This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head: because of the angels.So what do angles have to do with headcoverings? In order to understand this passage, we must see that Paul is arguing from a biblical worldview that sees angels as being ever present in the affairs of men.
1 Corinthians 11:10 HCSB
Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.Besides this biblical worldview, Paul himself was caught up in to the heavenly places where things were revealed to him like the prophets of old. When we look at those Old Testament visions, we almost always find that the revelation includes glimpses in to the activities of the angels. Thus, it is no surprise that Paul’s epistles are sprinkled with statements concerning angelic beings.
2 Kings 6:17 ESV
19 And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time."
Luke 1:19-20 ESV
When Paul charges Timothy to obey all that he had passed on, he does so in the presence of the angels:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.But he also sees himself as a kind of exhibit, or picture show (Dare I say, like an animal caged in a zoo?), which, the angels of heaven are watching. All that he does is being accounted for. Reminds me of God’s question to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?”
1 Timothy 5:21 ESV
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.In fact, we find that the apostles are not the only ones being watched by the angels (good and evil), but we, Christ’s church, are being watched. In Ephesians Paul tells us that one of the purposes behind his proclamation of the gospel is:
1 Corinthians 4:9 ESV
10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.In other words, when the world is brought back into a right relationship with God, it demonstrates to all the angelic beings the tremendously deep and wide wisdom of God. Paul prays, preaches and proclaims the gospel in order to bring the entire world into submission to God. A large part of this proclamation is the right ordering of families. Just a few short passages later, Paul expounds on the Spirit-filled family and its proper ordering. It is the spirit-filled family, well ordered and overflowing with love, which proclaims to the angles that God has overcome sin and redeemed the people who were in bondage to Satan.
Ephesians 3:10 ESV
I believe that it is for this reason that, right after Paul proclaims what the redeemed life looks like, he calls on God’s people to put on the full armor of God. In other words, there is no better way to call down the wrath of hell upon a family, than for a husband to love his wife and children and for a wife to submit to her husband. Satan will strike out with fury at such a home. We’ve know it to be true, not only from this epistle, but also from the life of Job. Satan and his legions really are prowling about like lions, looking for some to devour.
With this biblical worldview in mind, 1 Corinthians 11:10 makes much more sense. Since God’s children are on display before the angels as the redeemed workmanship of God, we must show that we really have been redeemed. A woman then can demonstrate visibly to all mankind and to the angles that she has been given a new heart by putting a symbol of authority on her head when she prays.
One last point, since the angels are the ones who help carry out both God’s redemptive and judgmental work on earth in the Scriptures, many ancient commentators believed this was also a way to avoid offending those who held such great power (see Zechariah story above).
Well, since the main argument against women wearing headcoverings in our day is that this mandate was culturally bound, and I’ve already jumped ahead of my self by addressing visible submission, in the next post I hope to address some of the cultural issues that I can see. Again, please correct me if I’m making any errors here.
Above: All the Glory (at Ben and Michal's wedding)