Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 25: Collection of Newsletters (1), by Watchman Nee

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In the seventh issue of Collection of Newsletters, I read Brother David Hsu’s letter from Ningpo and the editor’s response. I was led by the Holy Spirit and am willing to answer the sisters’ question concerning head covering according to the light received from the Lord.

Today we should lay down all of our own ideas and opinions because they cause people to argue divisively. If we take Christ’s mind as our own and have a heart of obedience, we will be able to receive a clear answer from the Lord to any question. Today people bring in man’s opinion because they are not willing to obey. They twist the Bible to fit their own personal opinion. This is something we should all reject. Therefore, I would like to examine fully how the Bible treats the matter of sisters covering their heads in order to avoid our own error. If someone finds evidence outside of the Bible concerning the matter of head covering, he is not willing to obey the Word of God and is opposing God. May all the sisters today boldly obey God’s commandment and seek to please God so the Lord can gain something!

The only passage in the Bible concerning the sisters covering their heads is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. It says:

"But I praise you because in all things you have remembered me and hold fast the things that I have handed down even as I handed them down to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraces his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head; for it is one and the same as she who is shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her hair also be cut off; but if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, let her be covered. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is God’s image and glory; but the women is the glory of the man. For man is not out of woman, but woman out of man; for also man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. Therefore the woman ought to have a sign of submission to authority on her head for the sake of the angels. However neither is woman without man, nor man without woman, in the Lord. For just as the woman is out from the man, so also is the man through the woman; but all things are out from God. Judge this in your own selves: Is it fitting for a woman to pray uncovered to God? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, because her long hair has been given to her for a covering. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we do not have such a custom of being so, neither the churches of God."

What we see from this passage is that it is completely a matter of position. First Corinthians 11:3 says, "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ." This verse means that everyone (both male and female) belongs to Christ, that the woman belongs to man, and that Christ belongs to God. In another aspect, it means that since Christ is the head of everyone, we all should obey Christ; since man is the head of the woman, the woman should obey the man; and since God is the head of Christ, Christ obeys God. Christ originally had the form of God; however, He did not grasp His equality with God but poured Himself out and willingly took the form of a slave, becoming in the likeness of men. He obeyed even unto death. Christ kept His position; therefore, He received the name above all names (Phil. 2:6-9). Today each of us (both male and female) should stand in the position God has given us and obey Christ because Christ is the head of each one of us. Since man is the head of the woman, and since woman was created for man, women should stand in the proper position and obey God’s command. Today people are not willing to stand in their God-given position to keep His commandments. For this reason, it seems that day by day, more and more things are in rebellion against God! May the Lord shine His light on us so we can obey and stand in the position we were meant to stand in to serve our God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

From the arguments in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, we see that women should cover their heads. There are two reasons a woman should cover her head:

(1) Man is the head of the woman (vv. 3-5).

The meaning of head covering is that it is a sign of not being the head and of not heading things up. According to these few verses, women should cover their heads to pray and prophesy in order to manifest that the man is the head. Not covering one’s head is a denial of man’s headship and opposes God’s order in His creation. A man should not cover his head because he is the head of the woman. He bears God’s image and His glory. If we speak of the spiritual reality, each person (male and female) has a covered head (that is they are not the head) in order to manifest that Christ is the head of each one. Therefore, no matter what, the woman’s head should be covered. This is revealed clearly in this section.

(2) There should be a symbol of authority on the head for the sake of the angels (v. 10).

Head covering is a symbol of submission to authority. It is a testimony to the angels that the woman created by God is for man and that she acknowledges man as the head in an expression of obedience to the position God gave her. What does it really mean when we say that head covering is for the angels? We should read the two passages in Genesis 3:1-21 and 6:1-4. They give us the reason.

