G. Subduing our flesh

Some of Christ's teachings can be gathered under the principle, "The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please" (Galatians 5:17).

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13).

When you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you Matthew 6: 17-18; also 9:15).

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body (Leviticus Corinthians 6:18).

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God... because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you (Leviticus Thessalonians 4:3-6).

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8).

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [or "heresies"], envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you -- unless indeed you fail the test (2 Corinthians 13:5).

We have already discussed the nature of the regenerate man: the two centers he possesses (flesh and spirit), from which originate two conflicting energies, desires and motivations. The Lord and His apostles teach us that an aspect of our sanctification is a warfare that we initiate against our own lower center, the flesh. Both the will-power emphasis of the west and the meditative way of the East are deceptions: we cannot will or meditate ourselves into God's peace. Our will cannot free us from our flesh, since it is an expression of that very flesh. And meditation is a form of mental concentration, self-hypnosis, mental anesthesia, and/or deceptive fantasy (depending upon the form it takes), and the "peace" it produces is at best merely natural, and at worst a demonic "high." God's peace comes from the enjoyment of His indwelling presence, and from actually conquering and subjugating the source of our enmity with Him. No other "way" can conquer the flesh, for no other way imparts the presence and power of the Spirit of God. But Christ's Spirit within our spirit can actually isolate and subjugate that flesh in both its crude and its subtle manifestations. And then, after we depart from this "tent" in our death, we shall be completely free from it, as we are clothed with a new tent not made by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1).

The "flesh" spoken of in the New Testament cannot be simply equated with the body and its desires; and yet the flesh does manifest itself through our body and its desires. The fleshly nature of man can express itself through any of the powers of man: through His bodily senses (as cravings, hungers), through his feelings (as emotions) and through his thoughts (as concepts, intuitions, etc.). The text from Galatians 5, quoted above, contains a mixture of all three manifestations of the flesh: bodily manifestations would include "immorality" (Greek, "porneia"), impurity, sensuality, drunkenness and carousings; emotional manifestations would include strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger; the mental manifestations would include idolatry, sorcery, enmities, disputes, dissensions, factions and envyings. Of course, there are no hard boundaries that separate the three kinds of manifestations. Sensuality, for example, has intellectual as well as emotional components. But God's revelation teaches us that we have a fight on our hands at three levels of our being, and that we must carry on that warfare at all three levels in order to truly subjugate our flesh.

Bodily flesh

At the first level of "flesh," our body must be subdued, so that it becomes what Paul above calls the "slave" of our will. Gluttony, lust, drunkenness (alcoholic or chemical) and other forms of pleasure-seeking are inextricably attached to the legitimate body desires in the fallen nature of man (in varying proportions), and so we cannot let our body's desires be gratified without first exercising censorship upon them. And we must learn to take the initiative in conquering our body system: fasting, conquering any bondages, conquering all sexual disobedience (fornication, petting, sensual imaginings, masturbation), conquering the body's distaste for work.

The celibate way of life provides one context for the conquest of "porneia" or "immorality."1 Contrary to common belief, regenerate and Spirit-empowered human beings are not at all stunted in their humanity by refraining from participation in lawful sexual communion: Jesus, Paul, and countless numbers of celibate Christians throughout the ages are testimony against that popular notion (the behavior and unfulfilled condition of non-Christian or non-called celibates says nothing against this).

But even if a person chooses the way of sexual intimacy, the Lord has outlined a way of conquering "porneia" in that context. First of all, there is a discipline for couples before they are married: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Corinthians 7:1). The Christian dating couple must refrain from every form of sensual arousal: occasional light kisses and touches which express only affection are easily distinguished from those which arouse desire for deeper intimacy, and the latter is judged "porneia" right until the wedding occurs (no matter how old or previously experienced -- e.g., widows -- the couple may be). The desire for sexual intimacy and for orgasm is, of course, not sinful, but it is simply unlawful to satisfy or encourage that desire apart from wedded union.

