In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:10 says, “For this cause ought the woman to have power on [her] head because of the angels.” What is this text talking about?
First of all, remember that no text is to be looked at without its context. This guideline especially applies with this text. Every chapter of 1 Corinthians is dealing with problems with which the church at Corinth was involved. The apostle Paul is here trying to straighten out factions and difficulties into which this church had fallen.
Many people see the New Testament as a whole new set of teachings, but this is not so. The writers of the New Testament dealt with problems from the benefit of correction given in Old Testament Scripture. We must also take into consideration that customs and traditions of society were reflected in these issues. The Old Testament established the chain of command between a man and a woman right from the Garden of Eden. Paul was facing all these things at the time he gave the direction that he did in this passage.
This chapter begins with Paul stating the fact that the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man. (Verse 3.) This is what is called the chain of command in the Bible. Because the definition is given immediately in this passage, many people get clear off the track if they do not follow the definition of head. There also is a play on words concerning the word head.
It was a custom for the Jewish worshipper, while praying, to always cover his head with his tallith. The Jews, as some cultures generally do, uncovered their feet in the place of worship because they were standing on holy ground; but they covered their heads by way of humility, even as the angels veil their faces with their wings when in the presence of God. On the other hand, the Greek custom was to pray with the head uncovered. In dealing with this problem, Paul decided in favor of the Greek custom, on the basis that Christ, by His incarnation, became man, and therefore the Christian, who is “in Christ,” may stand with unveiled head in the presence of His Father.
For a woman to do this in a public assembly, however, was, at that time, against the national custom of all communities and could lead to serious misconceptions. As a rule, modest women covered their heads with the peplum or with a veil when they worshipped or were in public. Christian women at Corinth should not have acted with such boldness as to adopt a custom identified with the character of immodest women.
The woman was to be in subjection to the man as the man was in subjection to Christ. This was the reverent and the modest position for the women to take. Submissiveness always needs to be the attitude on the part of worshippers of God.
We also know that there is order in heaven among the heavenly angels. They are in submission the same as the man and the woman are in submission. Angels are always present when we worship. Even though we do not worship angels, we need to understand that they have a part to play in our salvation. (See Hebrews 1:13, 14.)
Out of respect and reverence for the holy angels, who are always invisibly present in the Christian assemblies, we need to conduct ourselves in such a way that heaven and earth are in submissive harmony with the will of God and no offense is offered on any front. We need to always have modesty of dress. That does not necessarily require that women wear a head covering when in public or in a place of worship, but the outward demeanor and dress should be indicative of that inward humility which angels know to be most pleasing to the Lord.
Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. If you have a question you would like Pastor Mike to answer, e-mail it to: email@example.com, or mail it to: LandMarks, P. O. Box 782828, Wichita, KS 67278.