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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 11

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-34

Chapters 11 to 14 no longer consider the question of testimony or conduct as before the world, but rather the conduct, order, unity that is becoming in the Assembly, the body of Christ. Yet this is introduced, not with direct reference to the gathering of the Assembly (which begins with verse 17), but with the basic truths of God's order in creation. For if this first and lower is ignored, then how can the higher be rightly kept'?

But verse 1 preserves the continuity from chapter 10. As Paul followed Christ in his self-sacrificing devotion to the glory of God, so he exhorts saints to follow him; not to be tinder his domination, but to follow his example. And he commends them for keeping him in such remembrance as to keep the instructions he had given them, no doubt as to their assembly character. He is glad to give such commendation first, though correction was necessary in some things.

They must be reminded that the head of every man is Christ. Adam had this place, but through sin has forfeited it. Now Christ, since He is Creator, coming as Man into His own creation, is rightly given the place of "Firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15-16). He is the One Man who can be trusted as Head of every man. "And the head of the woman is the man." This has been true from the time God created them; and 1 Timothy 2:14 adds to this the fact that "the woman being deceived was in the transgression." But beside this, "the head of Christ is God." It' we should resent being in subjection to a "head," let us consider well that Christ who is Himself "equal with God," has come down in grace to take the Servant's place, in lowly subjection to the supreme will of God. This being true, is it difficult for a believer to gladly accept the place God gives in subjection to whatever headship God has established? These fundamental principles the apostle lays down as basic to that which follows. Too frequently there are those who quarrel with the following conclusions because they have not properly considered the basics, which are so deeply important and precious.

The man in praying or prophesying with his head covered, dishonors his head, that is, he dishonors Christ, outwardly. His own physical head is typical of Christ, and Christ is to be manifested, not covered. Let the man express this. On the other hand, if a woman prays or prophesies without a head covering, she dishonors her head, that is, she outwardly dishonors the man. How does she do this? By virtually putting the man in the place of Christ! For her head is typical of the man, who should not be manifested, but covered. It is not he himself who should be uncovered, but his head. The man himself should be covered, but his head uncovered. The woman should not only herself be covered, but her head covered also because it is typical of the man.

For if the woman's head is not covered, it is the same as if she were shaven. For it is in the very nature of things that God has given her long hair, to indicate the fact of her subjection to the headship of man; and if she refuses to use a covering to acknowledge this on her own part, then why not also reject God's testimony to her subjection by shaving her head? But of course it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven. Then let her be covered. Surely it is no burdensome bondage for a woman who loves the Lord to simply put on a head covering at times of prayer or prophesying.

Verse 7 indicates that the important matter is that God's glory should be manifested, not the glory of the man. Man is said here to be "God's image and glory," that is, that he represents God who is in fact revealed in the Person of Christ. "But the woman is the glory of the man;" and this glory is not that to be displayed: indeed it is her very glory to be in lowly subjection that seeks no public place.

For in creation the woman was made from the man, not the reverse; and she was created for the man. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that God ordered it so, and nothing can change it. And for this reason the woman ought to have on her head that which signifies her subjection to authority. It is interesting too that angels are introduced as being concerned witnesses of this. They are also members of God's creation, having their own distinct place, - neither male nor female, - but interested to observe how God's order is carried out on earth. This emphasizes for us the fact that there is a unity in God's creation such as should encourage our walking in thorough harmony with its overall order.

Some have objected that since, "In Christ Jesus" "there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28), then these things may now be ignored, but this is merely using one side of the truth as a denial of the other. "In Christ" we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, and our position also is in the heavenlies; but by the very fact of our still being on earth we have a decided connection with the first creation, and cannot ignore its order without serious consequences. Such objectors would in effect tell us that God ought not to have included this chapter (and many others) in His Word! Indeed,

they have no proper discernment of either side of the truth.

Verses 11 and 12 show however, that the man and the woman are the complement of one another: it is not that the man is a dictator and the woman a slave: each is necessary in his or her place for the maintenance of the human race. If the woman came from man in the beginning, yet ever since then the man has been "by the woman." "But all things of God." His wisdom and work is supreme in every aspect of creation.

Verses 13 and 14 make an appeal to the believer's sense of propriety. One's own proper discernment should lead to the conclusion that a woman ought not to pray to God uncovered. Even nature teaches that if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him, but it is a glory to a woman to have long hair. It is true that many ignore this evident voice of nature; but there is no excuse for a Christian to do so. In many areas custom has dulled this sense of propriety, but faith should certainly restore its keen edge.

Some would argue that since a woman's hair is given her for a covering, there is no need of any other covering, but this assumption ignores the force of the entire passage. The apostle is rather showing that, since God has on His part given her the covering of long hair to indicate her place of subjection, then on her part she is to acquiesce in this, by using a covering on her head.

But the Spirit of God has anticipated the fact that in this matter some would be contentious; and the subject is decidedly closed by the declaration that the apostles had no such custom of being contentious. God has spoken: they had declared the truth of God: they will not descend to the level of merely arguing over it. And the assemblies of God are not to be in any wise contentious either; but to obey the Word of God.

