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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 11

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

The head of the woman is the man

1 Corinthians 11:1-16

1 Corinthians 11:1 . The apostle exhorts the Corinthians to follow his teachings, his example and his advice only as he followed the teachings and commandments of Christ. The words of our Lord are our only certain rule of faith and practice. Our ministers and leaders are only to be obeyed and followed as they teach and practice the teachings of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:2 . He praised them that, even in his absence, they remembered his ministry and kept the doctrines, traditions and instructions that he had delivered to them when he was among them.

1 Corinthians 11:3 . Christ is the head of every individual human being (John 17:2; Romans 14:9; Matthew 28:18), but in this sense we understand ‘every man’ to mean every member of his body, the church (Colossians 1:18). ‘The head of the woman is the man’ ( Gen 3:16 ; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; Ephesians 5:22-24). ‘The head of Christ is God,’ not as to his divine nature, for in that respect they are one! Christ is equal to the Father and is possessed of the same divine perfections; but in respect of his office as Mediator, the Son is come to do the will of the Father. In Christ there is neither male nor female in respect of essence, nature and position; but as to office, leadership and authority in the church and in the home, the woman is in subjection and under the rule of the man (1 Timothy 2:11-12).

1 Corinthians 11:4-6 . Interpreters rightly agree that this and the following verses are to be interpreted in the light of the customs of countries as long as the principles of the Scriptures are not violated or compromised. In those Eastern countries it signified either shame or subjection for a person to be ‘veiled.’ A woman never appeared in public without a covering on her head and a veil over her face. If she did, it was an act of rebellion against authority and a demand for equality socially with men. This is not true in our generation where being bare-headed speaks of subjection and being covered betokens superiority and dominion! For a man in Corinth to pray or worship with a covering on his head would indicate that he recognized some human head or authority other than Christ and would be dishonoring to Christ, who is the only head of men. For a woman in Corinth to take off her covering in prayer and worship would indicate that she did not agree with her part in the Fall, nor the authority of her husband over her, nor the commandment of God to be in subjection. This would dishonor her husband and would be as shameful as if she had shaved her head. For her to appear in the dress and manner of her superior would indicate her rebellion against God's order.

1 Corinthians 11:7-8 . The sexes should not attempt to change places. The order in which God has placed persons is best, and to endeavor to change it is to introduce confusion (Deuteronomy 22:5). The woman should keep to the rank God has chosen for her. She was made out of man, made for man and made to be the glory of man. She should always conduct herself according to this divine plan in the home and in the church.

The man was first made and made head of the creation here below, and therein he is the image or representative of God's dominion. The woman was made out of the man to be his helpmeet, to be in subjection to him, and therein she is the glory of her husband and his representative. A woman's attitude and behavior are a reflection of her husband, either for glory or for shame.

1 Corinthians 11:9 . Man was not created for woman, to be ruled by her nor for her benefit, but woman was made for man's use, help and comfort, and naturally made subject to him (Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:22; Genesis 2:25; Ephesians 5:22-25).

1 Corinthians 11:10. A woman should behave in such a way (in this case and country the veil was considered the symbol of subjection) as to show her subjection because of the presence of angels. Some say these are the evil angels. The woman was first in the transgression, being deceived by the evil angel, Lucifer (1 Timothy 2:14; 2 Corinthians 11:3), and the presence of evil spirits among us would capitalize on a woman's effort to again usurp authority. Others say these are the elect angels who minister to and among us (Hebrews 1:14), who would be grieved.

1 Corinthians 11:11-12. Nevertheless, lest this order of the sexes be carried too far and men become overbearing, harsh and independent of women, and women become slaves without spirit, lose their spiritual interest and initiative and hesitate to witness, pray and serve the Lord, Paul declares men and women need each other! They were made to be a mutual comfort and blessing to one another in the Lord (1 Peter 3:5-7). As woman was first formed out of man, the man is ever since born of woman, nourished and comforted by her.

1 Corinthians 11:13-15. ‘Consult your own reason; listen to what nature teaches. Should there not be a distinction kept up between the sexes? The man - the leader, the provider, strong and masculine; the woman in subjection, feminine, with longer hair, which is a natural sign of her character and person. But for a man to dress or wear his hair as a woman is a token of softness and effeminacy.’ It should be our concern in our assemblies to break no rules of natural distinction.

