February 17, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #8: Questions Concerning Christian Worship, 1 Corinthians 11.2-14.40



Lesson 8.1: Veiling of Women at Worship
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11.2-16

1 Cor 11.2-11.16 (KJV)

Part 1: “The principle of Headship” (vss. 2-6)
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
3 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.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
5 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.
6 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.

Part 2: “Paul defends This Principle from Scripture and Nature” (vss. 7-16)
7 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.
8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
9  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.


In this chapter, Paul is concerned with two matters. First, the “Veiling of Women at Worship” (vss. 2–16), which is in turn split into two parts; “The principle of Headship” (vss. 2-6), and “Paul defends This Principle from Scripture and Nature” (vss. 7-16): Second, the “Conduct at the Lord’s Supper” (vss. 17–34). Since Paul does not begin with his characteristic expression, “now concerning,” it is possible that this chapter falls into the category of unsolicited advice. Perhaps in their letter to Paul there was allusion to some of their public worship practices. Or perhaps his discussion of worship practices in the previous chapter prompted him to speak directly to this issue.

Someone is probably saying, “Do you mean to say that God is giving instructions regarding trivialities like how a woman should dress? Certainly God cannot be concerned with what a woman wears or whether a man gets a hair cut!” Well, the Bible makes it clear that God is interested in what we are wearing and how we fix our hair. God says, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30). This idea that only your hairdresser knows is not true; God knows, my friend. He has a great deal to say about these and related subjects. The most intimate details of our lives are under His inspection. There is probably no single item that takes up more space in newspapers, magazines, radio time, and television time than what men and women wear. The Word of God has some things to say about that, too.


Part 1: “The principle of Headship” (vss. 2-6)

2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

It seems to be Paul’s method to give praise before he reprimands. He is about to scold the Corinthian believers for their behavior at the Lord’s Supper, but first he will praise them where it is well deserved. It is always wrong to flatter a person, but it is always a good idea to give praise where it is due. Paul also praised them for remembering him, which infers that they told him they were praying for him; which was probably revealed in a letter they wrote to him. I have noticed that Supervisors are quick to correct employees when they make a mistake, however they hardly ever commend those employees who do a good job. With that in mind, I have always tried to give praise when I can, without appearing overly compliant.

By “the ordinances,” the apostle is referring to apostolic teaching concerning the believer and the assembly. The same Greek word rendered “ordinances” is used in 1 Thessalonians 2.15, where it speaks of Christian doctrine in general. (The same Greek word is sometimes translated “tradition.”) Paul is speaking of the general instructions he had given the churches on the authority that God had placed upon him as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

It is possible that Paul had received a letter from the assembly at Corinth where they told him that they were following the instructions he had given them while he was present with them. This teaching did not begin in Paul’s mind, rather he had received it directly from Jesus Christ and in some cases from the other apostles; it was truth, not something he dreamed-up (which the false teachers did), so they could trust and follow it. Both Jesus and Paul reject human teaching: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8; KJV). Men can spoil you (ruin your testimony for Jesus Christ) through some philosophical speculation, or empty deceit, and by appealing, not to the Scriptures, but to human traditions. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess 2:15; KJV). Here the word tradition means those things delivered orally from one to another; or anything delivered orally—any precept, doctrine, or law. It is frequently used to denote that which is not written to distinguish it from that which is written, but not necessarily or always, because here the Apostle speaks of the "traditions which they had been taught by his epistle." So, here in verse 2 he means the doctrines or precepts which they had received from the apostle, whether when he was with them, or after he left them; whether communicated by preaching or by letter. But we need to bear in mind that at this time the Gospels had not yet been written, and there were very few books of the Old Testament available to the New Testament churches, therefore, they had to depend heavily on what they were told by the apostles.

3 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.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man;
In his epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians, Paul speaks of Christ as the head of the Church. The headship of Christ with regard to the Church means that He is the head of the invisible Church, the body of born again believers, but that is not what he is talking about here. Paul is talking about the headship of Christ as it has to do with each individual in the Church. The Lord Jesus is the head of each believer, and each believer must submit to the authority of Jesus Christ. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. Christ is within us and He directs us in the ways of righteousness. He is the head of all believers, but He is also the head of each individual believer.

