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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 11

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-34


1. Headship, and the Position of Woman. The Lord’s Supper.


1. The Headship of Christ and of the Man; Position of Woman. (1 Corinthians 11:1-16 .)

2. The Lord’s Supper. (1 Corinthians 11:17-31 .)

The opening verse belongs to the preceding chapter. And now after the church in relation to the world had been treated by the Apostle in the first part of the epistle, he takes up next the affairs of the church itself. Here, too, much had to be corrected into which the Corinthian assembly had drifted. After the brief and excellent word of praise by which he expressed his confidence in them ((1 Corinthians 11:2 ), he calls their attention to an important truth, which in our times is not only overlooked, but often belittled and altogether set aside. It concerns the headship of Christ, of the man, and the position of woman. It is evident that Corinthian women had assumed in the church a position which was not according to God’s order in creation. They had not yet learned it. God’s order in creation has to be manifested in the church. This order is unaltered by redemption, though in Christ there is neither male nor female, yet has God assigned to man and to woman their respective places which must be maintained. This divine order the Apostle states. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” These are weighty and blessed statements. Christ is the Creator, the Lord of all, but He also became man and is the “First born of all Creation” (Colossians 1:15-16 ). He is therefore in possession of the headship in creation, and head of man as the Man, as He is also the head of the Church. God has given Him the preeminence in all things. And the head of the woman is the man; this is the place which God has given to woman on earth. In creation the head of the woman is man. Yet what would man be without the woman!--she is necessary to him.

“The woman is the glory of man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” To these statements about the headship of Christ, the headship of man, he being head of the woman, the Apostle adds “and the head of Christ is God.” Christ is the eternal Son of God, coequal in Godhead in every way. He is God. But the Only-Begotten humbled Himself; He took on the creature’s form and “was made of a woman.” And as Man He has taken the place under God, yielding perfect obedience in all things. In all His redemption work He is under God, not only on earth, but now in glory, as the glorified Man at the right hand of God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory.

The purpose of the declaration of this order of the ways of God in creation was to set them right on a matter which in our days is often sneered at. Man praying or prophesying is not to cover his head. Woman praying and prophesying is to have a covering on her head. The man who covereth his head in praying dishonoreth his head. Woman uncovered dishonoreth her head. A covering on the head is the outward sign of being in the place of subjection. An uncovered head signifies the opposite. The order which God has instituted as to the place of man and woman, His people are bound to respect. It may appear a little thing, yet if disobeyed, as it was in Corinth (where women seemed to be puffed up and refused to follow this order), it becomes a stepping stone towards more serious evil. Woman is to testify to her place of subjection by covering her head in praying and testifying. Man similarly engaged does not cover his head, for the authority is vested in man “for as much as he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man.” How all this is denied and woman aims to take leadership and rulership in place of man, we need not to enlarge upon.

If woman persists in leaving the place (in subjection) where her glory shines, if she will persist in pushing out into the glare of public life and thrust herself into the struggle and grinding competition that wears out men’s lives and tenderer instincts, let her not be astonished if she lose her distinctive grace--the delicate sheen that cannot bear the world’s rough, unhallowed ways (Prof. Moorehead).

Another reason is given why praying women should wear outwardly a sign of subjection--because of the angels. Angels are watchers and attendants of the heirs of salvation. As the church is known to them and by it they know the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10 ), so are they observers of Christian worship and the order and behavior of God’s people in His house. And angels themselves are in subjection and yield perfect obedience.

Then the church itself is brought into view. The first thing is not the fact that Christians are the members of Christ, who constituted the body of Christ, the gifts of the body and the exercise of these gifts. The Lord’s supper, that blessed memorial of His love in His sacrificial death, the love which passeth knowledge, is the first thing mentioned. “Do this in remembrance of Me” was His request in the night in which He was betrayed. When the Holy Spirit came and the company gathered in fellowship we read at once of “the breaking of bread,” to remember Him (Acts 2:46 ). The first thing in the assembly must be to remember Christ, His death, His presence in glory, His coming again. But before the Apostle tells them what he had received of the Lord, he had to reprove them for their disorder and their divisions. In these sects and parties they denied the very truth of the church as the one body, the body of Christ. They had a custom of eating a meal in connection with the Lord’s supper. And at this meal some drank to excess, while it seems this custom of a preliminary meal led to a complete neglect or unworthy observance of the supper itself. Then he writes of what he had received of the Lord. How simple it all is! “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” The Lord’s supper is to remember Him, to show the Lord’s death till He come. And all else that man has made of it is pure invention, if not wicked blasphemy, like the idolatrous mass of Romanism. And how often shall this feast, which delights His heart, where God’s children worship and adore, be kept? In Apostolic days it was evidently kept every Lord’s day (Acts 20:7 ).

And all God’s children, whom the Lord has received, have a right to the Lord’s table and gather thus around His blessed Person. The only things which bar from the Lord’s table, are evil doctrines and an evil walk. And the Lord’s supper may be eaten unworthily. He, who comes to the Lord’s table without self-judgment, eats and drinks of it unworthily. We eat and drink unworthily when we partake without discerning the Lord’s body and blood represented by the bread and the wine, for we do not then show to God the death of Christ. Let a man examine (judge) himself before eating or else he eats for his own judgment. This is God’s way of producing and maintaining holiness in the church. And the Corinthians had experienced that the Lord dealt with a number of them in judgment. Upon many the Lord had laid His hand, many were weak and stricken with disease, while others had fallen asleep. It was mercy, “but when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

“The world is condemned. Sin in the Christian is judged; it escapes neither the eye nor the judgment of God. He never permits it; He cleanses the believer from it by chastening him, although He does not condemn, because Christ has borne his sins, and been made sin for him. The death of Christ forms then the center of communion in the assembly, and the touchstone of conscience, and that, with respect to the assembly, in the Lord’s supper.” (Synopsis of the Bible).

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/1-corinthians-11.html. 1913-1922.
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