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Headship and Head Coverings


The twentieth century seems to have witnessed a greater departure from the truth of God toward the traditions of men than many previous centuries. What can be done to see the saints of God come back to the truth? Faithful teaching and preaching of the Word of God appear to have been God's way of calling His people back to Himself. In this dark day in which we live we need the pure light of God's Word, as THUS SAITH THE LORD, if we are going to experience His approval that ultimately brings blessing. May God help us to get back to the truth.

To give help on the delicate subject of head covering and see fruit that registers to the glory of our Lord we must appeal to heaven. God has spoken from heaven and we must bow to his authority with joy and gladness. I Corinthians 11 is a primary portion of Holy Scriptures on the title subject of this pamphlet. Keep in mind that the Bible is our light (see Psa. 119:105 & 130).

Three clear sections of I Cor. 11 unfold as follows:

  1. Headship (vs 1-3)
  2. Head covering (vs 4-16)
  3. Head-remembering (vs 17-34)

Although headship and head covering are the only two addressed in this writing, symbolism is the common key to understanding all three. Headship stands at the beginning of the chapter and is the primary truth to be understood. The other two sections, both symbolic, give accent to the first. Headship is always true whether in a gathering of the assembly or not. However, head covering and head-remembering are both associated with assembly gatherings. Neither was designed of God for the WORLD to behold. It is for the saints here on earth and the heavenlies. It is important for the reader to note that the natural man (unconverted man) does not understand spiritual symbolism (I Cor. 2:14). It is equally important to observe that saints alone, when scriptural gathered and functioning, are a display of God's manifold wisdom to the heavenlies (I Cor. 11:10 & Eph. 3:10). We are to behold Christ in the midst and when properly gathered He is in the midst (Matt. 18:20). Therefore, in assembly gatherings the man with his uncovered head displays the Christ and is responsible to pray and prophesy. Since the man is the image and glory of God (I Cor. 11:7), he should not cover his head (physically), for to do so would mar the symbolism of Christ as Head and Center.

The woman, however, displays the glory of the man and in assembly gatherings must cover her head, symbolically covering human glory ( I Cor. 11:7). By doing this she compliments the uncovered head of the man in the declaration of Christ as the Head and Center.

Three different Greek words for cover are found in the portion of scripture ( I Cor. 11:4-16), we are considering. KATA in verse 4 means simply down, KATAKALUPTOMAI in verses 5, 6, and 13 means cover down, and PERIBOLIAN in verse 15 means thrown around. Anything that a man has on his head praying or prophesying in the assembly mars the symbolism found in connection with headship. When a woman wears a hat or a veil in the assembly she exercises her will to do so and the proper Greek word for that volitional covering is KATAKALUPTTOMAI. However she has a natural covering, her long hair (I Cor.11:15) and that covering is seen whether in the assembly or not. The Greek word for that is PERIBOLIAN.

Also, there are three objects in view of the woman covering her head. Man in verse 7, angels in verse 10, and God in verse 13. A woman is to cover her head in the assembly:

  1. so man's glory is not predominant in the gathering of the saints (verse 7)
  2. to display the message that she is under an authority in keeping with the concept of headship (verse 10)
  3. to symbolically cover her personal glory (her long hair) which should not compete with the glory of our Lord (verse 15)

Now let us give some consideration to verse 5 and 6. To the contrary of the thinking of many, those verses do not state when a woman must cover her head but rather that she must not usurp the man's role. If these verses gave directions as to when her head was to be covered,

  1. a woman could attend all the meetings of the assembly with an uncovered head as long as she did not pray or prophesy and be scriptural in so doing and
  2. she could pray or prophesy in the assembly provided she covered her head while doing so

Both of the above clearly contradict divine principles of scripture (I Cor. 11:4-16, I Cor. 14:34-35, I Tim. 2:8-15). An uncovered woman praying or prophesying in the assembly assumes the mans role. This violates the divine principle of headship (verse 3), the law (I Cor. 14:34-35), and mars the symbolism so depictive to the angels (verse 10).

Paul's letter entitled I Timothy is one that emphasizes behavior in the local assembly (3:14-16). From chapter 2 we see that man's sphere of praying in an oral or verbal way is everywhere (vs. 8). The woman's sphere, however is not everywhere orally or verbally. We see that she is to learn in silence with all subjection (verse 11). This is in harmony with I Cor. 14:34-35. Women are to keep silent in the assembly gatherings for several reasons:

  1. We are to see Christ as Head and Center in the spiritual sense and man alone can portray that in the Lord's assembly (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23, Matt. 18:20,)
  2. Adam was prominent over Eve in two ways: in creation (verse 13) and in discernment (verse 14)
  3. Man is to rule over the woman and must therefore be the teacher (consistent with the law Genesis 3:16)

A word on silence may be in order. The Greek word employed by the Holy Spirit in Timothy 2 is HEESUCHIA and appears only four times and seven other times in two varied forms. HEESUCHIOS and HEESUCHAZO. In Acts 21:14 ceased translates the word and by context shows the real meaning. They did not continue beseeching Paul (as in vs.12), but ceased. They became silent on that issue.

The Greek word in I Cor. 14:34 is also used in I Cor. 14:28. A person who does not speak the language of the assembly is to remain silent (SIGAO) when there is no interpreter. SIGAO appears nine times and the only other form SIGEE appears twice. Contexts are clear enough to define silence as meaning silent. Women are commanded not to speak (LALEO), but are not commanded to desist singing (PSALLO).

The Word of God always presents a balance of truth. The matter of headship and submission is no exception, for in Galatians 3:28 the woman is clearly declared to be equal to the man in essence and character as surely as Christ is equal to God. Her pattern in the acceptance of her role is none less than Christ who Himself willingly stepped down to become a man as THE SERVANT. She enjoys the unique privilege of being an IMITATOR of him by willingly stepping down or subordinating herself (in headship) and assuming her God-given role under the man. Such an attitude demonstrates the exquisite loveliness of the mind of Christ.

The modern craze of the E.R.A. type woman has affected more of the Lord's saints than most people are willing to admit. Godly women, sensitive to the Spirit and subject to the Word of God will gladly take their place in the assembly, silent and covered.

May the above statements be blessed of the Lord Himself that divine order and peace may characterize all gatherings of saints in assembly capacity.


Don Welborn