THE SUBORDINATION OF WOMAN TO MAN
I Corinthians 11:1-16
To get the most out of this study I would suggest that you have the New Testament open before you. The above passage of scripture is considered by most all commentators as difficult to understand. It has been used to teach that women must wear long hair, that women must not cut their hair, and that women must wear a hat to church. A passage that means so many unusual things to so many must be very interesting. However, no commentator I know of disputes the fact that the Holy Spirit in this passage gives us a very important statement on the relationship of the sexes.
Let me begin by giving a brief resume of this passage verse by verse, and then I will make a few observations on the passage. It would be helpful for you to read the verses as I comment on them. He begins in verse 2 by praising the Corinthians for their obedience, in general, to his instructions both by word of mouth and written instructions. These instructions are called traditions, a word which literally means teachings, “handed down.” The true teachings of the Christian faith were handed down by inspired teachers, who handed down the true teachings of the faith once delivered to the saints. In verse 3, he reminds them of the divinely appointed subordination of the woman to the man. Verses 4,5 convey the idea that it is disgraceful for the man to assume the symbol of subordination, and it is disgraceful in the woman to refuse to wear the symbol of subordination. Verse 6 states that if the veil is discarded as the symbol of subordination, it must also be discarded as the symbol of modesty. An unveiled woman, therefore, in Corinth proclaimed herself as not only insubordinate to her husband but also as an immodest woman. In verse 7 we are informed that a man ought not to wear a veil or head covering of any kind because he represents the glory and authority of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. In verses 8,9 this truth is expanded on by saying this subordination is proved by the very history of her creation. Eve was formed out of Adam and was made for him. Verse 10 says it follows from this truth that women should wear veils, the symbol of their subordination, specially in the public worship of God where the angels are invisibly present. Angels are considered as observing the public worship of Christians, and so women should acknowledge their station in life by wearing a veil. In verse 11,12 we are told this subordination, however is perfectly consistent with the equality of men and women in Christ.
She too is made in the image of God, and in Christ there is neither male nor female. They are mutually dependant on each other. She came from man but man also comes from her. Neither is, or can be without the other. In verses 13-15, the apostle appeals to their instinctive sense of what is natural, proper and fitting, which means that it is as disgraceful in a man to appear in the attire of a woman, as it is disgraceful in a woman to appear in the costume of a man. Finally in verse 16, he appeals to authority. The custom of women not wearing veils in public worship was contrary to the universal practice of Christians in the first century.
Before I comment on this passage, we must keep in mind the ideas of the Near-East world about the relation of the sexes. The veil in all Eastern countries was, and to a great extent still is, a symbol of modesty and subordination to the husband. The custom was so universally respected that it was disgraceful for a woman to violate this custom. She placed herself on the level with loose women who had their hair cut off as punishment for adultery. For a Christian woman, therefore, in Corinth to discard her veil was to renounce her claim to modesty and showed disrespect for the subordination of woman to man. This custom dates back to ancient history and was respectfully observed in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Just before Rebecca met Isaac for the first time, she put on her veil to show her womanly subordination . That told Isaac something about the morals of Rebecca and her respect for her future husband.
The principle taught here is that matters of dress which reflect on the moral and social character of women should be observed. When there are customs in the community in which we live that are good and have some moral and social value, and which are not contrary to the teachings of Christ, Christians should respect those customs, lest they bring reproach on the religion of Christ. In ancient times the veil was a good custom that promoted morality and womanly modesty. Above all, it supported the Bible principle of the subordination of woman to man. Therefore the word of God supported it. The wearing of veils by women in some countries of the world is still widely practiced. In American society, this custom does not prevail and must not be imposed on Christians. The disuse of veils is no longer a problem in the public worship. We cannot enforce all ancient customs on the church, such as the “holy kiss” or washing one another's feet as a religious observance. Moreover, this passage says nothing about the wearing of hats in the public worship. Women may wear hats in worship if they choose, but they do so of their own choosing, not by commandment.
One of the most important teachings of this passage is the Bible principle of the subordination of woman to man. This is not a social custom, but a divinely revealed truth. I am not a chauvinist; I have no mischievous contempt for the opposite sex. I have always been a great admirer of the opposite sex, but I believe in the subordination of woman to man. I sincerely feel that many of the fine women of America are in danger of violating this principle and thus bring down the disfavor of God upon then. God's favor is essential in order to go to heaven, and that is far more important than being an activist in a social movement that God disapproves of. Jesus said, “What shall it profit a person if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” Good women of America, don't let some victory you have won in a social movement over the rights of women cause you to lose your souls. I hope you do not consider me an enemy for telling you the truth.
