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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books
1 Corinthians 11

 

 

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Verse 1

Paul would have the Corinthians follow him as he followed Christ. He was especially referring to his willingness to give up his rights to attempt to save others, just as Christ had been willing to do. Remember, he gave up any wages he may have been due so no one would be hindered in their obedience to the gospel (1 Corinthians 11:1).


Verse 2-3

God"s Order of Authority

Traditions can be those formed by men and handed down from generation to generation. However, when Paul spoke of them in 1 Corinthians 11:2, he was speaking of the doctrine passed from Christ to the apostle to the Corinthians. Notice, Paul did not create the traditions but "delivered" them. Much of the New Testament had not been written when Paul was penning this letter. The truth they knew came from the words of inspired men, whether spoken or written. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Man was given dominion over woman in Genesis 3:16. He was to love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:2-5). Man, in turn, was directed to submit himself to Christ as Lord. This was first accomplished when a man obeyed Christ in baptism and was to continue as he walked in the light of God"s love and instructions (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:7; John 14:15). The God-given order is: God-Christ-man-woman. Notice, in the garden Jesus prayed, "not as I will, but as thou wilt" (1 Corinthians 11:3; Matthew 26:39).


Verses 4-6

Signs of Subjection

Covering the head, in the Corinth of Paul"s day, showed that a man was in subjection to someone. In worship, Paul said, a man"s head should be uncovered, since he would have been in subjection only to Christ at that time. Neither should a man today wear a Masonic ring, star of David, or any other object which might indicate he is in subjection to someone other than the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:4).

The covering of the head for a woman was used to indicate she was in subjection to her husband. In addition to the natural covering God gave them, the women of Corinth threw something around their head as a sign of subjection. A woman who went in public with her head uncovered was openly rebelling. She would have been saying she was independent, thus not in subjection a man. Shaving a woman"s head was used as a sign that she was an adulteress. It was also a custom of that day for a courtesan to shear her hair. A woman stooping so low as to go without her covering in public worship might as well shave off all her hair and assume the appearance of a courtesan or adulteress, according to Paul (1 Corinthians 11:5-6).


Verses 7-12

An Argument From the Order of Creation

There was nothing created that was superior to man (Genesis 1:2-31; Psalms 8:6). Because of this, Paul said a man covering his head would bring shame on himself, the image and glory of God. In contrast to man, woman was of and created for man. Her purpose was first to glorify her husband. Paul"s statement was true because woman was made from man"s rib in the creation. Genesis 2:18 says woman was created to fill man"s needs for companionship (1 Corinthians 11:7-9).

Because man was created first and the woman was created for him, Paul urged her to always show her subjection to man during worship. In Corinth, this was done by wearing a veil. Likely, the angels signify God"s displeasure over woman worshipping uncovered (see Luke 14:10). Concerning this whole matter of the veil, Guy N. Woods writes in Questions and Answers Open Forum: Freed-Hardeman College Lectures:

...in the church in Corinth..it was required of women to worship with covered heads and men to worship with uncovered heads the covered head, in the case of woman, to evidence her subordination to her "head", (man), and the man to indicate his subordination to his "head," Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3-5)...(a) Paul did not originate the custom of covered heads for women but sanctioned a practice already recognized; and, (b) that while the headship relation continues, the manner by which it is indicated does not...I believe this matter is in exactly the same category as the instruction of the same apostle regarding the kiss a mode of greeting (Romans 16:16)...it was not a method of greeting which the apostle originated; he simply took what was already done and sanctified it made it a holy form of greeting...From this passage it is plain that it was not intended that Christianity should needlessly vary from the national customs of the day. For Christians to introduce needless innovations would be to add to the misconceptions which already subjected them to persecution...Not the slightest change had occurred in the relationship of men and women: both are to be subordinate to their heads; but, they do not indicate it as they did in Corinth and other countries of the ancient world.

Woman is only inferior to man in the sense of rank established by God in the creation. Man and woman are mutually dependent on one another for existence, as God appointed. While woman originally was made out of a part of man, men are now born of women. They depend on each other for existence. All this was appointed by God. Therefore, woman should be satisfied with her position and man should not overemphasize his position of authority (1 Corinthians 11:10-12).


