Chapter 10 teaches that spiritual appearance and reality must match. The warning of Chapter 10 is that God's people must not be satisfied with just appearing to be saved, but they must really be saved. Chapter 11 teaches that appearances nevertheless count. The message of Chapter 11 is that God's people will display certain spiritual virtues if they indeed are saved. Taken together, the two chapters teach that the heart condition of God's people and their behavior are inseparable twins. In fact, Chapters 10 and 11 display two ways of expressing the same truth. That truth is that the new spiritual life created by God in a believer is stronger than the believer's carnal part and will dominate his life.
Chapters 10 and 11 both divide their message into two parts. Chapter 10:1-14 examines God's people especially as an organization, a corporate church. In Chapter 10:16-35 the focus is more upon the individual member of a church. Similarly, Chapter 11:1-16 discusses the people of God as they relate to each other, while in Chapter 11:17-34, the focus is once again upon the individual member and his personal relationship with God. But corporately or individually, the message is the same. God's people must be spiritual and behave in a spiritual way.
Chapter 11 continues the discussion of Chapter 10. If the Corinthians are truly a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, then it will show. Their appearance or witness to the world will match the reality of spiritual life in their heart. Two opportunities for the display of God's grace in their lives are their submission to the distribution of authority which God has ordained (11:2-16) and the proper observance of the sacrament of communion, the Lord's Supper (11:17-34).
We should point out that the principles found in verses 2 through 16 apply to a Christian's total life, not just to the time he spends in the worship service. For example, in verse 5 the phrase "woman that prayeth and prophesieth" refers to every situation in a woman's life. Certainly a woman can pray at all times. Also, according to I Corinthians 14:34,35, her prophesying is excluded from the worship service. Therefore, her prophesying must be a function of her personal life, rather than as part of an official work in the church.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these verses are directed by God to all Christians. The issue of these verses is the covering given by God to His church. All Christians have a covering. As these verses explain, it is the authority under which God has put them and to which they submit. All Christians are under Christ's authority. But on this side of eternity, to accomplish His purposes, God has established a chain of command among humans, whether outside the church (Romans 13) or in the church (I Corinthians 11). These levels of authority involve such people as elders in the church, parents, and husbands. Furthermore, God created a physical sign to mark the hierarchal design of authority. That sign is the hair which is grown on top of people's heads.
The authority which God assigns to men is not associated with their natural ability, nor is it an indication of their value as a person. The chain of command God sets up in human affairs is a matter of function and not value. God has a job to do, and He designed the tool of human authority to get it done.
As the conflict rages between the spiritual and material influences in the church, there will be people in the church who succumb to material desires. Their defense is to question authority in their life inasmuch as it is a challenge from God to their rebellion. They decide for themselves what God's will is and live according to their own wisdom. Paul deals with them in two ways:
1. He exhorts them from the Word of God as he does in the first part of Chapter 11.
2. He warns them as in the last part of this chapter. While they are listening to and living for the world, they must not, at the same time, continue to make false statements about God's will by their behavior.
The underlining truth of the whole chapter is that appearances matter. There must be a proper witness that matches the spiritual reality of God's work in the hearts of His people. It is God's will that the outward appearance of the church faithfully reflects His work of grace in each believer's heart who is a member of that church. God has a concern for the church's life as an organization because it reflects on Him and His Gospel.
Verse 2, "I praise you"
The behavior of the congregation is not a big zero. If the church totally disregarded the will of the Lord, they would not really be a church at all, and Paul probably would not have written this letter. Paul is grateful that many in the congregation pray for him and are willing to do what he says.
This word conveys the idea of traditions. It is a neutral idea that can be bad (Col. 2:8) or good (II Thess. 2:15). If the ordinance is from the apostles, like Paul, who have the authority given to them by God and who write the Scriptures, then it is alright.
"I delivered to you"
The idea could be either:
1. Paul said things not explicitly presented in other parts of the Bible (although the concepts are there if a person digs for them). Nevertheless, we must consider what he says as from God.
2. Paul is quoting and explaining Bible passages that were written before his time (such as 9:9,10).
In general, the Corinthians submitted to the authority of God and to the temporary hierarchy of human authorities God constructed to do His will on earth. The implication here is that submission to authority was not one of the sins which Chloe pointed out to Paul. But Paul will still explain the principle, not as a rebuke, but because it is part of the teaching that the Christian's outward life must conform to the spiritual life within. So for completeness in his discussion, as well as because the subject of authority is fundamental to other areas of church life, Paul begins to talk about the chain of command.
Verse 3, "head"
This refers to the position of authority as in Eph. 1:22; 5:23. But it can also refer, as in some places in the Bible, to a part of our anatomy (Matt. 10:30). In this passage it will be used both ways.
"God, Christ, man, woman"
There is a hierarchy or chain of command in the universe. This is one of the "ordinances" mentioned in verse 2. We can see why there is a link of authority between God and man. But there are many more links which God sets up as He works out His plan in a sinful world. The man/woman link will be discussed at length in this chapter.
The authority that God assigns to men is not associated with any natural ability they may have, nor is it an indication of their value as a person. The chain of command God sets up in human affairs is a matter of function and not value. God has a job to do, and He designed the tool of human authority to get it done.
"the head of Christ is God"
This phrase does not mean Christ is less than God or even different than God. This simply gives the basis for the church's existence, namely, Christ's willing submission to the Father's will (or rather to the will of the complete Godhead) expressed in His coming to earth and subjecting Himself to the Law as well as God's wrath (Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 2:7-18; 5:7-9). We could say that Christ as Savior submitted to His own plan which He as God had designed and sealed before the world was made.
Verse 4, "Every man...having his head covered"
Actually the word "covered" is not found in this verse at all, as it is in verse six. The last four words are more general. They are best translated "having (anything) down over his head". The word "head" here refers to the physical part of his anatomy. The idea is that nothing should really obscure his head, referring not just to a hat but as we read in verse 15 to long hair as a woman has. Long hair is the physical sign that God gave to remind us of the spiritual chain of command that gives man authority over a woman. In this case, man should not have long hair like a woman. There is, as we shall see, a spiritual dimension to this phrase as well.
