Corinthians 11, Part 1: The Headcovering Ordinance
1) Women Mentioned in This Exposition
2) The Incorrect Interpretation
3) The Ordinances v2
4) The Role of Men v3a
8) The Witness of Creation v7-8
9) The Witness of Angels v10-11
10) The Witness of Nature v12-15
11) Contention v16
Women Mentioned in
Anna, Deborah, Elizabeth, Esther,
Eve, Jezebel, Joanna, Lydia, Mary Magdalene, Mary (of
Bethany), Mary (of Rome), Mary (wife of Joseph), Persis,
Phebe, Philip’s four daughters, Priscilla, Sarah,
Shulamit, Susanna, Tabitha (Dorcas), and Vashti
There is one main incorrect interpretation of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11, with many minor variations, that the gospel was a message of equality for women which resulted in Corinthian church women beginning to wear short hair or go without headcoverings in a society which considered such things to be less than respectable or possibly like pagan temple prostitutes. But secular history is not reliable. God would not give us scripture that was dependent on secular history to be able to understand it. He does not preserve history books, he preserves only his word. “His truth endureth unto all generations,” Ps100:5.
And if a knowledge of the history of
first century Corinth is necessary to understand this
chapter, it would mean that other generations who did not
have access to that history would not be able to understand
it, or people in other countries, like first century China,
would not be able to understand it. But we can
correctly interpret this chapter by paying attention to the
text without any knowledge of Corinthian history.
“NOW ... BRETHREN,” 1COR11:2.
Chapter 11 should start in verse 2. In 1 Corinthians, Paul
used the key phrases “Now concerning” and “Now, brethren” (or their
equivalents) to introduce new topics.
1Cor7:1, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me.”
1Cor8:1, “Now as touching (Greek, ‘concerning’) things offered unto idols.”
1Cor12:1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts.”
1Cor15:1, “Moreover (Greek, ‘Now’), brethren, I declare unto you the gospel.”
1Cor16:1, “Now concerning the collection for the saints.”
And here, in 1Cor11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ... you keep the ordinances.”
“I PRAISE YOU,” 1COR11:2. 1
Corinthians 11 is divided into two parts by the phrases, “I praise you” in verse 2,
and “I praise you not” in verse 17.
The first part of the chapter is about the headcovering ordinance, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances, ... every man having his head covered,”1Cor11:2-4.
The second part is about the Lord’s Supper ordinance, “Now in this ... I praise you not that ... when ye come together ... to eat the Lord’s Supper,” 1Cor11:17-20.
Paul didn’t stop praising the Corinthians, and begin scolding them, until verse 17. The church at Corinth was doing a good job keeping the headcovering ordinance.
The incorrect interpretations of the first half of the chapter that say Paul was scolding Corinthian church women for having short hair or for not wearing headcoverings don’t make sense when you realize Paul isn’t scolding the Corinthians but rather praising them in the first half of 1 Corinthians 11.
The two halves of chapter 11 are joined together by the phases “I praise you” (v. 2) and “I praise you not” (v. 17), because they are both ordinances to be observed “when ye come together in the church,” 1Cor11:18. Chapters 12-14 are also about church meeting issues: 1Cor12:1,“Now concerning spiritual gifts,” and 1Cor14:23, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues.” Thus, 1 Corinthians 11:2 begins a larger section about church meeting issues that includes 1) Chapter 11 about “The Ordinances” and 2) Chapters 12-14 about “Spiritual Gifts.” And this also shows that the interpretation that this section is about Corinthian prostitutes or hair length cannot be correct, since you can’t change your hair length just during church meetings and you wouldn’t want to avoid looking like a prostitute only during church meetings.
“THAT YE REMEMBER ME IN ALL THINGS, AND KEEP THE ORDINANCES, AS I DELIVERED THEM TO YOU,” 1COR11:2. The Greek word translated ‘ordinances’ in verse 2, is usually translated as ‘traditions’ in the KJV New Testament. We often think of traditions in a negative sense, as in Mk7:8, “ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark is not teaching that ordinances are unimportant but that ordinances of man are not as important as ordinances or commandments of God. As for ordinances from God, Paul tell us to “stand fast, and hold the traditions [ordinances] which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle,”2Thes2:15.
The words “ordinances” and “delivered” in verse 2
are the noun and verb forms of the same Greek word,
meaning to ‘hand over’ or ‘transmit’. Verse 2 could be
translated “ye ... keep the deliveries, as I
delivered them to you,” or “ye ... keep the transmissions, as I
transmitted them to you.” Other ordinances, or apostolic
transmissions, referred to in 1 Corinthians include the
Lord's supper and the gospel.
1Cor11:23, “for I have received of the Lord that
which also I delivered [transmitted] unto
you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was
betrayed took bread ....”
1Cor15:1-3, “I declare unto you the gospel ...
for I delivered [transmitted] unto
you first of all that which I also received,” 1Cor15:1-3.
So the headcovering observance, the Lord’s Supper, and the
gospel are all apostolic “ordinances,” transmissions,
given to the apostles from Jesus, and from the apostles to
the church. Paul transmitted the apostolic
ordinances to the Corinthians when he founded the church
as recorded in Acts 18, “After these things Paul departed
from Athens, and came to Corinth; ... and he continued
there a year and six months, teaching the word of God
among them,” Acts18:1,11.
The Role of Men
“BUT I WOULD HAVE YOU KNOW,” 1COR11:3a. The word “but” in verse 3 does not indicate that Paul is ceasing to praise the Corinthians at this point, because he does not stop praising them until verse 17 when he says, “now ... I praise you not.” What Paul is saying here is that, even though the Corinthians are keeping the headcovering ordinance correctly, and even though he has nothing but praise for them about it, he "would have [them] know,” 1Cor11:3, more about it, so they will gain the full benefit of its observance.
Nowadays, many churches share a brief meditation about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper during its observance so that it doesn’t become an empty ritual. Occasional meditations on the meaning of the headcovering ordinance are important for the same reason. The rest of the first half of this chapter is about the underlying meaning and significance of the headcovering observance.
“THE HEAD OF EVERY MAN IS CHRIST,” 1COR11:3a. God has placed man in a position of authority directly under Christ in the chain of command. One must be under authority in order to be in authority, as the Roman Centurion understood: “For I am a man under authority [this is where his authority came from], having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it,” Mt8:9.
The Greek word translated “man” in verse 3 can be translated either ‘male’ or ‘husband’. In this passage, we know it means ‘male’ because if it were consistently translated as ‘husband’ in this passage, some of the verses would not make sense. For example, verse 12, “for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman” means that all ‘males’ are born of ‘females,’ not that all ‘husbands’ are born of ‘wives’. Even bachelors are born of women; and not all mothers are married; but all males are born of females. And “if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him,” 1Cor11:14, does not mean that having long hair is shameful for husbands, but not for bachelors.
