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On Covering the Head in Worship

January 23, 2022 Speaker: John Bell Series: 1 Corinthians

Passage: 1 Corinthians 11:2–16

Big Picture:  Creation affirms gender roles and gender distinctions between men and women. 


1: Christian, honour your head for the sake of biblical teaching (2-6)

  • Women can pray and prophesy and participate during the corporate worship of the church, but they must do so with a humble demeanor and with an attitude that supports and is submissive to male headship/leadership – be it her husband or church elders.  During the time of Paul wearing a head covering communicated a submissive demeanor and feminine adornment. 


2: Christian, honour your head for the sake of creation and the pattern of nature (7-15)

  • A man should not wear a head covering because he is the image of the glory of God 
  • Woman is man’s glory, i.e., she was created to honour him. 
  • Woman was created to bring honour to man because (1) the source of woman is man and such an origin indicates a different role in the created order, and (2) woman was created because of man, i.e., in order help him in his task of extending the borders of Eden, and thus God’s revelatory presence.  

3: Christian, honour your head for the sake of apostolic authority (16)


Position # 1: Complementarianism is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created by God to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, and church leadership.  


Position # 2:  Within Christianity, egalitarianism is a movement based on the theological view that not only are men and women equal before God in their personhood, but there are no gender-based limitations of what functions or roles each can fulfill in the home or in the church.



(Benjamin L. Merkle) “Paul’s argument from creation in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 is not directly given to mandate women must wear head coverings. Rather, his argument from creation explains how man is the image and glory of God, and how the woman is the glory of man.  Christian women are not required to wear head coverings today when praying and prophesying, since the symbol of a woman’s head being covered is different today than it was during the time of Paul (at least in many cultures). Consequently, Paul’s argument from creation is only indirectly linked to the need for head coverings. However, the transcultural truth that undergirds Paul’s admonition still applies for us today.  Women are different from men, and this distinction must be maintained in the church and in the family.”  

* This sermon owes a debt to “Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity” (Thomas Schreiner); “Paul’s Argument from Creation in 1 Cor. 11:8-9 and 1 Tim. 2:13-14: An Apparent Inconsistency Answered” (Benjamin L. Merkle)