1 Corinthians 11:3-18

1 Corinthians 11:3‑18  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Covering is the proper sign of woman. It expresses the subjection she owes. But the woman is mystically the Church; and thus, if a woman appear in the congregation covered,-she appears duly, with the sign of subjection to' Christ or the man. (Eph. 5:2424Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Ephesians 5:24).) But it expresses also the protection she receives. And thus, if she do not appear covered, she publishes her own shame. For she does not carry the token of her proper state, but appears rather as a captive, or as a suspected woman. (See Num. 5; Deut. 21.) She ought therefore on these two accounts in the congregation to appear covered. But there is another reason why this should be. She should be covered " because of the angels"-for angels are learning lessons from or through the Church' (Eph. in 10), and the uncovered head of the woman would teach them a wrong lesson. Or, if " the angels" be the elders or ministers, then because of them the woman should be covered, lest she should afterward have to confess her error. (Eccles. 5:66Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? (Ecclesiastes 5:6).) But the man is not to be covered in the congregation, because, mystically, the man is Christ, and " the image and glory of God"-and it belongs not to Christ to bear the signs of either subjection owed, or of protection claimed-quite different from the woman, who is, mystically, as I said, only the Church, " the glory of the man." Christ is Lord and Savior of the body (Eph. 5:2323For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (Ephesians 5:23).); i.e., claims my subjection, and rendering protection, instead of owing subjection and claiming protection. If the man, therefore, were covered, he would sadly dishonor his head, Christ. The covered head, accordingly, is most suitable to the woman, but most unsuitable to the man, in the assembly; and the Spirit, speaking by the apostle, would not allow it to be neglected, though most graciously he pleads the question with the saints, to lead themselves to approve it.
As to verse 5 of this chapter, I judge that the apostle means simply the place where praying or prophesying is going on, as in the Church or assembly of the saints. I do not think that his language implies that the women were themselves either to pray or to teach, because in verse 4 the very same words are used as to the man, and we are sure that all the men are equally to be un covered in the place of prayer, though most of them may never engage actively in it. And so also those men, or male brethren, who do at times in the assembly either teach or pray, yet when merely sitting silent in their places, are to be as much uncovered, as when they are actually ministering. So that I judge the Apostle speaks of the place of prayer and teaching, or of the condition of the assembly. He legislates that, without assuming, that women necessarily: are either to teach or to pray. In 1 Timothy ii., on mere appearance of the male and female, the Apostle has in hand, but the actual services of the assembly, and then he expressly requires the silence of the woman.