Man has authority because Christ is his immediate supervisor, “the head of every man is Christ,”. All positions of authority, leadership, ruling, and teaching are to be filled by males, and not females. But the startling word of verse 3 is the word “every.” This authority structure is in the physical realm, and in the physical realm (where maleness and femaleness exist) Christ is the head of every male, even unsaved males; and he is not the direct head of any females, even saved females. In the spiritual realm, by contrast, Christ is the head of the church, “he is the head of the body, the church,” Col1:18; and of all who are in the church, both male and female, who “speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ,” Eph4:15.
We know this headship of Christ over males exists only in the physical realm, because in the spiritual realm, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female,” Gal3:28. There is no male or female in the spiritual realm, but there certainly is in the physical realm, or homosexuality would not be wrong.
In Israel, even ungodly males, like Caiaphas, Mt26:57-65, could be priests; but not even godly females could be priests. And in the church, even ungodly males, like Judas, Mt10:4, could be apostles; but not even godly females could be apostles.
Men are to rule in the home, the church, and society.
HOME: “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, ... therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing,” Eph5:23-24. It is true we are all to be “submitting yourselves to one another,” Eph5:21, but the way we submit must be different according to our office and role. The husband submits by sacrificing his own welfare for the wife; the wife submits by sacrificing her will for her husband.“Wives, submit ... husbands, love,” Eph5:22,25.
It would be no more proper for a husband to submit to his wife by submission and obedience than it would be for Christ to submit to the church by submission and obedience. By the way, wives are never commanded to love their husbands, but only to “be ‘affectionate’ (Greek) to their husbands,” Titus2:4.
CHURCH: Only males can be pastors and deacons. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ... that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” 1Tim3:1-5. “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well,” 1Tim3:8-12. So the KJV is correct to ‘translate’ Romans 16:1 to read “Phebe our sister, which is a ‘servant’ of the church” instead of ‘transliterating’ it to read ‘deaconess’ of the church.
SOCIETY: Deborah was a prophetess that judged Israel, but she made her judgments in private under a palm tree, and Barak lead the armies, Judg4:4-5:31. God says that when women teach or rule, society suffers. As a judgment, “The LORD of hosts doth take away from Jerusalem ... the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes, ... children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths,” Is3:1-12.
Even a good woman in public office would do more harm than good for society because of the example it would set. When ”Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command ... Memucan answered ... this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes ... thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. If it please the king, let ... Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. And … all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small,” Esth1:12-2:1. The king was wrong to act hastily in his wrath and was wrong to depose Vashti, but they were right in their philosophy about male leadership, and I think the Bible shows support by recording this part of the story in so much detail.
Contrast Vashti with her
replacement, Queen Esther; one of my favorite people in
the Bible. After she became queen, "Esther did the
commandment of Mordecai (her uncle who adopted her
when she was orphaned), like as when she was brought
up with him,” Esth2:20. Esther had not only become
married, with a family of her own; but had become queen of
the Persian empire, and yet she still rendered submission
and obedience to
her adopted father, to the extent it did
not conflict with her husband.
“AND THE HEAD OF THE WOMAN IS THE MAN,” 1COR11:3b. There is a layer of authority between Christ and woman in the chain of command: Christ - Man - Woman. How can this be when we know “there is one mediator between God and men [‘people’ in Greek], the man [‘person’ in Greek]Christ Jesus,” 1Tim2:5? The answer is that 1 Timothy 2:5 is speaking about salvation and spiritual things, “God our Savior desires all men [‘people’ in Greek] to be saved ... for there is one mediator,” 1Tim2:5. But the chain of command of verse 3 is talking about the roles that man, woman, and Christ hold in the physical realm. Again, in the spiritual realm,“there is neither male nor female,” Gal3:28.
The Greek word translated “woman” in verse 3 can be translated either ‘female’ or ‘wife’. In this passage, we know it means ‘female’ rather than ‘wife’ because we consistently translated the word as ‘wife’ throughout this passage, some verses would not make sense. “As the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman,” 1Cor11:12, means all men are born of women, not that all men are born of wives, as we mentioned earlier.
Because of the position of woman
in the chain-of-command, all women have 3 special
ministries to fulfill in their roles as women: 1) modest
dress, 2) quietness, and 3) submission. (And since this is
so it's important that women know this so they can fulfill
these special ministries, not unto men, but unto God.)
HOME: Peter covered the 3 ministries of women as they relate to the home in 1 Peter “Likewise, ye wives ... (Modest Dress:) whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, (Quietness:) even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, (Submission:) being in subjection to their own husbands: even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord,” 1Pet3:1-6. Sarah thought of her husband as her lord. Her thoughts are recorded in Gen18:12, “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord [meaning Abraham] being old also?”
The condemnation of “plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel” doesn’t mean that these things cannot be done at all, for God certainly wants women to wear some apparel. However, women should keep these things simple and modest as part of their service to God.
God speaks despairingly of showiness and excess in women’s’ dress. “The Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails,” Is3:18-23.
The quietness and submission aspects in this I Peter passage also mean that wives are not allowed to teach their husbands. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear,”1Pet3:1-2. The word “conversation,” in 1Pet3:1, is from the French word ‘conversari,’ meaning ‘to live’; and in KJV English it referred to conduct, not speech.
It is translated from a Greek word meaning ‘a way of life’. The wife is limited to her manner of life in influencing her husband. It would be improper for her to teach her husband, and so he must be won “without the word,” 1Pet3:1, while he “beholds,” not ‘hears’ his wife. Some Catholic monks so valued the virtue of quietness that they took vows of silence. They were wrong to do so however, because this ministry (in a less extreme form) belongs to women, not men.
CHURCH: Paul covered the 3 ministries of women as they relate to the church in 1 Corinthians. “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth (Modest Dress:) with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head ... let her be covered,”1Cor11:5-6. “Let your women (Quietness:) keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak;(Submission:) but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law,” 1Cor14:34.
The quietness and submission aspects also prohibit women from teaching in the church. God has approved no women as Bible teachers, even for other women. Titus 2:4-5 is the only reference to teaching responsibilities for women. “The aged women,” Titus2:3, all of them, not that certain ones are ‘teachers,’ are to “teach the young women,” Titus2:4. If every older woman should teach, then no older woman has an office of teaching.
And the older women are not to be Bible teachers, per se, but “teachers of good things,” Titus2:3; specifically, of the special ministries of women “to be sober, to be affectionate (Greek) towards their husbands, to be affectionate (Greek)towards their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands,” Titus2:4-5.
Priscilla had a part, along with
her husband Aquila, in clarifying some things to Apollos,
but “they took him unto them,”Acts18:26, conversing with him in
the privacy of their home. Women are an invaluable asset
in private discussions about even the heaviest topics and
even in mixed groups, but they are not to be Bible
teachers in the church of even all-female groups. The
women, as much as the men, need the teaching of the men
God has provided by his grace to teach the church. The
women should not be separated out to sit under women
Men are to be the leaders in
the church. The burden of the ministry rests on them.
