Under Authority

Tiif. Roman soldler who said ‘I am a man under authority’, Matt. 8. 9, enjoyed his freedom as an officer only because he himself was subject to an authority higher than himself. He had no will of his own and was responsible to others for his actions. His words contain a vital spiritual truth that applies to all the people of God.

God alone is supreme, sovereign, omnipotent-all created beings in heaven and earth must recognize His supreme authority and bow to His perfect will. The slightest disobedience by men, angels or demons must be viewed as an act of rebellion and will result in confusion and judgement.

This principle of headship and submission-rule and obedience, applies to all believers on earth in their relation to Christ, just as much as it applies to angels, principalities and powers in the heavens. The apostle Paul in several epistles applies this rule in order to promote happy relations in the local churches.

‘In Christ’, of course, believers of all races and social standing, whether male or female, are ‘one’, Gal. 3. 28. All are equal before God, all alike partake of God’s grace and share alike in the blessings of the kingdom-together they form one body, one bride, one priesthood.

But within the sphere of the life and witness of the local church fellowship there is a plain distinction between the sexes. ‘But I would have you know’, writes the apostle, ‘that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God’, 1 Cor. 11. 3.

Note these three vital statements:

1. The Head of Christ is God
Nobody questions the eternal sovereignty of God the Father and God the Son. Yet the Lord Jesus, though Himself equal with the Father, voluntarily ‘obeyed’ the will of the Father and was subject to Him, Heb. 5. 8. ‘My father is greater than I’, He said, ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me’. Thus perfect harmony ever existed between the Father and the Son.

2. The Head of the Man is Christ

In the beginning God ‘created man in his own image’. He ‘crowned him with glory and honour’. ‘Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy sands’, Gen. 1. 28; Psa. 8. 15-16. Acting under God’s authority, Adam thus became His representative on and over the earth: the only condition was that man must obey his Maker.

Through disobedience, however, Adam (and all men) lost this privilege, hence the right and ability to rule was taken from them. But, because Christ, the second Man, was the perfect Servant of Jehovah, God has exalted Him and made Him Head over all things in relation to the church. As the exalted Man Christ now works through men to accomplish His will-but this requires total submission to His rule and Headship by all men in the church.

3. The Head of the Woman is the Man
‘Adam was first formed, then Eve’, 1 Tim. 2. 13. At some undisclosed time after God made the first man He made a woman-Adam’s wife and companion. Eve was in many respects one with her husband-of his ‘flesh’ and his ‘bones’, Gen. 2. 23-they were both equal ‘in the Lord’, 1 Cor. 11. 11, 12; but whereas Adam bears the ‘glory of God’, she, it is said, bears the ‘glory of the man’, 1 Cor. 11. 6.

As Adam lived and acted under the authority of God, so the woman lives and acts under the authority of the man, Eph. 5. 22-24, 33, out of a sense of love rather than of duty. There is no suggestion of inferiority in this either for the man or the woman: it was simply a matter of both recognizing their dependence on a higher authority. Men, not women, were always chosen by the Holy Spirit to be leaders in the New Testament churches, 1 Tim. 2. 8; 3. 1.

The creation of Eve, moreover, clearly prefigured the time when God would provide a helpmeet for the Son-the ‘second Man’. A helpmeet who would be ‘of his flesh and of his bones’, Eph. 5. 30, and who would share with Him the rule of the ‘new heavens and the new earth’. The new bride, of course, is the church-all who are saved by the grace of God through faith in the Son. But in order to share with Christ His glory as the Son of God, the church must recognize His headship and authority and be totally subject to His rule, Eph. 5. 24.

In Public Meetings of the Church

1. The man expresses his submission to the authority of Christ by praying and speaking zvith his head uncovered.

Jewish men covered their heads when they prayed because Moses covered his face when he went into the presence of God, 2 Cor. 2. 13. Today, however, God’s glory is revealed in Christ and the uncovered head shows that the veil has been removed.

2. The woman expresses her submissum to the uuthority of the man and Christ in two different ways

i) By refraining from audible teaching, speaking or praying when men are present. ‘Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak’, 1 Cor. 14. 34 ‘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’, I Tim. 2. 11, 12.

The reason for this is based on two basic, historic facts:

Eve took a secondary place in the order and purpose of creation.

Eve had acted independently of Adam when she obeyed the voice of the serpent, 1 Tim 2. 13, 14; 2 Cor. 11. 3.

ii) By covering her personal ‘glory’ (her long hair) with a veil, 1 Cor. 11.5. The wearing of the veil was a symbol or sign of her subjection to the man and also a sign of the whole church’s subjection to Christ. At the same time, however, in wearing the veil the woman placed herself directly under the protection and care of the man, who is under obligation to love and nourish the woman even as the Lord cares for the church, Eph. 5. 25.

The veil also is a witness to angels of the church’s submission to Christ, for they also cover their glory in the presence of God, 1 Cor. 11. 10; Eph. 3. 10;” Isa. 6. 2.

The wearing of the veil has, of recent years, become a matter of dispute and contention in many churches-a result, perhaps, of the modern ‘Lib’ and ‘Uni-sex’ movements-a subtle rebellion against authority and a desire on the part of the woman to taken a position of equality with men and to make her own independent decisions as did Eve in the garden!

The main arguments against the veil are:

1. The woman’s long hair is itself a covering, 1 Cor. 11.5.

The long hair is indeed a woman’s natural covering, Rev. 9. 8; John 11. 2; 12. 3. This fact is recognized by all nations over all time. Long hair is distinctly feminine; an expression of beauty and glory. But it is this very ‘glory’ that was to be covered in the presence of men, angels and the Lord. Nothing should ever be permitted in the church that detracts from the ‘glory’ of Christ. The natural covering of long hair was an indication that God expected the woman to be veiled in His presence.

2. The wearing of a veil was only a local custom or culture andneed not apply in other countries or at other times.

Actually, the wearing of a veil in Corinth was not a local custom because Greek women and men prayed with bare heads, while Roman and Jewish men prayed with heads covered. Paul set aside all local custom and culture and based his decision on the universal laws of nature and the original creation order. The Christians purposely acted contrary to local custom in their church gatherings.

Whenever local culture is contrary to the word of God, then the word, not culture, takes priority. Fashion, customs and culture change to suit the whims of the people but biblical principles arc abiding.

3. Women need to be veiled ONLY when they pray or ‘prophesy’-or they may pray or prophesy in the church provided they are veiled.

The apostle here is not necessarily permitting a woman to take part in meetings provided she is veiled. It is more likely that some of the women themselves were trading on their ‘freedom’ as Christians, assuming that they could take the place of men provided they laid aside their veils.

He merely uses the incident to lay down some general biblical principles and divine order relating to the distinction between the sexes in their church relationships. The matter of public speaking he takes up in chapter 14. 4. The state of the heart is of more importance than a covering on the head.

It is true that the wearing of a veil is not in itself evidence of a submissive heart or will, but to the spiritually minded woman, the veil gives her an opportunity of honouring Christ before God, angels and men. The point in issue, however, is not what man thinks of the veil, but what God thinks of it.


In summing up the whole matter Paul says, ‘If any person seems disposed to quarrel with my decision (that woman must be veiled), let the sufficient answer be “Your view is against all usage, alike of our own, and all other churches of Cod"’, 1 Cor. 11. 16-Way’s translation.


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