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 HEADCOVERING FOR WOMEN by Zac Poonen



What does the Bible teach about head-covering for women in the church meetings?
This has become a controversial subject in churches in Western countries and among Westernized Christians in India.

Further: 99% of sisters who do cover their heads when praying and prophesying do not know WHY they do so.
And 99% of brothers who keep their heads uncovered when praying and prophesying do not know WHY they do so.

-----

We begin this study with the conviction that the entire message of the Bible is the Word of God without any error.

There are two fundamental truths that we must bear in mind as we seek to understand God's Word for us today.

On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God abolished the old covenant and began to deal with man thereafter under the terms of the new covenant (Heb.8).

There are historical and teaching sections in the New Testament. We must find the basis for new covenant doctrines only in the teaching sections. The historical sections merely tell us what the apostles and early Christians did. Many false teachings have developed from doctrines based only on the Acts of the Apostles - two examples being: (i) all believers must speak in tongues (based on Acts 2:4); and (ii) all believers must share a common purse (based on Acts 2:44).

Jesus told His disciples just before He went to the cross, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear (understand) them now. But when the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (Jn.16:12,13). Jesus wanted to teach His disciples many more truths than He did while He was on earth. But they would not have been able to understand them until the Holy Spirit came to dwell within them and renewed their minds and gave them revelation. Some of these truths are what we find written in the New Testament epistles. So the epistles also contain commands from the Lord Jesus - but given through His apostles.

If we reject any command in any of the New Testament epistles, saying it was only for the time and place when it was written and not for us today, then in order to be consistent, we must give equal freedom to other people to reject other commands in the epistles and in the teachings of Jesus as also being only for that time and not for us today. For example, we must, in that case, give freedom to people to teach that forbidding homosexual behavior and same-sex marriages and divorces and premarital sexual intercourse, etc., were only for the first century and not for us today. Otherwise we will be inconsistent.

It is inconsistent, therefore, to say that every command in the New Testament is relevant for us today, and then to reject just this one command to women to cover their heads when they pray or prophesy (1 Cor.11:1-16).

(Note: We must distinguish between commands given by God and mere greetings given by the apostles. For example, the apostles give greetings and good wishes such as these in their letters: "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Rom16:16) and "I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2). These were obviously mere greetings and good wishes - and not commands or promises given by God - for there is no Divine principle taught in those verses, as is the case with head-covering, water-baptism and breaking of bread(Rom.6; 1Cor.11)).

Meaning of head-covering

There are at least three reasons given in the New Testament why a woman should cover her head when she prays or prophesies in the meetings of the church:

First: The Bible says, "A man should NOT cover his he..." - and the reason given is: ... because he is the image and glory of God". In contrast, we are told, "but the woman is the glory of man" (1 Cor.11:7). The glory of man must be covered in the church - and since woman is the glory of man, she testifies to this fact by covering her head. This is the plain and simple meaning of this verse.

Second: The Bible says, "A woman's long hair is her glory" (1 Cor.11:15). The glory of the woman also must be covered in the church, just like the glory of man. And so she must cover her head which has the glory of her long hair. Almost all women are conscious that their long hair is a major part of what makes them look attractive - and that is why even among those women who do put a covering on their heads, most of them cover only a part of their hair!! If a woman does not want to cover her head, then the only alternative that the New Testament offers is to remove that glory, by shaving her head completely: "If a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head" (1 Cor.11:6).

Third: TheBible says: "Man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels" (1 Cor.11:10). The head-covering symbolizes the fact that a woman accepts her God-appointed role as having been created "for man's sake" as his helper and therefore her willingness to be submissive to male authority - whether as a wife to her husband, or as a daughter to her father, or as a sister in the church to the church-elders. It is significant that the disappearance of the head-covering from women in Western churches (on a large scale) coincided with the time that the movement for "Women's Liberation" (a phrase used in a book in 1949) began to spread in Western countries - about 60 years ago. The "angels" mentioned in this verse could refer either to the fallen angels or to the angels in heaven. So it could either be a reminder to women to bear in mind that the fallen angels fell because they were not submissive to authority. Or it could mean "A woman should wear a covering on her head as a sign that she is under man's authority - a fact for all the angels (in heaven) to notice and rejoice in" (as The Living Bible paraphrases that verse).

