We are well aware that in most of the visible church, even in many of its professedly reformed branches, we live in a day and generation when no issue is made of distinctions in hair length between men and women. Most churches have little or nothing to say about it – even among the few who still rightly insist on women covering their heads in public worship. Long hair for women is considered a merely cultural matter of the outdated past, which can be safely ignored for all practical purposes today, leaving hair length to so-called “Christian liberty”.
In an unwarranted and misguided appeal to 1 Samuel 16:7, many think that God does not care about people’s outward appearance, as long as their hearts are right. The truth, of course, is that if people have the grace of God in their hearts, they will take heed to everything the Bible says, not only about the inward exercises of their souls, but also about their outward conduct.
Does Scripture speak on the issue of hair length? That is the question. If the Bible is silent or non-committal on the subject, then we may be so too. But if God’s Word has spoken on the matter, then we must contend earnestly for this part of the Christian faith, along with every other part of revealed religion.
The Bible most certainly does have something to say about the length of hair for males and females. The most significant passage of Scripture to deal with the topic is found in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11:5-16.
Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
In this passage Paul teaches plainly the following principles:
- Women’s and men’s hair are to be distinct.
- Women’s and men’s hair are to be distinct in length.
- Women should have long hair and men should have short hair.
- “Nature” teaches long hair for women and short hair for men.
- It is shameful for women to have short hair and men to have long hair.
- A woman with short hair is dishonouring male headship.
- Long hair is a woman’s glory.
- Long hair is a gift to women.
- Long hair is a woman’s covering.
- Every church must implement this distinction.
1. Women’s and men’s hair are to be distinct.
The Bible insists on a distinction between male and female, involving not only their distinct characters and roles but also their outward appearance. This visible distinction includes their different clothing, and this passage extends it to differences in hair. Men and women are not to have the same hair. The passage shows that “if a man have long hair” (verse 14), that is one thing. But “if a woman have long hair” (verse 15), that is an entirely different matter. Therefore hair does matter! A woman’s hair is given to her, not to a man, “for a covering” (verse 15).
That there is to be a distinction between male and female hair is confirmed by an assumption in another passage of God’s Word. Revelation 9:7-8 states in its description of the locusts that “their faces were as the faces of men” but “they had hair as the hair of women”. Clearly, as far as Scripture is concerned, men’s and women’s hair are to be visibly different, just as their faces are.
2. Women’s and men’s hair are to be distinct in length.
It is not mere hair style that is to distinguish male and female hair. Scripturally, the focus is on the hair length. Language relating to length of hair is used in the passage over and over again: “as if she were shaven” (verse 5); “let her also be shorn; . . . for a woman to be shorn or shaven” (verse 6); “if a man have long hair” (verse 14); “if a woman have long hair” (verse 15).
In Revelation 9:7-8, the locusts’ hair had to be something that was immediately distinctive as women’s hair, and that could only be its length.
So Scripture requires more than a distinctively feminine hairstyle. It is not enough that a woman has her hair in a style that a man would not have. Biblically, it is the length of her hair that must chiefly distinguish her hair from a man’s.
3. Women should have long hair and men should have short hair.
Paul’s words are clear to everyone who is willing to receive them: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (1 Cor. 11:14-15). As far as hair is concerned, the distinction between “a man” and “a woman” is to be shown in the different lengths of their hair. If a man’s hair is long, that is “a shame” and therefore wrong. But if a woman’s hair is long, that is “a glory” and therefore right. So, the teaching of the passage is clear enough: men and boys should have short hair; women and girls should have long hair. As an article in the November 1927 Free Presbyterian Magazine rightly said: “This one passage should suffice for all who wish to please God” (p. 273). (This article is available at this link.)
Often those who make a stand on the issue of hair are accused of being Pharasaic and legalistic. But what is legalism? It is when man-made laws are imposed on the people of God without the warrant of Scripture. That is one of the things the Pharisees did, for which the Saviour condemned them: “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9). But long hair on women and short hair on men, this is the commandment of God, not the tradition of men! It comes from the Word of God.
