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The Apostle is giving Instructions in the opening of this Chapter. He enters somewhat more largely in treating of the Lord's Supper and very sweetly discourseth upon it.
(1) Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (2) Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. (3) But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (4) Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. (5) But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (6) For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. (7) For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (8) For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. (9) Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. (10) For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. (11) Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. (12) For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. (13) Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? (14) Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (15) But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. (16) But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
We never can sufficiently admire the grace given to the Apostle, as a minister of the Lord Jesus, for that it enabled him to win the affections of the people in attending to his exhortation and reproofs, He that winneth souls is wise. And much of that wisdom which is from above, a minister should pray for, that he may endear himself to his people before that he can hope that they will attend to what he hath to say. How very affectionately the Apostle opens this Chapter on this ground, desiring the Corinthian Church to follow him, but as he followed Christ.
It should seem from what Paul hath here dwelt upon, in relation to the covering of the head of the men, or women, in seasons of worship; that the custom of the Church in those days, was somewhat particular. A decency of apparel, is all that is necessary to be observed. The Apostle Peter, hath given in one short verse or two, a sufficient direction for all holy women, to observe, in their dress, who profess godliness. Whose adorning (saith he) let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price, 1 Peter 3:3-4 .
But, methinks, I would take occasion, from the infirmities of the Church at Corinth, and from the infirmities of the Church of God in all ages, to gather improvement, in hearing what Jesus saith to his Church on the subject in contemplating the beauties of his Church, made comely by the comeliness he had put upon her. Behold! (saith Christ,) thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair! thou has doves eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Mount Gilead, Song of Solomon 4:1 . Now as the hair grows on the head, and depends upon it: so the Church is grafted on Christ, and derives everything of life and nourishment from him. And, as the hair is ornamental, so Christ's Church is the glory of the world; the preservation of which wholly ariseth from the concern Christ hath for his Church, in the world. And, as the hair is not only ornamental, but useful, and forms a covering to preserve from baldness: so Christ's Church is covered with the robe of her Lord's righteousness, and the garment of his salvation. Well may the Lord's people be compared to a flock of goats on Mount Gilead; for the Church, like that goodly mountain, is on high, and stands fruitful, as well as exalted, in the Lord's righteousness. Numerous they are, like the hairs of the head; but very lovely and graceful. Jesus so highly esteems them, that he saith, they shall be his when he cometh to number his jewels, and to spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him, Malachi 3:17 .
(17) Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. (18) For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. (19) For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (20) When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. (21) For in eating everyone taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. (22) What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. (23) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: (24) And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. (25) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (26) For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. (27) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (30) For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (31) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (32) But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (33) Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. (34) And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
We can never be sufficiently thankful to our gracious God, for this portion of his holy word, on the subject of the Lord's Supper. The improper administration of the sacred Supper, among the Corinthians, gave occasion to the Apostle, to state the order of it at large, as he hath here done: and God the Spirit, I say, be praised, for this invaluable record concerning it. The first thing of importance concerning the holy Supper, which we here learn, is, that the thing itself is of Christ's express institution. This I conceive to be a matter of high moment. For, although the Lord Jesus appointed the service to his disciples, (who were the representatives of the Church,) as a standing memorial, to be observed by his followers, and without any further record, had nothing more been said concerning it, than the Lord's appointment upon that memorable occasion; this would have been enough, it ought indeed, to have been enough to endear it, and recommend it forever, to the faithful: yet had not the Lord again taught his servant Paul what is here related, and God the Holy Ghost caused it to be handed down in the Church by those written records, we should not have known how highly Jesus prized it, and how many and various the blessings the Lord intended to communicate, in the faithful observance of it to his people. I pray the Reader not to lose sight of this, in his view of the Lord's Supper.