Masturbation (including any erotic fantasizing) is similarly to be rejected and resisted, whether or not one is married: sensual self-stimulation is "porneia" in all its forms. From experience, I realize what a deep bondage it can be, once the habit has been developed. But regardless of how often we may be conquered by the flesh, we must confess it as sin, return to a resistance of it as being sinful and destructive, and fight all the fantasy that typically precedes the act of masturbation.

Homosexuality is also within the category of "porneia." Romans 1:24-28 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 make that very clear to anyone who isn't determined to twist their clear meaning. It may have been entered purely from sensual motivation: a desire for pleasure regardless of the source; or, it may have been entered because of demonic deception that had started early in life -- namely, that you are one of those who has a different nature and different needs than do most others of your biological gender. But regardless of the original motivation, all homosexual practice is an expression of sinful lust. One may be victimized by the demonically-inspired temptation and have great distaste for sexual encounter with one of the opposite sex even after coming to Christ -- all without sin. But any sexual encounter outside of the male-female wedded bond is "porneia." For a repenting homosexual to lapse into a homosexual episode is to be dealt with like fornication or adultery. With expressions of repentance, and whatever counsel or discipline may be required, such a person must be welcomed back into the fellowship. Anyone who recoils in revulsion at homosexual fornication, but thinks heterosexual fornication is "normal" sin is reacting to sin the way humans do, not the way God does. Both are sensual and demonically inspired, and both lead to hell. The person who must struggle with this temptation is to be warmly supported by his teammates in the brotherhood, for we are all in a struggle against the powers of hell, regardless of what form they take.

Drunkenness is a sowing to the flesh that causes destruction to be reaped -- this is true whether the source of intoxication is alcohol, herb or chemical. However, it is simply wrong to teach that drinking alcohol is wrong. The Scriptures never even imply such an attitude, let alone assert it. The prohibitions against drunkenness all presume a context of permissible drinking, or else they would make no sense (e.g., Ephesians 5:18; Titus 1:7; Luke 21:34). And several Scriptures very directly allow it, either by example or by direction (John 2:1-10; 1 Corinthians 11:21-22; 1 Timothy 5:23). It is not wine, but "much wine" that is the subject of prohibition for the disciple of Christ (1 Timothy 3:8). This is an area where one must listen to the guidance and warnings of the Holy Spirit. It is not at all difficult to stay far from drunkenness if one listens to God and is eager to grow in holiness. For a repentant alcoholic, it may well be necessary to have the pastors impose a temporary discipline of total abstinence, just as they might have to impose a diet or fast for one who has proven guilty of gluttony (ouch!). But the Church has no warrant from God to teach that drinking is a sin, without either accusing her own Savior of sin or of twisting and turning "wine" into "grape juice:" we may not take away liberties that the Scripture grants!

Emotional flesh

We have said that there is a warfare to be conducted at all three levels of our being. The second of the levels is that of our feelings or emotions. The warfare is more subtle at this level, and conquest may not be as simple a matter as the conquest of our physical desires. One reason for this is that we human beings have usually come to be more thoroughly surrendered to domination by our emotions and moods than to domination by our physical appetites in the course of our development. Most of us have learned to respond to people and to challenges on the basis of unexamined intuitive and emotional reactions. We tend to let ourselves like or fall in love with the kinds of people that our feelings dictate to us, for example, rather than the people whom we admire and respect for godly reasons. If we become subservient to our anger we develop tempers, and then just think "well that's me, and I can't change my character." Fear can also come to domination in certain areas, without our ever having felt free to check it and rule it. For all too many of us believers it does not even occur to do anything other than give in to our emotions or moods: we wake up feeling the feeling of anxiety and immediately yield to it and begin serving it.

But our emotions are no more a source of what is true than is our craving for food (for example); emotions have no more right to express themselves unchecked than does our sexual lust. The world, on the other hand, is bowing down in our day to the combined opinion of many psychologists and gurus, that there is something extraordinarily creative, even divine, about our inner self and its intuitions.

