Why should Christian women wear a head covering while praying or prophesying?
Already we have seen Paul begin to answer in 1 Corinthians 11:2-6. He says in verses 3-6 that if men cover their heads, they disgrace their head, Christ, and if women don’t cover their heads, they disgrace their heads – husbands, or fathers, or others and ultimately Christ (verses 3-6).
Verses 7-10 reach back to Creation to explain how Christ’s redemption restores man and woman to God and to humanity’s original created purposes.
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.
God created man (Adam) in his image, to be his representative on Earth and display the glory of God. As his representative, man is to be displayed, not covered.
Woman, on the other hand, was created as man’s helper. She is the glory of man because she was created from man’s side for man’s God-given purpose. Woman directs her efforts to represent and glorify God through man.
We can infer these truths from Genesis 1:27.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Man and woman together represent God. Man is the one who displays God’s image and glory; woman is the one who builds the family of man and supports man in his purpose.
We can also notice the obvious connection between the original purposes of man and Christ.
Man is the image and glory of God; Christ is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3) and he displays God’s glory (2 Corinthians 4:6) and is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). In other words, as a man, Christ is the perfect fulfillment of the purpose of man.
It is never stated in the Bible, but there are also comparisons between the woman and another member of the Godhead – the Holy Spirit. Woman is the one who helps man to image and glorify God; the Holy Spirit is the helper promised by Jesus (John 14:16) who glorifies Christ, the ultimate image and glory of God (John 16:14). Even though this connection is never explicitly drawn in Scripture and there are many differences, it is difficult to ignore the similarities between the hidden, behind-the-scenes work of the Spirit and the original created purposes of woman that have been restored in Christ.
A reminder of authority.
It is in verse 10 that the relationship between man and woman is described as one of authority. Christ has redeemed man and woman to their original creation purposes: man to display, woman to aid. That is why a woman should “have authority over her head”.
10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.
(striking of the word "own" not in the original).
The original purpose was for godly – and what we now call Christ-like – authority to be exercised by man over woman directed to the glory of God. It was this authority that Satan challenged when he deceived the woman into eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:13) resulting in Adam abdicating his position of authority (Genesis 3:17). From that moment on Satan and his angels rebel against God’s authority themselves, have constantly tempted humanity to reject authority (2 Corinthians 11:3).
So, women are to have authority over their head. It is clear from the context that Paul means a covering that acts as a reminder of that authority.
But a reminder for who?
Some suggest it’s a reminder to elect angels who love to see well-ordered worship, and perhaps angels do rejoice in seeing the sign of Christ’s redemption of man and woman (1 Peter 1:12).
Some suggest it’s a reminder to fallen angels who seek to deceive women, that Christian women are not falling for that again.
I think the best answer is that covering is a reminder for men and women.
We need to remember the disaster that followed Satan undermining the authority among the sexes. We need to remember that fallen angels are still out there and still do attack the headship of Christ and man. And we need to remember to celebrate that man and woman have been restored in Christ to their original created purposes.