Secondly. It is worthy the Reader's observation, that though it is not said when it was that the Lord Jesus so directed the Apostle Paul, concerning the holy Supper; yet very certain it is, that what he delivered to the Church on the subject, he had immediately from Jesus himself. So it is written. For (saith Paul) I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. And then he describes the order of the solemn service. Nay, there is somewhat very highly important to observe in what the Apostle saith, not only as it relates to the service itself, but as to the manner of celebrating it. For though the Lord Jesus, when at the supper with his disciples, instituted it, and superseded the Jewish Passover, and commanded its perpetual observance; yet the Lord gave no form, neither prescribed any order, or method, how they should celebrate it. Hence this relation of Paul becomes doubly blessed, because the Lord who gave it to his servant, gave him at the same time, those directions how it should he observed by the faithful. Some have been curious to enquire, When it was, that the Lord Jesus so taught Paul concerning it. But the Holy Ghost is silent on the subject. It is not likely to have been at his conversion, for the Lord then sent him to Ananias to be baptized. But it might have been when he was in a trance, Acts 18:9 or Acts 22:17 , or when in the prison : Acts 23:11 , or at sea: Acts 27:23 , or when caught up to the third Heaven: 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 . But it is not so material to enquire when it was, as to be convinced of the certainty of it, that it really is; and this Paul certifies with strong expressions, when he saith : For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. From this account of the Apostle, I venture to conclude, that that form of administration, which approacheth nearest to this standard, is most Scriptural.
Thirdly. From the very sweet and affectionate statement in the Lord's name, by his servant Paul, (and as it should seem, purposely given that he might inform the Church of it,) that as oft as his people in a sacramental service eat the bread, and drink the cup, they do shew forth the Lord's death till he come; nothing can be more plain, than that it is the Lord's pleasure, that his people should often meet in his name, for this holy purpose. And that the Church of God, from the first descent of the Holy Ghost, considered it so, is also evident, for we are told, that they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house: by which we understand, celebrating the holy Supper of the Lord, Acts 2:46 . Flow little apprehensions must those persons have, either of the solemn service itself; or of the design of its institution, who receive it but seldom, lest they should lose their reverence for it; and thereby manifest their total ignorance both of the Lord of the Supper, and as a communion in the benefits of it by faith? Reader! what saith your knowledge of the Lord, and the enjoyment of the Lord, at his Supper? The Church of old cried out: While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sended forth the smell thereof. Song of Solomon 1:12 . It is very blessed, when at the Lord's table, or in the Lord's house, or in our own, the graces of the Holy Spirit which the Lord hath planted in the soul, are going forth in lively actings of faith, upon the Person, work, blood-shedding, and righteousness, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh! who shall calculate, the incomings of Christ's love, and the out-goings of praise, in such hallowed seasons? Who shall tell what passeth between Christ and his spouse; the Lord and his people, when Jesus comes in to see the guests at his table; and they are found waiting their Lord's approach, in the wedding garment of his righteousness? Who shall describe the feelings of those redeemed souls, who, while Jesus sheweth his hands, and his side, breaks to them the bread, and gives to them the cup of salvation; opens their hearts, warms their affections, cheers their spirits, and makes them sensible of a gracious welcome; when by faith they hear the Lord say : Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, 0 beloved! Song of Solomon 5:1 . Could any child of God, whose soul is truly regenerated, and hath felt the sweetness of the ordinance at the Supper, ever keep from the table, or use it sparingly? Blessed Lord! I praise thy holy Name, for so precious a love-token of thy favor. May it be my portion, to be often crying out with the Church: Tell me, 0 thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon; for why should I he as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions, Song of Solomon 1:7 .
I must not take leave of this interesting subject, without first noticing what the Apostle hath said, respecting the irreverent manner in which the Corinthians observed the Lord's Supper.
It appears, from the statement given by the Apostle, that the Corinthians had somewhat of a feast, before they celebrated the Lord's Supper. For he speaks of it, and saith: When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper . For in eating, everyone taketh before other his own supper, and one is hungry, and another is drunken. Now this could not be the Supper of the Lord. Some have thought, and perhaps the idea is well founded, that those who did this, were persons who had been converted to Christianity, but like the Church of Galatea, were much attached to Jewish customs, and therefore kept up also the observance of the Passover. And from not having been savingly converted to the faith by regeneration, had made too free with the good things of the feast, and were in an awful state of drunkenness , when they attended the celebration of the Lord's Supper, which followed. Others have supposed, that this feast of the Corinthians, was a love feast, instituted to bring together into the bands of mutual love, and affection, the several members of Christ's body; that so by partaking in one common feast, they might be reminded of their equality : notwithstanding their different ranks, of poor and rich, that they all alike stood in need of one common salvation; and as such, ate and drank together, in one common meal, and from thence went hand in hand to present themselves before the table of the Lord, In either case, it presents us with a melancholy picture of the fallen, and corrupt state of our poor nature. Probably this feast was provided for according to the circumstances of the people. The rich sent in plenty. The poor who had nothing of consequence, provided nothing. And therefore, while the former, assuming on their right, ate and drank to the full; the latter, in modesty kept back and the effect was as the Apostle states, while one was hungry, another was drunken.