"dishonoreth his head"
The word "head" here refers to Christ. He is the one who is in authority over the man. The word "dishonoreth" is kataischuno and is composed of the prefix kata (down) and ischuno (ability, especially the strength to prevail against opposition). The word is translated "ashamed" in Luke 13:17. In I Corinthians 1:27, twice it is translated "confound," with the idea that men of this world have no ability to oppose God.
There is natural shame for a man to wear long hair. But the word "shame" in verse 14 is not the same word as "dishonoreth" in this verse. In this phrase God is not primarily worried about the honor of men, but the honor and glory of Christ who is the Lord and head of a man (I Cor. 1:31; 10:31).
If we want to look at the word "covered" in a physical sense as we did above, then the point of the whole verse is that since Christ works exclusively through man for certain tasks, a man who lets his hair grow as a woman's mocks the chain of command and works against or is opposed to God's efforts to do His will. In effect, Christ's ("the head") ability to do His will is opposed ("dishonored"). A man should not cover his head, for we should be able to see his head and think of Christ who is both his authority and gives him authority in the congregation over a woman.
When we think of the word "covered" in a spiritual sense, and apply it to a man, then the focus is not so much on the style of his hair. Instead, it is reference to the idea that he wants to hide the fact he is accountable to God for the authority he has been given in the chain of command over a woman. Any man who wants to grow his hair like a woman has already rebelled in his heart against God and abrogated his position of authority.
Verse 5, "But...prophesieth"
The phrase "woman that prayeth and prophesieth" refers to every situation in a woman's life. For one thing, her praying and prophesying must be a function of her personal life, rather than as part of an official work in the church, inasmuch as, according to I Corinthians 14:34,35, her prophesying is excluded from the worship service. Prophesying is declaring God's Word and is the normal function of all God's people. So, these words can be reworded as, "In cases when a woman makes a clear claim in word or action that she is a Christian, that she is a member of Christ's church..."
"with her head uncovered"
As in the previous verse, this phrase refers to the physical sign that God gave to remind us of the spiritual chain of command that submits a woman to a man. What exactly is the physical covering? Should a woman wear a cloth or a hat? Maybe, but that does not seem very practical if the moment a woman wants to pray or talk about the Bible she must run to put something on her head. Additionally, physical props are often a snare. Too often the physical props become the substitute for the spiritual inner submission of the heart that God wants for the Christian woman. According to this chapter, God has given her a physical covering, which is her hair (verse 15). That covering is a sufficient reminder that she has a spiritual covering, namely, the man. This phrase warns that a woman must not try to look like a man. There is, as we shall see, a spiritual dimension to the warning.
In both verse 4 and verse 5, the discussion does not concern hats but hair. On one hand, if a man or woman does or does not wear a hat for spiritual or religious reasons, they do not understand God's will. On the other hand, the clothing a man or woman wears because of climate or decoration is irrelevant to his spiritual life and is not part of the discussion, assuming they wear clothing or ornamentation with the right spiritual attitude (I Peter 3:3,4).
"dishonoreth her head"
The word "head" here refers to both man and Christ. They are both in authority over the woman. A woman should have long hair, that is, not as a man. We should look at a woman and see not her head, but her hair which covers her head. This reminds us that a man comes in-between Christ and her. In this phrase we can think of the word "head" as referring to both Christ and man because both are dishonored if she insists on acting and looking like a man. She dishonors man because she refuses to submit to his authority over her, and she dishonors Christ because she refuses to submit to Christ's plan which placed man in authority over her.
We are speaking of the chain of command among Christians who belong to a church and among each other in family life. This is not a discussion concerning the general unsaved society as a whole. In general, people do not submit to God's authority; although, even in the unsaved world, God has set up levels of authority (Rom. 13:1; I Tim. 2:2).
To be uncovered is equivalent to being shaven. "Shaven" is the word xurao, used three times in the Bible. It is used here, in verse 6 and in Acts 21:24. In Acts it means to shave a man's head, that is, have no hair at all.
Let us try to draw all these thoughts together and see what the whole verse is saying. Actually, there are two related conclusions. They both depend upon our understanding of the word "uncovered."
1. We could take "uncovered" in a physical sense to mean that a woman has cut her hair to look like a man. That is how we first looked at it above. So in this case, this phrase means if she has cut some of her hair off (as one possible view of the word "uncovered"), then she might as well be bald or take the rest of her hair off ("shaven").
2. Another explanation is based upon a spiritual understanding of the word "uncovered." In this view it does not matter whether a woman does or does not cut her hair like a man. This second view is not in conflict with the first view, but can be thought of as a deeper understanding.
In Greek the word "uncovered" is the word akatakalupto, which is composed of the prefix "a" ("not") attached to the root, which means "veiled." When we look at Genesis 20:16 we read that Abimelech correctly states that Abraham is a "covering for the eyes" to Sarah. That is, Abraham is her veil. According to I Peter 3:5,6, Abraham was essentially Sarah's lord, or authority, and she was submissive to him. Therefore, spiritually speaking, when the word "uncovered" or "unveiled" is applied to a woman, it points out that she really is not willing to submit to God's chain of command. Whether a woman physically has long or short hair, her hair is a sign that reminds us that someone ought to be her covering or her head. And an "uncovered" woman is a woman who does not submit to the earthly authority God has ordained.
The verse can then be understood this way. If a woman does not want someone over her in authority, but she, at the same time, wants to outwardly act like a Christian (i.e. "prays and prophesies"), then she might as well have the sign to match the reality of her rebellious heart. In that way it will be obvious to all she is not submissive, and her behavior will not be confused with what Christ's true church teaches. This explanation could then apply to the situation in which a woman keeps her hair long but still rebels at man's authority. Verse 6 actually makes this point. That is why the better explanation for the words "if a woman be not covered" is the idea "if a woman be not willing to submit to a man or be covered by a man."
Looking at both verses 4 and 5 from a physical point of view, we can make the following observations. Humanly speaking, a woman's appearance, including hair, is important to her (I Pet. 3:3). So in general, women do not cut their hair short like men do. Their problem is usually an issue of submission of the heart. On the other hand, those men who also rebel at their role of leadership, not only rebel in their hearts but often demonstrate this rebellion in long hair. Men who do not want to be an example of Christ's authority will sometimes show it to all the world by how they look.
