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INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS 11
In this chapter the apostle blames both men and women for their indecent appearance in public worship, and admonishes them how they should behave with the reasons of it; and also corrects some abuses and irregularities among them, at, or before, the Lord's supper; which leads him to give a particular account of that ordinance, of the nature, use, and design of it, and some directions about the performance of it, and attendance on it. He begins with an exhortation suitable to what he had said in the latter part of the preceding chapter, to follow him, as he followed Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1 and praises them for their remembrance of him, and for the keeping the ordinances as they were delivered to them; that is, as many of them, and as far as they did so, 1 Corinthians 11:2. And in order to make way for what he had on his mind to reprove them for, and admonish them about, he observes, that as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of every man, so the man is the head of the woman, 1 Corinthians 11:3 wherefore for him to appear, and join in public worship, with his head covered, is to dishonour his head, 1 Corinthians 11:4 as, on the other hand, for a woman to have her head uncovered in divine service, is to dishonour her head, it being all one as if her head was shaved, 1 Corinthians 11:5 wherefore it is concluded, that if it is a shame for her to be shaved or shorn, she ought to be covered when attending the worship of God, 1 Corinthians 11:6. The reason why a man should be uncovered at such a time is, because he is the image and glory of God; and the reason why the woman should be covered is, because she is the glory of the man, is made for his glory, and to be in subjection to him, of which the covering is a token, 1 Corinthians 11:7 and that she is so, is argued from the order of the creation, man being not of the woman, but the woman of the man, 1 Corinthians 11:8 and from the end of the creation, man being not for the woman, but the woman for the man, 1 Corinthians 11:9. Another reason why the woman should be covered at the time of public worship is, because of the angels then present, 1 Corinthians 11:10 but lest on this account the woman should be treated with contempt by the man, the apostle observes, that they are not, and cannot be without one another; and that they are from each other in different senses, and both from the Lord, 1 Corinthians 11:11, and then proceeds to other arguments, showing that women should not appear uncovered in the house of God: one is taken from the uncomeliness of it, which must be so judged by everyone, 1 Corinthians 11:13 and another is taken from nature and custom, and the contrary in men, which is disagreeable and shameful; for, if, the dictates of nature, it is shameful in men to wear long hair, it must be comely and decent in women, and what is for their glory, to wear such hair, since it is their covering, 1 Corinthians 11:14. But if, after all the apostle had said on this subject, there should be any contentious persons disposed to wrangle about it, he observes, that they were not proper persons to be continued in the church, 1 Corinthians 11:16 and then proceeds to take notice of some ill conduct of many in the Corinthian church, at, or before, the eating of the Lord's supper; partly through schisms and factions, they meeting in parties for that purpose; which he had heard of, and had reason to believe, and could not praise them for; their coming together in such a manner, being for the worse, and not the better, 1 Corinthians 11:18 and the rather he gave credit to this report, since there were heresies among them, which issue in schisms and divisions, and which must be expected, that hereby Christ's faithful ones might be distinguished from others, 1 Corinthians 11:19 when he goes on to show how they abused the ordinance of the supper, not only by meeting together in parties, but by indulging their sensual appetites in eating and drinking, which was the principal end in coming together, and not the Lord's supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20 for they stayed not one for another, but one took his supper before the other, and so the one was full, and the other hungry, 1 Corinthians 11:21 the evil of which the apostle exposes by observing the indecency of such a conduct, when they had houses of their own to feast in; the contempt which they cast upon the church of God, and the shame they exposed the poor and hungry unto, all which was far from being praiseworthy, 1 Corinthians 11:22 upon which he gives a particular account of the Lord's supper, as he had it from Christ himself, the time when, the manner in which it was instituted and celebrated by him, the significance of its several parts, its use, and end, and the continuance of it until the second coming of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:23 and then he proceeds to show the evil of an unworthy partaking of this ordinance, how that such are guilty of, and vilify and reproach the body and blood of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:27 wherefore previous to a participation of it a man should examine himself as to his repentance towards God, and faith in Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:28 seeing such that are unworthy communicants bring condemnation on themselves, not having spiritual judgment to discern the Lord's body in the ordinance, 1 Corinthians 11:29 and so become liable to diseases and death itself, which was the case of several in the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 11:30 whereas, if persons would but examine and judge of themselves before hand, they would not be exposed to such judgments, 1 Corinthians 11:31 though the people of God, when they are afflicted, should look upon their afflictions, not as punishments, but as chastisements inflicted on them, for this end, that they might not be condemned with the world of the ungodly hereafter, 1 Corinthians 11:32. Wherefore the apostle's advice is, that when they came to the Lord's table they would not form themselves into factions and parties, and one part of them eat before, and separate from the rest, but that they would tarry till they all come together, and then join as one body and one bread, 1 Corinthians 11:33 and that if any man was an hungry, he should eat at home, and not have an ante-supper in the house of God, indulging his appetite there to his condemnation, and those that joined with him, 1 Corinthians 11:34 and the chapter is concluded with an intimation, that besides these irregularities, there were others in this church which the apostle signifies he would correct, when he should be in person with them.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. c] These words more properly close the preceding chapter, than begin a new one, and refer to the rules therein laid down, and which the apostle would have the Corinthians follow him in, as he did Christ: that as he sought, both in private and public, and more especially in his ministerial service, to do all things to the glory of God, and not for his own popular applause, in which he imitated Christ, who sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him so he would have them do all they did in the name of Christ, and to the glory of God by him: and that as he studied to exercise a conscience void of offence to God and man, in doing which he was a follower of Christ, who was holy in his nature, and harmless and inoffensive in his conversation; so he was desirous that they should likewise be blameless, harmless, and without offence until the day of Christ: and that whereas he endeavoured to please men in all things lawful and indifferent, wherein he copied after Christ, who by his affable and courteous behaviour, and humble deportment, sought to please and gratify all with whom he conversed; so he would have them not to mind high things, but condescend to men of low estates, and become all things to all, that they might gain some as he did: and once more, that as he sought not his own pleasure and advantage, but the salvation of others, in imitation of Christ, who pleased not himself, but took upon him, and bore cheerfully, the reproaches of men, that he might procure good for them; so the apostle suggests, that it would be right in them not to seek to have their own wills in every thing, but rather to please their neighbour for good to edification.
Now I praise you, brethren,.... The apostle prefaces what he had to say by way of commendation of them; though some think that this is said in an ironical way, because there are many things both in this chapter, and in the following part of this epistle, delivered in a way of reproof; but whoever considers the change of style in 1 Corinthians 11:17 will easily see, that this must be spoken seriously here, and is designed to raise the attention to what he was about to say, and to prepare their minds to receive, and take in good part, what he should say by way of rebuke; who could not well be angry when he praised them for what was praiseworthy in them, and reproved them for that which was blamable. The things he commends them for are as follow,
that ye remember me in all things; that is, either that they were mindful of him, though at a distance from them, and had such a veneration for him, and paid such respect to him, and to his judgment, as to write to him to have his sense about any point of doctrine, or case of conscience which had any difficulty in them; or that they bore in memory the doctrines of the Gospel which he had delivered among them; see 1 Corinthians 15:2 The Arabic version reads, "that ye remember my sayings and deeds"; the doctrines he preached among them, and the examples he set them:
and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you; meaning, among the rest, if not principally, baptism and the Lord's supper, which he received from Christ, and delivered unto them; see 1 Corinthians 11:23 and which they, at least many of them, kept and observed in the faith of Christ, from a principle of love to him, and with a view to his glory, and that as to the form and manner in which they were delivered to them by the apostle, agreeably to the mind of Christ; but was the apostle alive now, would, or could he praise the generality of those that are called Christians on this account? no; neither of these ordinances in common are kept as they were delivered: as to baptism, it is not attended to either as to subject or mode, both are altered, and are different from the original institution; and the Lord's supper is prostituted to the vilest of men; and, what is "monstrum horrendum", is made a test and qualification for employment in civil and military offices under the government.