And, what tended to heighten yet more the enormity of the offence, was, that it was done in the house of God. This is evident, from the Apostle's reproof. What? have ye not houses to eat and drink in: or despise ye the church of God? Reader! think what an awful perversion of all sacred things, when, even under the cover of religion, such abuses prevailed!
It will be highly proper to consider, what the Apostle hath said in relation to the unworthy participation of the Lord's Supper; and more especially, as many of God's children, from a misconception of the subject have taken the words of the Apostle in a very different light from what, as is evidently the case, the Apostle meant them. For the better apprehension of the whole of what Paul hath said upon this most interesting subject, I would beg to state the Apostle's words under each particular. Paul saith, 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. And again: For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation, (or, as the margin of the Bible renders it, judgment,) to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. These are very strong expressions. And the question is to what extent, according to the general sense of Scripture do they refer?
An unworthy participation in the Supper of the Lord cannot, in the nature of the thing, imply such guilt in the body and blood of the Lord, as those who imbrued their hands, in the death of Christ; for that is impossible. Neither is it to be supposed, that by the unworthy receiving in the Corinthian Church, the Apostle considered any there, who either had once acknowledged the faith of Christ, and now denied him; for then it is to be supposed, that in this case, they would not have shewn themselves to the table of the Lord. Neither can we imagine, that any of those Corinthians were of that class of persons, whom the same Apostle speaks of in his Epistle to the Hebrews, who despised the blood of the Covenant, and thought highly of it; for neither in this sense can we suppose such characters to be found at the Lord's Supper, Hebrews 10:29 . We must look for some other marks of distinction; which may be supposed to have reference to the receiving the Lord's Supper unworthily, so as to be considered guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
And I think it very possible, that the Apostle had in view among the Corinthians, such as made light of the holy Supper, reduced it to a mere form, had no eye to Christ, no discernment of the Lord's body in the sacramental service; went to it with an indifferency, to a common meal; and from the state of drunkenness and fulness by which many of those Corinthians were distinguished, at the Lord's table, plainly testified, that they knew no reverence for the Lord us this holy service.
And I am the more inclined to conclude, that it was to such characters the Apostle referred, from what he declared to be the consequence of such unholy behavior. The Apostle saith, that he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. Not eternal damnation, for it is to the Church Paul is writing, and the Church is a body of truly regenerated persons who cannot come into condemnation, having passed from death unto life, Romans 8:1 . But, judgment, that is, as he saith in a following verse, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. And they are expressly said to be judged and chastened of the Lord, that they should not be condemned with the world; that is, as the carnal, unawakened, unregenerate in the world. This distinction, with the causes of chastisement, most plainly and decidedly shew, that eternal damnation was never meant by the Apostle, neither, indeed, could be; for, as a Church, though fallen into a backsliding state of receiving the supper of the Lord unworthily; they were chastened to prove that they were still God's children, and not liable to he condemned with the ungodly world. Those among them that slept, means no more, than that the sicknesses which followed, had in their nature produced death; but, neither doth this mean eternal death, no more than the other eternal damnation. Both the sickness and the sleep here spoken of by the Apostle, with which the Corinthians were visited, are expressly said to have been in chastisement, not destruction. And the very reason wherefore thus judged and chastened of the Lord, is said to have been, because they should not be condemned with the world.
But, while I am led to conclude that this is the real sense and meaning of the Apostle's Words, and as such, they are very gracious, and full of instruction to the Lord's people on this interesting subject; I am willing to admit for argument sake, that supposing the words of the Apostle extend to a much greater degree of guilt, and even to eternal damnation, yet all this hath nothing to do with the Church of God in the present hour; neither, in this sense, can the Church of God receive, as the Corinthians did, the Supper of the Lord unworthily.