Verse 17 now begins the subject of order in the actual gathering of the assembly. This is local, of course, but is to be the expression locally of the unity of the entire body of Christ. Corinth was faulty as to this matter. Paul could not commend them in their coming together, for their very gathering was a detriment to unity, rather than a help. Did they come together only to show that they were divided? In the breaking of bread particularly this was a serious shame; for the loaf itself symbolizes the unity of the entire one body of Christ, as we have seen in chapter 10:17.

Verse 19 shows that heresies (or sects) would inevitably arise among saints because of our own sinful natures, just as in Matthew 18:7, "It must needs be that offences come." The "sects" here are differing shades of opinion based upon a one-sided view of the truth. Certainly we have no excuse for these, but they will arise. But if so, then will this not make manifest those who do not take part in such sectarian contention, but seek honourably the unity of saints by a well balanced view and presentation of the truth? Today of course, men have justified their sects by separations into innumerable denominations. Yet even then they will denounce the sectarian spirit of others who do not fraternize with them! But an avowed sectarian position is far worse than a sectarian attitude. Still, we want neither the one nor the other, nor sectarian action either. Both sectarian practice and a sectarian attitude are strongly reproved here. If this had been heeded by the church generally, then sectarian separations would not have developed, with their denominational distinctions. And if these are justified, then it is impossible to avoid sectarian practice; for in this case one takes the adamant position that evil is good.

The Corinthians are told that, though they came together with the purpose of eating the Lord's supper, they were not really doing so at all. Some were eating before others, and independently: one remained hungry, another drinking to excess. There was evidently a so-called "love-feast" held in connection with the breaking of bread; and instead of giving the Lord's supper a place distinctly apart, with all engaging unitedly; apparently in the very place of gathering, they were broken into groups in their eating and drinking. It was an aggravated case, but yet illustrates the attitude that may too easily infect any of the people of God. But if they wanted to eat and drink independently of others in the assembly could they not do this in their homes? They were despising the Church of God, and shaming others less privileged than themselves.

The Lord's supper is a most sacred institution, and shown here to have first importance of all the gatherings of the assembly. Paul had personally received from the Lord the truth concerning it, as a special revelation for the sake of the Assembly. Other apostles still living had been present, as Paul had not, at the actual institution of the supper; but Paul did not simply consult them: the Lord Himself had given him this, for he had been chosen as special minister to the Church. Others had been sent to baptize: he had not: the breaking of bread was to him a much more vital and important matter. The solemnity, the stark reality, the tender feeling that pervades the atmosphere of the Lord's institution of the supper, is in this account intended to affect the believing heart in such a way as to both thank and adore the Lord Jesus, and to do so in purest unity with the Assembly, which is His body.

It is not that, when we so gather, we can stir up feelings of worship within ourselves, but that we are simply to remember Him. And essentially we remember Him as the One come from the eternal glory He had with the Father, down to the suffering and agony of Calvary, the dreadful death of the curse of God. The bread and the cup, separate from each other, emphasize this solemnly. And what child of God can reflect on this without his soul being drawn out in thankful worship? Yet it is not said we remember His death, but we remember Him, and we announce His death. Every such occasion is a fresh, public announcement, for every observer, angels or men, of the blessed death of our Lord. But if it is He Himself who so draws the heart, this cannot but produce both worship and unity on the part of those gathered.

It is not to be practiced without the fellowship of the assembly. Some have conceived the thought of having the Lord's supper independently of the assembly on any occasion that may arise, but this is wrong. If one of the saints were for some time sick or incapacitated, there is surely no objection to others of the assembly going to have breaking of bread with him, so long as this is in full fellowship with the assembly, with all of the assembly welcome to be present, if they so desired, and were able. But our chapter reproves all independent practice in the Lord's supper.

In verse 27 it is the manner of eating - eating and drinking unworthily - that is so serious. A selfish, inconsiderate attitude that ignored other beloved saints of God, was insulting to the body and blood of the Lord: the offender is said to be "guilty." It is not here a question of one being personally unworthy, but of the way he acts at the Lord's supper. Each one in the assembly, therefore, is called upon to judge himself (for this is the force of the word "examine"), and in this spirit of self-judgment to eat. He is not told to examine himself to find whether he should eat or not, but after judging himself, to eat. This is of course one already in the assembly, not someone coming from outside.

For if one eats in a selfish, independent manner, he eats and drinks judgment to himself, "not discerning the Lord's body." This was a reason in Corinth for the Lord's chastening hand upon them, many being weak and sickly, and many also taken away by death. God would not allow a matter of this kind to be treated lightly. If they would judge themselves, then He would not have judged them in this way. But when the necessity was there, the Lord would chasten because they were His own, and not leave this to the time when He will condemn the world.

When they are told, then, to "tarry one for another," the force of this is evident. There is to be such dependence upon the Lord that this makes for an interdependence among the saints, a true consideration of each other. We must guard against pressing ourselves forward, yet also against leaving responsibility entirely to others. If it was the physical appetite that needed satisfying, this was to be done at home, so that mere selfish desires would not enter into the sacred feast of the Lord. These things at least they must correct, and other things Paul would set in order when he came.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-corinthians-11.html. 1897-1910.
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