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1 Corinthians 11:4–10

“That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (v. 10).

Paul teaches the headship of husbands in 1 Corinthians 11:2–3. However, before we move on to his application of this teaching, note that this headship clearly does not pertain to the wife’s salvation. Instead, headship is for order in the home and in the church. It is grounded in creation for the purpose of organizing and conducting church and family life. John Calvin says that “as regards spiritual connection in the sight of God, and inwardly in the conscience, Christ is the head of the man and of the woman without any distinction . . . but as regards external arrangement and political decorum, the man follows Christ and the woman the man.”

That brings us to today’s passage and Paul’s application of headship to corporate worship. This text on head coverings has been the subject of much debate, and Paul’s train of thought can be difficult to follow. Nevertheless, the Apostle’s main points are sufficiently clear. First, Paul’s argument is based on an appeal to the creation order. The husband has a priority of authority because man was made first and woman was made for him (vv. 8–9). It is not that women are inherently inferior to men. Instead, the Apostle is teaching that the order of creation determines the order of the church. As Genesis 2 tells us, God created Adam first and then He created Eve out of Adam. Male leadership in the home and church is grounded in the fact that Adam was the first to receive authority over the other creatures and the first to be tasked with guarding and keeping Eden (see especially Gen. 2:8–20).

Second, because the glory of God must be seen in worship and not the glory of man, woman (who is the glory of man) must have a covering and not man (who is the image and glory of God; 1 Cor. 11:7). Of course, the Apostle does not mean women are less the image of God than men or that women do not reflect God’s glory, for male and female alike bear God’s image (see Gen. 1:26–27). Paul’s point is that since man reflects the glory of God in his own unique way, wives should wear a covering in worship so as to not display the glory of man in a setting where the glory of God must be seen without hindrance.

As far as the actual covering, some argue that it is the woman’s hair, some contend that the woman must wear a sign of authority but that this sign differs across cultures, and some assert that the covering is a hat, scarf, or something of that nature that should be worn in every culture. Dr. R.C. Sproul held that third view, which is the view we will be following in these studies.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Scripture clearly teaches that men and women equally bear God’s image and have equal worth. It also teaches that there is a distinction between the sexes in the order of the church and the home. We must respect that order and heed what the Bible teaches about the roles of husbands and wives, authority in the church, symbols of authority, and other such things.


For Further Study
  • Psalm 97
  • 1 Timothy 2:11–14

Headship in the Home and Church

The Promise of Pentecost

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From the May 2021 Issue
May 2021 Issue