Friday, 31 October 2014
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 1 Corinthians 11:4
This verse and those to follow show what is orderly and proper in terms of conduct within the church. Paul doesn’t actually explain why he says these things, thus it assumes that those in Corinth would understand his words without the need for explanation even if we today don’t. Knowing this, we can look at the situation as it was when Paul wrote. It was, and still is, the custom of Jews to pray with their heads covered by a talit; a prayer shawl. It is a sign of their unworthiness to communicate face to face with God. Greeks, on the other hand, were known to pray the their heads uncovered.
Because of these differences, those in Corinth must have added this into their list of questions. Which is correct and why? There are several good reasons for Paul’s words and they would have been understood without further details in the response.
First, the removing of a hat or turban (or whatever head covering was used) was considered a sign of respect towards a superior. Those who wear hats today will still often do this. It would have been disrespectful to do otherwise. Therefore, as a sign of respect to our Head, who is Christ, we should have our heads uncovered when “praying or prophesying.” Otherwise, we would dishonor our Head (meaning Christ). The Greek word for “head,” which is kephalé, carries both the idea of a physical head as well as one in authority just as it does today.
Secondly, if we are “in Christ” because of our faith in His work, then we have become worthy before our heavenly Father. This is not because of our own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of Christ which has been imputed to us. To keep our heads covered, as the Jews obviously continued to do, was to imply that they remained unworthy before God. It was an unnecessary show of piety which was set aside by the work of Christ. It demonstrates a failure (albeit probably unintentionally) to accept the honor granted upon us as believers in Him.
And thirdly, as he noted in the previous verse, “the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” If women are present in the gathering then another issue arises. As the head of woman is the man, then the man actually dishonors his Head (meaning Christ) when he renounces his authority over the woman by being covered in the presence of the woman, over whom he is the head.
For at least these reasons, and possibly others which were understood within the Corinthian church, Paul has given us these instructions.
Life application: There is an order and propriety in how we are to conduct ourselves within the church and while presenting ourselves before the Lord. And yet, we need to understand that we can take things to unintended extremes which can only lead to legalism. Care needs to be taken concerning how we conduct ourselves while at the same time we need to not push personal peeves concerning an issue to the forefront of our church life. In all things, adhering to the word of God will keep us from going beyond what is written.
Purify my heart, O God. Sanctify me and make me an acceptable vessel for Your use. Keep me from straying from Your word, and help me to be fixed, firm, and faithful to its precepts. When others need help in their walk with You, give me the ability to lead them to correct understanding, but without the confrontation which so easily arises in our attempts to discern what is right. In all things, help me to reflect the glory of Your Son so that others will see Him and desire His presence in their own lives. Amen.