1 Corinthians Chapter 11.

 

Propriety in Worship.

 

In this chapter Paul deals with two matters relating to the services of the church; firstly, he gives instructions for public worship, and then for the service of communion in particular. It was common in Paul's day for women to be veiled when participating in public worship. Some emancipated women at Corinth, knowing they were free in Christ, had done away with the veil. This, in Paul's opinion, was not a good thing. In those days, a woman who was unveiled was considered a "loose woman"; she was making herself available. For a woman to participate in a public service bareheaded was considered shameful. This is why Paul rejects it. Christians must not needlessly flout the customs of their own culture, for this will only give them a bad reputation among their heathen neighbours.

 

2. I praise you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I passed them on to you.

 

Paul encourages the Corinthians, taking time to praise them for what they were doing right. By "you remember me in everything" it is likely that Paul is refering to the directions he had given for public worship, as well as his basic teaching. The word "ordinances" in the AV is rightly "traditions"; Paul had passed on to the Corinthians his teaching about the well known Christian traditions. They were not Paul's own ideas, but the commands of the Lord, and would have included instructions about baptism and communion.

 

3. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

 

"The head" is someone who is in a relationship of superior authority. Bedale says "woman derives her being from man and to that extent is subordinate to him." Paul is not arguing that women are to be servile to men. He has in mind a partnership, a relationship between a man and a woman where the man is recognised as head of his household.

 

4. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered disgraces his head.

 

In public worship, a man ought to pray without a head covering. This was new to Paul, for Jewish men to this day pray with their head covered. The covering of the head is a sign that a person is under the authority of another. But man is not subject to any other creature but to God alone. For man to cover his head when praying is a contradiction of that glory and honour which God gave to him. By doing so he brings dishonour upon himself and his God given glory, thereby dishonouring the God who made him.

 

5.  But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is one and the same thing as having a shaved head.

 

In the order of creation, there is a sense in which woman is subordinate to man. This fact should be recognized in worship. A woman should cover her head when praying or prophesying as a sign to show that she is under the authority of her husband. Not to do so is deny that she is married, and so she dishonors herself. The woman's greatest honour and privelege is that she was made to be a wife or helper for man. Paul declares that to pray or prophesy uncovered would be as shameful as if she had all her hair shaved off. This was a great shame for any woman at that time,and is what happened to newly captured slaves (Deut. 21:10-13).

 

6.  For if a woman will not cover her head, she should cut off her hair. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should cover her head.

 

I do not undertand this verse to mean that a Christian husband should take his rebellious wife who refused to cover herself in public worship and shave all her hair off! Paul simply uses the force of this argument to make clear to such women just how shameful their conduct was. At the back of all that Paul is writing is an abiding principle which is far more important than the particular practice. A true spirit of loving submision to her husband is the most beautiful thing a woman can possess (1 Pet. 3:3-6).

 

7. For a man should not have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man.

 

Man should not cover his head for he is the image and the glory of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Morris says "while there is no distinction of the sexes in this verse in Genesis, Paul understands it to apply particularly to the male. If man is the summit of creation then he shows forth God's glory as nothing else (does)." Being made in the image of God, man has a dignity which is not to be devalued by his subordination to any other creature. If that dignity is devalued, then the God who gave this dignity to man is dishonoured. The woman does have a place of her own, but it is not the place of man. We are to recognize a difference between the sexes. Woman stands in relation to man as nothing else does. She has a dignity all of her own, but it is a dignity in relation to man. She is called the "glory of man" for she was made from the man and is "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone" (Gen. 2:18-24).

 

8,9. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for man. 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

 

With reference to God's creation of man in the beginning, man did not have his origin from woman. Adam was made by God distinctly separate from the rest of creation. Although from the dust of the ground, his spirit was God breathed (Gen. 2:7). This fact is not recorded of any other creature, not even the woman, as we shall see presently. "Woman from man" refers to Gen. 2:21 where Eve was made by God from a piece of flesh and bone taken from Adam's side. The manner  of Eve's creation was made different to Adam's. Though she is a living soul and in this way shares God's image, she was formed from man and derived her life and nature as a living being from him. Go had no need to breath into Eve. The purpose of Eve's creation was also different to man's. We read that God said "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a suitable help fellow" (Gen. 2:18)." "Neither in her origin, nor in the purpose for which she was created can the woman claim priority, or even equality." MORRIS

 

10. For this reason a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

 