Some of them may not want to step forward and “pray everywhere lifting up holy
but they must do it anyway. Some may wish they had the
ministry of silence that women have, but they must
speak out. God has given them authority, and authority
always carries responsibility. Men cannot avoid
responsibility by pretending they don’t have
authority. “He which had received the one
talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art
an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and
gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was
afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo,
there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and
said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant,” Mt25:24-26. We’ve all heard it said that
women have to take on church ministries, because the
men aren’t willing to do them. This does more harm
than good, because then the men feel even less
compelled to step forward and do the work.
Men are to be the leaders in the church. The burden of the ministry rests on them. Some of them may not want to step forward and “pray everywhere lifting up holy hands,” 1Tim2:8, but they must do it anyway. Some may wish they had the ministry of silence that women have, but they must speak out. God has given them authority, and authority always carries responsibility.
Men cannot avoid responsibility by pretending they don’t have authority. “He which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant,” Mt25:24-26.
We’ve all heard it said that
women have to take on church ministries, because the
men aren’t willing to do them. This does more harm
than good, because then the men feel even less
compelled to step forward and do the work.
SOCIETY: Paul covered the 3 ministries of women as they relate to society in 1 Timothy 2. All of 1 Timothy 2 describes how we should behave in society; it is not about how we should behave in the church.
The chapter has 3 parts. 1) ALL PEOPLE - 1TIM2:1-7. God’s desires that, “prayers ... be made for all people (Greek), ... who will have all people (Greek) to be saved,” 1Tim2:1,4. Salvation is God’s desire for people everywhere, not just in church.
2) MEN - 1TIM2:8: “I will therefore that men (‘males’ in Greek) pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands,” 1Tim2:8. Public prayer is God’s will for males, but not females “everywhere,” not just in church.
3) WOMEN - 1TIM2:9-15: “In like manner also, (Modest Dress:) that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but, which becometh women professing godliness, with good works. (Quietness:) Let the woman learn in silence (Submission:) with all subjection,” 1Tim2:9-11. God desires modesty, quietness, and submission for women in every place, not just in church. The quietness and submission aspects also mean that a woman cannot teach men even in secular society, “but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence,” 1Tim2:12.
If this passage were only about how women should behave in church, then it would be ok for women to dress immodestly and wear a lot of jewelry outside of church. But in fact, women are to wear modest apparel and avoid ostentatious jewelry everywhere, not just in church. “Broided hair,” 1Tim2:9, was a problem in society, not in church meetings, since women’s heads were covered in church. Women are to do “good works,” 1Tim2:10, everywhere, not just in church. And women are not permitted to “teach, nor to usurp authority over the man,” 1Tim2:12, anywhere, not just in church. Paul does not change from talking about our roles in society to talking about our roles in church until 1Tim3:1, “If a man desire the office of a bishop ....”
The Role of Christ
“AND THE HEAD OF CHRIST IS GOD,” 1COR11:3. The role of Christ shows that authority structures are good, because they exist even within the Godhead. This is the ultimate argument against any opposition to authority structures.
Authority structures are always comprised of one superior and one or more inferiors (inferior in position, not value), whether we are talking about God and Christ, Christ and the church, man and woman, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters (employers) and servants (employees), or government and governed (Eph5:22-29, Col3:18-4:1, 1Pet2:13-3:7).
Regardless of which authority structure we are talking about, the basic duties are the same for all superiors and all inferiors. A superior is responsible to lead, love, give, speak, teach, command, and send, for example; while an inferior is responsible to follow, submit, receive, listen, learn, obey, and go, for example.
In value and essence, Christ is
equal to God the Father in every way. Jesus, “being in the form of God, thought it
not robbery to be equal with God,” Phil2:6. But
externally, and in position, Jesus functions in the role
that a son does to a father.
The Father gives, the Son
receives, “so hath he given to the Son to have
life in himself,” Jn5:26.
The Father teaches; the Son
learns, “I do nothing of myself; but as my
Father hath taught me,” Jn8:28.
The Father sends; the Son goes, “he that sent me is with me,” Jn8:28.
The Father commands; the Son obeys, “I do always those things that please him,” Jn8:29.
From eternity past, Christ functioned as the Son of God. Rm1:3-4, “his Son ... which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness.” Christ already was “his Son” before he became flesh. He had to be “made” flesh, but he only had to be “declared” to be the Son that he already was from eternity past.
And for eternity future, Christ will remain in an inferior position to the Father. “When all things shall be subdued unto him [the Son], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [God, the Father] that put all things under him [the Son], that God may be all in all,” 1Cor15:28.
Likewise, woman’s subordination to man did not begin at the fall when God said “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” Gen3:16, any more than man’s labor began at the fall when God said “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” Gen3:19. Man started laboring when God first created him and “put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it,” Gen2:8; and woman was created as “an help,” Gen2:18, for Adam. What changed at the fall was that man’s labor and woman’s subordination to man became wearisome instead of always being easy and delightful as it was before sin entered the world at the fall.
And woman’s submission to man, like Christ’s submission to the Father, will not end at Christ’s return. That’s why only males will be in leadership positions in the Messianic Kingdom. The 12 apostles (all males) will “sit upon twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel,” Mt19:28; Israel will “serve ... David [a male] their king, whom I will raise up [resurrect]unto them,” Jer30:9; the priests in the millennial temple, “the sons [male] of Zadok ... shall enter into my sanctuary ... to minister unto me,” Ezek44:15-16.
So women will not receive any cities to rule during the Messianic Kingdom as reward for faithful service during this present time, as some men will, “thou good servant ... have thou authority over ten cities,” Lk19:17. But women’s rewards will be just as rewarding, like eternal glory, and recognition, and opportunities for service.
This is not to say that specific
male-female relationships, like marriage, will continue
forever because, “in the resurrection they neither
marry, nor are given in marriage,” Mt22:23-33. A
husband’s authority ends at death, “for the woman which hath an husband
is bound by [‘under’ in Greek] the law to her husband [only] so long as he liveth,” Rm7:2.
But women will not lead or teach in public even after the
Modern men deride authority and inequality; but inequality is essential for unity. Without inequality, there can be no unity, for each person would wander his own way. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Amos3:3. Someone has to give up the direction he wants to go, or soon both will be walking alone. When it works as it was designed, woman, in submission, chooses to follow the man; and man, in love, chooses to lead in the direction that is best for the welfare of the woman rather than that which is best for himself.
Before the creation of all created things, “The Word was with God,” Jn1:1, in perfect harmony and unity. “I and my Father are one,” Jn10:30. The Son is always metaphorically “in the bosom of the Father,” Jn1:18. Perfect unity can exist only where there is a superior who loves with perfect unselfishness and self-sacrifice, and an inferior who submits in perfect obedience, as within the Godhead.
Vertical relationships, not horizontal ones, bind people together. We are one with each other in the church only because we are all in Christ our Lord. Until the Lord returns, authority relationships will be susceptible to abuse; but the problem is not with authority relationships, but rather with our sin and weakness. Authority relationships will not be removed in the future, but rather the sin and weakness will be taken away, and then such inequalities will be blessed indeed, as they are now within the Godhead.
