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Propriety in Church

Today we are talking about one of the most debated texts in Scripture. So we are going to talk about this text from 2 different perspectives and do our best to discover what Paul is saying here. But first we are going to answer some larger questions to gain some perspective.

What is the Bible? 

  • Collection of 66 books over 16 centuries written by about 40 authors
  • Written by human authors under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • It is fully true in whatever it affirms

How do we interpret and apply it?

  • What does it mean?
  • What does it mean in light of all of Scripture?
  • What does it mean for us today?
  • What does it mean for me?


  • Male and female genders were created by God with equal dignity and value, yet maintain distinguished roles within the home and the church. The man is to offer loving, sacrificial leadership. The woman is to willfully and respectfully offer a submissive disposition.


  • Men and women are both called to use their gifts in the church and the home with no limitations or distinctions between genders. Men and women not only have equal dignity and value but also share equal roles and functions.

1 Corinthians 11:2–16

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

v. 3-4

  • “head”
    • traditional interpretation = authority
    • alternative interpretation = source
  • head covering?
    • veil
    • hair
  • A married woman in public without a veil often meant that she was available so his primary concern is likely married women not sending the wrong message to the community about whether or not she is married.

v. 6

  • In this culture is was shameful for a woman to have her head shaved. It was also either a sign of grief or misfortune.

v. 7

  • He is not saying that women are not created in the image of God. His lack of symmetry safeguards against that misunderstanding.
  • cf Genesis 1:27  A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
  • See also Ps. 8:5; Rom. 1:23; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:4

v. 8-9

  • cf. Genesis 2:18, 21-23  18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”…21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

v. 10

  • What authority
    • A man’s, or husband’s authority over her
    • A woman’s own authority to pray and prophecy in church
  • Because of the angels?
    • Angels were thought to preside over the worship service so they would express displeasure to the Lord if improprieties were occurring during worship.
    • He is concerned with the angels being distracted from worshipping God during the service
    • Since angels are considered to be the guardians of the earth he may be concerned with possibly offending them with improper attire in worship.
    • Could also be thinking of the “manifold wisdom of God being made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly placed” (Eph 3:10)
    • Using the angels as a negative example– just as angels as God’s first creation tried to usurp authority and were cast out of heaven.

Big Idea: Appearance or demeanor during worship should in no way send the wrong message that one is unfaithful — either to God or to one’s spouse.