Perhaps the most common deception among believers in this area has to do with the attitude about our conscience. After some generations of teaching that all we need to guide us is our conscience, many (including many thoughtless Christians) have come to assume that there is something divine, authoritative or infallible about one's conscience. Yet our conscience, with its feelings of guilt, is subject to the same programming that any of our emotions is subject to. Things are not right because they "feel" right, but only because they are approved by God. After our consciences have been subjected to the word of God we can begin to trust them somewhat, but there is nothing inherently trustworthy about our consciences: it is reported that in the India of last century many widows would be conscience-stricken with guilt if they did not throw themselves into the fire that was cremating their husband's body. And even after our conversion our consciences may continue to function according to an unbiblical programming -- being too sensitive in one area and too calloused in another.

Saint Francis used to call his body "brother donkey." Well, the more you treat your feelings like a "brother donkey" -- a subtle expression of your fleshly nature, yet for all that, only a beast to be tamed -- the sooner you will experience peace on a daily basis. You will still tend to feel the feelings of lust, anger or fear when stimulated by your traditional sources of temptation, but you will identify with those feelings less and less. They will still be there, but you will not think of them as "you" in the way you used to. You will experience more and more vividly Paul's experience: "I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" (Romans 7:20). And, finally, the feelings themselves will eventually fall away, and you will find victory over the habit or response that they used to create in you (emotional disorders, temper outbursts, masturbation, nervous eating, etc.).

Mental flesh

The third level of our being at which we must detect and destroy the flesh's manifestation is that of our thought life. All thinking that is in conflict with God's revelation is of the flesh. Astrology, the occult, heresies, divisive attitudes, judgmental attitudes, are all manifestations of the flesh at the level of the mind. Many of them are also what Paul calls doctrines taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1). The only way one may be free from this manifestation of the flesh is to be submitted to the teachings and values of the Scriptures in the same childlike and undoubting way that Jesus was. A mind that considers itself free to think what it wants, and considers itself free from Scriptural restraints, must of necessity fall eventually into heresy or other manifestations of flesh in the mind. All impulses of the mind are to be regarded and treated in the same way as impulses of the body and of the emotions. We are not to identify with them, but to bring them under subjection. According to Christ and His apostles,2 a certain portion of those thoughts or impulses are not even ours, but merely projections of Satan's thoughts into our minds. Satan would have us think his thoughts, feel his feelings and then obey his bodily impulses, if he can get us to identify with his projections as though they were our own. These thoughts are to be fought with the same kind of dialogue that Jesus used during His temptation in the wilderness.

Another portion of our thoughts are fantasies that come from our flesh: daydreaming, imaginary conflicts, false attitudes about people and about God. These manifestations of the flesh at the level of our minds will always work against the attitude of prayer, Scripture meditation, the exercise of faith in the promises of God, and against being reconciled and united with people. It is not until we bring demonic thoughts and fleshly thoughts into subjection that we will be able to trust our minds to receive God's thoughts for our guidance. This is an idea which charismatic Christians need to hear very often: they are more vulnerable because they are more open (as they ought to be) to receiving God's revelations.

But no matter what level of our selves we are dealing with -- body, emotions or thoughts -- we must realize that our sanctification requires the detection, warfare and conquest of the flesh in that area, so that we become "spiritual" people (Galatians 6:1) -- people who are consistently led by the Holy Spirit through their spirits. Our body, our emotions and our thoughts are not evil in themselves; we are not to think of them as evil realities which are to be escaped, but rather as unruly beasts of burden which we must break, tame and train in the ways of God.

And some struggles may last years. Some fortified cities have to be assaulted many times, over many years, before their walls are brought down; but they will eventually be destroyed, if we continue faithful in our combat (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sometimes things take longer to conquer than we initially expected because God does not intend to deliver us from the simplest manifestation of sin until we have faced up to and repented of some of its deeper causes. Deeper than our masturbation or homosexuality, for example, may be self-centeredness, love of pleasure, pride, refusal to grant our spouse authority over our bodies, and/or even a demonic presence that had been granted a home within us when we first surrendered to its deceptions and fantasies as a child. God may well intend to humble and deal with us in these deeper areas before granting us deliverance from the masturbation or homosexuality itself.