Legalism is also when people attempt to make themselves right with God through keeping the law rather than believing the gospel.This is another thing the Pharisees did, going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting to the righteousness of God revealed in Christ. But contending for Biblical standards, whether it be the love of the brethren or distinctions in hair length, is not in and of itself legalism in that self-righteous sense. We are not saying that people can get right with God through growing and cutting their hair. Far from it! But we are saying that those who are right with God – through faith alone in Christ alone – will want to do the will of God, including having their hair as He determines. That is not working for their salvation, but working out the salvation that they have already received by faith, in a life of devotion to the Lord who bought them.
4. “Nature” teaches long hair for women and short hair for men.
“Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (verses 14 and 15).
The word nature (Greek phusis) in Scripture is always used to refer to creation ordinances. Paul constantly uses it to refer to the created order, what God has ordained from creation onwards. So Paul is speaking of the universal innate judgement that short hair is naturally becoming for a man and long hair is naturally the glory of the woman. Therefore short hair on women and girls is unnatural. It is a clear violation of God’s law relating to maintaining the God-ordained difference between the sexes established at creation. It is rebellion against the creation work of God, for “male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:27). Secular writers of Paul’s time such as Epictetus and Dio Chrysostom condemned long hair in men in exactly the same terms: as being “against nature”.
The argument in this passage clearly runs that short hair is masculine and not feminine. Paul states that nature teaches this distinction. It is something that applies in all cultures in all places at all times. Nature here altogether excludes the idea of a mere local custom, specific to Corinth in the first century.
So this is the answer to those who evade the teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 by saying that it applied only to Corinth and the Greek culture of the day. This excuse for disobeying this part of God’s Word is trundled out so often that it becomes wearisome. The words of 1 Corinthians 11 could not make it clearer that the requirement of long hair for women and short hair for men is grounded on permanent “nature”, not temporary “culture”. Nature refers to the created order. Like the weekly Sabbath day of rest, it comes from the beginning of the world, and is to continue to its end. It is not something that can be changed.
Paul argued from nature when insisting that women should not teach or usurp authority over men in 1 Timothy 2:12-13. He traced one reason for that back to the created order: “For Adam was first formed, and then Eve”. Even nature teaches that women should not take positions of authority in the church. And the same nature teaches that women should have long hair and men short hair. It is amazing that so many who still (rightly) reject the idea of female office-bearers in the church (whether ministers, elders or deacons), nevertheless completely fail to reject short hair on women – for at least one of the grounds on which both requirements are made is the same: the natural gender distinction as ordained by the Creator.
Paul uses the word nature in Romans 1:26 when explaining that both male and female homosexuality is against the creation ordinance of marriage between the man and the woman: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” Homosexual behaviour, the apostle says, is against nature (phusis); that is, it is against God’s original order established at creation. That which subverts and perverts such creation ordinances is regarded as an “abomination” to the Lord (Lev. 20:13, Deut. 22:5). This is also therefore true of hair length! A woman with short hair, and a man with long hair, are against the natural, created order established by God from the beginning. A woman’s long hair has been “given her” (verse 15) by God the Creator.
When evangelicals single out homosexuality as particularly against Scripture and nature, but quietly ignore other things that are equally against Scripture and nature, they are being selective and not handling the Word of God consistently. They do this when they ignore what Scripture says about differences in male and female hair.
What of the fact that some women’s hair physically will not grow long? Does that not contradict the idea that nature requires female hair to be long? Many who make this argument have no difficulty in growing their own hair long, if only they wanted to. And the fact that a minority of women (and it is a minority!) have difficulty growing their hair long, whether for health or age reasons, does not negate the Scriptural requirement that female hair should be long whenever possible. Some, through old age or infirmity, cannot physically attend public church services. Does that mean that Scripture does not require everyone else to do so? Of course not. No one argues that.
We live in a fallen world, where sin has brought many difficulties and hardships. Men are to be bread-winners, providing for their families, but what of the man who is disabled and cannot work? Does his disability refute the general duty of all men? Of course not. But we think that such a man, if gracious, whilst submissive to the Lord, would nevertheless grieve and mourn over his inability as a general consequence of sin. We would expect the same from a gracious woman who truly cannot grow her hair, for all her endeavours and for all her prayers. She will grieve that on account of sin in the world she cannot do more, knowing that it is not her personal sin that her hair is not longer.
