sometimes you have a lot of choice, sometimes you don't have a lot of choice, but as a general rule this is a true thing. It's also true that as we express ourselves, as one of the chief ways that we express ourselves, there's a lot of things that go into those choices that we make, and this is will be saying what you already know to be true. But just to meditate on this for a moment, in our clothing choices we often express things like class, wealth, age, time of year. I'm seeing a little less red and green still still there, but right there's certain maybe neckties or or dresses or things that we bring out certain times of the year and other times we put away. Right. So, seasons warm, hot, cold, our frame of mind. Am I feeling sad today? Am I feeling happy today? Am I grieving? My excited? Our frame of mind, our gender, which is one...

...of the considerations that comes up here in this passage. An event. Right, we dust differently when we were going to the gym than we do when we're going to church. Then we do when we are going to a funeral than we do when we're a police officer, and so on and so forth. We have uniforms, we have all kinds of things. Now again, we can pick all these things out for ourselves in our time, even without our families. There might be certain customs. This will vary a lot depending on your own personal circumstances in the culture we live in, and that's true for the Corinthians as well as it's true for all people in all time times, in all places. And so what this passage will teach us at its core, without laying any specific burden on us regarding our clothes or our specific clothes, is that what we wear in worship and in general, but particularly in worship, which is the focus here. It matters and it ought to be decent not to be honorable to the Lord. That's the main point. That's the thing, the law, the thing, that part of God's will that we ought all to take away. But we think, what does God want me to do? That's what God wants you to do. He wants us, when we join for worship, to be about honoring and glorifying him, not ourselves, not one another. There might be a time to dress to the nines and put on lots of fancy stuff and and go out and show yourself off. There's a time in a place for that, but it's not when we're here to worship the Lord. It's not when we're here for him. That's the main thing to take away, without laying any specific burden on us regarding our specific clothing choices. Now the first now, the Corinthians were in a specific time and place and did have very specific choices that they...

...were making, some that were good and some that were not good, and we'll talk about this for a minute so we can see some of the specific a fix of the text. The specific issue that the Corinthians were dealing with related to distinctions and clothing regarding honor and dishonor generally focusing around men and women, but not entirely because, as you see it's translated here, some of the women are specifically wives. It's not addressing, likely not addressing all women, but wives in particular. In Rome at the time, and remember Corinth is a Roman colony, also very influenced by the Greek world, but very, very very Roman, there were very specific rules and laws and customs practices. I'm surrounding clothing women. Married women were supposed to wear a very specific type of garment, a kind of cloak or not a head covering. So sometimes it says veil here, but it's not over their face. It's something that would be pulled up over the head and that would mark them as a married woman, kind of like wearing reading wedding rings sometimes does for us today. I'm perhaps you've seen in a movie or read in a book a scene where, maybe you know, a guy walks into a guard takes his wedding ring off and slides it into his pocket it before he slides on up to the counter. Why? What's going on there? Well, we all know what that means, right. It means he's making himself available even though he's married. He doesn't want it to look that way. He wants to say to everyone there at that bar that he is he's available, he's looking.

A similar thing was happening here in Rome. Now, Rome had a very double standard when it came to men and women, which was not right. A men were basically allowed to do whatever they wanted. There's some qualifications on that, but generally men could do whatever they wanted regarding a sexual practices, and that was not true of women. Women were expected to be chased and modest and various in their various relationships. The double standard was bad. I'm not the requirement on women. So it was not that women shouldn't have had that restriction on them, it's that men needed a restriction on them. Yes, the unfairness was not right, but the solution was not to release the women to do whatever they wanted to do. But that's exactly what some people were saying. There was a movement at the time, sometimes referred to in the scholarship as the new women, and these women were saying enough with this, I'm going to do what I want, I want to live what I want. I don't want to be chased, I don't want to be modest, I want to be like the guys. And so they would take their head coverings off as a way to symbolize and mark themselves as somebody who was a free woman, a new woman. And of course, as often happens with these things, it was also a class thing. Usually you don't get to make these kinds of choices and have this kind of freedom unless you're politically connected and wealthy and those kinds of things. And so there was not only a sense of releasing yourself, marking yourself as released from these obligations in a certain kind of morality, but it was also way of expressing yourself. Is connected with, you know, the cool people, right the the people in power, the people with money. You're you're you're marking yourself as being a part of this new emerging cool thing. Now, this happens, of course,...

...in all kinds of cultures and cross time and crossplay. So that's what's going on here. When they did this, though, it was, Paul says, a dishonorable thing, just like the man who takes his wedding ring off and slips it into his pocket. It goes in the bars, like, what are you doing? You're dishonoring your wife, you're dishonoring your relationship, even yourself and your own morality. What do you what are you doing? She was doing a similar thing. Not also talks about men who were dishonoring themselves, and there's a couple possibilities here on one possibility is that men, by covering their heads, I'm we're trying to act like some commentators think that they were trying to act like I'm Jewish priests or something like that, and there was a judaizing tendency here. I think that's not likely. Another possibility is that they were acting like like Roman priests, adopting certain practices that were going on in the time to sort of again look like the culture, look cool, that kind of thing, and so they put on men would start we're starting to put on these head coverings, and the and the other our third possibility. It was perhaps a sort of a gender bending kind of thing that was going on, where they were trying to look like the women, the married women, who would wear these head coverings. It's not totally clear which of these options it is, but the it seems to probably be related to the third. The bottom line is this. You have two groups of people. You have men and married women. Unmarried women would not wear these having head coverings. In fact you couldn't, according to Roman law, not allowed to. There were even these, I'm trying to figure out how...

...to translate, like women, law enforcers, people, officers of the Roman government, who would go to especially festivals, parades, things like that, and make sure that the women were addressing appropriately. If not, they could take your clothes, they could tear your clothes and dedicate them to one of the Gods. This was a big deal. There was it was very important established in law it self that honor be protected, that men and women dress, I'm properly. But, however, this was not happening in some cases and Christians, converts to Christianity, were coming into worship and bringing some of these these new cultural movements into worship with them. And this isn't the first time we've seen this. This is, in fact, been the recurring theme over and over and over again in Corinth, whether it's dealing with class or food, sacrifice to idols or wealth or parties. Are All kinds of things you see the church and Corinth struggling to be the church, struggling to keep Christ at the center, struggling to keep God and his glory as the first and most important thing, and instead bringing in Prett controversies and and I'm questions about leadership and public speaking and dress and and a government and money and all these other things, bringing those things into worship and bringing them into how they related with one another. And over and over again Paul saying stop it, stop it, stop it. We are here as one body, United Together under Christ for the glory of God. What's Paul? What's Apolois? What's...

...all these divisions? It's not about that, pulse says at the beginning, all these people that think they're well the and wise and honorable. God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, what is weak in the world to shame the strong. And so God calls the men and women within the Church and Corinth to do what, and this is paraphrasing the passage, what you know you ought to be doing anyway. He says this in a couple ways at the beginning, or at the beginning and end of the chapter. Notice this is one of his arguments for why these women should undressed like women, like married women, on those who are married, and why men should dress like men, and one reason he gives is example, his own example. On he says in Verse Sixteen, if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, and here he's probably speaking of himself and Sosthenes, who is also a writer of this letter, perhaps his other colleagues and people who are with him. He also says of the Churches of God. None of the Churches of God are doing this. This is not how it's practiced among God's people. Corinth, these practices that you're bringing in from your culture, you're bringing in from Rome, and your desire to be a part of them is not right. This is not practiced in the Church of God. It's not practiced by us. And you remember, back at the beginning of the chapter, he says the imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me and everything and maintain the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. So Paul's own example, the example of the Churches, and remember the Paul's example is connected...

...with Christ. He says, be imitators of me, not just because of some other reason. It's because he has he represents Christ to us as Christ's apostle. He also tells them that this is appropriate according to custom. On the word nature in verse fourteen has many different possible meanings. I think likely it means here on what is naturally so, according to the environment that they're in. Does not this teach you that if a man wears long hair, it's a disgrace for him, if a woman has long hair, it's are her glories like? Look around you, there is a distinction between men and women here. This is how we mark it, this is how it is. Why are you trying to deny these distinctions now again? I've said this already, but to emphasize it yet one more time. Long and short our relative terms, and they depend on all kinds of times and places and cultures. In the point isn't particularly about hair length. It is about it is about making these distinctions appropriate. The NAZRITES, for example, in the Old Testament, had long hair. We have other examples of Theo of men with long hair and women with short hair, people who are holy and right, and this again depends on time and place. The point is the distinctions that God has made in the world, these distinctions that are exhibited in our cultures and which vary from culture to culture but are nevertheless there. Do we blow past them, do we deny them, do we say they don't matter at all, or do we respect them in the world that God has made? So that's three things. Are Two, two or three things so far? He says this is important for the example that he sets, for the practice in the churches, the the nature of the situation that they are in.

As a third one, he also says because of the angels. Another interesting verse, in Verse Ten, he says it's because of the angels. There's a couple possibilities here. On one possibilities he's speaking of the immaterial beings right in the heavenly places, in the spiritual realm, the the angels from. Some think it might refer to demons or something or other, but I think if it is to be meant the spiritual beings, he has in mind the good angelic angels of God. What would he what could he mean then, if he says he says because of the angels? How are we to understand the reason behind that? One possibility is he wants us to remember a truth that is placed another portions of scripture, that when we come to worship, we not only come to worship with one another, but we come to worship in a company of angels. When we are in Christ, we are in with him in the heavenly places. And when we think about the hundreds of millions of angels that surround the Throne of Christ, that are honoring him and glorifying him and praising him, some of them who are covering their faces and their feet and who are showing all kinds of honor and submission to God, who are calling out as praises, are we going to just waltz in and well, I'm going to do what I want today. Can you imagine walking into a King's throne room? Right? Imagine all of its gold and it's precious things, everything, and it's perfect spot, every cordier, every person, exactly where they're supposed to be, wearing exactly what they are supposed to wear. And then you walk in and Oh, sorry, I drop my thing and I can't find my you know, and it's not about you.

We're not there for you. This is about the king and his glory and his honor and reflecting on the angels helps us to remember that that's true and if that's what Paul means here, that's a really good thing to remember. There's another, very different possible interpretation. I realize I'm maybe going into the weeds a little bit more than night and intended to at the beginning, but here we are. Another possible interpretation of this is the word angel also means Messenger and, as I mentioned before, there were people within their society who were very keen to find out not only what the women were doing but what the Christians were doing. There were laws about how often you met, about public assembly, about how what happened in those meetings. The Roman government was very concerned to control things and keep things peaceful. Imagine how they might feel if there were groups of people gathering together to worship a king whose name was not Caesar. This is a big, big deal, and we know this not only from the natural implications of what I just said, but in the writings in these first few centuries we see the Christians being very explicit in their apologetics, speaking to their neighbors and saying we still submit to Caesar, we still submit to Caesar, but Jesus is our ultimate king and we see them explaining this and talking about this, even in terms of clothing and food and all kinds of other issues. I was very much on their hearts and minds. What what goes on there? And it was very much on Rome's minds and hearts. Who? What are these people doing? What are they doing? And so there is put the potential concern that Paul has in mind that there are people, and he talks about this and other portions of scripture, there are people sometimes who slip into Christian assemblies pretending to be one thing but...

...are in fact another. This word Messenger is sort of a broad way of speed, of relaying messages. We might according to this interpretation, we might translate it more like spy, right, somebody who communicates not a message to them but about them to someone else. And so here the the sense, if that's what he means. The sense, is that the world is watching. You have a witness. What are you about? What are you doing? Are you going to shame and honor and disgrace yourselves in front of a watching world, in front of people who are already antagonistic against you? Don't do it, he says. He doesn't mean that our job is to appease the spies or to always being worried about what the world thinks. But he does want us to be moral, much like Peter Talks about. Don't fall into disgrace and suffering because of immorality. That's not the kind of suffering the Christians are supposed to experience, the suffering that we experience. If we experience shame, it's because of Christ, because of Christ who, the Scriptures say, despised the shame and went to the cross. Jesus said, dishonored me, disgrace me, strip me of my clothes, my my dignity, hang me on a cross, do it you feel must needs to be done. Why? Why did he despise the shame? Why was he willing to endure all of that so that he might glorify and honor us in him? So, whether it's before the watching angels or the watching Roman government, Paul is...

...saying, I believe we need to be aware of our witness here. We need to be aware that if we choose to go against to go against the practice of the churches and the practice that is known in our in our culture, about what distinguishes men and women, you are bringing disgrace on yourselves. You are dishonoring yourselves. The thing, and I'll close with this, the thing that we have to remember is Christians, is that our glory, in our honor and our dignity does not come from US standing on our own and getting what we want when we want it. That's what Satan told eves she could have. That's what kings and princes and people all over the world are constantly trying to achieve and and promising to us as well, that independence, sense of I can be my own God, I can do what I want, no matter what other people say, no matter what culture says, no matter what the law of God says, no matter what the practice of the churches, that I can't do what I want because I feel like it, I will attain my own honor, my own glory and my own dignity. Others do it in another direction, which Paul doesn't mention here, but I'll mention it. Instead of going off a totally in our own way, doing what our own want, we decide that we are going to get our honor and dignity and glory through legalism, by looking at everyone else and saying, you are not doing it you are not doing it, and look how great I am by controlling and conquering, commanding. But the glory and honor that...

...we receive in Christ is neither of these. They are simply given to us, bestowed upon us. They are not achieved by us. When we come to worship God in the Lord, when we come to worship God in Christ, who gave himself up for us, who despise the shame and went to the cross, we come not bringing gifts, but bearing like having the gifts of God placed upon us. Christ pours out on as so many blessings, so rich. He gives us eternal life, he gives us union with one another. He breaks down dividing walls in even worship spaces, where previously race and culture and and education and gender and all kinds of things would divide us. He brings us together in a common humanity, kind of Utopia. But the world is always promising and never delivers. Christ makes it actually happen. He does it do it by denying all distinctions and saying or saying anybody can do whatever they want. He does it by making us who he has called us to be, but as one body, distinct and different and is interesting. Various and diverse. Man and woman is one example here from our passage, distinct and different yet inter dependent. In the Lord, woman is not independent of Man, nor man of woman. Woman was made from the man, and now man is born a woman. We cannot live without one another, totally, totally mutually dependent on one another as one common a humanity.

The world is always breaking these apart. We are always breaking these apart, and if we go against God's law and say we're going to do whatever we want to do, we disgrace ourselves and disgrace the name of Christ, may it never be instead, brothers and sisters, when we want glory and honor and dignity, would we want to enjoy both unity and diversity within ourselves and within the body, when we want to shine forth with true pleasure and true life and true beauty, we will find, and we must find all of those things in Christ, and in Christ alone. The first Adam, our first father, he failed in all of it. All of it broke apart, everything fell apart, every aspect of of our world, but in Christ it's brought together. In Christ there's wholeness in Christ, there's love in Christ, there's dignity. So let's put our faith in him and let's do that together, and when we come together from worship, let's do it honoring the distinctions that he has made, but trusting that he is the one who brings us of these things that we need and give him all the glory and honor and praise and not ourselves. Let's pray.

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