By: Clement Ntukogu –
Paul devotes half a chapter to the subject of head covering in the church of God (I Corinthians 11:1-16). What are the reasons for head covering given by Paul? Verse 3: gives the first reason why the head covering should be worn. This is the issue of headship; Paul states that God is the Head of Christ, Christ is the Head of man and man is the head of woman.
For this reason, it is proper for the women to cover their heads and for the men to have uncovered heads in the church.
And verse 7: gives the second reason for head covering of women. Paul states that man (males) represent the image and glory of God, while women represent the glory of man.
Therefore, in a church meeting, the women’s heads should be covered and the men’s heads should be uncovered so that both the glory of God in man and in woman will be represented.
Verses 8 and 9: gives the third reason for the head covering of women. As the respective roles of men and women in creation, he brings the point that man was created first and woman was created after man, that the order was established from the beginning of creation.
Verse 10: gives a forth reason for head covering of women. Women should cover their heads “because of the angels”, presumably because angels observed or respects the order of creation and are onlookers when the believers meet together for public worship.
Please we should note that not one of the reasons given by Paul for the head covering of women are in any way related to the culture of Corinth in his day. Rather, the reasons are scriptural, based on unchanging theological truths that are as applicable to us today as they were then.
The teaching of head covering was applicable for all “the churches of God” in verse 16: the practice was not only relevant in the culture of Corinth but was universally applicable to all of the churches of God, with their many and varied cultural backgrounds.
Is the head covering distinct from the hair? Verses 5 and 6: make it clear that the covering is distinct from the hair. Paul states in verse six that if the woman is without the head covering during prayer or prophecy, she should also be shorn. The force of the text states that if she is without a covering over her hair, she is dishonoring her head just as much as she would be dishonored if she were shaven-headed.
Some Christians interpret the passage as a cultural mandate that was only for the first-century Corinthian church. However it cannot be said there is any evidence that Paul was seeking to distinguish Christian women from temple prostitutes with short hair.
A woman’s true dignity is in knowing and accepting the place her Creator and Redeemer has accorded to her. The same is true of a man. Woman’s head covering is an eloquent testimony to acceptance of God’s standards. The truth is that the obedience of the heart will lead to obedience in practice in our lives. This should be true of every aspect of our walk of faith. If we have faith without works, our faith is dead. The believer should be characterized by inward faith, purity, holiness and by outward good works, pure speech and obedience to the physical commands of the Lord.
So it is in the matter of the head covering also. The correct heart attitude will necessarily lead us to honor the Lord by obedience in practice to a practical command given to New Testament believers.
Clearly the apostle is not discussing the issue of what the world calls “equality” or “dignity.” He is discussing the issue of government and authority in the Christian home and the church.
In today’s culture, we no longer view a woman’s wearing of a head covering as a sign of submission.
In most modern societies, scarves and hats are fashion accessories. A woman has the choice to wear a head covering if she views it as a sign of her submission to the authority of her husband. However, it is a personal choice and not something that should be used to judge spirituality.
The real issue here is the heart attitude of obedience to God’s authority and submission to His established order “as to the LORD” (Ephesians 5:22). God is far more concerned with an attitude of submission than an outward display of submission via a head covering.
First Timothy 2:9-10, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”