The long answer: Jesus Christ has forgiven us from all our unrighteousness, all of our disobedient thoughts and actions, not only from the 613 commands of the Old Testament, but also from the infractions we commit against our very own conscience that tells us what is right and wrong, apart from the Law (Rom 2:12-16).
God does not require from you minimal obedience. In fact, the Scripture admonishes you to “serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 10:12).
And, the scary part is, you can’t. The moment you indulge in your secret sin or mind flees to any “innocent” thought other than God’s glory, then you just did not love God with all your heart. Maybe some of it, but not all of it.
And no sin can be excused. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” James 2:10).
Are we doomed? I am sure you are just like me. The following describes my situation:
For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Rom 7:22-25).
By the grace of God “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). Our Lord and Savior has paid the full penalty for the infractions of the flesh, that do not end in our lifetime, even after “being saved.: So, do not dwell on the past and the times you lose against the flesh. As Paul said earlier, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Therefore, if God admonishes us to do something in the Scripture, does it not stand to reason that living by His admonishment is consistent with walking by the Spirit? “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” (Num 23:19). Anything that God admonishes us to do in the Scripture thereby constitutes walking by the Spirit not our flesh.
William, if you understand this, your concerns appear to me immaterial. But let’s move on anyway:
The Apostle Paul is by no means afraid to call sin, “sin.” So far in the book of 1 Corinthians he has referred to that which is carnal…He speaks of the harlot, of sin, of that which is not good…After all this, Paul sums up his teaching on head coverings by using Ideas like propriety, decorum, what is unbecoming and what is shameful, not exactly heavy hitters in the morality department.
If I understand you correctly, your basic assertion is this: Paul lists things within the same letter that are specifically sin. However, he does not explicitly classify not “hold[ing] firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor 11:2) as sin.
There are two serious problems with this contention of yours. First, Paul “praise[s]” the Corinthians for holding fast to traditions he has taught (1 Cor 11:2), so at the very least propriety and avoiding what is shameful is “praiseworthy.” Doing things that God speaks of as worthy of “praise” in His Scripture is all the motivation we need to desire to follow a teaching.
Second, we need a consistent hermeneutic for this passage. Holding fast to traditions includes the Lord’s Supper and order in worship. Is it commendable to ignore the Scripture’s teachings on these things?
How about other issues in the Scripture that are not classified specifically as sin? The Scripture admonishes us to be cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:7). Because the Scripture does not say it is specifically sin not to be cheerful when we give, by the logic you put forward it would be fine to give purely out of compulsion or to give sparingly, because God does not give an amount. After all, as long as we don’t blatantly ignore a Christian brother and sister that has nothing (1 John 3:16), we do not specifically sin if we are a tad stingy in our giving.
But, this is the very crux of the issue: whatever is not of faith is sin. And, is it of faith to desire anything other than complete submission to God, including every single thought to Christ Jesus (2 Cor 10:5)?
I do not find it useful to differentiate between the “sorta important” and “very important’ stuff in the Bible. They are all hugely important to God, not because all sins are equally bad or all good works are equally praiseworthy, but because our God is beyond measure. The slightest of God’s demands are hugely important, because God is hugely important.
This is not a completely foreign concept to us. If you happen to be eating dinner with the President and he asks to to pass the bread, you don’t question the President on whether he is getting heavy or if there are tastier things to pass him. You pass the bread. And be honest with yourself. You would be happy doing it.
Now, at the same dinner table an ant starts waking towards the bread, because it also desires it. However, you would not bring the bread closer to it, because it desires the bread. The ant is completely insignificant. You not only ignore its desires without much of a thought, you can crush it and think nothing of it.
If the slightest desires and whims of a man all of the sudden become important to us, merely because his position in this world which is passing away (1 John 2:17), I would think any desire of God’s laid out in the Scripture would be of infinitely more importance. I don’t say this lightly.
After having looked into this issue for a while I have become convinced that this section of Scripture is in fact addressing an area that varies from culture to culture.
Upon reading your comment, I found this point of yours confusing. Do you think Paul meant this passage to vary between cultures, because he did not classify it specifically as sin? I hope we addressed this point sufficiently so we know that this is not the case.
Obviously, you have not arrived upon this conviction based upon textual grounds, because Paul clearly states, “[I]f one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16).
