One of the saddest events in the Old Testament is associated with the name Ichabod. Ichabod was born when his mother heard that her husband and father-in-law had died, which immediately caused her to give birth and subsequently die. This sad event occurred because of the tragedy which took place in Israel, resulting indirectly in Eli’s death when he was informed of the defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines, the capture of the ark of the covenant, and the death of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas:
19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken” (1 Samuel 4:19-22).
The tragic irony of this event was that the Israelites were greatly encouraged by the presence of the ark, but the Philistines were terrified by it:
2 And the Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3 When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 And it happened as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, that all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. 7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 “Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 “Take courage and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent, and the slaughter was very great; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died (1 Samuel 4:2-11).
Earlier in Israel’s history, Samson had lost his God-given power, which he did not even realize at first:
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. 19 And she made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison (Judges 16:18-21).
We find the same thing described in the New Testament, where men have a false confidence of God’s presence and power among them when it simply is not true:
2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 ‘Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:1-3).
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. 16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:14-19).
There are those who believe that the glory of God has long since left the church of our Lord in our nation, and we, like men of old, hardly seem to notice it. A. W. Tozer is one of those who saw the downward decline of American Christianity and spoke up about it, as he wrote:
The message of this book does not grow out of these times but it is appropriate to them. It is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.
The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.
With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century.
The loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.
The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.116
J. I. Packer agrees as he writes in the introduction of his classic book, Knowing God,
Ninety years ago C. H. Spurgeon described the wobblings he then saw among the Baptists on Scripture, atonement and human destiny as ‘the down-grade’; could he survey Protestant thinking about God at the present time, I guess he would speak of ‘the nose-dive’!117
Tozer has some helpful comments concerning what we can do to bring back the departed glory. Listen to him:
What can we plain Christians do to bring back the departed glory? Is there some secret we may learn? Is there a formula for personal revival we can apply to the present situation, to our own situation? The answer to these questions is yes.
Yet the answer may easily disappoint some persons, for it is anything but profound. I bring no esoteric cryptogram, no mystic code to be painfully deciphered. I appeal to no hidden law of the unconscious, no occult knowledge meant only for the few. The secret is an open one which the wayfaring man may read. It is simply the old and ever-new counsel: Acquaint thyself with God. To regain her lost power the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God.
But the God we must see is not the utilitarian God who is having such a run of popularity today, whose chief claim to men’s attention is His ability to bring them success in their various undertakings and who for that reason is being cajoled and flattered by everyone who wants a favor. The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God and Saviour. He it is that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in, who bringeth out His starry host by number and calleth them all by name through the greatness of His power, who seeth the works of man as vanity, who putteth no confidence in princes and asks no counsel of kings.118
As we conclude this series, I will attempt to find one label which will serve as a biblical summation of the attributes of God.119 We will then consider the relevance and importance of this subject matter to men and women today.
A biblical expression which may encompass all of God’s attributes is found in the description of Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 33 and 34:
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight, and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exodus 33:17-19).
5 And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:5-7).
Moses requested of God that He show him His glory (33:18). After making it clear that He will not reveal His full glory to Moses, and that He is sovereign in bestowing His saving grace upon men, God manifests Himself to Moses. There is absolutely no description about how anything looked to Moses; we find here only the recorded words of God to Moses, words which declared His attributes. God’s attributes are the manifestation of the “glory of God.”
A similar linking of God’s attributes and God’s glory is found in the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Romans 1:18-23).
God revealed Himself in nature. In nature the invisible attributes of God are displayed (specifically, God’s eternal power and divine nature, verse 20). Men exchanged the “glory of the incorruptible God” for the image of corruptible men and other earthly creatures (verse 23). The attributes of God are God’s glory, and men are therefore obligated to glorify God in response to the revelation of such attributes.120 Sinful men do not glorify God, and consequently they prove themselves to be guilty sinners, rightly under divine condemnation. I wish to emphasize that the attributes of God and the glory of God are very closely associated, so much so that we might say God’s glory is the sum total of who God is, and who God is is defined by His attributes.
