The Head Covering
What does it signify, and are Christian women required by the Scriptures to wear a head covering for public worship in the modern era? A closer look at this neglected doctrine.
Whenever someone mentions women using head coverings in today's modern world, there are many Christians and non-Christians alike who generally think of Muslim women wearing the modest apparel or they think of Jewish people covering their heads. But sadly, when it comes to the church overall especially in places in the world like the United States, there are many believers in the Lord making claims that it was a custom of a particular time in the past. So they believe there is no obligation to wear one in today's modern world. Would that also mean, if the custom or law govern by the church of a particular time and culture would be mandating men to cover their heads, would it then be accepted by the saints of God for public worship? Let's look at this important subject more closely.
What the Scriptures Say In Regards to Head Coverings
In answer to this vital question we must ask for God's Holy Spirit for guidance. For the source of our understanding clearly comes from God who rules over all. Please open your bibles and turn with me to 1 Corthinans 11:1-6. Later on, we are going to also look at verse 10 of the same chapter. This is going to be a verse by verse study with a step by step approach in a very simple manner followed by a brief commentary which leads to what head coverings signify. The Scripture reads as follows;
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
Paul the Apostle appeals to the church to use him as an example who was taught by Christ Himself. During this period of time, many problems with sin crept into the Corinthian assembly. As a result, sin was drawing them away from God rather than growing more in grace with God. There was a great need for repentance and Paul was using himself as an example on how to live godly.
Moving on to the next verse...
"Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you."
Ordinances means tradition, in the Greek it means "handed down or on". Here we read how Paul uses this term in this context so he would not be accused of making up some new man-made doctrine which Christ wouldn't approve of. Paul the Apostle, basically avoids any charge of what he thinks the church should be doing rather than what Christ wants for His people to be doing. Next verse states and I quote.... "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." This is at the very core of Paul's argument. He seeks to establish the order of God's authority by basically pointing out these three facts...
1) The Head of Christ is God
2) The Head of Man is Christ
3) The Head of the Woman is Man
The 'head' is the main controlling force of the body, all other parts are subject to follow it's lead. Likewise, all believers rejoice in Christ being head of the church and follow His lead. But what about the head of Christ being God? While this concept is plainly understood by Christians thanks to the Lord, I know many Muslims who might be reading this article would point out in defiance of the trinity, I can hear them now saying, "see even the Bible said Jesus wasn't God in your trinity, because God was above Jesus." I know from vast experience when it comes to witnessing to Muslims. This very issue always comes up. And it's not only Muslims but other cults who deny the trinity use this verse in this fashion as well. Let's look again at the meaning of this argument as it will lead to the subject matter at hand, and I quote, "But if Jesus was God," some would say, "then God couldn't be above Him because they wouldn't be all equal." While it's true, the Godhead is not unequal in any way shape or form, the Scriptures make it clear however, the essence of the Godhead is not only one and the same, but their functions are different.
Jesus said God the Father was over him in John 14:28. Christ was appointed by God to accomplish His particular function as the Messiah. To come into the world in a form of human flesh and die for the sins of His people. God the Father speaks of Christ as His servant in Isaiah 42:1 and Jesus said when he was on earth, it wasn't to do His will but to do the will of the one who sent him (John 6:38). The Scriptures say the function of the Holy Spirit which is also part of the trinity is to guide and dwell in the believer's heart. The Holy Spirit leads a Christian into all truths and understanding. The trinity overall are so united as one, they are in each other as John 17:21 points out, "Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee.” (Also see Col. 2:9).
Moving on to the next couple of verses....
"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." 1Cor. 11:4-6.
The Scriptures by the will of God, laid down the order of authority which is at the very foundation of the Christian belief. Paul next moves to public worship where we see a woman being able to "prophesieth". How can a woman be involved with "prophesying" when the Scriptures say a woman must be silent in the church service as we see in other verses such as Tim. 2:11-12? Charismatic Catholics and Pentecostals would claim this is proof a woman being a minister, speak in tongues and so forth and so on. Is there a conflict with Scripture? No, there is not, let me explain, part of public worship is speaking or singing. Such a practice was part of the Old Testament as well and on occasions spoken of as a "prophesy" (see I Chron. 25:1-3). Singing to the Lord is part of public worship and a woman may fully participate which in a sense prophesy (Eph. 5:19).
When it comes to the man, the Scriptures make it clear, he may not wear a head covering while in public worship. Nothing is said this just a cultural custom either so it's not an ever changing practice. If a man wears a head covering in public worship he is denying his rightful place of authority and submission under Christ. This is what it signifies. When a women doesn't wear a head covering for public worship, she is also denying her very role which is to be in subjection to the man.
