I Corinthians 11: Special instructions.

March 22, 2015.

Daily Reading: I Corinthians 11.

Background: I Corinthians 9-10.

Concepts and Connections:

Chapter 11

1. Head coverings: The opening of this chapter has been in many rings of debate and discussion over the years as to the meaning and context, and what the church should do with this passage. To begin, we should remember what Paul has been talking about in the previous chapters, addressing some of the Corinthian’s abuse of liberty in Christ, repeating “all things are lawful,” (see chapter 6 and 10) and causing their brethren to stumble. They were putting on spiritual pride, and this was leading to division and sin. Now Paul turns to address some more specific problems that they were having. In the fist verse (probably connected with the end of the last section), Paul calls the Corinthians to imitate him, as he imitates Christ. Paul not only talked the talk, but he also walked the walk. Regardless of the absolute resolution of everything that Paul says in the beginning of this chapter about head coverings, the overall point Paul is trying to make is about gender roles in the church, and in a more general sense, in life. Notice how Paul starts off the section with just as Christ is the head of man, so is man the head of his wife. It would seem that just as the Corinthians were abusing their liberty in other areas, the women the church were doing the same by trying to take over the role that men were supposed to play.

Head coverings were a sign of submission during the first century, as well as a sign of being married (somewhat similar to a wedding ring in our culture, but probably not the exact same). We know from what Paul wrote to Timothy that women were not to take leadership roles over men in the assembly because that was not the role that they were set to play by God (see I Timothy 2:8-15). It should be noted that roles do not imply superiority/inferiority, nor does the concept of submission. In fact, Christ Himself fully submitted to the will of the Father (see Philippians 2:5-8). He had a role to play, and He fulfilled it completely. The married women in Corinth, however, seemed to be using their freedom in Christ as an excuse to not be in submission to their husbands while praying or prophesying (the implications of the fact that Paul addresses them as praying and prophesying are also very interesting), leaving their heads uncovered and thus dishonoring her head. Though it is not a perfect metaphor, it would be somewhat similar to a wife going out in public purposely without her wedding band on because she had the “freedom” to do so. We can see how this could be a pointed opposition to submission. It was this attitude that Paul was writing against. There are some today that are convicted by a literal reading of this passage to wear head coverings in service in order to be following what Paul says here. Whereas you should indeed follow your convictions (unless your convictions are in complete opposition of what the Bible actually says), it is probably more important to understand this passage in the greater context of gender roles and issues with submission in marriage and in the church, drawing what we should follow from the meaning of the instruction rather than the very specific instance he was dealing with at the time.

2. The Lord’s Supper: The second topic that Paul deals with in this chapter seems to be of grave importance and one that was causing a lot of spiritual sickness within the Corinthian church. Paul turns to deal with the Lord’s supper and how many were abusing the memorial that Christ had established during the last passover He spent with His disciples on earth (see Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-23). To fully understand Paul’s instruction here, it is important to know what the Lord’s supper was originally like during the first century, as well as it is important to keep in mind the full context of this epistle. In the first century, the Lord’s supper was an actual meal, or at the very least during an actual meal (notice that the word ‘supper’ is in the name). When Jesus first instituted the Lord’s supper, it was during the passover feast, and from this passage we can see that Paul was addressing a time where the church would come together to eat. The practice of the Lord’s supper as we do it today probably has it’s roots in early to mid Catholicism.

So what was the problem that the Corinthians were having? This is where it is important to remember the overall context of the letter: unity. The church in Corinth was having major issues with unity (see I Corinthians 1-3). Paul even begins this discussion by revisiting the fact that he had heard that there were divisions and factions amongst the church. The Lord’s supper was meant to be a time of fellowship with one another and with Christ (thus why it is also referred to as ‘communion’). However, the Corinthians were not treating as such. When they came together to eat, one faction would get their food first and eat, while another would be away from them drinking, all while others didn’t even have food. They were completely divided, even humiliating those who did not have food! This was detrimental to their souls, as Paul says that anyone who took of the Lord’s supper unworthily ate and drank condemnation to themselves. Obviously this was a very important aspect of their spiritual lives. Notice how Paul tells them to rectify the situation. First he calls for introspection and personal reflection before partaking of the Lord’s supper (v. 28-29). Then, he says that when they come together to eat to wait on one another. They needed to put their division points behind them and come together as a family. Because they were a family, as we are still a family today. When we commune together, may we ever be more like a family and less like separate factions.

Tomorrow’s Reading: Genesis 44-47.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

-Walter

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