An examination of headcoverings
1 Corinthians 11 mandates women are to cover their heads when in public worship. Headcovering in worship was once a practice supported and taught by Christian churches. It is a practice that, due to feminism’s influence, has long been out of favor.
My daughters and I cover our heads when in worship. This would include a gathering of the saints for a meal where public prayer is offered (such as a luncheon; immediately after, we uncover), a wedding, or a funeral. We do this because we believe it is Scriptural, find examples of women who did so throughout church history, and we desire to honor God.
Soli Deo Gloria!
1 Corinthians 11: 2- 16,
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
R. C. Sproul:
“Though the many authors differ on various issues associated with headcoverings, one important issue upon which they are all agreed is that Paul was not commanding the women in Corinth either to let their hair grow long so as to use their long hair as a headcovering in worship, or to neatly place their hair upon their heads as a headcovering in worship, but rather to place upon their heads a fabric headcovering when they worship before the Lord. This conclusion is reached by scholars from various denominational backgrounds, from different geographical locations, and from many periods of church history.
The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church of Jesus Christ which is “the pillar and ground of the truth.””
Matthew Henry commentary on 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16:
The man that prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonoureth his head, namely, Christ, the head of every man (verse 3), by appearing in a habit unsuitable to the rank in which God has placed him. Note, We should, even in our dress and habits, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ. The woman, on the other hand, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head, namely, the man, verse 3.
The sexes should not affect to change places. The order in which divine wisdom has placed persons and things is best and fittest: to endeavour to amend it is to destroy all order, and introduce confusion. The woman should keep to the rank God has chosen for her, and not dishonour her head; for this, in the result, is to dishonour God. If she was made out of the man, and for the man, and made to be the glory of the man, she should do nothing, especially in public, that looks like a wish of having this order inverted.
The woman was made for the man, to be his help-meet, and not the man for the woman. She was naturally, therefore, made subject to him, because made for him, for his use, and help, and comfort. And she who was intended to be always in subjection to the man should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, that looks like an affectation of equality.
Matthew Henry, vs 16:
Custom is in a great measure the rule of decency. And the common practice of the churches is what would have them govern themselves by. He does not silence the contentious by mere authority, but lets them know that they would appear to the world as very odd and singular in their humour if they would quarrel for a custom to which all the churches of Christ were at that time utter strangers, or against a custom in which they all concurred, and that upon the ground of natural decency. It was the common usage of the churches for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was manifestly decent that they should do so. Those must be very contentious indeed who would quarrel with this, or lay it aside.
From John Gills commentary on 1 Corinthians 11,…
is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
in you judgment you can never think so, however pleasing and gratifying such a sight may be, to the lust of the flesh, and to the lust of the eye; he does not mention prophesying, only instances in praying; but it is to be understood of one, as of another; and his meaning is, that it is an uncomely thing in a woman to appear in public service with her head uncovered, whether it be in joining in the public prayers, or in singing of psalms, or in hearing the word expounded; and though the apostle does not put the case of the man’s praying to God, or prophesying in his name with his head covered, yet his sense is the same of that, as of the woman’s.
But if any man seem to be contentious
That is, if anyone will not be satisfied with reasons given, for men’s praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered, and women’s praying and prophesying with their heads covered; but will go on to raise objections, and continue carping and cavilling, showing that they contend not for truth, but victory, can they but obtain it any way; for my part, as if the apostle should say, I shall not think it worth my while to continue the dispute any longer; enough has been said to satisfy any wise and good man, anyone that is serious, thoughtful, and modest; and shall only add,
we have no such custom, nor the churches of God;
meaning, either that men should appear covered, and women uncovered in public service, and which should have some weight with all those that have any regard to churches and their examples; or that men should be indulged in a captious and contentious spirit; a man that is always contending for contention sake, and is continually cavilling and carping at everything that is said and done in churches, and is always quarrelling with one person or another, or on account of one thing or another, and is constantly giving uneasiness, is not fit to be a church member; nor ought he to be suffered to continue in the communion of the church, to the disturbance of the peace of it.
Videos and sermons
Headcoverings and 1 Corinthians 11
My introduction to headcovering
I’ve only ever visited one church that practiced headcovering in worship. I wasn’t raised covering my head in worship services. My mother didn’t cover and the church of Christ that I grew up in neither taught it nor as a whole, practiced it.
There was one woman in our church who covered; her humble obedience stands out in my memory. I remember asking my mother about her. Her answer was that there was a section in Scripture about covering (1 Corinthians 11: 1-16) but that the practice was a cultural thing and not meant for today.
While this young lady was the only woman I knew who wore a cloth head covering, the older ladies of the church all wore hats. I never connected that to the lady who covered her head but, looking back, I do now. They were from a time when women still took 1 Corinthians 11 seriously.