Paul is also pointing out the differences between man and woman in regard to the different circumstances of their creation. The word translated “head of” can mean, origin, source, or authority, but traditionally many scholars render the word as “chief” or person of highest rank. Other scholars see the word to mean “source of life,” which conveys the sense of relationship—as in the account of Adam being the source of Eve: “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:22-23; KJV). Paul was not concerned about the submission of women; rather he was concerned that the completeness or glory of the relationship not be diminished. The man is the head of the woman, in the same sense that Christ is the head of man. How then is Christ “the head of every man?” Notice, that the verse does not say “every Christian,” but “every man.” There are two ways to consider Christ as “the source of life: (1) Because Christ was present at creation, He is the Creator of every man; and (2) Christ is every believer’s source of life in the new creation. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17; KJV). Most likely, Paul is speaking of the believer’s special relationship in Christ. The phrase, to "be in Christ," applies to both men and women, and evidently it means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in him as the branch is in the vine—that is, so united to the vine, or so in it, as to derive all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. The woman as a believer is certainly under the authority of Christ; but in regard to the things of earth and the natural life man is her head, because “the woman is the glory of the man (see v. 7).

This is true of the relationship of husband and wife:
• “Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col 3:18; ASV). This is an old military saying, which means to line up under (behind) another person or to subject yourselves in a specialized way. There is no hint of inferiority; instead it concerns authority and responsibility in the home. Wives are to be in subjection to their husbands, and they should trust them to love them and care for them. This is voluntary, not something that is forced on her by a demanding tyrant. The wife is a helpmeet (a helper suitable to the husband), not a slave. The family is held together by authority and obedience. The wife’s submission is prompted by the husband’s love. All of life is to be lived in fellowship with Christ. God is emphasizing responsibilities, not rights (see Eph 5:22–24).
• “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” (1 Tim 2:11-12; KJV). Women must learn the principles of their religion, learn Christ, learn the scriptures; they must not think that their sex excuses them from that learning which is necessary to salvation. They must be silent and submissive, and not usurp authority.

These are scriptures that are hard for many women to accept in our so-called modern society, but it is God’s plan for mankind; and when faithfully followed it will produce a happy home.
Adam, while in his original state was under the headship of God, his maker—but he lost that position through sin, and man can regain what he lost only through faith in the shed blood of the Lamb of God—the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. With this statement the apostle is making known the truth concerning the relationship between Christ and every true believer in the assembly. The believing man is placed in the position of being able to act in the capacity of “the image and glory of God (v. 7).”

and the head of Christ is God.
God is the head of all. This is not a statement of doctrine by the apostle; he is giving the hierarchy of authority and subjection as it exists in the kingdom of God; that is, Christ is the head of man, man the head of woman, but God is the head of all—having the highest order of supremacy.

Jesus perfectly manifested His obedience to the Father while He was here on earth: “I can't do anything on my own. As I listen {to the Father}, I make my judgments. My judgments are right because I don't try to do what I want but what the one who sent me wants” (John 5:30; GW). The Messiah, the Mediator, does nothing without the agreement and the authority of God. Whatever he does, he does according to the will of God. In John 8.29 He said, “I do always those things that please HIM.”  This does not mean that Christ is distinct from God the Father insofar as deity is concerned. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” and the fact that God is the head of Christ does not make Christ the lesser of the two. God the Father “so loved the world,” that He gave the Son—the WORD—and the Son declared the Father on earth in a way that man could hear the Word, receive the Word, and be saved.

Apparently Paul had received a letter from the Corinthians which reported on the problems that existed in the church. He had been answering specific questions and one of them concerned head coverings in worship—“Therefore, a woman should wear something on her head to show she is under {someone's} authority…” (1 Cor 11:10; GW). The Corinthians may have adopted into their worship patterns of male-female relations which they borrowed from the heathen lifestyle that permeated Corinthian society, and these blurred the distinctions between males and females. It may have been customs of dress regarding hair coverings, or perhaps it involved issues of hair styles (short and long hair for men and women). Paul began answering the Corinthian’s questions, but first he gave them some general instructions on how relationships should be regarded in the church. Paul wanted them to know some very important facts about relationships as they had been instituted by God: “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” In the verses immediately following he gives advice regarding hair length and head covering