The spiritual point of verses 4 and 5 is that God insists upon heart submission. He ordained that the hair He has given to be a sign of that submission. But more than just conforming outwardly, each person must from the heart submit to the position in God's chain of command he has been placed. This is in contrast to both men and women today who both act and look like people who are unwilling to submit to God's authority.
Verse 6, "For if the woman be not covered"
As in the previous verse, the meaning of this phrase is, "If the woman is not willing to be under authority, saying `I am equal to a man in authority in the congregation and in the family...'"
The root of the word "shorn" is keira. It is used three times, once in Acts 18:18 to apply to a man who has no hair left. And so the verse continues, "let her be shorn." In other words, "... then let her cut off all her hair."
The idea of these two phrases is then let her outward appearance match her heart and her actions. It is important to let the world know that what she wants and how she lives is not representative of the true spiritual Gospel. This idea is supported by the Old Testament. In Numbers 5:18 the word "uncover" means "to cause to separate." In this case the woman's hair is cut from her head. The issue in Numbers is "let the woman's appearance match the accusation (that she is not submitting to her husband) and see if this is true by what happens to her as she drinks what the priest gives her." So, in the Old Testament, the use of "uncovered" is similar to its use here in I Corinthians 11.
The fact is that it is a shame to be shorn. Therefore, if the above procedure is followed, her physical appearance will demonstrate just how shameful her rebellion is. Also, just as they naturally care for their hair, women ought to naturally submit to their head, their authority.
The application of this verse is that when a woman becomes saved, she should seek to place herself under a man's authority in all matters concerning her Christian life. Even if her husband is not a Christian, she will realize her duty is to submit to him (I Pet. 3:1-4) as her Christian obligation., that is, as her submission to Christ. Also, she is to submit to the spiritual leadership of her congregation (Heb. 13:17).
Verse 7, "For a man...head"
If we think the word "head" in this verse refers to part of the man's anatomy, we can understand the phrase to mean, "a man must not have the symbol of a veil as a woman by growing his hair as she does." If we think the word "head" refers to Jesus Christ, we can understand the phrase to mean, "a man must not try to cover up the fact that Christ rules in the church through men." As we shall see, the second idea is the one that is actually in view.
"forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God"
The words "forasmuch as he is" are not in the Greek. So, this phrase can be rendered as, "...head, the image and glory of God (being)." The words "head," "image," and "glory" are all feminine singular. Being grammatically parallel, they all are related to each other. The words "image" and "glory" refer to their antecedent "head" or Christ (II Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). The word "man" in verse 7 is masculine singular and is not the antecedent of the words "image" and "glory." So, the idea of the verse, so far, is men ought not to cover Christ. When we look at the man, we see him uncovered and are reminded of the man's head who is Christ, who is the image and glory of God. When we see a woman's covering, we are reminded of her covering (or authority) who is the man; and through the man her head is Christ. It is as if the woman had no head of her own. The man's head is for both of them. In that way, the real head or authority over all in the church is Christ.
"but the woman is the glory of the man"
This phrase is not saying that in some way either the woman or the man receives glory. All glory belongs to God (I Cor. 1:29-31). This phrase explains why the chain of command is established by God as a picture of His work in the world. In her supportive submission, the woman is part of the picture of the Gospel. This is a real witness to all observers. She glorifies what God has done through man, the man Christ who is the Savior and the man who is placed in leadership in the church. (Eph. 5:22,32; Heb. 13:17) By being a help to her husband or church leaders, rather than trying to ignore, compete with, or usurp their authority, she is agreeing that Christ rules well and His ways are best. Her obedient submission is a glory to those in rulership over her. (Prov. 12:4; 31:23).
Verse 8, "of ... of"
Both times this is the word ek, "out of."
Verse 9, "for ... for"
Both times this is the word dia, "through."
Verses 8 and 9 remind us of the fact stated in Genesis 2:21-23. First of all, man was made and later a part was taken "out of" him to make woman. Secondly, the man was given a job (Gen. 2:15) and a command (Gen. 2:16,17). The woman was then given to help him in his job and support him in his effort to carry out God's command.
Verse 10, "For this cause"
The words "this cause" refer to verse 8 and 9. The hierarchy of authority which God established from creation is maintained to this day as this verse states.
"ought to have power on her head"
The word "power" is exousian or "authority". It is not dunamis or "might." The whole discussion is about authority on the woman's head, not about a piece of cloth or anything else physical. The only physical item mentioned is the natural covering God has given, which is her hair. That is the physical sign He designates as a picture that she is under the authority of men.
"because of the angels"
The word "because" is the word "through." the word "angels" is "messenger" and refers here to those who bring the Gospel, as for example Paul or Apollos. This phrase is not linked in a cause-effect relationship to the rest of the verse. Rather, it is just a statement of fact.
We can summarize verses 8 through 10 in this way. From the beginning, before creation and since creation, it was God's will that there be a hierarchy of authority. The way God created man and woman illustrates this. This arrangement of authority has helped God's messengers bring His Word. Both in the church and in the family, God has given men a job to do and assigned woman to help them do it. Additionally, the hierarchy of authority has helped illustrate the message which the messengers brought. Simply put, the point is that the Gospel goes out best when man is in authority over a woman.
These two verses remind us that the distinctive authoritative relationship between men and women is not based upon nor an implication of their individual value. God has simply distributed to each sex a certain role so that His people can all get on with the job of bringing the Gospel to the world.
"Nevertheless neither is the man ... even so is the man also by the woman"
In an attempt to fence in male pride that would result from man's position in the chain of command, God through Paul reminds the Corinthians that man depends upon woman for his physical life. Although originally the first woman came out of man, from then on every man owes his existence to a woman, including the man Jesus (Gal. 4:4). There is no independence between man and woman. In Christ there is no difference in spiritual value (Gal. 3:28). Therefore, there is no basis for man to glory (I Cor. 1:31). Men ought to have the perspective that they have been delegated whatever authority they have and must bear that burden wisely.
Both of these verses teach a similar point to that in verses 11 and 12. Verse 13 addresses women and verse 14 addresses men.
