Menu Keys

On-Going Mini-Series

Bible Studies

Codes & Descriptions

Class Codes
[a] = summary lessons
[b] = exegetical analysis
[c] = topical doctrinal studies
What is a Mini-Series?
A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.

Scripture References

Scripture references on this site can be viewed by hovering your mouse cursor over the reference to see a pop-up window with the verse displayed. If you wish to use a different version of the Bible, you can make that selection below.


Bible Options


If you have Logos Bible Study Software installed, you can check Libronix to bring the scripture reference up in Logos.

1 Corinthians 11:1-3 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 18 secs



In chapter eleven Paul shifts from dealing with things sacrificed to idols and now he is going to insert some positive instruction in verses 2-16 and some corrective instruction in verses 17ff related to problems in the public worship of the church. This whole section begins in 11:2 and goes through the end of chapter 15, and the focus is on assembly worship and organization of assembly worship, and how people should conduct themselves in the public assembly of the church. In other words, we are going to look at how doctrine impacts public social behaviour. In 11:2-26 the focus is on the role of women in assembly worship; in 17 to the end of the chapter the focus is on communion. There they were mishandling communion and so there is a strong element of correction and rebuke there. In chapters 12-14 Paul moves to the role of spiritual gifts and the operation of spiritual gifts in the public worship, and then in chapter fifteen he deals with the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection and how that applies also in the realm of public worship. In chapter 16 is the last section where he deals with the principle and the doctrine of giving and handling of finances.

1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." Actually, this verse concludes the previous section and Paul is saying to imitate him insofar as I also imitate Christ. This brings in the idea that the Christian leader is a role model, but a role model only insofar as they are imitating Christ. Always we are to put our eyes on Christ and not on people because people always fail.

1 Corinthians 11:2 NASB "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." Now Paul moves to then new topic. Notice a contrast between verse 2 and verse 17. In verse 2 he is positively praising the Corinthians. But this praise in one sense is just setting them up for a strong rebuke starting in verse 17: "But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse." He is going to lower the boom in verse 17, so verses 2-16 are apparently providing some instruction that was not given when he was in Corinth, so this is new information but it is information regarding some problems that were developing, that he has heard were developing in the public worship in Corinth. This would be as a result of the baggage they had brought with them from their religious and cultural background as to how men and women are to function within the worship service and in society, and Paul has to address this.

Paul begins with a positive statement of praise to them as brethren. By using the term "brethren" he is indicating that he views them as members of the royal family of God, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone we are adopted into the royal family of God and we become members of the same family. It brings in the implication that we are all equal members of the royal family of God. He praises them because they remember him in all things. That is, they are praying for him and they remember him continuously in prayer. Even though they are having problems with his authority in Corinth they are remembering him. He praises them secondly because they keep the traditions "just as I delivered them to you." The Greek word for "tradition" is PARADOSIS [paradosij] and it means that which is passed along by teaching, and it comes to mean and to be translated as "tradition," that which has been accepted, taught historically and has been accepted as a standard operating procedure. "…as I delivered them to you." Here he uses the word PARADIDOMI [paradidomi], PARADOSIS is a form of PARADIDOMI. So it is a little pun, a little play on words to show that Paul hasn't lost his sense of humour.

To a lot of folks tradition is a bad idea, especially young people who like doing something new. The issue really isn't old versus new when we come to think about tradition. In fact, one of the worst traps any church or organization can get in is that they don't have new blood coming in, new ideas, new and improved ways of doing things. There are oftentimes better ways of doing different things in any organization. But the issue isn't old versus new and the Bible never looks at it that way. In fact, the Bible does have some negative things to say about tradition. But that is because these traditions are non-biblical. For example, the traditions of the Pharisees are condemned, not because they are traditions but because they are not biblical. On the other hand, some traditions are praised positively, just as Paul does. There are doctrinal principles that were delivered once for all to the saints in the first century and we are to consistently apply those throughout the centuries, and in that sense those traditions are positive not because they are old, not because that is the way we have always done it, but because that is consistent with Bible doctrine.

