Morality Manifested in Nature

Headship and Worship: Notes on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Sherman Isbell

Man’s headship

André-Henri Dargelas - Children Going to Church - Walters 3714071.  Like the Sabbath day, the authority relationship between man and woman is rooted in creation. This is seen in I Corinthians 11:7-9, and the argument from nature in verses 14 and 15. Verses 7 to 9 are parallel to I Corinthians 14:34, where the reference to the law is to the historical record of the creation, found in Genesis 2. I Timothy 2:11-13 is also parallel. These passages show that the chronological order in which God created each gender reflects the divinely-ordained authority relationship between man and woman.

In the supporting argument at verse 14, Paul does more than appeal to a common sense of decency. Noel Weeks, in his The Sufficiency of Scripture, remarks on Paul’s reference to nature: “In Romans 1:26 he calls homosexuality ‘against nature.’ Here ‘nature’ cannot mean the common sense of decency because the point of the passage is that man’s common sense of ‘decency’ has been so perverted as to approve the practice. In Romans it clearly means the created state of affairs. Certainly this created state of affairs may influence local customs and standards, but the primary and most important factor is creation and not custom. This understanding of ‘nature’ fits the context of I Corinthians 11:14, which is clearly concerned with the created order.” Whereas there may be divergent views about what is natural modesty and natural morality, Scripture contains a reassertion of the morality manifested in nature, and reinforces man’s conscience in these areas.

John Murray, in correspondence, writes: “Since Paul appeals to the order of creation (vs. 3b, vss. 7 ff.), it is totally indefensible to suppose that what is in view and enjoined had only local or temporary relevance. The ordinance of creation is universally and perpetually applicable, as also are the implications for conduct arising therefrom.”

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