Even in Christian circles, the study of the attributes of God is looked upon as the kind of thing theologians do with little or no relevance to everyday people in their everyday lives. How wrong! Nothing is more relevant to the Christian than the glory of God. We shall first consider the glory of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, we will turn to the glory of God and the unbeliever. Finally, we will give thought to the glory of God and the Christian.
The Glory of God in Jesus Christ
The glory of God was to appear in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah foresaw this and spoke of it:
37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him; 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes, and He HARDENED THEIR HEART; lest they see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and be converted, and I heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said, because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him (John 12:37-41).121
At the birth of our Lord Jesus, we find references to the glory of God:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
32 A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
Both John and the author to the Hebrews emphasize that Jesus is the manifestation of God’s glory:
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
When Jesus performed His first sign by turning the water into wine, John saw this as a manifestation of the glory of God in our Lord Jesus Christ:
11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him (John 2:11).
Why would we be surprised to find that the temptation of our Lord involved Satan’s offer of an inferior “glory”?
8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
The disciples had a distorted perception of the glory of God, and they wanted to be a part of it (see Mark 10:37). Only later would they understand the glory of God and the fact that we must suffer with Him in order to enter into His glory.
There were a few events in the life of Christ which gave men a glimpse of our Lord’s full glory. The first happened before a crowd:
27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 “Father, glorify Thy name.” There came therefore a voice out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him” (John 12:27-29).
The other incident was the transfiguration of our Lord witnessed only by Peter, James, and John:
29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about
In His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him (17:5), indicates that He has given His followers the glory which the Father gave to Him (verse 22), and asks that they may be with Him in order to behold His glory (verse 24). When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was by (not just for) the glory of God:
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
His return to the earth, to defeat His foes and establish His kingdom, will be in glory (see Matthew 16:27; 24:30; 25:31).
The Glory of God and the Unbeliever
The unbeliever’s problem is sin and its consequences. The glory of God is the standard by which sin is defined, and because all men fall short of God’s glory, they also are under divine sentence of condemnation:
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Although the creation reveals the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-20), unbelieving men reject this knowledge, choosing instead to exchange God’s glory for the false glory of created things, including man himself (Romans 1:21-23). As a result, man comes under divine condemnation122 and comes to glory in things which are really a shame to man (Romans 1:24-27; Philippians 3:19).
To be saved, men must acknowledge their sin, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the sentence of death which awaits them (see John 16:8-12). They must trust in Jesus Christ as God’s provision for sinners. He, the sinless Son of God, died in the sinner’s place, bearing the penalty for our sins. His righteousness is available to all who believe in Him for salvation (John 1:12; 3:16, 36; Romans 3:21-26; 10:9-11). But Satan has blinded the hearts and minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the glory of God in Christ through the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). In the final analysis, only the Spirit of God can open the eyes of the blind to see the light of the glorious gospel and come to faith (see Luke 4:18-19; John 6:65; 8:43-47; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18).
In the days of the Great Tribulation, men will experience the wrath of God and be given another opportunity to give glory to God and avoid judgment, but they will refuse (Revelation 14:6-7; 16:9). All men will ultimately acknowledge Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God (Philippians 2:11), but not as adoring believers. In the end, they will spend eternity separated from the glory of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
The Glory of God and the Christian
The church plays a vital role in bringing glory to God:
21 To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:21).
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:24-29).
When God purposed the salvation of individual believers, He did so for His own glory:
22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:22-24).
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6, see also verses 12, 14).
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; 6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. 8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers (Romans 15:5-8).
Christians understand that their privilege and calling is to bring glory to God. Man is not the center of the spiritual universe, and God is not our servant, at our beck and call to make us feel good and to keep us from pain. God is the center of the universe, and He causes all things to work together for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28). “All things” includes persecution and suffering and difficulties.123 The Christian sees that God causes good things to come from our suffering and trials:
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:18-23).
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3).