But I would have you to know,.... Though they were mindful of him, and retained in memory many things he had declared among them, and kept the ordinances as delivered to them; yet there were some things in which they were either ignorant, or at least did not so well advert to, and needed to be put in mind of, and better informed about: and as the apostle was very communicative of his knowledge in every point, he fails not to acquaint them with whatsoever might be instructive to their faith, and a direction to their practice:
that the head of every man is Christ; Christ is the head of every individual human nature, as he is the Creator and Preserver of all men, and the donor of all the gifts of nature to them; of the light of nature, of reason, and of all the rational powers and faculties; he is the head of nature to all men, as he is of grace to his own people: and so he is as the Governor of all the nations of the earth, who whether they will or no are subject to him; and one day every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess that he is the Lord of all. Moreover, Christ is the head of every believing man; he is generally said to be the head of the church, and so of every man that is a member of it: he is a common public head, a representative one to all his elect; so he was in election, and in the covenant of grace; so he was in time, in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to, and entrance into heaven; and so he is now as an advocate and intercessor there: he is the political head of his people, or an head in such sense, as a king is the head of his nation: he is also an economical head, or in such sense an head as an husband is the head of his wife, and as a parent is the head of his family, and as a master is the head of his servants; for all these relations Christ sustains: yea, he is a natural head, or is that to his church, as an human head is to an human body: he is a true and proper head, is of the same nature with his body, is in union to it, communicates life to it, is superior to it, and more excellent than it. He is a perfect head, nothing is wanting in him; he knows all his people, and is sensible of their wants, and does supply them; his eye of love is always on them; his ears are open to their cries; he has a tongue to speak to them, and for them, which he uses; and he smells a sweet savour in them, in their graces and garments, though they are all his own, and perfumed by himself: there are no vicious humours in this head, flowing from thence to the body to its detriment, as from Adam to his posterity, whose head he was; but in Christ is no sin, nothing but grace, righteousness, and holiness, spring from him. There's no deformity nor deficiency in him; all fulness of grace dwells in him to supply the members of his body; he is an one, and only head, and an ever living and everlasting one.
And the head of the woman is the man, The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief; as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries.
And the head of Christ is God; that is, the Father, not as to his divine nature, for in respect to that they are one: Christ, as God, is equal to his Father, and is possessed of the same divine perfections with him; nor is his Father the head of him, in that sense; but as to his human nature, which he formed, prepared, anointed, upheld, and glorified; and in which nature Christ exercised grace on him, he hoped in him, he believed and trusted in him, and loved him, and yielded obedience to him; he always did the things that pleased him in life; he prayed to him; he was obedient to him, even unto death, and committed his soul or spirit into his hands: and all this he did as to his superior, considered in the human nature, and also in his office capacity as Mediator, who as such was his servant; and whose service he diligently and faithfully performed, and had the character from him of a righteous one; so that God is the head of Christ, as he is man and Mediator, and as such only.
Every man praying or prophesying,.... This is to be understood of praying and prophesying in public, and not in private; and not to be restrained to the person that is the mouth of the congregation to God in prayer, or who preaches to the people in the name of God; but to be applied to every individual person that attends public worship, that joins in prayer with the minister, and hears the word preached by him, which is meant by prophesying; for not foretelling future events is here meant, but explaining the word of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament, or any part of Scripture, unless singing of psalms should rather be designed, since that is sometimes expressed by prophesying: so in 1 Samuel 10:5 "thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place, with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them, and they shall prophesy". The Targum renders it thus, ואנון משבחין, "and they shall sing praise"; upon which Kimchi observes, that it is as if it was said, their prophecy shall be שירות, "songs" and praises to God, spoken by the Holy Ghost. So in 1 Samuel 19:23 it is said of Saul, that he "went on and prophesied". The Targum is, he went on, ומשבח, "and praised". And again, "he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied". Targum, ושבח, "and praised", or sung praise. Once more, in 1 Chronicles 25:1 it is said of Asaph, and others, that they "should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals"; which Kimchi explains of Asaph's singing vocally, and of his sons playing upon musical instruments.
Having his head covered; which, it seems, was the custom of some of them so to do in attendance on public worship: this they either did in imitation of the Heathens r, who worshipped their deities with their heads covered, excepting Saturn and Hercules, whose solemnities were celebrated with heads unveiled, contrary to the prevailing customs and usages in the worship of others; or rather in imitation of the Jews, who used to veil themselves in public worship, through a spirit of bondage unto fear, under which they were, and do to this day; and with whom it is a rule s, that
"a man might not stand and pray, neither with his girdle on, ולא בראש מגולה, nor with his head uncovered; nor with his feet uncovered.''
Accordingly it is said t of Nicodemus ben Gorion,
"that he went into the school grieved, and נתעטף, "veiled himself", and stood in prayer;''
and a little after that
"that he went into the sanctuary and "veiled" himself, and stood and prayed;''
though the Targum on Judges 5:2 suggests,
"that the wise men sit in the synagogues, בריש גלי, "with the head uncovered", to teach the people the words of the law;''
and on Judges 5:9 has these words,
"Deborah in prophecy said, I am sent to praise the Scribes of Israel, who when they were in tribulation did not cease from expounding the law; and so it was beautiful for them to sit in the synagogues, "with the head uncovered", and teach the people the words of the law, and bless and confess before the Lord;''
but it seems that a different custom had now prevailed; now from this Gentile or judaizing practice, the apostle would dissuade them by observing, that such an one that uses it, "dishonoureth his head"; meaning either in a figurative, spiritual, and mystical sense, his head Christ, in token of the liberty received from him, and because he is above in heaven, and clear of all sin, the head must be uncovered in public worship; or otherwise the reverse is suggested of him, which is highly to dishonour him, and is the sense many interpreters give into: rather the reason should be, because Christ, the believer's head, appears for him in heaven, opens a way of access for him, gives him audience and acceptance in his person, and through his blood and righteousness; and therefore should appear with open face and head uncovered, as a token of freedom and boldness; otherwise he dishonours his head as if his blood and sacrifice were not effectual, and his intercession not prevalent: but the natural head, taken in a literal sense, is rather meant; and the sense is, that by covering it, it looks as if he was guilty and ashamed, and in subjection; whereas to appear uncovered expresses freedom, boldness, and superiority, like himself, who is the head of the woman; whereas to be covered, as with a woman's veil or hood, is effeminate, unmanly, and dishonourable.
r Macrob Saturnal. l. 3. c. 6. Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 14. & 19. & 22. s Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 5. t T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth,.... Not that a woman was allowed to pray publicly in the congregation, and much less to preach or explain the word, for these things were not permitted them: see 1 Corinthians 14:34 but it designs any woman that joins in public worship with the minister in prayer, and attends on the hearing of the word preached, or sings the praises of God with the congregation, as we have seen, the word prophesying signifies,
with her head uncovered. It may seem strange from whom the Corinthian women should take up this custom, since the Jewish women were not allowed to go into the streets, or into any open and public place, unveiled u. It was a Jewish law, that they should go out no where bare headed w: yea, it was reckoned scandalous and ignominious to do so. Hence it is said, x שגלוי הראש גנאי להם, "that uncovering of the head is a reproach" to the daughters of Israel: and concerning the adulterous woman, it is represented as said by the priest y,
"thou hast separated from the way of the daughters of Israel; for the way or custom of the daughters of Israel is להיות מכוסות ראשיהן, "to have their heads covered"; but thou hast gone "in the ways of the Gentiles", who walk with head bare.''