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

In this section Paul’s main concern is irreverence during worship, and the praying and prophesying (preaching in the Spirit) mentioned here were in the context of public worship.
The rabbis of that day taught that a man was to cover his head. Jewish men wore the Talith, or veil, to show their reverence before God and their unworthiness to look at Him (see Isa 6.2). Paul said they were wrong in how they interpreted Moses’ instructions and the reasons for a veil. “And are not as Moses, who put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look stedfastly on the end of that which was passing away” (2 Cor 3:13; ASV). This refers to the time when Moses came down from the mountain where he conversed with God. When he first came down, the skin of his face shinned, but after a while that glory began to fade away. Therefore, he covered his face so that the Israelites would not see the glory was passing away (see Exodus 34.33-35). It follows then, that a man should NOT have a veil over his face; the Christian who does not have a veil over his face reflects the glory of God. Covering his head would make it impossible for his head to reflect the glory of Christ, and he would deprive Christ of the mirror in which his glory should be reflected.

Paul is speaking to men and he is saying that they should not cover their heads. Since man is created in the image of God, and especially if he has been born again by faith in Christ, his head should be uncovered as a symbol of dignity, liberty, headship, and authority. He is not to cover his head when he prays or when he prophesies, because he is “the image and glory of God” (11.7); to do so, would be to shame his head—Christ. When he prays, he is speaking for man to God and making intercession. When he is prophesying he is speaking to men for God. Whenever he is standing in either of these two sacred positions, he is not to have his head covered. This directive was neither Jewish nor Greek in nature, because in Paul’s day, Jewish men always covered their heads when in the synagogue, and the Greeks, both men and women, did not cover their heads—the Greek custom, which was originally a sign of sorrow, began in the fourth century, but there were probably some in Corinth in Paul’s day (it may have been a local custom) who were already following this custom.

The veil or cap was a sign of being in subjection to another; for the woman it was a sign of her subjection to her husband. Why then should NOT a man wear a veil or cap as a sign of his subjection to Christ? Because Christ is not seen: the man is seen; so the covering of him who is under Christ is not seen; like the woman, who is under man, is seen and her covering is seen. For a man to cover his head was to suggest a reversal of proper roles.

5 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.

While the general principles of propriety and distinctions between men and women still stands, the cultural advice given here about head coverings should not be considered to be binding on all churches for all time. As a matter of fact, when Paul wrote to Timothy with advice about the women in the church at Ephesus, he did not tell Timothy to make sure the women had their heads covered. Instead his advice concerned modesty in the way women dress (1 Tim 2.9, 10). The situation in Corinth may have been that women were coming to church with their heads uncovered, and this was disrupting their services. Although the reason for the problem is not mentioned, we can see that Paul’s concern was that nothing disrupts worship. So he advised Christian women to cover their heads in church, which was similar to the advice he gave about not eating meat that had been offered in sacrifice to idols in public situations. The women were certainly free to not cover their heads like they were free to eat meat offered to idols. Neither of these had an effect on their salvation. However, Paul always advised that they were not to do anything that could cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble; instead, they should always be looking to promote unity.

The statement that for a woman to have her head uncovered in worship would be “as if she were shaven” is cultural, and the reason is not given, although 11.6 hints that a shaved head was a disgrace. Some commentators believe that a woman with a shaved head may have been a temple prostitute or the dominant partner in a lesbian relationship. When such women became Christians they not only needed to let their hair grow out (11.15) but also to cover their heads during worship in recognition of their relationship with God and to their Christian brothers under God.

We have a modern example that we are all familiar with; a Christian woman living in a Muslim country. While that Christian woman is free to wear shorts and a t-shirt (and would not have any trouble doing so in this country), she should set aside that freedom out of respect for the culture in which she lives. She should dress modestly, and cover everything that should be covered according to that culture. She is far more likely to be accepted by doing that than by flaunting her freedom to dress in a certain way that would be acceptable elsewhere.

“Praying” as noted in the previous verse, refers to public prayer during worship. “Prophesying” refers not just to telling future events as they are revealed to a person by God but also to public speaking about religious truths, witnessing for Christ, and bringing God’s words of encouragement to the assembly (see 14.31). Both men and women could do this in the early church (see, for example, Philips daughter in acts 21.9). Women prophesying fulfilled the words of the prophet Joel, “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:9; KJV). The spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit do not discriminate between men and women.

Paul’s own words “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head” are an indication that women had an active part in the New Testament church, since his admonition pertains only to having their head covered. He seems to allow that women can speak in the church. But we will put the question of women preachers off for now, since here Paul is concerned with covering the head, not preaching.