The Lord gave the church the headcovering ordinance to help preserve the church in this age when, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” 2Thes2:7. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” 2Tim3:1-2. These men don’t understand authority; but the church should understand authority. And the Holy Spirit, through Paul, gave us the first half of 1 Corinthians 11, to help us understand authority through the headcovering observance.
Authority relationships exist in the physical or external realm, not the spiritual. God said a husband and wife are “one flesh,” Eph5:31; not ‘one spirit’. Physical things are important; but are not as important as spiritual things. “The time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not,”1Cor7:30.
There is no spiritual advantage to being placed into one office or another. More authority means more responsibility. It is how we use the vessels we've been given, whether weaker or stronger, and the offices, whether higher or lower in position, that we've been placed in, that is important and that determines rewards. “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it,” 1Cor7:20-21. Paul did not deserve to be an apostle; God picked him by grace (1Tim1:15; 1Cor15:10). Are we envious of the Apostle Paul because he is an apostle and we are not?
Most things in this life, like washing a pot, are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral and neutral. However, when we perform a work, like washing a pot, in submission to authority, we are not only washing a pot, but also obeying the word of God to submit to authority. We receive no reward for washing the pot, because it will just get dirty again, (as the book of Ecclesiastes teaches us), but at the same time, obeying the word of God is a spiritual act, that has an eternal reward. So being under authority gives us a chance to turn amoral, neutral works, that would pass away, into spiritual works, that will last forever, and “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Women can “rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in all things give thanks,” 1Thes5:16-18, as well as men, and these are the kinds of things that really matter. Women have performed some of the greatest spiritual works that have ever been done.
Only a woman believed Jesus when he said he was going to die, and she anointed him for his burial. “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her,”Mt26:12-13.
And only a woman was given the
privilege of, not merely being the first to see Jesus
after his resurrection, but to see him even before he
ascended to the Father to offer his blood in the heavenly
tabernacle. “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She
turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to
say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am
not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and
say to them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and
to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the
disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had
spoken these things unto her,” Jn20:16-18.
1 Corinthians 11:4-6.
“EVERY MAN PRAYING OR PROPHESYING,” 1COR11:4.
Prayer and prophecy are mentioned here because prayer is
man talking to God and representing other people to God;
prophecy is God talking to man and representing God to
Both prayer and prophecy require authority. Christ granted all Christians authority to pray in his name. “In that day ye shall ask me nothing ... whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you; hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name,” Jn16:23-24. Christ gave some Christians authority to prophesy. “When he ascended up on high, he ... gave gifts unto men, ... and he gave some ... prophets,” Eph4:8-11. Prophecy is always direct divine revelation, and is equally authoritative with scripture.
Prayer is the humblest of
authorities given to people, because it has been given to
all. Prophecy is the greatest of authorities given to
people (except for the apostolic authority given to 12
apostles), and it was given to only a few, “God hath set some in the church,
first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers ...
. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” 1Cor12:30.
Prayer and prophesy are specifically mentioned in verses 4 and 5, because when we pray, we pray directly to the Father; and when we hear prophesy, we are receiving a message directly from God. The headcovering observance reminds the church that, although women pray along directly to God in the church meeting with whoever is leading aloud in prayer, and although women hear the prophecy directly from God's prophet, along with the men in the church meeting; that we still recognize and honor the authority structures and roles which God has ordained.
“HAVING HIS HEAD COVERED DISHONOURETH HIS HEAD,” 1COR11:4. The
word “covered” is not in the
Greek of verse 4, but only the Greek word “kata,”
meaning “down upon.” A literal translation of verse
4 would be “having upon his head,” but to make
it proper English we need to add the word “anything” or
“something”: “having anything upon his head,” or as the
NASV translates it, having “something on his head.”
According to verse 4, a man must not have ‘anything’ on
his head; merely not ‘covering’ his head would still be a
violation. Wearing even a small kippah or skullcap, as our
dear Messianic Jewish brethren do, is prohibited.
On the other hand, men can have their own hair on their heads, because hair is part of the head. Some Catholic monks went so far as to shave a circle of hair off the top of their heads to avoid having their heads covered. If verse 4 was talking about hair, then men would be required to shave ‘all’ the hair off their heads, because they are not permitted to have anything on their heads during the headcovering observance.
There is nothing inherently dishonorable about a man praying with something on his head. Before the headcovering ordinance was delivered to the church, the high priest, a male, had to wear a miter and all the other priests, also males, had to wear bonnets when they ministered in the tabernacle and temple. “Thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen” (for Aaron the high priest) “ ... and for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make ... bonnets,” Ex28:39-40.
The 24 elders of Revelation 4 may indicate raptured church men who continue to remove their crowns whenever there is a worship service in heaven. “When [at certain times, not constantly] those beasts [Cherubim] give glory and honor and thanks to him ... the four and twenty elders fall down before him ... and worship him ... and cast their crowns before the throne,” Rev4:9-11. But when the Lord returns, the headcovering ordinance, like the Lord’s Supper ordinance, will end,“ye do show the Lord’s death, till he come,” 1Cor11:26. In the Messianic Kingdom, the priests will again cover their heads when they minister. “But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, ... they shall enter into my sanctuary, ... they shall have linen bonnets upon their heads,” Ezek44:15-18.
The headcovering ordinance is an external requirement that had a definite starting point at the creation of the church, that will have a definite ending point at the Lord’s return, and that is applicable only to the church. And only during the headcovering observance is it wrong for men (males) to have anything on their heads.
“BUT EVERY WOMAN THAT PRAYETH OR PROPHESIETH,” 1COR11:5. Women did not lead in prayer publicly, in church, or anywhere else, “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, ... in like manner also, that women ... be in silence,” 1Tim1:8-12. But women do pray along silently with the other men who are not leading in prayer at the moment.
And women did not prophesy aloud in church, “for ye may all prophesy one by one, ... let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak,” 1Cor14:31,34. But female prophets prophesied silently to themselves during church meetings, just as male prophets did whenever it was inappropriate for them to speak, “if any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace ... The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” 1Cor14:32.
Tongues was also prophesy, receiving revelation directly from God; but it was a less desirable gift than prophecy, because it needed a second person, an interpreter, to be of value. “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue ... no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort,”1Cor14:1-3. The word “mysteries,” in Greek, does not mean things difficult to understand, but things previously not revealed, now revealed. The church at the time of the apostles did not have the whole New Testament, but God provided the assemblies oral revelation in their meetings via spiritual gifts.
But as for prophesy, so also for tongues, it was common for men to have to speak silently to themselves, and it was always the case for women. “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God ... as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law,” 1Cor:14:27-34.
