Head-covering & Uncovering
1 Corinthians 11: 1-16...
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you,
brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I
delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is
Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his
head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered
dishonoureth her head: 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. 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. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this
cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
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. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman
pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man
have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a
glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to
be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.”
There are some passages of Scripture that are so seldom used for preaching
and teaching that some Christians who are less given to personal study are
hardly aware of them. The above has become for many in our age and culture a
topic to avoid at all costs! It is not only here, in the first half of the
eleventh chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthian church, but elsewhere,
in both Old and New Testaments that we find many other portions of Holy
Scripture that speak of male and female being different. What a shock to those
who have been constantly told that there is no difference betwixt the two
genders, or at least, that there is no differentiation in our roles. For some
who are perhaps new brothers and sisters in Christ, if they have heard of this
passage of Scripture it was only as a matter of controversy and a comment or two
about it not being relevant to us today quickly dealt with it.
The purpose of this study is to look at the passage in hand and see what is
actually being taught. Like so many great themes of Scripture there is beauty,
wonder and sheer simplicity if we are simply willing to receive the truth.
However, just as it was in the times when New Testament Scripture was being
written there are still many today that are either ignorant of, or, more
seriously, directly oppose some of the New Testament teachings. Therefore, it is
not always possible to simply gaze on the sheer beauty of God in the revelation
of Him in His Word, along the way we have to address the arguments put forward
by those who object to, or simply misunderstand, the doctrines of His holy
apostles. This dual approach of expounding God’s Word while at the same time
addressing the heresies, which abound in opposition to it, is in fact the common
method of apostolic teaching we find in the New Testament. It is part revelation
of truth and part refutation of circulating teachings that oppose the truth. So,
along the way in this study we shall address the four (that I know of) commonly
used arguments for not adhering to this ordinance today. By the end of this
study the reader will then be in a much better position to judge whether or not
this does hold any relevance to the Church today. We will take the whole passage
verse by verse and we shall see.
Before we come to that however, it is of the utmost importance that we
understand that there are a multitude of other topics that underlie this one.
This of course is true of virtually any serious Bible study. There is always a
lot of ground gone before, which we really need to understand first. However, if
we forever keep going over the ground that comes before we will never progress
to anything further on in God’s Word. I shall simply state in brief some of the
important topics, which in terms of progressive understanding, come before the
subject in hand. Of most relevance they are:
- ‘Inspiration of Scripture’
You must first believe that the Bible is God’s Word, especially ‘inspired’
(God-breathed) in a way that makes it relevant to ALL Christians & ALL churches,
in ALL cultures, in ALL places, at ALL times. (See statement on ‘Inspiration of
Scripture’ on this site)
- Male and female generally
“Male and female made He them.” The purpose and role of male and female is as
old as creation itself. It is a fundamental theme of God’s dealings with
mankind. The Scripture is full of references to this subject in both Old and New
Testaments. This is not a study of male and female generally. We are only
focussing on the ordinance in question. However, as will be seen, we will cover
a lot of ground on that topic, but not all. There is a small section on ‘Women
and Authority’ in the study entitled ‘His Church’ on this site. You may find
the small amount of information there useful.
- This is not a lone ‘ordinance’
Whilst the Old Testament is full of ‘ordinances’ (we’ll come to that word),
there are only a very select few in the New. It is important to realise that
this topic is part and parcel of the more general theme of ‘ordinances’.
- Our approach to God’s Word
This partly fits in with the subject of ‘Inspiration of Scripture’. It is worth
mentioning this just in case there is anyone who thinks that this ordinance can
be simply written off as being peripheral or unimportant. I would like to remind
you that Jesus did not consider any topic to be of such little importance as to
not be worthy of careful attention. I personally doubt that there is such a
thing as ‘essentials and non-essentials’ in the things of God. Obedience is
essential in all. Jesus did ascribe to some issues the definition of being
‘weightier’ than others but neither He nor any of His apostles used the
‘weightier’ to destroy the ‘lesser’. Read again the Lord’s words in Matthew
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and
anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment,
mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other
Neither Jesus nor any of His apostles ever said, “Make sure you do the things
you consider to be important and the rest is comparatively unimportant.” On the
contrary, Jesus was saying: “set in order not only the big issues but make sure
that you don’t leave anything undone.” In the light of that, as to whether any
issue is actually ‘great’ or ‘small’, it really makes no difference because
Jesus tells us He wants it ALL done.
Four arguments against
It is not surprising that when we come up against something in God‘s Word that
cuts across the popular culture of the day, that many are in a serious dilemma
as to which way to go. The honest approach of those who feel the burden of being
marked as ‘different’ is too much to bear should be to simply state: “I
acknowledge what is being taught but I am not prepared to act so differently
from the rest of society.” Not a good attitude to the things of Almighty God,
but at least it’s honest. Far more disgraceful though, we hear excuses, and they
really are little more than that I am sorry to say. I know that they are mere
excuses because the people who use them don’t usually say, “It would be
absolutely no problem to me whatsoever to do this. I am perfectly willing, but I
have seriously studied it and come to the conclusion that… etc.” In
acknowledgement of such people who do hold to such a position in the absolute
integrity of their heart, I apologise for my use of the term ‘excuses’. I do
however urge such a one to read on and I believe that you can only reach the
conclusion that is reached in this study. For the sake of these ones who may
have genuinely misunderstood this passage I shall henceforth out of courtesy use
the term ‘arguments’. There are four I know of. We shall be dealing with three
of these as the study progresses and I shall make the briefest of references to
the fourth one now. The four arguments are:
- It was only a local/cultural practice.
It belonged either to Corinth only and/or it was simply to do with the culture
they lived in. We shall deal with this one throughout the study. We shall see
that the whole point of Scripture is to reveal spiritual truth.
- The ‘hair’ is her covering. It says so in verse 15.
We’ll deal with this one when we come to verse 15.
- “We have no such custom.” Paul says, “if it causes you any problems just forget about it!”
We’ll deal with this one when we arrive at verse 16
- “It was Paul’s personal prejudice, he had a ‘down’ on women!”
This last will not be given any special attention in the study, as it is not
even based on anything said or written about Paul in Scripture. We have
testimonies of his being “called from his mother’s womb,” being “a chosen vessel
unto God” and Peter tells us that writings by Paul are considered to be
“Scripture” (2 Pet. 3:16). Paul was a man who did nothing less than suffer and
die as a result of his faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel. He is called “an
apostle”, which means that he is chosen by God to be a representative of Jesus
Christ. This question particularly, but really all four of the ‘arguments’ are
answered when we understand that it is God who ‘inspired’ ALL of the Scripture.
Therefore in the context of the New Testament/Covenant period (or, the ‘Church
age’) ALL Scripture must bear relevance to ALL generations or there wouldn’t
have been any point in ‘preserving’ it as ‘Holy Writ’.
Let’s move on with the study…
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