1 Corinthians 11:1-16

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These small group studies of 1 Corinthians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 Inductive Bible Study and Discussion Questions

Outline:

  1. The foundational roles of man and woman (1-3)
  2. a)The Corinthians were reminded to listen to Paul’s apostolic authority (1-2)
  3. b)The foundational roles of man and woman (3)
  4. The principle of head coverings; man shouldn’t, women should (4-7)
  5. a)It is a disgrace for man to cover his head (4)
  6. b)It is a disgrace for a woman not to cover her head (5-6)
  7. c)A man should not cover his head (7)

III.              The reasons for the head coverings, authority of the husband (8-16)

  1. a)Woman is from man (8)
  2. b)Woman was created for man (9)
  3. c)It is respectful to the angels who watch to show a submissive heart (10)
  4. d)Man and woman do rely on each other so neither is more important (11-12)
  5. e)The self-evidence that women should not pray with an uncovered ahead (13)
  6. f)Physiology tells us it is more natural for women to have longer hair than men (14-15)
  7. g)This was the principle laid out that should be followed (16)

Discussion Questions:

What traditions is Paul talking about in verse 2?

What is the main point of the rest of the chapter?

What is the root reason for the head coverings?

What does this chapter mean? Should Christian women wear head coverings today in the church? Why or why not?

Is this only a cultural thing or a universal principle for all time and all people?

What does it mean that Christ is the head of man?

What does it mean that man is the head of a woman?

How does this relate to following verses on head coverings?

Why is/was it is a disgrace for a man to wear a covering on his head while praying?

Does this mean a man should not do that today?

Why is/was it a disgrace for a woman to wear a covering on her head while praying?

Does this mean that a woman should not do that today?

What does it mean that man is the glory of God and woman the glory of man? (Man is given the sphere of sovereignty. Man delegates that authority to woman.)

Why was woman created? Is that a negative thing? Why was man created? Is that a negative thing?

What does head coverings have to do with the angels? What does this teach us about angels?

What do verses 11-12 teach?

How would you answer the question in verse 13? How do you think they would have answered it at that time?

How does nature teach anything about this concept?

What does verse 16 mean?

Cross-references:

2 Thessalonians 2:15 – Traditions

Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23 – Christ is the head of the church.

Ephesians 5:22… – Man has the authority over woman in marriage.

1 Peter 3:7 – Husbands love your wives as a weaker vessel.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 – Man has the authority over woman in church.

Genesis 2:18-25 – God’s basic design of marriage. Woman is a helper for man.

Galatians 3:28 – Men and women are worth the same (Jesus too is not in any way inferior to the Father, but He submitted Himself to the Father.).

1 Corinthians 12 – People (man and woman too) have different roles in the body of Christ. We have different roles in life too.

  1. Verses 1-3

In verses 1-2 Paul reconfirms his apostolic authority. He commends them for remembering him and his previous instructions and reminds them they need to follow everything he teaches them. They are to hold firmly to the traditions. These are not man-made traditions, but biblical traditions handed down from God.

Verse three is the key of the whole chapter and the most important principle we can get from it. It tells us three things.

  1. Christ is the head of every man. What does that mean? The head is the symbol of authority. Christ is the direct authority over every man. We are under him. That means we must submit to Him and His will. That means we have to follow Him in everything from the heart.
  2. Man is the head of a woman. This is true in the church (1 Timothy 2), in the home (Ephesians 5), and just in God’s general order for the world (Genesis 2). God has given man the authority as exercising dominion on the earth and this includes over woman. This means that women must subject themselves to men, but notice that it says “a woman”. Man is the head of his own wife. Also, Ephesians 5 says that women are to submit to their own husbands. Their own husbands are their direct authority (also the men leadership in the church). Scripture cannot be more clear. Note that God also gives men very specific guidelines for how to use this authority properly and they must not abuse it.
  3. God is the head of Christ. For those who think that being under authority of someone else means that you are inferior to them, think again. Christ submitted Himself to the authority of the Father. Was He inferior to Him? No! Different roles does not mean different value.
  4. Verses 4-7

To properly understand this chapter we definitely need to understand the cultural background to it. Explain the two reasons why woman at that time didn’t wear head coverings in Greek culture (prostitution or protesting/feminism). At that time women were to have a head covering in these kinds of situations. If men did, it was a reversal of proper roles.

4 – It’s a disgrace for men to wear a covering as it is a reversal of roles. Some have also suggested that men should take off their hat in front of superiors, but to me this doesn’t seem like a cultural practice at that time.

5-6 – Suggesting that women can pray or prophesy is not an endorsement for women to teach men in church as some suggest. That is already clearly forbidden. Rather it is an acknowledgement that leading men is not the only place to practice these things. Women can pray at home or perhaps fellowships. They can pray and lead women or children. This verse shoots down the idea that the covering is the hair. That would be like saying “If a woman does not have hair, let her cut her hair off or shave her head.” It doesn’t make sense. Rather it is saying that for a woman to not wear a head covering is just as disgraceful as shaving her head. Shaving her head was a symbol of rebellion against man’s authority and proper God-given roles. See below.