H. Teachings about faith and miracles

Some of our Master's teachings may be gathered under the principle, "The things impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).

Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which you cursed has withered." And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen; it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you" (Mark 11:21-24).

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in My name, I will do it (John 14:12-14).

And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (1 John 5:14-15).

"And these signs will accompany those who have believed; in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" ...And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed (Mark 16:17-18, 20).3

Jesus was not only a teacher of obedience, but a teacher of faith. The people who were willing to stand with Him against this fallen and rebellious world were encouraged by Him to expect great things from our Father.

Apostolic Christianity is miracle-expecting and miracle-working Christianity, as we have already seen above. Every true disciple should expect, as a part of his training by God, to participate eventually in the miracles and signs that Jesus Himself performed. And every true disciple should press on to become effectual in prayer: "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:17); "the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick" (James 5:15).

It is important to remember that we must first accept the promises as true, and then grow into them: if we believe, step out in faith and then fail, we are not to lose heart or doubt the promises; we must press on -- keep growing in faith, obedience and humility -- and then step out again. Remember the original disciples; there was a time they could not cast out a demon because of the littleness of their faith (Matthew 17:14--21), even though Christ had already given them the authority to do so (Matthew 10:1-8). But in time they were raising the dead (Acts 9:36-41). And when Peter first stepped out in faith, he discovered that he did not have enough to keep him afloat very long (Matthew 14:28-31). It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us into the faith of Christ -- the same kind of faith that Jesus exhibited while upon the earth; but that faith (and its prayer life) is something that grows -- like the tiny mustard seed which grows into a supportive bush (Luke 17:5-6, 13:18-19).4

Many Christians have been taught not to believe these promises in the grand way that a literal and natural reading of the Scriptures would lead you to believe, because it supposedly would mean that you expect to get anything you want, become a millionaire, etc. But that is an objection that springs out of mistaken thinking about who inherits His promises. The people to whom Jesus gave the promises are His disciples and "slaves" (as disciples so often are described in the parables). The ones who have the right to believe mountains can be moved (Mark 11:23) are people who have abandoned this world, with its deceptive treasures and perverted values. They are the people who have access to the mind of Christ, and can come to know whether they ought to pray for a particular thing (see above, 1 John 5:15); we cannot truly "believe" (as God defines the term) that what we pray for we are going to receive, if we do not have the God-given confidence that we are praying according to His will. And apostolic Christians are people who are under obedience to Christ, not worldly daydreamers who are seeking fortunes and ease in this life. They are expecting, even desiring, to become crucified with Christ to sin, self and the world -- and they have been instructed to believe that God will hear and fulfill the prayers that His Spirit has inspired. But, alas, all too many Christians are not the kind of people that Christ intended to receive His promises; they must enter into His heart before they can enter into His promises. But the promises stand as they are written, nevertheless.

I. Christian coverings and symbols

There are teachings of Christ that pertain to our appearance or to specific acts of obedience that have symbolic value.

In matters of detail such as are included in this section, the opinion is quite frequently encountered that the way of Christ deals with "important" issues, and for one to even think about such seemingly insignificant matters as hair length or head coverings is to descend to the level of those Pharisees who strained gnats and swallowed camels. But this is another example of man creating a picture of Jesus after their own imaginations. The real Jesus did not share such an attitude about letting little issues go unattended: "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much" (Luke 16:10).5 I have never observed anyone cutting off their little toe on the ground that it was not essential to their humanity; neither should we dismiss seemingly trivial symbolic acts on similar grounds.