So that their it should seem that these Corinthians followed the examples of the Heathens: but then, though it might be the custom of some nations for women to go abroad bare headed; yet at their solemnities, where and when they were admitted, for they were not everywhere and always, they used to attend with their heads veiled and covered z. Mr. Mede takes notice indeed of some Heathen priestesses, who used to perform their religious rites and sacrifices with open face, and their hair hanging down, and locks spreading, in imitation of whom these women at Corinth are thought to act. However, whoever behaved in this uncomely manner, whose example soever she followed, the apostle says,
dishonoureth her head; not her husband, who is her head in a figurative sense, and is dishonoured by her not being covered; as if she was not subject to him, or because more beautiful than he, and therefore shows herself; but her natural head, as appears from the reason given:
for that is even all one as if she were shaven; to be without a veil, or some sort of covering on her head, according to the custom of the country, is the same thing as if her head was shaved; and everyone knows how dishonourable and scandalous it is for a woman to have her head shaved; and if this is the same, then it is dishonourable and scandalous to her to be without covering in public worship. And this shows, that the natural head of the man is meant in the preceding verse, since the natural head of the woman is meant in this.
u Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 24. sect. 12. w T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 72. 1. x R. Sol. Jarchi in Numb. v. 19. y Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 193. 2. z Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 17.
For if the woman be not covered,.... That is, if her head is not covered with some sort of covering, as is the custom of the place where she lives,
let her also be shorn; let her hair be cut short; let her wear it as men do theirs; and let her see how she will look, and how she will like that, and how she will be looked upon, and liked by others; everybody will laugh at her, and she will be ashamed of herself:
but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven: as it is accounted in all civilized nations: the very Heathens a speak of it as a thing abominable, and of which there should not be one single dreadful example: then let her be covered; with a veil, or any sort of covering in common use.
a Vid. Apul. Metamorph. l. 2. p. 21.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head,.... The Ethiopic version adds, "whilst he prays"; which is a proper interpretation of the words, though a wrong version; for the apostle's meaning is not, that a man should not have his head covered at any time, but whilst he is in public worship, praying, prophesying, or singing of psalms: the reason is,
forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God. The apostle speaks of man here as in his first creation, in his state of innocence before his fall; but now he has sinned and defaced this image, and come short of this glory; which lay partly in his body being made after the exemplar of the body of Christ, the idea of which God had in his eternal mind, and according to which he shaped the body of Adam: and partly in his soul, in that righteousness and holiness, wisdom and knowledge, and all other excellent gifts in which it was formed. So the Jews b say, the understanding is כבוד השם "the glory of God". And it chiefly lay in the power and dominion he had over all the creatures, and even over the woman when made; at least this is principally respected here, in which there is such a shine and representation of the glory and majesty, power and dominion of God; and therefore man ought to worship him with his head uncovered, where this image and glory of God is most illustriously displayed: not but that the woman, is the image and glory of God also, and was made as man, after his image and likeness, with respect to internal qualities, as righteousness, holiness, knowledge, c. and with regard to her power over the other creatures, though in subjection to man but yet man was first originally and immediately the image and glory of God, the woman only secondarily and mediately through man. The man is more perfectly and conspicuously the image and glory of God, on account of his more extensive dominion and authority:
but the woman is the glory of the man; being made out of him, and for his help and assistance, and to be a crown of honour and glory to him. The apostle speaks the sense, and in the language of the Jews. The words in Isaiah 44:13. "After the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man", are by the Targum rendered, "after the likeness of a man, after the glory of a woman"; and the note of a famous c interpreter of theirs upon the last clause is, "this is the woman", שהיא תפארת בעלה "who is the glory of her husband"; but why is she to be covered for this reason, when the man is to be uncovered? it is to be observed, that it is in the presence and worship of God that the one is to be uncovered, and the other covered; the one being the glory of God, and therefore to be uncovered before him; and the other the glory of man, and therefore to be covered before God; and especially, since being first in the transgression, she who is man's glory has been the means of his shame and disgrace. The Jews seem to make this the reason of the difference; they ask d,
"why does a man go out with his head uncovered, and a woman with her head covered? it is answered, it is like to one that has committed a sin, and he is ashamed of the children of men, therefore she goes וראשה מכוסה, "with her head covered".''
b Maimon. in Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect 1. 1. c R. Sol. Jarchi in Isa. xliv. 13. d Bereshit Rabba, sect. 17. fol. 15. 1.
For the man is not of the woman,.... In the present state of things, and according to the ordinary course of generation and propagation of mankind, man is of the woman, though not without the means of man; he is conceived in her, bore by her, and born of her; but the apostle respects the original formation of man, as he was immediately made by God out of the dust of the earth, before the woman was in being, and so not of her:
but the woman of the man; she was made out of his rib, and took both her name and nature from him; God was the author, and man the matter of her being; her original under God, is owing to him; and therefore as he was first in being, he must be superior to her: this serves to prove all that has been as yet said; as that man is the head of the woman, the woman is the glory of man, what he may glory in as being from him; and therefore there should be this difference in their appearance at public worship.
Neither was the man created for the woman,.... To be subservient to her; for she was not in being when he was created; and though it is the proper business of man to provide for, take care of, and defend the woman, as the weaker vessel, yet these were not the original ends of his creation; he was made for God, for his service and glory:
but the woman for the man; to be an help meet for him, who was already created; to be a companion and associate of his, both in religious worship and in civil life; and for the procreation and education of children.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head,.... The generality of interpreters, by power, understand the veil, or covering on the woman's head, as a sign of the man's power over her, and her subjection to him; which Dr. Hammond endeavours to confirm, by observing that the Hebrew word רדיד, which signifies a woman's veil, or hood, comes from a root which signifies power and dominion; but in that he is mistaken, for the word is derived not from רדה, to rule, govern, or exercise power and authority, but from
רדד, to expand, stretch out, or draw over, as a woman's veil is drawn over her head and face. The Greek word εξουσια more properly signifies the power she had of putting on and off her covering as she pleased, according as times, places, and persons; made it necessary:
because of the angels; various are the senses given of these words, some taking them in a proper, others in a figurative sense: some in a proper sense of angels, and these either good or bad. Tertullian e understands them of evil angels, and that a woman should cover her head in time of worship, lest they should lust after her; though much rather the reason should be, lest they should irritate and provoke lust in others: but it is better to understand them of good angels, who attend the assemblies of the saints, and observe the air and behaviour of the worshippers; wherefore women should cover their heads with respect to them, and not give offence to those pure spirits, by an indecent appearance: it is agreeable to the notions of the Jews, that angels attend public prayers, and at the expounding of the word; they often speak f of an angel,
הממונה על התפלות "that is appointed over prayers"; hence g Tertullian seems to have took his notion of an angel of prayer: and of angels being present at expounding of the Scriptures, take the following story h;
"it happened to Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai, that he was riding upon an ass, and as he was journeying, R. Eleazar ben Arach was leading an ass after him; he said to him, Rabbi, teach me one chapter in the work of Mercavah (Ezekiel's vision); he replied to him, not so have I taught you, nor in the Mercavah a single man, unless he was a wise man by his own industry; he answered him, Rabbi, give me leave to say one thing before thee, which thou hast taught me; immediately Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai alighted from his ass and "veiled himself", and sat upon a stone under an olive tree; he said to him, Rabbi, why dost thou alight off from the ass? he replied, is it possible that thou shouldst expound in the work of Mercavah, and the Shekinah be with us,
ומלאכי השרת מלוין אותנו, "and the ministering angels join us", and I ride upon an ass?''
And a little after,
"R. Joshua and R. Jose the priest were walking on the road, they said, yea, let us expound in the work of Mercavah; R. Joshua opened and expounded, and that day was the solstice of Tammuz, and the heavens were thickened with clouds, and there appeared the form of a bow in the cloud, "and the ministering angels gathered together", ובאין לשמוע, "and came to hear": as the children of men gather together, and come to see the rejoicings of the bridegroom and bride.''
