Head coverings are based in creation order
Are head coverings biblical? In 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16, God commands women to cover and men not to, so, yes, head coverings are biblical. The command by our Lord that women cover their heads during a time of corporate worship wasn’t an afterthought. It wasn’t a capricious command by Paul. The command to cover in worship is based in creation order: First Adam was created, then Eve–and because of this–so says Scripture–women are to cover their heads in corporate worship. When we obey this, sisters, we are testifying to creation order and thus we are saying that God’s ways, His assigned roles for men and women, in the home, church, and society are perfect.
1 Corinthians 11
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..
“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.””~ R. C. Sproul
The testimony of the church
For most of church history, it was expected that women would cover their hair in a worship service. Men didn’t, because the New Testament is very clear that they shouldn’t. Women did, also because the Bible was very clear that they should. Then things changed, women became liberated, and the church moved away from such old-fashioned teachings–and we all know how that’s worked. Or, rather, hasn’t.
Charles Spurgeon said, “We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God’s grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible” (“The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining it”, in An All-round Ministry, p. 318.). Yet, nearly 2,000 years of the Christian understanding the text in 1 Corinthians 11 has been obliterated by our modern times. Even in the church, feminism has played a part in our changing attitudes towards manhood, womanhood, marriage, and women’s roles in the church so is it any wonder that it also played a role in our changing views on headcoverings.
John Angel James
John Angel James: “If the veil were thrown aside, they might as well cut off their flowing hair, one of the woman’s distinctions from the man, the ornament, as well as the peculiarity of the sex. Constantly and completely Christianity is the parent of order, and the enemy of indecorum of every kind. Why were not the women to lay aside their veils? Because it would be forgetting their subordination and dependence, and assuming an equal rank with man. This is the gist of the apostle’s reason. It was not merely indecorous, and contrary to modesty, but it was ambitious, and violating the order of heaven.”
A balanced view–or sin?
We moved away from teaching women that they ought to cover their heads in worship and moved towards a more balanced view of men and women in the church. Or at least I’m told by modern church leaders that it’s a more balanced view. I believe that it’s simply easier for us not to cover than to have to explain why we’re covering. It’s less embarrassing when dealing with the world. It’s a sad testimony that what is comfortable to us matters more than what God has said.
What I know is this: When women cared about such things as creation order and head coverings, they also cared about other things such as being a godly submissive wife, a gentle nurturing present-in-their-children’s-lives-mother, growing in Christ-likeness and going about doing good. One just naturally flowed into another.
“Do you think you and I have sufficiently considered that we are always looked upon by angels, and that they desire to learn by us the wisdom of God? The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels’. The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head, because of the angels, since the angels are present in the assembly and they mark every act of indecorum, and therefore everything is to be conducted with decency and order in the presence of the angelic spirits.”
Does creation order mater?
But we told women that creation order didn’t matter because–women–and reasons–and we could all now do what we wanted. Women were told that they didn’t need to cover their heads and so they don’t, and they don’t do a lot of these other things, either.
That’s not to say that only the godly cover or only the ungodly don’t; it’s simply to point out that willing submission in one area of God’s Word tends to lead us to willing submission in other areas. We must be willing to bend our wills to God’s rather than fruitlessly trying to bend His will to ours.
“For this cause ought the woman to have power”, that is a covering, “on her head, because of the angels” 1 Cor. 11:10… Methinks, holy and beloved sisters, you should be content to wear this power or badge…”
2,000 years of church history
For nearly 2,000 years, the church understood these verses to still be relevant to them, then, abruptly, they didn’t. Our modern views simply wouldn’t allow us to hold such old-fashioned ones. Yet, throughout church history, we’d held just such views.
Taking creation order seriously
Headcoverings show the world that we take the creation order seriously, that we are serious about men’s and women’s roles even today and see them in a biblical light, and that we take submission of the woman to her husband (and his loving Christ-like leadership) as something to be taken seriously. There is a link between all of these and all of these can be addressed by a woman covering in church.
Put succinctly, headcoverings are a way for us to honor God’s Word. Wearing a headcovering testifies that we take our role as women seriously, that we embrace creation order, and thus that we take the role of men as leaders in the home, church, and society seriously.
“Head coverings represent what God teaches about marriage. Therefore, we should not mock or hate this biblical practice, but embrace it wholeheartedly… Culture at the present time in America is becoming increasingly pagan, hedonistic and anti-Christian. Any biblical practice that sets God’s people apart from our culture and sets an example for it ought to be embraced by believers. We certainly do not act as a salt and light to our heathen culture when we reject biblical imperatives relating to covenant headship and instead imitate the world.”~Head Coverings in Public Worship by Brian Schwertley
Robert L. Dabney
“Thus he who stands up in public as the herald and representative of heaven’s King must stand with uncovered head; the honour of the Sovereign for whom he speaks demands this. But no woman can present herself in public with uncovered head without sinning against nature and her sex. Hence no woman can be a public herald of Christ.”
Why cover your head in worship then? God said for us to and we honor Him by obeying. All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine and that is our guide as to how we are to live and to worship. And because, that which God has commanded, we who love Him ought to do our best to obey, and this includes covering our heads in worship.
