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1 Corinthians 11 verse 1 properly belongs with the previous chapter so we will start with verse 2.

Let’s read:

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.


Here Paul is again encouraging his readers – before he launches into the next section which contains some quite strong rebukes.


1 Corinthians 11:3-16

3 Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head.

5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head— it is just as though her head were shaved.

6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;

9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

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

14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,

15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice— nor do the churches of God.

   

There have been several different interpretations for this passage. But rather than looking at those we’ll just look at the verses and see what conclusions we reach. But first, look at verse three:


3 Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.


Paul is about to discuss matters related to propriety in worship and considers it important to state the headship that God has over Christ, Christ over men, and men over women.

 

We could at this point enter into a long theological argument about the relative positions of Men and Women but it is unlikely to be productive. But it is an important basis for the teaching that follows so would anyone like to comment here? (Eve may have sinned first, but Adam is held responsible.)


We need to understand the customs and practices that were common in the Middle East and particularly in Corinth. Many cultures have quite different practices, and these change over time. In this country not so long ago, men wore trousers, and women wore skirts or dresses. It was just not considered right for women to wear trousers.


What other cultural differences can you suggest? (At this point people may suggest that things written in the bible should be applied today without regard for cultural differences (Contextualisation). But a few studies ago we did need to understand the culture of the time when looking at food offered to idols).

 

How about Corinth? Firstly it was a general custom that men would always cut their hair short and women would always let their hair grow long.


In such a culture, what message would they be giving if a man grew his hair long like a woman, or a woman cut her hair like a man?

For a man, he might as well wear women’s clothes as well. For a woman, it would demonstrate that she saw herself as at least equal to men, if not superior (more on this later).


We also need to be aware that sometimes the punishment for a woman for sinful behaviour was to have her head shaved. For someone to deliberately do that, or simply to walk around with an uncovered head, would be to advertise their lack of morals. Here the practice of covering head (and hair) was more to indicate the woman’s position as being under authority.


It was customary, as it still is today in many countries, for women to wear a shawl over their heads (or a veil, or even a burka). This was natural, normal dress for a woman, but especially so in church. It would be almost as shocking, and an outrage to public decency for a woman to go to church bare-headed as it would be today for a woman to go topless. (Remember, this is a cultural thing – in some tribal cultures it is considered perfectly normal for women to be bare-chested).


In the same way it would be offensive for men to enter church with a hat on. Fifty years ago, when it was customary for men to wear hats in this country, it would be unthinkable even to enter someone’s home with your hat on, let alone do so in church. But changes in cultural customs over the years could mean quite different things.


Read Genesis 38:14-15

14 she took off her widow's clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.

Obviously, in that culture wearing a veil also indicated a form of submission, but not to her husband!


But now look at our passage: verse 4 and then 5 to 16. Here we are talking about those who would take part publicly in the service and I wonder if Paul included verse 4 to make it easier for his readers to accept verse 5!


In Galatians 3:28 we read:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.


It seems that with the new freedoms that Christianity brings, those women who were inspired to pray or prophesy would first take off their head covering (verses 5 and 13).

What message would that give in a male dominated society?


By doing this they effectively claimed equality with men or even authority over them, as it mimicked the actions of the priestesses in the pagan temples. Prayer and prophecy are functions which both have a strong element of authority. In both cases, the one who performs these functions is in direct contact with God. The one who prays speaks directly to God; the one who prophesies speaks directly from God.


Being filled with the spirit, although bringing a sense of freedom, could also arouse a feeling of importance, even of being better than others. This was a problem for men too, and Paul has to deal with Gifts of the Spirit and speaking in tongues in later chapters.


So it seems that Paul is addressing a heart-attitude rather than establishing a dress code for future generations and different cultures.

So what is the application for anyone who would lead in worship today?


With this in mind we can move into the second part of this chapter where wrong attitudes are threatening the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.


Let’s read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22


17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.

18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.

20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat,

21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.

22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!


It appears that in the early church the communion service was part of a ‘love feast’: a meal that was prepared for all to enjoy. It was here that the name ‘The Lord’s Supper’ was introduced (v20). (also: ‘Breaking of bread’ 10:16, Acts 2:42, ‘Communion’ 10:16 (KJV), ‘Eucharist’ Greek for giving thanks 11:24) But in Corinth it seemed that there was no control over when you started or how much you ate or drank. In consequence there were some (who no doubt considered themselves to be superior) who would go ahead and eat and drink to excess, while others held back in humility (or shame) (or who simply arrived late) and ended up with nothing.