For this reason, during public worship, a woman should show by an outward token that she is under the authority of her husband.  Moffat describes it as a "symbol of subjection". Only when she is in submission to her husband can the woman find her true role and dignity (and indeed her happiness). The token of her husband's authority is a sign of her position of honour as the one closest to her husband. There is  no dignity greater than that a wife or of a mother. The words "because of the angels" present a difficulty. Some have suggested that this verse means that bad angels might lust after unveiled women in the spirit of Gen. 6:2. This seems unlikely, especially since the word "angel" is used without qualification and as such always refers to good angels, never bad. Also, there seems to be no reason why such angels would be tempted only during public worship. It is far more likely that Paul has in mind the displeasure of the angels of God. After all, the angels are submissive to God's will and purpose. Though they are mighty, yet they are the servants of men (Heb. 1:14). The world to come is not put under their authority, but man's, and in particular Christ's (Heb. 2:9). Yet they take their place in the divine order and never rebel. How unseemly would it be in their presence for a woman to rebel against the order of God.

 

11.  In any case, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

 

Paul does not mean that he wants women to be treated as the servants of men. There is to be a partnership between the sexes. Just as woman is not to abuse her freedom, neither should man abuse his authority. In the Lord, neither exists without the other. In Christ, there is neither male nor female; so both men and women have equal access and standing before God in Christ. However the order of creation has not yet been abolished. That will remain until the old order passes away. Christians still get married and still have children; and Christian men and women must continue to observe their places in the order of God's creation. One day in heaven there will be no distinction whatever between the sexes for their will be no gender (Matt. 22:30).

 

12.  For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman. But all things come from God.

 

Although in the beginning woman took her origin from man, every man who has ever been born was born of a woman, and so could not exist without her. Man owes his existence in some measure to her, although "all things are of God." There would neither be men nor women apart from Him, who is the origin and source of all things. Men and women cannot think of themselves as independent of each other. "The implications for conduct are plain," says Morris. Mutual dependence should lead to mutual respect.

 

13.  Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

 

Paul appeals to the Corinthians own sense of propriety. He knew that they themselves would not consider it fitting for a woman to pray uncovered.

 

14,15.  Does not nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

 

In Paul's time, it was generally considered shameful for a man to have long hair. The precise length is not specified and is not important. The point is that there are meant to be differences between men and women which should not to be confused. Long hair was given to woman by God as a sign of her glory and importance. Women's hair is distictively longer than man's. It is appropriate then, since God has made such a distinction, that this distinction should be kept in public worship by covering, for God gave woman long hair as a covering.

 

16.  If anyone intends to quarrel about this, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God.

 

Paul has no intention of arguing the matter out indefinitely with those who are given to arguments. In the face of such an attitude, Paul merely points out that it was a universal custom in all the churches of Christ for women to pray with their heads covered. This custom ought not to be flouted at Corinth. Behind all that Paul has said lie two abiding principles. Firstly, Christians should act in a decent and fitting manner in public worship. In first century Corinth the application of that principle meant that women should cover their heads in public worship. Whether or not a woman today should cover her head in worship, I will leave to the reader's conscience; yet the principle of right behavior during worship is abiding. The worship of God is a serious business. We are coming into the presence of a holy and almighty God. So let us not come as if we were going to the cinema or the cafe. Let our hearts and minds be fixed on God and our attention given to His Word. The church service is not the place to swap the latest news with our neighbour, that can wait till after the service. Just for a while, at least, in God's presence we should give to him our undivided attention.

In the context of public worship as well as outside it, the conventions and order of God's creation should be recognised. Let godly women be in submision to their own husbands, in accordance with the divine order (1 Pet. 3:1-6). And let men not abuse their position but remember that God's ideal for marriage is a partnership, with the man as the head; it is not a dictatorship with the man as the boss (1 Pet. 3:7).

 

Cliques in the Church.

 

17.  Now in giving the following instruction I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse.

 

Though he praises the Corinthians when he has reason to do so, Paul pulls no punches when reproving them. Christian fellowship should build believers up in the faith. It is an expression of the unity that is ours through Jesus Christ and bears witness to the world that we are Christ's disciples. Unfortunately, when the Church met together in Corinth, their gatherings did more harm than good. Love was sadly lacking and what was happening was damaging both the unity of the church and its witness in the world.

 

18.  For in the first place, when you come together as a church I hear there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

 

Paul was told of disunity at Corinth which disrupted the most sacred act of Christian worship - the communion. Whilst Paul did not take everything he heard to be accurate (some reports may have been exaggerated by interested parties), he recognized that the account could not be completely dismissed.

