To Veil or Not to Veil, That Is the Question

#19 in the 1 Corinthians series: This is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, May 1, 2011.

Harry and I met while students at OBU.  He was a few years older and we looked at things from different perspectives.  Our biggest differences were theological.  Oh we were both Baptists, in fact both Southern Baptists but in different camps.  I was more toward the fundamentalist side he more to the liberal side.  I wasn’t a fundamentalist and he wasn’t a liberal but neither of us where in the center.  Harry and I had some lively discussion in the student center over a Coke and an occasional hotdog.  I always knew how to “set him off” and I have to admit I found it pleasurable.  Harry and I both went to Southwestern Seminary.  It was there, in the students center, I found Harry reading his “Women In Ministry Newsletter.”  I set down and Harry said, “Rod, what do you think about women in ministry?”  I thought to myself, “This is too easy.”  After a pause I said, “Harry I have no problem with women in ministry provided they do it barefoot and in the kitchen.”  I thought he was going to have stroke!  After talking him down we had lively and thoughtful conversation.

It is often a volatile topic.  People tend to feel strongly wherever they stand on the issue of the roles and responsibilities of men and women.  More often then not such discussions generate more heat than light.  I’m also afraid that because it is such a hot button issue people are easily distracted and can misread certain texts.  Tonight’s text is such an example.  Our text this evening is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 beginning with verse 2.

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Paul is writing to the church at Corinth in response to certain questions raised by the congregation and in light of certain disturbing reports he has received.  He spent a year and a half ministering in Corinth so they were especially dear to his heart.  As their pastor and spiritual father, he had a vested interest in their well being.  Corinth was a mixed up bunch.  There were a multitude of problems within the church.  There were divisions as folks gathered around their favorite teachers and teachings.  Paul scolds them for being spiritual infants and exhorts them to “grow up.”  Yet, despite the problems, he addressed them as “saints.”  Those who are genuinely saved and set apart by the Spirit of God.  He says to them, “You are saints, now act like it!”

After his initial call for them to act according to their calling he addressed their divisions.
He reminded them that it was Christ who died for them.
It is Christ who gives them life.
It is Christ they are to serve.

He then dealt with issues such as sexual immorality (5 & 6), lawsuits within the church (6) and marital issues (7).  In chapters 8-10 he dealt with the question of Christian liberty.  We are free in Christ but freedom is not license.  There are limits on what we ought to do.  All things may be lawful but not everything is profitable.  We must be guided by love.  We must be concerned about the spiritual heath of others and most of all concerned with the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

Then in chapters 11-14 he deals with three issues related to corporate or public worship.  I’m convinced that you must note this context before drawing conclusions about the meaning of our text.  There is a specific question on the table.  That question is whether or not men and women ought to wear a veil or head covering during worship.  Of necessity there is some discussion of the roles of men and women in this text but that is not the focus of the text.  This issue is discussed but in the context of a question related to worship.

Now look at the text.

As I look at this text I think the point is…

Thesis: Proper worship demands that we understand and recognize the divine economy.

Economy means “rules of the house” or governing principles.
God, as creator, is sovereign over all He has made.
The universe is governed by certain laws He has established.
There is order to all He has created.
Contrary to popular opinion the universe is not governed by random chance.

Closer to home and more to the point or our text we, as the people of God, are not free to worship God as we please.  We are not free to worship in the way that best express our thoughts and opinions.  God was specific as the Israelites were about to enter the Land of Promise, “You are not to worship Me in the manner in which they worship their gods.”  (Deut. 12:29-32)

There are three things I want to point out from our text.

  1. God has established an order.  (11:3)
  2. That order is to be reflected in our attitudes and customs in worship.  (11:4-10, 13-15)
  3. This order, as it relates to men and women, is not about essence, value or worth but about roles.  (11:11-12)

Yes I believe though men and women are equal in the sight of God as persons, they have been given different roles to play.  The man is to be the leader in the home.  He is to provide spiritual, emotional and material leadership to his family.  A logical extension of that is that men are to have leadership within the church.  Not Lordship but leadership.  Leadership as witnessed in the Godhead.  Leadership that understands, recognizes and reflects God’s authority and leadership.

God has established an order.
That order is to be reflected in our attitudes and customs in worship.
This order, as it relates to men and women, is not about essence, value or worth but about roles.

Thus we conclude – Proper worship demands that we understand and recognize the divine economy.

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