Uncovering a head can be a sign of respect for men in the presence of a superior.

Now watch in the Corinthian society the women were supposed to be submissive, and they had a symbol, or a sign, or a token of submission, and the token they had was a veil. Women in a Corinthian or a Gentile society in that day and in that part of the world wore a veil as a symbol of submission, a submission of modesty; a symbol of their humility. Now only two kinds of women took their veil off: one was a harlot (for obvious reasons-you want to know what you are getting into–you want to see what she looked like). So harlots were unveiled. So women took their veil off for the purpose of prostituting. Second, were feminists, who took their veil off for the symbol of protesting: “They were going to demand equal rights with men–off with the veil, and so forth!” In those days it wasn’t “Burn the bra!” it was “Burn the veil!” It was the same idea: the idea that women are going to “demand rights” equal to men.

So you had the feminists and the harlots: the protesting and the prostituting. So Paul writes to these dear Corinthians and he says, “Ladies, keep your veils on.” Now let me tell you something folks: that isn’t for today. We are not going to have a veil station outside and before you come in everybody has to put a veil on. He is saying, in your society and in your time and in your day, that’s recognized as submission–now you respond to that symbol, so that the world doesn’t see the church rebelling against a God-ordained principle. You see? That’s what he is saying. “And, by the way,” he says, “It’s not a bad principle that women should have covering, because God even did that naturally!” Look down in verse 14, “Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given to her for a covering.”

7 – A repeat of the previous principle. Man is God’s delegate on earth to exercise dominion over it and rule it. Woman is man’s helper to do this. The roles of men and women in Scripture are abundantly clear. To deny them is to deny the authority of God and the authority of Christ and to  declare yourself the head of the universe.

8-9 – Why is the “for” there? How does this connect to the principle on head covering. These verses are a more in depth look at the second foundation principle from verse 3 that man is the head of a woman. It gives two basic reasons why women are under the authority of man and notice that both of these go back to creation. The first reason is that man came before the woman. Man was created first and then woman came from the man. That is what the word “woman” actually means. The second is that woman was created for man and not the other way around. Woman was created as a helper for man, a helper to bring glory to God and exercise dominion over the earth. This helper is to submit herself to man’s authority.

10 – If a woman didn’t wear the symbol of authority on her head the angels would be offended. Angels observe the world and the goings on of humans. As spectators, they cheer for us to do what is right. They are happy when we serve God and are grieved when we don’t. Already the fallen angels rebelled against God and didn’t submit themselves as they should. If angels see that women are doing the same thing against man it will offend them.

11-12 – These verses are reminding man not to be prideful and trod on women. Men are not superior to women. They are actually born of women. So before you spurn women and get self-mighty think about who your mother was, her pregnancy, her giving birth to you and raising you. In the end God is over everything and man has to submit to God.

13 – Paul was telling them that it is self-evident that for women to pray to God with their head uncovered was improper and shameful. To me, this is another evidence that this is a cultural custom. At that time it was a symbol of rejecting authority. It WAS self-evident that it was wrong at that time. Just like taking off your shoe and throwing it at a dignitary (like someone did to Bush) is a very negative thing in the Middle East, spitting in someone’s path is in the US, wearing pants in the Middle East, kissing a guy as a greeting in the US, or not kissing a guy as a greeting in the Middle East and on and on. The list goes on and on. In some cultures it is rude to slurp your soup. In others it rude not to. But the underlying principle for Christians is to BE POLITE IN THE CULTURE YOU ARE IN. Since the root principle of the head coverings is to show outwardly your inward submission and respect to your husband, this principle should be practiced in all cultures. But frankly, wearing a head covering just doesn’t accomplish that in the Western world.

In what ways can a woman today show her submission to her husband? Not interrupting when he is talking. Allow him to lead and make decisions. Ask his opinion, etc.

14-15 – Sometimes things are self-evident. Women generally grow longer hair than men. Men lose hair earlier and find it difficult to grow it as quickly or as long. Women’s long hair shows a certain tenderness and gentleness. These two verses teach us another thing that is self-evident to most people. Although not all cultures require a head covering to show submission, women should dress and wear their hair in a feminine way. That is proper according to nature that God has designed to reflect the differences between man and women and a certain order. Men should be masculine. Women should be feminine.

16 – Although some would be likely to contend and not listen. Paul says there is no other practice or option. The principle is for women to act like women, wear proper clothes and proper hairdos. Women are to submit themselves to men and specifically their husband and are in the subordinate role God designed for them. Where culture dictates it women are to wear head coverings to show their submission to their husband.

Study 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

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