Furthermore, even though we may acknowledge that some of these observances that are described below do not appear to be intrinsically important, such as the wearing of the veil for female disciples, it may well turn out that there are deeper issues lying beneath the surface. Suppose it is true that there is an evil spiritual enemy of the human race who is exceedingly vigilant to inspire the corruption of what God has created: blending together what God had distinguished, tearing down barriers that God had erected, erecting barriers where there should be none. Suppose that Satan is working very vigorously to pit man and woman against each other, and children against parents. What if it is true that He tries to convince some men that they are women, and women that they are men -- that he tries to inspire women to cast off their divinely-created need for headship and that he tries to inspire all human beings to cast off all the authority they can, on the grounds that it is hostile to our individuality. If all of that is indeed true, then might not God Himself well create some symbols by which these divinely-created distinctions and authorities can be affirmed by us? If such a grave danger were indeed true, it would then seem to me a perfectly logical thing for God to do; does it not to you? Not only does it seem perfectly logical, it also makes those symbols sound somewhat more than "mere" symbols. It even sounds strangely similar to a story we have been told, how God placed a symbolic tree in the midst of the garden, with a command to leave its symbolic fruit alone; and what trouble arose because man felt free to ignore a "mere" symbol (Genesis 3).

1. Dressing like a disciple

And let not your adornment be external only6 -- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, and putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4).

I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Peter was not prohibiting all jewelry; if he were totally forbidding jewelry then the grammar of the text would require that he also had been totally forbidding the "putting on of dresses" -- an unlikely prohibition, to say the least. But while not explicitly forbidding all decorations, the apostles are certainly inhibiting them (on men as well as women, of course). People who know the beauty of the Holy Spirit's presence begin to be illuminated with His supernatural beauty and vitality; they do not need, and should not desire, external decorations. If a person were to show up with a few items of jewelry, the apostles would hardly object. But we must know what is activating us in this matter: examine yourself, to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you are trying to draw attention to yourself or to your prosperity God knows it: it is a sowing to the flesh that will produce an appropriate reaping. And if your dress is immodest or ostentatious you will be subject to correction from your pastors.

On the other hand, one can dress so severely or out of fashion that attention is also being called to oneself; in that case we would be in danger of practicing our righteousness before men (Matthew 6:1). Our dress should not cause us to stand out in either direction. Attire should be simple, and as inexpensive as possible (keeping durability and longevity in mind, however). We are not permitted by God to let our dress become a reflection of our prosperity.

2. Upraised hands

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands... (1 Timothy 2:8).

This does not mean that prayer is invalid for a man unless he is lifting up his hands. The uplifted hands are a symbol of blessing (e.g., Luke 24:50; Psalm 28:2, 134:2); and in our common worship, when we are blessing and praising God, Paul tells us that the men ought to lift up their hands to God. If you are experienced in the movement of the Holy Spirit upon you then you know that there are times of worship when you will feel the need to raise your hands and bless the Lord. Upraised hands also naturally express openness and surrender to God.

If you have been to an Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Anglican celebration of the Eucharist you will have seen the priest standing with hands upraised. This posture is a ritualization of that ancient tradition in the Church which used to apply to all the men.

3. Abstaining from blood

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials; that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication (Acts 15:28-29; also 15:20, 1 Corinthians 10:25-29).

Most of us are not in any danger of eating food that has been sacrificed to false gods, but most of us are in contact with the blood of meat from time to time. It is commonly taught that this tradition was only imposed while there were enough Jewish believers around to get scandalized at the sight of men eating meat with the blood in it. But that line of argument is not at all derived from the Scriptures or from the practice of the early Church. The reason this prohibition continued on into the new covenant was, in all likelihood, because it had been imposed by God upon all men, long before the coming of the old covenant. When God first gave man permission to eat meat -- to Noah immediately after the flood -- He said, "you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Genesis 9:4). The life of all creatures comes from God, and our abstaining from blood was (and is) to be a symbolic way of acknowledging that all life belongs to Him alone. Also, the Lord gave Israel blood to apply to the altar for the purpose of making atonement, "for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Leviticus 17:11); and blood was prohibited to their use for that reason as well. We Christians do not abstain from blood for that old covenant reason, but we too do have blood -- new covenant blood -- that was given to us to make atonement for our sin. Thus we are honoring the blood of Christ in abstaining from animal blood.

