Tomorrow is Maunday Thursday the day in which the western church has historically remembered the occasion of Jesus’s last supper and the institution of the sacrament of the communion. The apostle Paul was not present in the upper room for the last supper and so he is not painted in the famous fresco of Leonardo DaVinci of the event. He does, however, record the words of the institution in the eleventh chapter of his first epistle to the church of Corinth. The context of Paul’s writing is about a church that is contentious and disunited. He takes them to the woodshed for factions and divisions of the “one-body”.
The sacrament of the Eucharist, also called communion, is to be a coming together of one body, but the church of Corinth is not acting like one body. In the verses immediately preceding Paul’s recording the words of the institution, we get a peek at one of the causes of those divisions. Today we call the issue by the name feminism. Yes that is right, women and men who do not accept the role and position God gave them is a source of members becoming sick and some to death.
1 Corinthians 11:3-17 NKJ 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; he is the image and glory of God 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge among 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 anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. 17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
What does the Apostle teach about that role and place? First he creates a chain of command or the flow of authority. He distinguishes between men and women as to who is their immediate commanding officer or head. The head of the man is Christ where the head of woman is man. Paul is no egalitarian, there are differences and the direct headship of Christ over the man and the indirect through the man for the woman is one. This order of authority is also Trinitarian as God (the Father) is the head of Christ (the Son). (This fact alone makes the cavil of some feminists that head means source an anti-Trinitarian heresy!) This authority of a man over woman is to be exhibited by the women in the gathering of the church by the covering of her head as an outward act of submission to the created order. For as the Apostle points out, her purpose, that is why she was created, was for him, not the man for the woman.
Another difference between the sexes is that man is the glory and image of God. Those well-meaning Christians who run around saying than men and women are equal image bearers -in their glory and image of God have run afoul of the teachings of Apostle Paul. He does not teach this, but the contrary he teaches that males are the glory and image of God and women are the glory of man. The woman has a glory also that is her long hair. Men do not glory in their hair and Paul references natural law to appeal that girly men with long hair have dishonored themselves. There is honor in being a man, there is honor in being a woman, but there is dishonor in women who want to look like men by cutting their hair short and dishonor for men who look like women and wear their hair long. Apparently in Corinth the spirit of egalitarianism was destroying the communion of the church. Paul refutes the concept of gender-equality and emphatically teaches the church to abide by the uniqueness that each gender as God designed.
In just a few verses Paul uses the analogy of the body and its parts.
1 Corinthians 12:14-20 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
When women complain that they are not men, they are not teachers, preachers, elders etc., they are like ears discontent that they are not eyes. They covet glory or role of men and resent being the glory of men. They do not like either being women or resent God for His placing women under the headship of men in His created order.
Feminism teaches women to be independent of men, but Paul refutes such a notion.
1 Corinthians 11:11 neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man.
Feminism teaches women to act independent of the body as a collection of parts, but this is the very disunity that Paul is condemning.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Paul says many are dying and sick because of such disunity at the lord’s supper. While feminism is not the only disunity in Corinth it is a significant cause.
When one looks at the state of the church today they will see similar disunity. They would see a church filled of women who do not honor their head. Head coverings have fallen out of fashion as submission has fallen out of practice. They would observe women complaining that they cannot have a more masculine role in the church. An observer would also notice men who have abandoned their role for the sake of a false unity and peace. But, this is large part do the the lack of Biblical teaching on the subject. When women rebel against male headship and when men condone such rebellion by silence or appeasement, the men have rebelled against their head, Christ. God made the marriage of two one, feminists were discontent and divided the union to make the union into two equal individuals. The sum of the parts is less than the whole. The same thing happens in the church, disunited marriages lead to disunited congregations and disunited communion. Feminism what curses you have wrought!
Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, … “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.