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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
Title:His Place In His Place
Text:1 Corinthians 11:7-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


(Reading: Genesis 1:26-2:25; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16)


His Place In His Place



Church of our Lord Jesus Christ…


The verses 2 till 6 before our text brought us into a difficult passage. While the apostle has begun with a commendatory word for a congregation you couldn’t say a lot of good about, he had to straightaway raise with them yet another matter that was causing trouble for them. And while it was an issue that had yet to impact them to a large degree, it was clear that the thinking of the world around them was strongly pressing in.

            It was in response to that type of early feminism that Paul declared in verse 3 who it is that must lead in the public worship of God’s people. It was particularly through the word “head”, which here speaks of a symbolic subordination, that he made it clear what the divine pattern was meant to be for the fellowship. This pattern was certainly a departure from the practices of the man-made religions around them. But it was completely consistent with the rest of Scripture’s teaching.

            Paul then went on to show the outworking of headship in worship in verses 4 and 5. Understanding the Greek word for what would cover the man’s head in verse 4 showed us that this wasn’t about a physical object he wore on his head. Rather, it meant the woman usurping the place of the man in the coming together of God’s people.

            The verses 5 and 6 bring out the reason for this disorder in worship. Here we see that this is not about a woman having a head-covering if she prays or prophesies in the church service, but that she must respect her place in the congregation and so not speak out at all. Indeed, it is the very act of praying and prophesying that uncovers her head!

            This is why later on, in 1st Corinthians 14, the verses 33 and 34, the apostle declares that women should keep silent in public worship. And it enforces it there by stating that this should be the practice in all the churches.

            You can see why Paul comes on so strongly in verses 5 and 6. The challenge of those ancient libertines had to be faced. They were those doing the work of Satan in trying to destroy Christ-centred worship and service. They had to be confronted and dealt with. And this is exactly why he brings even more stronger reasons to bear on this in the text before us now.

            So, let’s turn, first of all, to the verses 7 till 10. Here we note in the first part of two parts to our text … THE PLACES HE HAS IN HIS PLACE.

            These are verses with some of the most wonderful imagery. And no wonder – this is a reflection of heaven itself that comes down to us here upon the earth!

            Verse 7 opens us to this. The argument based on common sense in verse 6 is strengthened with reference to the creation of God. And so it is that here we see the image and glory of God.

            Verse 7 begins, “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God…” The word “ought” tells us of something man is prescribed to do. As a word in the present indicative active tense it is clear this says a man has to do what a man is supposed to do.

            In our emasculated age many men have no idea what they are supposed to do. More often than not phrases like ‘toxic masculinity’ strongly repress anything that might have traditionally seemed to be male. But to declare that a man ought to be what he is, is actually the most liberating word of all. No matter how deviant the ideology, it simply cannot do away with biology!     

            Congregation, a man degrades himself when he does not act like a man. Much as he might loudly proclaim that he has found himself or herself or itself – or whichever of the one hundred plus gender pronouns! – he is going against himself when he doesn’t accept God’s order.   

            It’s only logical that Paul draws in next a definitive connection to Genesis 1, the verses 26 and 27. There in the creation account it is declared that God made man. And the apostle has no doubt that it is the male man being spoken of there.

            Notice how Paul describes man as both “the image and glory of God.” And it’s crucial he uses the two words here. For simply using the word “image” doesn’t essentially make the male human any different than the female human. A woman can rightly point to Genesis 1 verse 27 and say that she too was the image of God.

            But adding in the word “glory” here sets up a distinction. Especially when we note the way this word appears at the end of verse 7. Briefly summed up, this says the man alone is the glory of God and the woman alone is the glory of man.

            Now “glory” here does not mean the full divine majesty. Rather, using this word together with “image” points to what is not only God’s image but what also honours and magnifies him.

            We read in Scripture that man, created last, is the crown of creation. Psalm 8 sings this out. But this is in connection with the man only. The woman was created in a way that was completely different than anything else. She was formed by God out of the man.