In the early Church this apostolic tradition was continued. During the fierce persecution of believers at Lyons (c.170 A.D.), one martyr defended the Christians against the charge that they ate the flesh of children by saying, "How could such as these devour children, who considered it unlawful even to taste the blood of irrational animals?"7

Similarly, the famous Tertullian (c.200 A.D.) also bore witness to the continuance of the apostolic tradition:8

[Writing to the pagans:] Blush for your vile ways before the Christians, who have not even the blood of animals at their meals of simple and natural food; who abstain from things strangled and that died a natural death, for no other reason than that they may not contract pollution, so much as from blood secreted in the viscera. To clench the matter with a single example, you tempt Christians with sausages of blood, just because you are perfectly aware that the thing by which you thus try to get them to transgress they hold unlawful. And how unreasonable it is to believe that those, of whom you are convinced that they regard with horror the idea of tasting the blood of oxen, are eager after blood of men...

The Church continued obedient in this regard until around the time of Augustine (c.400 A.D.), who defended its abandonment.9

4. Woman's silence in the assembly

Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church... If any one thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 37-38).

This prohibition usually stirs up the proverbial hornets' nest if one tries to propose it for our day. This discipline is so strenuously rejected today by the great majority of Christian traditions because the whole Biblical teaching about women that underlies it has been rejected. According to the obvious and clear teaching of God's apostle, however -- the God who does not change and to whom all will render account, remember -- men are the rulers of the home and of the church, and it is they who are to do the speaking out during the assembly.10 I can appreciate the strength of the resistance that must be felt by many people who have been raised in the atmosphere of our modern sexual democracy: it is the way I also was raised. And from that perspective, the suspicion quite naturally arises that what is being recommended here is the putting of women into the former role they had to endure within society, where they were subject to the whims of a male-dominated pseudo-Christian society. But this teaching, like all others of the New Testament, was never intended or given to be a principle to guide secular society.11 It was given to those who have consciously separated themselves from the ways and wisdom of the world. The men who are the leaders of Church and home are not men who abuse their wives, but are committed imitators of Jesus Christ -- men who are committed to honor their wives, and sacrifice themselves for them. It is to such men that God is asking His daughters to be in submission. The teaching is given for the ordering of God's society rather than man's.

This teaching is so very clearly expressed, and is backed up with such a sharp rebuke against those who reject it, that the only possible reason to account for why it is so universally ignored by Christians in our day is because of the rebelliousness of the women and the fearfulness of the men -- combined with just plain ignorance -- that characterizes the congregations of modern Christendom.

Furthermore, once this very clearly-worded discipline is abandoned, no other discipline in the Scriptures can be logically defended. To say that Paul's attitude about women's roles expressed here is something that he is merely allowing or perpetuating because of the attitudes of his day is to ignore the line of his reasoning in 1 Corinthians 11:3-12: it is theological reasoning, not sociological. To be logical, therefore, one must accuse Paul of bad theology over this issue if you refuse to accept his teaching and command. And if that is what you choose to do, you must also -- if you are to maintain your integrity and consistency -- draw the conclusion that necessarily follows: Paul does not have the authority from God and the inspiration of the Spirit that he claimed to have (e.g., 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, 4:1-3, 11:1-2; 2 Corinthians 10:1-8). Tell God that Paul did not in this instance know the difference between the reasoning and traditions of men, and the wisdom of God; and then tell God that you and your age possess a higher wisdom than Paul at this point, that your understanding and practice regarding the roles of men and women in the home and in the church are superior to Paul's: you may as well tell God this openly, for that is what your refusal to bend to Paul's teaching is screaming out anyway (to anyone who values consistency and the meaning of language, at any rate). You may as well openly call upon God to choose between you and Paul, if you are so sure of yourself: because that is precisely what you are forcing Him to do by your preferring modern worldly attitudes about men and women over the Biblical attitude.