One of the things we ought to think about is that a culture that is advancing is always improving itself. It is always challenging itself to a higher standard, is always going forward and is never satisfied with just doing it the way it has been done before. This applies to a nation, it applies to a business, it applies to a church, it applies to a family. There are always ways that we can improve the things that we do.   We have to adapt to the changing environment around us. That is why we have to be careful about this concept of tradition. In one sense we can get locked in to doing things a certain way all the time and that is a prescription for certain death. One the other hand we have to make sure that when we do make changes that we are changing only in those areas that are not grounded in doctrine. There are always cultural relatives but you never want to change things that are built on doctrinal absolutes.

Whenever you study tradition it is the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture: that the traditions of Scripture are to be maintained because the Scripture is sufficient to solve any issue in life. The Scripture presents absolutes, not things that are culturally relative. The problem is that when we come to the next verse and begin to discuss the role of men and women the attack today is that these are really cultural relatives, that they were culturally determined by Paul's background, by what was going on in Corinth, but what Paul says in verses 3-16 is not based on doctrinal absolutes. So this is the heart of the controversy. In this controversy there are a number of questions that are being raised today in many churches, and these are question which we need to answer.

1)  Can a woman be ordained as a pastor?  

2)  Can a woman have the gift of pastor-teacher?

3)  Or even the gift of teacher?

4)  Can a woman have an audience that is comprised of both men and women?  -- even if it is not in a church?

5)  What about reading a commentary that has been written by a woman?

6)  Should a woman teach a woman's Bible study?

These are not simple to answer and we have to lay am doctrinal foundation before we ever begin to answer these questions. Furthermore, another question that is implicit in the assault on 1 Corinthians 11 is the question: should some letter that was written 2000 years ago to an obscure, small congregation in Greece control the practices of churches in the 21st century. Remember the core issue here is that the attack is asserting that whatever Paul says in relation to the role of men and women in the church that that was culturally determined. In is interesting that in many case they don't dispute the literal interpretation, what they dispute is its validity for today and its existence as a doctrinal absolute. They want to address it as some sort of cultural relative.

1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." Paul doesn't start with the issue itself, he starts with the Godhead, the Trinity. Notice that there are no culturally relative terms here. He doesn't say "every man in Corinth." Neither does he say "every man in the church in Corinth." He uses a universal phrase: "every man." He uses singular nouns here because a singular noun is used to stand for an entire class of individuals. That indicates they are being written as a universal precept and not as a culturally conditioned term. Then in the third phrase he says the head of Christ is God. Again, these are not culturally relative terms. In fact, this final phrase is one of the most profound statements about the relationship of God the Son to God the Father.

At the very beginning we should outline some arguments that are raised against accepting the literal interpretation and application of this passage. When we look at what is going on today there are basically three groups of people who are interpreting this passage. One group is called the egalitarian. The egalitarian view comes from the idea of being equal, that men and women are not only equal but their roles are interchangeable. The second view is called, for want of a better term, the traditionalist view. The third view is called the complimentarian view. The latter two views are similar in many areas. The traditionalist view would say a woman can't pray in the public assembly, can't read Scripture in the public assembly, can't do anything in the public assembly; they can only teach the Word under certain restricted concepts. There are many traditionalists who would say that women are not authorized to teach the Word in any setting, except maybe to children. In the complimentarian view women are merely restricted from teaching the Scriptures in any setting, except maybe the children, but they are able to pray, and in the first century to prophesy in the local assembly, or even to read Scripture, because none of these activities imply any kind of authority. That seems to be the indication from this passage.

The egalitarian view is the view that is attacking the traditional and complimentarian views which understand Paul could be restricting in some sense what women could do in a local congregation. So we will look at six arguments that are advanced in support of the egalitarian view.

