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I Corinthians 11:2-16

I Corinthians 11:2-16


Series: 1 Corinthians
Sermon: Head Covering
Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

I. Introductory Comments

1. 1 Corinthians is a pastoral letter
2. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 must be understood in first century context and develop theological application for 21st century
3. Most of the issues discussed in this passage are context-cultural specific
4. Corinth was a Roman colony
5. Men of nobility wore toga across their chest that signified affluence, power, and ability to subjugate
6. When men of nobility wore their toga as headgear, it implied religious headship
7. A man with a headgear in a religious environment like a church claims that he is the head
8. Also, with its Roman background that signified nobility and elite status, thus it potentially brought class system in the church
9. The church being a Gospel-driven community, Paul did not want the outside social status into the fellowship to elevate one group over others who could not get such privilege
10. In Corinth, a woman without a headgear implied that she was available for relationship, particularly for sexual relationship
11. Conversely, a woman with a headgear announced that she is not available for relationships

a. This protected women from unnecessary advances by men
b. This protected the congregation from unnecessary distractions

12. In Corinth, a woman with shaven head represented a person caught in adultery, someone who had sexual relationship outside of marriage (shame)
13. In the same way, it is most likely men with longhair implied male-prostitute or homosexual

II. Now, over to the passage (“gender-distinctive creation order” vs “Gospel driven reciprocity & mutuality order”)

1. In verse 3, Paul addresses theologically Corinthian Christians’ about culturally inappropriate practice of freedom
2. New life in Christ has not nullified gender distinctiveness (important point)
3. In fact, there is a Gospel driven leadership order: God, Christ, man, and Woman
4. The word “head” (κεφαλή) does not mean “hierarchy” or “authority,” or “preeminence”
5. It refers to “leadership” or “headship”
6. In verse 4, Paul prohibits men praying with their head covered

a. It claims a social elitism in church
b. It brings Roman practice to claim authority and claim for subjugation
c. It brings dishonor to Christ because the practice of head covering by men undermines Christ’s leadership over him

7. In verses 5-6, Paul protects women from men’s unnecessary sexual advance towards them and men getting distracted in the church

a. Women whose heads are not covered dishonor their husbands because in Corinth, women without a head cover connote “availability”
b. Women whose heads are not covered cause distractions to men who may potentially fantasize sexually which is a dishonor to their husbands
c. Women whose heads are not covered, according to Paul, is equivalent to shaven head which represented disgraced/shamed woman who was caught in adultery

8. In verses 8-10, Paul is not inventing a new theology, but he is reminding the creation order

a. Gen 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”
b. Gen 2:20-22 But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man
c. Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians about the creation order, which is not done away by the new life in Christ

9. In verses 11-16, Paul teaches the following:

a. Gospel-driven gender distinctives
b. Gospel-driven mutuality and reciprocity
c. Cultural practices must not cause social inequality and promote elitism
d. Culture must not dominate the faith-community
e. Women covering their head in Corinth in the first century had a unique cultural and behavioural connotation, but it means something completely different in other cultures
f. In the same way, men having long hair had a unique connotation in Corinth, which had a completely different connotation in other places

10. Women head-covering is context and culture specific; it is not prescriptive for all women

Take Away

1. Avoid divisive cultural practices inside the church
2. Make sure that your freedom does not cause others to stumble

Speaker: William J. Subash

Born and raised in south India, William J. Subash became a follower of Jesus Christ in 1983 at the age of nineteen. After a brief career in a tea and coffee plantation, Subash decided to spend rest of his life to preach about Jesus and his life-transforming message of God, which is popularly known as “the Gospel.” Subash teaches New Testament Studies at two institutions: SAIACS in India and Liberty University Online, VA, USA. Currently, Subash serves as the chief point person for GROW Gospel Initiatives and the Lead Pastor of the Crossroad Church, Bangalore. Write to him at