Her Submission is Her Glory

In the previous post on wives and women to be in submission I noted that there is much more instruction in the Bible about the order of Christian households than there is about the administration of baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Six passages were listed within the post, but I left out one in particular; a bit of “meat on the bone” that I hoped a commenter might gnaw off.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 [1]

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 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. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 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.For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 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. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

With this passage St. Paul blows out of the water the nonsense idea of “mutual submission” that so many pretend to glean from Ephesians 5:21.

My next post will probably be about my own error in applying 1 Cor. 11:15, but what is important in this post is:

  1. Understand that there is no excuse for the supposed “confusion” about who is supposed to submit to whom, and how.[2]
  2. Understand that a wife’s submission to God through Christ and through her husband (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.”) is supposed to be conspicuous–utterly obvious; not just a so-called “matter of the heart”. The sign and evidence of her submission is her glory! Without it, she has no glory.
  3. If your church teaches Biblical Inerrancy, but it does not teach overt wifely submission and head coverings, why–in light of 1 Cor. 11:16–would you believe it is a church of God?

[1] The ESV translators footnote that the words wife and husband used in the passage could be translated as woman and man, depending on the context, and that that word for angels could be translated as messengers or observers

[2] The linked post of Sheila Gregoire’s blog would be hilarious if she represented only a fringe element of Christian culture. She actually writes of those who quote 1 Peter 3 on the submission of women that they are ignoring the entire rest of the Bible, and that Peter’s instruction that wives act like Sarah is only in reference to Sarah when she followed Abraham out of Ur!

My drive-by commenters believe this verse clearly says that women should always obey their husbands no matter what. However, the readers of Peter’s letter would never have thought that. First, they would have known that Peter didn’t think this; but second, even if Peter had wanted to tell his readers to do so, he would not have used Sarah as the example. Sarah’s life was hardly the picture of a wife obeying her husband in everything!

Instead, when contemporary Jewish readers encountered Peter’s command that women emulate Sarah, who obeyed Abraham “rather than giving way to fear”, that last part would have given them the context of what Peter meant. They would have known that it was not a command to obey in all circumstances. Instead, they would take that bit of the verse–“rather than giving way to fear”–and hearken back to to the time that Sarah DID obey, even when it was scary.

And that was the time that Sarah followed Abraham out of Ur, because God called him. That was a pivotal time in Jewish history (really the beginning of Jewish history). It would make sense that Peter would remind his readers of it. And the message they would take? When God is speaking, you follow by faith. It’s that simple.

They would never think that it meant that women should not confront their husbands’ sin, or that women should forget God’s will and only follow their husband’s will, because that would go against everything they knew of Sarah, and everything they knew of Peter. [Emphasis in original text]

 

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10 thoughts on “Her Submission is Her Glory

  1. The example of Sarah could refer to her whole life. But assuming it is particularly referring to one act of obedience, there are at least three possibilities.

    Sarah followed Abraham out of Ur. (Sheila)
    Sarah told Pharaoh that she was Abraham’s sister. (the one I usually hear)
    Sarah had intercourse with Abraham when he was impotent and she was menopausal [Romans 4:19]. It is in this context that she calls Abraham “lord” in her heart [Gen. 18:12]. And it was by faith that she obtained the power to conceive [Hebrews 11:11].

  2. The obedience can’t be unconditional, or the wimpy men who command their wives to rule them would be the best examples because the wife perfectly obeys that.
    1. The wife is subject to her husband so should obey and not worry about gray areas or beyond clarifications or suggestions not worry about the prudence of any act. The wife ought to insure she marries a good and wise man, but if she married a fool, she is still stuck.with it.
    2. The only case where the wife isn’t to obey are absolutely clear cases of sin, e.g. a command to reject Christ, commit adultery, steal or murder.
    This parallels the “obey civil authorities” which is also commanded – They have responsibility to keep the public order so you must obey any such lawful order. But they can’t legitimately command you to worship a different God.