We have no Passover, no love feast, no eating and drinking in the Church of God, preparatory to the Lord's Supper. There is not the possibility of doing, as Paul charged the Corinthians with, that, while one was hungry, another was drunken. The bread and wine at the table, are no more than what is barely sufficient to answer the purposes of celebration. And these provided not by general contributions from the persons receiving, but from the Church. Hence, in the sense in which Paul condemned the Corinthians for their improper behavior at this ordinance, it is impossible for believers of the present hour to receive the Lord's Supper.
But is there not, it may he questioned, a possibility of eating of the bread, and drinking of the cup of the Lord unworthily? The answer need not be long paused over before it be given. Beyond a doubt there may. everyone is, more or less, an unworthy receiver, who hath not an eye to Christ in the sacred service. The ordinance of the Supper is a spiritual feast. And he who is not spiritual, cannot, in truth, partake of it. None who are in the original state of unregeneracy, can be said to be worthy receivers. They may, indeed, with the body partake of the bread, and of the wine; but the soul of the unregenerate being still dead in trespasses and sins, can perform no act of spiritual life, and, consequently, cannot receive the Lord's Supper worthily. They discern not the Lord's body.
Moreover, the Supper of the Lord is designed for the family of the Lord. It is, indeed, a family meal. Christ invites none but his family to partake of it. And everyone of these are expected by constant invitation, and by birthright in the new birth, to take their seats at the table. Jesus will have none missing at supper time. All others are without invitation, and have no right there. And they are easily known. They have been regenerated, brought thereby into spiritual life, they cry Abba, Father. The Spirit witnesseth to their spirits, that they are children of God. They have a spiritual hungering and thirsting after Christ. They know Jesus to be the living bread which came down from heaven, and of him they desire to eat, and to live forever. In short, every act of faith, and the exercise of grace in the new life, manifests what constitutes a worthy receiver. But to attend the ordinance of the Supper, without a spiritual appetite for the Supper; is as unsuited and unworthy as for the body, when diseased and unable to relish food, to set down to the ordinary table, or for the dead to be called upon to some act of animal life. To receive the Lord's Supper, to qualify for man's bread, to go there for the sake of form, or because arrived at a certain age, or because others do; all these, unquestionably, fall under the characters of receiving unworthily, though unattended with the sin of being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
And, it should be a matter of consolation to weak and timid souls, that after the Apostle had been saying such harsh things to call up the attention of the Corinthians to a jealousy over their own hearts on this interesting subject, he still calls them brethren, Wherefore, my brethren. By which is plainly proved, that though offending and meriting reproof, still they were regenerate believers. And, he tells them, that if they would judge themselves, they should not be judged of the Lord. All which manifests, that amidst all their weakness and infirmities, they were the Lord's own people, and all he had said to them was for their comfort, and not their condemnation. Reader! It will be our mercy, it we derive from this beautiful relation of the Lord's Supper, the many sweet instructions, the Lord by his servant, hath here sent to the Church. And, oh! for grace often to be found in our place at the Lord's table, and there to set forth the Lord's death till he come.
Lord give thy people grace to follow thy faithful servants as they have followed thee! Truly, thou dearest Lord! thou art the head of every man, for by creation all is thine. But, oh! how sweet to my soul, that, while Jesus is the head of dominion to the whole creation of God, he is the head of union to his body the Church, the fulness that filleth all in all.
Almighty Jesus! blessed forever he thy name for thy grace in committing to the Apostle, for the benefit of thy Church, the precious form of institution of thine holy Supper. Oh! for grace to eye thee at every renewed opportunity of attending thy table, as receiving sinners, and eating with them! Oh! for faith in lively actings upon thy Person, and blood-shedding, and righteousness, so as to hear thee saying to my poor soul, amidst the numbers of thine round thy table, Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you, This Cup is the New Testament in my blood. This do ye as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me. Oh! Lord! who shall thy people ever remember, if we are capable of forgetting thee! Lord! make the sweet service to all thy redeemed, a commemorating, communicating, refreshing, soul-strengthening ordinance, to feast thy saints here below, till we come to sit down with thee at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29