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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Headcovering for women

This is the summary of a sermon preached some years ago in Newtownabbey FPC as part of a series on Free Presbyterian distinctives. 

The marks of a Scriptural Church - Wearing a Head Covering 
To be a Scriptural Church there is a need for all females to wear a headcovering. Paul in writing to young Timothy exhorted him to hold fast the form of sound words given to him. Timothy was charged to be faithful to the precepts of the Word of God in a day when it was difficult to do so. Paul warned him that the time would come when many would not endure sound doctrine and that many would turn away from the truth, deceiving and being deceived. If anything marks the age in which we live it is these features with respect to the issue of Headcovering.

There has been a serious turning away from the Word of God on the issue of females wearing a head covering in public worship. There is most certainly a failure to hold fast to the form of sound words on this vital matter as taught in the holy Scriptures.

Churches that believe it is right that women cover their heads in public worship are laughed at and ridiculed. We are denounced as being petty and narrow minded. There are those who argue that this precept only applied to Corinth and was a local custom in order to excuse their non-observance of this practice.

There are those abroad today who once held to this but who do not do so any longer. They argue that it hinders people coming into the services. There have been churches which once kept 'hats' to give people who arrived at church without them but have now changed and are preaching against the wearing of a head covering.

It has been the belief of the Free Presbyterian Church since its inception that females should wear a headcovering. It is certainly a requirement for membership and coming to the Lord's Table. In doing so we seek to stand by the Word of God. The Scriptural precept of wearing a headcovering is found in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16: 
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
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.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
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.
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.
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 the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 

But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God

I. The Basis for the Observance of this Precept
Paul speaks about the 'ordinances' which he has delivered unto the Church at Corinth, cf. v2. The word comes from the same root as ‘delivered’. Elsewhere it is translated ‘tradition’ ie 'something handed down'.

It is very important to realise that this was not a tradition handed down from men. Paul is delivering to these believers that which he has received directly from God Himself, cf. Galatians 1:11,12; 1 Timothy 1:11. These things taught by Paul have the authority as the oracles of God.

Notice three statements in v3. These statements contains the basis for the wearing of the head covering: 
[1] The head of Christ is God. 
[2] The head of the man is Christ. 
[3] The head of the woman is the man.

The 'head' is of course the controlling organ of the body. All other parts are subject to its direction and government. It is these statements that form the basis for the precept of women covering their head coming to public worship.

This headship has to do with function not essence. There is an outcry today when we speak about the man being the head of the woman. It is said that the head of Christ is God. There is no inequality between Father and Son as persons within the Trinity. They are co-equal, cf. Philippians 2:6

This headship relates to function. Christ became obedience to the will of His Father to accomplish redemption. The title of ‘servant’ became Christ’s. It added to His glory.

Apply this to the matter of the man being head of the woman. It applies to function. There is a place of honour for both men and women in the order of God. For the glory of God and the well being of mankind this is God’s ordained order.

This order is to be observed in public worship. The child of God more than anyone is to respect God’s order. God requires this order to be observed within the home and within the church. This principle applies to the issue of the Christian's appearance as well.

It is the glory of God which must be seen in the house of God. The house of God is not place for giving glory to anyone or anything else. The man is deemed to be the image and glory of God, v7. He is not therefore to cover his head. But the woman who is described as the glory of the man is to cover her head so that in God's house, in public worship, God may have all the glory.

Women coming to the house of God with their head covered are observing and acknowledging God’s divinely instituted order. That’s the basis of the Headcovering.

II. The Implications for Worship of this Precept
Having stated the basis upon which this precept stands the apostle proceeds to lay out the implications for women attending the house of God, cf. vv4-7. The differences between men and women are to be reflected not only as they appear in society at large but also as they appear within the house of God for worship.

This ordinance relates to public worship. The wearing of the head covering is done so in connection with the public gathering of the Church for worship. Notice the two expressions used in vv4,5 'praying' and 'prophesying'. 'Prayer' is not of necessity a public act. The word used is the most general term for prayer and is appropriate for public prayer. 'Prophesying' certainly is a public act. It has no value if not done in public, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:3,4,24. Prophesying is not only foretelling [when the revelation was not complete] but forthtelling/preaching the Gospel. It involves the edifying the saints and the evangelising of the lost. 'Prophesying' takes place in public worship. The collective singing of praise is also so described as 'prophesying' in 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. These directions specifically apply to the realm of public worship.

This ordinance is applicable to the whole Church in general. This was no local custom that Paul was referring to. We have already noticed the word ‘ordinances’. This directive has come from God. Note also v16. Paul is saying that if any man argue against what is being said he is becoming contentious about the truth. ‘Contentious’ = fond of an argument and likely to quarrel. He says that the churches of God do not have a custom of contention in this matter. It is non-negotiable. He widens the matter out to take in all the churches. Paul is not only writing to the Christians in Corinth, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2. The headcovering is distinctly Christian. In Jewish religion it is the men who cover their heads. This New Testament teaching is contrary to their practice.

It is said by historians that in depictions on the walls of the Catacombs the women can been seen wearing a close fitting head-dress and the men with short hair.

It is a shame for women not to cover their head in public worship. Scripture teaches that a woman who refuses to wear a headcovering dishonoureth her head. She may as well be shorn, it would not be any greater shame. The shorn head was a mark of the deepest and most ignominious shame imaginable. It degrades the woman not to cover her head. For the woman to rebel and refuse to observe God’s order as to function, is to leave the place of honour which God has assigned and bring shame upon herself.

III. The Arguments for the Obedience of this Precept
Having come thus far in setting forth this truth, Paul brings in a set of arguments or reasons why this ought to be observed within the Church of Jesus Christ, vv8-15. These go to reinforce the precept that already has been given.

An argument taken from Creation. The difference between man and woman is by virtue of creation. Man was the climax, the crown of God’s creative work. He was given that position of honour while there was yet no woman created. The creation of the woman was different and constituted her as the glory or honour of the man. The woman is the glory of man because her origin was from him and man’s initial origin was independent of her. The purpose of the woman’s creation was directly connected to man Genesis 1:18-22. The purpose of his creation was independent of hers.

As Paul concentrates on creation and not on marriage it places the same responsibility on both single and married woman young and old, mothers and daughters alike.

An argument taken from Nature, vv14,15. Nature itself teaches that there is an essential difference in appearance between men and women. For a man to have long hair is contrary to the natural order of things. It brings confusion. Long hair belongs to a woman alone, Revelation 9:8. The word for long hair also takes in hairstyles. It can mean ‘fixed hair’ It is contrary to nature for men to have distinctly feminine hairstyles.

It is a glory to a woman to have a difference in hairstyle from a man.

Just as hairstyles differentiates between male and female in every day life so within the house of God the use of headcovering symbolises the respective positions of male and female before God.

An example to be set to the angels. There is an interesting statement used in v10. This verse teaches hat the woman ought to comply with the Word of God because of the angels. We know that angels look on at our activity in the earth cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9.

The obedience of God’s redeemed people in this will be a witness to the angels. It will be a witness to the submission of the Church in general and of the woman in particular to the order God has ordained. It will magnify the Lordship of Christ over His Church. God is pleased to use the woman to teach the angels in heaven. This is a great privilege and honour bestowed upon womanhood.

When we consider this great honour and privilege how can any infer that to wear a headcovering is a relegating of womanhood to an inferior place?

In light of the Word of God the question can therefore rightly be asked of us all: Have we yielded to the Lordship of Christ? Do we honour the Lord in this way? It is the mark of a Scriptural Church to do so. 

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