By the way, 1 Corinthians 11-14 also shows that early church meetings were heavily participatory. “When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying,” 1Cor14:26. Men in the meetings were free to spontaneously share teaching, prayer, singing, etc., similar to Plymouth Brethren meetings (but without requiring participants to focus on the Lord’s Supper) or house churches today.
Women sometimes did prophesy
aloud, but only in private. Elizabeth prophesied with a
loud voice, but it was in the privacy of her home.
“Mary ... entered into the house of
Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth, and ... Elizabeth was
filled with the Holy Ghost, and she spake out with a loud
Anna was “a prophetess,” that spent her time in the temple, but there is no record she prophesied publicly (Lk2:25-38).
Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters “which did prophesy,” Acts21:9, but there is no indication they prophesied publicly. While Paul and his fellow travelers were staying at Philip’s house, Agabus came down from Judaea to prophesy about how Paul’s would be arrested in Jerusalem, when it would have been more convenient to have one of the host’s daughters do it if it had been appropriate (Acts21:10-11).
It’s not just that when a man begins to lead in prayer that he removes his hat, because even when not leading in prayer he is to pray silently along with the one who is leading in prayer. And it's not just the man prophesying aloud, or the few men and women prophesying silently, that should remove their hats or cover their heads, because the purpose of the observance is to symbolize the different roles of man and woman, not to differentiate between prophets and non-prophets.
And because it is a church meeting observance, like the Lord’s Supper, I don’t think men need to remove their hats when they pray at home, or that women need to cover their heads when they pray at home, or that women should wear headcoverings in public all the time. I think if the New Testament wanted women to wear headcoverings all the time in public, it would have made that clear and it would have mentioned it specifically in the I Timothy 2:9-15 passage about how women should dress in society.
“WITH HER HEAD UNCOVERED DISHONOURETH HER HEAD,” 1COR11:5. When verse 5 says that a
woman’s head must not be “uncovered,” the word “uncovered” actually
is in the Greek. If a woman’s head, ‘kephalee’ in Greek, not face ‘prosopon,’ is anything less than
'covered', the commandment is violated: wearing a
little hat or doily will not qualify.
It is common to interpret the word “uncovered” in verse 5 as meaning to have short hair. The Greek word translated ‘uncovered’ is ‘a-kata-kalupto,’ literally ‘not - down upon - covered/hidden.’ The noun form of “kalupto,” is “kaluma.” A ‘kaluma’ (‘covering’) is a “veil,” 2Cor3:13; an ‘epi-kaluma’ (‘over-covering’) is a “cloak,” 1Pet2:16; a ‘peri-kalupto’ (‘around-covering’) is a “blindfold,” Lk22:64; and a ‘kata-kalupto’ (‘down upon - covering’) is a pretty good description of a headcovering shawl.
I suppose we might be able to say a head is ‘covered’ with hair, but natural usage rules against it. If I said to you, “Please uncover your head” would you think I wanted you to get a haircut? Besides, if we talk about hair covering a head, even short hair covers a head, though not the shoulders and back. However, the New Testament seems to consider hair as part of our heads, since it always talks about the hair ‘of’ our heads, rather than the hair ‘on’ our heads, “the very hairs ‘of’ your head are numbered,” Mt10:30. If we have only hair on our head, our head is still uncovered no matter how much hair we have, since our hair is part of our head.
There is a better word Paul could have used in verses 4-6 if he wanted to talk about whether or not a person has long hair. It’s the Greek word “komao,” meaning “long hair,” and he uses it in verses 14 and 15. Also, as we said when discussing verse 4, if this passage were about hair length, men could not have any hair on their heads at all.
Another problem with the hair-length interpretation, is that verses 4 and 5 talk about prayer and prophecy, which happen at certain times; and the headcovering observance is for during church meetings, but proper hair length is required all the time. You can’t change it just for times of prayer and prophesy, or just for church meetings.
And the purpose of the headcovering ordinance is for the church to symbolize male authority, and we symbolize it by doing something symbolic, just as we do for the Lord’s Supper. Everyone just continuing to wear their hair the way they always do, would not be a good way to symbolize anything.
“FOR THAT IS EVEN ALL ONE AS IF SHE WERE SHAVEN. FOR IF THE WOMAN BE NOT COVERED, LET HER ALSO BE SHORN: BUT IF IT BE A SHAME FOR A WOMAN TO BE SHORN OR SHAVEN, LET HER BE COVERED,” 1COR11:5B-6. Paul adds an extra part onto verse 5 about the shame an uncovered woman would experience, that he didn’t add on to verse 4 about the shame a covered man would experience, probably for several reasons.
One is because it is the women that actually perform the headcovering ordinance. The men are only supposed to ‘not’ do something. It is the covered heads of the women that give significance to the bare heads of the men.
However, if a church is not performing the headcovering ordinance, it is not the fault of the women of the church. To think it is the women’s fault would be to show a total lack of understanding of all that the headcovering passage is about. The men of the congregation are the ones to blame, “for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God,” 1Tim3:5.
The headcovering observance is itself an exercise for the men of the church to put into practice the principles that the ordinance teaches. The men of the church must learn to study, and discuss among themselves, and come to a consensus to observe the ordinance, and provide instruction as to its principles, and lead in love; and if the men do that, the women of the congregation will willingly perform this observance heartily and without coercion, so the church as a whole can present this ceremony unto the Lord.
Another reason Paul probably adds this extra part onto verse 5, is as an encouragement to the women, and to the men who care about the women, to be brave in observing the ordinance, and to have more satisfaction in knowing they are pleasing the Lord by this service to Him.
It is natural for women to have special concern about their appearance, since the way they dress, modest dress, is even one of their three special ministries. I don’t think women are required to wear a headcovering in a church group that has not decided to corporately offer this service to the Lord, but if a church does decide to keep this ordinance (as they should), there might be many who do not participate, and the ones who do can remember to care how God looks at them more than how some other fashionable lady might look at them. “God looketh on the heart,” 1Sam16:7; but God also sees the outward appearance, especially when it represents obedience or disobedience of the heart.
If a woman doesn’t wear a headcovering in the assembly, it’s the same, “even all one,” as if she were bald. What good would it be for a woman to spend time fixing her hair before church meeting, if she looks bald to God anyway? As she pictures herself as standing before the throne in God’s presence while singing praises to God, if the headcovering is absent, let her add her own baldness to the picture. On the other hand, if the headcovering is present, let her take heart that God is pleased with the beauty of her obedience.
Verse 6 is another indication that
Paul is not referring to hair length by the words “covered” and “uncovered.” The word “shorn,” which is used
of shearing sheep in Acts 8:32, can mean 'to make bald’ as
in Acts 18:18, “Paul ... sailed thence into Syria
... having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.” But it probably means ‘to cut
short’ in 1 Corinthians 11, because the phrase “shorn or shaven” in verse 6
would be redundant if the two words were used to mean the
same thing here. And since ‘shorn’ means ‘to cut short’
here, ‘be not covered’ cannot mean ‘have short hair’ or
verse 6 would say “if the woman ‘has short hair,’ let her
also be shorn, ‘have short hair’.”