Moreover, this veiling of the woman in public worship because of angels, may be an imitation of the good angels, who when they sung the praises of God, and adored and glorified his perfections, covered their faces and their feet with their wings, Isaiah 6:1. Many understanding these words in a figurative sense, and in this also they are not agreed; some by angels think young men are meant, who, for their gracefulness and comeliness, are compared to angels; others good men in general, that attend religious worship; others ministers of the word, called angels often in the book of the Revelations; which last seems to be most agreeable of any of these senses; and the women were to cover their heads, that they might not offend either of these, or stir up any impure desires in them; see Ecclesiastes 5:6 but as these words follow the account given of the creation of the woman from the man, and for his sake; this may have no reference to her conduct in public worship, but to the power she had of using her covering, or taking it off, or putting it on, at the time of her espousals to a man; which was sometimes done by proxy, or messengers, whom the Jews call שלוחים, "angels" i; their canon is,
"a man may espouse (a wife) by himself, ובשלוחו, "or by his angel", or messenger; and a woman may be espoused by herself, or by her angel, or messenger:''
wherefore because of these angels, or messengers, that came to espouse her to such, she had power over her head to take off her veil, and show herself, if she thought fit; or to keep it on, as expressing her modesty; or just as she pleased, when she by them was espoused to a man, for whose sake she was made; which sense, after Dr. Lightfoot, many learned men have given into, and seems probable.
e De Veland. Virg. c. 7. f Shemot Rabba, sect. 21. fol. 106. 2. Zohar. in Gen. fol. 97. 2. g De Oratione, c. 15. h T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 14. 2. i Misn. Kiddushin, c. 2. sect. 1.
Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman,.... This is said, partly to repress the pride and insolence of man, that he might not be too much elated with himself, and his superiority over the woman, and look with any degree of disdain and contempt upon her, and treat her with indifference and neglect; and partly to comfort the woman, that she might not be dejected with the condition and circumstances in which she was, since the one is not without the other; nor can they be so truly comfortable and happy, as not the man without the woman, who was made for an help meet for him,
so neither the woman without the man in the Lord. The phrase "in the Lord" is added, to show that it is the will of God, and according to his ordination and appointment, that the one should not be without the other; or it may design that lawful conjunction and copulation, of one man and one woman together, according to the will of the Lord, which distinguishes it from all other impure mixtures and copulations. The Arabic version reads it, "in the religion of the Lord"; and the sense is, that the one is not without the other in religious worship, and in the enjoyment of religious privileges; that though the woman may not pray publicly and expound the Scriptures, yet she may join in prayer, and hear the word preached, sing the praises of God, and enjoy all ordinances; for in Christ no distinction of sex is regarded, men and women are all one in him, and equally regenerated, justified, and pardoned, and will be glorified together.
For as the woman is of the man,.... Originally; so Eve was of Adam, made out of one of his ribs:
even so is the man also by the woman; now man is born of a woman, he is conceived of one, and brought into the world by one. This is the way in which mankind is propagated, the species preserved, continued, and increased; and therefore there is no reason why the woman should be despised, or the man should be lifted up with himself above her, since they are so dependent upon, and so useful to each other:
but all things of God. The Arabic version reads it, "all creatures are of God"; which is true, but not the truth of these words, which are to be restrained to the subject of the discourse; as that both the man and the woman are of God; they are made by him, and after his image and likeness; that the man is the glory of God, and the woman the glory of the man; the authority of the man over the woman, and the subjection of the woman to the man, are of God, and according to his constitution and appointment; as also that the woman should be of the man, and for his sake, and that the man should be by the woman, and neither should be without the other: these are not things of human constitution, but are settled by the wise counsel of God, and therefore to be cheerfully submitted to, as the best order of things.
Judge in yourselves,.... The apostle having gone through a variety of reasoning and arguments, showing the superiority of the man to the woman, by which he would prove, that the one should be covered, and the other uncovered, returns to his subject again, and appeals to the common sense and understanding of the Corinthians, and makes them themselves judges of the matter; suggesting that the thing was so clear, and he so certain of what he had advanced being right, that he leaves it with them, not doubting but that they would, upon a little reflection within themselves, join with him in this point:
is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? in you judgment you can never think so, however pleasing and gratifying such a sight may be, to the lust of the flesh, and to the lust of the eye; he does not mention prophesying, only instances in praying; but it is to be understood of one, as of another; and his meaning is, that it is an uncomely thing in a woman to appear in public service with her head uncovered, whether it be in joining in the public prayers, or in singing of psalms, or in hearing the word expounded; and though the apostle does not put the case of the man's praying to God, or prophesying in his name with his head covered, yet his sense is the same of that, as of the woman's.
Doth not even nature itself teach you,.... By nature is either meant, the law and light of nature, reason in man, common sense, or rather custom, which is second nature; and which, in this case, must be restrained to the Greeks and Jews; for though among the Grecians the men cut their hair, and did not suffer it to grow long, as also did the Jews, yet there were many nations k who did not, even at that time, observe such a rule or custom; but as the Jews and Greeks were the persons chiefly, if not solely, known to the Corinthians, the apostle signifies, that the usages of these people might direct and inform them in this matter:
that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him; he looks unmanly and womanish, and exposes himself to ridicule and contempt.
k Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 18. Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 10. prope finem.
But if a woman have long hair,.... And wears it, without cutting it, as men do:
it is a glory to her; it is comely and beautiful; it is agreeable to her sex, she looks like herself; it becomes and adorns her:
for her hair is given her for a covering; not instead of a covering for her head, or any other part of her body, so that she needs no other: we read indeed of the daughter of Nicodemus ben Gorion, that she was obliged to make use of her hair for a covering in such a sense l;
"it happened to R. Jochanan ben Zaccai that he rode upon an ass, and went out of Jerusalem, and his disciples went after him; he saw a young woman gathering barley corns out of the dung of the Arabian cattle; when she saw him,
נתעטפה בשערה, "she covered herself with her hair", and stood before him:''
but this covering was made use of, not of choice, but by force, through her poverty, she having no other; this was not the custom of the nation, nor was the hair given to women for a covering in this sense, nor used by them as such, unless by Eve before the fall; but is rather an indication that they want another covering for their head, it not being so decent that their long hair should be seen. The Jewish women used to esteem it an immodest thing for their hair to be seen, and therefore they took care, as much as possible, to hide it under another covering;
"one woman, whose name was Kimchith, had seven sons, and they all ministered in the high priesthood; the wise men said unto her, what hast thou done, that thou art so worthy? she replied to them, all my days the beams of my house never saw קלעי שערי, "the plaits of my hair" m;''
that is, they were never seen by any person, even within her house.
l T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 66. 2. m T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 47. 1.
But if any man seem to be contentious,.... That is, if anyone will not be satisfied with reasons given, for men's praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered, and women's praying and prophesying with their heads covered; but will go on to raise objections, and continue carping and cavilling, showing that they contend not for truth, but victory, can they but obtain it any way; for my part, as if the apostle should say, I shall not think it worth my while to continue the dispute any longer; enough has been said to satisfy any wise and good man, anyone that is serious, thoughtful, and modest; and shall only add,
we have no such custom, nor the churches of God; meaning, either that men should appear covered, and women uncovered in public service, and which should have some weight with all those that have any regard to churches and their examples; or that men should be indulged in a captious and contentious spirit; a man that is always contending for contention sake, and is continually cavilling and carping at everything that is said and done in churches, and is always quarrelling with one person or another, or on account of one thing or another, and is constantly giving uneasiness, is not fit to be a church member; nor ought he to be suffered to continue in the communion of the church, to the disturbance of the peace of it. This puts me in mind of a passage in the Talmud n.
"The Rabbans teach, that after the departure of R. Meir, R. Judah said to his disciples, do not let the disciples of R. Meir enter here, מפני שקנתרנין הן, "because they are contentious".''
n T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 49. 2. & Kiddushin, fol. 52. 2.
Now in this that I declare unto you,.... The Syriac version reads, "this is what I command"; which some refer to what he had been discoursing of, adding to his arguments, and the examples of the church, his own orders and command, that men should worship God publicly, uncovered, and women covered; though it seems rather to respect what follows, what the apostle was about to declare unto them; concerning which he says,
I praise you not; as he did in 1 Corinthians 11:2 that they were mindful of him, remembered his doctrines, and kept the ordinances in the manner he had delivered them to them: and it should seem by this, that the greater part of them were not to be blamed, though some few were, for their irregular and indecent appearance in public worship, men with a covering on their heads, and women without one; but in what he was about to say, he could not praise them at all:
that you come together; to the house of God, to pray unto him, to sing his praises, to hear his word, and attend his ordinances, particularly the Lord's supper:
not for the better; for edification and instruction, for the quickening and comforting of your souls; that you may grow in grace and knowledge, become more holy, zealous, fruitful, and useful:
but for the worse; to indulge luxury and intemperance, to encourage heresies, schisms, and divisions, and so grow more carnal, scandalous, and useless.
