PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 11:3; Christ the Head and the Head of Christ

07/20 1 Corinthians 11:3 Christ the Head and the Head of Christ; Audio available at:


1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι

παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν,

κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ,

κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός.

1 Corinthians 11 [ESV2011]

2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 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. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 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 off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 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. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Last time, we looked at the big picture of this passage, what it means to bring honor or shame to others and to God. We are to eat, we are to drink, everything we do, we are to do it all to the glory of God. We are to seek not our own but that of the other, we are to seek the eternal good of others. Our goal is to bless others, that the lost might be saved and our brothers might be built up, and in all this that God would be glorified. By our conduct, by our attitude, by our appearance, by how we treat one another, by our sensitivity to the culture in which we live, we can bring honor or shame to God, and we can bring honor or shame to our brothers and sisters.

As I said last time, I want to go back to the foundational principle laid down in 11:3 and study it in more detail.

1 Corinthians 11:3 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.

This is the core of everything Paul says in this section. How we bring honor or shame to one another and to God grows out of an understanding of what it means to be head or to have a head over us.

What ‘Head’ Means

At first read, this sounds like it has something to do with authority. I looked up the word ‘head’ in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary. He defines it this way:

HEAD, n. hed.

1. The uppermost part of the human body, or the foremost part of the body…. This part of the human body contains the organs of hearing, Seeing, tasting and smelling; it contains also the brain, which is supposed to be the seat of the intellectual powers, and of sensation. Hence the head is the chief or more important part, and is used for the whole person, in the phrase, let the evil fall on my head.

3. A chief; a principal person; a leader; a commander; one who has the first rank or place, and to whom others are subordinate; as the head of an army; the head of a sect or party. Eph 5.

4. The first place; the place of honor, or of command. The lord mayor sat at the head of the table. The general marched at the head of his troops.

To say that the husband is the leader, the one who has first rank, the one who holds the place of honor, and to whom his wife is subordinate, is unpopular in today’s political climate. To say that woman is subordinate to man and is to be under his authority may be downright dangerous. But that is what the text seems to say.

There is a feminist movement within Christianity that has attempted to re-define ‘head’ to mean something that avoids the idea of authority or submission. These scholars have taken ‘head’ to mean ‘source’ as in ‘the head of the Mississippi river is found in northern Minnesota.’ Webster does list something like this; he gives as meaning #30 for the world ‘head’:

30. The part most remote from the mouth or opening into the sea; as the head of a bay, gulf or creek.

But even this doesn’t seem to indicate that ‘head’ means ‘source’; rather that which is ‘most remote from the mouth or opening’. But the various ways the English word is used is not essential to understanding how the word is used in the bible. We need to look at the context of the passage and the way the word is used in other places in the Bible to understand what the author intends by it.

This passage as a whole teaches that men and women are different and should appear different. It teaches that a man can bring glory or shame to God by the way he conducts himself in the public worship of the church. It teaches that a woman can bring honor or shame to her husband or father, and as a result, to God, by the way she conducts herself in the public worship of the church.

In verse 10, the word ‘authority’ is used, indicating that this passage has at least something to do with authority, and the normal meaning of the word ‘head’ implies authority.

Man under Christ

Notice, though, that the relationship between man and woman is sandwiched in this verse between the relationship between man and Christ, and Christ and God. Although issues between man and woman are central, Christ frames the passage. We can understand more about what it means to be head or to have a head by looking at these two parallel phrases.

First, he says

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ,

Christ is the head of every man. For man to cover his head in worship would bring shame to Christ. Paul gives the theological reason for this in verses 7-9

7 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. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Man is the glory of God, and in worship, the glory of God must be revealed.

He balances this in verses 11-12.

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

There is an interdependence between man and woman. There is a sense in which man is dependent on woman. Every man since Adam was born of a woman. And all things are from God. God is supreme over all.

Man is not head of woman in any absolute unrestrained sense. Man too is under authority. Man is under the authority of Christ. Man will lead a woman well only when he is submitting well to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear from this that his authority is restrained. He has no right to overstep his bounds and exercise authority that is not Christlike authority.

We see this portrayed beautifully in Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The husband is to model his leadership over his wife after the example of Christ’s authority over his church. This includes, on the wife’s side submission and respect; and on the husband’s side loving leadership, self sacrifice, and nourishing, cherishing sanctification.