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory124 and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Whatever suffering and sorrow we may experience in this life cannot hold a candle to the glory which awaits us:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
The glory of God should be the goal for all that we do and the standard by which we determine what we should or should not do:
31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
In this passage, Paul is writing concerning the exercise of our individual, personal convictions as Christians. He is not speaking about things that are clearly commanded, but about things which are permissible. The standard by which we determine whether we exercise a particular liberty is not whether we can, or even whether we want to, but whether it glorifies God. Thus, while Paul has the right to be financially supported as an apostle, he chose not to on numerous occasions for the promotion of the gospel and thus the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-23).
Many people agonize over “knowing the will of God,” and many books have been written on the subject. But the answer is intensely simple at the core. Does God command or forbid something? Then you know the will of God. It is imperative that we read our Bibles, pray, witness, and gather to worship with other believers. It is God’s will that we abstain from immorality, and do not lie. But in allegedly gray areas, those areas where God has not give a command or a prohibition, we need only ask one question: Does it glorify God?
When we pray, the goal for our petitions should be the glory of God. We should not focus on God “meeting our felt needs,” but on God receiving glory. We can be assured that prayers for the glory of God are much more readily heard and answered than prayers which ask God to meet our selfish desires (see James 4:3).
Finally, the glory of God is the key to understanding God’s order in the church. We should recognize that the church is central to God’s purposes in this age just as Israel was in Old Testament times, and that it will be again (see Romans 11). The church is the body of Christ. Through His Spirit, Christ indwells His church, and through His “body,” Christ continues to work in the world. Some of Christ’s instructions to the church may seem difficult to understand and even more difficult to apply. One area is the ministry and conduct of women in the church. One can hardly deny the New Testament teaches that women are to be in submission in the church. This submission relates to women’s dress (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-5), their prohibition from teaching or exercising authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11-15), and the requirement that they “keep silent,” which includes even the asking of questions in the church meeting (1 Corinthians 14:34-36).
My intention is not to convince you that these instructions are just as applicable today as they were in the first century, though this is the simple fact of the matter. The principle objections to the instructions given to women by Peter and Paul come from our own sin natures and from the culture in which we live. Arguments against the simple, straightforward teaching of the New Testament on the ministry and conduct of women in the church are based on a handling of the New Testament which is far from compelling.125
Be all this as it may, my desire is to point out in the context of this message that the glory of God is one of the keys to understanding why these New Testament instructions for women have been given.126 Interestingly, it is the problem passage in 1 Corinthians 11 which most plainly deals with the aspect of the glory of God:
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 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. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).
While the exposition of this text is not my focus, it is clear that while we may argue over certain “gnats” of this text, the “camels” ought to be clear. The principle underlying the passage is headship. The word head could hardly be more emphatic than in these verses. What a woman does with regard to her head is directly linked to the headship of Christ over His church. Headship does involve authority, but it involves much more than just authority. Headship also involves glory. That is what the New Testament instructions to women are all about. For the wife to dress in such a way as to draw attention to herself is for the wife to bring glory to herself, rather than to her husband. For a wife to have an uncovered head was to openly display her glory (her hair is her glory), rather than to bring glory to her husband. For the wife to teach or to exercise authority is to take a position which usurps the glory she should seek to bring to her husband. When all is said and done, the principles underlying the ministry and conduct of women in the church are those of headship and glory. If a woman desires to glorify God by her conduct, she will seek to bring glory to her husband rather than seek glory for herself.
Hard words? Perhaps, but I am convinced they are both biblical and true. But do not think this matter of God’s glory only applies to women. Neither is the headship of Christ and His glory an excuse for men to seek a position of preeminence in the church, for preeminence is all about glory, and the glory should be our Lord’s. This is also why we find the principle of plurality taught in the Scriptures. There is but one “Head” of the church, and that “Head” is our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). And because of this, no man is to seek to be preeminent, for the glory is to be our Lord’s:
1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).
1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4).
What a marvelous reality is the glory of God. The glory of God is our hope. The glory of God is our ambition, our motivation, our goal. The glory of God should govern our actions, our prayers, our motives, our ministry. And, like Moses, we should always seek to see more of His glory as we study His Word and seek to behold the glory of His nature and attributes. May this study be only the beginning of a lifetime of seeking to know God, to see His glory, and to seek His glory. His glory is our highest goal and our highest good. To God be the glory!
23 Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24, KJV).