1Corinthians 11:2-16 (Headcovering: Tradition or Commandment? Part 1)

In 1Co 11:2, what tradition that he delivered to the Corinthians does Paul have in mind that he praises them for holding firmly?  See 1Co 11:3-16.  Were there competing cultural practices in that day in regard to head coverings during worship?  Note: Roman men and women both covered their heads during worship; neither Greek men nor women covered their heads during worship, and although Jewish men did not otherwise cover their heads and Jewish women were normally veiled, during worship the men covered their heads while the women uncovered theirs.  In light of the near universal, though varied, practices regarding head coverings and the worship of God or gods throughout history, is it possible there is more behind these practices than empty ritual?  Is it even possible that they are rooted in some spiritual truth that like the rest of God’s truth became variously perverted, lost or forgotten by different cultures as they rebelled against God and established their own man-made religions?

Although the Corinthian church as a whole held to the tradition of women covering their heads and men uncovering theirs for worship, some (like most today), did not understand its significance and in light of the competing cultural practices were questioning whether it was necessary or just a local custom (cf. 1Co 7:1).  Does Paul respond as if this tradition was only a mere custom or ritual specific to that culture, or does he say that the practice had its basis in spiritual truth?  What other tradition that has been handed down to Christians is also mentioned in 1Co 11?  See 1Co 11:24-26.  Do Christians today accept that they are to observe the Lord’s Supper as a visible reminder and symbol of the spiritual truth behind it?  Do they accept that they are to observe baptism as a visible reminder and symbol of the spiritual truth behind it?  Do Christians observe the Lord’s Supper and baptism because they are a requirement for salvation, or out of loving obedience and joy for the spiritual truths they signify?

Upon what deeper spiritual meaning does Paul say the tradition is based of women covering their heads for worship, and men uncovering theirs?  See 1Co 11:3-10.  What importance does God place upon submission to the authority he establishes?  See Mat 8:8-10, Rom 13:1-2, 1Co 15:24,28, 1Pe 2:13-18, 3:1-2, 2Pe 2:9-11, Jud 1:8-9[1].  What is the great danger of rebelling against one’s God-appointed role and not subjecting oneself to the authority structure God has ordained?  See Rom 13:3-5; see also Korah’s rebellion in Num 16[2], as well as Satan’s rebellion, who although he was “the anointed cherub who covers…on the holy mountain of God”, and was himself covered with every precious stone and “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Eze 28:12-14), he fell from heaven and was “cut down to the earth” because he was not content with his role but said in his heart “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God…I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa 14:12-14).

In the order of headship God the Father is the head of Christ (1Co 11:3); does that mean He is better or superior to Christ?  What does this teach us about the headship of man over woman: is he better or superior to her?  See 1Co 11:11-12.  Did Christ, although equal to God, consider it beneath Him to submit Himself to the headship of the Father?  Cf. Phil 2:5-8.  Did He even suffer unjustly as a result of His submission to the Father?  See 1Pe 2:22-23.  Did slaves sometimes suffer unjustly because of their submission to their masters?  See 1Pe 2:19-25.  Do wives sometimes suffer unjustly because of their submission to their husbands?  See 1Pe 3:1.  What does Scripture teach is the hallmark of subjecting oneself, even in the midst of suffering?  See 1Pe 2:18-19,23, 3:1,4; Mat 26:62-63, Mar 15:2-5, Luk 23:8-9.  What was the result of Christ’s willing submission to the Father?  See Phil 2:9-11.  What does this teach us about the means of obtaining glory: is it by the exercise of our own will and authority over a higher authority, even if that authority is corrupt?  Or is it by submission to the authority God has established, even if we suffer unjustly under that authority?  What does this teach us about the glory to be bestowed upon women for their willing submission to their husbands in the order of headship God has ordained, even if their husbands are “disobedient to the word”?  Cf. Pro 12:4, 31:10,30-31.



1. “Submission to authority and role are vital components to any devised order.  Can you imagine the chaos that would follow if proper order was not followed in our society?  What if people decided traffic signals were to be completely ignored for the sake of expediting travel?  What if everyone decided that waiting lines at amusement parks, sporting events, the post office and checkout stands were to be ignored to ensure the quickest possible conclusion of the matter at hand?  Normally, one picks up a phone directory knowing that within moments the name, address and telephone number of anyone being searched for will be obtained.  However, what if Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Smith, Miss Jones complained to the phone company about being listed in the middle or towards the end of the telephone directory and demanded to be listed on the first page of the publication next year.  Before long, order would be lost, and the usefulness of the directory would be forfeited.  Our whole society is based on submission to the order that has been invoked through civil law and social norms.  Order is necessary for productivity and blessing; thus, order is at the center of God’s nature.  ‘For God is not the author of confusion but of peace’(1Co 14:33)”.  … “What would happen to an army if the soldiers holding the rank of a “private” suddenly started wearing “stripes” of a higher rank and then demanded the authority of that rank—say a captain?  First of all, the army would be in total disarray and would be unable to accomplish military objectives.  People not qualified to issue orders would be interfering with and contradicting those individuals who actually had the proper rank and instructions from “high command”.  Secondly, those who proudly assert to the higher rank would be severely punished by those in high authority.” (Glories Seen and Unseen, Warren Henderson; pgs. 54,61).

2. Korah was a Kohathite, the Levitical family that was to carry the holy objects after the sons of Aaron had covered them to conceal their glory (cf. Num 4:15).  But Korah rebelled against his God-appointed role and accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the rest of the congregation, holding that “all the congregation are holy” (Num 16:3) and that they should not be denied the role of priest as well (Num 16:10).

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