1)  The first comes from what Jesus does in Matthew 19:4 NASB "And He answered and said, 'Have you not read that He who created {them} from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, [20] and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?" Notice that when Jesus answers the question He quotes from two different verses. The first verse is in Genesis chapter one and the second is in Genesis chapter two. He pulls them together as though there is no conflict between the two. (Liberals always want to say that Genesis one is one account of creation, Genesis two is another account off creation, and they are contradictory accounts) Jesus is pulling a quote from both chapters and treats them as a single coherent unity. But when He answers the question on divorce, rather than going to Deuteronomy 24, which is in the Mosaic law, Jesus goes back to creation. The argument of the egalitarians is that what Jesus is really doing is going to the spirit of the law and not the actual statement of the law. Therefore, what they are saying is that what we have to do, based on tis precedent, is look at the spirit of the New Testament in terms of equality and not look at the letter of the New Testament. And if we are interpreting 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2, and statements in 1 Corinthians 14 as well, in a literal way then we are just completely missing the spirit of the New Testament. So we have to recognizing that Jesus here is not contradicting the law passage in Deuteronomy chapter 24. He continues to express God's original intention for marriage in comparison to the concession that was made because of the fall. So there is not a contradiction there. He is not saying Moses was wrong, let's go back to the spirit of the law.

2)  A second argument they use is based on Joel 2:28 NASB "It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions." This is a context related to the Day of the Lord at the end of the Tribulation. Their argument is that in this passage when the Holy Spirit is poured out, men and women equally communicate the truth: that God doesn't make a distinction, therefore we shouldn't make a distinction. The problem with this particular view is that first of all it has an inadequate understanding of prophecy. One of the greatest problems that we will run into is that we will hear pastors teach that prophecy means preaching, and that prophecy has two ideas: foretelling and forth-telling. Today, of course, the foretelling idea isn't there so all that is the forth-telling element. So the equate prophecy to preaching. The Bible never equates prophecy to preaching and if we make that mistake we have undercut a tremendous amount of Scripture. Prophecy has to do with simply being a mouthpiece for God: "Thus saith the Lord." The authority doesn't reside in the prophet himself, the authority resided in God. There is clear evidence of women as prophets in the Old Testament as well as in the early church, but at the same time there is a prohibition in the New Testament for women teaching the Word. So there is a clear understanding in the New Testament that there is a distinction between the action of prophesying and teaching. Prophesying was not authoritative to the individual, he was not expounding on the Word.

3)  Another argument comes from Luke 10:38-42 where the argument is that Jesus gives a new emphasis on the role of women and He frees women from their traditional roles of domestic tasks and drudgery. But is that what the passage is saying? NASB "Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. [39] She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. [40] But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up {to Him} and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' [41] But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; [42] but {only} one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'" The contention of the egalitarians is that Jesus is elevating women in this passage to a new position. He is allowing Mary as a women to sit with the men and study the Word—and that is true, it shows that Jesus has a tremendous ministry to women. That cut across the culture because women in the traditional Judaistic culture weren't even a second class citizen in many cases. They had to sit separated from the men and no Rabbi could even talk to a woman on the street, not even his wife lest someone who didn't know it was his wife get the wrong idea—but notice: He doesn't include any women among the disciples, he doesn't include any women among the seventy that He sent out, He never puts a woman in a leadership position, and even in then coming kingdom which is the utopic state of all human history the leadership resides in the male apostle. So even though Jesus does validate women in a new and better position in society, and treats them as essential equals to men, He still maintains a role distinction for women. They are not put in any leadership positions, neither does he ever authorize them to teach the Word.

