1 Corinthians 11:2-16 — Authority and submission

This is one of the most difficult passages in scripture to try to interpret and apply.  Many people have done so in different ways in relation to head coverings in the church.  Some have said it’s still necessary today, but most have not, saying that it was a cultural thing.  Honestly, I’m still trying to work out Paul’s meaning there, so until I come to a firm conclusion, I think I’ll leave that argument for another day.  (Don’t hold your breath, though).

Whatever conclusion we come to head coverings, however, I think there is a definite principal we need to take from this passage, particularly concerning our relationships in marriage.  Paul teaches,

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.  (3)

Here we see something very important.  God has within his own nature the concept of authority and submission which is then reflected in our relationship with him, and in the relationships between husbands and wives.

Paul says here in the final part of the verse, “The head of Christ is God.”  What does he mean?  I think it’s pretty clear when putting together the different verses of scripture.

According to I John 4:14,

The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

And when Christ came into the world, he told the Father,

Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God. (Hebrews 10:7)

As he lived his life on earth as a man, he told the Jews,

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  (John 6:38)

But lest we think Christ’s submission to the Father was just a temporary thing while he was on earth, Paul tells us concerning the last days and the eternal kingdom to come,

The end will come, when [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For [Jesus] must reign until [the Father] has put all his enemies under his feet…For [God the Father] “has put everything under [Jesus] feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.  (I Corinthians 15:24-25, 27-28)

In light of all these verses, I don’t think there is any doubt that Christ, though he is fully equal with God in nature, nevertheless submits himself to the Father, and will do so for all eternity with no disparagement to his nature for that submission.

Why do I go through all the trouble to make this point?  Because there are many who claim that for a woman to subject herself to a man’s authority, namely, a wife to her husband, is a disparagement to her humanity.  That she is somehow to be considered lesser than man for doing so.  And as a result, they balk when Paul says, “the head of woman is man,” and try to explain it away.

But Paul clearly states here that there is an order to things.  That the Son is subject to the authority of the Father.  Man is subject to the authority of the Son.  And woman is subject to man.  This does not mean that woman is not equal to man in her humanity.  Paul goes out of his way to dismiss any such idea as he said,

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. (11-12)

In other words, though there is a role of leadership that God has ordained men to take, nevertheless, men and women need and depend on each other.  And there is no room for men abusing their authority over women.  Rather they are to honor and love them in every way, just as the Father honors and loves the Son in every way.  More, we are to remember that we are all subject to God because he is our Creator.

So I guess for you married women, the question to ask is, “Am I willing to submit to myself to my husband as the Son submits to the Father?  Are I willing to follow my husband’s leading as he follows Christ’s leading in his life?”

For you married men, the question to ask is, “Am I honoring my wife as the Father honors the Son?  And do I love my wife as Christ loves me and gave his life for me?”

If you’re a single woman who’s considering getting married, the question becomes, “Is my boyfriend/fiance subject to Christ?  Can I trust him enough that I will submit to him as I submit to Christ?”

If not, you had best put off marrying him until you can say yes.

And if you’re a single man, the question to ask is, “Am I subject to Christ in my life?  And how will my subjection to Christ play out in my role as husband when I get married?  How will it lead me to treat my wife?”

If you can’t answer those questions in a right way, you too need to put off marriage until you can.

Who are you subject to?


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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