Mandated in Scripture
I believe that headcoverings are mandated in Scripture and, because of that, the command for a woman to cover her head in a worship service is still in effect, but again I do not believe headcoverings are a salvation issue. I stand by this because of grace. But I do believe that the more a Christian knows, the more he is required to understand, grow in wisdom, and maturity.
The more spiritually mature we are, the more we are required to obey. The more we will want to obey. If churches simply taught the importance of this doctrine once again, perhaps more would understand, more would apply it, and perhaps, just perhaps, the church would start to look less like the world, and more like the Body of Christ.
William Greenhill (1581-1671): “They (the angels) reverence the greatness and majesty of Christ. Though they be high and glorious, yet they see so vast a distance between Christ and themselves, that they cover their faces, Isa. vi. And their bodies, here; they come not into his presence rudely, but with great respect and reverence.
As God is to be had in reverence of all that are about him, Psalm 89:7, so Christ is reverenced of all the angels that are about him. Women are to be veiled in the assemblies, because of the angels, 1 Cor. 11:10, to show their reverence and subjection to them being present; and angels are covered, to show their reverence and subjection to Christ. It is an honour to the angels, that in reverence to them the women are to be veiled; and it is a great honour to Christ, that angels reverence and adore him.” Commentary on Ezekiel (Ch. 1:23), by William Greenhill, member of the Westminster Assembly.
No perfect obedience
None of us obey the Lord perfectly. All of us who are followers of the Way are on a journey towards spiritual wholeness. The more we know, the more the Lord holds us responsible for. When we are first reborn, we are mere babes in Christ needing the milk of the Word. As we grow and mature, we move on to the meat of the Word, thus the more we are responsible for in the eyes of the Lord.
Christopher Love (1618-1651): “Eighth, the angels are present with us, beholding us in our church assemblies when we come to worship before God. When you are in the worship and service of God, the angels are with you, beholding you, though you see them not. This is hinted at in 1 Cor. 11:10 ‘For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels.” Some refer these words to ministers, who are elsewhere called angels, but we may understand it of the angels themselves because they delight in the things of the gospel.
Here the apostle speaks of women not coming into church without covering. Why? Because of the angels, not the ministers. It is meant of the angels of heaven, and therein the women are to take heed how they come into the church, because the angels are spectators and behold how you behave yourselves, they being fellow-worshippers of God with you in church assemblies. And this should make you take heed of your carriage; for although they do not know your hearts, yet they behold your carriage as you come into the presence of God.” A Treatise of the Angels by Christopher Love.
For several decades, most churches haven’t taught that women are required by the Lord to wear headcoverings. As women’s lib moved in and managed to influence–that is poison–everything in sight, headcoverings and other forms of obedience and submission moved out. Today, only a tiny fraction of church leaders believe headcoverings are important for women to wear in worship. It isn’t taught in most of our homes, it’s not instructed in seminaries, it’s not addressed in pulpits, and most Christian writers, teachers or bloggers never address it and, in fact, scoff and explain it away quite readily.
John Cotton (1585-1652): “How is the public worship of God to be ordered and administered in the church? All the members of the church being met together as one man (i) in the sight of God (ii) are to join together in holy duties with one accord (iii) the men with their heads uncovered, the women covered…For a woman to cover her head in time of public prayer, or prophesying, and for a man to uncover his head, the Apostle warranteth from both the light of nature, and the custome of the churches, 1 Cor. 11:4 to 16.”
A growing trend
However that seems to be changing and headcoverings in worship is a growing trend. That’s good news, indeed. But if we bring headcoverings back because it’s a trend, what good have we done? We must understand that it is God who has commanded them and we must be seeking to obey Him with a willing heart. Otherwise, sisters, all we’ve done is once again follow the crowd.
Ezekiel Hopkins (1633-1690): “The apostle tells us (1 Corinthians 11:10) that the woman was ‘to have power on her head, because of the angels’. Which place, especially the latter clause of it, is diversely interpreted. But I think all agree in this, that this power which they were to have on their heads was a vail or covering, which at other times, but most especially in the congregation, women ought to wear on their heads…
But the men were uncovered in their assemblies, as the apostle tells us (v. 4) to signify that they had nothing over them, but were superior to all visible creatures, and subject only to God.”
A straightforward command
The language in 1 Corinthians 11 seems pretty straightforward, and the fact that the Apostle Paul ties wearing them to the creation order pretty much cements the command in my mind. There are many who disagree with me, including some Bible believing pastors with whom I agree with on just about everything else. But still I believe they are mandated because of the language of the text.
I don’t believe that here some 2,000 years after Christ, we just suddenly became smarter than all of our brethren who have gone before us and somehow managed to discover some meaning in the text that in nearly 2,000 years none of them ever found. That just doesn’t make sense.
God’s will, not ours
If we have come to realize that something is commanded by God that we are refusing to obey, we need to repent. Our will isn’t important. God’s will is everything. Failure to want to obey the Lord in any area is telling of our spiritual state.
If you are considering covering, pray. Talk with your husband. Study the Word. Read what godly men throughout the ages have had to say. Then, do whatever you do for the glory of God alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash