Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 3

In our last two passages in Matthew and Mark, we looked at the corruption of a tradition by the elders. A tradition based on the fifth commandment, relating to honoring your parents. Jesus brought us back to the original authority, and put the religious leaders in their place.

Prior to Jesus rebuke, many may have considered the ongoing tradition of the elders as being an acceptable method of worshipping God. Jesus laid that idea to rest. This leads my suspicious mind to consider whether some of our current practices are actually creating traditions that may be avoiding teaching of the Apostles for the church.

Hopefully we will gain some understanding from the remaining passages that speak of traditions provided to the church.

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. – 1 Corinthians 11:2

Ok, so this passage from Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, is commending the Corinthian church that they are maintaining the traditions he had delivered unto the church. A promising start in this study. Interesting that Paul provided a tradition (or multiple traditions) that he expected them to follow. But our question has to be – What were these traditions?

Immediately after this verse, Paul delves into the controversial head covering teaching, which speaks of authority, headship and honor. Fifteen verses later, he speaks of instructions (traditions?) that he does not commend the church for, that is, in their keeping of the Lord’s Supper. At the turn of the page, in the beginning of the next chapter, Paul makes a topical shift to spiritual gifts. Therefore, I would suggest Paul refers to two traditions in chapter 11.

Head Covering

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a post supplied on May 21st, where I provided a link for some teaching on 1 Corinthians 11:13-15. (See Let Me Tell You a Story – Head Coverings). In that post I spoke of my own struggle with this topic of head covering and found some answers in the link provided. Nevertheless, the intent of this post is to consider the tradition Paul handed down to the Corinthian church, what it was, was it cultural and are we to follow this tradition even today.

After the last two posts, where Jesus corrected the religious teachers and brought them back to the original authority, I am fearful of finding some excuse or reason to avoid this teaching. I suppose my concern is that I don’t quite understand this teaching.

Is it a tradition that emphasizes headship and honor, using a culturally accepted practice (long hair on a woman) to indicate submission and honor to her head? Or is it a tradition that is non-cultural, that is every lady in all of the churches worldwide, needs to have a covering in order to honor her head, her husband.

In two verses prior to 1 Corinthians 11:5, where a covering of the wife’s head is referred to, note that the submission of Christ to God is not described “visually”, i.e. with or without a covering on His head.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3

but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. – 1 Corinthians 11:5

As I mentioned in the linked post above, my family and I attended a brethren chapel for years where this passage was referred to in order to justify coverings on ladies heads while in worship. As a baptist entering into this environment, I had many questions, and struggled with it for quite a while. One fine believer told me that the entire passage made sense when he read the last phrase in the tenth verse.

That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. – 1 Corinthians 11:10

His logic seemed irrefutable. The angels would have no concern for cultural practices, so this practice, that of covering a wife’s head in honor of her husband must be universal and not simply cultural.

This argument was convincing and nearly tipped me into accepting this as God’s intent, until I did a bit of digging and found that “angels” could be translated as messengers and may be simply referring to a company of men attending the church service.

In this passage, headship and authority is the principal theme, and my understanding is that the covering/veil used by the Corinthians was their culturally acceptable manner of displaying who was head and who wasn’t head. A definite order of responsibility (not of worth) is addressed in this passage.

This tradition, of headship, and of displaying the headship within the church has become derelict with our modern Christian lives. The modern church rebels against any hint of a man being the head, and of the woman honoring the husband. A full front attack on manhood has been active for decades, and the church, except for a small minority, has faithfully followed this tempting teaching.

It is a rare family that exercises this tradition, and that has a family order of a male head, with a submissive wife and obedient children. This, I believe is the intent of this tradition Paul speaks of within the church, and it’s natural outflow into all of the believers life.

Now before you claim I am some misogynistic woman hater, please slow down. I love women. I personally have hung out with a lovely person who is a woman for over forty years. She is truly my help meet and my best friend. I would be lost without her. Beyond my biased feelings toward this lady I know, I have also found that that some of the most spiritual people I have met happen to be women.

You see, sometimes folk get confused when dealing with this topic. They think the spirituality of a person is dependent on outward position or visibility. But this is not so! A quiet woman may have more influence with God than some flamboyant “in your face” preacher. Remember we are dealing with the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that, in the world’s eyes, is completely upside down.

I seem to remember a passage in the word which speaks of the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. – 1 Peter 3:4

Consider your family order. If you are a man in the family, love your wife, cherish her, team with her, talk with her (not at her!) and give yourself for her. Lead her into godly decisions and encourage her.

If you are a lady who seeks to honor God, honor your husband. Give him the freedom to make mistakes, support him when you “know” he is wrong. Discuss the issues with him, and trust God in your husbands discussions. (Yelling “I told you so” is not a godly action!) Don’t emasculate him! He desperately needs your support! And, by the way, the Lord is looking for a gentle and quiet (not a forceful and argumentative) spirit in supporting your mate.

As an aside, and for your reference, I am supplying a few verses of Paul’s teaching regarding headship. It may be of some use in helping you understand the apostles teaching, and in defending the order of headship (authority and accountability) within a church, and a family.

Head of every woman is man

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3

Woman is the glory of man

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. – 1 Corinthians 11:7

Woman was created from the man

For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. – 1 Corinthians 11:8

Woman was created for the man

Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. – 1 Corinthians 11:9

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, I believe the apostle addresses two traditions for the church in this chapter, and since I am a bit long in the tooth with this post, will defer to the next one to discuss the Lord’s Supper as a tradition

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