1 CORINTHIANS 11:13–16
But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her …
(1 Cor. 11:15).
To sum up his teaching on head coverings in public worship and the divinely appointed order of authority established at creation, Paul exhorts Christians to judge the matter for themselves. Should we not do what even nature teaches is appropriate? Here again we meet the crux of Paul’s argument against a woman praying and prophesying with her head uncovered: the dictates of nature stand in opposition to such behavior. The laws of nature that transcend culture have established a veil for the woman, a veil that is in itself beautiful and specially designed for her—a mark of her femininity and her subordination. In this, her hair is a glory to her, an ornament of great worth. If nature gives such a covering to a woman, should she not put on a covering when entering the public worship? Is the covering Paul calls women to adorn themselves with any less appropriate, any less glorious in its symbolism than her long hair, her “natural covering”? This is Paul’s argument for men and women to maintain propriety in public worship and to honor God in recognizing the distinctions He has woven into the fabric of His creation by making them male and female.
Paul concludes by urging the Corinthians to disregard those who would stir up dissension by refusing to comply with the apostle’s authoritative instruction. Some have misinterpreted this passage by saying that Paul suddenly throws everything he has been passionately teaching on out the window with his statement that neither the apostles nor the churches of God practice the custom of head coverings. This, of course, makes no sense in the grand scheme of the text. For one thing, it is commonly known that the women in most of the churches at that time wore veils, a practice that continued in one form or another until modern times. Secondly, the word for custom here can mean “practice,” or “habit,” or “being accustomed to,” all of which can apply to being contentious, not to wearing head coverings. As Calvin says, “it is not the custom [or habit] of the church to enter into strifes and contentions.” Because such contentious behavior over matters of propriety in worship is not the practice of God’s people, then we must not give heed to those who refuse to submit to the apostle’s teaching.
Contention can be a common thing in churches, but, according to Paul this should not be our practice. Why, then, is it so common? Are you guilty of being contentious about issues in the church? If so, pray that God will give you a humble disposition and love for others. If not, pray that those who stir up trouble in the church will be humbled.
For further study: 1 Tim. 6:3–10 • 2 Tim. 2:14–26; 3:1–9