Let Her Be Covered Part Three

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Now, let's recall again the text: "Let her be covered." That is God's decree.

All right, let who be covered? That is question number 4. "Who is to be covered?" If this is for Mennonites only, as some wrongly suppose, then it ought to read "let every Mennonite sister be covered." But the text has in it no such limitation. This is not a denominational teaching. This is a Bible teaching.

Already in verse 3 we are being prepared to think in a much broader scope, for there, where the principle is in focus, it is stated that the head of EVERY man is Christ. No exception is made. Christ is the authority figure for every man, whether or not he obeys Him, Christ is his head. And, by the same token, man remains woman's God-appointed head, whether or not she submits. And then when we come to the application, verses 4-6, again it's EVERY woman and EVERY man, indicating the widest possible application, conveying the idea that this practice is intended to be universal. There's also no reference here to marriage, which eliminates the idea that this is applicable only to women who are married. You may sometime be confronted with that idea. Really, the headship of man over woman is an aspect of God's government in this world. And, as such, it is not limited only to life in the Kingdom of God. But, since judgment begins at the house of God, Paul is here singling out an instance that would constitute a violation in the context of church life.

I'm driven to the conclusion that EVERY woman who wants to take her God-assigned place under man is duty-bound to signify that purpose of heart by being covered. "Who is to be covered?" SHE is to be covered -- the woman who recognizes and submits to her God-ordained place in God's arrangement.

Growing out of this is a fifth question: "With what shall she be covered?"

An increasing number of voices are responding to this question with this easy answer: "With her hair. Let her be covered with her hair." But this answer simply cannot survive close scrutiny. To begin with, at the time of this writing [of 1 Corinthians 11] there was practically no need in Christian circles for a plea to retain the hair covering. Long hair had been the long-accepted practice, and to my knowledge was not even being challenged.

Furthermore, those who claim that this passage has in view no other covering but the hair are knowingly discrediting about 1900 years of Christian practice and Biblical scholarship. For that long of time, the wearing of an additional covering was taught and practiced on a very wide scope. Those who argue for the hair only are thereby implying that in respect to this issue the Christian church started out wrong and has been wrong for most of her history. I'm not ready to believe that.

Verse 15 does speak of long hair as "A" covering, nature's covering, but it's not "THE" covering called for in verses 5-6. And that conclusion is substantiated by the fact that, in the Greek, the word for covering in verses 5-6 is not the same word as is used in verse 15. And this difference comes to light in a number of the more reliable modern versions. They actually use the term "veil" in verses 5-6.

But a careful reading of verse 6, even in the King James Version, should convince anyone that another covering beside the hair is in view. Let's right now take a moment to look at that verse. Verse 6: "For if the woman be not covered". Let's stop right there. If, as some claim, the hair is the only covering in view, than this clause would envision a woman whose hair has been removed, right? "For if the woman be not covered." That envisions a case where the hair has been removed, if the hair is the covering called for. Now, look at the next clause: "Let her also be shorn." Now you have a problem on your hands, for how can you remove something that has already been removed? How can there be two successive removals of the same thing? What the statement really means is this: a woman ought to wear both the hair covering and the sign covering, or none at all. If she refuses to be veiled, she deserves a second mark of disgrace: that of being shorn.

And here is a still further consideration: If the only covering in view is the hair, the Christian man would need to remove his hair in order to comply with God's will.

Now remember the question was "With what shall she be covered?" Here are possible ways of stating the simple answer. She is to voluntarily cover her head with a material covering. It ought to be distinguishable from protection coverings. It ought to be identifiable as one that carries religious significance. To think of it only as a symbol allows for it to become too small. The terminology employed here requires that it be also a covering, that which "covers". Although it is a symbol, it must be a symbol that covers.

And now I raise question number 6: "When is she to be covered?" And in response to this, I can imagine someone saying, "Well that's an easy one, your answer's right there in the text. 'Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head'. There's your answer ? she's to be covered when she prays or prophesies." As far as it goes that's an acceptable answer, but I don't think the evidence is conclusive that this practice is to be limited to such times. That would reduce it to a "devotional covering" or a "worship covering", when actually the larger context supports the view that it's primarily a "headship covering". And, since the headship of man extends to all of life, and since the world so much needs the awareness that the covering creates, isn't it logical to conclude that the wearing of the covering should be constant?

But why does Paul single out times of praying and prophesying? That is a valid question. Although we can't know for sure, it may be that those were the occasions when the Corinthian women were beginning to think that they would be justified in throwing off their veil in the name of their newfound Christian liberty. I'm simply suggesting that Paul might have received reports of violations occurring at such times. If so, that would explain why he would name these specific times.

Students of the Greek language have pointed out that the words of my text, "Let her be covered," are in the present active imperative form, so that, by grammatical structure, it really means "let her continue to be covered."

In relation to this question, I would conclude with these remarks. The veiled head does not necessarily signify that "here is a soul that is presently praying or prophesying." Rather, it signifies that "here is a woman who seeks to honour God in all of life." So, it's not really a prayer veiling, but a woman's veiling, worn to show that the wearer is in God's order. Let's think of it in those terms. Not a "devotional covering". Not a "worship covering". But a "woman's covering". A "headship covering". That, I think, is the main thrust of the passage as a whole.

Shall we come before the Lord in prayer? Or have you made up your mind? If you think that I am boring or irrelavent, or that I do not know what I am talking about visit In part FOUR I will give you food for thought.

For more on this subject please write this ministry: Living Waters For Thirsty Souls, 40 Wood Corner Road, Ephrata, PA, USA, 17522

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