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Worldview Bible
For the Sake of Propriety


1 Corinthians 11:13-16

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

The Story: Paul returned in this paragraph to the question of shame and dishonor (verses 3-6), clinching his argument with two rhetorical questions. To the first, “Is it proper . . . ?” he expected the answer, “No.” To the second, “Does not nature itself teach . . . ?” he expected the answer, “Yes.” Nature carried great weight in Greek philosophy at the time particularly among the Stoics. Nature and natural law still carry (or at least should carry) great weight today. But Paul in this text is not using “nature” in a prescriptive way, but in a descriptive way. Throughout the Roman Empire, men had short hair and women had long hair. That was the way things were, with few exceptions (Paul’s vow in Acts 18:18 for example). Long flowing hair, a natural head covering, was considered part of the natural splendor or glory of being a woman. Thus, Paul asked the Corinthians to conclude, women should prophesy and pray with heads covered. He added, if anyone still wanted to argue the point, this is the way it is done in all the Christian churches. In all of them, women have covered heads while prophesying and praying. The Corinthian women should do the same.

The Structure: Paul’s argument about head covers cannot be construed as demanding that women wear hats or mantillas to worship. It does not mean that God demands short hair for men and long hair for women or that women cannot wear slacks and men cannot wear kilts. Paul made a theological argument about the nature of men and women, but based it on a prudential argument about head covers based on time and place. Paul was not concerned about heads at all. He was concerned for the health of the church and the church’s witness in Corinth and beyond. In this he did not sell out to the culture, but understood the importance of prudently working within the culture. Paul carefully distinguished between prudential issues and moral issues. On moral issues, Paul stood his ground without flinching. On prudential issues, Paul, raised as an observant Jew, was willing to bend. Paul thus displayed his Christian worldview and the truth and grace that are in Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

Are there moral judgments that you treat as prudential? Are their prudential judgments you treat as moral? How do we as Christians know the difference and sort them out?
 
Men, Women, and Creation


1 Corinthians 11:7-12

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. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

The Story: In this second part of his argument, Paul focused not on culture and dishonor, but on creation. To emphasize the distinction between men and women, he used the creation account in Genesis 2. God created the man first (Genesis 2:7) and he was the image and glory of God. Later God created the woman from the man. She was, thus, created for the man, to complete him in ways no other creature was able (Genesis 2:20b-24), making her the man’s “glory” (as Adam observed enthusiastically in Genesis 2:23). Paul’s point was not subordination of women, but the interdependence of men and women. Because of her place in creation and her relationship with man, however, Paul reasoned, her head should be covered “because of the angels.” What Paul appears to have been saying (the text is notoriously difficult to interpret) was that because women and men are not angels and are not like the angels (Mark 12:25), gender and the order of creation still matter. And so women should exercise their freedom in Christ by covering their heads as was appropriate in their culture.

The Structure: Blurring the distinctions between men and women is contrary to creation and the natural law, which is why it ultimately fails. The time will come when we “neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25), but that only happens after Jesus returns and we rise from the dead. The Cornithians believed the time had already come, that they could be like the angels without marriage or sexuality (7:1) even as they spoke the language of angels (13:1). Scholars call this “over-realized eschatology,” importing the things that will be someday into the present. It always causes doctrinal errors and practical problems just as it did in Corinth. We live instead in this age between the ages. An age in which God as already blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3), and yet an age in which we have not attained these blessings and are not perfect, but press on to make the great prize our own because we belong to Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14). We are free, but it’s a freedom laced through with humility, something the Corinthians lacked.

How do you use or abuse the freedom you have in Christ? Are there parts of your thinking or life that suffer from an over-realized eschatology? How can you make corrections?
 
Everything in Proper Order


1 Corinthians 11:3-6

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.

The Story: The early Christians did something unheard of in the ancient world and something that is rare in the world even today: Men and women worshipped together. Contrary to the culture, Christians regarded men and women as equals before God (Galatians 3:26-29). That’s the good news. The bad news is that the women in Corinth began abusing their newfound status and freedom. What specifically Paul had in mind when he refers wrote about head coverings is not clear from the historic record. This, however, is certain: The Corinthians were blurring the distinction between male and female. “Head” in this text has to do with source or origin as in the headwaters of a river. Man has his source in Christ (Genesis 2:7) and woman in man (Genesis 2:21-22). For that reason alone they differ. In this first of three arguments, Paul told the church that ignoring the distinctions between men and women by allowing women to pray and prophesy with uncovered heads is disgraceful from a cultural point of view, no less than if a woman cut her hair short or shaved her head.

The Structure: Blurring the distinction between men and women is crescendoing in our culture. We have same-sex couples claiming marriage and birth certificates listing “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” rather than “Mother” and “Father.” It’s reflected in transsexuals and in the growing movement toward “gender equality” in which “gender” is fluid, a thousand points along a spectrum rather than binary: male and female. In the name of a misguided sense of equality and fairness, many church leaders, churches, and denominations have been swept up into the error. Holding to a biblical understanding and a Christian worldview about gender, sexuality, marriage, and family is already difficult, and it will get harder. The biblical view will, ironically, be considered more and more culturally dishonoring and dishonorable. The need to make a reasonable and winsome case for the Christian worldview is becoming increasingly urgent.

How genuinely biblical is your understanding of man and woman? How well can you articulate the biblical view as good news for men and women?
 