Looking from a physical point of view, the answer to the question in verse 13 is "No." The idea behind the word "comely" is not that a woman is prettier or nicer-looking when she is covered, but that it best fits her position as woman. It is fitting or in agreement with God's design for her if she be covered. This is especially true if she "pray to God," that is, if she makes a show that she is under God's Lordship. It is against God's natural order for a woman to have no hair. A woman may lose her hair due to some illness, but that just emphasizes the fact that baldness for a woman is contrary to God's original plan and is result of sin and the curse. Spiritually, the answer is still the same, "no." A woman who does not want to submit to a man's lawful spiritual authority is against God's spiritual program for her. Her desire not to be covered by authority is a shame to her.
The answer to the question in verse 14 is "Yes." God's physical program for a man is to have hair not as a woman. A man in general wears short hair and is much more prone to be bald than a woman. A man who lets his hair grow long and therefore calls attention to it is a man who does not want to submit to God's program, and is saying, "My hair is my glory rather than Christ." The physical shame is really based upon a spiritual shame. The idea of shame is not that the man is embarrassed by wearing long hair. In fact, most who do so are quite proud about it. Rather, the shame is referring to the guilt of condemnation. They are acting as unbelievers and show that they despise the honor bestowed upon then from God. They no longer can be considered men who bear Christ's authority among men and women.
Men and women are the same before the Law, before the cross, and into eternity (Matt. 22:30). Nevertheless, we cannot make being a man identical to being a woman. On earth, God has a plan for His Gospel and the church, which He has designed as the bearer of that Gospel to the world. He created the two distinct sexes to make a point about His spiritual plan. Despite exceptions, men are physically different than women. They generally lose their hair easier and are generally stronger physically. The distinction between men and women is meant to create order in the church and provide a picture of the Gospel which the church brings.
Incidentally, Jesus did not have long hair as many modern artists like to portray Him. He was not a Nazerite as Samson was. He would never violate the Law of God as expressed in I Corinthians 11:14.
Verse 15, "But...her"
This phrase does not say that a woman ought to be preoccupied with the style and appearance of her hair (I Pet. 3:3). Her glory is in the Lord (I Cor. 1:31). Rather, her hair points to the fact she is covered, and that reminds us of the man and finally to Christ who is her ultimate authority. Her hair is her glory because it reminds us of He who is her ultimate head, Jesus the glorious One. Also, her hair is her glory because it reminds us of God's perfect assignment for her in the hierarchy of authority He has designed. Therefore, she glorifies the Lord if she submits to the sign as well as the reality of her place in God's hierarchy of authority.
"for her hair is given her for a covering"
The first "for" is hoti meaning "because" or "for that reason." The second word "for" is anti, meaning "instead of." Physically, the idea is that her hair is the sign of her covering. If she needs a physical covering, there it is, instead of some other covering. Spiritually the idea is that her hair is given to her as a symbol that she is under the authority of man, instead of being directly covered by Christ. Her hair is enough of a symbol to show that. At least it is enough of a symbol for God.
Verse 16, "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom."
The word "such" ties back to the word "contentious." The idea is that Paul does not have the custom of that contentious person. It could be that after this letter is read, some people will object to Paul's teaching about a woman's and a man's hair. Paul realizes that not everyone will agree. So he says if anybody argues with what this letter states, that is his private affair. Paul himself does not have such a quarrel with what God is teaching in this chapter.
That is, Paul is saying, "All the other churches agree with me and not with what any other people who might object to this teaching."
Having discussed one visible characteristic of a Christian, namely, his willingness to agree to the position of authority in which God has placed him among other Christians, Paul now begins to discuss another visible, distinctly Christian behavior, namely, the celebration of the Lord's Supper, or communion.
We can summarize the rest of the chapter this way. Verses 17-20 are the indictment. Something is wrong in the Corinthian church. Verses 21 and 22 explain what the problem is. Verses 23-26 show the right way, or God's will. Verses 27-34 are a warning for all who are not willing to obey.
Verse 17, "that ye come together"
This does not refer to anytime the members happen to meet for fellowship, but to the specific times they proclaim that they are a Christian church as they partake in the Lord's Supper. Paul is now going to talk about a particular point in the worship service.
"for the worse"
The word "worse" is heeton used only here and in II Corinthians 12:15, translated "less." It is similar to the word heeteema, translated "fault" or "failure" in I Corinthians 6:7 and "diminish" in Romans 11:12. The idea is that Paul cannot praise them because their wrong behavior in worship makes a failure of or reduces their witness of the Gospel. How can that be? As we shall see, in their worship, they were focusing upon the material and not the spiritual.
Verse 18, "when...divisions among you"
The point of this phrase is that when the congregation comes together for worship, some act like believers and some act like unbelievers. The world is seeing two faces of one congregation that together claims to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. The counsel of the verse is not that each of the two sides in the congregation have some wrong and some right ideas, and that the two sides should reconcile and present a united front to the world. Rather, the rebuke is that one group is all wrong, just as if they were unbelievers, and is ruining the true witness of the rest of the congregation.
"and I partly believe it"
Paul is not saying, "I am inclined to believe what was reported to me" or "I kind of believe that what was told to me is true." The word "partly" does not mean "sort of," but refers to a section of the whole. In I Corinthians 13:9 it is twice translated "part," referring to a portion of the whole, that is, not "all." (See also Matt. 2:22 and 23:6,9.) In the Greek, this phrase is best rendered "and part, some I believe." That is, Paul is saying, "I believe some part" or "I believe one part or one side only," namely, the correct side. He will then proceed to show which side of the division is wrong.
Verse 19, "there must be heresies"
The word "heresies" means "sects" (Acts 5:17, "sects"), emphasizing the fact of division or factions in a group. The word "must," dei, is often a must of divine necessity. It expresses God's unalterable will. (Matt. 26:54; Mark 8:31; 13:7,10; Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 24:7,44,46). The idea is that God allows unbelievers to speak and work in the congregation for His purposes. He has not lost control, but uses what men mean for evil to further His ends. It is not God's plan that the church be a utopia on earth, perfectly united (Matt. 13:24-43).
Those who are truly approved by God will shine forth because the materialistic appeal by unbelievers in the congregation makes no impact upon them.
We must be thankful that the Bible tells us ahead of time about the spiritual dangers we will encounter. We must be aware of groups in the church that try to proselyte and influence others with their own words. We must guard our own walk with God, and if we have the authority, guard the walk of every other person in the congregation. We do that not only for the sake of each person's soul, but also for the sake of God's name, which the congregation claims to represent.