Confronted with headcovering
Many years later, I read about headcovering in a magazine. The lady that wrote the article covered except for in bed and in the shower. She gave many reasons why she covered and, to my uninformed mind, it was overwhelming. Nonetheless, this is what God used to began to work on me.
The first resource that I ran across that confirmed that women were to be covered in worship was through Matthew Henry’s commentaries. God planted another seed of questioning in me. Then not too long afterwards, I found another book, this one by R.C. Sproul (Sproul? Who was this Sproul guy?–I had no idea at the time) that briefly addressed headcoverings in a positive way. Yet, another seed.
Beginning to cover
I kept digging and researching. My daughters and I started covering by wearing scarves. I started asking questions online. Someone saw my questions and began a dialogue with me. He told me that his wife and daughters covered. He explained why and his arguments made sense to me. That, coupled with all that we were learning, reinforced my burgeoning belief that headcoverings were tied into the creation order and were still in effect and always would be.
I taught my daughters what I was learning. They were already obeying me by wearing headcovers but now they, too, started to understand why they were needful. Together, we read books on headcoverings. We studied the Scriptural references, and examined how the command was tied to the creation order. We discussed how every other command in Scripture tied to the creation order is considered to be in effect for today. Why shouldn’t headcoverings be among those?
We can to realize that feminism had impacted the church far more than we’d thought. As the so-called women’s movement gained steam, fewer and fewer women had covered their heads.
The discontents told women that headcovering was old-fashioned, oppressive, and a sign of men ruling cruelly over them. They pushed against the church and, as in most things where women push, the men crumbled.
Weak church leaders
Church leaders had no real Scriptural understanding of headcoverings themselves, it seemed (probably because they’d never really studied it, just taken it for granted as they seemed to do so concerning many other teachings of Scripture that they easily folded on) or they lacked the spiritual fortitude to stand against the warring women. Soon, headcovering was considered a quaint nod to the past. Those few women who still covered were either in one of “those” groups (Amish, Mennonite, ana-baptist, etc.) or a relic.
A pastor’s warning
We’ve moved around a lot (long story) and have never had any real problems covering. We’ve always been the only ones who covered in the churches we’ve attended. There was, however, this one Reformed Baptist church where the pastor was extremely contentious about it and, in fact, we were told we were to “do and say nothing to encourage other women to cover.” We didn’t stay there long. Otherwise, either it’s been noted as a thing of interest with questions being asked, or it’s been observed and ignored.
We’re now in a PCA and we’re still the only one’s covering. My daughters have each told me that they cover because they have come to believe it is what God would require of them according to Scripture. They long to please the Lord. They believe, as do I, that when we cover our heads before becoming before the Lord, we’re proclaiming the truth of God’s created order–something that has long been ignored even by God’s people. The failure to proclaim this truth has led to the morass of sin in our culture today. If we understand and honor creation order, we cannot capitulate to, give credence to, or support in any way feminism or any form sexual sin that so inundates and controls our society. Headcovers proclaim God’s truth concerning men and women, marriage, sex, and the duties of men and women in the home, church, and society.
Glory and Coverings excerpt by Phillip Kayser
“Paul says that for a woman to not be covered “is one and the same as if her head was shaved”? Notice that he doesn’t say that she is shaved. If she were shaved, one could argue that the hair and the covering were the same, but this is “one and the same as if.” He uses the “as if” language to distinguish the covering of fabric (which she is not wearing) from the covering of hair (which she would be ashamed to cut off). The “as if” language powerfully uncovers just how much the lack of a head covering is a dishonor. Just as a woman’s shaved head would have shamed the man who was her head, God sees the failure to have a head covering as being similarly shameful.”
The church needs to once again take the teachings of 1 Corinthians 11 seriously. When the church capitulates to culture, we lose our influence. Concerning obedience to 1 Corinthians 11, the church caved to feminism.
For the good of the church and for our influence on the world, the church needs to recover the practice of headcovering in corporate worship.
God didn’t have Paul say, “Hey Corinthians, this is for you because your women are contentious.” Paul didn’t tie headcovers to their culture. He said that women are to cover because of the creation order. He also said that the churches had no other custom.
Thus, headcoverings are for today because they are for all time. God tied them to creation order. 2,000 years of church history, give or take, proves that churches had no other custom. The wearing of headcovers by women in the Christian assembly was the norm throughout church history until the advent of modern feminism.
1 Corinthians 11
When women wear a head-covering in our worship of the Almighty, we are proclaiming that first God created Adam, then He created Eve. We are proclaiming, not only the creation order (in which headcoverings are based) but we are proclaiming God’s design for man and woman–in the home, in the church, and in society.
May we choose well.
Soli Deo Gloria!