It appears that they had a women’s liberation movement going on in Corinth, centuries ago, and it was going in the wrong direction. The apostle says that the man should have his head uncovered, and the woman should cover her head. He is talking about how things were back then; how God intended them to be. Notice that he says “every woman that prayeth or prophesieth,” which means that a woman can speak in public and she can pray in public. Those who maintain that a woman cannot do these things in public are entirely wrong. A woman has the right to do these things if God has given her that gift. Some women have the gift—my wife’s Sunday school teacher has the gift; she is an outstanding Bible teacher.

Among the Greeks, women who were morally clean and upright wore the veil, and only immoral women, women of ill repute, went unveiled. Therefore, every man that saw them knew what they were. The veil serves two purposes: (1) It was a sign of inferiority. (2) It was a very great protection.  Also, among Greeks, slaves had their heads shaved; and therefore, every woman seen with her head shaved was known to be a slave. Study Deuteronomy 21.10-17.

The lot of Jewish women was much worse than that of the Greek women. Under Jewish law woman was vastly inferior to man. She had been created out of Adams rib, and she had been created to be a helpmeet to man. It is unfortunate  that under Jewish law a woman was the property of her husband, who had total control over all aspects of her life. It is true that in the synagogue, for instance, women had no share whatever in the worship, but were segregated from men in a shut-off gallery or in another part of the building. In Jewish law and custom it was unthinkable that women should claim any kind of equality with men.

6 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.

This does NOT have a universal application; it was given for Corinth as it existed at that time. Any woman in Corinth who did NOT wear a veil was thought to be a prostitute. The temple of Aphrodite which was one of the principle tourist sites in Corinth employed the “vestal virgins” in their worship; but they were really prostitutes, and they shaved their head and they did not wear a veil in public as a sign of their profession. The women who had their heads uncovered were the prostitutes. It’s likely that some of the women in the Corinthian Church were saying, “All things are lawful for me, therefore I am not going to cover my head.” They caused a great deal of disturbance within the church by setting aside their distinguishing way of dressing. More importantly they seem to have rejected the concept of subordination within the church (and perhaps in society) and with it any cultural symbol, such as head covering, that might be attached to it. Paul’s answer was “Don’t do it because the veil is a sign subjection to God, not to man.” Now, this had a local application; it was given to the women in Corinth. Someone may ask, “Does it apply to our day and society?”  It depends, since regulations regarding the way a woman dresses concerns her ministry. If she is going to be a leader, then her head ought to be covered. Other passages give more information about this. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1 Tim 2:8-10; KJV). This means that if a woman is going to lift up holy hands to lead in a service, she should dress in a way that does not call attention to her. Frankly, it means that a woman should not use sex appeal in the service of God. She is not to use sex appeal at all—it will not lead her husband or children to the Lord either.

The Bible has more to say on this subject. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives… Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:1, 3-4; KJV). God is saying that a woman cannot win her husband to the Lord by using sex appeal. It doesn’t say that a woman should not be appealing to her husband, but that she can’t win him to Christ by using sex appeal. There are women in the Bible who are known for their sex appeal: Jezebel, Esther, and Salome. Then there are some women in the Bible who stand out because they are wonderful, marvelous godly women who God used: Sarah, Deborah, Mary the mother of Jesus, Abigail and Hannah. There is also something said to the husbands: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7; KJV). There are many families today who have their prayers hindered because the husband and wife are not getting along.

Paul wanted to make the point that a woman should cover her head when participating in public worship, so he wrote “if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” In other words if she does not cover her head, she is disgracing herself, and she might as well shave or cut all her hair off, since that is also disgraceful. Therefore, if the uncovered head (short or shaved hair) is a disgrace, then she ought to willing cover her head during worship. Paul was not referring here to her hair as a covering; the covering was a sort of veil wore over the head.

