When should a sister wear a head covering? Whenever there is an ecclesial meeting? When giving thanks for a meal? Private prayer?
- The instructions of 1 Cor. 11 relate to ecclesial meetings not to private prayer. This is proven by the following:
- "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head." (11: 5). Prophecy was a gift which was public in its service: "He who prophesies edifies the ecclesia" (14:4, R.S.V., cf.,14:22). Similarly, but not as certainly, the "praying" refers to "praying in a tongue" (14:14). Although one might be personally edified by the exercise of this gift (14:4), its design was public: "to edify the ecclesia" ( 14:5). The head covering of 1 Cor. 11, therefore, relates to ecclesial meetings.
- "If anyone is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the ecclesias of God." (11:16, R.S.V.). The fact that the Apostle concludes his analysis of the head covering by appealing to the standard practice in all the other ecclesias implies that the subject of his consideration is the wearing of the head covering to ecclesial meetings.
- Chapters 11 - 14 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians relate to irregularities in ecclesial worship - the head covering, factions and abuse of the Spirit-gifts. This section of the epistle comes between chapter 10 --- concerned with the rights and liberties of the believer in his personal life, (3) and chapter 15 - concerned with erroneous beliefs about the resurrection. The 11 -- 14 section of the epistle commences with a general commendation of the Corinthian believers: "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (11:1, 2. R.S.V.). This section has many references to ecclesial meetings:
- ---- "... because when you come together" (11:17,R.S.V.)
- ---- " when you meet together ..." (11:20, R.S.V.)
- ---- "If, therefore, the whole ecclesia assembles" (14:23, R.S.V.)
- The location of the head covering section of the epistle, therefore, implies an ecclesial problem.
- Should a sister wish to extend the wearing of her head covering from public to private worship, this is her liberty, but care must be taken not to make a personal preference an obligation to be observed by others.
- The Apostle did not list all of the occasions when a head covering must be worn. If such were the case, compliance would be an easy matter of simply following the list! In the absence of the precise instruction, there will arise occasions when only a small section of one's home ecclesia may be present, (e.g. Bible Class meetings in the home, Bible study sessions at Bible School, Study days, Weekends with the Word'), when indecision might arise as to whether a sister should wear her head covering. The following may prove a useful guide:
- The subordination of woman to her husband was evident in the design of creation (Gen. 2:20-21; 1 Cor. 11:7-9), re-affirmed at the Fall ---- "Thy husband shall... rule over thee" (Gen. 3:16), taught by the Law ( 1 Cor. 14:34) and referred to many times in the epistles (e.g. Eph. 5:22-23). Is this subordination limited only to the Memorial Service? No, it is not. (4) It is a divine principle, the symbol of which is the head covering.
The sister who seeks merely to satisfy the minimum requirements of a law has missed the spirit of the principles which the head covering symbolizes.
- Among most of the churches of Christendom the head covering is no longer a symbol of religious significance. One reason for its demise is that the symbol has lost its meaning. It is no longer fashionable to teach:
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the ecclesia." (Eph. 5:22, 23).
Such teaching is too incompatible with women preachers, "women's lib", career wives, unisex dress and "equality of the sexes." This is the environment of the world. Surely sisters of the Lord Jesus will wish to extend the wearing of the head covering which symbolizes an entirely different way of life.
(3) For example.... If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner. " (10·27. R.S.V.).
(4) Similarly, "I suffer not a woman to teach" ( l Tim. 2:12) is not confined to the Memorial Service but extends to the other ecclesial meetings such as Public Lectures and Bible Classes.