This verse is not saying, "When you come together you are not supposed to eat the Lord's Supper." Rather, the idea is, "Your intention may be to eat the Lord's Supper when you come together. But in fact, the way you behave in the ceremony means that you are not really eating the Lord's Supper. No matter what you may call what you are doing, it is not the Lord's Supper."
The reason that Paul brings up a problem with the celebration of the Lord's Supper is that someone, probably Chloe (I Cor. 1:11), brought it to his attention ("I hear", verse 18). One of the contentions that are mentioned in Chapter One, verses 10 through 12 is discussed in Chapter 11 beginning with verse 18. Paul realizes that the misbehavior of some in this sacrament is a serious matter, because it reflects upon God Himself. Notice that it is the "Lord's" table or supper.
The Lord's Supper is not a mystical experience, but a rational statement of what God did and will do in history. The Supper is a picture of what God has done for us. We remember what Christ endured for us (verses, 24-26). The Supper also is a picture of what God has done and continues to do to us, in the inner man. We now are alive and are sustained by His life as we feed on Christ. The Word of Christ leads us to turn from our sin, trust in His leadership and walk obediently. The Lord's Supper is a reminder of what God did in our hearts and souls, and what He promises to continue to do for us in the future.
The joy is the Supper's testimony that what He has said He did is true and what He promises will surely come to pass ("till He come," verse 26). Therefore, we must not say something by our behavior that is not true. We must not live selfish and proud lives saying by our participation in the Lord's Supper, "This is what God is like and what He has done," because it is not so. According to verse 26, when we eat the Supper we "show" the Gospel. We cannot, by our personal behavior inside or outside the congregation, show that we are not saved and at the same time participate in a ceremony that proclaims that we are. Nor must we put ourselves in spiritual jeopardy by acting a lie (verse 29).
"this is not...supper"
The idea of this phrase is "you are not really eating the Lord's Supper even though you think you are. In fact, verse 30 points out that God was not blessing their "coming together." Certainly "many" were not blessed! The next two verses explain what they really are doing, and verse 23 is explaining what the Supper really is.
The idea this verse conveys is that many people in the congregation treated the Lord's supper as if it were a regular meal.
"For in eating everyone taketh before other his own supper."
The thought is that each person, before he went to church, took out of his own supply or storehouse those things he wanted to eat himself and brought those things to church to eat during the Lord's Supper.
1. This highlighted their selfishness. Each was concerned for "his own." As the other part of the verse states, "one is hungry" but another who had more than he needed was "drunken." Rather than being a help to supply the obvious needs of others, many were concerned only with their own desires.
2. This highlighted their focus upon the material world. The Lord's Supper was a time to remember Him (verse 24). But they only thought of supplying their own physical desires. This verse says they were "drunken." Their abandonment to this world is called "idolatry" in I Corinthians 10:7 and 14. Drunkenness is another way of describing an unbeliever, filled with this world and not filled by the Holy Spirit (Col. 3:19-21; Eph. 5:18; I Thess. 5:7).
3. Their habit of celebrating the Lord's Supper described in this verse was more than just an excess of their lust. It was part of the normal worship of the Corinthian temples with their orgies. They were imitating the worship of idols in their celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Verse 22, "have ye not...in?"
Of course they do. If they are hungry let them eat at home. The Lord's Supper is not meant to satisfy their physical hunger. It is a feast with a spiritual focus (verse 34).
The Lord's Supper is not a regular meal. Nor can a regular meal be changed into the Lord's Supper. It is special, limited to believers and part of the worship of God. The Passover was a regular meal with spiritual meaning (Ex. 12). But the Lord's Supper is not a regular meal. Jesus fulfilled the Passover meal. We now remember Christ's finished work in the Communion Supper, which is a totally spiritual ceremony using physical symbols. It has no spiritual power and imparts no grace, but it points to Him who does.
Some in the Corinthian congregation were making the Lord's Supper a regular meal, plus insisting that each family eat only "his own." The result was that the ceremony highlighted the material distinction between church members inasmuch as some had more to eat than others. It implied that those with less to eat celebrated an inferior Supper or were less blessed by God. In this way, those who abused the Lord's Supper actually abused and thought less of the church which was composed of all those who identified with the Lord.
They despised other members of the church and so really despised the work of God and God Himself.
"What...? shall...in this?"
This is a mocking question. Paul is saying, "Do not kid yourself. I do not approve of what you are doing and neither does God." Notice the use of the pronoun "I." Paul does not praise them, and neither does God, whom Paul represents, as we see in the next verse.
Verse 23, "For I have received of the Lord"
This phrase applies to what Paul is about to say and also to all the things Paul says elsewhere. God through Paul now brings the true purpose and meaning of the Lord's Supper, something they seemed to have forgotten.
The word "night" is used, among other things, to describe where unbelievers live (I Thess. 5:9). It is used as a synonym for "darkness" (Ps. 104:20; I Thess. 5:5). That connection is important because the spiritual idea of the word "darkness" is much clearer to see. It represents Satan, sin, and the dominion where unbelievers live (Prov. 4:19; Isa. 29:15; Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11; Col. 1:13; I Pet. 2:9). Also, "darkness" is associated with Hell and God's judgment (Ps. 88:6; Amos 5:18,20; Matt. 13:30; II Pet. 2:4,17; Jude 6,13).
The Lord's Supper is a remembrance of Christ's death. But it was more than a physical death common to all men. It was also the spiritual, eternal death of enduring God's wrath in Hell. The apprehension and trial of Christ occurred at night. The crucifixion occurred in the day time. However, the night is highlighted because it is a picture of His spiritual experience of being abandoned by God. (Incidentally, Jesus' agony began at night, the Garden of Gethsemane.) Jesus was covered with our sin and endured God's judgment. In fact, the physical, historical drama of the cross reflected the spiritual drama. The Bible tells us that for three hours in the middle of the day when Jesus was on the cross, there was physical darkness (Mark 15:33). This illustrated and emphasized the spiritual trauma Jesus was enduring.
Paul does not bring up this fact just to educate them. He wants to increase their awareness of what Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross meant, with a view toward hopefully correcting their attitude and behavior. In large measure, the surest antidote for the sin of caring too much for our own interests and caring too much for this physical world is to recall what Jesus endured spiritually. A proper focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His work of salvation is the cure for the sin of forgetting the meaning of the Lord's Supper.
