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1 Corinthians 11:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:59 mins 24 secs

The Headship of Christ; 1 Cor 11:1-3


1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."

The key word that we are going to find in this passage is the word "head." Three times in this verse the word is used, again in verse 4, three times in verse 5, and again in verses 7, 10. Therefore, because it is such a key word it has become the focus of a tremendous amount of debate over the meaning of head. The Greek word is KEPHALE [kefalh]. The feminist contention is that the word does not mean authority but that the word is based on the idea of origin. The traditional interpretation of headship is that is has two concepts, a literal meaning, the physical head, and a figurative sense where it refers to authority, where it refers to the exercise of authority and the person who is in authority. The contention from the liberal is that this word does not signify headship or authority at all. One scholar writes: "In normal Greek usage, classical or contemporary, KEPHALE does not signify head in the sense of ruler or chieftain of a community." It is just a bold statement, however, he cites no documentation for that claim. This is a typical sort of debater's technique that is found in literature, that people just make bold claims like that where there is no evidence to support the claim. However, a search of over 2000 years of usage of the word KEPHALE in all classical and Hellenistic Greek makes it clear that head meant authority or leader, and the only two time (and there are only two instances) that it has the idea of source or origin is when it is used in the plural. So when it is used in the singular through 2000 years of the Greek language from the classical Greek through Hellenistic, Koine and up to modern Greek the word has the idea of authority or leadership.

Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich, 3rd edition, states that KEPHALE means the part of the body that contains the brain or a being of high status. Metaphorically it is used of persons. i.e. the head, the chief, one to whom others are subordinate. For example, the husband in relationship to the wife (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23) insofar as they are one body, and one body can only have one head to direct it. It is used of Christ in relation to His church, which is His body, and its members are His members (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:10, 19). So there headship clearly refers to the concept of authority, both in terms of the husband in relationship to the wife and Christ in relationship to the body of believers. It has to do with the fact that He is the leader, the ruler, the one in final authority, the one to whom the body of believers is accountable and subordinate. It is used consistently this way in Greek literature. The concept of source or origin, the idea of KEPHALE used in the plural, has no example in the New Testament or in the LXX. This is a very important point because again and again and again some of the major feminist writers make this contention.

So the idea of KEPHALE does not have the idea of origin, it has the idea of headship. One of the basis of support that will be found for this is that people will try to go to verse 12 where it states: "For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man {has his birth} through the woman; and all things originate from God." That is a verse that is about nine verses removed from verse 3 and is not explaining the concept of headship. In fact, what that is explaining is the principle in verses 8 and 11 which is the biblical balance to the extreme of male tyranny. The unique thing about the apostle is that when he speaks on the one hand about the headship and the of the man, on the other hand he always balances that with the significant role of the woman. There is a balance. Even though the male is the one in authority, the male comes from the woman through birth and that indicates that at one level there is a level of equality; they are both fully human. This takes us back to Genesis chapter one to understand the distinction between role and essence.

In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul is saying he wants us to understand three things. The word "that" is a translation of the Greek word HOTI [o(ti], used here to introduce a principle. Basically this could be translated: "I want you to understand: and then following tie colon the three propositions that Paul is emphasizing. Proposition # 1 is that Christ is the head lf every man. They key element in that phrase is Christ. Proposition # 2 is the man is the head of a woman. Third proposition: God is the head of Christ. It is structured like this: "Just as Christ has authority over every man, man has authority over the woman, and in the same sense God has authority over Christ." The first and the third elements in this structure have a relationship to Jesus Christ and this is what is set up in terms of its literary structure as an inclusio. In an inclusio you will have a statement a), then statement b), and then perhaps statement b) prime that reflects statement b), and you come back to statement a), a) prime. In an inclusio the focus is on what is in the middle.  So there are two statements that mirror each other with something in between, and it is what is in between that is important and being emphasized. So what is being emphasized in verse 3 is the principle that the head of woman is man, and that is the subject of verses 3 through 16—the biblical teaching on the distinct roles of and males and females. When it states that the head of woman is man it is not using the generic term ANTHROPOS [a)nqrwpoj] but it is using the term ANDROS [a)ndroj] which is the Greek term for male. ANTHROPOS is the Greek term for mankind in general, although not always. So we have "Christ is the head of every man, man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." So it is clearly talking about a subordinate structure and a structure of authority.

To understand this verse we have to have a correct understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. 1 Corinthians 15:28 NASB "When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." This takes us into the future to the point in time at the end of the Millennial kingdom when all things are made to Him with the destruction of Satan and his sentence to the lake of fire, the sentence of all unbelievers to the lake of fire, then the Son Himself will be subject to Him who put all things under Him, and that is a reference to God the Father. So in eternity future even after the close of human history Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is still under the authority of the first person of the Trinity, God the Father. This is also clearly stated by Jesus Himself in the Gospel of John 5:19: "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless {it is} something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'" This clearly teaches a subordination of God the Son to God the Father. [22] "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.." The fact that the Father delegates all judgment to the son indicates that the Father is the one who is in authority over the Son. [30] "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." These three passages clearly teach that there is a role subordination in the Trinity. Then in John 10:30 NASB "I and the Father are one." So we have to go back to the doctrine of the Trinity and the essence of God if we are going to understand the role and the subordination of women to men.

