This morning, we’re continuing a sermon series entitled “A Powerful Force,” through which we’re considering a biblical view of femininity. The goal of this sermon series is, (as always), to interpret and apply God’s Word; in this case, those texts which deal with femininity or womanhood. But also, a secondary goal, and this specifically for our ladies and young ladies – I pray that as a result of this series of sermons you will have new or increased clarity, gratitude, and confidence.
Clarity – that you would clearly understand your identity and purpose as a woman; who you are what you’re designed for. Gratitude – that your new or increased clarity would result in thankfulness. And confidence – that you would feel equipped, inspired, and energized to do what God has designed you to do.
The Bible will be our textbook; not a particular teacher, not a dictionary or encyclopedia, not the university or science or feminism, but the Bible – because the Bible is the Word of God, and so in it we find everything we need to know about our subject. And in this Bible, this morning, our primary text will be 1 Corinthians 11:12-16, where we will find that a woman is for glory. Next week, we’ll be looking at “marriage,” and then in our final week, “motherhood.”
But before I preach this sermon, we should pray together. Please bow your heads with me.
If you haven’t already, please open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 11. If you’re using one of our church Bibles you’ll find that on page 622. Last week we asked and answered two foundational questions, and I’d like to begin this morning by summarizing what we found.
The first question was “What is a woman?” and we found the answer in Genesis 1:26-27 which says: “…God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” So, what is a woman? A woman is a created image-bearer of God. In fact, man also, according to Genesis 1, is a created image-bearer of God – which means this is the biblical basis for the equality of men and women – they are both image-bearers of God; they are both given moral responsibility; they are both objects of God’s love and grace.
And so Christians believe in the equality of men and women – Men are not superior to women, and women are not superior to men. However, and here is where we part ways with culture at large, being equal does not necessitate being the same. Men and women, though created equal, are created different; very different, and for a reason.
So while at one level there is no distinction, at another level there is a distinction so significant that it determines a man and woman’s purpose, role, and function in society, the church, and the home – Which leads to a second very important question – “What is a woman for?”
We came up with three answers. This is not all a woman is for, but this is at least what she is for. First, in Genesis 2:18, before God created the first woman, He said “I will make him a helper fit for him.” A woman is for help. Ladies, you have been built and designed to help, and that should not sound demeaning. If it does, remember that, in the Bible (in places like Psalm 33:20), God is called our “helper.”
Second, in Genesis 1:28 and 2:15, God tells the first man and woman what their earthly responsibility is, and we learned that it is very hard work. Today, and in the weeks to come, I think it will become very clear how being a godly woman is very hard work.
So ladies, you have been built and designed for help and hard work. But not only that – we can get more specific – you have been designed to help and to work hard in a direction; to help and to work hard within boundaries. And you will be most liberated, and most fulfilled, as you do what you have been designed to do, in the direction you have been designed to do it – And your direction, your trajectory, is the home.
You are made to be a home-maker. You are built to be a home-builder. Again, unfortunately, this sounds demeaning to many. This sounds second-rate. This sounds junior varsity. And remember – it sounds that way because historical feminism has largely succeeded in redefining the home and its place of importance.
But – Home is where a family lives and laughs and loves. Home is the soil where children grow. Home is where the next generation is raised up. Home is the foundation of any civilization. Home is where immortal souls are shaped to love and serve God. And we say stupid things like “She’s just a home-maker.” Women – home needs you. You are indispensable; You are irreplaceable; And so the home must be the focus of your help and hard work.
Proverbs 14:1 says “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” In Proverbs 31, the famous passage about a godly woman, the home is mentioned 10 times, and is the focus of all her work. In Paul’s letter to Titus, in 2:3-5, he encourages the older women in the church to train the younger women to “love their husbands and children,” and to be “working at home.” In his first letter to Timothy, in 5:9-10, he commands the church to take care of widows who were good wives and mothers, and then in 5:11-15 he encourages the young women to “marry, bear children, and manage their households.”
So we see this homeward orientation introduced in Genesis, before sin entered the world, we see it as normative throughout the entire Old Testament, and then we see it specifically encouraged in the New Testament. So again, what is a woman for? She is for helping. She is for working hard. She is for the home.