Part 2: “Paul defends This Principle from Scripture and Nature” (vss. 7-16)

7 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 a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God:
We are told in Genesis 1.26, 27 that man was created in the image of God: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:26-27; KJV). God said; Let us make man—words which show the distinctive importance of the work to be done, the formation of a creature, who was to be God's representative on earth, clothed with authority to rule as visible head and monarch of the world.
God stated that the peculiar distinction of man is that he was created “In our image, after our likeness.” And of what did this image of God consist? Not in the erect form or features of man, not in his intellect, since the devil and his angels are, in this respect, far superior to man; not in his immortality, since all men die, unlike God who has a past as well as a future eternity of being; but in the moral nature of his soul. The Greek word rendered “image” means a visual representation. Man was created to display the characteristics of God; such characteristics as goodness, wisdom, and power. God not only created man in His image, but also in His likeness. Man was created for a purpose; to display the glory God—His greatness and His majesty. There may be a representation without glory—there may be a shinning forth of glory without a physical representation. Both are combined in man. Therefore he who God created to reveal His attributes—His glory, greatness, and majesty, is NOT to cover his head in worship!

“But the woman is the glory of the man.”
Notice that Paul does not say that the woman is the image of man (because the sexes differ), but rather her honor lies in the fact that she is the expression of man’s greatness. She was taken out of man, and she adds to his dignity and completeness. Women are also made in the image of God, because it says in Genesis 1.27, “in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” But the woman is the glory of man. By praying and prophesying with her head uncovered, she would be dishonoring and shaming man, whose glory she was supposed to be. The reasoning behind Paul’s instruction comes from the order of Creation. Man was created first, and then woman. “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Gen 2:21-22; KJV). Genesis also explains that man was not created for woman, but woman for man. “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen 2:18; KJV). God said I will make him a help meet for him; a counterpart of himself, one formed from him, and one that resembles him perfectly. And this implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to him. Woman completes man; a man without a wife is incomplete, unless God gives the gift of celibacy, and he is fulfilled living the life of a single man. Seeing that man was made a social creature, it was not proper that he should be alone; since to be alone, i.e. without a matrimonial companion, was not good. And so we find that celibacy in general is something that is not good, whether it is on the side of the man or of the woman.

God does not have a superior. God is the head of man, and man is the head of woman.

8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

The Bible contains some beautiful love stories; one of them is the beautiful spiritual picture in the account of Rebecca and Isaac. Rebecca asked the servant, “What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?”  And the servant replied, “It is my master.” Then Rebecca took a veil and covered herself. This incident not only indicated her position with respect to Isaac, but also gives the impression that her beauty was for his eyes only. Similarly, the church which is made up of all born again believers does not put its glory on display for the entire world to see. The aim of the church, and of every born again believer is to put the glory of God on display. Our lives, all that we do, should be done for the purpose of putting the glory of God on display, and to bring others to Christ—our purpose is not to promote the beauty of the local church, its services and rituals. We are to point others to Christ; the head and the beauty of the New Testament Church.

These verses were given to the church by the Holy Spirit to show the relationship of the church to Christ, and every word in the verses show that high and eternal relationship. When Almighty God formed Eve from Adam’s rib, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen 2:18; KJV). In the words of God Himself, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him. These words relate to the events of verse 22 and following; but the expression “not good” indicates that these events are not a further continuation of chapter 1 and the creative week, but are part of that creative week. When God finished His creation (1:31), He noted that everything was very good. Thus, until Eve was created the creative activity of God was not complete. This is the first time in the history of creation that God said, “It is not good.” Man needs a wife who is a “help.” If man is to achieve his objectives in life, he needs the help of his mate in every way. Her position is further defined by the expression, “like him,” literally, “as agreeing to him or his counterpart.” She is the kind of help man needs, agreeing with him mentally, physically, spiritually; but she is not an inferior being. Hebrew scholars tell us that the Hebrew word translated “for” really means “answer to.” If we make that change, then the verse would read, “I will make him a help meet answering to him.” Women became man’s counterpart, man’s compliment; and in woman man reaches the full manifestation of himself—his full potential.

We have already touched briefly on this truth. God placed man first in the order of creation; “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Tim 2.13; KJV). Adam was designed for headship by God. Woman was taken from his side to rule creation by his side (Gen 2:21–22). Of all God’s creations, only woman could meet the innermost needs of a man, since only woman was designed to meet those needs (Gen 2:20). As man is the crown of God’s creation, so woman is the prized jewel in that crown. Man was created first, but priority does not imply inferiority, because Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 11, 12 that there is partnership as well as headship in God’s creation. The man and woman are spiritually one in the Lord: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28)—and one cannot do without the other. Furthermore, woman may have come from man in the beginning, but today it is the man who is born of the woman. Man and woman belong to each other and need each other.