In the essence of God, God is sovereign. He is the ultimate authority in the universe and the ruler of all things. God is absolute righteousness, that is the standard of His character, and God is perfect justice, the application of that standard in His dealings with Himself in relationship to the other members of the Trinity and with all of His creatures. God is perfect love and He is eternal life. He has no beginning and no end. Then, God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. That means that God knows all things, there is nothing that God does not know. He never learns anything, he is never surprised by anything, He never increases or decreases in knowledge, He knows all things potential and actual. He is equally present at every point in the universe at all times, and He is able to perform that which he wills. Then God is immutable, He never changes, and He is absolute veracity or absolute truth, a function of His righteousness. This is the essence of God and all of these attributes relate equally to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So he is said to be one in essence but he is three in persons. There are three distinct persons and yet they are identical in essence. That implies that in terms of their essence they are completely equal. So on the one hand there is true equality and on the other hand there are distinctions—equality in essence and distinctions in terms of roles. For example, in creation God the Father is the architect or the planer. It is the Son who carries out or executes the plan, and it is God the Holy Spirit who reveals the plan. So each person has a distinct role and a distinct function within that plan, and just because the Son is subordinate to the Father do9es not mean that He is any less than the Father.

This introduces the concept of a team. This takes us back to some fundamental ideas in relationship to understanding the person of Jesus Christ as well as the person of God the Holy Spirit. This has to do with laying a crucial foundation for society. Society in this sense is any collection of individuals. We have an eternal society between Father, Son and Holy Spirit in which case there is true equality between the members of that society, and there is distinction in roles. So this becomes the ultimate foundation for understanding the operation of human society because we have as a model or an example we have divine society which then becomes a model for human society where we have on the one hand true equality and on the other hand genuine distinction. One does not override the other.

This has an implication. If you have, for example in Islam, solitary or Unitarian monotheism where you have only one person, what are the implications of that? With only one person there is no eternal society, no eternal relationship. When you have an eternal society made up of three persons you have communication, relationship, and love because love demands an object. If there is only one person that person has an eternity minus communication, minus relationship, and minus love. All you have in a solitary monotheism is a totalitarian or tyrannical authority. Under a biblical model of a Trinitarian God there is a correction to tyranny because each person is equal in essence and equal in all of their attributes. So one is not superior to the other, there is only a distinction in roles in what is called a functional hierarchy.

Furthermore, if you go into an evolutionary model of ultimate reality, again you still do not have a person. Ultimate reality is matter, there is no person, no relationship, no communication, no love. So there is no ultimate basis for having a value in relationship in society, and so all relationships are then just arbitrarily determined by the creature rather than the creator. Every time Paul gets into the subject of the relationship of men and women he never grounds it in culture. Paul has a strong commitment to the equality of men and women as equal image bearers of God. Every time Paul gets into this subject he doesn't go to society in order to substantiate his argument, he always goes back to creation prior to the fall. Therefore we understand that the authority relationship set up in society as far as the relationship of men and women is concerned is not something that is added after the fall as a means to control the sin nature but is something that is inherent in the original creation itself, and God designed men and women with distinct roles.

Genesis 1:26-28 NASB "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' [27] God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [28] God blessed them; and God said to them, 'e fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"  What the author is trying to emphasize is the principle of the creation of man in God's image: "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." The idea of image is the idea of someone who represents God; the idea of "according to Our likeness" is that which reflects the immaterial essence of God or the basic attributes of God in terms of self-consciousness, of mentality, of volition, that man in his immaterial nature is a reflection of God's essence and is to represent God to the creation. This has to do with who they are in their essence, then secondly their function—" let them rule over the fish of the sea…" The idea of exercising authority over the creation is the function of being an image-bearer. "…male and female He created them." This is a profound statement because it is not focusing simply on the physical nature of man. We want to think of male and female simply in terms of physical dimension but here God is talking about the fact that He is creating man in His image, male and female. There is not simply a physical distinction between the man and the woman there is also a soul distinction between the man and the woman. God has designed men with a certain kind of soul and women with a slightly different kind of soul. The thrust of the male soul is leadership, and he is the initiator. Remember we are talking about man in his pre-fall condition. The woman is created to be his helper, assistant.

When we start messing around with the role of men and women and start changing it, it is not simply a matter of society, not simply a matter of function, not merely a matter of pragmatics, it ultimately goes back to a view of God and a view of the creator over the creation. Once we start changing these things they have profound theological implications. That is why our starting point always has to be with God. The tendency is to start with situations, but that comes down the road. We have to first of all start with what the Scripture says and what the Scripture outlines and that defines parameters. Once we establish those parameters and boundaries then we have to go in and realize that man is a sinner, and so all of our social relationships are completely distorted and marred because of sin, and this is why only as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ applying doctrine under the filling of the Holy Spirit can the damaging consequences of sin on a society—whether it is a nation, any kind of social group or marriage and family—be reversed.

So we have to understand that there is a male and female soul, a male and a female body, and these are not interchangeable. When we have a starting point from the Word of God men and women do not have interchangeable roles. The problem is that most of us have grown up in a post-feminised society, in a feminised church, where the assumption is granted that the role of men and women is interchangeable; and it is not. It is a deeply rooted idea and most of us do not realize how profoundly we have been brainwashed with this idea.

In Genesis chapter one we have the creation of male and female, both in the image of God. That means that in terms of the essence and women, male and female, there is no difference, there is true equality in terms of their being. However, there is a clear role distinction and this is the argument that Paul always uses, he goes back to the creation. Genesis 2:18 NASB "Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." This gives us the specifics of how 1:25-27 was carried out. The word "helper" means an assistant, someone who is a partner to help him achieve his God-given role as being a representative of God and a ruler over creation. He can't do it alone but it is his job as the leader and it is the woman's job to be his assistant and to help him in carrying out his particular role.