Authority Among Equals

1 Corinthians 11:3 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.

In the three parallel statements dealing with heads, two (if we can talk this way) have to do with members of the same species, and one does not. Man and woman are different genders, but both are human. The person of Christ and the person of God the Father are one God. It is natural to expect the first statement, that man, who is a created being, would be under the authority of Christ, the uncreated Creator of all things. It is less expected to see that there is a similar authority and submission role within the human species, and it may seem downright shocking to see that within the one God, there are roles of submission and authority. Between man and God there is clear superiority and inferiority, where authority and submission seems obvious. But between man and woman, and between Christ and God, there is no superiority or inferiority, so authority and submission is a difference in role among equals.

We are told in Galatians

Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

In Christ the social inequalities have been done away with. Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, all are equal before God. None has advantage over another. All are alike helpless sinners rescued by the benevolence of a merciful God.

Yet in Colossians we are told:

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

So there remain social roles among equals that are appropriate to maintain. These roles include authority and submission; wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers.

Christ Under God

The model for obedience to authority among equasl is given within the persons of the triune God.

1 Corinthians 11:3 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.

Let’s look at the divine side of this parallel. The head of Christ is God. This is an amazing statement. Earlier in 1 Corinthians, speaking of various gifted teachers in the church, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:22 …all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

You don’t have to pick only one favorite teacher; all are yours. They are given to you for your benefit. And you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Jesus is equal in essence with his Father. He is fully God. He shares all the characteristics that are exclusive to God, he is the self-existent one, the uncreated Creator, he is all powerful, all wise, everywhere present, unchanging, without beginning or end, God will not give his glory to another (Is.42:8; 48:11), yet Jesus possesses the very glory of God (Jn.8:54; 17:5). The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one eternal God, equal in essence, yet functioning in different roles. We see this nowhere more clearly than from the statements of Jesus himself in the gospels.

Jesus’ Submission in John

In John 5, Jesus was being persecuted by the Jews because he was working miracles on the Sabbath.

John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The equality of the Son with the Father is clearly presented in this passage. An artist creates something different than himself. A masterpiece may display the skill, the creative genius, the glory of the artist, but it is essentially different from the artist; a work of canvas, stone, metal, or wood. But when a father begets a son, he is of the same DNA, of the same stuff as the father. Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God, was uniquely claiming equality with God. But at the same time that he claims this essential equality with his Father, he asserts his dependence on his Father. The next verses read:

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

The Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father, yet the Son can do nothing of his own accord. He perfectly imitates his Father in everything. He perfectly submits to the will of his Father.

John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus seeks not his own will, but the will of his Father. He is perfectly obedient.

John 5:36 …For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

The Father testified about the Son; ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Mt.3:17; 17:5). The Father gave Jesus works to accomplish, and Jesus was joyfully obedient in everything.

John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

…49 Jesus answered, “… I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.

…54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

John 10:37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

…28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

…31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father…

Jesus did not seek his own. His aim was to honor the Father in everything. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the ideal relationship. Loving authority and joyful surrender.

Submission Demonstrated

There is one place in particular that we gain depth of insight into the surrender of the Son to the will of the Father. It is in the garden.

Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. … 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Jesus, looking toward the cup of the fury of the wrath of almighty God against the sins of the world (Is.51:17, 22, Jer.25:15) that he would drink for mankind on the cross, begged escape if at all possible. This kind of perfect submission that the Son models is not without struggle, not without hesitation, not without discussion, not without exploring other possibilities. But ultimately, there is glad surrender to authority. Hear the resolve in his voice when he rebukes Peter during the arrest.

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Eternal Subjection of the Son

Lest we think that this submission of the Son to his Father is restricted to his time here on earth as the perfect man, Paul, speaking of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, says:

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

In the perfection of eternity, there will still be good authority and glad surrender, even among the equal persons of the triune God. Not all authority is selfish and domineering, and not all submission is fearful cowering. Paul puts authority and submission in proper perspective for us when he frames it this way:

1 Corinthians 11:3 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.

Paul held himself up as an example of what it looks like to surrender your own rights for the eternal good of others and the glory of God, so that many would be saved. In this he invites us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

July 20, 2014 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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