Paul defines the Requirements for Men and Women Praying in the Church
1 Corinthians 11:4-16
Paul as we learned in the previous study wrote to these Corinthian believers and to us detailing how he had instructed them to conduct themselves in the Church of God concerning public prayer. Paul used the Greek word paradosis and it means as we learned also in the last study, the transmission of instructions or precepts; the delivered substance of a specific teaching or narrative. Paul had given them instructions on the proper way every man of God and woman of God should humble themselves before God the Father in public prayer in the church. In the Greek and Roman culture during that time when Paul entered into the city of Corinth there were certain manners of dress for men and women that we in the western culture today cannot relate to or fully and completely understand. Therefore, as I attempt to comment on Paul’s words written to these Corinthian believers, I will not pretend to understand every aspect of the cultural significance Paul was writing to in that time, but what I can say is that it is apparent that men and women in that culture were accustomed to wearing certain forms of head wear and the type of head coverings worn by men and women were different depending on the class or status of the family the man or woman was from or the position in the Corinthian community held by the man and that status was inferred or transferred over to the man’s wife and the rest of his family.
What we do know from historical records is that both men and women wore long flowing garments that all looked like what we consider dresses today. The men in the Greek culture wore what were called a toga which is a one-piece cloak worn by men in ancient Rome and we remember that the city of Corinth was controlled by the Romans at that time and so was Jerusalem. In the Jewish culture likewise men wore what was called a tunic which was any of a variety of loose fitting garments extending to the hips or knees and even our Lord Jesus wore such clothing and He referred to it when He said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40). The point is that in the Jewish and Greek culture of that day both men and women wore some form of head covering as it was the custom of dress during that time and in that part of the world, we even see it still being practiced by many people in that middle eastern part of the world today. Paul was brought up steeped in these traditional patterns of dress also and as a member of the Sanhedrin surely wore long robes with broad phylacteries (either of two small leather cases containing texts from the Hebrew Scriptures (known collectively as tefillin); traditionally worn (on the forehead and the left arm) by Jewish men during morning prayer) which was representative of a highly respected Jewish Rabbi.
Paul now having given up all of those man-made traditions for the excellence of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord more intimately purposes to instruct these Gentile believers on what he now knows is the humble, honorable, and holy way every genuine believer should approach God the Father in public prayer, far from the hypocritical method of making outward shows with no inward fear, reverence, and awe of Holy God. Paul wants to clearly distinguish the difference “in the Church” that men and women should exemplify or represent in their manner of dress in the church and although the cultural differences from then in that part of the world to many of us who live in this 21st century in this western culture, still this principle must remain the same and that is men and women should be clearly distinguishable, distinct, or different in the way they dress in everyday life, but most especially in the church. As Paul declared that Christ is the head of man and man is the head of woman literally, he also means it as a metaphor and so when a man covers his head in praying or prophesying in the church publicly, he brings shame to his head who is Christ and the woman is guilty of doing the same thing in relation to her husband who is her head.
Paul now uses the order of creation to make his point about the man having his head uncovered in public prayer and prophesying before God the Father seeing that he (man) is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) or in other words a representative figure, for we know that all throughout the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, God is always referred to in the Masculine. Woman on the other hand was brought forth or created from a portion of man’s body and so she comes from man and she was not the representative figure of God, but instead she is the glory of man. Paul declares with this line of reasoning that man was created for God and the woman was created for the man, even though both are equal “in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). Paul speaking to the women to be conscience of the presence of angels in the public assembly of the saints of God, means to put the woman under notice that she should show due fear, reverence, and awe to God the Father.
For indeed the holy angels cover themselves when they come into the Presence of Holy God as Isaiah records for us with these words, “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:2-3). These Seraphim are holy sinless creatures who still feel the need and are indeed compelled to cover themselves in the Presence of God. Paul declares to them that every generation of humanity has held to the natural reality that women are designed by God to have longer hair and men short hair. Long hair in every generation of humanity has been considered to be beautiful and honorable on a woman and in contrast long hair on a man is always considered to be effeminate or abominable for this has always been one of the first ways that one can distinguish from the back whether someone was a man or a woman, especially in that culture of the day seeing that both men and women wore long flowing robes. Paul then concludes by squashing any contentions, quarrels, or arguments these Corinthian believers might desire to make by declaring to them that this requirement is not of his opinion or his personal preference, but it is the custom or accepted practice habitually in all of the Churches of God in every place.
“The covered head of woman in our sanctuaries as contrasted with the uncovered head of man is a sign and symbol of this interdependence. But it is very interesting to notice that while the Gospel so clearly insists on the divine order, it has elevated woman to be man’s true helpmeet, and has caused her to be honored and loved as the glory of man. Neither society, nor family life, nor woman herself, can be happy unless she attains her true position. On the one hand she finds her completion in man; on the other she is his queen and he ministers to her in all gentleness and tenderness and strength.” F. B. Meyer
“Custom is in a great measure the rule of decency. And the common practice of the churches is what would have them govern themselves by. He does not silence the contentious by mere authority, but lets them know that they would appear to the world as very odd and singular in their humour if they would quarrel for a custom to which all the churches of Christ were at that time utter strangers, or against a custom in which they all concurred, and that upon the ground of natural decency. It was the common usage of the churches for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was manifestly decent that they should do so. Those must be very contentious indeed who would quarrel with this, or lay it aside.” Matthew Henry
“Paul was not ever apt to adhere to a believer’s personal desires or practices when what they desired or wanted to practice went completely in opposition of the Will of God which is the Word of God and that which is the normal acceptable practice of all of the Churches of God according to the Apostle’s teachings.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…
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