The Witness of
The creation account testifies three times that there is a layer of authority between Christ and woman, and witnesses to the appropriateness of the headcovering garment as a symbol of the authority of man.
TESTIMONY #1, GEN1:26-28 - THE PATTERN OF WOMAN’S CREATION: THE GLORY OF THE MAN. “FOR A MAN INDEED OUGHT NOT TO COVER HIS HEAD, FORASMUCH AS HE IS THE IMAGE AND GLORY OF GOD: BUT THE WOMAN IS THE GLORY OF THE MAN,” 1COR11:7. 1 Corinthians 11:7 refers back to Genesis 1:26-28, during the sixth day of creation, where God said “Let us make man in our image.” The word “image” there in the Hebrew is usually used to refer to a molten image, like the one in Daniel 3. The Greek word for “image” in 1 Corinthians 11:7, “He is the image and glory of God,” can also be used of a molten image, like in Revelation chapter 13. In Matthew 22:20, it is used of the picture on a coin, “Whose is this image and superscription?” We are talking about an external appearance with these words.
In external appearance, males look like God, and females don’t, and I don’t think many females would be offended if you told them they didn’t look like a man (male). In Genesis 1:26, God says he will create man (males) in his image, but he is careful to avoid saying that he will create woman in his image. “And God said, Let us make man [singular, man not woman] in our image, after our likeness: and let them [plural, man and woman] have dominion.” The same is true for Genesis 1:27, “So God created man [singular, man not woman] in his own image, in the image of God created he him[singular, man not woman], male and female created he them [plural, man and woman]. God “created ... them” both, he gave “them [both] ... dominion,” but only man, and not woman, was created in the “image,” the external appearance of God.
So why did God even bother to mention that man (male) was made in his own image, if he is only talking about external appearance? How important is external appearance? Relatively, not that important. But neither are authority relationships. Whether someone is in a superior or inferior authority position, means little because both can and are required to “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks,” 1Thes5:16-18. Spiritually, men and women are identical.
God is always male in the Bible. He is our heavenly Father, not our heavenly mother. Christ is male. He is the Son of God, the Son of Abraham, and the Son of David. The angels are all male. They were often mistaken for young men, never young women, when they appeared.
The testimony of Genesis 1:26-28
is that the pattern of woman’s creation is indirect. God
used another layer in creating her. Man is the “glory of God, but the woman is the
glory of man.” The headcovering
shawl symbolizes the indirect pattern of woman's creation.
TESTIMONY #2, GEN2:21-23 - THE MANNER OF WOMAN’S CREATION: OF THE MAN. “FOR THE MAN IS NOT OF THE WOMAN, BUT THE WOMAN OF THE MAN,” 1COR11:8. Man was created directly; woman’s creation was indirect. The key word in this verse is the word “of” or “out of” in Greek. 1 Corinthians 11:8 refers back to Genesis 2:21-23 concerning the indirect manner of woman’s creation. “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken ‘out of’ Man,” Gen2:23.
Woman’s creation was unique out of all that God created. The angels were formed directly by God, “who maketh his angels spirits,” Heb1:7. The animals were formed out of the ground. “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air,” Gen2:19. Adam’s body was formed of the dust of the ground, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,” Gen2:7. But, Mrs. Adam (“he ... called their name Adam,” Gen5:2), was made completely out of a piece of Adam. “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man,” Gen2:21-22.
God could have made Eve directly from the dust of the ground, as he had made Adam, or he could have created each person directly as he did the myriad of angels. God made woman out of man so that authority structures would be created, because inequalities are essential for unity, and “it is not good that man should be alone,” Gen2:18. This doesn’t mean that everyone should marry, but rather that God saw the need for everyone to be born into authority structures and relationships in families, extended families, churches, neighborhoods, countries, etc.
Philosophically, the source of something is greater than that which comes from it; the whole is greater than the part taken from it; that which is existed earlier is greater than that which comes after it. John pointed to the preexistence of Jesus as proof of his superiority, “after me [in time] cometh a man which is preferred before me [in prestige]: for he was before me [in time],” Jn1:30.
Jesus is lower in rank than the Father, because he is ‘of’ the Father; the Father is not ‘of’ him, “I came forth from the Father,” Jn16:28. The Bible says that “we are ‘of’ God,” 1Jn4:6; but it would be incorrect to say that God is ‘of’ us. If Jesus had really been merely of David, instead of being the preexistent Son of God, he could not have authority over David.“If David then call him [the Messiah] Lord [in Ps110:1], how is he his son,” Mt22:45.
TESTIMONY #3, GEN2:20 - THE PURPOSE OF WOMAN’S CREATION: FOR THE MAN. “NEITHER WAS THE MAN CREATED FOR THE WOMAN, BUT THE WOMAN FOR THE MAN,” 1COR11:9. Man was created for a purpose, and then woman was created to help man fulfill man’s purpose. The key word in this verse is the word “for.” 1 Corinthians 11:9 refers back to Genesis 2:20, “there was not found an help meet ‘for’ him.” Woman was made to be man’s helper, not his leader or teacher. This word “help” is the best description of woman’s roles in the home, the church, and society. And purpose has always been important in determining rank. “The sabbath was made ‘for’ man, and not man ‘for’ the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath,” Mk2:27-28.
Genesis 2:20, “there was not found an help meet for him,” does not mean that unmarried women do not fulfill the purpose of Eve’s creation. Far from it. Paul said that if a person has enough self-control to avoid fornication, he can serve the Lord better by remaining single. “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. ... But every man hath his proper gift of God, ... I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I; but if they cannot contain, let them marry. ... The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but ... that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction,” 1Cor7:1-40. If a woman remains single, she can even better fulfill her role as helper in her extended family, in the church, and in society at large.
There are many Biblical examples of women fulfilling this role admirably. Women helped Jesus. “Certain women ... Mary called Magdalene, ... and Joanna ... and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him [Jesus] of their substance,” Lk8:2-3. Paul’s first convert in Macedonia was a woman named Lydia, who then gave lodging to the missionaries, “when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us,” Acts16:15.
In Corinth, Priscilla provided Paul lodging while he started the church. “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila ... with his wife Priscilla, ... and because he was of the same craft, he abode with them,” Acts18:1-3. It can be a lot of work, and a lot of interruption of family routine, for a woman to have guests stay in her house; but it can also be a great spiritual service to God. (Of course, women should not jeopardize their safety or propriety to do this service.)
Priscilla and Aquila also helped Paul by risking their lives for him at some point. And in Rome, they helped the church by hosting church meetings. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks, unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house,” Rm16:3-5. Hosting church gatherings involves a lot of sacrifice by the hostess and her family.
Paul asked the church to help Phebe with the secular business she had in Rome, and described her as “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea [Corinth’s eastern seaport], ... for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself,”Rm16:1-2. Also, in Rome, was “Mary, who bestowed much labour on us,” Rm16:6; and “the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord,” Rm16:12.
