Most of us may recognize the title of this study from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, but how many of us actually pay enough attention to “the order” of the words so that we actually understand what Paul was saying?
Let’s check it out:
1Co 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Most do not seem to notice that Paul does not “order” the words in such a way as to say that proper “headship” begins with women at the bottom and ends with God on top, putting God over Christ, Christ over men, and men over women. NO!
Paul says, here, that “the head” of EVERY MAN is CHRIST; and “the head” of THE WOMAN (singular) is THE MAN (singular); and “the head” of CHRIST is GOD.
Many will use this passage of scripture to keep women in a subordinate position to men in the church; they even use it to subordinate wives to their own husbands in the family unit. But this was never Paul’s intention. It is about CHRIST (THE MAN) and THE CHURCH (THE WOMAN, a MANY-MEMBERED BODY).
Paul made this clear in his letter to the church at Ephesus, though that is another passage that is used incorrectly to subordinate women – even to their own husbands.
Eph 5:17-33 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Brothers and sisters, can we not see that we are to “submit to one another” (v21), that Paul is, here, using the husband/wife relationship to teach us about “Christ and the church” (v32)? And that he is not advocating that women/wives are to be subordinate to or considered in anyway inferior to men or even their own husbands?
Very often this is how these verses are used, despite the fact that Paul commends several women throughout his epistles, referring to them as “co-laborers” and even “deacons”. People read Paul’s words to Timothy about not suffering a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man and they just run with it, drawing all of the wrong conclusions, thinking that Adam and Eve are being used to support the subordination of the wife to the husband – rather than realize that Adam and Eve (the husband/wife relationship) were understood (and used) by Paul as figures for “Christ and the church”, which is why Paul says of “Eve”: “Notwithstanding SHE shall be saved in childbearing IF THEY continue in faith”.
1Ti 2:11-15 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, when it comes to “the church”, to “the body of Christ”, we all (every one of us, regardless of gender) are part of “EVE” (“a woman”). We are not THE HEAD, the head IS CHRIST. And Christ is the head OF EVERY MAN.
The “woman” that Paul suffers “not to teach” is not “a woman” after a carnal truth, but after a spiritual truth, that has nothing to do with how we see people “after the flesh”. We are to know no man after the flesh. (2 Cor 5:16)
A “woman” is the spiritual equivalent to “a child”, even “a babe”. Paul is, here, talking about those who are spiritually immature, those who have yet to be “delivered of the child” who are, themselves, still in need of one to teach them.
Heb 5:12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Jesus spoke of these same things himself when he told his disciples (all male) that they would be as “a woman” whose hour has come “to be delivered of the child”.
Joh 16:19-28 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
Paul speaks of his own “travail in birth”:
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Something that he went through “again” with others whom he referred to as “my little children”, as he waited for Christ to be formed in them:
Gal 4:19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
You see, brothers and sisters, it is all about “Christ in you”. That is “the hope of glory”. And it is not until we have been “delivered of the child” by having Christ formed in us that we are able to teach others. For until that time comes the word of God cannot come “out of” us. It can come “unto” us only. And until that time comes Paul says: “Let your women keep silence in the churches” (for God is not the author of confusion):
1Co 14:33-40 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.
We are “to learn” in silence and all subjection; we are not to be “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
2Ti 3:1-7 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Paul is not subordinating women to men. These “women” are not “women” according to the flesh. Scripture says that when the Lord pours out His Spirit: “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” and prophesy is for the edification of the church. And Paul said: “… ye may ALL prophesy one by one…”
The Lord likens the spiritually immature to “babes,” to “children,” to “women”:
Isa 3:4-5,12 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable…. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
And it is ‘these’ to whom Paul refers.
So, then, let ~YOUR WOMEN~ keep silence in the churches for it is not permitted ~UNTO THEM~ to speak. :o)
ALL FLESH is commanded to be SILENT!
Zec 2:13 Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.
The only one who should be speaking IN THE CHURCH is ~THE MAN~ who is ~THE HEAD~ which is Jesus Christ.
The head of EVERY MAN (the many-membered body of Christ) is CHRIST; the head of THE WOMAN (the church) is THE MAN (Christ) and the head of CHRIST is GOD.
This was sort of a revisit to my “Was Paul a misogynist?” study, but I thought it was worth going over again and bringing in 1 Cor 11:3 which I did not discuss as part of that study.
All Blessings in Christ