August 22, 2009
Several weeks ago, while shopping in a grocery store, my wife was approached by a woman who appeared to be very refined — very courteous manner. She indicated that she had a question that possibly she could answer. She and her husband had observed that some women wear coverings similar to the one that my wife was wearing. Why are they worn? Her husband's opinion was that it signifies marriage. She herself did not concur with that opinion. But why DO you wear it? That was her question. In response, my companion assured her that the wearing of the headcovering is a Biblical teaching recorded in 1 Corinthians 11. To her that was news. She seemingly was not aware that this was a Bible teaching, and with gratitude in her voice, she promised to go home and read for herself from 1 Corinthians 11.
A hundred years ago, an occurrence like that here in Lebanon county would have been unlikely. Why? Because a hundred years ago, this practice was still being observed in numerous non-Mennonite circles. The widespread loss of this practice demonstrates what can happen in no more than a hundred years. Whether that woman was a church member or not, I don't know. I do know that today, in many church circles, this teaching is either omitted, or explained away, or twisted so as to make the hair the only needed covering.
But, it's not my primary calling to condemn other church groups. Right within our own circles we have a big enough job to keep this practice alive and to keep it moving in the right direction. In order to get that job done requires giving periodic attention to this teaching. That's why I've chosen to dwell on that subject this morning. My record shows that it's been a little over 5 years ago that I devoted an entire message to this subject. That's a pretty long interval – maybe too long.
I've already named the Bible passage in which this teaching is found, so let's turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 11. The content of this chapter revolves around 2 items: the headcovering, and the Lord's supper. Because of their nature, we believe that they both fall in the category of an "ordinance". This is in agreement with the language of verse 2: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you."
The now-popular approach to this chapter throws away the first of these practices, the headcovering, but retains the second, the Lord's supper. In my opinion, there is no valid ground for that kind of selectivity. Nonetheless, it's being done. And that's one reason why there are people around us like that lady who approached my wife.
In a few moments, I'm going to be reading 1 Corinthians 11:4, 5 and 6. Those verses serve as home base for both the doctrine and the practice of the headcovering. But all of the first 16 verses relate to the subject in one way or another. All right, let's listen now to verses 4-6:
"(4) Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. (5) But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (6) For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."
Those last four words in verse 6 are my text: "Let her be covered."
That is a straightforward command. It's comparable to other commands that are stated in a similar way. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body." "Let no man deceive you." "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." "Let your light so shine." Now the command in view here is no less binding than these other commands.
Shall we come before the Lord in prayer?
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In part two I will go into more detail on the subject. If your interested read on.
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