9  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
God created woman for man, not man for woman—“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen 2:18; KJV). The woman’s place is to be a helpmeet to the man. She is the other part of him. If a married woman abandoned her complementary role, she also abandoned her glory, and for Paul an uncovered woman’s head gave symbolic expression to that spirit. No man is complete without a woman, except where God has given a man the special grace of celibacy. (Of course, when God’s Word declares that man is the head of woman and that woman is to be in subjection and in total obedience to the man, it is understood that the man is to be God-fearing, a Christian and a gentleman.) No person—man or woman—is to dishonor or disobey God in order to be in subjection to any creature. We owe our total devotion, honor, and worship to God; but a woman who has a Christian husband is to respect that man as her head. She is to be in subjection to him, answering to him in the Lord. Every woman who takes a new name for herself at her wedding ceremony tacitly affirms this teaching by Paul.

10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

Thus far, Paul has given us two reasons for why womanly insubordination in the church should not exist (the first was the divine order—God, Christ, man, woman, vv. 3-6; the second reason was Creation, vv. 7-9). The word translated here as “power” should be rendered authority. The woman should have the sign of authority on her head. For a woman to exercise her freedom to participate in the church without a head covering, which is the sign of her authority, would bring the wisdom of God into dispute.

To those who are not spiritual and do not understand the deep truths of spiritual things, the woman and her covering may seem small and insignificant. It is true that whether a woman has long hair or short hair, has her head covered or uncovered, has nothing to do with her salvation; but what Paul is teaching here communicates truths of the very highest order. We know in Paul’s day a woman’s veil denoted dignity, and if a woman discarded the veil she put herself in a position to receive open insults from everyone. But Paul’s teaching here goes much deeper than the natural. It has to do with the spiritual.

Why does Paul bring up angels? There are several theories offered by Bible commentators:
1. Angels were spectators of the church. “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Cor 4:9; KJV). (Also see Eph. 3.10; 1Tim. 5.21; Ps. 103.20-21) Paul has been arguing from the facts of Creation, and the angels were a part of that Creation. The angels also know their place and show respect when they worship God, since they cover their faces: “Above it stood the seraphims (or angels): 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; KJV). In some special way the angels share in the public worship of the church and learn from the church: “He did this so that now, through the church, he could let the rulers and authorities in heaven know his infinite wisdom” (Eph 3:10; GW). The mysteries that had been hidden during all the past ages are now revealed in order that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known. It was made known, (1) To the Gentiles by preaching the gospel. (2) To Jews. This is implied in the “all” of verse 9. (3) “To principalities and powers in heavenly places;” that is, to angelic beings. Public worship is a serious thing, because the angels are present; and we ought to conduct ourselves as if we were in heaven.

I am of the opinion this is the proper interpretation of this verse. We are being observed by God’s created creatures. Angels are observers of the peoples of earth. They are witnesses. Hebrews 1.14 says that angels watch over believers and care for them: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb 1:14; KJV). All the angels, even those of the highest order, are employed by their Creator to serve those who believe in Christ Jesus. What these services are, and how performed, it would be impossible to state. Much has been written on the subject, partly founded on Scripture, and partly on conjecture.
We are on a stage in this little world of ours and all God’s created intelligences are watching us. They are finding out about the love of God because they know that Tom Lowe (and maybe you too) is not worthy of the love of God. They probably think God should have gotten rid of us, because we are the most rebellious creatures in the universe. But He didn’t! He loves us! That expression of His love is in His grace to save us. The angels probably marvel at his grace and patience with little man.

Other opinions are listed below, but they have little support by those who study and interpret God’s Word.
2. Evil angels lusted after women in the Corinthian assembly.
3. Good angels learn from women.
4. Good angels are an example of subordination.
5. Good angels would be tempted by a woman’s insubordination.

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

The Holy Spirit speaks here through the writing of Paul to clarify the truth that came before and to prevent man from making a wrong application and putting the wrong value on what is attributed to women in the divine relationship, which may be misconstrued as women being inferior to men. This is untrue and should not be suggested. There are no Biblical grounds for men looking down on women. This verse makes it clear that both sexes are dependent on the other in the Lord. Where Jesus is in authority, as in the local assembly, both men and women are dependent on Him, one just as much as the other, regardless of the sexes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3.28; KJV). This is a statement of fact, rather than a mere possibility. The point is that “in Christ Jesus” race or national distinction does not exist; class differences vanish, and the rivalry between the sexes disappears. These things are not barriers to Christian fellowship. At the foot of the cross all men are equal, men and women are equal, and no one enjoys special privileges.

