The first question is why Paul gave these commands about head coverings and long hair. He did so because the way people wore their hair indicated in the culture of Paul’s day whether one was behaving as a man or a woman. In other words, Paul wanted to retain the distinctions between the sexes. This is a powerful word to our culture where differences between the sexes are routinely denied, and we commonly have gender blending and gender confusion.
The principle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is male headship. Men have a unique God-given authority in the family and the church for leadership. Men are responsible to protect and provide for women, and women are to humbly submit to their leadership and to assist men in their leadership roles. Such differences in role don’t indicate lack of equality, for Christ submitted to the Father but was equal to him (1 Cor. 15:28).
The issue Paul addresses isn’t really head-coverings and length of hair in and of themselves. In the culture of Paul’s day a woman not wearing head covering in worship would signal rebellion against male headship, and in the same way a man’s wearing long hair would suggest that he was denying his masculinity. What matters in the passage, then, are not the exact customs, but the principle or truth communicated in the text. If a woman wears a veil today, it doesn’t suggest to people in our culture that she is rebellious.
We need to apply the principle of male headship and female submission to our culture today. We can apply the passage as follows. Men would deny their masculinity if they wore a dress, and a woman denies male headship if she did not wear her wedding ring or refused to take the last name of her husband.
For more information, please visit The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.