To ignore any clear Biblical injunction, including this one, must contribute to the doctrine that the apostles and their writings are not divinely inspired for all ages in everything that they affirm. One simply cannot at the same time believe in the Spirit's inspiration of the apostles and the Scriptures, be consistent, and also ignore this crystal-clear command. The fact that so many Christians reason this way only goes to show how illogical and compartmentalized their thinking is.

There is no point in trying to defend this discipline to anyone if they reject the idea that godly women are to be under the rule of godly men. If a person accepts the idea then they will not choke over the discipline; if they reject the idea, logic demands that they will have to find the discipline quite degrading to women. As with his reasoning concerning the veil (for which, see below), Paul is telling us that a woman must go out of her way to renounce the arrogance of Eve in coming out from under Adam's authority. The fact that woman was created for man, not man for woman (1 Corinthians 11:8-9), and the fact that it was woman who was first deceived, not man (1 Timothy 2:14) both tell us, Paul says, that something in the changed and fallen nature of Eve was passed down to her daughters. Men and women are both fallen, but their fallenness can express itself in somewhat differing ways.12 Because of this inherited tendency in female fleshly nature, it is necessary for a woman to fight her flesh through special kinds of exertion: she must go out of her way to yield submission to the one who is her head, and she must cultivate quietness.

These forms of quietness and submissiveness are tailor-made for woman's true nature (as opposed to the nature the world in our day insists women have). By practicing these apostolic disciplines, therefore, a female disciple of Christ will feel stronger and more true to her real self than if she refuses to practice them: God's ways always make us feel better and more wholesome when we obey them, because they are in harmony with our true natures. After all, who knows what enhances our true natures better than the One who created them; and who knows how we should counteract our fallen natures better than the One who was there at the fall and who has become our Savior?

5. Hair

... Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God (1 Cor.11:14-16).

Some object to this, as I used to, on the ground that "nature" does not seem to teach that lesson; rather, they would say, Paul is arguing from custom and confusing unchallenged custom with nature itself. For one who takes the inspiration of the Scriptures and of the apostles seriously, however, that is dangerous reasoning. It is more humble before God to respect Paul's anointing of that Spirit who teaches us all things, and consider that such a man was more in touch with what nature teaches than we are.

However, there is no requirement that the top of the ear be considered the dividing line between men's and women's hair. The difference between the two lengths should be great enough so that there is no danger of confusing the one for the other.

6. Head covering

Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head (1 Corinthians 11:4-6; read also vs. 3-16).

Much of what was said in the two sections before this one applies here as well. The symbol of woman's submissiveness to lawful authority, and the symbol of her acceptance that she was indeed created to be a helpmate for her man (despite Eve's presumptions) is her veil. Just as her long hair provides a natural head covering, her veil provides a symbolic one (11:15). Her God has provided her with a sacramental way of confessing that she is a daughter of Sarah (1 Peter 3:6), rather than a daughter of Eve.

The veil ought to be a symbol that is highly treasured by a woman, not one that is reluctantly worn. Because we are again dealing with something that touches upon woman's nature, the wearing of the veil when entering into the assembly or at other times of prayer will speak to a woman's heart, once she has overcome any inner resistance that might remain to the symbol: it will be a sacramental act for her, a sacrament of her surrender to God, and one that helps her experience the presence of God more fully. This does not mean that a woman may not pray without her veil, should she not have one around at the time. What is required by Paul, as a minimum, is that women wear their veils in the assembly and when prophesying.


The teachings of Jesus we have been covering these past two chapters are given so that we may begin to participate in the way of heaven even now, while we are still surrounded by the world. It goes without saying that this way of responding and acting is not at all natural to us human beings, regenerate disciples though we may be. Jesus knew full well that His way of life cuts right through the most fundamental and tenacious instincts that we possess: the instincts for survival, for security, for pleasure and for revenge. But, as we noted before, He told those who listened to Him -- before they ever became disciples -- that He did not come to bring peace, but a divisive sword (Matthew 10:34), and that those who follow Him must be prepared to die to themselves, to all they hold dear, and even to life in this world. Anyone who does not have that motivation when coming to baptism is still in some degree of deception, and not yet clearly a "convert" to Christ. To admit into the Church and to give the status of "Christian" to those who have not first thought through this decision does them no good, as I know from very painful experience. The "growth" of such a person will not be consistent and fruitful, but will eventually be hampered (or even reversed) by that deception.