            This is why Paul can say that a man, who is the image of God, shows the wonder of a being God could create. This makes him the crown of creation, the glory of God! But, then, with a woman, think of how beautiful a being God could create from a man!

            So it’s all related to creation. Even though Adam and Eve were husband and wife Paul makes this all about the created relationship between a man and woman.

            John Calvin describes it almost poetically. He comments: “There is no doubt that the woman is a splendid adornment to the man’s life. For God has greatly honoured her in appointing her to be the man’s companion and helper for life, and in putting her under him, as the body to the head.”

            This is why in Proverbs 12, verse 4, the faithful wife is said to be the crown of her husband. And Paul confirms it here through showing that the woman was created especially for greatly enriching the man’s life.


            Moving on from the image and glory of God in verse 7 we come now to the verses 8 and 9. It is here we note the created order of God. Paul now brings out two reasons to support what he has said about the different places of men and women. Here he develops upon verse 7 and what he has said earlier.

            In the first place verse 8 teaches us why a man is the glory of God and why a woman is the glory of the man. And this is because of the way in which God created woman. As verse 8 says, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.”

            What we read in Genesis 2 guides us here. After noting there in verse 20 that for Adam there wasn’t a helper fit for him, the verses 21 and 22 state, “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

            Then in verse 23 there is that wonderful prose Adam expresses in response to that. He sings out, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” So the woman takes her origin from the man and that gives her a different standing.


            In the second place, verse 9 points us to the purpose for which Eve was created. As it declares, “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” The woman was created for the man – to help him.

            What the Lord God in Genesis 1 verse 28 had commanded man to do, in going forth and being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth and subduing it and having dominion over it, could not be done by man alone. And so it is that in Genesis 2 verse 18 the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.”

            After naming all the animals this much would have been obvious. All those creatures were found as male and female but there was not yet a helper suitable for him.

            What would this mean for those Corinthians who first heard or read this letter? Well, there should be no doubt now that whether in her origin, or in the purpose for which she was created, could the woman claim priority, or even equality. The man and the woman are most definitely put in their place. The negative way Paul states both reasons brings this out most decisively! There can be no argument to this. The created order of God is absolutely clear!


            And so it is we come to the last verse in the first part. Here we come to verse 10. And this is where we note the heavenly model of God.

            The beginning of verse 10 joins this very closely to what we’ve just seen. “That” in the ESV is also shown in the “Therefore” of the NASB, the “For” in the NIV, or the “Because” in other versions.

            You see, these words are all conjunctions. They connect what has just been said with what is now said. In this case it means that the words the “woman is the glory of man” matches with the words, “a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head.”

            Now, as an aside here, you may have noticed that I have replaced the word “wife” in the ESV with the word “woman” most other translations use. I believe the ESV here doesn’t take into account the wider context around these verses. Because Jesus Christ is not only the head of husbands. He is the head of all men.

            Further, the ESV in verse 3 translates the Greek word as “man”. But then, within a few words, it translates the same word as “husband”. That is not very Pauline as he would consistently stick to the one meaning of a particular word within a passage. Otherwise he would use a different word if he wanted to show that other meaning.

            Then we come to this fascinating phrase. The apostle speaks about the woman having a symbol of authority on her head. Immediately we’re drawn to the picture of a physical covering upon a woman’s head. But again the ESV lets us down.

            Congregation, there is no word for “symbol” or “sign” here. Sure, you will find “symbol” or “sign” in the ESV, the NIV, the NASB, and the NKJV.  But the Scripture does not say “sign of authority” or “symbol of authority”. It simply says “authority” or “power” (KJV).

            The apostle’s point is that because of the way that men and women were created, the woman is to have authority on her head. Whenever Paul speaks about the woman having authority on her head he means precisely the same thing as when he says the woman is to cover her head. And haven’t the verses 7 till 9 clearly shown that this covering of the woman’s head is picturing for us her subjection under the man?

            This shows us that where we are reconciled to God in Christ there isn’t a radically new change to our relationships. Rather, what the Lord does then is to reform us back to how we ought to be according to his Word. And so the creation order is in some part restored as men and women are equal under God, but have different roles before him.