According to Isaiah 53:5, Jesus was not just betrayed of Judas and Peter but "of us all." We betrayed Him who was our Savior in the sense that we personally were rebellious sinners and did not want the salvation which God provided. It is only until He changed our hearts, that we became His faithful stewards.
A second antidote for the sin of caring more for the world than for spiritual things is to recall what sins we have done and consider what we really deserve. We were Jesus' enemy and despised His will. Still, He loved us and brought His grace to us. That focus should restore the relief of knowing Jesus has rescued us from Hell, the humbleness of recognizing we could do nothing to help ourselves, the gratitude for all he has done, and the joy of our spiritual salvation, and the zeal to do His will.
Verse 24, "And...thanks"
What an amazing statement! Jesus was going to face the wrath of God. But He gave thanks! He was thankful, not that He could have something to eat, but that He could be a Savior and go to the cross. He was thankful that He could be the one to endure the penalty for our sins. He was thankful that He could be the Passover Lamb. He is the greatest example of someone who did not seek "his own".
"he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body for you: which is broken for you"
The phrase "this is my body" does not mean that the bread is physically, in any way, His body. After all, Jesus spoke this phrase when He was still in His own physical body (Matt. 26:26). We know He does not have two bodies. Rather, the phrase is similar to the phrase "I am the bread." That is, Jesus is not a loaf of cooked grain, but the giver and sustainer of life. Jesus has in mind a spiritual idea (John 6:35, 51, 54, 63). So the phrase means, "the bread represents the fact that my body was used to provide eternal life for you."
The word "broken" is a translation of a form of the Greek word klazo or klao. It is a word that is used almost always together with the word "give" (Matt. 14:19, 15:36, 26:26), and in situations in which sharing is in view. One example is Mark 8:19 ("break ... among 5000," that is, give out to the 5000). Another is Acts 2:46 ("breaking bread from house to house"). Furthermore, the word "broken" is used in I Corinthians 10:16 to explain that broken bread is the communion of fellowship of the body of Christ. From I Corinthians 10:17, we can understand the words "body of Christ" refer to "we being ... of one body." that is, the congregation, the church. Therefore, we can arrive at the conclusion that the bread is broken for distribution.
With all of this in mind, we can understand the words, "this is my body, which is broken for you" do not point to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but to the application of that sacrifice to His people. The words refer to the fact that the saving value of Jesus' sacrifice would be distributed to many people (Rom. 5:5,19).
We must not assign to the word "broken" a meaning that it does not have. We must not think that I Corinthians 11:24 implies that Jesus' body was broken in any sense. Rather we must think that "broken" highlights the fact that the spiritual benefits which Jesus secured in His one body were distributed to many. It is the benefits that Jesus secured in His body that were cut up, so to speak, and served to many.
In no sense does the Bible teach Jesus' body was physically or symbolically broken into pieces. There is a word that is used in John 19:36 that means to shatter or break into pieces. But the message there is that Jesus' body was not broken on the cross. The word "broken" in John 19:36 is part of a quote from a few verses in the Old Testament, and means to break permanently, never to be repaired (Ex. 12:46, Lev. 6:28, Psalm 10:15, 124:7). That was not Jesus' experience, inasmuch as His physical body was never broken. Spiritually, too, He was not permanently shattered. Instead, He absorbed all the wrath of God that the law required and came out on the other side of Hell, victorious over death and Hell.
The idea behind this verse can be understood by looking at Matt. 26:26,27. Those verses tell us that the bread was broken and the cup was passed so that "ye all" could partake. The bread was broken for distribution. This point fits the discussion in I Corinthians perfectly because the problem was that each Corinthian was eating "his own," and the contrast among what different people ate was great. We could say that many Corinthians counted upon the physical bread in this world to sustain them. So, it was fitting that they celebrated that sort of gospel by a physical supper. But that was not a celebration of the Gospel of the Bible offered by God. The Lord's Supper was supposed to teach not only that the bread which God offered was a spiritual thing, but also that it was distributed and shared by all of God's people equally. All true believers partake of the same life-sustaining bread, who is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:35). The real picture of the Supper is that all believers get all of Christ, not a piece of Him. One person gets all that God can give, but so does the next believer.
"this do in remembrance of me."
Do what? One thing is certain, the words "this do" do not refer to "break." That is, the words "this do," do not refer back to the immediate words "my body which is broken for you." Jesus would never say that His body is to be broken. As we saw, the Bible says it would never be broken (John 19:36). We are commanded to "take, eat." As we also read in verse 26, the eating of the bread is what we are to do.
The Corinthians had to learn the message that all true believers are privileged to eat. So why make a distinction at the Supper? Physical differences should melt away in the presence of the glory of God's spiritual blessing of salvation. We eat of Christ, not something that is a result of our own efforts which we bring to the Supper.
If, as verse 21 accuses, a person only wants to eat his "own" supper, then that is all he has. He is really celebrating those material blessings for which he has worked. Furthermore, since all material blessings come from God, he is enjoying the creation without giving thanks to the Creator. Such a person is not saved. In that light he has betrayed the Lord, not in sense that he was ever loyal formerly, but in the sense that he only pretended to worship Jesus' name but really wanted to make his own name. That attitude is in direct opposition to the Supper which is observed "in remembrance of Me (Jesus)," instead of in remembrance of themselves.
Verse 25, "After the same manner."
All that is said about the bread applies to the cup. The bread and the cup are together one picture of salvation. The bread emphasizes that Jesus gives us life. The cup reminds us how that is possible.
This word is tied to the words "in my blood" and to the words "the Lord's death." The cup does not refer to the object used to hold something to drink but to the substance inside. The cup only represents its contents. The cup is full of wrath (Matt. 26:39; John 18:11, Rev. 16:19) which is the kind of death that the cup represents and which Jesus endured, namely the death required as payment for sin (Rom. 6:23).