Everything said in this passage about the subordination of woman to man is based on this particular statement in verse 3: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man; and the head of Christ is God.” Neither the constitution of the United States nor the laws of any other government can change the divine Biblical principal of the subordination of woman to man. Church creeds and social movements cannot do away with it. All women will be held accountable for it when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive for the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad. All men will also give account for the way they have treated their wives. Customs may change but the doctrines, precepts, and commandments of Christ do not change; and this is a commandment of God.
The teachings on subordination in this passage stem from one of teachings in verse 3. It says, “The head of the woman is the man.” The obvious meaning of this entire verse is that man is subordinate to Christ; the woman is subordinate to man, and Christ is subordinate to God. The reason God placed woman in a subordinate relationship to man is based on two Biblical facts. The first fact is that man was created first. There is something about his priority of creation that makes it proper for her to be in a subordinate relationship. Everything was put under his feet before woman ever existed. He was made to rule the earth . He was commanded to subdue this earth. This was a choice God made, and woman must abide by this choice if she is to please God. .The second reason given for woman's subordination is that woman was first in the transgression. Verse . 8 states it like this, “The man is not of
the woman, but the woman of the man.” They were created for different purposes. I Timothy 2: 12-14 says, “ I do not permit a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man, for Adam was first formed then Eve. Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Let none say that this command refers only to a two-thousand-year-old-culture when women were ignorant and uneducated. Today it is claimed that women are more educated and have gained more civil rights than they had in ancient times. Good women , do not be deceived by this subtle argument, but God would have you know that time, change of culture, and higher education cannot change this commandment. Why so? Simply because of the reasons God made the subordination commandment. The reasons are of such a nature that time and culture- change cannot possibly affect the permanence of the subordination commandment. The reasons given are that Adam was created first and was made to be the ruler of earth, and that included woman.
Furthermore, Eve was first in the transgression and was deceived by Satan. We are distinctly told that Adam was not deceived. He too transgressed but gave in to the persuasion of his wife. That was no excuse, but he was not deceived by Satan. Genesis 3:17 says, “Then God said to Adam, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground for your sake. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”.. Then God said to the woman. “Your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.” God's law from that day to this is that woman shall be in subordination to her husband.. She demonstrated by experience that man was more fitted for rulership. In this capacity they are not equal. Those reasons are valid so long as time shall last, and this law is unchangeable because of the wisdom God used at the time of the first transgression. It has all been settled folks, and man has nothing to say about this decision. The happiness and well-being of marriage depends on it. So, let's accept it.
Even though some men exploit this social arrangement to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of women, we can believe that this is the best possible social arrangement for a peaceful marriage. The only alternative is a knock-down, drag-out situation, and women can never win in that approach because of man's superior strength. God makes no mistakes . Good women, you may live longer and be happier if you live by God's law of subordination to your husband. It will not be easy, but if I were a female, I would accept this divine social
arrangement without hesitation, argument, anger, complaint, discontentment, regret and fretfulness. A good and reasonable man will love you more for it and is more likely to treat you right. There are exceptions to all good laws and all good rules. Women do not always make good choices, and they have to pay dearly for it. Young women should take their time in picking a life's mate. Don't take a jump into the dark. Do your best to know him well. It is not God's fault if you pick a no-good husband. But good women, if you do pick a bad one who mistreats you, you must do your part and be a good wife. Continue to be a loving and subordinate wife, and it may be you can win him over to be a decent human being. If not, you will still be pleasing God.
You cannot divorce him just because he is mean to you. A civil divorce does not and cannot terminate a marriage. Only God can terminate a marriage, and God allows divorce only when your mate goes to bed with another person, male or female. The only thing a civil divorce can do for you is to give you a separation, and if you are being abused and physically harmed, it is acceptable to have separation. But in all separations you are still husband and wife. You must remain morally faithful during a state of separation. . Adultery is the one thing we do not have to put up with, and for that sin God allows divorce and remarriage.
Good women, you can be certain if men exploit this social arrangement for there own evil and selfish desires, God will hold them accountable, and they will not escape. Good women, I wish you well in your marriage and your journey through this life. If you are not a Christian, I would suggest that you become a church-goer, study the Bible, and examine the teachings of Christ who said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” He now sits at the right hand of God and has the gift of eternal life in His hands. He alone can give us a life that will never end. Many of you women have had a hard life. We need a better world to live in, and Jesus said that He went back to heaven to prepare a place for all people who have been reconciled to God by His death on the cross. Jesus commanded that His good news of eternal salvation be proclaimed to every creature. And then He said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” Choose life instead of death.