            It’s no surprise that this teaching of Paul is so strongly resisted in the world today – and especially in much of the church today. The apostle gets a really bad rap from many theologians today! He is a time-bound man, a misogynist, a bigot, a patriarchal despot, and on and on they go. They have moved on from all of this, or so they say.

            But tell me, congregation, where have they gone to? Is it to a place where they worship and serve the Lord more nearly and more dearly? How much don’t the last words of verse 10 lay this on the line for us?

            And let’s get the sense of this by hearing the whole of verse 10 again. There the inspired messenger of the Lord proclaims, “That is why a woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.”

            Well, here there is another puzzle for us to work out in these verses which are so full of conundrums. But fortunately it can only be one of two possibilities.

            One of these is that the women covering their heads for the sake of angels, refers back to the strange old story in Genesis 6. There the verses 1 and 2 are said to tell of how the angels fell prey to the charms of mortal women and so sinned. An old Rabbinic tradition said it was the beauty of women’s long hair which tempted the angels. Some have said that Jude verse 6 speaks of this. There it describes the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority.

            But it is far more likely that Paul means here that good angels are always with us, and especially at worship. It isn’t only what the other people in church see. It’s especially what God sees. And the angels are those who particularly do his bidding in this. Hebrews 1 verse 14 speaks of angels as being ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are inheriting salvation.

            Paul wrote to the Corinthians earlier in chapter 5 of this letter about his being with them in spirit when they are gathered together. So how much more, then, won’t God himself through his angels be with us in divine worship? He looks at not just what we’re like on the outside but especially what’s in our hearts.

            He sees if we are truly humble before him, rather than being proud in who we are and what we do. He knows if we are sincerely looking to him. So, dear friends, let’s make this time now a true looking to him. Let’s be those who bring heaven down with the way we lift the Lord up. Let’s be found in the place he has told us to be – whether male or female, husband or wife. And, so, let us be those looking - only and always - to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

            Congregation, isn’t it he whom the angels are commanded to worship in Hebrews 1 verse 6? Isn’t it he whom those angels serve night and day? So how much shouldn’t we be doing the same?


            And now we come to the second part in this fascinating and yet challenging passage. From the verses 11 till 16 we note … THE PLACES HE HAS PLACED US.

            Here the apostle Paul draws together the verses 2 till 10 so that it’s clear how each of us is to relate to each other in God’s presence. That’s why it begins with a distinctive conjunction.

            It’s to this subject of the respective places we have that Paul directs our attention to in the verses 11 and 12. And so it is we note here that Paul reminds us of our dependence.

            At face value verse 11 appears to be about our equality before the Lord. After all, it says, “in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.” So it seems that the apostle’s point here goes something like this: “The man is the head of the woman by virtue of creation: the man was created in the image and glory of God; the woman was made from man; and the woman was made for man. But even though this is the case, the woman and the man are still equal in the sight of God.”

            Now, it is true that the apostle teaches us elsewhere about the spiritual equality of the sexes. This is the equality in essence. So we are not different in our actual being. We have seen this from Galatians 3:28. And it’s clear from 1st Corinthians 12 and other places.

            It is also true that Paul teaches in Galatians 3 that there is equality between Jews and Greeks, and between those who are slaves and free. Before God all those social inequalities are done away with.

            But these truths, however important, and however they distinguish the Christian doctrine of the equality and dignity of women from all other religious beliefs, don’t tie in with Paul’s point here. You see, the apostle’s purpose here is to show the true nature and limitations of the subordination of the woman to the man. It is a real subservience and yet it’s consistent with their mutual dependence.

            Indeed, if Paul were teaching equality between men and women you would have expected him to say that. Then verse 11 would say, “Nevertheless, even though this true, the man is not independent of the woman.” But he doesn’t say that. Rather, he continues to say the exact opposite. He declares that “in the Lord woman is not independent of man…”

            He is saying that, even “in the Lord”, things have not changed. So, in spite of all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done through his doing and dying and rising, in spite of the Spirit now coming with fullness upon all of God’s people, the order between man and woman is still the same. Only after stating this does he go on to add that nor is the man independent of the woman.