These words are related to the words "this cup" and "in remembrance of me." The newness of the Testament is that Jesus has done something in the past which we are to remember. What did He do? He took the cup of God's wrath as He promised He would before the foundation of the world. The idea is that "new" does not mean it has never existed before, nor does it mean "different" as if it is not the same Testament as the Old Testament. The Testament is new because it is a fulfilled Testament. The death promised and pictured in the Old Testament has taken place and is now a remembrance rather than a promise. In the words of verse 26, we "show" or declare what has happened, namely, the Lord's death. That is what is new about the Testament. There is only one Testament, which is the Gospel promise throughout the ages. That Testament is now fulfilled. That is the new thing which we show or declare.
"This do ye...remembrance of me"
This phrase means we are making a public visible statement about Jesus. He is the Savior who takes upon Himself the wrath of God (I Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:13). It also means we are making a public visible statement about ourselves. We claim that we have been to the cross with Him. He died our death and the payment has been made. (Matt. 20:23; Mark 10:39; Rom. 6:1-11).
Verse 26, "For as often as ye eat...drink"
The word translated "as often as" or "as oft as" in verse 25 is used only here and in Revelation 11:6. There is nothing to indicate how many times per year is in view. One thing is certain, the word does not mean "zero times."
This verse teaches that there is no rule for the frequency of observing the Lord's Supper. Some churches partake monthly, some partake four times a year. There is no biblical rule concerning this. However, two things should be kept in mind. Observing it rarely would mean many people would not be able to participate. But observing it too often would not give people enough time to fulfill the admonition in verses 28 and 29.
"till he come"
As long as the Lord has not come, we are to make the declaration which is contained in the Lord's Supper. Now is the time to show or proclaim Christ's death (II Cor. 6:2). This is particularly significant for evangelistic reasons, which was always Paul's concern. For when the Lord comes, it will be too late. The time for proclaiming the Gospel will be over. His coming will be for Judgment (1:8; 4:5).
Paul has just explained the meaning of the Lord's Supper and is about to give the Corinthians some stern warnings about its abuse. Many were in serious spiritual peril because they were unwilling or unable to distinguish between the Lord's Supper and a regular meal. Therefore, it is good for us to highlight some of the differences and take heed, lest we imitate their error and reap their reward.
1. The Lord's Supper: ..... a statement of what Christ did
A Regular Meal: ..... no statement at all
2. The Lord's Supper: ..... focuses upon Christ
A Regular Meal: ..... focuses upon ourselves
3. The Lord's Supper: ..... only for believers
A Regular Meal: ..... for everyone
4. The Lord's Supper: ..... feeds the soul and its spiritual needs
A Regular Meal: ..... feeds the body and its physical needs
5. The Lord's Supper: ..... eaten the same by all
A Regular Meal: ..... eaten differently by different people
6. The Lord's Supper: ..... identifies the partakers as the people of God
A Regular Meal: ..... only a social gathering of all kinds of people
7. The Lord's Supper: ..... commanded by God
A Regular Meal: ..... voluntary
Verse 27, "eat...drink...unworthily"
Those who partake of the Lord's Supper are outwardly representing God and making a statement about what He has done for them. Those who are not saved, and whose lives reveal that fact, are not worthy to represent God or make any statements about Him. An unbeliever has no spiritual credentials and is unworthily making statements when he is partaking of the Lord's Supper.
"shall be guilty of the body..."
This phrase does not make sense. People are guilty of breaking a law, but never guilty of a body. The phrase is illogical in English. The word in Greek is not really "guilty" but "subject to" or "liable." It is the word enoxos and is found in Heb. 2:15 as "subject to" and in Mark 3:29 as "in danger of." Also, the word "guilty" is really tied to both "the body" and "blood" of the Lord. This is the proper way to render the phrase: "shall be in danger of the body of the Lord or shall be in danger of the blood of the Lord."
The danger in view is the one which the body and the blood of the Lord endured. It is the payment Jesus had to make for sin with His body and His blood. Therefore, the idea of the verse is "if you go ahead and partake of the Supper as an unbeliever, you are not going to find salvation in that ritual. In fact, you are still subject or liable to the same condemnation or liability that the Lord was liable for." A person either deals with the wrath of God in Christ, or deals with the same wrath in his own body. Essentially, the verse is saying that a person who partakes the Lord's Supper unworthily really has no salvation and will eventually experience the same judgment and penalty that Jesus experienced for His people.
Verse 28, "let a man examine himself"
The purpose of the man's self-examination is to see if he is saved (II Cor. 13:5). This is not a suggestion. It is a cry of warning (I Cor. 10:12). It would be terrible to partake of the Supper in vain. The idea of "himself" is in contrast to the Corinthian tendency to judge or assess another person's life. The only person who really knows if a man is walking faithfully is himself. Yet we must not think the verse teaches a man can do what is right in his own eyes. This must be an honest examination. How can we know it is honest? Ultimately the only one who really knows us is God Himself. Therefore, an examination is really an examination in prayer before God and in light of His Word.
God's physical universe in all its parts reveals design in form, structure, function, and purpose. Similarly, God's spiritual, creative work of salvation (II Cor. 5:17) in a person's heart reveals design. One thing a Christian has been designed for is to stand up to examinations or tests (see verse 13). He has been designed to meet those tests, just as a bridge has been designed to meet the challenge of certain forces upon it. If a bridge collapses under the stress of certain forces, such as high winds, it tells us something about the design and the designer of that bridge. If we do not hold up under the tests sent our way, then our new life was not designed by God. In fact, we have no new life at all. That is why our celebration of the Lord's Supper must have integrity. For we cannot say by the Supper that we were designed by God and then live in worldly way, because if we do that we hold the designer up to ridicule.
Another way to look at it is what a man is in Jesus Christ shows up in how he behaves, especially how he behaves in a test. All of life is a test to reveal who we are or rather who we have been all along. A test reveals us to be either a seeker of God or a seeker of this world.
We can know if we are a seeker of God. Psalm 119, for example, gives us abundant clues:
1. Psalm 119:18,103 A true believer has a personal thirst for God's Word.
2. Psalm 119:6,67 A true believer has a hatred for his own personal sin.
3. Psalm 119:5,105 A true believer has a willing heart and power to change his life.
4. Psalm 119:42,49,75,170 A true believer has a trust and confidence that whatever God desires and does is best, no matter what his own limited perception might otherwise lead him to think, no matter how persuasive the propaganda of this world is.