And now this morning, as promised, I’d like to elaborate on something I mentioned last week, and that is that women, you are for glory. So here is the main point of today’s sermon, and then two clarifying statements. And I’m speaking to women.
Here is the main point today – You are for glory. And we’ll understand what that means by focusing on these two clarifying statements: 1) You are glory, and 2) You glorify.
Let me give you a working definition of “glory” since it’s not a word we use a lot:
Glory is the public display of God’s infinite beauty and worth.
Glory is the public display of God’s infinite beauty and worth, and ladies, you, unlike anything else in all of creation, are for glory.
You are glory. And you glorify.
You are a display. And you make other things display.
You are beautiful and you beautify.
You are adornment and you adorn.
Who you are as a woman, and what you do as a godly woman, is an ongoing sermon on the infinite beauty and worth of God.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Now, let’s look together at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. This is a fairly complicated passage, so I’d like to read through it, and make some interpretive comments as we go, so that, Lord willing, we’ll all have a basic understanding of what Paul is talking about here.
Context – Who is Paul saying this to, when is Paul saying this, where is Paul saying this? Things like that are very important to know whenever you’re reading your Bible. Four quick things. First, Paul is writing to first century Romans. Second, Paul is giving instruction (this will be made clear in v17ff) regarding a church worship service. Third, head coverings on women were a sign of marriage (not unlike a wedding ring today, just more obvious). And fourth, the men and women referred to in these verses are husbands and wives. Those are a few important things to know as we read along.
(v2) “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand…” Here’s basically what Paul just said – “Good job, but I have a correction for you. There is something you need to understand. Now the rest of v3 is what Paul wants them to understand. Let’s read it.
(v3) “…I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Headship always refers to authority in the Bible; not authority to push around; but authority to love and serve; authority to take sacrificial responsibility. So picture a totem pole here. God is at the top, then Jesus, then a husband, and then a wife – “the head of a wife is her husband, the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.”
So authority goes down, and submission and honor go up. God the Father (God) is in authority over God the Son (Christ). Christ is in authority over man. The husband is in authority over his wife. The wife submits to her husband. The husband submits to XT. Christ submits to God. Authority going down, and submission and honor going up. Paul wants us to understand that. It’s the foundation for what he’s going to say next.
Now, ladies, please don’t get bent out of shape about being at the bottom of the totem pole. Some may be tempted to think – “here the Bible goes again with its misogynistic talk about women being inferior to men.” That’s not what it’s saying.
Think about this totem pole. Think about the top half, where God the Father is in authority over God the Son and the Son submits to the Father. Does that mean they are not equal? Does that mean God the Father is superior to God the Son? Absolutely not. That is Arian heresy; a denial of the trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, and they are equals, and yet there is willing submission within the godhead.
Now think about the bottom half of the totem pole, where the husband is in authority over his wife and the wife submits to her husband. Does that mean they are not equal? Does that mean the husband is superior to his wife? Absolutely not. According to Genesis 2:24 the husband and wife are one; they are equals, and yet there is willing submission within the marriage.
In fact, Paul anticipates that whole stumbling block and says down in v11-12 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” What is he saying? Men and women are equals.
Okay, so keep that totem pole in mind. God – Christ – man – wife. And also keep in mind that Paul is about to say the word “head” a lot, and sometimes he means “authority” like in v3 and sometimes he just means your physical head.
(v4-5) “Every man who prays or prophesies (remember the context – a church worship service) with his head covered dishonors his head, (there’s the two heads. The first one is his physical head, and the second one is his v3 head, his authority, “Christ”) 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head (her physical head) uncovered dishonors her head, (“her husband,” according to v3) since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
So you have a bunch of husbands and wives in a first century Roman worship service. And apparently you’ve got these head coverings, some on the men, and some on the women. And Paul is saying “Men, don’t wear a head covering because it dishonors XT.” And “Ladies, wear a head covering because it honors your husband.” Remember, it was a sign of marriage; a “symbol of authority” according to v10.
