corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.07.22
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians
1 Corinthians 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Be ye followers of me, even as I also (am) of Christ.

This verse should belong to the tenth chapter, as it is the conclusion of the preceding discussion, and as a new subject is introduced with the following verse. Paul had referred to his own conciliatory conduct as an example to the Corinthians, and he exhorts them to imitate him, as he did Christ, who is the ultimate standard.


Verse 2

Now I praise, you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered (them) to you.

Now I praise you. The particle ( הו ́) rendered now, either simply indicates the transition to a new subject, or it is adversative. ‘Though I exhort you to imitate me as though you were deficient, yet I praise you that you remember me.' The Corinthians, although backward in following the self-denial and conciliatory conduct of the apostle, were nevertheless in general mindful of the ordinances or rules which he had delivered to them. The word ( נבסב ́ הןףיע) tradition, here rendered ordinance, is used not only for instructions orally transmitted from generation to generation, as in Matthew 15:2, Matthew 15:3, Matthew 15:6, but for any instruction, whether relating to faith or practice, and whether delivered orally or in writing. 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6. In reference to the rule of faith it is never used in the New Testament, except for the immediate instructions of inspired men. When used in the modern sense of the word tradition, it is always in reference to what is human and untrustworthy, Galatians 1:14. Colossians 2:8, and frequently in the gospels of the traditions of the elders.


Verse 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.

Though the apostle praised the Corinthians for their general obedience to his prescriptions, yet there were many things in which they were deserving of censure. Before mentioning the thing which he intended first to condemn, he states the principle on which that condemnation rested; so that, by assenting to the principle, they could not fail to assent to the conclusion to which it necessarily led. That principle is, that order and subordination pervade the whole universe, and is essential to its being. The head of the man is Christ; the head of woman is the man; the head of Christ is God. If this concatenation be disturbed in any of its parts, ruin must be the result. The head is that on which the body is dependent, and to which it is subordinate. The obvious meaning of this passage is, that the woman is subordinate to the man, the man is subordinate to Christ and Christ is subordinate to God. It is further evident, that this subordination is very different in its nature in the several cases mentioned. The subordination of the woman to the man is something entirely different from that of the man to Christ; and that again is at an infinite degree more complete than the subordination of Christ to God. And still further, as the subordination of the woman to the man is perfectly consistent with their identity as to nature, so is the subordination of Christ to God consistent with his being of the same nature with the Father. There is nothing, therefore, in this passage, at all inconsistent with the true and proper divinity of our blessed Lord. For a brief statement of the scriptural doctrine of the relation of Christ to God, see the comments on 1 Corinthians 3:23. It need here be only further remarked, that the word Christ is the designation, not of the Logos or second person of the Trinity as such, nor of the human nature of Christ as such, but of the Theanthropos, the God-man. It is the incarnate Son of God, who, in the great work of redemption, is said to be subordinate to the Father, whose will he came into the world to do. When Christ is said to be the head of every man, the meaning is of every believer; because it is the relation of Christ to the church, and not to the human family, that it is characteristically expressed by this term. He is the head of that body which is the church, Colossians 1:18. Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23.


Verse 4

Every man praying or prophesying, having (his) head covered, dishonoreth his head.

Such being the order divinely established, (viz., that mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:3,) both men and women should act in accordance with it; the man, by having the head uncovered, the woman by being veiled. As the apostle refers to their appearance in public assemblies, he says, Every man praying or prophesying i.e. officiating in public worship. Prophesying. In the scriptural sense of the word, a prophet is one who speaks for another, as Aaron is called the prophet, or spokesman of Moses. "Thou shalt speak unto him, and put words into his mouth, … and he shall be thy spokesman," Exodus 4:15, Exodus 4:16; or, as he is called, Exodus 7:1, thy prophet. The prophets of God, therefore, were his spokesmen, into whose mouth the Lord put the words which they were to utter to the people. To prophesy, in Scripture, is accordingly, to speak under divine inspiration; not merely to predict future events, but to deliver, as the organ of the Holy Ghost, the messages of God to men, whether in the form of doctrine, exhortation, consolation, or prediction. This public function, the apostle says, should not be exercised by a man with his head covered; literally, having something on his head downward. Among the Greeks, the priests officiated bareheaded; the Romans with the head veiled; the Jews (at least soon after the apostolic age) also wore the Tallis or covering for the head in their public services. It is not to be inferred from what is here said, that the Christian prophets (or inspired men) had introduced this custom into the church. The thing to be corrected was, women appearing in public assemblies unveiled. The apostle says, the veil is inconsistent with the position of the man, but is required by that of the women. Men are mentioned only for the sake of illustrating the principle.

Dishonoreth his head. It is doubtful whether we should read his or his own head, ( בץ ̓ פןץ ͂ or בץ ̔ פןץ ͂). This is a point the ancient manuscripts do not decide, as they are not furnished with the diacritical marks. It depends on the connection. It is also doubtful whether the apostle meant to say that he dishonored Christ who is his head, or that he dishonored himself. The latter, perhaps, is to be preferred,

1. Because, in the immediately preceding clause the word is used literally, ‘If he cover his head, he dishonors his head.'

