Head Covering In The Assembly

"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 this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels." (1 Cor. 11:7, 10)

I believe that the doctrine of head covering in the assembly can be identified by one of the sayings of the apostle Peter, "things hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). It is indeed a difficult doctrine, and not understood by all, even by this individual as little as a month ago, which I believe was due to lack of personal study, coupled with a lack of instruction. As with all doctrine, it must come from the "Scriptures", God's inspired "instruction" manual which is "profitable" for the man of God. (2 Tim. 3:16) So the purpose of this article is first to seek the will of God and His instruction from the Word of God that we "may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2)

There may be many reasons as to why an individual may or may not practice head covering. Some may practice as to not rock the boat. Some may practice because they are thoroughly convinced this is what the Bible teaches. On the other hand some may not practice because they feel that it is not relevant for today. Others may feel that the woman's long hair is the covering here meant, while others may not practice out of plain ignorance and lack of instruction.

The doctrine of head covering is found for the most part in the first letter to the Corinthians and chapter eleven, so it will be needful to first look to the context here and then cross-reference it with the whole of the Bible. Paul starts this chapter by saying "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." Indeed, Paul was a fine example of a Christian in whom the grace of God did work abundantly. And the exhortation to us all is to follow godly men only to the extent that they follow after Christ (Acts 5:29). Paul then praises them in that they did "keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." (v. 2) Although they did keep the ordinances delivered, they were very carnal in their conduct, to which purpose this epistle was written to correct.

We might ask here, What is an ordinance or tradition? It may be understood as knowledge, or doctrine, or a custom, or practice. It may have been spoken orally by the apostles, but it was also written for our admonition. (2 Thess. 2:15, 5, 3:10)  Now in the case of Head Covering it may be considered as a practice or "custom" (v.16), much like Baptism and the Lord's Table, which alike are ordinances of the Lord. (v.23) They are a practice in which the churches of God participate, in which the custom and emblems signify some great truth. Today, I believe that only these three fall into this particular category. In the case of Baptism, the emblem used is water, which symbolizes the grave. At the Lord's Table, the emblems used are bread and wine, which symbolize the Lord's broken body and shed blood for the forgiveness of sins. As we shall see, in the custom of Head Covering, the emblem used is a hat or a veil, which signifies primarily, submission to divine headship and authority.

Now Paul continues, "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." (v.3) Here we recognize headship and order, which is distinguished between
God and Christ, man and the woman. In the assembly there is to be order (1 Cor. 14:40) (Heb. 13:7, 17, 1 Thess. 5:12-13), which is divinely appointed. As in the home. (Eph. 5:21-6:9, Col. 3:18-19, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 3:1-7) Now
Christ is subordinate to the Father yet equal as to divine nature. Likewise, the woman who is subordinate to the man, is equal with him in the same way that the Father and Son are equal, having the same nature. And this, that there might be order in the household of God. The order has to do with creation, as the man "was first formed" (1 Tim. 2:13) then the woman. The woman was of the man (rib) and for the man (v. 8-9) (as an helpmeet). Today, the woman is still of the man, as the seed of man determines the gender, but, the man is by the woman (v.12) through natural birth, yet both are of God.
(v. 12) They are dependent one upon another, and compliment one another (v.11), yet both depend on God. There is no thought of inferiority or superiority here, as both are redeemed sinners in the Lord. Unto God be all the glory in the churches.

Now Paul deals with the man first, saying, "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head." (v.4) For some reason, in the assembly, the emphasis on covering always appears to be toward the woman, but man has an equally important role, as we shall see, in not covering his head. And this, when praying or preaching (prophesying) in "the churches of God" (v. 16), or "when ye come together in the church" (v.18). By covering his head in the assembly, he would dishonor his head which is Christ. (v.3)

"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." (v. 5) The question that usually comes to mind here, is, Can a woman preach in the assembly? And the Apostle Paul does give an answer to this, but chooses to deal with this question later in his epistle (1 Cor. 14:34-35), as well as in his first letter to Timothy. (1 Tim. 2:11-14) If the woman would pray or preach with her head uncovered she would dishonor her head which is the man. Paul brings further exhortation saying "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." (v.6) And indeed it is a shame for a woman to be shorn (Num. 5:18), so she should be covered. It also appears that the wording used by Paul meant a covering other than the hair, otherwise Paul in effect would be saying, "if a woman be shorn (uncovered) then let her also be shorn." Which would not make any sense in light of the context.

Now in verse seven, we have one of the key Scriptures to understanding the doctrine of head covering, and it has to do with glory. Paul tells us the reason why the man ought not to cover his head. "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." (v. 7) Now, image is representation, and glory is manifestation. In the assembly the man ought not to cover his head as he represents God as his image. He is also the glory of God, and only God's glory ought to be manifest in the assembly. He also states here that the
"woman is the glory of the man", and explains in verses 8 and 9 why this is so. He then states "For this cause ought the woman to have power (emblem of authority) on her head because of the angels." (v. 10) The glory of man is not be manifest in the assembly, so, the woman covers her head to help remind the man that his glory is here covered too.

As we have stated earlier, an ordinance is to shew forth some great truth in the assembly, which is signified in practice with the use of emblems. The truth set forth by this custom, is that, in the assembly only the glory of God is to be manifest.