In verse 12, Paul confirms what he said in verse 11. The first woman was made from the first man, according to Genesis 2.21-23, and therefore she is not independent of man; yet in the continuous program of God, man owes his being to woman, and therefore he is not independent of her. Man is the initial cause of woman’s being here, but woman is the instrumental cause of man’s being here.

The Greek word translated “of” in verse 12, denotes a single creative act; but the word translated “by” denotes a constant process. God created man from the dust of the earth, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Later, God removed a rib from Adam and created woman. She was taken out of man in her original beginning, but now, man originates from woman. And IN THE LORD both man and woman are totally dependent on HIM.

“…But all things of God.
All things were made by Him; He is the author of all life. All things are by His council, His decree, His act. God is sovereign. He knows the beginning of all things, the end of all things, and everything in between. “All things are of God” is a great, divine truth that fills all sixty-six books of the Bible. This statement is repeated by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5.18: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Here Paul is speaking of reconciliation (salvation), which comes from God through the preaching of the Gospel. Before we were in conflict with God, and disobedient. Through Christ we have been brought to love God, to love his will, and hence to obey him. We have been changed into new creatures.

In the old creation as well as in the new everything is essentially in harmony with the nature of God. No one can be happy or have true contentment until he is in the right relationship with God. Regardless of the wealth, fame, or good fortune man may accumulate, he can never know happiness or true peace until he comes into his proper relationship with his Creator—and the only way for man to be in the right relationship with God is to believe on God’s Son and exercise faith in His shed blood.

God created roles and relationships in order for His created world to function smoothly. Although there must be lines of authority in the church, there should not be lines of superiority. God created man and woman with unique and complementary characteristics. Competition does not improve relationships. One sex is not better than the other. Sexuality is the gift of God, not a creation of man. We must not let the issues of authority and submission become a wedge to destroy oneness in church or in marriage. Instead, we should glorify God by utilizing all the capacities He has given us.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Paul called upon the Corinthians to judge for themselves, taking into consideration that they should act in accordance with the very nature of things. He moves from the subject of divine authority and headship shown by covering the head, to the natural instinct and common sense of his readers. In other words, he asks the question, “Since it is known that the Greek women who are immoral go unveiled—and the fact that they are unveiled denotes immorality—and since only slave women are shaved or shorn (hair cut short) would you ever think that a believing woman in the assembly would be uncovered or shorn?”

Man, created in the image of God, created to display the attributes and glory of God—should not have long hair. It is a dishonor to him and to God. Even nature teaches him that to have long hair makes him look feminine and destroys his higher distinction and authority over women. But woman’s long hair is given to her by nature—it is a natural covering. A hat or veil is a temporary covering, but her hair is a permanent covering and has the same significance as does the temporary covering—the veil.

A woman ought not to call attention to herself when she is speaking for the Lord or teaching a Bible class or praying. There should be no sex appeal. Also, she should remember that her sex appeal is a tremendous thing which has the power either to lift a man up or drag him down.

One notable exception to long hair on men was the Nazarite; the Nazarite wore long hair lawfully, since it was part of a vow sanctioned by God: “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow” (Num 6.5; KJV). This meant that a Nazarite was willing to bear shame for God’s name. Even during Samson’s time (he is probably the best known Nazarite) long hair was considered shameful.

It is Paul’s opinion that woman’s hair should be kept long. And why is that? Because “it is her glory.” It is her glory because it is the symbol of the church’s subjection to Christ.  When a woman shaves her head or cuts her hair close to her scalp, she robs herself of her natural glory, which has been given to her by nature; and when she does it she denies the dignity of her womanhood and makes it worth nothing, and the result is that she succeeds in removing that which has the highest spiritual significance. Woman’s hair is her glory, and the church is the glory of Christ on earth. The church is in subjection to Christ, and a woman’ hair denotes her subjection to her husband, her head.