For first of all, when ye come together in the church,.... The place where the church met together to perform divine service, called "one place". 1 Corinthians 11:20 and is distinguished from their own "houses", 1 Corinthians 11:22 and the first thing he took notice of as worthy of dispraise and reproof, in their religious assemblies, were their animosities and factions:
I hear that there be divisions among you: schisms and parties, either about their ministers, one being for Paul, another for Apollos, and another for Cephas; or in the celebration of the Lord's supper, and that which went before it, they going into separate bodies, and partook by themselves, and each took his own supper before another, one ate, and another did not. This the apostle had heard from the house of Chloe:
and I partly believe it; meaning, either that this was the practice of a part of the church to do so, though not of them all; or that part of the report that had been made to him was true; though he hoped in that charity which hopeth all things, that it was not quite so bad as was feared or represented, since things are generally heightened and increased by fame; but yet he had it from such good hands, that he could not but believe there was something in it. So the Syriac version renders it, ומדם מדם, "and something, something I believe".
For there must be also heresies among you.... This is a reason why he was ready to believe there might be something of truth in the report he had received of the divisions among them; for if there were heresies, false doctrines, and bad principles, among them, such as were subversive of the fundamentals of Christianity, as the denial of the resurrection of the dead, c. it was no wonder that there were schisms and factions among them, since heresies generally issue in them. These, the apostle says, "must be" because God has decreed they shall, whose counsel is immutable, and his purpose unalterable; and since this always was the case, that there were false prophets under the former dispensation, it must be expected that false teachers will arise in the churches now, bringing in damnable heresies; and since Satan is always busy to sow the tares of false doctrine; and human nature, being both weak and wicked, is so susceptible thereof, and so easily imposed upon and deceived, it cannot be thought that it should be otherwise; which, by the goodness and wisdom of God, are overruled to a very good purpose:
that they which are approved: who sincerely believe in Christ, are sound in the faith, and have a well grounded experience of it; who have themselves tried things that differ, and approve of them that are excellent, and have been tried by others, and found to be sincere, upright, and faithful, and are approved of God and good men:
may be made manifest among you; by their steadfastness in the faith, their zealous attachment to it, earnest contention for it, and warm and honest vindication of it; and by the departure of those from them who oppose it, and go on the side of error and heresy; by which means it is known who are the sincere followers of the Lamb, in doctrine, discipline, and conversation, and who not.
When ye come together therefore into one place,.... Though
επι το αυτο does not signify so much the unity of the place, as of the persons meeting together, and their conjunction; so the phrase is used by the Septuagint, in Deuteronomy 25:11, yet it supposes a place where the church were wont to assemble for divine worship;
this is not to eat the Lord's supper: their view in coming together was not so much to celebrate the supper of the Lord, as to partake of their own supper, which was either the paschal supper, or something like it; which many of them "judaizing" observed before the Lord's supper, in imitation of Christ, as they pretended, who first ate the passover, and then instituted the supper. Now there being a great deal of good eating and drinking in this ante-supper, many of them came together for no other end but to partake of that, at least this was their chief view, and not the Lord's supper; or when they did meet together on this account, it was in such an irregular and disorderly manner, and they confounded these suppers together, and behaved so ill at them, and ate the Lord's supper so unworthily, that it could not be rightly called eating of it; or when they had eaten their ante-supper in such an indecent way, neither staying for one another, nor keeping within the bounds of temperance and sobriety; at least having indulged their carnal appetites to such a degree, and raised themselves to such a pitch of gaiety and cheerfulness; it was not fit for them to eat the Lord's supper, to go from such a full meal to the table of the Lord. This was called the Lord's supper, because he was the author of it; and he is the subject of it; and for him, the remembrance of him, it is appointed, kept up, and continued. The Syriac version understands it of the Lord's day, and reads it thus, "when therefore ye meet together, not as is fit for", or becomes, ליומה דמרן, "the day of our Lord, do ye eat and drink".
For in eating,.... Not at the Lord's table, but at tables spread for them in the place of divine worship, where everyone brought his own food, under a pretence that others, particularly the poor, should eat with him; but instead of that, he sat down and ate it himself, and would not stay till the rest came, to eat together:
but everyone taketh before other his own supper; that is, without tarrying till all came together, in order to eat a friendly meal with each other, to encourage and increase brotherly love, one would sit down and fill himself before another came; so that some went without, whilst others had too much; and thus the designed end was not answered, and the whole was a piece of confusion and disorder:
and one is hungry, and another drunken; he that came late had nothing to eat, and so was hungry; when he that was first either eat and drank to excess, or at least very plentifully, so that he was very cheerful, and more disposed to carnal mirth, than in a serious and solemn manner to partake of the Lord's supper; and who is thought to be the rich man, who brought his own provisions, and ate them himself when he had done; as the poor may be meant by the hungry, who having no food to bring with them, and none being communicated to them by the rich, were in want, and starving; so that here were many abuses justly chargeable on them. Dr. Lightfoot is of opinion, that by him that was "drunken" meant the Jew that ate the paschal supper, of which he ate and drank freely; and by him that was "hungry", the Gentile, who was so not out of poverty and necessity, but because he refused and avoided eating of the ante-supper, as savouring of Judaism; and so here was a schism and division among them.
What? have ye not houses to eat and drink in?.... This shows that one taking his supper before another, was not in their own houses, before they came to the place of divine worship, but in the house of God; and the apostle suggests, that if they must have their ante-suppers, and were disposed to eat and drink freely, before they partook of the Lord's supper, it was more decent and orderly, and less reflected upon the honour of religion and the ordinances of Christ, to eat and drink in their own houses; in which they were not only more private and retired, but which they had for such purposes; whereas the house of God was not for any such use, nor should they meet together there on such an account; at least, such disorderly, unequal, and intemperate feasts there, were very scandalous and reproachful: and it was contrary to a Jewish canon to eat and drink in the synagogues, which runs thus o,
"in the synagogues they do not use a light behaviour, nor do they eat and drink in them;''
though they sometimes speak of travellers eating and drinking and lodging in the synagogues p, yet they interpret these of places adjoining to them:
or despise ye the church of God; that is, expose it to contempt and scorn; meaning either the community, the people of God gathered together in a Gospel church state; or the place where they met for public worship, which the Ethiopic version calls, "the house of God"; which was rendered very contemptible by such disorderly practices;
and shame them that have not; no houses to eat in, or supper to eat, or any of this world's goods, or money to purchase food for themselves; who must be confounded and put to shame, when, coming in expectation of being fed, the provisions were eaten up by the rich before they came, or, however, were not allowed to partake when they did come; this was such a respecting of persons, as was justly culpable in them by the apostle.
o T. Hieros. Megilia, fol. 74. 1. & T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 28. 1. p Gloss. in T. Bab. Bava Bathra, & Pesachim, fol. 101. 1. & Gloss. in ib. Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 29. sect. 8. & Maggid Misna in ib.
