In these days of proclaiming the equality of the sexes, it may not be easy for some to accept the teaching of God’s Word in relation to their conduct and service to the Lord in the local church. Nevertheless, we must be prepared to accept and to obey God’s Word rather than modern teaching.
In spite of modern voices, the Scriptures place the woman “in rank” below the man. This does not mean that women are inferior to men; Christianity has done more to raise the status of women than has any religion. Peter says, “Give honour unto the wife”, I Pet. 3. 7. The Scriptures single out many dear women who excelled in a lowly devotion to the Lord Jesus, far exceeding any recorded acts of devotion of men.
Examples. The woman in Luke 7. 36-50 presents a beautiful example of worship, love and humility to the Lord Jesus. Again, in Matthew 26. 13 we read, this shall “be told for a memorial of her”. Again, in Luke 10. 39, Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word”. The sequel of what she heard in this lowly position appears in John 12. 3, where she anointed the feet of Jesus with “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly”. Mary appears to be the only person who understood that the Lord Jesus was about to lay down His life as an offering to God: “against the day of my burying hath she kept this”, v. 7, but the disciples did not understand.
The love of Mary Magdalene for the Lord Jesus made her bolder than the disciples; while it was yet dark she went to the tomb with prepared spices, John 20. 1. Jesus did not first appear in resurrection to an apostle, but to a woman, even Mary Magdalene. The angel could not comfort her, but it was her Lord and Master whom she sought; she wept because they had “taken away my Lord”, v. 13. She outshone the devotion of Peter and John together with the other disciples. Then, again, we read of the many women that ministered unto Him before He suffered, Matt. 27. 55-56. The “coat … woven from the top throughout" had surely been made by the loving hands of some woman or women who ministered unto Him. Such are great examples of devotion for us all to follow.
Submission. Our sisters in Christ would readily admit that they are the weaker vessels, i Pet. 3. 7. The very fact that the woman takes the man’s name at marriage suggests she is sub-ordinate to men; even this derives from Scripture – He “called their name Adam’, Gen. 5. 2. With few exceptions, man is at the head of government, of industry, finance, defence, educa-tion, and God in His Word has called and set man at the head of His people; for example, Abraham, Moses, David in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, God placed men in special positions of responsibility in the church – for example, apostles and elders. It is man who builds towns and cities, but it is woman who builds the home that produces these secular and these spiritual leaders. Yet 1 Corinthians 11. 11 shows that the woman is not less important than man. Could the great moral disorders occurring in the youth of today be due in measure to a failure on the part of many mothers not being “keepers at home"?, Titus 2. 5. God has ordained an order for man and woman to follow. When this order is not followed, disorder, weakness and corruption will surely result.
The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. 2-16 are governed by the further statement, “If any man think himself to be … spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord”, 14. 37. This rules out a common objection that “this is only what Paul said”, as though his writings were not the inspired Word of God.
"I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man”, 1 Cor. 11. 3, is a plain statement of the Word of God. See Genesis 3. 16. Again, “Adam was first formed, then Eve”, 1 Tim. 2. 13. Moreover, God made woman from man, Gen. 2. 23. She thus became a companion-help to man; she shared man’s glory but was subject to him. What great achievements have often been accomplished by husband and wife working together. How often it is said, “I couldn’t have carried on without my wife’s devoted assistance”, and “I owe any success I have had to my wife".
As a man, a private in the army is in no way inferior to the colonel of the regiment; in character, he may be superior to that of the colonel. As a private, he is “inferior’ only in rank, and has to submit to the colonel in this capacity. Thus Peter writes, “wives, be in subjection to (but working together with) your own husbands”, 1 Pet. 3. 1. For his part, the husband has to honour the wife. Read 1 Peter 3.1-6, a passage specially encouraging for Christian wives of unsaved husbands.
To summarize, the sister in Christ submits to the brother because:
1. Man was made first, Gen. 2. 15.
2. Woman was made from man, Gen. 2. 18-23, t0 be his companion and help.
3. Woman was first in transgression; she sinned by being deceived by Satan, but Adam sinned after being tempted by his wife, Gen. 3. 6; 1 Tim. 2. 14.
4. Woman is the weaker vessel, 1 Pet. 3. 7.
Note that the reason for this order (and for that to be con-sidered shortly) is not derived from New Testament principles, but from creation and the fall of both man and woman. God changes not, and from this truth is developed the reason for a headcovering for sisters when the local church is gathered together.