In Joppa, there was “a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did.” When she became sick and died, the disciples sent for Peter who “when he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them,” Acts9:36-42. And God granted a great miracle in allowing Peter to bring her back to life.
In 1 Timothy 5:9-10, Paul said, “Let not a widow be taken into the
number [to receive financial support from
threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,
well reported of for good works; if she have brought up
children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed
the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if
she have diligently followed every good work.”
Witness of Angels
“FOR THIS CAUSE OUGHT THE WOMAN TO HAVE POWER ON HER HEAD BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS,”1COR11:10. The word “power” in King James English has the meaning of our word “authority” today. The word is used in place of the word ‘headcovering’ here, because the headcovering symbolizes ‘authority,’ the authority of man over woman in God’s creation, and as a layer between Christ and woman in the chain of command of verse 3.
The headcovering garment is the physical symbol of the headcovering ordinance, just as the bread and wine are the physical symbols of the Lord’s Supper. But it is not only people who learn from the headcovering observance. Angels learn by watching the church. “God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” Eph3:9-10.
What a testimony to angels that frail men could be so transformed by the work of Christ that the Bride of Christ would regularly signify her hearty acceptance of authority, while the painted-faced Jezebel of the world mimics the prideful rebellion of Satan himself. Physical things can be significant symbols to angels, like the blood on the Israelites’ doorways, when the Lord passed through Egypt to smite the firstborn sons (Ex12:21-23).
Angels’ are interested in authority and the chain of command. They were created for service. “Who maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire,” Heb1:7. The “principalities and powers [authorities] in high places,” Eph6:12, that we wrestle against are fallen angels. And angels are interested in things relating to the creation of man and woman. They were there when God “laid the foundations of the earth ... when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God [the angels, which are all male] shouted for joy,” Job38:4,7.
Angels aren’t tempted by the kinds of things men are, but rather by things having to do with authority. When Satan and his angels fell, their sin was that of rebellion against God. Angels are interested in promoting false doctrine and warring against God’s authority, not in fleshly sins, except as a tool. Women do not wear headcoverings to keep angels from lusting at their hair, as some have speculated, because if angels were going to lust after women, they could use their invisibility to sneak around and look at more than womens’ hairstyles.
Angels are present at church meetings during the headcovering observance. Nations have both good angels and bad angels assigned to them, which war against each other. “Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel ... thy words were heard ... but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me ... there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince,” Dan10:12-13, 21.
Churches also have angels assigned to them. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write ...,” Rev2:1. And the guardian angel of every child in the church meeting may be watching also. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven,” Mt18:10. And since angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation,” Heb1:14, don’t you think some might be around during the meeting of the church?
Angels watched the Lord’s ministry. “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory,” 1Tim3:16. Angels watched the apostles’ ministries.“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men,” 1Cor4:9. Angels watch pastors’ ministries. “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another,”1Tim5:21. And angels watch the women’s ministry of the headcovering observance in the church, “because of the angels,”1Cor11:9.
Notices that verses 7-9 all refer back to the account of the creation of woman on the sixth day. The Sabbath was given to Israel, and only Israel, to commemorate God’s rest on the seventh day of creation. “The children of Israel shall keep the sabbath ... for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed,” Ex31:16-17. The headcovering ordinance may have been given to the church, and only the church, to commemorate the creation of woman on the sixth day of creation (1Cor11:7-10).
The Sabbath ordinance was given to Israel around the time of the nation’s birth to commemorate its rest from Egyptian slavery. “Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out ... therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day,” Deut5:15. Likewise, the headcovering ordinance was given to the church around the time of its creation at Pentecost, possibly to commemorate its creation as the Bride of Christ, taken out of the body of Christ by his death and resurrection.
Adam said Eve was, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” Gen2:23. Paul said “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” Eph5:30. Just as the Lord’s Supper is a memorial to the historical event of the Lord’s death and resurrection and looks forward to his return; so the headcovering may be a memorial to the creation of his bride, the church, out of his own body which he gave for her on the cross, and it may look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Notice also in these verses especially, but also in the chapter as a whole, that Paul does not give a single cultural reason as to why the church should observe the headcovering ordinance. Verse 3 gives the reason that man’s headship over woman is like the eternal headship of God the Father over God the Son. Verses 7 to 9, which say that woman is the glory of man, was taken out of man, and was created for man, are based on the historical event of woman’s creation - and this historical event does not change no matter which culture or time period you live in.
Interpreters of 1 Corinthians 11 site all kinds of different stories about female Corinthian temple prostitutes that had short hair, or didn’t wear headcoverings, or didn’t wear veils. But the admonitions of this chapter are first of all to men, “every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered,” 1Cor11:4. Were there also male Corinthian temple prostitutes that had long hair, or wore hoods, or wore veils?
“NEVERTHELESS NEITHER IS THE MAN WITHOUT THE WOMAN, NEITHER THE WOMAN WITHOUT THE MAN, IN THE LORD. FOR AS THE WOMAN IS OF THE MAN, EVEN SO IS THE MAN ALSO BY THE WOMAN: BUT ALL THINGS OF GOD,” 1COR11:11-12. Paul has been teaching the principle of male authority, but he knows, because he has a pastor’s heart, that such teaching is vulnerable to abuse by sinful men, and so he tempers that side of the teaching with these verses. Men and women are not only equal in the spiritual realm, but as Paul shows in these verses, even in the physical realm, God created interdependencies along with inequalities, and men should not think of themselves too highly, or use their rightful authority as a cloak for their own selfishness or meanness.
Every person except Adam and Eve have been dependent on woman for their existence. Eve came into existence by means of Adam’s rib, but since that time, every man, including the Savior, came into the world through woman. The role of childbearing is the salvation; not spiritually, but physically, of women in the world. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith, and charity and holiness with sobriety,” 1Tim2:13-15.
This is not to say that any particular woman must give birth in order to obtain this benefit. God has ordained that we come into the world through mothers so that the status of all women is improved. This way men are taught to treat all women with respect, “the elder women as mothers; the younger women as sisters, with all purity,” 1Tim4:2.
Ultimately, both men and women were and are dependent only on God for existence. Adam merely slept, but God made Eve. Women suffer through labor, but God fashions the bones, veins, and ligaments of children in the womb. “Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb, ... I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” Ps139:14. “He ... made us, and not we ourselves,” Ps100:3.
And we are not only made ‘of’ him,
meaning he is our source, but we are made ‘for’ him, for
his purpose. “Of him, and through him, and to him,
are all things: to whom be glory for ever,” Rm11:36. Let
all men (males) remember this as they exercise the duties
of authority, in humility, and love, and in fear of him to
whom they must someday give an account.
11:13-15. The Witness of Nature
“JUDGE IN YOURSELVES: IS IT COMELY THAT A WOMAN PRAY UNTO GOD UNCOVERED?”1COR11:13. Before the headcovering ordinance was given to the church, it was not a shame for a woman to pray unto God without a headcovering; but now that the commandment has been given, it is not comely that the women pray with uncovered heads in church meetings.