For I have received of the Lord,.... The apostle observes unto them the rule, use, and end of the Lord's supper; his view in it is, to correct the disorders among them, and to bring them to a strict regard to the rule which had such a divine authority stamped upon it; and to observe to them, that in that supper all equally ate and drank; and that the end of it was not a paschal commemoration, but a remembrance of Christ, and a declaration of his sufferings and death. The divine authority of the Lord's supper is here expressed; it was not only instituted by him as Lord, having all power and authority in and over his churches, to appoint what ordinances he pleases; but the plan and form of administration of it were received from him by the apostle. This was not a device of his, nor an invention of any man's, nor did he receive the account from men, no not from the apostles; but he had it by revelation from Christ, either when he appeared to him at his first conversion, and made him a minister of the Gospel; or when he was caught up into the third heaven, and heard things unspeakable and unutterable:
that which also I delivered unto you; for whatever he received from Christ, whether a doctrine or an ordinance, he faithfully delivered to the churches, from whom he kept back nothing that was profitable, but declared the whole counsel of God unto them: now this he refers the Corinthians to, as a sure rule to go by, and from which they should never swerve; and whatever stands on divine record as received from Christ, and delivered by his apostles, should be the rule of our faith and practice, and such only;
that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed; or delivered; as he was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God the Father, and as he was by himself, who voluntarily gave himself up into the hands of men, justice and death, for our offences; and so the Arabic version reads it here, "in the night in which he delivered up himself"; as he did in the garden to Judas and his company: it was in the night when he came in search of him with officers, and a band of soldiers, and when he betrayed him and delivered him into their hands; and that same night, a little before, our Lord instituted and celebrated the ordinance of the supper with his disciples. The time is mentioned partly with regard to the passover it followed, which was killed in the evening and ate the same night in commemoration of God's sparing the firstborn of Israel, when at midnight he destroyed all the firstborn of Egypt, and so was a night to be observed in all generations; and because this feast was to be a supper, and therefore it is best to observe it in the evening, or decline of the day. The circumstance of Judas's betraying him is mentioned, not only because it was in the night, and a work of darkness; but being in the same night he instituted the supper, shows the knowledge he had of his death by the means of the betrayer, and his great love to his disciples, his church and people, in appointing such an ordinance in remembrance of him, and his death, when he was just about to leave them:
took bread; from off the table, out of the dish, or from the hands of the master of the house; an emblem of his body, and of his assumption of human nature; of his taking upon him the nature of the seed of Abraham, of that body which his Father prepared for him, in order to its being broken; or that he might in it endure sufferings and death for his people.
And when he had given thanks,.... So Luke 22:19, but Matthew 26:26 and Mark 14:22 say "he blessed"; not the bread, but his Father; for to bless and give thanks is one and the same thing with the Jews; so we often read of their blessing for the fruits of the earth, for wine and bread; concerning which they have these rules r,
"he that blesseth for the wine, before food, frees the wine that is after food; he that blesseth for the dessert before food, frees the dessert after food; ברך על הפת, "he that blesseth for the bread", frees the dessert, for the dessert does not free the bread;''
or excuse from a blessing for that again;
"if they sit at eating, everyone blesses for himself; if they lie (upon couches) אחד מברך לכלם, "one blesses for them all"; when wine is brought to them whilst they are eating, everyone blesses for himself: if after food, "one blesses for them all";''
our Lord conformed to these rules, he blessed and gave thanks for the bread separately, and he afterwards blessed, or gave thanks for the wine; and as he and his disciples lay at table, he blessed and gave thanks for them all; for this is not to be understood of any consecration of the bread by a certain form of words, changing its nature and property, and converting it into the body of Christ; but either of asking a blessing of his Father upon it, that whilst his disciples were caring of it, their faith might be led to him, the bread of life, and to his broken body, and spiritually feed and live on him, and receive spiritual nourishment from him; or else of giving thanks to his Father for what was signified by it, for the true bread he gave unto his people, meaning himself; and for that great love he showed in the gift and mission of him; and for the great work of redemption, and all the benefits of it he had sent him to procure, and which were just on finishing; and for all the might, strength, and assistance, he gave to him as man and Mediator, in completing the business of salvation for his people; which was the joy set before him, and which filled his heart with pleasure and thankfulness; both these senses may be joined together, and may direct us as to the matter of blessing and giving thanks at the supper; for no form of words is pointed out to us; what were the express words our Lord used we know not:
he brake it; as a symbol of his body being wounded, bruised, and broken, through buffetings, scourgings, platting of a crown of thorns, which was put upon his head, and piercing his hands and feet with nails, and his side with a spear; for which reason the right of breaking the bread in this ordinance ought literally and strictly to be observed: Christ himself took the bread and brake it, denoting his willingness to lay down his life, to suffer and die in the room of his people; and this action of breaking the bread was used in order to be distributed, and that everyone might partake, as all the Israelites did at the passover, and not as these Corinthians at their ante-suppers, when one was full and another hungry; but Christ broke the bread, that everyone might have a part, as every believer may and ought, who may eat of this bread, and drink of the wine, and feed by faith on Christ, and take every blessing procured by him to themselves:
and said, take, eat; that is, to his disciples, to whom he gave the bread, when he had took and given thanks and brake it, bidding them take it; receive it into their hands, as an emblem of their receiving him, and the blessings of his grace in a spiritual sense, by the hand of faith; and eat the bread put into their hands, as a symbol of their eating and living by faith on Christ as crucified, as having loved them, and given himself for them;
this is my body; in opposition to, and distinction from,
גופו של פסח, "the body of the passover", as the lamb was called s; meaning not his mystical body the church, of which he is head, though this is one bread, and one body, 1 Corinthians 10:17 but his natural body, and that not properly, as if the bread was really changed into it; for the bread in the supper, after the blessing over it, and thanks given for it, retains its same nature, properties, form, and figure, only is set apart for the use of commemorating the broken body of Christ; and therefore this phrase is to be understood in a figurative sense, that it was a sign and seal of his body; it being broken into pieces represented his wounds, bruises, sufferings, and death; just in such sense as the rock is said to be Christ, in 1 Corinthians 10:4 not that that was really Christ, but was a type and sign of him: which is
broken for you; for though a bone of him was not broken, but inasmuch as his skin and flesh were torn and broken by blows with rods and fists, by whippings and scourgings, by thorns, nails, and spear; and body and soul were torn asunder, or divided from each other by death; and death in Scripture is expressed by שבר, "breaking"; see Jeremiah 19:11 his body might be truly said to be broken, and that for his people; not merely to confirm his doctrine, or set an example of patience, or only for their good; but in their room and stead, as their surety and substitute:
this do in remembrance of me; signifying that it was not a passover commemoration, or a remembrance of the Israelites going out of Egypt; which because done in the night, as that was, and following upon the passover, the judaizing Christians among the Corinthians took it to be in remembrance of that; having imbibed that notion which the Jews then had, and still retain, that their deliverance from Egypt will be remembered in the days of the Messiah t;
"Nyrykzm, "they commemorate" the going out of Egypt in the nights; says R. Eleazer ben Azariah, lo, I am about seventy years of age, and I never was worthy to say, that the going out of Egypt was recited in nights, till Ben Zoma expounded what is said, Deuteronomy 16:3 "that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt; all the days of thy life; days of thy life", mean days; "all the days of thy life", nights; but the wise men say, "the days of thy life"; mean this world, and "all the days of thy life" include the days of the Messiah:''
now the apostle mentions these words of our Lord, to show that the design of the institution of this ordinance of the supper was not in commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews out of Egypt; but it was in remembrance of himself, of what he did and suffered on the behalf of his people: particularly the eating of the bread was intended to bring to remembrance how the body of Christ was wounded, bruised, and broken for them; how he bore their sins in his own body on the tree, and suffered, and made satisfaction for them; and which was spiritual food for their faith when they reflected on it, and could not fail of bringing to their remembrance the love of Christ in all, when this was the case.
r Misn. Beracot, c. 6. sect. 5, 6. s Misn. Pesachim, c. 10. sect. 3. t Misn. Beracot, c. 1. sect. 5.