(a) Genesis 3:1-21 talks about Eve in the garden of Eden being led astray by the serpent into the fall. Eve did not keep her position as a woman. She denied Adam as her head and made herself the head (Adam obeyed Eve—vv. 6, 17). She did not ask Adam’s permission but ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by herself and of her own will. She took the devil’s temptation (the devil was once a shining star, a son of the morning—Isa. 14:12, one of the anointed cherubim covering the ark of the covenant—Ezek. 28:14) and fell into sin. For this reason, the New Testament says in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, "Let a woman learn in quietness in all subjection; but I do not permit a woman to teach or to assert authority over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived; but the woman, having been quite deceived, has fallen into transgression." Because Eve did not keep her position according to the order of God’s creation and did not obey Adam who was formed first, she fell into transgression. For this reason, the sisters today should testify before the angels that they are satisfied with the position God has given them. They should express their obedience to the order of God’s creation and stand in the position of a woman to acknowledge the headship of man and obey. Head covering is the symbol of this obedience.

(b) Genesis 6:1-4 speaks of the sons of God (they are angels—Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) seeing the beauty of women and taking wives of all that they chose. (They were the angels who did not stay in their original position—Jude 6.) The marriage of two different kinds of beings caused the wrath of God to come upon the angels who left their proper position. He imprisoned them in darkness forever until the great day of judgment (Jude 6). Since the human race had become fleshly like the sons of God, God used the flood to destroy them. Woman was created for man to be a mate for man. God never intended that she be joined to the angels. This action was disobedience to God. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 11:9-10 says that woman was created "for the sake of the man. Therefore the woman ought to have a sign of submission to authority on her head for the sake of the angels." Women should cover their heads to prove to the angels that they were created for the sake of man and to express their obedience to God’s order in creation, so they need a symbol of submission to authority on their heads.

Now let us speak of the situation in Corinth at that time. From what is written in chapter eleven, we can clearly know that the believing women in Corinth at that time did not cover their heads. Therefore, Paul exhorted them to cover their heads and told them the reason women should cover their heads. Some people think that Paul gave this type of teaching because head covering was a custom in Corinth. But by reading 1 Corinthians 1:2, we see that this letter was not just written to the people in Corinth, it was also written to all those who call upon the name of the Lord. From the word "every" in 1 Corinthians 11:5, we can see that the women in Corinth were not the only ones who should cover their heads. All women in the Lord should cover their heads. This is a serious command that may not be contended against, because we do not have such a custom in the churches of God. Furthermore, in the Bible, God never asks us to follow the customs of the worldly people. May the Lord’s Word be honored and may the Lord’s authority have a place in people’s hearts.

Some think that if a woman has long hair she does not need to cover her head because her hair acts as a covering. Please remember that if you believe that a woman should have long hair for a covering, it is sufficient proof that she should cover her head. Look at the wording of 1 Corinthians 11:6. It shows us that women believers in those days were ashamed of cutting their hair. Therefore, the apostle says that if a woman is ashamed to cut or shave her hair, she should cover her head. (A woman who is not ashamed to cut her hair has not arrived at the point of covering her head.)

One further question concerns when a woman should cover her head. The passage from the Bible in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 does not clearly say when a woman should cover her head. We do not need to guess whether this passage is talking about the meetings or in private. However, one thing is sure—when a woman prays or prophesies, she should cover her head.

Today we should let the Lord be the head. We should each stand in our proper position to serve Him. May God be glorified in the church and in the Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:21).

Your brother,
Hsu Chung Chieh
July 14, 1934


(1) Tsou Ts’ai Kao and Ts’ai Yun Hsien, the two brothers who were imprisoned in northern Kiangsu for suspicion of committing a crime, were freed on June 28. They arrived peacefully home on July 2. They learned the lesson through this experience. While they were imprisoned, they passed the days by reading the Bible.

(2) The address of the meeting in Wenchow has already changed to 9 Great Hall, Sha Mao River. Brother P’an Huo Ling’s mailing address is the same also.

(3) Brother Chung Wen Chao from Nanking came to Shanghai in the beginning of July to work in the Chiang Wan Livestock Company.

(4) Brother Ch’ien Neng Sheng, a responsible brother in Tsinan, also came to Shanghai at the end of July to work in the Chiang Wan Livestock Company.

(5) Brother Chang Kuang Jung went to Hangchow at the end of July. He is now studying the Bible with the brothers and sisters there.

(6) Brother Watchman Nee went to Foochow in the middle of July.

(7) Sister Miao Yun Chun returned home to Changchow from Peking on July 30 because her mother was sick. Her mother is now well.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 25: Collection of Newsletters (1), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)