            The confusion that has come out of this is a result of the translation of the original Greek. That’s why if we were to convey this more literally it would read this way: “Moreover, even in the Lord, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.”

            At creation the Lord God made one human race – mankind. But he made them male and female. And he designated to the man leadership over the woman. The woman was not created to be independent of man. And the man was not meant to be independent of woman. So they were not equal, but neither were they independent.

            So, in the new creation, or “in the Lord” as verse 11 says, there is still no independence.  The coming of Christ hasn’t changed the fundamental relationships between male and female. This is why the apostle uses, in verse 12, an illustration from the nature of things.

            You see, verse 12 says that “as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.” And so there is this continuing interdependence – man and woman are dependent upon one another.

            Now, someone here could dispute this. He could say, ‘But doesn’t the fact that both the man and the woman are dependent upon each other do away with the idea of headship?’

            Actually, it doesn’t do this at all! In creation the man and the woman were also made to be dependent upon each other. Yet the man was made the head of the woman. Indeed, in this way there is actually a return to creation in the recreation worked by Christ by the pouring out of his Spirit following his ascension into heaven.

            This is also shown in marriage. A husband and wife are brought together in such a way that they are dependent upon each other. Yet the husband is still the head of the wife. We read this in Ephesians 5 quite clearly. As verse 23 there declared, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body…”

            This is exactly what it’s like in the new creation. Because of Christ’s doing and dying and rising, male and female are brought together. But they still stay dependent upon each other. And in this interdependence the man remains as the head of the woman.

            In case we haven’t got the vital importance of this principle Paul again refers to the supreme influence and work of God in this. He ends verse 12 by definitively stating, “And all things are from God.”


            And this fits right in with the verses 13 till 15. From having seen how Paul reminds us of our dependence we now see that Paul reminds us of our reverence.

            Here we come in verse 13 to the application of the argument. When Paul now asks, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?” he’s expecting the Corinthians to only answer one way. The word for “yourselves” is emphatic. They can see for themselves. They don’t need Paul to tell them.

            And so, their answer can only be that men do have headship over women. Creation declares this as well as the Lord himself.

            So it is not proper for a woman to pray to God in public worship with her head uncovered. And that hits home to them! Because this is something that is right there in amongst them! There are women who are not being quiet in the assemblies. They are spiritually going against the place the Lord has ordained for them.

            Here we come back to verse 4 and the situation of certain women going against the God-ordained leadership of men in the public worship service. They are not being in submission, as Paul pronounces they must be later in 1st Corinthians 14 verse 34.

            So this is not a matter of what is commonly assumed about these verses. This is not about women being able to pray and prophesy in the worship service while wearing a head covering. It is actually that women were supplanting the place of men by doing what they ought not to do!

            It’s here that Paul supports this point with an illustration from the natural order. This is a picture meant to help us understand the inter-relationship between man and woman.

            There are commentators and preachers who have seen it as a direct connection with verses 4 and 5. So they say this is the way that a head is covered or uncovered, with a woman’s long hair being the covering while the man’s short hair is his head being uncovered.

            But here is where we need to go further into the original Greek. For when we do that we see that the apostle doesn’t say that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace for him. The word for that would be mega.

            Rather, here the word used is korma. It’s just a single word in the Greek and it simply means ‘to let the hair grow’. And the same word is used in verse 15 where he speaks of the woman’s hair, and where he describes it as her glory. So why use this same word to describe a man’s disgrace but a woman’s grace?

            Well you consider what a man looks like who allows his hair to grow unrestrained, with no care for it at all. It will eventually make him look like a wild man. His hair won’t only cover his head but also his face. His hair will grow very untidily down the sides and backs of his head. And it will do so in such a way that his appearance could only be described as disgraceful. It is this lack of care for his hair that is disgraceful – not the length of it.

            A woman, though, could well go through her entire life without ever needing to cut her hair. If she doesn’t cut her hair, even for years at a time, it won’t grow out unnaturally. It will simply grow longer and longer.

