God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 11:16 No such custom
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 20, 2023
16 If anyone wants to be quarrelsome about this, we have no such custom, and neither do the churches of God.
Paul finishes his comments about the position of men and women by saying, “We have no such custom.” Paul used the Greek custom of head coverings to make a point about the roles of men and women, but the custom itself was not common in “the churches of God.” Therefore “if anyone wants to be quarrelsome about it,” Paul says, the custom was only a Corinthian or a Greek issue.
Conclusion of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Paul has been talking about what is appropriate in the circle of Christianity, especially in the home and in church. In the home, a wife is to be subordinate to her husband, and a husband is to take the leadership according to the order of creation. The unique practice of the Greeks, where the women actually showed a symbol of authority on their heads, gives an excellent example of Paul’s point, although the Greek custom was only local. But the point stands.
In the church, the Scriptures demonstrate many times that a pastor will be a man with authority. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). “These, then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). The Scriptural conclusion is that in public worship and in the spiritual life of the church, a woman is not to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner (1 Timothy 2:12). Women are of course encouraged to participate in worship and in the music of worship (Colossians 3:16-17; Exodus 15:20-21); the passages about submission are about not taking authority.
This passage also touches on the subject of teaching someone who only wants to argue. While ministers of the gospel are required to be qualified and able to teach (2 Timothy 2:2, 2:24), there are some students who are not really students at all but are only interested in twisting any discussion away from the subject. They only want to quarrel. This is usually someone who is trying to justify a secret sin or a sinful attitude or belief, and they are only looking for a loophole in the word of God or a chink in the confessional armor of the teacher. They are not sowing the seeds of peace. “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (Proverbs 26:21). They want the church to be a cozy velvet nest for their sins, as too many churches have become.
There is a time to stop talking to such people. “Reject a divisive (or heretical) person after a first and second warning, because you know that such a man is twisted and is sinning. He condemns himself” (Titus 3:10-11).
Augustine says that they “are either unable to understand our arguments, or are so hardened by the habit of contradiction, that though they understand they cannot yield to them, reply to us, and, as it is written, ‘they pour out arrogant words’ (Psalm 94:4) and are incorrigibly vain. Now, if we were to propose to answer their objections as often as they boldly chose to disregard our arguments, and so often as they could by any means contradict our statements, you see how endless, and fruitless, and painful a task we should be undertaking” (City of God II:1).
Luther agrees: “It is as if Paul were saying, ‘What I have said is right and true; but if anyone more ready to quarrel than to be instructed is unwilling to agree to the truth and is looking for something to say in reply, let him know that he does not deserve an answer’” (On Galatians 6:17, LW 27:406).
On the other hand, there are some who need our patience and more careful instruction. “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24). False teachers have a way of confusing our more vulnerable members. Paul says: “For there are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7). Are these weak Christians to be put out, or gone after like a straying sheep? The minister will need to shepherd his own flock, but in such cases I think that for myself, it is better to err on the side of the gospel and show them patience. Preach the word with confidence and remind them of their catechism, using the simple truths of the chief parts to encourage, to build up, “to correct with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:25), and to end the arguments of the quarrelsome.
“Give me understanding according to your word,” O Lord (Psalm 119:169), and give your dear people understanding and peace.
Pastor Timothy Smith