It should be noted on this subject that there is a physical distinction between male and female, in that baldness affects men much more than it does women, meaning that in the Lord’s kindness the problem is not as large as some want to make out.
Again it is said that some women’s hair is so tightly curled that it does not appear to be long. This is argued, not only in respect of individual women, but also across whole groups of women, for example those who come from sub-Saharan Africa. Does that not undermine the idea that it is nature’s requirement for women to have long hair? It is true that some women’s hair is tightly curled, but that does not stop it from growing long. The “Afro” hairstyle is evidence of that fact. Such hair, when long enough, can be gathered together in a ponytail, for example, and appear feminine and distinct from the men’s short curly hair, without the need for chemicals to straighten it. Godly women who understand nature and Scripture will want to do this, however degraded their culture may have become as to obliterate for centuries the hair-length distinction between male and female.
5. It is shameful for women to have short hair and men to have long hair.
It is as shameful for a woman to have her hair cut short (“shorn”) as to have her head shaved completely bald (“shaven”). “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered” (verses 5 and 6). Likewise, it is shameful for a man to have long hair: “If a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him” (verse 14).
When Paul speaks of long hair on a man as shameful according to nature he uses the same Greek word (atimia) that is used in Romans 1:26 to describe the vileness of homosexual practice: “God gave them up unto vile affections”. Sodomy is “vile”. It is dishonourable, disgraceful and shameful. In our day sodomy might well be “highly esteemed among men”, even to the point of being accorded “marriage” rights, but that does not stop it being “abominable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
The same applies to a man having long hair! According to the Word of God, it too is vile, dishonourable, disgraceful and shameful. It was not lost on the ancient Greeks that there was a link between the shameful obliteration of proper gender distinctions in sodomy and the same obliteration in men having long hair, for homosexuals were often depicted on Greek vases with long hair. The word atimia was commonly used by secular writers to denounce long hair on a man as effeminate and degrading.
It is a different Greek word (aischron) that Paul uses in verse 6 to describe the shame of a woman with short or shaven hair. This word condemns the practice as morally base and unacceptable, giving the woman a deformed appearance. Another word that Paul uses in Romans 1:27 to describe sodomy is similar in meaning. When men leave the natural use of the woman in favour of unnatural lust one toward another, then “men with men” are “working that which is unseemly.” This Greek word (aschemosynen) refers to deviation from an accepted standard and therefore something that is disgraceful. Short hair on a woman is deviant practice from the created norm of nature. It is something to be ashamed of.
If it is so shameful for a man to have long hair, it might be asked why the Nazarites were required to have long hair. “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow” (Num. 6:5). This was part of the ceremonial law, during the temporary period of the Mosaic economy which ended with the coming of Christ.
The whole point of the Nazarite vow was that it was a most extraordinary separation to God, usually for a fixed period, during which many “natural” things were forbidden to him. Not only was he not to cut his hair – an unnatural thing, but also he was not to consume anything that came from the vine. The vine was a central part of Israel’s agriculture. To refrain from all contact with it was most unnatural. Likewise, he was to have nothing to do with the burial of the dead, even for the closest relatives. That too is most unnatural. Because of his vow, he had nothing to be ashamed of. But this was not the rule for others. If anyone else refused to have anything to do with the burial of their loved ones, that would be shameful.
So the Nazarite’s not cutting his hair during the time of his vow, which for him was not shameful, does not undermine the naturalness of cutting his hair ordinarily. The elaborate ceremony for cutting his hair at the end of his vow, including throwing it under the sacrifice (see Num. 6:18), emphasises the altogether unusual state of the Nazarite’s hair.
6. A woman with short hair is dishonouring male headship.
“Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (verse 5). In other words, to have a shaven head would dishonour her head, just as her appearing in public worship without a headcovering would do. And the next verse equates a shorn head with a shaven head. Shortened hair is the same as a bald head, for such a woman would look like a man. That would bring dishonour upon her “head”, meaning not the head of her body, but her husband, the head of her family. Male headship is a theme running right through this passage in 1 Corinthians 11. Short hair on a wife, making her look like her husband, is not giving honour to the principle of the male headship of the home.