After the same manner also he took the cup,.... That is, off from the table, or out of the hands of the master of the house, and blessed or gave thanks, as he did before when he took the bread; see Matthew 26:27, "when he had supped"; the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, read, "when they had supped"; which give a true sense, though not a literal translation; for both Christ and his disciples had supped, having both eaten the passover supper, and the bread, the principal part in the Lord's supper, when he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them:
saying, this cup is the New Testament, or covenant,
in my blood; alluding to the old covenant, which was ratified and confirmed by the blood of bulls, and which was called "the blood of the covenant", Exodus 24:8 but the new covenant was established with Christ's own blood, of which the wine in the cup was a sign and symbol; for neither the cup, nor the wine in it, can be thought to be the covenant or testament itself, by which is meant the covenant of grace, as administered under the Gospel dispensation; called new, not because newly made, for it was made from everlasting; or lately revealed, for it was made known to our first parents immediately after the fall, and to other saints in succeeding ages, though more clearly exhibited by Christ under the present dispensation; but it is so called in distinction from the old covenant, or former mode of administration of it, under the Mosaic economy; and it is always new, and will be succeeded by no other; and it provides for and promises new things, and which are famous and excellent, and preferable to all others. Now this is said to be "in the blood" of Christ; that is, it is ratified, and all its blessings and promises are confirmed by his blood: hence his blood is called "the blood of the everlasting covenant", Hebrews 13:20, pardon and righteousness, peace and reconciliation, and entrance into the holiest of all, all come through this blood, and are secured by the same; and to which the faith of the saints is directed in this ordinance, to observe, receive, and enjoy for themselves:
this do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me; of his soul's being poured out unto death; of his blood being shed for the remission of sins; and of his great love in giving himself an atoning sacrifice to divine justice, and laying such a foundation for solid peace and joy in the hearts of his people.
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,.... Not any bread, or any cup: but what is ate and drank in an ordinance way, and according to the institution and appointment of Christ, and with a view to the end proposed by him; and though there is no set fixed time for the administration of this ordinance, yet this phrase seems to suggest that it should be often: and very plainly signifies, that the bread and wine, after the blessing or thanksgiving, remain such, and are not converted into the real body and blood of Christ; but are only outward elements representing these to faith;
ye do show the Lord's death till he come; or rather, as it may be rendered in the imperative mood, as an exhortation, direction or command, "show ye the Lord's death till he come"; since everyone that eats and drinks at the Lord's table does not show forth his death, which is the great end to be answered by it; for the design of the institution of it is to declare that Christ died for the sins of his people: to represent him as crucified; to set forth the manner of his sufferings and death, by having his body wounded, bruised, and broken, and his blood shed; to express the blessings and benefits which come by his death, and his people's faith of interest in them; and to show their sense of gratitude, and declare their thankfulness for them; and all this, "till he come"; which shows the continuance of this ordinance, which is to last till Christ's second coming, where the carnal ordinances of the former dispensation were shaken and removed; and also the continuance of Gospel ministers to the end of the world, to administer it, and of churches to whom it is to be administered: this assures of the certainty of Christ's second coming; as it leads back to his coming in the flesh, suffering and dying in our stead, and thereby obtaining redemption for us; it leads forward to expect and believe he will come again, to put us into the full possession of the salvation he is the author of; when there will be no more occasion for this ordinance, nor any other, but all will cease, and God will be all in all. The apostle here refers to a custom used by the Jews in the night of the passover, to show forth the reason of their practice, and that institution to their children; when either u
"the son asked the father, or if the son had not understanding (enough to ask), then the father taught him, saying, how different is this night from all other nights? for in all other nights we eat leavened and unleavened bread, but in this night only unleavened; in all other nights we eat the rest of herbs, but in this night bitter herbs; in all other nights we eat flesh roasted, broiled, and boiled, in this night only roasted; in all other nights we wash once, in this night twice; and as elsewhere w it is added, in all other nights we eat sitting or lying, in this night all of us lie; and according to the capacity of the child, the father teaches him,''
particularly he was to inform him what these several things showed forth, or declared x; as that
"the passover מגיד, "declared", or "showed forth", that the Lord passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt; the bitter herbs "showed forth", that the Egyptians made the lives of our fathers bitter in Egypt; and the unleavened bread "declared" that they were redeemed; and all these things are called הגדה, "the declaration", or showing forth:''
and there is a treatise called הגדה של פסח, "the showing forth of the passover"; in which, besides the things mentioned, and many others, it is observed y, that it was commanded the Jews לספר, "to declare" the going out of Egypt, and that everyone that diligently declares the going out of Egypt, is praiseworthy: now the apostle observes this end of the Lord's supper, to show forth his death, in opposition to the notion of the "judaizing" Christians at Corinth, who thought of nothing else but the showing forth of the passover, and the declaration of that deliverance and redemption wrought for the people of Israel; whereas the true and only intent of it was to show forth the death of Christ, redemption by him, and the greatness of his love expressed therein, and which is to be continued till his second coming; whereas the time was come when it should "be no more said, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt", Jeremiah 16:14.
u Misn. Pesach. c. 10. sect. 4. Haggadah Shel. Pesach. p. 5. w Maimon. Chametz Umetzah, c. 8. sect. 2. x Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora prec. aff. 41. y P. 5, 6. Ed. Rittangel. & Seder. Tephillot. Ed. Basil. fol. 243. 1.
Wherefore,.... Since this is the plain institution of the Lord's supper, the form and manner of administering of it; and since the bread and wine in it are representations of the body and blood of Christ, and the design of the whole is to remember Christ, and show forth his death; it follows, that
whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. The bread and cup are called the bread and cup of the Lord; because ate and drank in remembrance of him, being symbols of his body and of his blood, though not they themselves; these may be eaten and drank "unworthily", when they are eaten and drank by unworthy persons, in an unworthy manner, and to unworthy ends and purposes. The Lord's supper may be taken unworthily, when it is partook of by unworthy persons. This sense is confirmed by the Syriac version, which renders it ולא שוא לה, "and is not fit for it", or is unworthy of it, and so the Ethiopic version; now such are all unregenerate persons, for they have no spiritual life in them, and therefore cannot eat and drink in a spiritual sense; they have no spiritual light, and therefore cannot discern the Lord's body; they have no spiritual taste and relish, no spiritual hungerings and thirstings, nor any spiritual appetite, and can receive no spiritual nourishment, or have any spiritual communion with Christ: and so are all such persons, who, though they may profess to be penitent ones, and believers in Christ, and to have knowledge of him, and love to him; and yet they have not true repentance, neither do they bring forth fruits meet for it, and so as they are improper subjects of baptism, they are unworthy of the Lord's table; nor have they faith in Christ, at least only an historical one, and so cannot by faith eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son of God, nor perform the ordinance in a way well pleasing to God; nor have they any spiritual knowledge of Christ, only what is speculative and notional, and so cannot discern the Lord's body; nor any real love to him, and therefore very improper persons to feed on a feast of love; nor can they affectionately remember Christ, or do what they do from a principle of love to him, and therefore must be unworthy receivers: as likewise are all such professors, whose lives and conversations are not as become the Gospel of Christ; such crucify Christ afresh, and put him to open shame, and are therefore unfit to show forth his crucifixion and death; they bring a reproach on the Gospel and ordinances of Christ, and cause his name, and ways, and truths to be blasphemed, and grieve the members of the churches of Christ, and therefore ought not to be admitted to the table of the Lord: indeed, no man is in himself worthy of such an ordinance, none but those whom Christ has made so by the implantation of his grace, and the imputation of his righteousness; and whom he, though unworthy in themselves, invites and encourages to come to this ordinance, and to eat and drink abundantly. Moreover, this ordinance may be attended upon in an unworthy manner; as when it is partook of ignorantly, persons not knowing the nature, use, and design of it; or irreverently, as it was by many of the Corinthians, and it is to be feared by many others, who have not that reverence of the majesty of Christ, in whose presence they are, and who is both the author and subject of the ordinance; or without faith, and the exercise of it on Christ, the bread of life, and water of life; or unthankfully, when there is no grateful sense of the love of God in the gift of his Son, nor of the love of Christ, in giving himself an offering and sacrifice for sin; or when this feast is kept with the leaven of malice and wickedness, and with want of brotherly love, bearing an ill will to, or hatred of, any of the members of the church, To all which may be added, that this bread and cup are ate and drank unworthily, when they are partook of to unworthy ends and purposes; as to qualify for any secular employment, and to gain any worldly advantage; or to be seen of men, and to be thought to be devotional and religious persons; or to commemorate anything besides Christ; as the "judaizing" Corinthians did the "paschal" lamb; or to procure eternal life and happiness thereby, fancying that the participation of this ordinance gives a meetness for, and a right to glory: now such unworthy eaters and drinkers are "guilty of the body and blood" of the Lord; not in such sense as Judas, Pontius Pilate, and the people of the Jews were, who were concerned in the crucifixion of his body, and shedding of his blood, the guilt of which lies upon them, and they must answer for another day; nor in such sense as apostates from the faith, who, after they have received the knowledge of the truth, deny it, and Christ, the Saviour; and so crucify him afresh, and put him to open shame, count the blood of the covenant a common or unholy thing, and tread under foot the Son of God; at least, not every unworthy receiver of the Lord's supper is guilty in this sense; though there might be some among the Corinthians, and is the reason of this awful expression, who looked upon the body and blood of Christ as common things, and made no more account of them than of the body and blood of the passover lamb; but in a lower sense, every unworthy communicant, or that eats and drinks unworthily, may be said to be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, inasmuch as he sins against, and treats in an injurious manner, an ordinance which is a symbol and representation of these things; for what reflects dishonour upon that, reflects dishonour on the body and blood of Christ, signified therein.
