The Woman's Headcovering
Pastor David M. Green

Text: I Corinthians 11:1-16
    The subject of the woman's headcovering is a subject that is too often ignored, neglected and missed in our day and time.  I trust this lesson will be a help to you as you consider what God's Word says on this important subject.

Christian Liberty?
    Some folks argue that the headcovering is a matter of Christian liberty and that women are free to choose whether they wear one or not.. I do not believe that this is the case, since Paul has just spent chapters 8-10 speaking of Christian liberty and then comes to this. Notice the phrase “every man” in verse 4 and then “every woman” in verse 5.

Oriental Custom?
    This was not a matter of cultural custom, as some will say. It is the height of inconsistency to say the matter of the headcovering on a woman was a part of an Oriental custom and then universally apply headship of the man over the woman, the headship of God over Christ, long hair on women and short hair on men, as well as the Lord's Supper. A passage of Scripture cannot be divorced from the context like that.

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.” (1Corinthians 11:1-2)
    The Apostle was following Christ. That is was his example and ought to be ours as well. A good leader, or teacher, pastor or missionary is going to follow the Lord and whoever does not cannot expect others to follow him. The word ordinance here means teachings, traditions or precepts. We ought to keep the precepts as delived by Paul as he was inspired of the Holy Spirit.

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.” (1Corinthians 11:3)
    Before we can get into the “meat of the subject” we must spend a little bit of time here to look at the subject of headship. Headship is misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied in our society today and an unbiblical view on headship will inevitably lead to unbiblical view on the covering.
    Biblical headship is leadership under the authority of Christ. It is not absolute unlimited authority. It is not swinging one's weight around just to show the wife who is boss. It is not lording over others. It is leading so as to serve Christ and so as to serve others! (II Corinthians 10:8).   
    Perhaps we will take a look at this important subject closer in a message later on. For now, let us briefly consider this:

The head of every man is Christ... Notice that this does not say, the head of every married man or the head of every Christian man. No, it says, EVERY man! The head every man (no matter whether he believes it to be so or not) is Christ.

...the head of the woman is the man... Again, this is not limited to married women or Christian women. The woman's demeanor, her dress, her behavior, her work, etc should recognize her subordination to the man. This does not mean she is not as smart or as important as the man. Nor does it mean that men are supposed to walk all over her. The woman is functionally subordinate to the man, but she is not inferior to the man in nature. This fact is proven here by the next point which is,

...the head of Christ is God. Not as the second person in the Trinity, but rather in his human nature as He submitted himself to the will of the Father.

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.” (1Corinthians 11:4)
    Notice there is no mention of hair in this verse. If hair were the covering intended here, then only bald men could pray or participate in the service.
    Our hats are removed because it is wrong for the man to have his head covered during the worship service. This is a command I have never seen broken because men still remove their hats before church even though they might not even realize why they do it. Christ is dishonored by those who refuse to obey this commandment.

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.” (1Corinthians 11:5-6)
    It is as bad for a woman to participate in the church service without her head covered as it would be for a man to participate with his head covered. By leaving the covering off, she is dishonoring her head which is the man. Again, this is not limited to married women. Men in general is the had of the woman...this would include her dad, her husband, her pastor, etc. It is as if she is casting off the headship of the man by worshiping without the covering.
    To say that this only applies to women who publicly prays or prophesies in the church would be to argue that the women need not to be covered at all. Notice:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1Corinthians 14:34-35)

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1Timothy 2:11-12)
    Remember, while a man might at some point be inconsistent (Charles Spurgeon for instance, in one sermon is against Christmas and then in another is for it....preached at different times in his ministry), this cannot be the case here. Paul was writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit and God does all things consistently!
    The praying or prophesying is limited to the role that God has given her. Yes, it is a mostly silent role, but an important role of singing with the congregation, praying silently, and the nodding of the head in agreement with what is being preached.   
    Some folks say this has to do with hair, but I disagree here. Notice if it means hair the passage makes no sense in the English:

For if the woman be not covered [have no hair], let her ALSO be shorn [having the hair cut off]....