This problem was increased by the factions within the church which Paul had had to deal with in chapter 3. No doubt there were those groups which considered themselves to be superior to others, who would go ahead with the meal ignoring what the others were doing (see verses 33 and 34).


What was the end result (v17)? Their meetings did more harm than good.


Lets read:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,

24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.

25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.

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


Paul now reminds the church of the origin of this meal – it was not intended to be like any other feast. Also Paul points out that this is not just his own idea, it was revealed to him by Jesus:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,

24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.


Why was the phrase ‘on the night he was betrayed’ deliberately inserted here?


‘To betray’ has several meanings:

  1. To deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty: like Judas
  2. To be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling: to betray a trust.
  3. To disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to: to betray one's friends.

So perhaps Paul was reminding the church that because it was at this very meal that Jesus had been betrayed, they should treat it with greater solemnity – realising that by their actions they too might be betraying Jesus by disregarding the cost of their salvation.


You could say that these verses (23-26) are some of the most important in the Bible. It appears that they were given to Paul as a direct revelation from Jesus himself. It describes very simple acts. Deliberately simple:

25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.

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


By adding other elements to the ‘love feast’ the Corinthian church had lost sight of the fact that twice (24, 25) Jesus had said it was to be ‘in remembrance of me’ – a memorial meal.


Is it possible to ‘dress up’ the Eucharist, Lords Supper, Communion, Mass, to a point where the ceremony itself takes over and becomes more important?


What sort of event would Jesus have pictured when he gave these instructions to Paul?


Now we’ll look at:

1 Corinthians 11:27-34

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.

32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.

34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.


Verse 29: ‘without recognising the body of the Lord’

As Baptists we do not believe in transubstantiation – that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. But we recognise the simple symbolism that the broken bread reminds us of Jesus’ broken body and the wine reminds us of his redeeming blood.


Can those who are unbelievers ‘recognise the body of the lord’?


But this letter was addressed to believers. So it seems that in Corinth there were those in the church who considered that this meal was simply a meal that commemorated Jesus, as in the same way that they may have had other festivals or feasts to commemorate great men. But the cost of their salvation was being ignored.


Because of that we are told to first examine ourselves to ensure we are approaching communion in a way that recognises the significance of the bread and the wine.


It is here that some people miss the point and stay away from the communion service, or simply don’t join in because they don’t feel that they are ‘right with the Lord’.


They base this on a wrong understanding of verse 27: The word unworthy can be applied in two different ways.



It is this second meaning that applies here – in an unworthy manner.

Something we would be ashamed of if we simply stopped to consider the cost to Jesus of the broken bread and the outpoured wine.


If people feel that they are ‘not right’ with the Lord, isn’t the communion service the best place to re-establish their communion with the Lord?


Who instituted the ’Lord’s supper’?

Jesus

Why?

V25: in remembrance of me


The simple symbolism of bread and wine was to be an eternal reminder for all Christians of the cost of their salvation. There were some who had either forgotten this, or who had not grasped its significance. Jesus would not stand idly by without doing something about it.


Verses 29 - 32: ‘  .  .  .  eats and drinks judgment on himself.

30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.

32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. ’


Judgement suggests a sentence, and that in turn suggests a punishment. Not an eternal punishment where we may lose our salvation (v32), but one that should warn us and others of the seriousness with which the Lord himself treats this. Sickness and even death were obviously the result. ‘many among you’ ‘a number of you’


What should we make of this?


V32 The condemnation and punishment the world receives is for their sin. When Christians are punished it is for our discipline, to steer us back to the right way – our sin has already been dealt with on the cross.


So we have seen that our attitude when we come to worship is very important. Not just our attitude towards other people but more importantly our attitude towards the one who we have come to worship.


What is the difference between

‘I go to church on Sunday’ and

‘I go to worship on Sunday’?

For more studies looking at judgement, see 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Corinthians 7, John 5d





1 Corinthians 131 Corinthians 11








Study 12   1 Corinthians 11:2-34
Hair and Hats! Lord’s supper. Wrong attitudes.

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