The Head Covering

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

The issue over the head covering has been controversial at times among brethren. It is a topic that many are curious about. So in this lesson, we will look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 about the head covering.

Hold to the Traditions

  • It is easy for people to attack “traditions” & “traditionalism” – yet Paul said, “Hold firmly to the traditions” (v. 2); clearly not all traditions are bad/wrong
  • What traditions were the Corinthians to hold? … not human traditions that ran contrary to God’s will (Matthew 15:3-6); not lawful matters of expediency (1 Corinthians 10:23) that had become traditions to them and that they could bind upon others (Matthew 15:9)
  • The traditions they were to hold were those that had been “delivered” by Paul (v. 2) – these are the traditions to which we must hold (2 Thessalonians 2:15); they are the standard for fellowship among God’s people (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
  • This is important in understanding this passage – we must hold to apostolic traditions because they came from above (1 Corinthians 11:23; 14:37)

The Head Covering: Not an Apostolic Tradition

  • After discussing the need to hold to the apostolic traditions, Paul said, “But…” (v. 3) – he is introducing a new thought; something that was not one of the traditions handed down from above through the apostles
  • Regarding the head covering, Paul said, “we have no such custom” (v. 16, KJV) – brethren in Corinth were familiar with the head covering in a way that other brethren were not; it was a custom tied to their culture
  • The head covering discussed here was not common among churches (v. 16) – since Paul taught the same doctrine in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17), the head covering must have been a matter of culture/custom
  • Because of this, it should not be an issue that would cause contention (v. 16; Romans 14:3) – again, it was not part of the doctrine taught in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17)

What Was the Head Covering?

  • In Corinth as it was being practiced then, it was an artificial covering (v. 4-6)
  • However, Paul said that the hair was also a covering (v. 14-15) – a covering, not the covering; an artificial covering was still fine for a woman to wear, but a woman’s hair could also be an acceptable covering; again, don’t be contentious (v. 16)

Purpose of the Covering

  • To give glory to one’s head (v. 7) – man disgraced his head (Christ) by being covered (v. 4); woman, as the glory of man, was to cover her head
  • Order of creation (v. 8) – why is woman the glory of man? … she came from the man (Genesis 2:21-23)
  • Roles of men & women (v. 9) – woman created for man as a help meet (Genesis 2:18)
  • Symbol of authority (v. 10) – not about superiority/inferiority; about a hierarchy (v. 3)

Where Was the Head Covering to be Worn?

  • Women who wear the head covering among brethren typically do so in the regular worship assembly – this is fine to do
  • But the regular worship assembly was not what Paul was talking about when he discussed the head covering with the Corinthians
  • It had to be a time when a woman could pray or prophesy (v. 5) – this could not be in the regular assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 14:29-34)
  • So when would it be? … gatherings for worship and/or Bible study/instruction when only women would be present
  • Even with no men present, there had to be a reminder of the need for submission (v. 10) – women were not to think that they could be independent of men (v. 11)

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