Verses 13-16

Long Hair

Paul asked the brethren to use their own judgment to determine whether or not it was proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered. As McGarvey wrote, "Instinct should teach us that the head of a woman is more properly covered than that of a man, for nature grants it a greater abundance of hair." He also went on to note men of Paul"s day cut their hair short, unless they were under some vow like that of the Nazarite. "Long hair in a man betokened base and lewd effeminancy," according to McGarvey. The apostle"s words suggest to us that a man should not want to wear hair so long he looks womanly, nor a woman hair so short, she looks manly (1 Corinthians 11:13-14).

A woman"s long hair was given to her by God as a beautiful covering. To end all discussion Paul says this was the practice in the churches of Christ, apparently indicating other apostles had in some way confirmed what he was saying and it was universally accepted. The churches should strive to be in agreement in practice (1 Corinthians 11:15-16). While today a veil would not indicate anything to the general populace, Christian women still need to show their subjection to their husbands. A proper spirit is a necessary part of a woman"s spiritual attire (1 Timothy 2:9-10)!


Verses 17-22

Problems In Coming Together

Paul thought the very act of Christians coming together should encourage unity and spiritual development. Paul said the Corinthians were failing in that and reprimanded them. Reports of their conduct in the assemblies of the saints had already come to Paul before he wrote. Some of the reports may have been exaggerated, but Paul believed it when it was said they were dividing into factions when the congregation came together (1 Corinthians 11:17-18; Isaiah 10:13).

Divisions caused by carnal thinking tend to separate those who are striving to meet God"s standards (2 Timothy 2:15) from those who are not. The "approved" Paul mentioned would be those who, like metal, pass the test and prove to be genuine. The divisions in the Corinthian church and misuse of the supper made it no longer proper to call it the Lord"s. The Lord would have no part in their divison (1 Corinthians 11:19-20).

Perhaps because the Lord ate the passover feast with his disciples before instituting the Lord"s supper, the church at Corinth ate a feast, often called a love feast, before partaking of the Lord"s Supper. The Corinthians were each bringing their own meals and partaking of it in party groups. They did not wait on each other and while the poor went hungry, the rich drank to excess. Thus, the love feast was not a true communion at a common table where each could receive alike. The poor were shamed instead of being fed. Paul praised them (1 Corinthians 11:2) when they deserved it and rebuked them when they deserved it (1 Corinthians 11:21-22).


Verses 23-26

The Lord"s Instructions Concerning the Supper

The Lord himself told Paul about the sacred supper. The night of the supper"s institution was the night in which Christ was betrayed and thus was a solemn occasion. The bread he took on that night would have been unleavened since this was the type of bread used during the Passover week (Exodus 12:15). Jesus, as always, thanked God for his blessings, of which the supper would be a part. Since Jesus was present in body at the original supper, the bread could only have represented Christ"s body. They were to partake of it remembering the Lord"s sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).

Jesus took the cup in the same manner he had the bread. Obviously, he gave thanks. The contents of the cup, or fruit of the vine, represented the cleansing blood of Christ. That blood sealed and confirmed the new covenant under which sinners can be set free from the terrible debt of sin (Romans 6:23). First Century Christians gathered together on the first day of the week to partake of this supper (Acts 20:7). Paul reminded the Corinthian brethren that they were to remember the Lord"s sacrifice each time they gathered for the purpose of partaking the supper. In this act, they looked back to the cross and forward to Jesus" return to take his people home (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).


Verses 27-34

The Proper Attitude Is Required

Paul stressed the need for the proper attitude in partaking of the Lord"s Supper. Irreverence while partaking would have shown a light concern for the sacrifice being remembered. Each participant, then, needed to ask himself whether or not he was eating and drinking in thankful memory of Christ"s sacrifice. Such was especially true because an improper attitude would lead to condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).

Paul declared many in Corinth were suffering spiritually because of a wrong attitude in receiving the supper. In fact, many were spiritually asleep or nearly dead. The apostle tried to encourage the brethren by assuring them that condemnation would not come upon those who kept a close watch on their attitude. The Lord only disciplined those in the wrong so they might not be lost eternally (1 Corinthians 11:30-32).

When the Lord"s Supper was eaten, Paul told the Corinthian Christians to wait to have fellowship with each other. To avoid turning the Lord"s Supper into a common meal, Paul instructed them to eat at home. With their appetites thus cared for, they would have been able to participate in a proper manner when they ate the Lord"s Supper. Other, probably lesser, problems were to be straightened out when Paul came to visit (1 Corinthians 11:33-34).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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