Here’s the point, and most of you ladies can let out a sigh of relief, because the point is not mandatory head coverings. When the church is gathered; When Christians are gathered; everything they do speaks. Everything we do says something about what we believe; right down to the way we dress. That’s the transcendent principle.
So, what did head coverings say in a first century Christian Roman worship service? I think there are a couple things Paul makes clear, but for the purpose of this sermon, I’d like to focus on one. Let’s read vv7-10:
7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
First, let me point out something obvious. In this worship service who stands out? The men and women don’t blend together. You can tell them apart in this worship service. It’s not just an ugly human blob.
The women stand out. The single women stand out with their long beautiful hair. Listen to v14-15: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”
But who, among the women, especially stand out? The married women; those with the head coverings. The head coverings didn’t hide them; they pointed them out in a worship service.
Now, why does Paul want these married women to stand out in a worship service? Let’s read his reason again in v7: “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.“
The women are the glory. Do you see what Paul just did with that totem pole? He took it out of the ground and flipped it upside down. Ladies, when it comes to authority, you’re at the end; you’re at the bottom. That is for a reason. When it comes to glory, you’re out in front; you’re at the top.
What did Paul say? “Men are the glory of God.” “A woman is the glory of man.” And who is man? He is the glory of God. A woman is the glory of the glory of God. Or, more specifically, a wife is the glory of the glory of God.
She is the glory of the glory. Remember Genesis 1 and 2? Man was made from dirt. And then the woman was made from the glory of God. God saved the best for last. She was his grand finale. So that’s where we find our first point…
- Ladies, you are glory – a public display of God’s infinite beauty and worth,
The rest of Scripture testifies to this. Think about how women are described throughout the Bible, in ways that men are not described. She is “the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4). She is like a “fruitful vine within your house” (Psalm 128:3). She is “far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:10). A crown, a jewel, she is glory.
Here is a practical application of this truth: If you are glory, cultivate beauty within and without. Both / And. You are body and soul. Christian women have a tendency to neglect one or the other – To focus on the physical, while neglecting the spiritual. Or to focus on the internal, while neglecting the external.
One side idolizes beauty, and the other side is afraid of it. But you should wisely cultivate beauty within and without.
Adorn yourself inwardly. And this is most important. According to 1 Peter 3:1-6, cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, that rests in the gospel of Jesus Christ and is therefore free to love with no selfish ambition.
And adorn yourself outwardly. Pay attention to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, and make sure that you’re not dressing in a way that is seductive or ostentatious. The goal is not to make other women jealous, the goal is to display the beauty and glory of God. Remember that are a jewel a crown and glory.
- Ladies, you glorify.
Because you are glory, you glorify. You make things around you more beautiful. In our home, I make things more practical. My wife makes things more beautiful.
You are glory. And you glorify.
You are a display. And you make other things display.
You are beautiful and you beautify.
You are adornment and you adorn.
Who you are as a woman, and what you do as a woman, is an ongoing sermon on the infinite beauty and worth of God.
How can I make this more beautiful?
This home, this family, this church, this meal, this yard, this neighborhood, this hospital, this life, this space.
A godly woman is constantly, consciously and unconsciously, making beauty. She adorns herself, her husband, her children, her home, her church, her dinner table, her feet, her hands, her neck, her hair, her front door, her kitchen.
And this is difficult ongoing work. You clean a house, and mud comes through the front door. You put on makeup, and you wash it off at night. You make a beautiful meal and all that’s left is a pile of dirty dishes. You put on a pretty blouse and you spill coffee on it. When we see something beautiful what do we do? We take a picture. We try to freeze it. Why do we do that? Because we know it’s not going to last.
Who are you creating beauty for? The praise of others?
Your family. Your husband. Your children. Christ.
In conclusion, the gospel is the good news that Jesus came, lived, suffered, died, and rose again, in the place of sinners, so that sinners could be reconciled to God.
And part of what God is doing is making all things new; making all things beautiful; restoring all things; taking all the ugly out. At the end (which is really a beginning of something) God will be with us in the new heavens and the new earth, and there will be no ugly left.
Ladies – you are a significant part of God’s unfolding plan. Please consider what we’ve looked at this morning, and consider how you can, with your gifts and abilities, bring honor and glory to God.