I know I’ve wandered far from 1 Corinthians 11, but it’s necessary. You see, we have a tendency to revert to our childhood understanding when we take a text out of context — the context of all of scripture.
And so it’s easy to imagine that “head” requires a hierarchical relationship of power and dominance, even though the rest of scripture points us in the opposite direction.
We have to remember the big lessons before we start inserting our preconceptions into the text.
And we have to cover one more essential truth before we return to “head.” What is the image of God? What does God really look like? If we were to be restored to his image, what would that be like?
We’ve already covered some of the key verses. For example,
(Eph 5:1-2 ESV) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
To imitate God is to become a sacrifice as Jesus is a sacrifice.
(Joh 13:34 ESV) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Again, we love as Jesus loved — meaning all the way to the cross.
(1Jo 3:16-18 ESV) 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Again, we are called to sacrifice, emulating Jesus on the cross.
(Mat 20:26-28 ESV) 26 “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Just so, as we emulate the sacrifice of Jesus, we do so through service for others.
(1Pe 2:18-24 NASB) 18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. … 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Peter teaches servants to be submissive to their earthly masters because Jesus submissively suffered, as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, so that might “live to righteousness.”
In short, the essence of Christian living is not obeying an arbitrary list of rules that test our faith; it’s sacrifice, service, submission, and even suffering as we follow the example of Jesus, as we are transformed into his image, as we become perfect as God is perfect, as we become united with each other and with God.
To be united with each other, we must learn submission. To be united with God, we must learn submission. And we learn submission because we’re taught the Spirit.
(Heb 2:10 ESV) 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
(Heb 5:7-9 ESV) 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him … .
Should we submit to Jesus? Of course.
Why? Because he is submissive. He submitted to God but also to us. His sacrifice defined his ministry and purpose on earth. We don’t just follow his example; we reciprocate his service and submission and suffering on our behalves.
We obey because he obeyed. We serve because he served. We submit because he submitted — not just to God but to us.
To be united with God, we must become like God. To be united with each other, we must become like God.
To become like God is to become like Jesus. And Jesus is defined by his service, his sacrifice, his submission, and his suffering on behalf of his followers.
Thus, Jesus is not like earthly kings. He rules through submission and service. He compels obedience by obeying. He is above dominion and power and rule and authority, but he does not partake of such things. He defeats the powers through his sacrifice.
(Col 2:13-15 ESV) 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
He disarmed, shamed, and triumphed over the rulers and authority by the cross. His resurrection demonstrated that their powers are not powerful at all.
And we rule with Jesus on the throne because Jesus’ reign is a different kind of reign. It’s not about power but transformation through the Spirit, about setting things right, and the cross — sacrifice and self-giving as a means to victory.
Therefore, when we serve, sacrifice, submit, and suffer, we become not only like Jesus, but we show ourselves worthy to sit on the throne, to have dominion, to be perfect as God is perfect. God happily shares heaven with those who give of themselves for others for the sake of Jesus.
Kingship in the kingdom is not about getting your way or asserting power over others, but servanthood.
(2Co 12:8-9 ESV) 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
And this makes sense of such passages as —
(Gal 2:20 NET) 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
“Crucified” in v. 20 is literally “co-crucified.” I have been co-crucified with Christ, and so I’ve become like Christ — and he is now living in and through me. Because Jesus was faithful, I am faithful.
It’s not just about being forgiven or going to heaven when we die. It’s about being fixed, our brokenness being repaired, our hearts being softened, about being changed to be worthy of the throne of the universe — by becoming like the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.