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 Vol. 2, No. 10                                        Page 15                                                October, 2000

Since You AskedImage

Just One Church?

Hello, I have been researching (as a personal curiosity) "governmental" differences between churches. I was just reading an article you wrote, and I was wondering if you could further explain the underlined statement below more specifically for me: from:  "The First Church"  "The first church -- the one that Jesus built -- still exists today. It is to this church -- his church -- that our Lord adds the saved." Do you assert that to this church ONLY are the saved added? Or are saved peoples present in other Christian churches as well; i.e., Baptist, non-denominational, etc. Thank you for your time. [name withheld upon request]

Only one church existed in the first century. Jesus only promised to build one church and he styled it as his church (Matthew 16:18). In the figure of a "body," the apostle Paul taught that there was but one church.

". . . the church, Which is his body . . . There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4-6).

In the first century, Jesus added the saved to his church (Acts 2:47). This church was established in Jerusalem according to prophecy (Isaiah 2:2-3) in the days of the fourth world kingdom from and including the Babylonian kingdom -- the Roman Empire -- also according to prophecy (Daniel 2:44). This church was known by various designations, each of which glorified the Godhead (e.g., church of God, 1 Corinthians 1:2; churches of Christ, Romans 16:16; etc.). Congregations were independent and guided by elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7) while served by deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13), preachers (2 Timothy 4:1-2) and teachers (Hebrews 5:12-14). All other churches came hundreds of years later and changed their doctrine, organization, often names, worship, etc. from the church Jesus built and about anyone can read in the pages of inspiration, namely, the New Testament.

Any church not the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, established somewhere other than Jerusalem, not known by designations that glorify God, not congregational with a biblical form of government, teaching manmade doctrines and worshipping God contrary to the worship prescribed in the New Testament is not the one church of the Bible. Such churches are not the church for which Jesus Christ died to establish, over which he is head, to which he adds the saved and for which he will return to take with him to heaven. Simple, unadulterated Christianity that corresponds to the New Testament is the only church in which one dare place his hope for eternity with confidence. No other religious heritage, irrespective of how dear, is able to bear one to heaven.

Image Image Head Coverings on Women

This is Glen Gannon from Corsicana, Texas. Would you explain why the women of the church in America are not required to cover their heads. Thanks, gg.

After studying 1 Cor11:1-16, it appears that Paul's reasoning as to the covering of the head in worship has nothing to do with customs of that day and is valid today. Your understanding of this would be appreciated. Thanks, Chuck, member of the East Alameda C of C, Aurora, CO

Typically, westerners who believe that women are biblically required to wear head coverings in worship content themselves with a small piece of cloth or a hat on a woman's head. Though sincere, such proponents of head coverings on women generally err in several areas. (1) The supposed "biblical proof" to which these advocates appeal would not allow a small piece of cloth or even a hat to suffice for a head covering. The "proof texts" would require a veil that completely covers the woman's head. (2) The so-called "biblical evidence" that would require head coverings on women today would also require that women not only wear a veil covering her whole head while at worship, but also while in every public place. Most advocates of head coverings on western women today, were they able to "prove" their contention, would certainly "prove too much" (much more than they would hope). (3) Nowhere in the Bible does any inspired writer institute head coverings on women. Sometimes, veils are observed to be on female Bible characters (and sometimes not) and the apostle Paul regulated that practice among Christian women, which practice was neither right nor wrong, but the violation of which unnecessarily brought reproach on the church at Corinth.

The head coverings or veils that were sometimes worn by women in biblical times concealed the faces of the women who wore them. "The cloth of a veil would be sufficiently thin that the wearer would be able to see through it, but others would find it difficult to recognize the features through the veil." [Louw, Johannes P. and Nida, Eugene A., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies) 1988, 1989.]

A light veil was sometimes worn over the head so that the woman did not show her face in a public place. Only the husband might look upon his wife's face. Hence Rebekah hid her face from Isaac before they were married (Genesis 24:65), and it was at the marriage ceremony that the veil was lifted from the bride's face and laid on the shoulder of the bridegroom . . . [Gowers, Ralph, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago) 1987.]

No passage in the Old Testament under either Patriarchy or Judaism or in the New Testament under either Judaism or Christianity institutes the wearing of a head covering or a veil upon women. Therefore, in neither testament of the Bible and under none of the three biblical historical periods was it ever a doctrine of divine origin that women wear head coverings or veils.

Further, veils on women in public was not a universal practice in biblical times. Not even godly women always wore veils in public, though in some instances those who were not especially classified as the people of God did have that custom.

Covering of the eyes  occurs only in Gen. 20:16. In the Revised Version the rendering is "it (i.e., Abimelech's present of 1,000 pieces of silver to Abraham) is for thee a covering of the eyes." This has been regarded as an implied advice to Sarah to conform to the custom of married women, and wear a complete veil, covering the eyes as well as the rest of the face. [Easton, M. G., M. A. D. D., Easton's Bible Dictionary, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1996.]