"and so let him...cup"
In reality, this is a command. If a person has reason to think that he would not measure up under the scrutiny of God's Word, is the answer to skip the celebration and thus avoid God's wrath? No. First of all such a tactic does not relieve a person of his liability. But more to the point, we are commanded in this verse to partake of the Lord's Supper, implying we are commanded to examine ourselves, resolve the spiritual issues of our life, and then declare Christ's victory in our life by His Supper.
Verse 29, "damnation unto himself"
This verse reinforces our confidence that we were on the right track when we concluded in verse 27, that "guilty" is referring to the fact that an unbeliever who is unrepentant stands before the Law with the guilt of his own sin, just as Jesus stood before the Law with the guilt of His people's sins.
"not discerning the Lord's body"
The words "Lord's body" refer to the church in the sense of I Corinthians 6:15 or 12:27. This phrase means that some who were partaking of the Lord's Supper did not understand that the church is to be special. It is a body representing the spiritual Lord. It is not a social gathering based on secular interests.
Verse 30, "For this cause...weak and sickly...sleep"
We may not soften the words or redefine them in a way that removes our difficulty in interpretation. The word "weak" can mean without spiritual strength as in Matthew 26:41 and Romans 5:6 ("without strength"). But the word "sickly" is used five times for physical sickness. Also, the word "sleep" can mean physical death (I Cor. 7:39, "dead"; John 11:11,12 and I Thess. 4:13-15, "sleep").
Does this verse teach that there is a direct relationship between the spiritual unfaithfulness of a church and the physical illness of its members? It is certainly possible for God to bring physical trouble upon certain members of the church. However, it is a dangerous practice to try to make an assessment of the spiritual condition of a church based upon the degree of physical health of its members. Sometimes very faithful members of the congregation are assigned to a life of physical affliction by the Lord for purposes only He knows. The best we can say about this verse is that Paul, as an apostle and as a writer of Scripture, was able for God's purposes to make this assessment of the Corinthian congregation. Paul, in this case, was unique. He was given the ability to make an accurate judgment for the case of Corinth only. This is not a principle we can apply to situations we encounter. What God does is His business. We are not able to know how physical illness fits into God's plan for another person of the church.
In the flow of the logic of this chapter we can make an important observation. An individual can temporarily get away with his sin. But a church cannot so easily hide it. The church that makes an outward display of identifying with Jesus Christ, as in the Lord's Supper, is supposed to be a picture of God's work of grace. Because that church reflects upon Himself, God will take measure to correct it. A church that ought to be a custodian of God's words and does not stand on the spiritual issues of the day and a church that tolerates sin, creating problems and suffering for its members, quickly loses its distinctive Christian character and merits God's judgment. The hope is that what God does to the church brings corrections (as it did for a while in Corinth).
Verse 31, "For if we would judge ourselves"
The verb "judge" emphasizes comparison, discrimination, or finding the difference between two things (Acts 15:9 "put difference"; I Cor. 4:7 "maketh to differ"). Perhaps the two things compared are the behavior of the church and its public identification with Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the comparison could be between the behavior of the church and God's standard as expressed in His Word. The verb is in the active mood. It expresses an action that the subject ("we") can do. The idea of the phrase cab be expressed as, "if we examine ourselves individually, or through the corporate administration of discipline..."
In this phrase, the word "judged" is passive. That is a grammatical construction used to express an action performed upon the subject. The "we" is the subject being judged. Unlike the first word "judge," diekrinomen, in the previous phrase, this word "judge," ekrinometha, has no prefix di. The prefix is a form of the preposition dia, which conveys the meaning of "through" (Matt. 12:1; I Cor. 10:1) or "by means of" (Matt. 1:22, "by"; I Cor. 1:2, "by" 2x; I Cor. 2:10, "by"). Perhaps the distinction, if any, can be stated, "If we are judged through or by means of ourselves, we will not be liable to or be the subject of God's judgment."
The idea of the whole verse is that if the church would take its responsibilities seriously and perform the judgments necessary to turn its members away from sin which so quickly destroys the witness of the church, then it would not be subject to the severe judgments of God. When the church lets sin get out of hand so that it becomes a real problem to both its individual members and its corporate witness, when the church abrogates its duties to take steps to correct that sin, then it can expect some severe chastising from God.
This verse provides a little help in understanding verse 30. The physical problem mentioned in verse 30 may, according to this verse, be God's chastisements intended for spiritual benefit.
Now is the time to be corrected so that as a congregation as well as individuals, we do not end up like all the other worldly organizations and individuals, i.e. condemned. The warning of Hell is appropriate, even to the church. However, according to Hebrews 12:5-8, the chastisement of the Lord is a hopeful sign. It means that He has not abandoned that particular church. A totally rebellious church can have a great deal of physical blessings and not be troubled in the least. That is because God has removed their candlestick. They no longer represent Him. He has abandoned them and they go their merry way. But a church that is faithful enough to be a witness is the object of God's care. His chastisements are acts of love. It is always best to turn from sin and do it God's way. We should all rejoice when in His mercy He causes us to do just that.
Verses 33,34, "when ye come together..."
The final advice of Paul in this matter is quite simple. When the members of the congregation decide to worship, especially in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, ...
"tarry one for another"
... the members should wait until everybody has eaten his own supper at home. The idea is they should satisfy their physical hunger first so that they can concentrate, not upon the physical differences between members, but upon the spiritual riches every member has in Christ.
"the rest will I set in order when I come"
Whatever remaining matters Paul meant, we do not know. But the fact that they could keep until he came to them revealed that they were quite minor in comparison to the matters he discussed. To put it another way, the issue of the proper observance of the Lord's Supper was so important that it required immediate and individual attention. Perhaps Paul felt that if the Corinthians corrected the root of the problems displayed in their sinful observance of the Lord's Supper, namely, a matter of a material rather than a spiritual focus, then all the other unnamed matters would take care of themselves. Paul knew that it was quite possible he would never return. God might never lead him back to Corinth. Therefore, he made this statement as a way of putting some things aside and in order to get to the root of their deeper spiritual problems. Essentially, all matters are matters of the heart. If a person has the correct spiritual attitude in one area in his life, it is very likely that the same spiritual attitude will prevail in other areas of his life. A change of heart, which is the real requirement for resolving any particular sin problem, ends up being the basis for correcting many other sin problems.
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