WOMEN MUST APPROPRIATELY ACKNOWLEDGE THE AUTHORITY (HEADSHIP) OF MEN (BY WEARING THE SYMBOLIC CLOTH HEAD COVERING) AND AVOID DENIALS OF THEIR GOD-APPOINTED FEMININE ROLE
This is certainly a very controversial topic in light of the feminist movement in our culture. We see a woman running for President of the most powerful country in the world. We see churches attacked as outdated and chauvinistic if they limit the church office of elder and the role of preaching to men. We see much gender confusion with women pushing for a type of “Equality of the Sexes” that amounts to denying any role differentiations between men and women. So you have women serving in the military and holding the most powerful leadership positions in the business world.
The Apostle Paul had been dealing with issues related to a Christian’s liberties. Apparently some women in the church had taken the concept of liberality too far and were removing their cloth head-coverings that symbolized their submission to the headship (authority) of men. Paul felt this was an important error to address since the God-ordained creation order and differing roles of man and woman were a fundamental fabric both of society itself and of godly behavior in the church.
I. (:2-7) FUNDAMENTAL TEACHING OF THE HEADSHIP OF MEN OVER WOMEN AND HOW THAT RELATES TO THE NECESSITY OF WEARING THE SYMBOLIC CLOTH HEAD COVERING
A. (:2) Introductory Word of Commendation
1. Positive Approach of Prefacing Correction with Praise
“Now I praise you”
Surprising, because Paul did not have a lot of areas in which he was praising the church at Corinth; very gracious, diplomatic approach to dealing with a delicate topic
2. Two Reasons for the Commendation
a. Loyal to the Personal Example of the Apostle Paul – Personal Connection
“because you remember me in everything”
Whom are we imitating in our church practices?
b. Loyal to the Doctrinal Teachings of the Apostle Paul – Doctrinal Connection
“and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.”
“traditions” can be either positive or negative – here viewed as the positive apostolic instruction in doctrine and practice that was essential in these transitional times before the full development of the Canon of Scripture
B. (:3) Reinforcement of the Fundamental Role Differentiations Involving Headship
1. Headship of Christ Over Man
“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man”
Leake: head of every man, not just the church; Heb. 2:8
2. Headship of Man Over Woman
“and the man is the head of a woman”
Not restricting the context to the marital relationship of husband and wife
3. Headship of God the Father Over Christ
“and God is the head of Christ.”
Certainly no concept of inferiority involved
Leake: Christ submitted to the will of the Father; John 6:38; Jesus did not send the Father but the other way around (1 Cor. 15:28)
Concept of Headship had to involve primarily Authority … some people today want to limit it to some reference to “Source” alone
What does this picture of headship communicate?
C. (:4-7) Explanation of the Need for a Head Covering for the Woman
1. (:4-5a) The Issue Involves Respecting vs Disgracing Your Head
a. How does a Man Disgrace His Head?
“Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head.”
b. (:5a) How does a Woman Disgrace Her Head?
“But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head;”
2. (:5b-6) Argument from the Lesser to the Greater —
Same Category as Shaving a Woman’s Head – just more extreme
“for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. For if a woman does
not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.”
3. (:7) Distinction of God-Appointed Roles Must be Maintained
a. Man is the Image and Glory of God
“For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God”
b. Woman is the Glory of Man
“but the woman is the glory of man.”
II. (:8-12) PRIMARY ARGUMENT BASED ON ORIGINATION WHICH CREATES A NECESSARY ROLE DIFFERENTIATION
A. (:8-10) Three Reasons Why it Makes Sense for Women to Wear the Cloth Head Covering
1. (:8) Woman Originates from Man
“For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man”
2. (:9) Woman Was Created For Man
“for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
3. (:10) Submission of Woman to Man Matters to Angels
“Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”
This is a powerful argument in favor of the symbol still being valid today and essential. Angels cannot see into the heart of a woman to determine if she has the proper attitude of submission. They must see the visible symbol. Yes, there can still be hypocrisy, but that is a separate issue.
B. (:11-12) Balancing Perspective (to mitigate against abuse)
1. Mutual Dependence
“However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman”
2. Primacy of God
“and all things originate from God”
III. (:13-16) THREE SECONDARY SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS WHICH LEAD TO THE SAME CONCLUSION – THE WOMEN MUST CONTINUE THE SYMBOLIC PRACTICE OF WEARING THE CLOTH HEAD COVERING
A. (:13) Argument From Propriety
“Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered?”
B. (:14-15) Argument From Nature
“Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”
C. (:16) Argument From Universal Church Practice
“But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”
The difficulty in this passage is all about application. Apart from the easy-to-answer objections of the feminists to the clearly defined role differentiations, we are left to wrestle with the thorny issue of whether God really expects women today in our culture to still wear head coverings in some context of Christian gatherings. This is an issue which the modern church does not have much appetite to investigate. Where is the perceived benefit to try to re-introduce a practice that most people would find to be bizarre at best? On the other hand, the issue is always about what is pleasing to the Lord and consistent with His revealed will.
There are two main approaches for the biblical scholar who cares about practicing what he believes to be the truth:
1) The majority will argue that the principle of submission is the focal point of the passage and the area of obedience of concern to God. The practice of wearing the head covering was cultural and not obligatory for today. The fact that the head covering has lost its symbolism in today’s culture would make it unnecessary and even overly restrictive to try to re-introduce the symbol and re-educate people as to its significance. A strong argument from silence would be to note that the OT never claims that Eve was commanded to wear any type of head covering from the beginning. It would seem that she was naked in the garden originally; and after the Fall the garments which the Lord made for them did not include a head covering for Eve (Gen. 3:21).
However, the difficulty is that the arguments used in the passage seem to extend beyond cultural lines of reasoning and have a more universal application. Perhaps Paul is more concerned with the statement made by women removing the head covering rather than by the necessity of wearing the head covering itself. But again, the nature of the arguments do not point in that direction.
2) Some will dare to argue and practice that we need to take the Scriptures at face value in this text as everywhere else. And as strange as it seems to us, we need to make an issue of women needing to wear the required head covering. (The point would not be to coerce women against their conscience to adopt such behavior; that would be legalistic. Rather there would be teaching to re-establish the symbolism intended by God and women taking up this practice as a matter of personal conviction.) However, that puts us in very strange company in today’s world. One would not want to create unnecessary obstacles to people embracing a church community. But the determining factor still must be: How clear is the Lord’s revelation on this subject and what application does He desire for us?
If the practice needs to be re-instituted, one must address a wide range of questions that are problematic:
– Who is required to wear the head covering? The instruction goes beyond application just to married women. At what age would it become appropriate?
– What is the context in today’s spiritual experience where “praying and prophecying” take place? Many people who have adopted the practice have limited its expression to the main public worship service. But the passage seems to go beyond that since women were not allowed to take a vocal leadership role in that context. Is the head covering something that you would put on and take off repeatedly? Should it have application in private prayer (probably not)? How about prayer within the context of the home, but not public prayer?
– What type of covering should be worn? Must it be opaque and truly cover the head as opposed to just a symbolic little cap?
The temptation is to admit to the complexity and allow others to wrestle with the details! You certainly have to have a very strong level of conviction to move forward in this direction.