What is "shorn or shaven" which is mentioned in 1Cor. 11:6? The image of her hair "shorn or shaven" was generally practice in Jewish traditions when a women would be convicted of adultery. Shorn hair was a means of identifying some women caught for the sin of fornication. So the act of a woman wearing a head covering signifies her submission to her role that God has given her to be under the man, and to not wear the head covering during public worship signifies rebellion toward that role and as the imagery of a woman with "shorn hair" would signify.
"For this cause ought the woman to have power on [her] head because of the angels."
1 Corinthians 11:10 can be a little confusing at times for Christians no doubt about it. What does Paul mean by a woman having power on her head? The word "power" translates to 'privilege', 'right' or 'authority'. This means a woman must have this sign of power on her head which shows subjection. Paul's makes the reference of "angels" as a means of using their role for importance. So it's not only submission for man when a woman covers her head for public worship, but it's shows a woman's obedience in the presence of angels. It's a known fact angels are aware of what's happening on Earth as suggested in such verses as 1 Cor. 4:9. Also in Hebrews 1:14, where the Scriptures speak about the works of angels in relation to the people of God. The angles are given authority over the people of the Lord, to keep us in all of our ways (Ps. 91:11).
What about the Custom Consideration of Different Cultures?
|"Men of the time period did not wear a veil and women were considered rebellious and disrespectful without one." --Maranatha Baptist Bible College on "Head Coverings in Worship"
This is generally a commonly held argument for a woman not to wear a head covering during the assembling of the church. In fact, I had a discussion once with a female who knew a friend of mine. Early on in the relationship I made it known to her that I believed head coverings for the modern era are Scriptural. It was indeed a surprise to her because many assemblies do not believe in a woman covering their head. With this new information about me, my female decided to tell one of her closest friends who later wanted to take the debate to me at our very first meeting in person. When the time to be introduced, it didn't take long at all for the conversation on the subject to be brought up. She attempted to use a cultural connection as the foundation of her argument, but when looking closely at various parts of Scripture we see the Jews both men and women were covering their heads most of the time (Ex. 28:40, 29:9, 39:28, Dan. 3:21). In fact, as we see today, the Jews are still required to wear head coverings most of the time. The Greek pagans which were located in the area where Paul was addressing the church about this issue, didn't wear any head coverings for their worship.
My point is this and it's very clear, the very thing Paul was teaching according to Scripture was contrary to the customs and practices of his day. So we see no cultural connection there, none whatsoever. The New Testament church was set apart not only from the pagan temples which many say is the reason why Paul taught about head coverings, but also the Jewish synagogues as well. As a result, a Christian woman was to be distinctive: she was to behave differently in contrast to the world which is against God, likewise a man was to be distinctive and behave differently in contrast to the world. All Christians should not pattern themselves after the customs of a continuing faithless world that is progressing each day getting more rebellious towards our Lord, but pattern themselves after an never changing Word of God, preserved for us through the ages according His will.
The Answer to a Question Posed by Paul the Apostle in 1 Cor. 11:13
There was also another part of the woman's argument which I have not forgotten nor was I purposely ignoring it. In defense of her position and this is very common, she used this verse which poses a question to believers in the Lord which goes like this, "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" 1 Cor. 11:13. She asserted this question was biblical proof that women covering their heads for church is cultural rather than required by the Scriptures. However, Paul wasn't teaching about this statement every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head as a mere suggestion on how a woman in the church should conduct herself in appearance, but rather pose a question after explaining about head coverings for Christian women with the answer of "no." It wouldn't be proper or as the Bible puts it; "comely" for a woman to be uncovered in a assembly for it brings no glory to God's order in which He has created for us as Christians to obey. Just like a man who wears a head covering for public worship brings no glory to God's order. The Scriptures are clear, this is not a cultural teaching, nor is it just a "religious covering for women" but a Christian one that brings glory to God.
The Importance of God's Word when it comes to Faith And Practice
Mathew 4:4 says; "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Every word that comes from God in the Bible is important, not just a portion of the Bible here and then another portion elsewhere, but the entire Word of God. On the other hand, Christians should not get so bogged down on these types of issues which are not connected with salvation. Meaning that believers in the Lord should not get hung up so much that it affects their relationship with one another to the point of not having any fellowship. While it's important to show a brother or sister in Christ of their error, dealing with Christians outside your own assembly, shouldn't become a fishing expedition in order to try and find all their faults as the dominate force of the conversation. Sadly, some Christians believe if they are not in full agreement on all doctrines issues they should shun the person or persons in the faith to the point where they no longer are conversing like brothers and sisters in the faith. Romans 14:1; "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." Having said that, this by no means diminishes the importance of every single word from God in which a Christian should believe in and live by, however there must be a biblical balance between the two issues of right and wrong when it comes to obeying all of God's word among believers of different assemblies, alright moving on...