Paul says in verse 7 that “the woman is the glory of the man”. In other words, she is meant to bring honour to the man. She is to honour him as the head of the home and to acknowledge his God-ordained authority. The visible distinction of her long hair and his short hair signifies this honourable role distinction, but that symbol is obliterated in dishonour if she has short hair, making herself to appear the same as him, as if she were trying to assume his role in the family. This demonstrates how short hair in women undermines the creation order and ordinances in yet another way. It is no coincidence that in western society the introduction of short hair on women has coincided with women casting off their submissive role in marriage.
7. Long hair is a woman’s glory.
“If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her” (verse 15). How opposite this is to those who say that outward appearance is irrelevant! The Word of God says that a woman’s long hair is her “glory”. Although it is a mark of her God-ordained subjection to her husband, her long hair is a glorious thing.
For it is glorious to submit to God’s order, wherever that order puts someone.It is the glory of Christ the Mediator that He humbled Himself according to God’s appointment. Believers see untold glory in their Saviour’s humiliation on their behalf. And there is glory to be seen when a Christian child submits himself to his parents, a Christian employee to his employer, a Christian citizen to the state, a Christian church member to his office-bearers – and when a Christian wife submits herself to her husband. Her long hair speaks of that. Whether they all understand it or not, every woman and every girl with long hair has the symbol on her head of the created order established by God of male headship and female subjection. That is how Eve was created – and that was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The “woman in the city, which was a sinner” (Luke 7:37) had more than enough to be ashamed of, on account of the many sins of her past disreputable life. But when her contrition, thankfulness and love overflowed that day in the Pharisee’s house, she had nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it was her glory to express her devotion to her Saviour, through whom she was forgiven so much, in the way that she did.
What was it that she did? She “stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment” (Luke 7:38). It was her glory, not only to have enough tears of godly sorrow to wash her Saviour’s feet, not only to have enough love to kiss those blessed feet, not only to bestow her costly ointment upon them, but also to have hair that was long enough to be able to “wipe them with the hairs of her head”.
She was showing love to Christ in a way that no man could ever do. That is glorious. This glory belongs to every Christian woman and girl who keeps her hair long. It has been said that this was “one of the most delightful moments in our blessed Lord’s experience on earth” (Free Presbyterian Magazine, November 1927, p. 273). The same article tellingly applied the lesson to professing women with short hair:
But where would our present-day defaced sisters have been in such a scene? What service could they have rendered the Lord in their unnatural condition?
Later in the Saviour’s life, very soon before He offered up Himself for the sins of His people, He was to experience another woman showing her love to Him, and understanding of His sufferings, in a similar way. This was Mary of Bethany. “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3). She too had hair long enough to wipe the Redeemer’s feet with it. And again He showed His appreciation of what she had done: “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me” (Matt. 26:10).
It was Mary as a woman that the disciples had criticised. It was Mary as a woman, and as a Christian woman performing a service of love to Him that only a woman could, that Christ defended. That was her glory! Again the 1927 Magazine article (p. 274) applied the lesson to professing women with short hair:
How strangely ill at ease our poor shorn sisters would have been had they been present in the Bethany home that day!
8. Long hair is a gift to women.
“If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (verse 15). God the Creator has bestowed on women and girls the gift of long hair – a gift that He has expressly not given to men and boys. The converted woman in Luke 7, who had been such a sinner, understood that, and showed her gratitude by putting her hair to such good use. As she used her hair to wipe the Saviour’s feet, she had an attitude of soul that was saying with the psalmist, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” (Ps. 116:12). One of those benefits was her long hair. That should be the approach of every gracious woman towards her hair. The psalmist answered his own question. “I will take the cup of salvation” (Ps. 116:13). Salvation includes all the Lord’s gifts. Long hair should be looked on as a kind gift from the Lord, not an onerous and irksome burden. To the children of God, “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
This attitude would silence the objection raised by some, that it is too much hard work to keep hair long. Of course more effort is involved in keeping long hair clean and tidy than short hair. But the people of God do not in the first instance consult their own ease when it comes to the Lord’s requirements. Those who are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness are primarily concerned with the will of their Saviour, saying, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). The operations of divine grace will incline their hearts to the testimonies of the Lord, whatever the cost. For the Lord’s sake, they will do anything. Caring for their long hair, which is their glory and His gift to them, will be but a small part of godly women’s sacrificial living for the Lord, constrained by His sacrificial love to them. What a small thing to do, to please the Lord, after the infinite sacrifice He has made for them!
