Useful Bible Studies > 1 Corinthians Commentary > chapter 11

Christian women and questions of authority

1 Corinthians 11:4-5

Both men and women should pray. Also, both men and women can prophesy. Here, the word ‘prophesy’ probably does not mean ‘to speak a message from God about the future’. Instead, it probably means ‘to declare words that give honour to God, by the power of the Holy Spirit’. That could be by means of words that encourage other people to give honour to God, as in 1 Corinthians 14:3. When we encourage other people to give honour to God, we ourselves are giving honour to him.

People have different opinions about what covered the head here. It could be a hat, or long hair. It could be a veil (a cloth to cover a woman’s face), or a net to cover her hair.

Clearly, Paul is referring to a custom of that time which expected men and women to dress differently. He approved of it because it showed a proper attitude towards authority. The Holy Spirit should guide the person who prays or prophesies. But still, that person should respect the authority that God has established, both in the family and in the church (14:27-40).

For Christian women, that often means that they should accept a man’s authority. That is a hard lesson, but it is an extremely important lesson. As Christ obeyed God his Father completely, so we too (both men and women) must learn to obey. God has given us people in this world to obey (for example, husbands and fathers), so that we can learn how to obey him (God).

Next part: Signs of authority (1 Corinthians 11:6)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.