4)  The fourth argument is that Paul is simply arguing from his own limited cultural perspective, that this is just Paul's opinion, and Paul, let's face it, they will say, was just a misogynist; he hated women. That shows that people obviously don't read the Scriptures. What Paul said about women in some cases was just as antagonistic to the culture of that day because he elevates them in many ways to positions of equality to men; yet, that is always ignored. For when he is dealing with the problem of sex in marriage in 1 Corinthians chapter eight he said the woman's body belongs to the man. Now if he had stopped there we could say yes, he had the same cultural view of women as the standard Greek. But then he turns around and says the man's body belongs to the woman. That was radical! This is a man who was setting women up in many ways as equal persons with men, which ran completely counter to the culture. So the idea that Paul was just arguing from his own limited cultural perspective ignores a certain amount of biblical data, but furthermore it ignores historical data. Paul was from Tarsus. He lived in Tarsus for at least the first 13 years of his life until he went down to be trained in Judea as a Rabbi. After he was saved he went back to Tarsus for another ten or twelve years. In Tarsus at the time, according to a writer by the name of Chrysostum the people in Tarsus had an extremely harsh attitude toward women that was not too different from the Taliban today. Women were required to wear veils and cover their entire body, and the only thing that could be seen was their eyes. That is the culture in which Paul grew up. He is certainly not arguing from that kind of a cultural background. So to argue that Paul is teaching culturally relative values is to ignore and reject historical information and other biblical information. Furthermore, it establishes dangerous implications for interpreting Scripture because if what Paul says about women in culturally determined, what about what he says about adultery? What about what he says about marriage or homosexuality or mental attitude sins? We could just dismiss all of that and say it was just culturally relative.

5)  Another idea that is advanced is the idea that Paul was not consistent. What happens in the feminist literature is they all want to use Galatians 3:28 as the benchmark passage for interpreting everything else that Paul says. Galatians 3:28 NASB "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This is in a passage dealing with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (v. 27). The way the egalitarians try to argue for this is to say slavery was basically eradicated from the history of mankind because of the influence of Christianity. Therefore, even though there was slavery in the early church it was eventually eradicated and as a result of Christianity there was no more slavery. They want to take that and apply it to the next clause, that there is neither male nor female and that this ancient view that there was some kind of inherent difference between men and women should also be eradicated. At least that is the structure of their argument. Their assumption is that equality between people requires complete inter-changeability of roles, but their methodological problem is faulty because you never take one verse of Scripture and use that to interpret or reinterpret all of the other verses of Scripture that relate to the same subject. They have to all fit together. They can't make them fit together so they say Paul was right in Galatians 3:28 but he was wrong in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. The problem is they misinterpret the significance of Galatians 3:28. When Paul is talking about the fact that there is neither Jew not Greek, in many other passage he emphasizes the fact that there are still Jews. They are still Jewish even though they are now believers. They are now the true Israel of God because they have trusted in Christ as Messiah, but they are now members of the church so that their Jewishness no longer is an issue. In the Old Testament there was a difference in the way Jews and Gentiles could operate in the temple. Jews had access to God; Gentiles did not. There was also a distinction between the way the men and the women could approach God in temple worship. Only the men had the closest access to God. The same thing was true of those who were slaves. If you were a slave you did not have the same access to God as a free person did. What Paul is saying here is that in Christ there is complete equality of opportunity in access to God. Whether you were Jew or Gentile there was no longer a distinction in terms of the spiritual life. All of the same assets of the spiritual life apply. In the same way your sex does not matter, both have the same access to God and the same opportunity to grow to spiritual maturity. He is not talking in this passage about role distinctions, he is talking about essential equality in the spiritual life. But essential equality does not mean that there are not role distinctions. Role distinctions are evident in every area of life but that does not mean that the individuals on a team are not equal.

6)  The next idea that is brought against the biblical view by the egalitarians is the idea that men and women were created functionally and essentially equal from the beginning and it is only because of sin that a hierarchy and a distinction enters in. But that is a complete misreading and misunderstanding of both Genesis 1:26, 27 and Genesis 3:16. In fact Genesis 1:26, 27 says nothing about order, subordination or roles; Genesis 2 does indicate that there is a subordination of roles: the woman was created to be the helper for the man and Adam names here. That is an act indicating authority and leadership. Genesis 3:16 does not introduce the hierarchy, it is already introduced in Genesis 2. What Genesis 3 introduces is the distortion of the hierarchy.

7)  Then the idea of the subordination of the Son to the Father is limited to just the period of the incarnation while He is on the earth. They are right bout one thing. They are right bout the fact that how you view the relationship of God the Son to God the Father is integral to understanding how men and women are to relate to each other. Every time Paul addresses male and female roles he always relates it to the relationship of God the Son to God the Father.