For if the woman be not covered , [have short hair] let her ALSO be shorn [having the hair cut off]....

The Greek also bears out some information here, so let us consider that as well:

Two words in these two verses:

The word "uncovered" in verse 5: akatakaluptos, which means "unveiled or uncovered."
The word "covered" in verse 6:
katakaluptō, means to cover wholly, veil.
    The covering here is not the hair, for if the hair is short, you cannot cut it short. Much less can you not shave the head of a baldheaded woman!
    The teaching here is clear, if the woman will not wear her veil, then in addition she should cut her hair short like a man or shave it off. Let her be consistent who will refuse the head covering and do the next step.

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.” (1Corinthians 11:7-9)
    The teaching of headship which is directly related to the reason for the woman's head covering and the man's lack of one goes back to creation. According to Genesis 1, the man and the woman were made in the image of God, but in Genesis 2, we learn that she was made in His image indirectly through the man. She was made for man and so in order to show her subordination to man in the order of creation, she must wear a covering!

For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” (1Corinthians 11:10)
    Good angels are present in the worship services. Look up the following Scriptures:
Psalm 138:1
I Corinthians 4:9
Ephesians 3:10
I Timothy 5:21
Hebrews 1:13

    The word power here means veil or covering. It signifies the power she had in taking it off and putting it on at certain times and places. Why because of the angels?

Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” (Isaiah 6:2)
    The angels veil their faces before the Lord. I believe that the angels are shocked and offended that a woman who has been commanded to wear a veil refuses to do so.   
    I am also quite sure that fallen angels, Satan and others are equally offended when a woman wears her veil the way God has commanded her to do. Something to think about is this: A woman who is uncovered in the assembly is a rebel against God's Word just like the Devil is!

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.” (1Corinthians 11:11-12)
    Here we have a reminder that the two sexes though they are different, they are incomplete without each other. This is the Divine order and has been from the beginning!

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?” (1Corinthians 11:13)
    Now comes this rhetorical question based not on their own reasoning, but based upon what has been presented in the verses we have already considered. The answer has already been given in the preceding verses.

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.” (1Corinthians 11:14-15)
    Now Paul appeals to nature. Even in nature, the way that God created man and woman, we are taught there is a difference between man and woman. Nature does not teach a unisex fashion in clothing nor a unisex fashion in hair and how much more should there be a difference in the light of Scripture?   
    Men are to have short hair, and women are to have long hair. The teaching from nature supports the spiritual teaching of the woman's need for an artificial covering.
    Some argue that this passage proves that the covering is the hair. However, I believe we have shown that to be impossible in the light of the previous verses, however, just in case notice the wording here:

    "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for A covering."

    It is indeed a covering, but not THE covering Paul has been writing about. In fact, he uses a totally different Greek word here that is peribolaion and it is translated correctly as covering here, but it is not the same covering. In fact, the only other time it is used is in Hebrews 1:12:   
    Here it is translated vesture and speaks of the heavens...not even a dirivative of what he used in the other verses. It is not something that can be taken off and put on at will.
    Long hair is a natural covering and it is her glory, but there is another covering that must be worn in the worship service. The woman who will cover her glory during the service is being sure that God gets the glory...(see Ephesians 3:21).
    God is well pleased with the woman who has long hair covered with a veil in the worship service. Long hair and the veil are symbols of the woman's submission and true womanliness. Her long hair, as her glory teaches that she must be veiled in public worship as a symbol to God's ordained headship the man.

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” (1Corinthians 11:16)
    It is a horrible twisting of Scriptures to say that Paul was saying that if anyone disagrees with this, then just ignore it. I fail to believe the HolY Spirit would spend 15 verses on a subject just to say “ignore it if you want to.” No, the Bible is saying that if anyone would like to argue about it still, know that there is no other custom than for the women to wear the covering. The Corinthian church was the only church who had rebelled on this.


There are four main reasons for the head covering:

  1. Obedience to God.

  2. Headship.

  3. Because of the angels.

  4. This was the practice of all the early churches.

I trust this lesson this morning will be received as truth. May God help us all to do HIS will in ALL things!