Dr. Kluane Spake
Currently the church uses many catch phrases that everyone seems to understand. One is this notion that every believer needs a "covering" and every local church needs a "covering." Like Waffle House hash browns, we just gotta' be covered and smothered -- somehow it's the thing to do.
In searching the scriptures we find what was really covered: The ark had a covering (roof) Gen. 8:13. The cherubim wings covered the mercy seat; Ex. 25:20. The priest wore special underwear as a covering (Ex. 38:42). Goats' hair and rams' skins dyed red covered the tabernacle (Ex. 27:7, 14). The leper had to cover his upper lip and cry "unclean" (Lev. 13:45). Censers were used to cover the altar in Num. 16:38. Every open vessel was to be covered in the tabernacle, (Num. 19:15). Jael covered Sisera with a blanket before she killed him (Judg. 4:8). Michael covered (hid) an idol from her husband David (1 Sam. 19:113). A woman covered a well's mouth to hide her husband (2 Sam. 17:19).
Clouds were a covering (Job 22:14 and Ps. 105:39). The naked (Job 24:7), Solomon's chariot (SOS 3:10), Judah (Is. 22:8), and Death (Is. 28:20) were covered. Isaiah told about the rebellious children that covered themselves with a covering that was not of His Spirit, adding sin to sin (30:1). Sackcloth covered those in iniquity (Is. 50:3). Wings covered the body of Ezekiel's vision (EX. 1:11, 23). The King of Tyre (Lucifer) was covered with every precious stone and later called a "COVERING CHERUB" (Ez. 28). Mal. 2:13 spoke of the altar of the Lord being covered with tears. God hates a man covering himself with violence (Mal.. 2:16).
The word "covering" is described in Strong's #4018, peribolaion; "something thrown around one, a mantle, and a veil."
EXAMPLES of COVERING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:
Luke 8:16, Don't cover a light in a bushel.
Mat. 8:24, Waves covered the boat.
Mat. 10:26, Nothing covered that will not be made known.
Luke 23:30, Escape and cry out for the hills to cover you.
James 5:2, Cover a multitude of sins.
Romans 4:7, Sins are covered
1 Pet. 2:16, Don't use freedom as a cover up for evil.
14:65, Blindfold covers eyes.
Luke 22:64, blindfold
Heb. 9:4 Gold covered ark.
Luke 12:2 Nothing concealed that will not be disclosed.
1 Cor. 11:6-7 Custom of covering for her head.
Tim. 6:8, Clothing covered.
Most of us already know how Paul quickly clarifies the whole veil/covering debate concerning women. He tells the Corinthians not to be contentious about this matter 1 Cor. 11:16), explaining that Jews have no such practice of covering veils, NOR DOES THE CHURCH OF GOD. Then, Paul rebukes them (1 Cor. 11:17) because they had come together "not for the better but for the worse." This church wanted to assert control over their women. Then right after that, he goes on to tell them the right way to take communion!
Paul says, it's up to them they can veil if they want. Permission to veil isn't a command to do so or a principle to follow for centuries even in other nations. Rather, Paul told the Corinthian church, "Never mind. This is only a custom wearing material on your head really isn't a big deal -- but if it matters to you, then wear it." He also says that women don't need a special covering, neither of cloth, nor another person. Ideally, women should unveil before God, men, and angels who enjoy seeing women worship.
If Paul had disapproved of women teaching and preaching he could have easily expressed that opinion here, but he didn't. The issue here was the cultural practice of Greek women covering their faces with veils (clothing), it was not universal edict about women needing to be covered by men! Paul concluded, "You can all prophesy one by one..." (veiled or unveiled, I Cor. 14:31).
When viewed as a summary concerning church government, we see that Paul's advice assured that all things be done decently and in order.
He continues saying "Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman and all things are from God" (I Cor. 11:11-12). This shows the equality of believers as part of the body that comprises the whole (I Cor. 12:26). Paul projects a new vision of the body of Christ, envisioning the personhood and interdependence of men and women existing together in Christ -- a breakthrough in the first century Christendom, that soon went askew.
1st Corinthians 11 essentially concerns cultural issues. Paul was not establishing a practice of "covering" until the end of time.
Influential women frequently appeared unveiled in public under the Roman Empire at this time. Jewish women normally didn't wear veils. But veiling was a significant ethnic social problem to the Greeks (in Corinth), to whom this Scripture is addressed.