The Head Covering in Islam
Some people often ask, why do Muslims wear head coverings in their cultures or in their religion? The answer is basically simple, in contrast to Christianity, Islam has its own reason and its own purpose for requiring head coverings for all women. The Arabic word "Hijab" comes from a word "haya" which means modesty. Most Muslims believe they are judged and represented by a head covering placed on a Muslim woman. It also signifies Islamic modesty and womanhood but for some others it signifies oppression for women. There are five different types of head coverings for women in Islam. You have the Khimar which covers the hair, neck and shoulders as pictured above. Next, is the Niqab. This headcovering expands to cover the whole entire body leaving a small area on the face for exposure, you can find this most common in Iran. Then there is the Burka, which is popular in Afganistan, this Islamic covering for women has no skin exposed, it covers the woman's entire body from head to toe. The Chador, is similar to that of the Niqab around the head and face but doesn't expand to cover the rest of a woman's body. And lastly, Hijab, which as you know means modesty, it's style is a scarf that wraps around the hair leaving the face exposed. In Islam, the larger the head covering is, the more modesty of womanhood is considered being displayed to the world which they believe glorifies Islam even more. It's the main reason why some Muslim women have huge coverings that only reveal the eyes or are completely covered.
Many Muslims take the head covering very seriously. If a Muslim woman is caught for refusing to wear one in public there are very serve punishments carried out under Islamic law by Arabic governments, and in some cases result in death with particular Muslims in all parts of the world. Recently, a devout Muslim father in Canada named Muhammad Parvez had killed his daughter by strangulation for refusing to wear a "Hijab". He called the police to inform them he had killed his daughter. No doubt in the eyes of this man who performed the wicked deed on his daughter considered it as protecting Islam, and his role which to him (and others as well) is more important than life itself. Another point I would like to make is on the subject of "many Muslims taking the head covering seriously" as I wish not to imply that force is the backbone for compliment. Many Muslim women do in fact accept the teaching, and are more than willing to wear one on their heads to show their particular brand of spirituality. But in countries like Egypt it's changing. A recent survey was conducted and 70 percent of the women in Egypt no longer want to wear a Hijab. Alright on to the next verse of Scripture which I already briefly addressed in part now...
"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."
When it comes to head coverings in Christianity the Scriptures talk about 'ample covering' not a invisible net, tiny little bows, and flimsy veils as we see today in various places. They may enhance the glory of a woman but do not cover it. Scripture is not referring to a Burka either which many Muslims use in such places as Iran, but as the Bible said, it must be an 'ample covering'. As you may have noticed, there are pictures displayed in this web page as examples of different head coverings. These pictures displayed and I want to make this perfectly clear, I'm not endorsing those styles as the only proper ones to have. There are many styles which will cover a woman's head more than others, but both types are biblical. Men and women should obey God's Word, and not the world's style when it comes to choosing a head covering.
It's truly one of the most amazing things when it comes to worship, thanks to the Lord! We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ on this matter. This doctrine has been a very neglected issue in recent times in various places around the world...The teaching of head coverings in the New Testament as stated before, was not requiring the saints of God to wear them all the time but required a woman to wear one for public worship for the glory of God's order...Yes in certain cultures it is required by their laws from their religion, and it wouldn't be sinful for a Christian woman who lives in one of those countries to wear one all the time if needed to do so. But Paul was only referring to public worship within the confines of a group of believers known as an assembly (with possible visitors in their mist) on the subject of Christian head coverings.
We need not to forget, with remaining sin in the world, and with radical feminism which is the liberal dogma on how women should act and their redefining roles contrary to Scriptures. Christians need to pray for these lost souls who believe in such things as they need the Gospel to be presented to them. Because just believing in head coverings as a Scriptural foundation and not knowing who Christ is, makes one's faith vain. The Lord doesn't save people who don't know Him. The Scriptures are able to make even little children wise until salvation. Seek ye first, the Kingdom of God and the rest will be added unto you! And with that statement in mind, I'm going to conclude this segment for now, thanks for coming and taking the time in studying this important but very neglected doctrine on the head covering.