Perhaps, you have come to this conclusion based upon certain notions concerning “historical context.” I would recommend looking further into this matter, because you will find that historical context actually would work against such an interpretation.
Not only that, but I would contend that this is the historic Reformed interpretation of this passage.
Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and John Calvin would all explicitly disagree with you. However, I have not conclusively read up on what all historic Reformed thinkers have thought on the matter.
(Just as a side note, you should know that even though I don’t necessarily agree with your interpretation of this passage, I completely respect where it’s coming from. I have many friends who hold to this position and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do so not to be legalistic or “Holier than Thou.” They are simply obeying what they see to be a clear command of Scripture.)
I appreciate your comments and thoughts on this matter. It is my hope and prayer that not only you and I, but others also may profit by digging deeper into God’s word and seek His Spirit in understanding what God’s will is for us. For, God’s “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and that is only possible by knowing His Son Jesus Christ, who has given Himself as a ransom for many, nailing all their sins to the cross, imputing us righteousness upon belief in Him. And, what is our one God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), unbreakable (John 10:35) testimony to the Gospel that we have at our fingertips? The Scripture. By the grace of God, let’s seek His truth in it.
Hi! First of all, just to clarify, my name is Colin, not William. I’m not really sure why that happened, but it did it to me on another site as well, and I had to clarify it over there as well. Sorry for any confusion!
Secondly brother, it seems a little unfair to me that you seemed to assume that simply because I don’t agree with a particular interpretation of a particular passage, that I am arguing from an antinomian position and need to be told to take the commands of Scripture more seriously. The Puritan Thomas Manton once wrote,
“Doct. That when God’s people are divided in opinion, all lenity and mutual forbearance should be used to prevent things from coming to an open rupture.
So sweet and mild was the discipline in the apostle’s days, that he would not compel men to do whatever he or others did conceive to be good, or to forbear what they did conceive to be evil, but, without force, leave them to God’s direction and illumination.
[1.] There may be, and often are, differences of opinion about lesser things in the church; partly because of the different degrees of light. All barks that sail to heaven draw not a like depth of water. And partly because of the remainders of corruption in all. Inordinate self-love is not in all alike broken and mortified, and so their particular interests have an influence upon their opinions. And partly because of the accidental prejudices of education and converse, &c.
[2.] When these differences arise, we should take care they come not to a rupture and open breach. This is the course the apostle taketh here; he doth not by and by despair of the dissenters, and reject them as heretics, but beareth with them, hoping in charity God will at length reveal their error to them by the ministry of his servants, through the powerful operation of his Spirit, and not suffer them to run on in dividing courses from the rest of his people. So should we do in like cases. Partly because when these differences of opinion breed division and separations, the church is destroyed”
Later in that same work he says,
“The one sort of Christians is for imposing on their brethren all things that have gotten the vogue and the favour of authority, and that not only on their practice, but their judgments too; and this in matters not fundamental or destructive to faith or worship, but in things controversial or doubtful among godly and peaceable men. But if it should not go so high, contending about every difference of opinion, and urging our brethren with everything we conceive to be right, is a breach of Christian love, and destroyeth the use of those differing gifts which Christ hath given to the church, and crosseth his mind in the frame of the scriptures, which are clear in soul-saving matters; in other things, especially matters of discipline and order, more dark and obscure. It is also contrary to the mild and gentle government of the apostles, who press in lesser matters a forbearance; as Paul, Rom. xiv. 1, ‘The weak in faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations;’ receive him, own him, but do not cast him out ‘of the church, nor trouble him for doubtful things, but let him come to himself, for men will sooner be led than drawn.”
“In such cases of damnable heresy, the law of Christian lenity holdeth not; but if we agree in the principal articles of faith, let us embrace one another with mutual love, though we differ from one another in variety of rites and ceremonies and discipline ecclesiastical. If we agree in the substantial of worship, let us go by the same rule, do the same thing: though in circumstantials there be a difference, these are matters of lesser moment than separation, or the other division of the church.”
Westminster divine, Jeremiah Burroughs wrote,
“First, this contending about every difference of opinion, and urging our bretheren with what we conceive right, in matters of controversy, crosseth the end of Christ in his administration on differing gifts to his church, and human society, and his revieling of truths in different ways, some more darkly some more clearly; Christ could easily have given such gifts to all, or revealed all truths so clearly, so that every man should have been able to have seen every truth. Surely Christ did not disperse gifts, and reveal truths so differently, to that end that there might be continual matter of strife and contention in his church, and in human society. Not so there should be provocation to the exercise of cruelty upon one another, but rather that there might be excercice of love, charity, forbearance, meekness, longsuffering of one towards another. Christ bids us, charges us to be at peace amongst ourselves. If we should say, O Lord Jesus, wouldst thou have us to be at peace with one another? But there are many things in thy word, that we and our Bretheren have different apprehensions of; for though (blessed be thy Name) the great necessary things of salvation be clearly revealed, yet many other things are dark for us, that through our weakness we cannot all see the same thing. Now is it thy mind O Savior, that one man, who conceives himself to understand the truth, (and that it may be rightly) compel another to his judgment? And doest thou also require , that we must not bring our judgment to our brethren till thy light brings them? How then is it possible that we should be at peace with one another?
Do not all divines say, There are some things in Scripture wherein the Elephant may swim, some things where the lamb may wade? Matters of discipline are acknowledged by all, not to be revealed with much clearness, but that truly conscientious, upright, diligent men may not be able in many things to see the mind of Christ in them. And to what end hath Christ done this think you.”
The Puritan John Howe also wrote,
“There is still a further appearance of great carnality in such cases, when any do adventure to judge of the consciences and states of them whom they oppose, or from whom they differ: when they ascend the tribunal, usurp the throne, pass sentence upon them, as men of no conscience, or of no sincerity, or uprightness of heart with God. As if theirs were to be the universal conscience, the measure of all consciences; and he that cannot be governed by their conscience must have none at all : or he be stark blind towards truth, towards God, and towards himself, that sees not everything they see, or fancy themselves to see. This is a most high usurpation upon divine prerogative; and how can any insensibly slide into such an evil as this, in the face of so plain and so awful a text of Scripture, that so severely animadverts upon it? That 14th. to the Romans, in sundry verses of it. With what reverence and dread should it strike a man’s soul in such a case! When we have the rights of the Redeemer asserted in those whom he hath bought with his blood? What shall be thought of any such protestants, that without any color or shadow of a ground, besides differing from them in some very disputable and unimportant opinions, shall presume to judge of other men’s consciences, (and consequently of their states God-ward) which such a one as he thought it so presumptuous wickedness to attempt to over-rule or govern?
Brother, please rest assured that I take the commands of God quite seriously. I’m just trying to explain what I see the scripture to be saying, and what the Reformed faith before us has taught. Martin Luther said,
” Of course Paul does not mean that physically there is no Jew and Greek, no man and woman. He means, as related to the subject he is handling. But of what is he speaking? Not of the natural body, but of faith, justification and Christ how, through faith, we become children of God in Christ, a change effected in the soul, in man’s conscience; not in his flesh and blood, not through his members, but through the Word of the Gospel. In this sense there is no difference in persons, whether they be Jews or Greeks, bond or free, male or female. According to the customs of men, physically the Jew is bound by a different law and a different manner of life from the Greek; the bond from the free; the male from the female. The Jew is circumcised, the Greek is not; the male covers not his hair, but the female wears a veil. Then, too, everyman serves God in his own way; hence the saying, “Many countries, many customs.” These customs, however, as well as all things external and not of faith, are powerless to render one righteous and pious before God. Neither do they hinder justification. Faith may exist equally well with all classes of persons, differing not with any custom and distinctions.” (Sermons Vol. 6 pg. 242)
John Calvin opens his sermon on 1 Cor. 4 by stating
“Let us observe that St. Paul has only taken exception to something that was not appropriate and fitting according to the usage of the land. For (as we have shown) we are not to take those countries and measure them by our custom(s).”
and comments on verse 16 that,
“Now, if this rule must be observed in small things which hardly seem to be of any importance, how about when it comes to doctrine? St. Paul says that if we find an accepted custom in a people—in a church—then we must conform; each one may not do his own thing: rather we must demonstrate our desire to nurture peace.”
Calvin also remarks in the Institutes,
“But we give the name of decency to that which, suited to the reverence of sacred mysteries, forms a fit exercise for piety, or at least gives an ornament adapted to the action, and is not without fruit, but reminds believers of the great modesty, seriousness, and reverence, with which sacred things ought to be treated. Moreover, ceremonies, in order to be exercises of piety, must lead us directly to Christ. In like manner, we shall not make order consist in that nugatory pomp which gives nothing but evanescent splendor, but in that arrangement which removes all confusion, barbarism, contumacy, all turbulence and dissension. Of the former class we have examples (1 Cor. 11:5, 21), where Paul says, that profane entertainments must not be intermingled with the sacred Supper of the Lord; that women must not appear in public uncovered. And there are many other things which we have in daily practice, such as praying on our knees, and with our head uncovered, administering the sacraments of the Lord, not sordidly, but with some degree of dignity; employing some degree of solemnity in the burial of our dead, and so forth.
But because he [God] did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because he foresaw that this depended upon the state of the times, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages), here we must take refuge in those general rules which he has given, that whatever the necessity of the church will require for order and decorum should be tested against these. Lastly, because he [God] has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones.”
The Augsburg Confession, to which both Calvin and Luther subscribes states,
“What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in the house of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for bishops or pastors to make ordinances that things be done orderly in the Church, not that thereby we should merit grace or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin to break them without offense to others. So Paul ordains,1 Cor. 11:5 , that women should cover their heads in the congregation, 1 Cor. 14:30, that interpreters be heard in order in the church, etc.”
Theodore Beza, who oversaw the production of the Geneva Bible, comments on 1 Cor. 11:4,
“Hereof he gathereth that if men do either pray or preach in
public assemblies having their heads covered (which was then a sign of subjection) they did as it were spoil themselves of their dignity, against God’s ordinance. It appeareth that this was a political law serving only for the circumstances of the time that Paul lived in, by this reason, because in these our days for a man to speak bareheaded in an assembly, is a sign of subjection. 11:5 And in like sort he concludeth, that women which show themselves in public and ecclesiastical assemblies without the sign and token of their subjection, that is to say, uncovered, shame themselves.”
The Dutch Annotations on the Bible (commissioned to be written by the Synod of Dort, and written by Theodore Haak) notes,
“he dishonors his own head (namely, forasmuch as the uncovering of the head was then a sign of power and dominion, as on the contrary now at this day those that have power over others, will keep their heads covered, and they that are under others will uncover their heads before them. But in all these things, we must always have respect to the use of diverse times and countries, and what is honorable and edifying therein, 1 Cor. 14:40; Phil. 4:8).”
Wilhelmus a Brakel, the greatest theologian of the Dutch Second Reformation wrote in his Christians Reasonable Service Vol. 3 pg 151,
“it must also be noted that the word ―ceremonial is not found in the Bible and that one therefore ought not to dispute about this word. The common usage of the word signifies an ecclesiastical duty, or an external circumstance, deed, action, or transaction. In this respect there are also ceremonies in the church of the New Testament: preaching with either a covered or uncovered head, sprinkling once or thrice in holy baptism, either immersion or sprinkling at the administration of baptism, either sitting or standing when partaking of the Lord‘s Supper, etc. These are ceremonies which neither add to nor subtract from the essence of the matter.”
The Puritan Matthew Poole comments on 1 Cor. 11:4,
“Dishonoureth his head; either dishonoureth Christ who is his Head, and whom he ought to represent, and doth as it were make the church the head to Christ, which is subject to him, while by covering his head he declares a subjection in his ministration. Or he dishonoureth his own head, (so many interpret it), to wit, he betrayeth his superiority, lesseneth himself as to that power and dignity which God hath clothed him with, by using a posture which is a token of inferiority and subjection. Interpreters rightly agree, that this and the following verses are to be interpreted from the customs of countries; and all that can be concluded from this verse is, that it is the duty of men employed in Divine ministrations, to look to behave themselves as those who are to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, behaving themselves with a just authority and gravity that becometh his ambassadors, which decent gravity is to be judged from the common opinion and account of the country wherein they live. So as all which this text requires of Christian ministers, is authority and gravity, and what are external ludications of it. Our learned Dr. Lightfoot observeth, that the Jewish priests were wont in the worship of God to veil their heads; so that Christian ministers praying or prophesying with their heads covered, Judaized, which he judgeth the reason of the apostle’s assertion. The heathens also, both Romans and Grecians, were wont to minister in their sacred things with their heads covered. Some think this was the reason why the Christians used the contrary gesture; but the apostle’s arguing from the man’s headship, seemeth to import that the reason of this assertion of the apostle was, because in Corinth the uncovered head was a sign of authority. At this day the Mahometans (or Turks) speak to their superiors covered, and so are covered also in their religious performances. The custom with us in these western parts is quite otherwise; the uncovering of the head is a sign or token of subjection: hence ministers pray and preach with their heads uncovered, to denote their subjection to God and Christ: but yet this custom is not uniform, for in France the Reformed ministers preach with their heads covered; as they pray uncovered, to express their reverence and subjection to God, so they preach covered, as representing Christ, the great Teacher, from whom they derive, and whom they represent. Nothing in this is a further rule to Christians, than that it is the duty of ministers, in praying and preaching, to use postures and habits that are not naturally, nor according to the custom of the place where they live, uncomely and irreverent, and so looked upon.”
Westminster divine Daniel Cawdrey wrote in his work A Vindication of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,
“I answer, that for men to pray or prophesy with their heads covered, or with long hair, and women uncovered, were things in their own nature indifferent (unless you make it necessary, as a moral duty, for men to pray or prophesy uncovered, and women contra; which no interpreters upon that text do) and yet the Apostle enjoins the Corinthians so to do, ergo, the Synod may do so too. And for your instance of preaching in a gown, “A gown (say you) is a decent garment to preach in, yet such an injunction (for ministers to preach in a gown) is not grounded upon that text of the Apostle. For then, a minister in neglecting to preach in a gown, should neglect the commandment of the Apostle; which yet he does not; for if he preach in a cloak, he preacheth decently enough.” True, he sins not in point of decency; but supposing such a custom in a church (as the custom was for men, amongst Corinthians, to preach uncovered, and the women to be covered in the congregations) the Synod might enjoin all the ministers to preach in a gown, (as the Apostle did enjoin them to preach uncovered) and he that shall preach in a cloak, preaches decently indeed, but not orderly; and so sins against the Apostles rule of order, though not of decency.”
Westminster divine Thomas Goodwin wrote,
And, lastly, there is no question to be made but that many times the diversification of circumstances and aspects of things in the world, and course of God’s providence, have not only a lawful power of dissolving the binding force and authority of many examples, but of suspending our obedience to many rules, and precepts, and exhortations. As, for example, that kind of salutation between men, mentioned Gen. xxvii. 26, 1 Sam. xx. 41, and oft elsewhere, being generally left and out of use. Those injunctions of Paul, Rom. xvi. 16, 1 Cor. xvi. 20, and elsewhere, ‘ Greet ye one another with an holy kiss,’ impose no such literal tie upon the saints in these days, as when they were written ; neither do I conceive (nor, I suppose, you) that the elders of the church are now bound to anoint the sick with oil, because this is commanded, James v. 14. Neither do I conceive that the French churches lie under any guilt of sin, for suffering their teachers to have their heads covered in their public ministry, notwithstanding the rule or direction of Paul : 1 Cor. xi. 4, “Every man praying or prophesying, having anything on his head, dishonoureth his head ;’ because that topical custom among the Grecians, upon which Paul built this rule or assertion, is wholly disused by their nation, and the contrary generally practiced among them. Though I do not think this scripture is to be restrained to the teachers only, but to concern as well the whole assembly of men present, who are all here said to pray or prophesy in a passive sense (as women also are, ver. 5), that is, to partake of these ordinances with the teachers. Other like instances might be given. And doubtless the rule that Cameron gives (who was a man of as much learning, sharpness of wit, and happiness in opening the Scripture, as any of the reformed churches in France, yea, I may say, in any part of the world, have enjoyed of latter times) is most true. There are many things commanded in Paul’s epistles whereof there is no use at this day.” (Works Vo. 11 pg. 581)
Brother, I know that it is a common teaching among advocates of head coverings that this teaching has been the historic reformed position, but after years of studying the issue, I can confidently say it is not, as this is a small portion of the quotes I have gathered from the 1st and 2nd Reformations. I can assure you, these men who gave their lives to the study of God’s Word adopted this position, not out of deference to the culture in which they lived, or because of the influence of feminism, but because they had a balanced and consistent approach to the interpretation of Scripture. I would plead with you not to be too quick to jump to conclusions about those who differ with you.
Anyways, I’m worried that this discussion will produce more heat than light, so I’m going to bow out here. Please don’t think that I’m offended or upset. 🙂 In the past I have been quick to grow heated and uncharitable in my interactions with Brothers and Sisters, so I have to try to watch myself a little more closely. If anything I’ve said has been offensive or unloving, I really do sincerely apologize for it! Great job on the blog and on teaching the Reformed faith, we need more people willing to do it!
Blessings in Christ,
I appreciate your reply, though I honestly do not understand your convictions here. I made several points concerning hermeneutics and the like and I don’t see a counterpoint to any of my assertions, which I elaborated upon at length.
I will pose you a simple question: How do I glorify God more, a follow the teachings in 1 Cor 11, by ignoring the literal sense of what is taught? And, I don’t mean the principle in 1 Cor 11:3, but rather the outward manifestation of that principle so that it is visible in the Church?
As for some of the Reformed writers, I would say many have been inconsistent on the issue. They very much desired for women to follow the customs, but a new custom among men of wearing a hat to signify social status made it undesirable for centuries for men to be uncovered. However, I find their conjectures about historical context not only inaccurate, but often inapplicable to the text itself. The Scripture in that passage does not lend itself to social customs, Paul nowhere invokes this in his rationale. In fact, he clearly argues that it is divine imperative, visible in nature and the creation itself.
Calvin’s schizophrenic thoughts on the matter lead me to believe that many of the “anti-headcovering” quotes are taken out of context, especially when we consider that all of the reformed thinkers found it extremely distasteful for women to NOT cover.
Here’s Calvin as an example:
Let us, however, bear in mind, that in this matter the error is merely in so far as decorum is violated, and the distinction of rank which God has established, is broken in upon. For we must not be so scrupulous as to look upon it as a criminal thing for a teacher to have a cap on his head, when addressing the people from the pulpit. Paul means nothing more than this — that it should appear that the man has authority, and that the woman is under subjection, and this is secured when the man uncovers his head in the view of the Church, though he should afterwards put on his cap again from fear of catching cold. In fine, the one rule to be observed here is το πρέπον — decorum If that is secured, Paul requires nothing farther (Calvin, Commentary of 1 Corinthians, verse 4).
So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, “Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?” And then after that one will plead [for] something else: “Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also [bare] this and [bare] that?” Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. …So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show… In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard (Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor 11:2-3 in Men, Women and Order in the Church, trans Seth Skolnitsky, Presbyterian Heritage Publications, pp. 12-13).
St Paul now continues with the subject which he had begun: namely, that women must have the decency not to come to the public assembly with their heads uncovered; and that men must also be decently attired so that there be no beastly confusion. To confirm it, however, he adds a further reason. ‘Does not nature itself teach that if a woman have no head-covering, it is a shame to her?’ he says. One would surely say that a woman was mad, if she came without hair. When he says ‘her hair is for a covering,’ he does not mean that as long as a woman has hair, that should be enough for her. He rather teaches that our Lord is giving a directive that he desires to have observed and maintained. If a woman has long hair, this is equivalent to saying to her, ‘Use your head-covering, use your hat, use your hood; do not expose yourself in that way! Why? Even if you have no head-covering, nor hood, yet you also have something to conceal yourself. You see that it would not be fitting to go bare-headed; that is something against nature.’ This is how this passage of St. Paul’s must be understood (Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor 11:11-16, op. cit. pp. 52-53).
This is why my arguments have been more than appealing to commentaries. However, here are a few more:
They who have received Him set truth before custom. They who have heard Him prophesying even to the present time, not of old, bid virgins be wholly covered…Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered…But I have proposed (as models) those Churches which were founded by apostles or apostolic men; and antecedently, I think, to certain (founders, who shall be nameless). Those Churches therefore, as well (as others), have the self-same authority of custom (to appeal to); in opposing phalanx they range times and teachers, more than these later (Churches do). What shall we observe (Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins, Chapter 1)?
Their women used both to pray and prophesy unveiled and with their head bare, (for then women also used to prophesy;) but the men went so far as to wear long hair as having spent theirtime in philosophy , and covered their heads when praying and prophesying, each of which was a Grecian custom. Since then he had already admonished them concerning these things when present, and some perhaps listened to him and others disobeyed; therefore in his letter also again, he foments the place, like a physician, by his mode of addressing them, and so corrects the offense (Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, Homily 26).
We ought not therefore so to understand that man is made in the image of the supreme Trinity, that is, in the image of God, as that the same image should be understood to be in three human beings; especially when the apostle says that the man is the image of God, and on that account removes the covering from his head, which he warns the woman to use, speaking thus: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man” (Augustine, On the Holy Trinity, Chapter 7).
There is also an objection against a Gloss which states that prophesying is called unlocking the Scriptures. According to this, anyone who preaches prophesies. But bishops preach with their head covered with a miter. The answer is that one who preaches or teaches in the schools speaks from his own person. Hence even the Apostle (Rom 2:16) calls the gospel his own, namely, on account of the energy he used in preaching it. But one who recites Sacred Scripture in the church, for example, by reading a lesson or an epistle or a gospel, speaks from the person of the whole church. This is the kind of prophesying that the Apostle understands here (Aquinas, Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Chapter 594).
Then when he says, If anyone, he silences the impudent hearers, saying: If anyone is disposed to be contentious and not acquiesce in the above reason but would attack the truth with confident clamoring, which pertains to contentiousness, as Ambrose says, contrary to Jb (6:29): “Respond, I pray, without contentiousness”; (Pr 20:3): “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife.” Let this suffice, then, to silence them that we Jews believing in Christ do not have such a practice, namely, of women praying with their heads uncovering, nor do the churches of God dispersed among the Gentiles. Hence if there were no reason, this alone should suffice, that no one should act against the common custom of the Church: “He makes those of one outlook to dwell in their house” (Ps 68:7). Hence Augustine says: “In all cases in which Sacred Scripture has defined nothing definite, the customs of the people of God and the edicts of superiors must be regarded as the law” (Aquinas, Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Chapter 620).
Women, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife” [Eph 5:22-23]. Again to the Colossians in the third chapter [3:18]. Because of this, the wife has not been created out of the head, so that she shall not rule over her husband, but be subject and obedient to him.
For that reason the wife wears a headdress, that is, the veil on her head, as St. Paul writes in 1. Corinthians in the second chapter, that she is not free but under obedience to her husband (Luther, A sermon on Marriage, 15 January 1525).
And his traditions were the gospel of Christ, and honest manners and living, and such a good order as becometh the doctrine of Christ: as that a woman obey her husband, have her head covered, keep silence, and go womanly and christianly apparelled; that children and servants be in subjection: and that the young obey their elders; that no man eat but he that laboureth and worketh; and that men make an earnest thing of God’s word and of his holy sacraments; and to watch, fast, and pray, and such like as the scripture commandeth: which things he that would break were no christian man (Tyndale, The Obedience of the Christian Man).
Chrysostom, explaining these words of the apostle (1 Cor. 11:3), “The head of woman is man,” compares God in his universal regiment to a king sitting in his royal majesty, to whom all his subjects, commanded to give homage and obedience, appear before him, bearing every one such a badge and cognizance of dignity and honour as he has given to them; which if they despise and condemn, then do they dishonour their king. “Even so,” says he,“ought man and woman to appear before God, bearing the ensigns of the condition which they have received of him. Man has received a certain glory and dignity above the woman; and therefore ought he to appear before his high Majesty bearing the sign of his honour, having no cover upon his head, to witness that in earth man has no head.” Beware Chrysostom what you say! You shall be reputed a traitor if Englishmen hear you, for they must have my sovereign lady and mistress; and Scotland has drunken also the enchantment and venom of Circe* let it be so to their own shame and confusion (John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, 81-84).
Do you think you and I have sufficiently considered that we are always looked upon by angels, and that they desire to learn by us the wisdom of God? The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is because of the angels. The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head, because of the angels, since the angels are present in the assembly, they mark every act of indecorum, and therefore everything is to be conducted with the decency and order in the presence of the angelic spirits (Spurgeon, Sermon on Ephesians 3:10).
Was this conviction solely a matter of time and place, so that it is possible to suppose, that if he lived now, and in the West, the apostle would express himself differently? This supposition is not admissible; for the reasons which he alleges are taken, not from contemporary usages, but from permanent facts, which will last as long as the present earthly economy (Frederic Louis Godet, pg 133 – Vol II – Zondervan, 1957).
Sorry about botching your name,
I thought this was an excellent comment:
“I do not find it useful to differentiate between the “sorta important” and “very important’ stuff in the Bible. They are all hugely important to God, not because all sins are equally bad or all good works are equally praiseworthy, but because our God is beyond measure. The slightest of God’s demands are hugely important, because God is hugely important.”
Very good point!