1 Corinthians 11:3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Paul’s words here establish the topic of instruction thru verse 16. “Head” in this verse is used in the sense of authority. Christ, in this verse, is said to be subject to God. That does not make Christ any less God himself, for He is God. His manifestation of the Godhead is willingly serving as the godhead deems best. Performing your task, even if it means following another’s directions, does not make you an unequal to them. Likewise, the woman’s role does call on her to be subject to the man in his role, but it doesn’t make her “less” than the man. When this God established line of authority is unbroken “peace” reigns, and the Father is pleased. If your place of service in God’s plan calls on you to be subject to another, that alone doesn’t mean that you are less than the other.
Verse 4 – 5. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
Two “heads” are discussed here; the literal head and the authoritative head. Covering of the literal head served as a sign of submission. A man praying or prophesying having his literal head cover – being subject to his wife – would be breaking God’s order and dishonoring his authoritative head, God. But a woman praying or prophesying with her literal head uncovered – not being in submission to her husband – would dishonor God. As a sign of “disgrace” – possibly for unfaithfulness to her husband – a woman would have her head shaved. This shaved head then meant that she was not under the authority of her husband. A woman should be covered – subject to her husband – and if not let her be disgraced – that is shorn or shaved.
Verse 6 – 12. For a man indeed ought not cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
A man ought not cover his head – be subject to his wife – because he is the image and glory of God. It is a wife’s position to bring glory to her husband. She is his helper – Genesis 2:20. She was taken from man – Genesis 2:21 – and for man. The covering, the symbol of her husbands authority, on her head may have relieved the angels – messengers of God; possibly the pastors as in Revelation 2:1 – of any need for correction. In God’s order, men and women are not independent of each other, but compliment each other.
Verse 13 – 16. Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
Think about it, talk about it amongst yourselves, encourages Paul. If a woman is with head uncovered; out of God’s order; not submissive to her husband; and thereby being disobedient to God; can it be proper for her to pray? The natural strength and stamina of a man, as well as his God given position, teaches us that he should not wear long hair as a covering indicating that he is subject to his wife. A woman who is not disgraced – shorn or shaven; who has her hair, in your culture has no significance, then it doesn’t matter. The length of hair and it’s symbolism is a cultural thing. Authority is a God ordained thing and it does matter. But, if you want to be contentious about the subject of “authority”, such contention is not allowed.
When authority is forced there will be resistance. When we all lovingly submit to God’s order, there is peace. God lovingly and patiently encourages us to be submissive to His authority. We likewise should lovingly and patiently encourage others to be submissive. It’s for God’s glory and our good.