1 Corinthians 11:16. ‘Now if anyone is disposed to be contentious about this matter, let him know that the apostles and all the churches hold this position.’

Verses 17-34

The Lord's table

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

In this passage, Paul rebukes the church for their conduct in respect to the observance of the Lord's Table. We are told by ancient writers that in some of the early churches observance of the Lord's Table was preceded with a love feast which led to some improper behavior.

1 Corinthians 11:18 . ‘In the matter I will deal with now, I do not praise you but must condemn you; for when you meet together to observe this ordinance, you are doing more harm than good. You are not edifying and instructing; but rather you are indulging the flesh in intemperance, causing division, factions and even heresies.’

1 Corinthians 11:19 . There will always be divisions, factions and heresies in churches because Satan is always busy sowing tares, false prophets and teachers are plentiful and human nature (being weak and wicked) is easily led astray. These things do not come forth by chance but through the providence of God, who allows Satan to show himself and allows men to discover the evil of their own hearts in order that those who are genuine (whose doctrine and conduct are according to Scripture) might be recognized plainly.

1 Corinthians 11:20-21 . ‘When you gather together for your love feasts and so-called observance of the Lord's Supper, it is not the supper instituted by our Lord that you observe.’ According to some writers, as Christ did eat the Passover supper before the Lord's Supper, in an imitation of a sort, they would prepare lavish meals at home and bring them to the meeting-place. Some had much to eat, some had little or none, some even drank too much wine and none of them shared with, or waited for others. These love feasts turned into unlovely debaucheries.

1 Corinthians 11:22 . ‘Do you not have private homes in which to eat, drink and indulge your appetites? Do you have contempt for the place where the church meets? Do you have contempt for the poor people of the church, who are not blessed as you are?’ It is a good thing for a church to bring food, come together for fellowship, equally sharing and waiting one for the other in feasts of love and fellowship, but certainly not in conjunction with the observance of the Lord's Table.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 . Paul then sets forth the Lord's Table as it should be observed by the Lord's church.

1. He tells how he came by the knowledge of it by revelation from Christ!

2. He sets forth the Author of it the Lord Jesus himself!

3. He gives the time of the institution the same night he was betrayed and arrested.

4. He lists the materials of the supper bread and wine (Luke 22:14-20). The bread represented his body, broken, and the wine his blood, which was shed for us. Nothing is said of the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation. The bread and wine do not actually become the body and blood of the Lord, but only represent or symbolize his body and blood. ‘This do in remembrance of me,’ said our Lord, in order to keep fresh in our minds and hearts his sacrifice for our sins and his intercession now on our behalf. We not only remember his death for us, but we ‘show,’ declare, or proclaim his substitutionary work (1 Peter 1:18-19).

5. It should be observed frequently, no time is specified; but, ‘As often as you observe the table, you remember and proclaim his death.’

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 . Whoever eats the Lord's Table in a way that is unworthy of Christ may be said to be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, insomuch as he violates this important ordinance, despises the precious blood of Christ and treats lightly the sufferings of our Lord. Let each person examine himself concerning his own knowledge of Christ - who Christ is, what Christ did, why Christ suffered and where Christ is now. Let him determine his experience concerning repentance, faith and love for the Redeemer; then let him eat. For an unworthy person (not a believer) to come to the table, or for him to come in an unworthy manner (as the Corinthians were doing), or to come for an unworthy purpose is to bring God's wrath upon himself. This is no ordinary supper, but a most holy time.

1 Corinthians 11:30 . Because of their unworthy treatment of the Lord's Table, God had visited some of them with afflictions and even death.

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 . ‘If we will examine ourselves, as directed in the above verses, confess our sins, condemn ourselves and look to Christ alone for forgiveness through his blood, we will not come under divine judgment (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2). But when we are under the trying hand of the Lord, let us be comforted to know that God deals with us as a Father disciplines, corrects and instructs his children, so that we shall not finally be condemned with the world of unbelievers.

1 Corinthians 11:33-34 . ‘When you gather together to observe the Lord's Table, meet together as one body, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home.’ This is not a time to satisfy fleshly appetites, but a time of worship and remembrance of our Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/1-corinthians-11.html. 2013.
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