But let a man examine himself,.... Whether he has a true sense of sin, sorrow and repentance for it; otherwise he will see no need of a Saviour, nor will he look to Christ for salvation, or be thankful to him for redemption by him; all which are necessary in a due observance of this ordinance; also, whether he is in the faith, whether he is a partaker of the true grace of faith, which is attended with good works, and shows itself by love to Christ, and to the saints; whereby a man goes out of himself to Christ for spiritual food and strength, peace and comfort, righteousness, life, and salvation; and by which he receives all from Christ, and gives him all the glory: this is absolutely necessary to his right and comfortable partaking of the Lord's supper, since without faith he cannot discern the Lord's body, nor, in a spiritual sense, eat his flesh, and drink his blood, nor attend on the ordinance in a manner acceptable unto God. Let him also examine and try whether he is sound in the doctrine of faith; or let him prove himself to be so, or show that he is one that is approved thereby; to whom the word of faith has come with power, and who has received it in the love of it, and firmly believes it; since an heretic is to be rejected from the communion of the church, and to be debarred the ordinances of it: let him examine himself, whether Christ is in him, whether he is revealed to him, and in him, as God's way of salvation, and the hope of glory; whether he is formed in his soul, his Spirit put, and his grace implanted there; since if Christ is not within, it will be of no avail to partake of the outward symbols of his body and blood. But if a man, upon reflection, under the influence and testimony of the Spirit, can come to a satisfaction in these things, however mean and unworthy he may seem in his own sight, let him come to the table of the Lord, and welcome.
And so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup; none should discourage or hinder him; nor should he deprive himself of such a privilege, to which he has an undoubted right. There seems to be an allusion in these words to what the master of the family used at the passover, when he said z,
"everyone that is hungry, יתי ויכול, "let him come and eat", and everyone that hath need or ought, let him keep the passover.''
z Haggadah Shel Pesach, p. 4.
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily,.... As before explained, 1 Corinthians 11:27 "eateth and drinketh damnation to himself"; or guilt, or judgment, or condemnation; for by either may the word be rendered; nor is eternal damnation here meant; but with respect to the Lord's own people, who may through unbelief, the weakness of grace, and strength of corruption, behave unworthily at this supper, temporal chastisement, which is distinguished from condemnation with the world, and is inflicted in order to prevent it, 1 Corinthians 11:32 and with respect to others it intends temporal punishment, as afflictions and diseases of body, or corporeal death, as it is explained in 1 Corinthians 11:30. This they may be said to eat and drink, because their unworthy eating and drinking are the cause and means of it. Just as Adam and Eve might be said to eat condemnation to themselves and posterity, because their eating of the forbidden fruit was the cause of it. So the phrase, "does not eat condemnation", is used in the Persic version of John 3:18 for "is not condemned". And let it be observed, that such an one is said to eat and drink this judgment or condemnation to himself, and not another; he is injurious to nobody but himself: this may serve to make the minds of such easy, who are not so entirely satisfied with some persons who sit down with them at the Lord's table, when they consider that it is to their own injury, and not to the hurt of others they eat and drink:
not discerning the Lord's body. This is an instance of their eating and drinking unworthily, and a reason why they eat and drink condemnation to themselves, or contract guilt, or expose themselves either to chastisement or punishment; because they distinguish not the Lord's supper from an ordinary and common meal, but confound them together, as did many of the Corinthians, who also did not distinguish the body of Christ in it from the body of the paschal lamb; or discern not the body of Christ, and distinguish it from the bread, the sign or symbol of it; or discern not the dignity, excellency, and usefulness of Christ's body, as broken and offered for us, in which he bore our sins on the tree, and made satisfaction for them; a commemoration of which is made in this ordinance.
For this cause many are weak and sickly,.... Because of their unworthy participation of the Lord's supper, many in the Corinthian church were attended with bodily infirmities and diseases; either by way of fatherly chastisement and correction in such who were truly the Lord's people, though they had behaved unworthily; or by way of punishment to such who were not, and had sinned very grossly:
and many sleep; that is, die a corporeal death, which is often in Scripture signified by sleep, and frequently used of the saints, and their death, and may intend and include some of them here; for though the Lord might resent so far their unworthy conduct and behaviour at his table, as to remove them out of this world by death, yet their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
For if we would judge ourselves,.... Examine, try, and prove ourselves as above directed, before we eat and drink; or condemn ourselves, by confessing, acknowledging, and mourning over sin, and by repentance for it; or separate ourselves from the company of profane sinners, come out from among them, and touch not their unclean things; or join with them in their unfruitful works of darkness:
we should not be judged; by the Lord; he would not inflict these diseases, sicknesses, and death.
But when we are judged,.... This is said by way of consolation to the saints, that when the hand of the Lord is upon them, and he is afflicting them, they should consider these things, not as the effects of his vindictive wrath and justice, as proper punishments for their sins, but as fatherly chastisements for their good:
we are chastened of the Lord; as children by a father, in love and kindness, in order to bring to a sense of sin, repentance for it, and acknowledgment of it, and behave the better for the future:
that we should not be condemned with the world; the world of ungodly men, the men of the world, carnal, worldly, and Christless sinners. There is a world, a multitude of them that will be condemned. So far has Christ been from dying for the redemption and salvation of every individual person in the world, that there is a world of men that will be righteously condemned at the last day. Now the present afflictions and chastisements of the saints are laid upon them, and blessed to them for their spiritual good, that they may not be condemned to the second death, to everlasting fire, to endless damnation, or be punished with everlasting destruction along with them.
Wherefore, my brethren,.... Though he had said some very awful and awakening things to bring them to themselves, to reclaim them, and rectify disorders among them; yet he hoped well of them in general, and softens the severe things he had said, by calling them "brethren"; and hereby prepares them to attend to, and receive the more kindly, what he had further to say:
when ye come together to eat; that is, when ye come to the place of public worship at the usual stated time, in order to eat the Lord's supper, tarry one for another; do not begin to celebrate the ordinance until the church is met together in general, or at least till as many are got together as may be expected will come; for a church is not obliged to tarry for every individual person; nor can it be thought that every member can attend, there being various providences which may detain them: the apostle's view is to promote unity, Christian respect, and brotherly love in the ordinance; that they would sit down and join together, according to the rule of Christ, without respect to persons, or going into parties, factious, and divisions.
And if any man hunger let him eat at home,.... Whereby the apostle shows his dislike of their ante-suppers in the place of public worship, at which they behaved in so indecent a manner, neglecting the poor, and too freely indulging themselves; and therefore if anyone was hungry, and could not wait till the Lord's supper was over, let him eat at home before he come to the place of worship, and satisfy his appetite, that he might with more ease and decency attend the table of the Lord:
that ye come not together unto condemnation or judgment; that is, that you may so behave when ye come together, that you may not bring upon you the judgment of the Lord, either by way of punishment or chastisement; that is to say, bodily diseases or death.
And the rest will I set in order when I come: meaning, not doctrines of faith, but things respecting ecclesiastical order and polity, which were amiss among them.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany