The Principle of Headship (11:2-3)
The word "traditions" is used several times in the New Testament, not only for the added sayings of men (Matt. 15:1-7), but for what the apostles exhorted the saints by inspiration, first orally, then in writing while the canon was in building and not yet complete (Rom. 6:17; 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Cor. 11:2).The word could also be translated "directions" or "instructions". In either case, these "instructions" were commandments from the Lord; "if any man thinketh himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge the things that I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37). We have those same "instructions" with us today, in the completed canon of scripture. The idea that there is a separate set of "traditions" (man's word) that are to be valued equally or superior to God's Word is very dangerous.Read more… The point is, the Corinthians in general bowed to the authority of the Apostle even in “small” practical matters, even though there were some among them who doubted his authority.
The Sign of Headship (11:4-10)
A Balancing Principle: Mutual Dependence of the Man and Woman (11:11-12)
A Closing Word for the Conscience on the Subject of Headship (11:13-16)
The relevance of headcoverings today. Up until the mid-twentieth century, the vast majority of Protestant Christianity held that women should wear headcoverings when praying or prophesying, at least in public church meetings. Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, Protestant Christianity began to throw off the notion of headcoverings as a relevant practice, a trend which corresponded to the general rebellion and gender reversals of that era. Today, to find an evangelical church that maintains the use of headcoverings as taught in 1 Corinthians 11 is most difficult. Instead, evangelical pastors and teachers have taught that the literal use of headcoverings ought to be confined to the 1st century Corinthian assembly. The reason given is that headcoverings were a common occurrence in that culture, and a rebellious trend in Greece to refuse headcoverings had been picked up by the women in Corinth. Evangelical teachers today would affirm the principles of headship (although some go so far as to deny them), but they teach that Christian woman do not need to follow the exhortations with regard to practical use of headcoverings. I believe this teaching to be false. First of all, Paul states on numerous occasions that the doctrines contained in this epistle are for the whole Church, at all times; see 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Cor. 7:17; 1 Cor. 11:16; 1 Cor. 14:36-37; 1 Cor. 16:1. I believe v.16 proves this to be false teaching. The apostles and all the local assemblies were united on this issue. Secondly, Paul does not say “because of the culture” but “because of the angels”. Headcoverings are important because of God’s unchanging order in creation, in spite of the shifting, sliding Western culture. To top it off, in v.16 Paul rebukes anyone who would be contentious about this doctrine of headship and headcoverings. May God give us the grace to simply submit to the plain teaching of His Word, for His glory and our blessing.
- When the man “puts his head to shame” or the woman “puts her own head to shame” it isn’t immediately clear to me if the dishonor it to their own literal head, or to their head in the sense of headship; i.e. Christ in the case of man, and man in the case of woman. However, in either case it is a dishonor, and therefore we should not do it.
- So also the expression, “authority on the head,” has given rise to endless discussion. To have authority on the head unquestionably means to wear the sign of it in a covering or veil. – Kelly, William. Notes on First Corinthians.
- Homily of John Chrysostom on 1 Cor. 11:16, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff.
- It is a contemptible sort of independence which sets itself up, not only against the spiritual feeling of all the public witness in God’s assemblies, but above those endowed with heavenly wisdom to direct all. It is neither conscience nor spirituality, but a fleshly love of differing from others, and at bottom sheer vanity. The “custom” negatived was the Corinthian innovation, which confounded God’s order in nature, not disputatiousness, as many ancients and moderns strangely conclude. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle to the Corinthians.