It is a beautiful sight to those who value submission and obedience, to see the women of the congregation with covered heads, in lowliness of mind, like the Lord, “who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant,” Phil3:6-7.
It is hard for a believing husband
to be bitter against a wife he sees wearing the symbol of
her submission, “husbands, love your wives, and be
not bitter against them,” Col3:19. It
is hard for the men of the congregation not to feel the
weight of their responsibility or fail to rededicate
themselves to honor, protect, and rightly lead the women
of the church, when they see them so adorned.
“DOTH NOT EVEN NATURE ITSELF TEACH YOU, THAT IF A MAN HAVE LONG HAIR, IT IS A SHAME UNTO HIM?” 1COR11:14. Even though the headcovering ordinance is not about hair length, this part of the passage is authoritative for all who would go against nature in regards to hair length. Long hair is a shame to men. David’s rebellious son Absalom cut his hair only “at every year’s end” 2Sam14:26; and his attempt to overthrow his father ended ignominiously when he was caught in battle as his “mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak” 2Sam18:9.
Men, like Samson, who took the Nazarite vow had long hair, but they were exceptions, and were not allowed to drink wine, or eat grapes, or go to funerals either (Num6:1-8). The priests in the millennial temple will not be permitted to “shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads [trim their hair short],” Ez44:20.
“BUT IF A WOMAN HAVE LONG HAIR, IT IS A GLORY TO HER,” 1COR11:15. Long hair has always been a glory to women. In the Song of Solomon, the King compares looking at his wife’s hair to the beauty of watching a flock of goats lazily wend their way down the side of distant Mount Gilead in the evening. “Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead,” Song4:1, Song6:5. He also compared burying his fingers in her hair to being in a palace gallery surrounded by luxurious, flowing, purple curtains. “And the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries. How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights,” Song7:5-6.
How long is long? Mary’s hair was long enough that she could anoint the feet of Jesus with costly spikenard for his burial, and wipe “his feet with her hair,” Jn12:3.
Also, notice that once the text mentions that woman’s hair is a glory to her, it never mentions anything about covering it. It is not the purpose of the headcovering ordinance, that women cover their hair to hide their glory so as not to detract from the glory of the men in the church. This interpretation is as humorous as the one about hiding their hair from the angels.
Both long hair and headcovering garments on women are not merely right, but also beautiful. Nature witnesses to the appropriateness of the headcovering garment as the symbol of the headcovering ordinance by naturally giving women long hair that looks like they are already wearing headcovering garments.
“FOR HER HAIR IS GIVEN HER FOR A
COVERING,” 1COR11:15. A
woman’s long hair is like a beautiful garment. The word
‘covering’ (‘periboleo’ in Greek) is translated
‘vesture’ in Hebrews 1:12. Women with long hair look like
they are wearing headcovering garments, and most women
have naturally looked this way through all ages and all
cultures. This is a witness to the appropriateness of the
headcovering garment as a symbol of the headcovering
observance. It also means that a headcovering garment
should look like long hair. It should be a shawl or a
scarf; not a hat or a doily.
1 Corinthians 11:16.
“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God,” 1Cor11:16. The principles of the headcovering observance could be used to lord it over women and subjugate them. The potential for misuse exists, but that is not the kind of observance the apostles advocated, nor the churches practiced. The philosophers of the world try to do away with authority structures, and the world’s rulers selfishly lord it over people, but the headcovering observance promotes a right understanding of authority and love, as Christ taught.
“BUT IF ANY MAN SEEM TO BE CONTENTIOUS,” 1COR11:16. The word translated “contentious” is the Greek word ‘philo-neikos’. ‘Philo’ means ‘love of’; ‘neikos’ means strife and is akin to ‘nekos’ meaning ‘conquest’. I think it carries our concept of the ‘love of power’.
The only other place this word appears in the New Testament is in Luke 22. “And there was also a strife [‘philoneikos’]among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” Lk22:24-30. This is one of the goals of the headcovering ordinance: to help us come to the kind of understanding of authority that Jesus taught in Luke 22.
As much as ungodly men may try to overthrow God’s chain of command, his authority structures will endure. The twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, but they will be some of the most unselfish leaders the world has ever seen. In Luke 22, the apostles were behaving in a power-hungry way, because they didn’t yet understand authority.
The headcovering observance helps us understand authority, while those who oppose authority do so because they do not understand authority. Those who rightfully serve in positions of authority under Christ have to suffer more and make greater sacrifices than those who are under their authority. Godly leaders labor in their positions for the sake of and to take care of those under their charge, not to exploit them.
Everyone except God the Father is under someone’s authority. A good heart is glad to serve without envy of others’ positions. I believe most women really like their place in God’s order. They like to help; but they like to be loved and appreciated and respected as well.
It bothers me when I hear people criticize or ridicule ‘women’s libbers’. It is the apostate church and the male philosophers of this world that have led women into what is called the women’s liberation movement. Women will follow faithfully and conscientiously if men lead them in the right direction in love.
The world claims the church doesn’t think highly of women. Actually, the church values women as women. The church understands there is no stigma attached to subordinate positions; otherwise we could not be content in our subordinate positions to God. The world does not value women as they naturally are, but wants to change them into something they are not. It despises their natural role, and esteems the subordinate position they were created for as being worthless. The world doesn’t want women to make sacrifices for their families or to enjoy being a help in all areas of society.
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered,” 1Pet3:7. Is it really kind to give those who are weaker the right to compete on an equal footing with those who are stronger? No more restrictions on one hand, but no more protection or preference on the other? If it’s ‘every man for himself’ then men will no longer give women special courtesies or preferences, and women, because they are the weaker vessels, will be at a great disadvantage in the world.
Much suffering has resulted from society’s disregard of the role of women. Many men today give their wives the ‘right’ to be separated from their children all day, to work all day at the office or factory, to do most of the housework at night, and then they feel no obligation to stay married to them, because everything’s 50-50. “Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth, for the LORD God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away [divorce],” Mal2:15-16. Men do not push for equality for women because they care about women, but because they want to escape their own obligations to care for their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters, and to escape from being under authority themselves.
“WE HAVE NO SUCH CUSTOM, NEITHER THE CHURCHES OF GOD,” 1COR11:16. The headcovering observance, and the doctrine of subordination taught by it, is certainly subject to abuse because of the weakness and sinfulness of people. A godly man will be humbled by the responsibilities he learns from the observance, rather than be emboldened to treat women ungraciously. It is important that we not only keep the observance, but also instruct the saints as to its proper meaning, as Paul did starting in verse 3. “I praise you that you ... keep the ordinances ... but I would have you know ... ,” 1Cor11:3.
Paul said that neither the apostles, nor any of the churches, taught or practiced the headcovering observance in a contentious way that would lord it over women. This also means that all the churches at that time were keeping the headcovering ordinance, and so should we today.