There's no Scriptural support for the need for a woman to need a male covering.
The question now is DO BELIEVERS NEED A COVERING? DO CHURCHES? PASTORS?
COVERING IN THE LOCAL CHURCH:
The Middle Ages stagnated individual thought and personal revelation. Apostolic authority was established to contain the governmental structure and the status quo of the church so that things wouldn't change. Scriptures were only interpreted to confirm what the Apostolic authority had already established. If contradictions emerged, then the interpretive writings of the Apostolic Fathers were chosen above the Scriptures. Everyone accepted that what the Church (the custodian and absolute official interpreter) said about criticism -- and that interpretation was official.
In contrast, proper Biblical church government clearly establishes a theocratic type of rule, in which God selects leaders and then equips them to rule -- according to His will. The principles of power and authority can make a book in themselves. For this discussion, let's look at how Jesus expanded the idea of ruling when He said that ALL POWER in heaven and on earth was given to Him (Matt. 28:18-20). The Vines definition for this word "power" (sometimes translated "authority") here is "exousia" -- which really means that ability, privilege, force, capacity, competency, freedom, mastery, magistrate, and superhuman delegated influence was given to Him.
Soon, Jesus gave that same incredible "exousia" to His disciples (Matt. 9:8, Luke 9:1). That means it's for each one of us whether we are clergy or laity, bond or free, male or female, Jew or Greek. Now, it's up to us to activate that quality that we ALREADY POSSESS!
Our ability to rule comes from using His name not from ourselves. Jesus said that we even have this power over evil spirits (Matt. 110:1).
Each believer and each church can experience God's full measure of competency. We don't need another mediator. We don't need an intermediate priest. We come boldly to the throne of grace.
"Covering" has become one of our most "Sacred Cows." And if I don't agree with you on this issue, I'm in trouble now. As Fred Sandford said, "This must be the big one, Elizabeth!" Hold on tight, cuz' here it comes again. The current usage of church phrase "covering" is a misnomer. Accurate government doesn't mean to cover, dictate, restrain, have power over, control, or constrain.
Okay. So, I know all your arguments to the contrary. They've been taught to all of us for generations. In fact, I've personally "covered" several churches in the past. That's the way it was done! But, like Priscilla and Aquila, we begin to understand "a way more perfectly" (Acts 18:26). Just allow this new idea to be considered, even for a moment. Could we at least agree to reconsider what we've always known? The bottom lines is -- yes there's governmental authority, but it's not a "covering" from the top. It's an upholding or under-girding from beneath. Proper authority is fully satisfied in the establishment of God's image and likeness and His proceeding Word into the lives of the believer.
THE WHOLE IDEA IS TO BECOME UNCOVERED!!
2 Cor 3:15-18 "Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers (kaluma) their hearts (cardia, thoughts or feelings). 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, THE VEIL (kaluma, covering) IS TAKEN AWAY. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM (legitimate liberty, from 1658, no longer a slave, unrestrained, exempt from obligation or liability. Hence, no need for covering). And we, who with UNVEILED (anaklupto, uncovered) faces ALL REFLECT the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." NIV Oh, precious God, let me read that again! We can't reflect God's glory if our faces are covered.
Paul continues about being unveiled/uncovered. 2 Cor 4:3-6 "And even if our gospel is veiled (kalupto #2573, covered), it is veiled (kalupto, covered) to those who are perishing (God) made his light shine in our hearts (cardia, thoughts or feelings) to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." NIV
Governmental authority structure should not represent a hierarchical "COVERING." We've nearly made a multi-level marketing chart like I'm UNDER your covering -- and I'm the covering OVER these. "Freedom" means that we are not improperly dominated, intimidated, or coerced. Five-fold positions are NOT given so we can puffer-belly our way to self-importance. Ministry is a temporal job of FUNCTION not RANKING. The issue is not position but is service. Ministry is a grace gift. We're not better, above, or more spiritual than others. It's just our job to lead by example, to serve, to instruct with accurate impartation, and to model behavior until they can.
When Jesus acknowledged the faith of the Centurion for understanding accountability it indicated that the Centurion knew that Jesus didn't need to go to any further to get the job done, He only needed to send His Word. The Centurion understood the authority of the Word. He believed it and received his answer.
