Symbolism Displayed by Godly Women

The truth expressed in the Biblical teaching of the woman’s head covering during local church gatherings is often rejected. It is thought that the few references in 1 Corinthians 11 are not weighty enough, or that it was a practice that was exclusive to Greek customs of the first century, or that it was an evidence of Paul’s harsh attitude towards women.

Before the symbol of the head covering is properly understood, we must look at the tremendous importance of the subject of headship in the Word of God. Think of:

Universalizing the symbolism: Its truth will be displayed in the cosmos.

Christ, the anticipated Head: Notice the number of times that Psalm 110 is quoted in the New Testament!

Christ, the appointed Head: The Lord Jesus not only ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection, but He was exalted as Head over all and seated at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34-36; Heb 1:8).

Christ, the acknowledged Head:

In the present – Since its creation on the day of Pentecost, the Church which is His body, an invisible yet living organism, acknowledges the Lord Jesus as Head (Eph 1:19-22, 5:23; Col 1:18).

In the future – Christ, today hidden from the sight of an unbelieving world, will be unveiled in all His splendor and glory when He appears from heaven after the tribulation and ushers in His millennial kingdom. Divine headship will be an evident and accepted reality by all for all eternity (Eph 1:21; 1Cor 15:27-28).

Understanding the symbolism: Its truth was detailed to the Corinthians. Bear in mind that what Paul wrote to the Corinthians was also written to “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor 1:2).

The array of symbols in 1 Corinthians

The collection of symbols: In stark contrast to all the types and rituals of Old Testament times, Christians today have only five symbols that are meant to publicly portray truths that are very precious to God. It is inconceivable that some today would readily accept three of these while rejecting the other two.

Identification with Christ: baptism (1Cor 1:13-17).

Recollection of Christ: The bread and the cup (1Cor 11:23-26).

Subjection to Christ: Covered heads of women and uncovered heads of men (1Cor 11:2-16).

The confusion about symbols: At the heart of the several problems that crippled the church in Corinth was a disregard to the truths to which these symbols point. In chapter 1 there is division in the church and Paul reminds them that understanding the truth of baptism would also help them keep their eye on Christ and off any other. In chapter 11 the symbolism regarding headship would have helped them avoid the disorder caused by women praying audibly in assembly meetings. Again in chapter 11, had they properly assessed the solemn significance of the bread and the cup at the Lord’s Supper, they would have behaved very differently.

The analysis of symbols in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

The man: headship – his glory, authority, responsibility (not tyranny or superiority v3). Sadly, there are men who don’t act like men should.

His head – the glory of God (vv3, 4, 7)

Physically – uncovered

Metaphorically – represents Christ

His hair – short (v14)

The woman: helpership – her glory, submission, recognition (not inferiority but subjection despite equality).

Her head – (vv3, 5, 6)

Physically – covered with an artificial covering (v10 she is under, subject to, authority)

Metaphorically – represents the glory of manhood, out of sight in the public sphere

Her hair – long (vv6, 15). The glory of womanhood, contemplated in the private sphere

The shame – not shorn, not shaven

The sublime – it is her glory. A natural covering. (Does not replace the artificial covering v15). An assumed fact in this passage is that the women’s hair is long!

Using the symbolism: Its truth is being demonstrated by Christians.

An article that is contemporary

The symbol is not outdated or obsolete; it is not just a cultural trait of ancient Greece! Sisters that cover their heads in assembly meetings are not old fashioned; their symbolism displayed is actually on the cutting edge of a truth to be revealed in the prophetic events soon to take place.

An association that is complimentary

Both the hair and the head covering are part of the symbolism. A veil or hat covering hair that has been shorn or shaven in rebellion is a contradiction of terms. Long hair and the head covering should be seen together on the same head.

An attitude that is consistent

The outward versus the inward (1Sam 16:7) – The symbolic article that the sister puts on her head should agree with a submissive attitude in her heart.

The private sphere versus the public sphere – The wife who dominates her husband in the home can hardly display headship at the assembly meeting.

An attractiveness that is conspicuous

Symbols are visible. Sisters contribute to godly order observed by others (Col 2:5).

To seraphs (1Cor 11:10; Isa 6:2). Angels witnessed rebellion in heaven; now they wonder with amazement at sisters displaying subjection on earth, even in a wicked place like Corinth where pride and arrogance ran rampant.

To saints (Col 2:5; illustrated in Luke 22:10). While it is true that the head covering of a sister is not to be thought of as a “GPS” that will guide people to the hall, it still stands that anecdotes abound of people who are in assembly fellowship today because they saw a sister wearing something that they had only seen in the Bible before.

To sinners (1Cor 14:23). Godly order at times has smitten unsaved people just as much as the message that was preached.

An appointment that is concordant

Assembly meetings (1Cor 14:23, 26, 34).

Alternative settings. When in doubt as to whether to use a head covering or not at some assembly-related events, younger sisters would be wise to imitate older sisters (Titus 2:3-5; 1Cor 11:1), or ask their shepherds what to do.

An action that is considerate

Consider older saints who have earnestly practiced a custom for decades, out of a sincere conviction that is in the best interest of assembly testimony. Be careful not to be a hindrance to believers who have a conscience about these things. “Follow after the things which make for peace” (Rom 14:15-22).

An ambition that is conclusive

In a world that has God’s Word in disregard and where divine headship is disrespected, it must bring Him much joy to see that the symbolism displayed by godly women is according to 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Do all to the glory of God.”