The Head-Covering. In 1 Corinthians n. 2-16, reference is made to “prophesying”. In the days of the early church, before the New Testament was written, God’s truths were communicated to Paul and the apostles by direct revelation from God. Today, of course, His truths are ministered from the completed Scriptures. Therefore we may say that ministry today is “telling forth" rather than “fore-telling" or prophesying.
"Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head”, that is, Christ, 1 Cor. n. 3,4. It is taken for granted that a man has his head uncovered in a prayer meeting. Brethren and sisters alike would look aghast if a man wore his hat on such occasions; he would soon be reproved. “A man indeed ought not to cover his head, foras-much as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man”, v. 7. On earth man is not subordinate to any other created being; God gave him to have dominion over all His created works, Gen. 1. 28. Man was therefore creation’s head on earth. Because of this position (i) earthwise man does not cover his head in God’s invisible presence, and (ii) heaven-wise man, by not covering his head, acknowledges Christ as his Head, that is, his Lord.
Verse 5 now provides a contrast: “But (because woman is the glory of the man) every woman that prayeth … with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head”, namely the man, as verse 3 states. Some gainsayers say that a woman’s hair is implied here, v. 15. In that case, for a man to have his head uncovered would mean that he must have no hair.
Hence, as a man ought not to cover his head when the church is gathered together, so a woman ought to have her head covered. For her, earth-wise, it is a sign of honour to the man, and heaven-wise, a sign of the Lordship of Christ, because she covers her glory, that is, her hair. Ignorance of Scripture, the trend of fashion or modern thought have caused some to view the matter of a sister having her head covered in a worship or prayer meeting as a matter of less importance or even unnecessary. But the Word of God does not agree with this view, neither can it alter or change with the times. In particular, verse 10 shows that angels are watching whether we are being obedient to God’s Word.
Someone may ask, “Why be bothered about such trivialities, when so many souls are perishing?”. But the matter has to do with the conduct of a sister after she is saved and when she is in church fellowship, so that she may walk worthy of the high calling of God, Eph. 4. 1. Elder sisters should be careful to teach the younger this follow-up work of salvation. Small things are not trivial when seen from God’s point of view, although we may find it difficult to understand the absolute holiness of our God and the obedience that His holiness demands. For example, Moses smote the rock instead of speaking to it as commanded of God, Num. 20. 8-11. For this “trivial" act of disobedience Moses was denied the privilege of leading the children of Israel into the promised land. But someone else may persist, “Isn’t it a triviality, when we think of so many of our brethren and sisters in Christ in other lands suffering persecutions for their Lord?”. Yet those suffering for Christ’s sake try all the more to be obedient to His Word. It is when things are “easy" that believers tend to become lax in obedience to God’s Word.
Conclusion. Paul concludes his subject by writing, “if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God”, 1 Cor. 11. 16. To Paul, God’s revealed Word had only one interpretation, and all the other churches judged likewise. To summarize the behaviour and service of a sister in the local assembly: sisters in Christ are to
1. Dress modestly, be modest, pure and discreet, 1 Tim. 2. 9; 1 Pet. 3. 2.
2. Be of a meek and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God, 1 Pet. 3. 4.
3. Be given to good works, including hospitality, Matt. 27. 55-56; Acts 9. 36; 16.15; Rom. 16.1-6; i Tim. 2.10; 5. 10.
4. Not to take audible part in the presence of brethren, because she is in subjection to man, 1 Cor. 14. 34; 1 Tim. 2. 11.
5. Have their heads covered (symbolic of submissiveness as already discussed) when the church comes together for prayer, worship and service, thereby to teach the younger sisters by example.
6. Teach the younger women, Titus 2. 4.
7. Look after the home and bring up children, 1 Tim. 5. 10; Titus 2. 4-5.
What a task and an honour is this last point, as we think of what Moses, Samuel, Timothy and many other great men of God past and present owe to saintly mothers. What a standard the Scriptures set for a sister in Christ, which, if followed, would noticeably affect the testimony to the Lord in many assemblies. Scripture clearly shows that God so often blesses the humble, obscure, unobtrusive service, above other forms of service that may give more prominence to the servant. He takes up the weaker things to confound the mighty, 1 Cor. 1.27.
May sisters in Christ, who seek to walk in obedience to the Word of God, not fail to comply with these truths by remaining untaught and ignorant of them. May this study enable them to serve the Lord more acceptably and to be glorifying unto Him.