 

19.  For there must in fact be divisions among you, so that those of you who are approved may be evident.

 

As we have seen, a number of sects had sprung up in Corinth; groups who preferred to stay in their own clique rather than extend fellowship to the whole body of Christ. In the AV the old word "factions" is "heresies"; a word which reveals the nature of the factions. Different groups had accepted doctrines other than the teachings of Christ. Paul accepts that this state of affairs is inevitable whenever self-will has the upper hand. It is at such times that those who are true to Christ are clearly seen, for they resist false teaching and refuse to take part in such cliques. They are "approved" for they have stood the test.

 

The Importance of the Communion Service.

 

20. Now when you come together at the same place, you are not really eating the Lord's Supper.

 

The Lord Jesus instituted the simple service of communion, which is why Paul refers to it as "the Lord's supper". It was intended to be an act of religious devotion to Christ, but the Corinthians had turned it into something quite different.

 

21. For when it is time to eat, everyone proceeds with his own supper. One is hungry and another becomes drunk.

 

It was not the "Lord's supper" they ate in church, but their own suppers. They had developed the idea of holding regular - but inappropriately named - "love feasts". The idea was that believers should have a meal together before remembering Christ's death with the breaking of bread. Every believer was expected to bring something for the meal which would be shared out among all. Since the poor would have nothing to bring, it was originally a way to share food with them. The problem was, early comers began to eat before any one else arrived. These got more than their fair share. Their excuse was that they were too hungry to wait. These early comers were replete and possibly drunk, while others who came later went without. Since the poorer working classes and slaves had to work longer hours, it was the rich who got everything and the poor who got nothing. A similar problem in Jerusalem had almost split the early church (Acts 6:1).

 

22. Do you not have houses so that you can eat and drink? Or are you trying to show contempt for the church of God by shaming those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I will not praise you for this!

 

Paul's main concern was not that they had failed to show love to fellow believers; but that they had turned a religious ceremony in to a common meal. I believe that Paul was not happy with the practice of the love feast at all, and would have preferred a simple expression of communion. No doubt he realized the problems such feasts brought. The situation at Corinth could have split the church and left many believers feeling isolated. Home is the place to eat your food, says Paul. If Christians wish to provide for the poor, they are other ways to do this without making it part of the communion. As it was the Corinthians were making the poor ashamed, for they had nothing to give, and when they came expecting to receive something out of genuine Christian love, they were disappointed and went home hungry. Such behavior could not be excused.

 

23,24. For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

 

Here Paul examines the true nature and importance of the communion service. It was bad to shame the poor, but to desecrate a sacred act instituted by the Lord was far worse. It is on this point most of all that Paul is eager to correct them.By revelation, Christ had made known to Paul all the details concerning His institution of the communion and its meaning. Not for the first time, Paul communicates to the Corinthians what Christ had enjoined on all believers till he comes. It was in the upper room, on the night before His death (the night that He was betrayed by Judas and offered up by God for the sins of the world) that Christ, knowing all that was about to happen, took bread. When He had given thanks to God He broke it and gave it to His disciples saying "take this and eat it, for this is my body which is broken for you." It is clear that it was not literally His body then; so it will not literally become His body now. The bread is a symbol or emblem of Christ's body being broken for the sins of the world in atonement. The action, as instituted by Christ, is one of remembrance.There is no sacrificial element in the communion. Christ is not being offered again during the sacrament. Rather it is a means of remembering the once and for all sacrifice Christ has made for sin (Heb. 10:10-14). The celebration of communion is both corporate and personal; for we not only remember that Christ's body was broken, but that it was broken for us and for each of us individually (Gal. 2:20). The communion emphasizes the vicarious and redeeming nature of Christs's sacrifice. We remember the one who has done so much for us, forgiving our sin at such great cost. But this is not to be an eternal observance; when Christ comes, we shall be with Him and so will have no more need of an act of remembrance.

 

25. In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me."

 

In the same way, Christ takes the cup, an emblem of His blood and the new covenant which is sealed by that blood. Because Christ's blood was poured out in His atoning death, He is able to forgive our sins and reconcile us to God. It was the blood of the first covenant which bound it to the people (Heb. 9:18-20). The covenant which God has entered into with believers is ratified by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:23 ; Heb. 13:12). Morris says "the whole Jewish system is replaced by the Christian, and everything centres on the death of my Lord."