Paul’s point in this passage is that men are different than women; for one thing they were created differently. When Paul referred to the nature of things, he was referring to custom, propriety; the way custom operates. Men should live as and look like men; woman should live as and look like women. Women have been given a covering of hair by nature, and they should wear their hair long. The difference between men and women should not be blurred. Men and women are alike in many ways; they are loved by God and saved by God, and both are created in God’s image. Anything that blurs their God-given distinctions in the culture or ruins their ability to share their faith has to be set aside. In the culture of Corinth, long hair on men was disgraceful, while short hair on women was equally disgraceful. No one knows the details as to why, except that, as we have speculated,  it may have had something to do with the looks of heathen priests and priestesses, homosexuals, and prostitutes.

The term “nature” can convey the idea of basic human awareness, that is, the innate sense of what is normal and right. It is true that nature gives women longer hair and men shorter hair. The Romans, Greeks, and Jews (except for the Nazarite) pretty much followed this custom. There is no place where the Bible says how long hair should be. It simply states that there should be a noticeable difference between the men’s hair and the women’s hair, so that there is no confusion of sexes. It comes down to this; it is sinful for a man to look like a woman, and vise versa. The male hormone testosterone speeds up the loss of hair in men. Estrogen causes women’s hair to grow longer and for a longer time. Women are rarely bald, no matter how old they are. This physiology is reflected in most cultures in the custom of longer hair on women. God has given her hair as a covering to show tenderness, softness, and beauty.

Avoid Splitting Hairs.
In talking about head coverings and length of hair, Paul is saying that believers should look and behave in ways that are honorable within their own culture. In many cultures long hair on men is considered appropriate and masculine. In Corinth, it may have been a sign of male prostitution in the pagan temples. And women with short hair may have been labeled prostitutes. Paul was saying that in the Corinthian culture, Christian women should keep their hair long. If short hair on women was considered a sign of prostitution, then a Christian woman with short hair would find it even more difficult to be a believable witness for Jesus Christ. Paul was not encouraging Christians to adopt all the practices of the culture, but to avoid appearances and behavior that distract from the goal of being believable witnesses for Jesus Christ as we demonstrate our Christian faith.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

But if any man seem to be contentious,
I like the way the God’s Word version has rendered this verse: “If anyone wants to argue about this {they can't, because} we don't have any custom like this—nor do any of the churches of God.” The apostle has presented the arguments against the custom of women appearing in public unveiled, and now he says that if anyone, despite these arguments, wants to argue about the mater, we have only to say that we (the apostles) have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. Many suppose that custom refers to being contentious. I think, rather, that it refers to covering the head and the proper length of hair for men and women, since that is what he was just talking about. The lesson of this whole passage is that we must not defy existing social practices in a way that brings reproach on the church. This, therefore, would be a sufficient reason why it should not be done in Corinth; even if Paul’s abstract reasoning should not convince them of the impropriety of women participating in worship with their head uncovered and/or with their hair cut short. It would be contrary to the usual custom; would offend the prejudices of many; and should, therefore, be avoided.

we have no such custom,
 The apostle has presented the arguments against the custom of women appearing in public unveiled, and now he says that if anyone, despite these arguments, wants to argue about the matter, we have only to say that we (the apostles) have no such custom. The sense is that it is contrary to custom, as it exists there in Corinth, for women to participate in public unveiled. This custom, the apostle argues, ought to be followed there as it is in the other churches they have founded. To violate this principle is to go against a standard that is maintained in every church of which Paul is knowledgeable.
Neither the churches of God.
The churches of God are the Christian churches that have been established elsewhere. It is customary there for the woman to appear veiled. If at Corinth this custom is not observed, it will be a departure from what has been regarded as proper elsewhere; and will offend those churches. Therefore, even if the reasoning that Paul has presented is not sufficient to silence all quibbling and doubts, yet the appropriateness of uniformity in the habits of the churches, and the fear of giving offence, should lead you to discontinue and disapprove the custom of your females appearing in public without their veil.

For all intents and purposes, Paul concludes his teaching on this subject by saying that the church ought not to make rules in connection with the matter of women’s dress or men’s hair. The really important issue is the inner man. It is the old nature which needs a haircut and the robe of righteousness. My friend, if we are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness and if our old nature is under the control of the Holy Spirit, that will take care of the outer man. The haircut and the style of clothes won’t make much difference. Paul is saying that he is not giving a rule to the churches. He just states what is best in his opinion. We should remember that in all our Christian liberty we are to think of others and of our testimony to others. We should be guided by the principles he has laid down: to glorify God, and not to offend others.