    But the man is still responsible as the Head and to sacrifice as Christ did for the Church. In the Gospels the disciples say it is better not to marry (after Jesus says Divorce except for “porneia” is gravely evil), and Jesus agrees and doubles down. Marriage is a vocation, a burden, and a responsibility, and Men are assigned the far greater share.

    No wonder that men prefer either some kind of partnership or negotiation or want the obedience without actual headship. Like much sound doctrine, it is hard and requires virtue and discipline, but you will be both better and happier following the rules.

  3. @Daniel

    The reason you usually hear of Sarah’s obedience regarding Pharoah is because Peter establishes the context in the preceding verses that wives should obey even if their husband are unbelievers or otherwise foolish like a bad master.

    The theory that Sarah’s faithfulness alone was to leave Ur is bunk. The same people who say that are the same people who try to convince us that pre-modern men were so brutal to women that wives had no choice but to obey or be beaten to death, but now we are “enlightened” and should allow a woman to do whatever she feels…oh, except for Sarah who used her agency to magnificently choose to follow Abraham out of Ur. Such people are silly, and should not be listened to.

    Abraham was impotent? From whence Ishmael?

    @tz

    No thing or act in this world is unconditional except the I Am and His acts.

  4. This packaging of seven different Bible passages regarding the same subject makes it kind of hard to use a “put it in the context of the whole Bible” smokescreen to avoid the main points.

    What would cause Paul the Apostle to write the same thing about husbands and wives to a variety of churches and individuals in diverse locales? Could it be that during his extensive travels, visits, and studies he had found contentious and vexing wives, plus unloving husbands so prevalent that he thought it best to address the issue widely? Where did a life long bachelor get these notions? From observation perchance? Divine revelation? Why would he keep bringing it up?

    If your church teaches Biblical Inerrancy, but it does not teach overt wifely submission and head coverings, why–in light of 1 Cor. 11:16–would you believe it is a church of God?

    This is an area of great personal uncertainty for me. I’ve moved a lot over the years and been to many churches that appear Biblically sound in every way until that soundness might infringe women’s liberation. I’ve never been to one that didn’t waffle or obfuscate at this point with “interpretations” or reference to culture of that time and place. In my own experience this can only be avoided by not going to any of them, which also seems wrong to me.

  5. Mutual submission is based on a passage that is about sex. So many want to make it about everything else, because if they define it as being about sex, the women have to stop giving it on a conditional basis.

  6. @LP

    This is an area of great personal uncertainty for me. I’ve moved a lot over the years and been to many churches that appear Biblically sound in every way until that soundness might infringe women’s liberation. I’ve never been to one that didn’t waffle or obfuscate at this point with “interpretations” or reference to culture of that time and place. In my own experience this can only be avoided by not going to any of them, which also seems wrong to me.

    As if I had wrote it myself.

  7. “If your church teaches Biblical Inerrancy, but it does not teach overt wifely submission and head coverings, why–in light of 1 Cor. 11:16–would you believe it is a church of God?”

    I assume the answer to your rhetorical question is “no.”
    So why would one attend a church that isn’t a church of God? And what Church DOES one attend? It seems you would have a couple of choices – maybe Latin Mass Catholic, traditional ethnic EO churches or old order Mennonites.
    Or home church??

  8. This is an area of great personal uncertainty for me. I’ve moved a lot over the years and been to many churches that appear Biblically sound in every way until that soundness might infringe women’s liberation. I’ve never been to one that didn’t waffle or obfuscate at this point with “interpretations” or reference to culture of that time and place.

    It’s a good question. I think it’s at least possible to make the case that head coverings are culture-bound; a sign of submission that might legitimately be replaced with something else in cultures with other such signs. But in our culture female head coverings are out of style specifically because they are interpreted as anti-feminist signs of submission. So it’s at least equally possible to make the case that churches in our culture should absolutely come down on the side of head coverings for women.

    But I’ve never seen a church actually do this, despite only attending churches that at least on paper uncompromising Bible-believers. It’s a heavy lift.

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