Even in places of the world where water is hard to come by, the Lord’s people will be careful to find a way. Women of the world can do it, for the sake of culture and nature, in some of the driest and poorest circumstances, like rural India. Surely then women of grace can do it, for Scripture’s sake, however difficult their circumstances may be.
9. Long hair is a woman’s covering.
“If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (verse 15). The passage speaks a lot about the woman’s head covering. When writing about head coverings in public worship, he had used the various Greek words related to kalumma (katakalupto, akatakaluptos, akatakalupto). But now that he is dealing with the woman’s hair as a covering, Paul introduces a different Greek word, the word peribolaion. This shows that he is dealing with two kinds of covering in the passage: head coverings to be put on during public worship; and the covering of hair.
The word peribolaion signifies literally “to throw all around” like a mantle or veil. It therefore refers to something copious that wraps about a person. This gives the indication that a woman’s long hair must be of some copious length. People will want to ask, sometimes implicitly disputing with the words of inspiration, the sufficiency of Scripture and the wisdom of God, “How long is long then?”. But there is an evident difference between long and short. They are relative. Medium is another relative term in measuring length. These things are clear enough for those that categorise hairstyles according to length for women in glossy magazines, and surely they are clear enough for those who wish to follow the Word of God.
This clearly answers those who argue weakly that the word for hair (komao) used in the passage only means hairstyle and has nothing to do with hair length. It is absurd that a mere hairstyle can be given for a covering of the sort that we have noticed. Since the verb komao only appears here in the New Testament they have to attempt to make inferences from suggested meanings drawn from outside the New Testament. In fact the word really means “to grow long tresses or locks”. If a man does that, it is wrong. But a woman must do that; she must cover her head with long hair. A Christian woman, wanting to please Christ, will not be satisfied with hair that could be mistaken as merely medium in length – she will want there to be no doubt whatsoever that her hair is long – after all, “her hair is given her for a covering”!
A woman’s long hair, then, speaks of her modesty as well as her subjection. Like a veil, it is a covering. Women are to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Tim. 2:9). The covering of their long hair is part of their modest appearance.
10. Every church must implement this distinction
Lastly, since Scripture is clear, the church must be clear and uniform in its practice. “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (verse 16). Those who would depart from the clear teaching of the apostle and seek to undermine it are being contentious. They are dividing their fellow believers from the requirements of God’s Word and from other believers. Paul gives “ordinances” (verse 2) by the authority of God but they would rather have their own “custom”. They are seeking to replace the commandment of God with man’s “custom” or cultural norm. They would try to say that the apostle is simply reflecting the cultural norms and attitudes of his day and that these do not apply now. They think that they are free to substitute one set of human norms for another. It is, however, a dangerous act of rebellion against God’s Word and against nature itself.
In better days the visible church gave no unclear sound on this matter, demonstrating that up until recently there was no other custom in the churches of God.
In the seventeenth century, John Trapp wrote on verses 14 and 15:
Methinks our monstrous fashionists, both male and female, the one for nourishing their horrid bushes of vanity, the other for their most unnatural and cursed cutting their hair, should every hour fear and tremble. . . . It is a vile thing to go against nature.
In the eighteenth century, John Gill wrote in his commentary on verse 6:
But if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven: as it is accounted in all civilized nations: the very Heathens speak of it as a thing abominable, and of which there should not be one single dreadful example.