Under Patriarchy, Rebekah traveled without a veil in the company of males, but veiled herself at the approach of Isaac, her soon to be husband (Genesis 24:65-66). Under Judaism, Tamar's putting on a veil, instead of indicating she was respectable, contrariwise indicated that she was a prostitute.

"And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face" (Genesis 38:14-15; 19).

A godly woman under Judaism, Hannah, prayed in the Temple without a veil (1 Samuel 1:12). "Hebrew women generally appeared in public without veils (12:14; 24:16; 29:10; 1 Sam. 1:12)." [Ibid.]

There is no evidence to support the view that Greek women were under any compulsion to be veiled in public. In Tertullian's day Jewish women were prominent in North Africa because they wore veils on the streets. The custom seems in fact to have belonged to the Near East, as in the Assyrian law that married women and widows should be veiled in public, and harlots (slaves) unveiled. [Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1985.]

Whereas there were many places in the Roman Empire where veiled women would be conspicuous, there were likewise locations where the absence of veiled women was conspicuous. There was no more a universal culture in the first century (especially contrasting eastern and western customs) than there is a universal culture today (still contrasting eastern and western customs, among others). Overall, the Greek culture did not require its women to be veiled in public. However, in Corinth, that custom prevailed for respectable women in contrast to prostitutes and slaves. Any effort to portray a universal custom respecting the veiling of women in general and godly women in particular in any biblical period is faulty.

The apostle Paul addressed the custom of veiled women in public in the city of Corinth as it affected Christian women. He regulated their conduct with respect to a custom that though not given by God was neither right nor wrong of itself. However, the demonstrated attitude of some Christian women toward that custom brought reproach upon the Lord's church unnecessarily.

Covering women's heads 1 Corinthians 11:10. Respectable women went out with their heads covered and wore veils. Only prostitutes displayed their faces and showed off their hair in order to attract men. . . . Even when Christians have liberty in the practice of their faith they are not to shock propriety. [Gowers]

In Corinth, honorable women wore veils in public; prostitutes (of which the city abounded more than perhaps any other contemporary city) wore no veils in public; slaves and adulteresses had shaved heads. Therefore, for a Christian woman to not wear the veil in public in Corinth signified, according to prevailing custom, that she was a prostitute -- which naturally reflected unfavorably upon the Lord's church, as well as the Christian woman. The apostle Paul rebuffed the church in Corinth, not because its women did not wear veils in public, but because by not wearing veils in public, they reproached the church. "He does not here condemn the act, but the breach of custom which would bring reproach." [Robertson, Archibald Thomas, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) 1998, c1933.]

The apostle addressed head coverings or veils in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. Paul, first, affirmed that the veil custom in Corinth was compatible with divine doctrine respecting the submissive role of women to men in the church and in the home. Accordingly, with respect to what head coverings on men and women signified in Corinth, men were not to wear head coverings in worship, whereas women were to wear head coverings (veils) in worship. It seems, though, that some women had a conscience against wearing veils in the public worship, owing to new-found liberties and equality regarding redemption (Galatians 3:27-29). The apostle reminded them that the assembly was nevertheless public and to discard their veils in the worship sent the wrong signal to the world and reproached the church. Paul concluded the section with the statement that such a conscientious objection to complying with customs that did not violate God's law (veiled women here) was not sustained anywhere in the brotherhood.

The apostle Paul remarked that the angels of God would be shocked at the careless disregard for the veil custom in Corinth by female Christians. The angels' amazement pertained to the apparent disavowal of the Christian ladies' subordination to men, or so it would seem, by their bold violation of the veil custom at Corinth. In contrast, the angels of God embraced their station in God's scheme of things and did not challenge their subordination to the Godhead.

Christians, both men and women, should not lightly dismiss the customs of foreign peoples in whose lands we may be guests. As long as such customs are not inherently sinful and such a culture also expects its visitors to honor those customs, Christians should consider complying with those customs. Otherwise, we may unnecessarily bring reproach upon the church as well come under the critique of the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 11:3-16). Regarding veils, if Christian women travel or live in the eastern world, and if that particular culture also expects non-natives to adopt the veil for its women, Christian women ought to wear the veil in public. Paul, by inspiration, so advises.

On the other hand, veiled women in public is neither a western custom nor a prevalent custom in America. Therefore, the veil on women in public (worship or otherwise) is not applicable to Christian women in America. Further, the veil, were women to where it in public, does not have the same significance in America as it did in the city of Corinth. Likewise, women with uncovered heads do not in this culture automatically advertise themselves to be prostitutes. Moreover, the half-hearted attempt to comply with the veil custom of Corinth by causing Christian women to wear hats or pieces of cloth on their heads is a compromise that hardly would have been an acceptable response to the apostle Paul's criticism in 1 Corinthians 11. I do not expect to see my Christian sisters in America begin wearing veils that cover their heads and faces, but hats and pieces of cloth hardly constitute conformity to the apostle's instructions to sisters in Corinth 2,000 years ago. Let's not codify a holy hat or head cloth doctrine.

Copyright 2000 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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