In every ordered society there is a system of authority. Many countries today have a king or a president or a prime minister as the leading authority, with heads of various offices and districts beneath him. There is an order of authority down to the local city, where there is a mayor with subordinate authorities under him. In the military, there is a commanding general, with lesser officers under him all the way down to the lowest soldier. Without these systems of authority, the government or military would not be able to function efficiently; there would be anarchy. Except for the individuals at the very top or the very bottom, each person in the system of authority has one or more persons over which he is the head, and an individual to which he submits.
God has also established a system of authority. 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.” The order given is God is the head of Christ, who is the head of man, who is the head of woman. Stated another way, woman submits to man, who submits to Christ, who submits to God. Just because an individual submits to someone else does not make them inferior. Christ is not inferior to God, even though He submits to Him. Woman is not inferior to man, even though she submits to him. An order of authority was established by God so that there would be proper order and function.
All believers are likely to accept God as the ultimate authority, with Christ subordinate to Him. The problem comes in that many question the submission of woman to man. But this is the order that God has given. This order applies in the home as well as in the church. Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Why did God establish such an order? Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” The reason given for man’s authority over woman is the creation and the deception in the Garden of Eden. It is not a matter of society or culture but it goes back to the beginning with Adam and Eve. These principles of headship and submission were designed by God Himself and are fundamental in His arrangement of the universe.
Associated with this order of authority, we have the following principles. 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 “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.” In this passage the word head is used. Does it mean the physical head with a face or does it mean a spiritual head as an authority? And it talks about having the head covered or uncovered. Does that mean physically covered or spiritually covered? In carefully reading the passage, the conclusion is that it means both – one being figurative of the other. So when a man prays or prophesies, he should not cover his spiritual head (Christ) and he should not cover his physical head as a symbol of the spiritual. In the same way, when a woman prays or prophesies, she should cover her spiritual head (man) and should have a cover on her physical head as a symbol of the spiritual. Long hair can serve as the physical covering. 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 “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.” It is clear that the woman’s duty is the exact opposite of the man’s. In other words, it is proper for a woman to be covered in situations involving prayer and prophesying. It is proper for a man to be uncovered in situations involving prayer and prophesying.
While long hair is a covering, it is not the only possible covering. A hat could be a covering. Many Jews today wear a kippah; they think it is honoring God. But from what the Apostle Paul instructs us, a man wearing a kippah dishonors Christ. In the early centuries of the church, historical accounts tell us that Christian women wore vails; these would serve as coverings. The primary issue here is not really a matter of long hair. It is a matter of covering or not covering to show honor to your head. A covering could be a hat or a kippah or long hair or a vail. For a man, he should not have anything that would be considered a head covering when he prays or prophesies so that he shows his honor to Christ. For a woman, she should have a head covering when she prays or prophesies so that she shows honor to man.
My encouragement to you is to recognize and honor the authority structure that God has established. That structure is that God is the head of Christ who is the head of man who is the head of woman. If you are a man, I encourage you to never have anything that would be considered as a head covering when you pray or prophesy so that you will always show that you honor your head (Christ). If you are a woman, I encourage you to always have something considered as a head covering when you pray or prophesy so that you will always show that you honor your head (man). Here are the verses again: 1 Corinthians 11:3-5 “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. 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.”