Matthew Henry’s commentary is no different:
Should there not be a distinction kept up between the sexes in wearing their hair, since nature has made one? Is it not a distinction which nature has kept up among all civilized nations? The woman’s hair is a natural covering; to wear it long is a glory to her; but for a man to have long hair, or cherish it, is a token of softness and effeminacy.
That this was the universal mind of the visible church even until the fairly recent past is made clear by Jamieson Fausset and Brown’s commentary (from the nineteenth century) on verse 5:
As woman’s hair is given her by nature, as her covering (1 Cor. 11:15), to cut it off like a man, all admit, would be indecorous. [emphasis added]
How shocked the godly of the past would be if they could see most in the professing churches of our day! The moral laxities introduced in the twentieth century have wrought havoc in the visible church as well as in western society. Women and girls with short hair are just one part of the general blurring of gender distinctions. We should not be surprised that things have declined even to the point of men “marrying” men and women “marrying” women, when for so many decades women were dressing like men and cutting their hair like men, and men were growing their hair like women. When they realise this, surely women with grace will be repenting and growing their hair, and men with grace will be keeping their hair short.
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has constantly witnessed against backsliding on this issue. An article in the Free Presbyterian Magazine of November 1927 shows what a new thing it was for women to cut their hair. Speaking of “bobbing the hair”, which was the first female style of cutting the hair, the article complained: “A new fashion has come up in the world that knows not God”. The sadder thing was that the article went on to say: “And many who do know Him are following it”.
Then in the September 1956 Free Presbyterian Magazine (pp. 141-142), Rev James MacLeod (Greenock) wrote:
It is verily immoral and dishonouring to God that a woman should shear her hair to suit the “fashions” of her age! It is an “abomination to the Lord that she should put on the garment of the man” whether in clothing or in cutting her hair like the male. No honest, honourable, modest, or God-fearing woman would ever bow to such vile practices in the light of God’s direct prohibition. . . . No woman, young or old should ever be permitted to sit at the Lord’s Table with her lips painted red, and her hair shorn, or shaven, which is contrary to the Word of God. . . . Whatever is allowed in other churches, all kirk-sessions within the pale of the Free Presbyterian Church should always watch that no daughter of Jezebel with painted face, and shorn hair, should receive church privileges unless, and until she should repent, and walk in the ways of the Lord according to His Word.
In 1970 the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland passed a Resolution on this subject, setting out the teaching of Scripture and the Church’s determination to have no other custom about it. The Resolution was reaffirmed in 1983 and again in 2003. It is as follows:
There is evidence that the “permissiveness” of the age has influenced the Church. In particular this is the case in the dress of the women, and in the hair styles of both men and women.
The Word of God clearly teaches that the hair of women should be long and the hair of men (and boys) short. Long and short are relatives. To argue from hence that the matter cannot be determined is to cast the most serious and solemn aspersion upon the Divine wisdom. “Doth not even nature itself teach you that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (1 Cor. 11:14,15).
The Church must therefore condemn these practices as contrary to God’s Word and direct her people to seek the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to enable them to live unspotted in the world.
The Church realises that making a stand on this issue, especially by refusing the privileges of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to people who persistently blur this Biblically-required distinction between the sexes, puts it alone among the Presbyterian churches in Scotland. But it puts it full square with the apostolic church of the New Testament.
In 1 Corinthians 11:16, “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God”, God has made length of hair a church issue, not left it to be a matter for an individual’s conscience. True liberty of conscience is to be set free by Christ to do the will of Christ. A church that seeks to implement the will of Christ, as the Free Presbyterian Church does over the length of hair, is not thereby a stumbling block to people, but a helper to their faith. Yes, making a stand on this issue can alienate some people. Some may not come because of it. Some may leave because of it. But what can we do? God has spoken. And when God speaks, the church must obey. According to the apostle Paul, it is not those who are holding to this gender distinction that are being “contentious” and divisive, but those who do not hold to it!
As the years go by, the standards of the world and most of the visible church too continue to fall further and further. But the Bible does not change. “The word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:25). Surely the Lord’s people everywhere ought to agree on long hair for women and short hair for men, for the character of true grace described in Psalm 119:128 is found in them all: “Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way”.
Matthew A Vogan and Rev Keith M Watkins