Now one may be tempted to skip down to verse 15, as I have, and quote, "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering." (v. 15) And be quick to point out that, it is her long hair that is given to her for a covering. The question then arises, If her hair is given for a covering, what is it covering? If the woman is the glory of man,
would it not be covering the glory of the man which she is? I think it would. Paul says, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" (v. 14) It is the woman's long hair which is given as a natural distinction between the man and the woman. Therefore, in the assembly, the man, not only, should not wear a hat, but also, he should not be wearing the glory of the woman, which is her long hair. But, if her long hair is given for a covering, we now have a problem. Paul says that the woman's "long hair, it is a glory to her" (v.15). So now, we have the glory of God manifest by the uncovered man, and the glory of man covered by the woman's long hair, but, the glory of the woman (her long hair) is now manifest along side the glory of God (the uncovered man). "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" (1 Cor. 11:13)  Do you see why a woman ought to cover her long hair? Her hair, Paul says, is
her glory, and only the glory of God ought to be manifest in the church. "Unto him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21)

The woman is given to be the custodian of the coverings (an helpmeet), not only to cover the glory of the man, but the glory of the woman as well. To show forth in the assembly, the subjection of the church to the authority of her risen Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and a restoration through grace of that order which was lost because of sin. The woman also wears the emblem of authority because headship was given to the man. (v. 3) In the assembly, the woman is not "to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man." (1 Tim. 2:12), to which the visible emblem is to reflect, being subject to her God appointed
head, even as the man is subject to Christ.

This emblem of authority is said to be worn "because of the angels". Why because of the angels? I believe that it is because the angels were observant of the happenings in Genesis. First of all, the unfallen angels watched as Lucifer, who became Satan, who through sinful pride, rebelled against God and drew one third of the angels down with him. Then, after God had told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:15-17), which he assuredly conveyed to the woman (Gen. 3:2-3), the serpent then came and deceived the woman. The woman then harkened unto the serpent rather than to the commandment of God through the man. (cf. 1 Tim 2:11-14) In turn, the man did eat of the tree, transgressing the commandment of God, and brought down the whole of humanity to the depths of sin and depravity. Disorder now  prevailed in the creation of God. What tragedy this transgression did bring. Adam through this one sin, being the federal head of mankind, brought the whole of humanity down through his disobedience.

The unfallen angels being witness to the rebellion and the consequent disorder, have since, desired to look into the salvation and grace, which was testified beforehand, which would come through the sufferings of Christ. The glory, which should follow, would be a fallen mankind redeemed and restored back to God. (1 Cor. 2:7-8) And now the angels may witness "by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:10-11) These "things the angels desire to look into." (1 Peter 1:12, 10-16) Paul says, we are not only made a spectacle to the world and to men, but unto the "angels". (1 Cor. 4:9)

Man in the beginning was created for the glory of God (Psalm 8:4-5) But the resulting sin had brought man so low that God destroyed the whole of humanity in the flood, except Noah, his three sons, and their wives. The Gentiles did prove to be a failure in bringing glory to God. (Romans 1:18-32) God then chose to elect a nation through Abraham, the nation Israel (Isaiah 41:8), who was to shew forth the glory of God (Isaiah 43:7) and to be a light to the Gentiles. "But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel." (Isaiah 43:22) The sad story is that Israel failed to
bring glory to God, and did forsake the fountain of living waters. This resulted in God setting aside the nation Israel, and scattering them to the four corners of the world through the Babylonian captivity in 606 BC.

But, the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, "Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth . . . This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise." (Isaiah 43:19, 21) God will be glorified through something altogether new, the body of Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), which is His church, "which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
(Eph. 4:24) "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God" (1 Peter 2:9-10).

God is using us as object lessons to make known the glorious truths of submission to divine headship and authority. In the assembly the man uncovered, in the position of authority, represents Christ. The woman covered, in the place of subjection, represents the church in subjection to her risen Head and Lord Jesus Christ. What a privilege to show forth this truth unto the angels. A restored mankind, redeemed back to God, by Jesus Christ, that He alone may be glorified in the church of God.

The ordinances of Baptism, and the Lord's Table, and Head Covering in the assembly, do shew forth great truths. In Baptism, the new believer identifies with Jesus Christ in his death burial and resurrection. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." (Col. 2:12, Romans 6:4) We are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, yet not we, but Christ lives in us. His death becomes our death. His life becomes our life. Baptism is the beginning of the believers walk in Christ, in which he seeks to
glorify his Saviour, walking in newness of life.

At the Lord's Table the believer gets to identify with other believers in showing forth "the Lord's death till he come." (1 Cor. 11:26) Paul says, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all
partakers of that one bread." (1 Cor. 10:16-17) In this we proclaim our salvation, Christ crucified for sinners, and risen from the dead, "that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." (Heb. 2:9) "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree". (Gal. 3:13) He bore our shame on the cross, that the shame of our sin might not appear. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (1 Cor. 5:21)  In the custom of Head Covering, the assembly identifies one with the other in submitting to the divine headship and authority of the crucified and risen Lord, whose perfect redemption did bring us pardon and forgiveness. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31) "Unto him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21)

By Noel Chartier