Circumspect conduct in public worship

Posted on 26 Nov 2017, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

26th November 2017 AM
Rev Hans Vaatstra
Reading: 1 Timothy 2
Text: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Circumspect conduct in public worship

1 Timothy 2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

A Call to Prayer
2 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in [a]authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and [b]dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [c]knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony [d]given at [e]the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a [f]preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Women Instructed
9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, [g]modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first [h]created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, [i]fell into transgression. 15 But women will be [j]preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with [k]self-restraint.

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Christian Order
11 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that [a]Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of [b]Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman [c]whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover [d]her head, let her also [e]have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to [f]have her hair cut off or [g]her head shaved, let her cover [h]her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man [i]does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman [j]independent of man, nor is man [k]independent of woman. 12 For as the woman [l]originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things [m]originate from God. 13 Judge [n]for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no [o]other practice, nor have the churches of God.

 

Circumspect conduct in public worship

Reading: 1 Timothy,  Text: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

There is freedom and then there is freedom. Some think freedom is freedom to do what we please without any restrictions. Sometimes we think we have a right to all kinds of freedoms and exercise that freedom without carefully thinking is this God’s design for my life or the church?

Given the many difficulties Paul addressed in his letter it does appear that the Corinthian Christians understood freedom as licence and an excuse to remove all of the boundaries.

Therefore Paul could not approve of egotistical behaviour which resulted in party politics or lawsuits in the church. He didn’t approve of members wandering up the hill to the temple of Aphrodite in order to join in immorality there. He didn’t approve of the so called stronger believer having scant regard for the tender consciences of the weaker. Freedom isn’t always freedom to do what we like especially if by standing on our rights someone else is hurt.

And neither did Paul approve of women in the Corinthian church throwing off their veils and or assuming a man’s role. This is really the issue here. The issue at stake isn’t about what is fashionable or not when it comes to clothing but the issue is to uphold the God given order in the church according to the order given at creation, the custom in all the churches, out of respect for the angels and with sensitivity to cultural norms.

So just as the slouch hat worn by soldiers in the New Zealand armies symbolises their service to our country so the veil was worn as a symbol of submission service to Christ and his church.

So the theme for this sermon then is God establishes good order in the church. It is a reflection of order in the God-head and a mark of respect. Well consider it in three parts

  1. A word of praise. 2. Order in the Godhead reflected in humanity. 3. Implications for worship in the church.
  2. A word of praise. Paul wrote “I praise you I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions just as I delivered them to you.”

Though there were difficulties in the church at Corinth (and doesn’t every Christian church have them), there were many who remembered Paul and many more who kept to his teaching so much so that Paul pauses here in his letter to praise them for it. He appreciated the fact that they held firmly to the traditions. The Greek word translated as ‘traditions’ is Paradosis which when literally translated means handed down or passed on. And so the Corinthian Christians were faithful in maintaining the gospel and passing it on.

This is essential for any church because without the gospel or with a watered down gospel which, for example, denies the sovereignty of God, the atonement or the resurrection, and  the inspiration and authority of scripture; important truths which were rediscovered during the reformation,…. without them the church is on a very shaky foundation.

Sure every church has problems but it is the grace of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which holds us together. According to 1 Tim 3:15 the church is to be the pillar and foundation of the truth and must guard the gospel. When the leaders and members of the church are diligent in guarding the gospel then Scripture commends that.

That helps us not to be too critical of either our own church or of others. The sinful side of our human natures tends to want to elevate ourselves at others expense  and so if we see problems in other people or other churches we are quick to criticise with the result that we run the danger of overlooking more important qualities. The crucial questions are this, “is there faith in Christ and is there a submission to the word of God? Is the gospel being faithfully proclaimed and believed? When we see those gospel truths in people and churches then we should give thanks to the Lord for them. And then,… as Paul wrote to the Philippian church whatever is true honourable right pure lovely of good repute if there is anything excellent or praiseworthy dwell on these things.”

So having reassured the Corinthians that he is thankful for them and praises them for standing firm on the gospel Paul continues instructing them in those areas needing further attention specifically order and decorum in the worship service.  Which leads me to my second point.

  1. Order in the church and among men reflects order in the Godhead. In verse 3 Paul wrote Christ is the head of every man, the man the head of the woman and God is the head of Christ. So the divine order is God the Father, God the Son, husband, wife. We know that in the Trinity Christ submits to His heavenly Father in all things. It was His Father’s will not his own which Jesus obeyed in the Garden of Gethsemane. At present Jesus reigns until he had put all his enemies and ours under his feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death. It then says in verse 28, That when all things are subjected to Christ then the Son himself will be subjected to the one  who subjected all things to him that God may be all in all.”

This order in the Trinity is what is sometimes called an economical order which has to do with the work of the three persons of the Trinity. However as beings The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.  Jesus often spoke of equality with the Father. “I and the Father are one.” (Jn. 10:28) He refers to himself several times in the gospels as “I AM” I Hebrew YHWH, meaning covenant God. Summarising scripture the Nicene Creed puts it this way Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God … God of God, Light of light…being of one substance with the Father.”

Similarly Adam and Eve were both made in the image of God and men and women are one in Jesus Christ according to Galatians 3:26, equal in their being before God and interdependent relying on each other. The husband is incomplete without his wife and vice versa. Paul stresses this in verse 11&12. In the Lord a woman is not independent of a man nor the man of the woman just as a woman originates from the man so also the man has his birth through the woman and all things originate from God.”  As there is equality and then…

Just as there is the order of headship and submission in the God-head, there is headship and submission in the church for it says that Christ is the head of the church and we are to submit to Christ our head,  so too must there be order and submission in the family and the within the church. This is made very clear in another one of Paul’s letters Ephesians 5: 22-23 “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” The analogy can’t be missed. The wife submits to the husband as the church submits to Christ.

However Christ-like headship is not the crude caricature many people make it out to be. I was once in a meeting with some non-Christian friends and mentioned what the Bible said about headship and submission. Everyone looked at me as if I had come from another planet. The group included single mums. The men who had fathered their children nowhere to be seen and apparently not responsible for their actions and not seeming to know what a husband or a father is. At best they see themselves as partners in a fairly loose relationship.  Woe to them if they attempt to exert any kind of authority in the relationship.

In fact the idea of male headship is pretty much uniformly rejected in our society today because it is either abused or misunderstood until of course its true meaning is found in Christ.

The meaning is this. Christ as head of the church came to serve and not be served. Christ as head of the church is the saviour of the church. Christ as head of the church submits perfectly to His heavenly Father’s will. Christ as head of the church loves the church. He gave himself up for her in order to sanctify the church. This is the model for Christian headship in the home and in the church. Men are called to serve, love, protect and sanctify their wives and their children. Elders are called to do that for the congregations they are called to serve. Thus the elder stands as a Christian servant with the authority of Christ to the congregation and members of churches are called to “obey their godly leaders and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with Joy and not grief for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

This is the order given by God to the family and the church as it reflects the relationship of Christ to the church and as it also reflects the order of relationships in the triune God.

  1. In the third place some further implications for the church.
  2. a) The first is that headship must be visible and not hidden. We go to verse 4. “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. Verse 7 “A man ought not to have his head covered since he is the image and glory of God.”

Some commentators say that this is because in the colonies the Roman men when offering sacrifices or praying used to pull their togas over their heads. Paul’s teaching men to leave their heads uncovered called for a separation from pagan practices. It says in 1 Peter 1:16 be holy as I am holy. To be holy means to be separate. We are set apart and so the Christian man must not behave or even look like the pagan. This idea goes back to Biblical law where the Israelites were told not to trim their beards in Lev 19:27 and 21:5, because that’s how the pagans groomed themselves. IN 1 Corinthians 6 Paul warns against men grooming themselves in such a way that they look effeminate.

Back in the 1970s long hair use to be the fashion for men, looking back on it now it also happened in a time when western society, long influenced by Christianity, was cutting loose from Biblical tradition and adopting a neo paganism. At the same time we had the so called rise of a militant feminism, some of you may remember Helen Reddy’s hit at the time “I am woman. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”  Around about the same time hats, which used to be the norm for women in worship gradually began to disappear.

But getting back to the point for men to have long hair or cover their heads in worship is a form of hiding ones headship. I once went to a church somewhere in a remote country town which looked hopeful at first until the worship service began, the entire service was led by women except for one short Bible reading which was read by a man from the back of the church. There were hardly any other men in church at all in fact. Christian men who are absent from the worship service; who leave it to their women to lead spiritually; who act as if it is not their responsibility; who abrogate their God given authority; who might have leadership ability in the church but always defer and leave it to someone else especially the women are metaphorically hiding their heads and are not properly representing Christ or giving the glory that is due to God.

Sure not every man is cut out for leadership in the church but every man can be present at church and lead his family spiritually by taking them with him to church.

On the other hand where Christian men take up their responsibility they make it easy for the women to show godly submission in the home and in worship. Headship has to be visible.

 

  1. b) The head covering means that headship may not be usurped.

We move on. In verse 5 Paul wrote, “A women who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head.  For she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved.”

Before going on something needs to be said about the practice of both men and women praying and prophesying in the worship service. In Old Testament worship women used to sit in a separate room screen off from the men. The fact that in the NT church families worship together is the result of the new freedom under a “better covenant” which all believers, male and female, young and old have in Christ. Under the New Covenant females also receive the mark of membership which is baptism and which was not the case under the Old Covenant with circumcision. It also fits in with Paul’s discussion of equality in Galatians 3:28.

However though there is equality in Christ under the New Covenant we do need to read 1 Corinthians 11 in the light of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 where Paul limits the teaching role in the church to men.

Another matter to consider is the fact that according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8 the gift of prophecy  and tongues would cease with the completion of the canon of Scripture. And so what would praying and prophesying look like today?  Basically participation in corporate worship by the whole congregation with the teaching/leading role restricted to men and the  primary responsibility placed on men.

But getting back to the head covering.  Paul’s point is that in the church male headship is not to be usurped. There are several reasons for that.

  1. A cultural norm. The normal everyday dress of all Greek and Jewish women normally included a head covering. The only women who didn’t wear them were the harlots, slaves and those who were punished as convicted adulteresses. Christians had a similar code.. Now if that was the only reason you could argue that since shaved or shorn heads no longer carry similar identification today the need for long hair or a head covering should no longer be an issue since all kinds of styles are acceptable in Western society today. Having said that if Paul were around today we would probably disapprove of women making themselves look masculine just as much as he disapproved of effeminate men.

However cultural reasons are not the only criteria. The covered head was also symbolic of willing submission to the order God has provided for the church  from creation.

  1. Creation Paul refers readers to creation in verse 8. “For man did not originate from woman but woman for man who was created for the man’s sake. In the creation account we see that Adam was made first and then because it was not good for Adam to be alone he supplied Adam with a helper suitable to his needs and fashioned her from one of Adam’s ribs. Paul repeats this in 1 Tim 2 “Adam was formed first then Eve.” The implication here is that Adam takes primary responsibility and Eve is Adam’s helper. And so when it came to the fall into sin it says in Romans 5, “sin entered the world through one man… and death came through Adam” (even though it was Eve who initially took the fruit the primary responsibility for the sin was placed on Adam) The good news of course is that there is a second Adam, Jesus Christ who has revered the curse. By the grace of God forgiveness of sin and the gift of righteousness has come through the one Jesus Christ.” Paul recognises this in his discussion on women in worship and teaches male headship on the basis of creation order. Whether or not women need to wear head coverings today in order to symbolise submission to the creation order is I believe up to each family to decide. The cultural considerations aren’t really the same anymore. However what is important is the right attitude by both men and women to the good order God does provide for in the church.

iii The angels. A third reason for Paul’s teaching on order in the church though headship and submission  in the church is seen in verse 10. “Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels.”

Paul has been arguing from the point of view of creation and angels are a part of that creation. The angels know their place and show respect when they worship God. According to Isaiah 6:2 they cover their faces. According to Ephesians 3:10 the manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places and that we can presume includes the angels. In 1 Peter 1:12 angels long to look into the revelation of the Gospel on earth and how is the Gospel revealed if not through the preaching of the word in public worship? Finally in Hebrews 12:1 angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. So the angels are holy beings and may be present in our worship services and therefore another reason for women to accept the order God has provided from creation for families and the church is our out of respect for the angels.

  1. The wider Church Finally Paul urges circumspect conduct in the churches because of the witness of the entire church. From its inception, the church at least until the last half century accepted the male headship principle and that was the common practice in all churches.

We are seeing a very different picture in the wider church scene today. Many evangelical churches have both male and female pastors.  Society militates very strongly against traditional norms today.  Why? Well as with the first sin it is mainly because of the weakness and irresponsibility of men. Men too easily abrogate their authority, live to serve their own interests, allow women to be viewed as objects of desire and have been abusive. Like apostate Israel of old many have turned away from God to serve idols and do not have a heart to serve God.

But its also because of the effect sin has had on the world generally. Genesis 3:16 says about Eve, your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” Some commentators interpret this as a struggle for dominance in the relationship; another sad consequence of the fall, where husbands harshly lord it over their wives and wives try to get the better of their husbands. Yet the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpents head.

Conclusion

The solution is found in the gift of God’s grace in Christ. Christ has come and overturned the curse by paying the penalty for our sin. Though he is God and Lord of all came to serve so that we might live and be reconciled to God and one another. Furthermore Christ has given us his word. So In the light of that word in I Corinthians 11 let us order our lives and our worship in a way which is pleasing to Him

Amen