Sooooo, am I promoting rebellion, anarchy, or self-rule? Of course not! Is there governmental authority? Absolutely. Accountability? You bet! But does it "cover" you? No. Accountability supports you. It's not OVER you; it's UNDER you. It's your safety. Ephesians 2:20 "built on the FOUNDATION of the apostle, prophet," etc. (See also 2 Tim. 2:9, 1 Cor. 3:10.)
We're talking about the freedom to yield by preference to those who are veterans in the truth that's Biblical. Deferring to delegated leadership is a choice that we all make in order to get a job done more efficiently. Participating in proper relationships to authority should become a foundational principle. Ideally, ministers should find seasoned ministers to advise them and they should also establish peer level intimacy with like-natured ministries -- correcting and helping one another, mutually submitting one to another in the bond of peace.
We see the example of the primary church rulers in Antioch. James and the other Apostles didn't gloat about being "over" a bunch of churches. They had no secret need to control. These Apostles didn't isolate themselves as super-spiritual coverings. Rather, they considered their disciples as their sons. They SERVED in wisdom and dignity. They helped. They passionately cared. They got under and lifted up the needy. And, among many other things, the Apostles (as foundational ministers) rightfully set things in order, corrected doctrine, recognized incorrect behavior, and called for answerability.
That's support - not "covering." That's righteous governing - not exploitation. That's being the foundation - not the tip of the top. That's instruction - not insistence. That's being a greater servant - not a big wheel! Now please pay attention, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28, Mk. 10:45). He washed their feet. It's all a matter of ATTITUDE. Authority must become the position of strength and support that we offer to others as needed -- to sustain, to be there, to undergird, to lend assistance, to reinforce, to collaborate. That's why we're SENT -- to confirm, to supply, to nurture, and to adjust.
In recent years, we've seen excessive abuse in the misunderstanding of the position of leadership. True Godly leadership provides the essential order and guidance that lovingly enables other Christians to mature and find their own answers. True five-fold ministry brings adulthood to the believer and to the church! It brings capability, responsibility, and competency. It releases others to develop and achieve. It enables activation. It unveils new revelation knowledge to the church. It blasts away at ingrained thoughts that have been held captive in religious minds. It's the battle-axe that breaks down the forbidden archives of entrenched tradition the way it's always been.
1 Thess. 5:12-13 says, "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are OVER YOU (4235, pro, in front of or gone before and 2476 histemi which means to stand) in the Lord and who admonish (remind, gently give instruction, teach) you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work." In other words, those who stand as having gone before you deserve respect and regard.
Heb 13:17 "Obey (3929 almost always translated as believe, be persuaded, trust, have confidence in) your leaders and submit (5226, yield to them) to their authority (these last three words are not in the Greek, but were added to text by translator). They keep watch over you as men who must give an account (3056 logos, say something). Obey (not in original text it should be "likewise") them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." NIV Perhaps we could say it like this, "Trust in your leaders and yield to them for they watch over you and must/will say things about you."
Unfortunately, the greatest enigma most clergy people ever have is actually "taking the oversight" that has been given to them. They hesitate to take it thinking that they are somehow in need of a "covering" that will help make their decisions or protect them. This sense of a lack of "covering" causes inherent weakness and impotence. Victims vacillate with indecisiveness. They unnecessarily waiver with uncertainty. Now is the day for change. Every leader must become firmly aware of what Christ has already accomplished for them and all humankind.
It's time for a change. Take the oversight thereof (1 Peter 5:2). OVERSIGHT episkopeo means to look carefully upon or to contemplate. Vines describes episkopeo as not being a matter of assuming a position, but of the accomplishment of vision. Solid leadership requires the competence to believe what God reveals to you and then stand firmly behind it. This doesn't mean you should stand alone, but as part of an integral team of equals who provide checks and balances for one another. It means you listen to correction and make changes. The church needs those who are content with their being, who can work shoulder to shoulder, and who are able to communicate fresh insight into roles of positional leadership. They must securely anchor "in Him" and with one another, with a readiness to minister with effective influence.
Many theological changes will occur as believers begin to move into the emancipation of God's liberty. The CHURCH of GOD HAS NO SUCH PRACTICE AS COVERING (1 Cor. 11:16).