Therefore, we cannot emphasize strongly or frequently enough that these teachings of Jesus must be known and accepted -- at least in clear outline -- before one is baptized. While Jesus was in the flesh He presented His teachings in all of their rigor to those who had not yet even been empowered by the Holy Spirit; indeed, they were not even regenerated! And if many people were able to leave "all things" to follow Him even before they were regenerate, how can we entertain for a moment the thought that "baby Christians" are not capable of receiving the full demands of Christ's teachings? The only commission the church has is to make disciples of Jesus and then baptize them (Matthew 28:19): they must be prepared to enter into the life-and-death struggle with their own flesh from the very beginning of their walk with Christ. They must know from the very beginning the form of teaching to which they have been committed (Romans 6:17). The confession "Jesus is Lord" is theological shorthand, and must have much more understanding underlying it than the bare meaning of those three words before it becomes an acceptable confession of faith in the eyes of God. Many a follower of the B'hai religion or of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, for example, would gladly make the statement, "Jesus is Lord" (with the implied addition, "along with all the others"). And the statement that "Jesus is Lord" must even say more than "Jesus is the only begotten divine Son of God who has taken my sins away," before we have made a confession that brings us into the promise of Romans 10:9. In addition to that aspect of the confession's meaning, "Jesus is Lord" is also a shorthand way of saying, "Having understood the radical nature of the death to self, to sin and to the world that is involved in my following Him, I nevertheless yield my allegiance and my obedience to Him and His way."

It is the full way of Christ to which we are to be converted from the very beginning of our walk with Christ. It is to that full and uncompromised way that we commit ourselves, even though we know it is impossible to men. We make that commitment because we have the promise that what is impossible with man is indeed possible with God (Luke 18:27). If we will commit ourselves to Christ's own measure of holy perfection, the Father will commit Himself to bringing us into that very thing. How great is our God!



1 "Immorality" is actually not a good translation for "porneia;" theft and hate are every bit as "immoral" as lust or adultery. And "fornication" is too restrictive a term to serve as an equivalent. "Porneia," as we have seen in the last chapter, means any form of sexual disobedience. <back>

2 See, for example, Matthew 16:23, John 13:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:4. <back>

3 The reader who has been taught that Mark 16:9-20 was not part of the original gospel is referred to the contrary argument by the late Anglican Dean John Burgon found in David O. Fuller's Counterfeit or Genuine: Mark 16? John 8? (Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1975), pp. 25-130. <back>

4 An excellent work on the miracle-working faith of Christ is Charles S. Price's, The Real Faith (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1940, 1972). <back>

5 Also, notice well the attitude of Jesus in Matthew 23:23. Although He accused the scribes and Pharisees of straining at gnats but swallowing camels for tithing herbs and neglecting justice and mercy, He also told them, "These you ought to have done [i.e., practicing justice and mercy], without neglecting the others." In other words, He totally approved the idea of carrying the tithe (which was commanded under the old covenant) to the point of applying it to every detail of one's income. He was criticizing the swallowing of camels, not the straining of gnats. <back>

6 The word "only" is not in the text. <back>

7 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1955), p. 173. <back>

8 "The Apology," ch. 9, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p. 25 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963). <back>

9 Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. III, p.58. <back>

10 This does not mean that women are not even to sing. The context indicates that Paul is talking about the speaking out done by individuals: to teach, to question, to prophesy (women may of course prophesy, but not in the assembly). <back>

11 Consequently, if a woman is one of the candidates for leader of a country, and the vote is extended to Christians, they should feel no reluctance to vote for her if she appears to have more virtue and experience than the other candidates. <back>

12 One can readily see the difference between the fallen natures in the matter of lust. From what I have been able to observe not many women have in themselves the degree of sexual lust that seems to burn inside the great majority of men. <back>