1 Corinthians 11:16 says that every church that is a church of God, will insist on this head covering for women when they pray or prophesy. The Holy Spirit recognized that 20 centuries later this would become a controversial issue; and so He made Paul to state (in this same verse) that if anyone was going to be argumentative about this matter, he would not argue with such a person. He would just allow that person to continue on in his/her disobedience and inconsistency.

Some Questions

Some may say that the head-covering is only a symbol and therefore not so important. But baptism and the breaking of bread are also only symbols. The first half of 1 Corinthians 11 (v.1-16) explains the meaning of the symbolic head-covering for women. The second half of the same chapter (11:.20-34) explains the meaning of the symbolic breaking of bread. In the same way, Romans 6 explains the meaning of the symbol of water-baptism. Would we say that the Lord's table and baptism also are unimportant, because they are only symbols? If we insist on baptism and breaking of bread as essential for believers, then we are inconsistent if we say that head-covering for women is not essential.

Some may say that head-covering for women is mentioned only once in the New Testament. Breaking of bread also is mentioned only once in the epistles. Likewise, the truth that God loves us as much as He loved Jesus is also mentioned only once in the whole Bible (Jn.17:23). But once is enough - to know this glorious truth. If Almighty God has given a command, then even if it is given only once in Scripture, that is sufficient. The importance of a command is determined by the importance of the Person Who gave it.

In ancient Babylon, Daniel stood for a law (Dan.1:8) that had been commanded only once in the Scriptures (about food in Lev.11; and wine in Prov.23:31). In the same way, in the midst of Babylonian Christianity today, we also stand for the commands of God - whether small or big, whether mentioned once or many times.

Some say that since we are commanded to pray at all times (Lk.18:1; 1 Thess.5:17), therefore a woman should cover her head all 24 hours of the day. Scripture must always be read in its context, if we are to understand it aright. The entire section (1 Cor.11:1-34) is dealing with the meetings of the church (Verses 16 and 18 make that clear). So it is obvious that the Holy Spirit was referring to church meetings when He gave this command. If we add to that, and insist that women should cover their heads at all times, then we will be adding to the Scriptures.

And further: If those who preach a 24-hour head covering are consistent, they must also teach that men (who should also be praying at all times) should never cover their heads at any time - and therefore should never wear a cap or a hat, at any time - whether it be hot, raining, or snowing. Such teachers must also then teach that women should keep their heads covered even when sleeping or showering/bathing (=24 hours). But they do not preach that - proving that they are inconsistent in their teaching. We can safely ignore such inconsistent teachers.

I have also observed that many sisters who practice a 24-hour head covering do not cover their entire heads. They cover only the back portion of their heads or just the small part of their hair that is tied up in a bun at the back of their heads - so that the glory of their hair is still visible. A small piece of cloth at the back of the head however is only an excuse for a head-covering - and not a head-covering at all, because the head and the glory of the hair are still not covered. Such "namesake head-coverings" are worn by legalists only to ease their conscience and to appear "holy" before others. But their teachers do not object to this, because they themselves are inconsistent in their teaching.

Some say that the hair itself is called the head-covering for women in 1 Cor.11:15. If one has understood the Divine principle taught in the first 14 verses of this chapter, then this verse will not cancel out the need for a woman with long hair to still cover her head with a covering. Paul could not possibly have taken 15 verses merely to teach that a woman should have long hair! That could have been stated in just one sentence! What does not come out in the English translation of the Bible is the fact that in the original Greek language (in which Paul wrote his letters), the Holy Spirit prompted him to use a different Greek word for "covering" in verse 15 than the one He used in verse 6. The Greek word used in verse 6 is katakalupto; whereas the word used in verse 15 is peribolaion (which is translated as "mantle" in Heb. 1:12). This makes it crystal clear that the mantle of hair referred to in verse 15 is not the head-covering referred to in verse 6 or in the rest of the chapter. Another proof of this is: If hair is the "head-covering" being referred to in this section, then every man who prays or prophesies would have to have his head completely shaved, if he is to obey this Scripture that tells him not to have his head covered!! The clear teaching of the Holy Spirit in this chapter is that the "mantle of hair" that nature has given a woman as her glory must be covered with a covering, when she is praying or prophesying.


Finally, we must bear in mind that:

- If we ignore any command of God in Scripture (however small) we will suffer some eternal loss (Rev.22:19).

- Those who cancel (or teach against) the smallest command of Scripture will be called "the least in the kingdom of heaven" (as Jesus said in Matt.5:19).

- The truths of Scripture are hidden from the clever and the intelligent and revealed only to the humble ("babes" - Matt.11:25 with Matt.18:4). The teaching of 1 Cor.11:1-16 will be simple and clear to the humble, childlike person. But one who depends on his human cleverness and intelligence will argue against the plain meaning of these verses.

- God tests our honesty in the way in which we deal with such verses of Scripture. He does not see whether we understand everything in His Word, but He does see if we are honest in dealing with His Word. The Lord says, "To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isa.66:2).

If a sister is still in doubt about what this passage of Scripture teaches, let her consider this: Isn't it better for her to do more rather than less - and especially so, when there is no inconvenience or cost involved. What will she lose by covering her head when she prays and prophesies? Nothing. But think of what she will gain by covering her head, if she discovers at the judgment-seat of Christ that this was indeed God's command? She will have the joy of having pleased her Lord on earth, in spite what other Christians taught and practised. So, every woman, if she is wise, will cover her head with a covering, when she prays and prophesies.

And in conclusion, as to the practice in our churches: We do not force any sister to cover her head (against her wish/conviction) in our meetings - because if she does this under compulsion, it will be a dead work; and God wants only cheerful givers of obedience (2 Cor.9:7). We will not judge such a sister either. We will graciously assume that she does not have light on this subject. But at the same time, if she does not cover her head, we will not permit her to publicly pray or prophesy in our churches - because we understand this to be the command of God - as explained in this article. We also believe that this is how it is practiced "in all the churches of God" (1Cor.11:16). We do not judge other churches that do things differently from us, in this or in any other area. But we fear God and desire to obey Him fully, even if some sisters (or their husbands) are offended by our stand on this matter and as a result, leave our churches.

"If anyone is truly determined to do God's will, he/she will definitely know whether this teaching is from God" (Jn.7:17).

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Amen.



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SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2011/9/28 15:59Profile
rnieman
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Joined: 2008/10/24
Posts: 146


 Re: HEADCOVERING FOR WOMEN by Zac Poonen

I respect brother Zac tremendously, but diagree lovely with his interpretation of this. I think he misses the principle of this passage.
"""Some say that the hair itself is called the head-covering for women in 1 Cor.11:15. If one has understood the Divine principle taught in the first 14 verses of this chapter, then this verse will not cancel out the need for a woman with long hair to still cover her head with a covering. Paul could not possibly have taken 15 verses merely to teach that a woman should have long hair! That could have been stated in just one sentence! What does not come out in the English translation of the Bible is the fact that in the original Greek language (in which Paul wrote his letters), the Holy Spirit prompted him to use a different Greek word for "covering" in verse 15 than the one He used in verse 6. The Greek word used in verse 6 is katakalupto; whereas the word used in verse 15 is peribolaion (which is translated as "mantle" in Heb. 1:12). This makes it crystal clear that the mantle of hair referred to in verse 15 is not the head-covering referred to in verse 6 or in the rest of the chapter. Another proof of this is: If hair is the "head-covering" being referred to in this section, then every man who prays or prophesies would have to have his head completely shaved, if he is to obey this Scripture that tells him not to have his head covered!! The clear teaching of the Holy Spirit in this chapter is that the "mantle of hair" that nature has given a woman as her glory must be covered with a covering, when she is praying or prophesying.""

The principle is not submission through outward appearance, but rather submission in the Holy Spirit to God given authority and structure(New Covenant). The context of the passage is the Church at Corinth having a difficult time seperating itself from it's pagan culture, so that is why Paul is writing this. I've heard Zac preach on this before and was in much of agreement with him until he wrote off verse 15, and didn't get to the principle of the passage which I already stated. russ

 2011/9/29 10:01Profile
narrowpath
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Joined: 2005/1/9
Posts: 1018
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 Re: HEADCOVERING FOR WOMEN by Zac Poonen

One of the best articles I have come across on this topic. Well explained, easy to understand. I see God's intention in for man and women consistent with his attributes and character.

Thanks for positing this, Greg.

 2011/9/29 17:04Profile
ginnyrose
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Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7432
Mississippi

 Re: HEADCOVERING FOR WOMEN by Zac Poonen

Interesting article. I would like to share a few observations.

The head-covering as taught here in 1Corinthians is not a weather garment. It is a covering designed for one particular purpose: to be obedient to the command and principles outlined there. There are males who do wear a religious head-covering - the Orthodox Jewish men, the Catholic bishops. These are not for protection from the weather. As I understand this scripture one is to not confuse the two.

I know of no one who does wear it 24/7 although some may. But those who are devoted to the Word will wear it during waking hours.

I wish Zac would have explored the ministry of angels and the principle of having power on her head. These two principles are so powerful...they go beyond logic.

My personal experience is that it is a huge blessing.

God bless.


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Sandra Miller

 2011/9/29 19:01Profile









 Re:

Why, oh why, oh why???

 2011/9/29 19:06
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"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11

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 Re:


What is sad to me is that brothers and sisters will claim they surrender all to Jesus and that He can have their entire lives and time, money, energy etc. But when God asks of us simple commands of obedience that would set us fully apart from society (this world systerm) we balk at it and consider it just something that was for the first century.

This is a tragic mistake that many evangelicals are making in our day. We must get ourselves out of the culture of evangelism and get back to the clear word of God and obeidence to the leading of the Spirit of God.

I feel this teaching on headcoverings is one of these commands that are not obeyed as well as women not teaching in the assemblies etc.

May we contend and seek for a true Apostolic church in our day and in our generation. God wants to revive and restore the body of Christ on this earth visibly in puirty and power with the Lord Jesus Chrst as its head not men, traditions or a cultural mindst.


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SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2011/9/30 15:24Profile
mikey2
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Posts: 112


 Re:

It is very sad that you think that, Greg.

May God help you to surrender your rigid stance and judgmentalism.

Headcoverings are not a sign of anything internally and you should know that.

Nothing you can wear on the outside determines whether you have a submissive heart.

Sad, that you think and judge a lot of sisters are in disobedience.

I am sure many sisters wish being submissive was as easy as putting on a doilie.

I wish it were, too. I'd take a shower with a hat on.

Sisters should not feel condemned and should reject this legalistic teaching.

 2011/9/30 16:12Profile
ccchhhrrriiisss
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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4496


 Re:

My wife and I have spoken about this at length several times. While she appreciates those who are obedient to how they interpret that particular passage of Scripture in I Corinthians, she simply doesn't interpret it to mean that women must wear a piece of cloth upon their head. She has explained that, for her, wearing it would be solely out of obedience to the standard of someone else rather than being obedient to what she believes to be the direction of God.

I am not sure what to make of the thought of a compulsory command to wear a particular garment. I understand where some say that it is an "outward sign of inward obedience." However, the same can be said of circumcision. As a member of the circumcision, I can testify that it has little to do with the heart. There are plenty of men who are circumcised on the outside but dead on the inside as they live for themselves. Similarly, I have known several women who wore head coverings who lacked propriety in other areas...including deference to both God and their husbands.

It might be an outward sign; but, as such, it can profit as little as a painting of a apple would provide any nutritional value.

While I cherish the messages shared by Brother Poonen, I do disagree with his conclusion on this matter. I do not feel that we are bound to any sort of outward display of holiness such as a physical garment. We are commanded to live a holy life as God commands. However, as my wife sincerely said, this would amount to obeying a man rather than as led by the Lord out of obedience with a clear conscience. However, we hold those who feel such a need with respect, and I wouldn't have any problem with someone in ministry who holds such a view.


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Christopher

 2011/9/30 17:00Profile
sarahsdream
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 Re:

Chris,

That was very, very well said! Remember, Zac is just a man and may be influenced by his culture in this respect. That does not negate any of his other teachings and many of them are very fine.

Sarah

 2011/9/30 19:08Profile
ginnyrose
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Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7432
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 Re:

Sarah, where do you think Zac got the inspiration to write the article he did?


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Sandra Miller

 2011/9/30 19:27Profile





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