 

26. For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

 

"The solemn observance of Holy Communion is a vivid proclamation of the Lord's death. In word and symbol Christ's death for men is set before them." MORRIS. This does not mean that the communion has evangelistic significance. The communion is not for unbelievers, nor are unbelievers enjoined to take it. They have no part in it, for they have no part in the redemption it symbolizes. Communion is for the benefit of believers, for the regular, symbolic calling to mind of Christ's death keeps our love, gratitude, and commitment to Him fresh.

 

27. For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

 

So solemn and sacred is the communion service, that to partake of it in a way which does not reflect its sacred importance is to invite the judgment of God, by which is meant not eternal damnation, but the chastening of the Lord. The communion is not to be approached lightly nor treated with contempt. This would be to treat the Lord's broken body and shed blood with contempt and so to sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So if anyone eats this bread and drinks from this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, he is guilty of sin against the body and the blood of the Lord.  1 Cor 11:27 (Living) The communion cannot to be treated as just another meal. By not making this distinction, the Corinthians were taking part in the communion unworthily, not considering its importance. There is a sense in which we are all unworthy of the communion, and we will never be worthy of it, for we owe all to Christ who has saved us by His grace. But that is not what Paul means. When we approach the communion we must do so in an attitude of reverence. As Matthew Henry rightly says "religious feasts should be attended religiously."

 

28. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup.

 

As a safeguard against profaning communion, a man should seriously examine his own heart before he takes it. The word "examine" is used of testing metals. Paul does not want us to take the communion as a matter of course, for it is a solemn rite of deep significance. As the disciples in the upper room looked within and asked "Is it I?", so may we in humility, distrustful of ourselves, conscious that we are sinners in need of his grace, and confessing our sin, come before the communion table. As we fully appreciate and are thankful for what Christ has done for us, we will be taking the communion in a right manner.

 

29. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself.

 

Much has been said about this verse, in particular the phrase "not discerning the Lord's body". It is true that believers should be united as they partake of the Lord's table. (Matt. 5:23-24). This is so because communion is an expression of our union with Christ and therefore with one another. However, the word used here for "body" does not denote the church. It would be rather odd for Paul to use the word "body" of Christ's literal body throughout the text only for him to change his meaning entirely right at the end. This is the well intentioned suggestion of some preachers, but was never the intention of the apostle Paul. Rather, Paul focusses his readers attention on the significance of the communion, so that they should not lose sight of it. For if he eats the bread and drinks from the cup unworthily, not thinking about the body of Christ and what it means, he is eating and drinking God's judgment upon himself; for he is trifling with the death of Christ.  1 Cor 11:29 (Living)

 

30.  That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead

 

The chastening hand of God was already in evidence at Corinth because of their misuse of communion; it was seen in the physical weakness, sickness and premature death of many church members. It is not that punishment for sin is not the only cause of sickness, weakness or death - but it was in this case.

 

31. But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged.

 

Since communion is a time when we remember Christ's death, it is a time to examine our condition before him. We realize afresh our unworthiness and dependence of Him. This may be one of the reasons Christ gave us this ceremony - to keep our hearts in tune with Him. To "judge ourselves" is to distinguish what we are from what we ought to be. Such examination may lead to confession of what we are, and how we have fallen short. When we are prepared to confess these things, we find that "there is forgiveness with him that he might be feared" (Psa. 130:4) and "with the Lord is plenteous mercy" (Psa. 86:5). Far better to find mercy at the Lord's table than to find judgment.

 

32. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

 

If we stubbornly persist in our own way, the Lord will not leave us unchecked; He will chasten us in order to bring us back to Himself so that we will not share in the final judgment of the world.

 

33,34.  So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that when you assemble it does not lead to judgment. I will give directions about other matters when I come.

 

Paul stops short of ordering the cessation of the love feasts. He leaves that to the Corinthians, but insists that the believers were not to use them for selfish indulgence, but wait for everyone to have an equal share. They were to wait till all were present so that they could solemnly take the communion together. Eating for hunger's sake is to be done at home, not in the church. Many churches today are trying to revive the "love feast" pattern of communion. If such meals are held it is vital to make a clear distinction between the meal and the communion itself. Notice that although he has given instruction on Christ's institution of communion, Paul never once wrote about the institution of "love feasts". There is more that Paul could say on the subject, and more to be straightened out at Corinth.  But for now he has dealt with the most important issue, and is content to set other matters right  when he visits them personally, though he was not sure when that would be (the Greek word for "when" is indefinite).

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