Lesson 35

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

11:1 Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. 11:2 Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 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. 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 11:5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 11:6 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. 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 11:8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 11:9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 11:10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.  

Today's Lesson 

In Today's Scripture Paul passes on the traditions that he has been given for the Corinthian church. He begins by urging them to be imitators of him just as he imitates Christ. There is nothing wrong with imitating godly men and women. In fact, we should. And we should live our lives in such a manner that we should feel confident in encouraging other people to imitate us as well. That is what Paul is doing here. Paul is so confident of his own life before God that he can encourage the Corinthians to imitate him.


Of course our ultimate example of the person whom we should emulate is Jesus Christ our Lord. But, let's also face reality. We desperately need examples of godly people in our lives. Even the strongest saint is encouraged by the acts of holy men and women around them. God called us to live in community with one another because this is an innate need of human beings. We need the examples of one another and we need to hold ourselves to the standards of living our lives in order to be an example for others.


Now the rest of this passage is much more difficult to properly understand. Paul passes on the tradition to these early Christians that a woman's head should be covered while in prayer or while prophesying. He uses as a reasoning for this instruction the teaching that woman came from man and that God has granted men authority over women. Lastly he concludes this passage with a rather startling remark that a woman ought to have authority over her head because of the angels. There is nothing within the immediate context of this passage that would allow us to understand why the existence or proximity of angelic beings would require a woman to cover her head.


There are some groups that have attempted to keep the literal meaning of this passage. Even today in certain traditions and cultures a woman is not allowed to worship unless her head is covered with a veil or a hat. Obviously this is the quite literal interpretation of Paul's instructions here.


However, it is not necessary to do so. Paul is not seeking to dispense dogma in this passage. In fact, he writes in verse two that these were the traditions of the churches. Paul himself was instrumental in doing away with some of the traditions that his own people, the Jews, had built up around their worship of God. Also, Jesus was very critical of those that placed tradition above a loving interpretation of God's will.


If some things (such as women covering their heads) are traditions and therefore optional and others (such as loving your neighbor as yourself) are not, then who is to say what is tradition and what is necessary? The only answer to this question is that, as in all things, God is the judge of what is tradition and what is necessary. Each of us is responsible to Him for our conduct in this regard. But, we also have the advantage that it is also God who instructs us and educates us as well.


The Spirit of God lives in all those that have been baptized into the body of Christ. It is God living in us that leads us and guides us in daily living. When we need guidance in what is necessary, we need turn no further than the Spirit of the Lord who is with us at all times.


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