            A woman’s hair will never grow over her face. A woman’s hair will never fall down the sides of her head in an untidy way. A woman’s hair will simply grow in length and in body. If anything, over the years a woman’s hair will develop fullness and shine.

            The comparison between the physical and the spiritual becomes clearer. For consider how inappropriate it is to have a woman’s hair shaved, as verse 5 describes. It would be against nature – simply because her hair never needs to be cut!

            And in the same way spiritually she should not have her head uncovered. Because then she would be acting like a man and taking away from what it rightfully his. Just like the man would be dishonouring the Lord if he had his head covered spiritually by allowing women to pray or prophesy in the public worship service.

            In the end it is not a difficult thing to understand. Once we see the line Paul draws through this that connects with 1st Corinthians 14:34, 1st Timothy 2, and the creation account. Otherwise, as we’ve seen, you have a practice in Scripture which has no precedent or connection elsewhere in God’s Word.


            And just to show how much this is the principle he expounds elsewhere the apostle hammers it home in verse 16. It is here we come to a further aspect in connection with our second part. This is where we note that Paul reminds us of our obedience.

            As we come to verse 16 and being reminded of our obedience we need to realise properly the disobedience. True, it is nothing new. We have heard it before in the verses 2 till 15.

            But now Paul hits at what is at the heart of this attitude. Here he exposes those pushing for this early feminism.

            There were those at Corinth – maybe only a few because he praises the congregation for holding on to his teachings in verse 2 – who are not doing the right thing. They were attracted by the preaching of God’s Word but they did not want to do it. In fact, they set themselves over and against that Word.

            The root meaning of the word for “contentious” tells us of someone who is given to wordy battles. They can argue forever. And how much don’t you see those people as synod after synod after synod they keep coming back with their push for women in office.

            And if they get their way of one particular aspect they’re on to the next contentious thing. Their nature is not to just stop at the one thing. And how much don’t you see the damage they’ve done in denominations gutted by liberalism!

            Calvin includes quite a category here. He speaks of those who take delight in stirring up quarrels and who give no regard to the place of truth. And within this group are those destroying good and useful customs where there is no need to do so; those raising controversies about matters which are as clear as day; those who won’t listen to reason; those who love the new and exciting and different; and those who can’t stand anyone getting the better of them.

            Paul won’t dispute with them. That’s a waste of space! Rather, they have to be firmly put in their place! And thus far Calvin.

            While we have much to be thankful to Calvin for, this is a rather narrow response. We should always be willing to respond to those who differ from us on biblical doctrine and practice. But it must not be, as many churches have done, to the detriment of the body of Christ as a whole.

            Paul stands firm. He is clear in regards to what God’s Word declares. “We have no such practice” he proclaims – and he has just taught them why. He has addressed the practice referred to here of women praying or prophesying in the public worship service.

            There are two types of authority referred to here. The first of that is when Paul speaks of “we”. And so we understand this is the apostolic authority. The apostles were those invested with authority not only to teach the gospel. They were authorised also to organise the church. And so they were those authorised to decide on everything related to Christian rules and worship.

            The authority of the churches was also substantial. They insisted that no one is justified to go away from the established way of doing things of the church in matters of public concern. The only possible exemptions are on clearly scriptural grounds, and on the basis of obeying God rather than man.

            Congregation, the verses 2 till 16 are not easy to understand. But through the exposition of them may we have been helped to see how much God gives us guidance for how we are to worship him. While there are those who will claim that the Lord has left much over to us to decide how we publicly worship him, as long as we don’t go against his Word, it is actually quite the opposite.

            God has not left us to fill in the gaps. Rather, he is absolutely and vividly clear on how we are to be when we come together. As it is the worship of the Triune God himself would you honestly expect anything less? Amen.



Let’s pray…

            O Most Holy and Awesome God, we bow before you now. Help us to honour you for whom you truly are. And so help us to be in those positions you have created for us so that we do worship and serve you this way.

            In the name of Jesus, we pray.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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