Grace then Truth


1 Corinthians 11:2

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

The Story: Paul’s commendation sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. And that is most true at the beginning of his words about the worship in Corinth. In chapters 11-13 as a whole, Paul has little commendation and much condemnation. The Corinthians are far from maintaining the traditions he delivered to them. When they gather for worship, he wrote, “It is not for the better but for the worse” (11:17). So why the compliment as he begins? Probably the Corinthians had written in their letter to Paul that they remember him in everything and maintain all the traditions he delivered. Paul in a sense said, I’m glad to hear that, and then got down to business. It also served perhaps as the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. Paul was firm in all he believed, and even if he was afraid (2:3), he refused to withhold the truth. But in doing so even when it came to rebukes and correction, Paul was kind. Paul had about him the aroma of life and grace (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

The Structure: “For the law was given through Moses,” wrote John (1:17), “but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Paul, preparing to tell the Corinthians some very unpleasant truths, begins with grace. Pastor and author Timothy Keller has written, “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.” The Christian, imitating Paul as Paul imitated Jesus, combines grace (love) with truth in a way that brings assurance of God’s good will and at the same time clearly points out sin. It’s the combination that leads people to repentance and faith rather than preventing them from acknowledging their sin, getting angry, or spinning into despair.

People who consider themselves worldview thinkers typically have a high view of God’s truth and the need to communicate that truth to others. Are you equally enamored of God’s grace and the need to communicate that grace to the broken people in your life?
 
Imitation


1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

The Story: For a second time, Paul advised the Corinthians to imitate him just as he was imitating Christ (see 4:16). The imitation Paul urged included obedience to God (John 3:36), a sense of mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and a willingness to suffer (Matthew 10:24-25). The great fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom said of him, “Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead [Philippians 43:13-14]. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! [Philippians 4:4]. And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution [2 Corinthians 12:10]. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.”

The Structure: While it’s one thing for Paul to say, imitate me as I imitate Christ, it seems another thing altogether for you or me to say to others, imitate me as I imitate Christ. Why? Let me suggest three possible answers, each of which indicates a faulty worldview. First, “I’m not very holy and thus not worthy imitating.” The faulty worldview is either you don’t know or don’t care that holiness is your Christian birthright and calling (Hebrews 10:14) for without holiness, “no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Second, “I strive to live a holy life, but I don’t want to impose on anyone.” Yet our worldview tells us that the Christian family is supposed to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). And while we should not “impose on” in the sense of badgering others, our lives and words should propose the beauty of holiness. Third, “I understand my spiritual life as entirely private.” The worldview error is that Christianity knows no such spiritual life. “Let your light shine before others,” commanded Jesus, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Which error is your error? How will you go about correcting it? Whose life inspires you to imitation? What will it take before you’re willing to say to others, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
 
A Tall Order


1 Corinthians 10:31-32

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

The Story: With these verses, Paul ended and summarized his arguments about meat sacrificed to idols that began with 8:1. The length of Paul’s response indicates that the Corinthians made a great deal of what they perceived to be a complex issue. Paul, in summing up, simplifies. Focus your attention, he told them, on the glory of God and the salvation of others. Love God and neighbor and it will all come out right. And while Paul was well aware that some people would take offense regardless, he commanded the Christians to avoid behaving in ways that offended their neighbors, be they Jews, Gentiles, or Christians. That is, he called on them to sacrifice their rights for the good of others—their ultimate good, their salvation. Simple, yes, but it’s certainly not easy. And this is particularly the case since by nature and by habit, we humans tend to seek our own advantage over the good of others.

The Structure:The countercultural nature of the Christian message and worldview jumps out from these verses. St. Augustine of Hippo in his “City of God” begins by explaining how the City of Man is marked by the desire to dominate others, to make them do as I will. By contrast, he writes, the City of God is marked by love and thus a willingness to sacrifice for others. As Christians in this world, we live with a foot in each city, hence our struggle with selfishness on one hand and sacrifice on the other. As we struggle, we should keep in mind Paul’s last words in today’s text: “that they may be saved.” This temporal life is short. Eternal life is long. Sacrificing what will not last for our and for our neighbor’s eternal good seems a more than fair trade.

Does striving for the eternal mark your life or are you mostly earthbound? Are you quick to seek you own advantage or do you avoid giving offense to others for the sake of their salvation? What can you do to develop more of an eternal perspective?
 
Scruples and Consciences


1 Corinthians 10:25-29

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

The Story: Having finished with the question of eating meat sacrificed to idols at feasts in idol temples (don’t do it), Paul went on to the question of meat sold in the market or served for dinner in private homes. In the market or at a dinner party, he advises, don’t ask. Let the meat simply be God’s provision for the day. That is, Paul counseled the Corinthians not to be overly scrupulous, but to eat what was set before them. If, however, the butcher or the dinner party host, out of deference to the Christian who might be offended, mentions that the meat was fresh from an idol temple, the Christian should refrain for the sake of the conscience of the one who informed him or her of the meat’s source. That is, refrain in order to avoid offending or confusing the informant. Again, Paul was concerned for others. As to the meat, that it was sacrificed to idols was of no consequence to him. All things are provided by God and we should enjoy them with thanksgiving.

The Structure: While living a holy life should be the Christian’s highest priority (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16), Paul, like the masters of the spiritual life who followed him, knew that, as in everything else, we humans can go overboard. Not that we can be too holy, but that we can, in striving to be holy, become overly scrupulous and rulebound. Paul expected the Corinthian Christians to strive for holiness, but he encouraged them not to interrogate every butcher and dinner-party host over the source of the dinner and not to torment themselves over the issue. God loves us. He is not out to get us. He provides for us. Rather than burden our souls with a thousand coulds, cans, and mights, we should turn to God in faith and love, giving thanks in and for all things He provides.

Do you tend to be too lax or too scrupulous as you strive for holiness? How can you develop an appropriate balance? For what can you give thanks today? Try to list at least 25 things.
 
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