2. Because, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, the woman who goes unveiled is said to dishonor her own head, i.e. as what follows shows, herself, and not her husband.

3. It is more obviously true that a man who acts inconsistently with his station disgraces himself, than that he disgraces him who placed him in that station. A commanding military officer, who appears at the head of his troops in the dress of a common soldier, instead of his official dress, might more properly be said to dishonor himself than his sovereign.

For a freeman to appear in the distinguishing dress of a slave, was a disgrace. So the apostle says, for a man to appear with the conventional sign of subjection on his head, disgraced himself. If the man be intended to represent the dominion of God, he must act accordingly, and not appear in the dress of a woman.


Verse 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.

Praying and prophesying were the two principal exercises in the public worship of the early Christians. The latter term, as above stated, included all forms of address dictated by the Holy Spirit. It was Paul's manner to attend to one thing at a time. He is here speaking of the propriety of women speaking in public unveiled, and therefore he says nothing about the propriety of their speaking in public in itself. When that subject comes up, he expresses his judgment in the clearest terms, 1 Corinthians 14:34. In here disapproving of the one, says Calvin, he does not approve of the other.

The veils worn by Grecian women were of different kinds. One, and perhaps the most common, was the peplum, or mantle, which in public was thrown over the head, and enveloped the whole person. The other was more in the fashion of the common eastern veil which covered the face, with the exception of the eyes. In one form or other, the custom was universal for all respectable women to appear veiled in public. — The apostle therefore says, that a woman who speaks in public with her head uncovered, dishonoreth her head. Here ו ̔ בץפח ͂ ע is used, her own head; not her husband, but herself. This is plain, not only from the force of the words, but from the next clause, for that is even all one as if she were shaven. This is the reason why she disgraces herself. She puts herself in the same class with women whose hair has been cut off. Cutting off the hair, which is the principal natural ornament of women, was either a sign of grief, Deuteronomy 21:12, or a disgraceful punishment. The literal translation of this clause is: she is one and the same thing with one who is shaven. She assumes the characteristic mark of a disreputable woman.


Verse 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.

That is, let her act consistently. If she wishes to be regarded as a reputable woman, let her conform to the established usage. But if she have no regard to her reputation, let her act as other women of her class. She must conform either to the reputable or disreputable class of her sex, for a departure from the one is conforming to the other. These imperatives are not to be taken as commands, but rather as expressing what consistency would require. Shorn or shaven, the latter is the stronger term; it properly means to cut with a razor.


Verse 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.

The woman, and the woman only, ought to be veiled; for the man ought not to cover his head. This does not mean, he is not bound to do it, but should not do it. The negative belongs not to ן ̓ צוי ́ כוי, but to ךבפבכבכץ ́ נפוףטבי. The reason is that he is the image and glory of God. The only sense in which the man, in distinction from the woman, is the image of God, is that he represents the authority of God. He is invested with dominion. When, in Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27, it is said God created man in his own image, the reference is as much to woman as to man; for it is immediately added, "male and female created he them." So far, therefore, as the image of God consists in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, Eve as truly, and as much as Adam, bore the likeness of her Maker. But in the dominion with which man was invested over the earth, Adam was the representative of God. He is the glory of God, because in him the divine majesty is specially manifested. But the woman is the glory of the man. That is, the woman is in this respect subordinate to the man. She is not designed to reflect the glory of God as a ruler. She is the glory of the man. She receives and reveals what there is of majesty in him. She always assumes his station; becomes a queen if he is a king, and manifests to others the wealth and honor which may belong to her husband.


Verse 8

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

The subordination of the woman to the man is here proved from two facts recorded in the history of their creation. First, the woman was formed out of the man, and derived her origin from him. He, and not she, was created first. Secondly, she was created on his account, and not he on hers. In this way does the New Testament constantly authenticate, not merely the moral and religious truths of the Old Testament, but its historical facts; and makes those facts the grounds or proofs of great moral principles. It is impossible, therefore, for any Christian who believes in the inspiration of the apostles to doubt the divine authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, or to confine the inspiration of the ancient writers to their doctrinal and preceptive statements. The whole Bible is the word of God.


Verse 9

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

The subordination of the woman to the man is here proved from two facts recorded in the history of their creation. First, the woman was formed out of the man, and derived her origin from him. He, and not she, was created first. Secondly, she was created on his account, and not he on hers. In this way does the New Testament constantly authenticate, not merely the moral and religious truths of the Old Testament, but its historical facts; and makes those facts the grounds or proofs of great moral principles. It is impossible, therefore, for any Christian who believes in the inspiration of the apostles to doubt the divine authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, or to confine the inspiration of the ancient writers to their doctrinal and preceptive statements. The whole Bible is the word of God.


Verse 10

For this cause ought the woman to have power on (her) head because of the angels.

There is scarcely a passage in the New Testament which has so much taxed the learning and ingenuity of commentators as this. After all that has been written, it remains just as obscure as ever. The meaning which it naturally suggests to the most superficial reader, is regarded by the most laborious critics as the only true one. By ו ̓ מןץףי ́ ב, power, the apostle means the sign or symbol of authority; just as Diodorus Sic., , speaks of an image as "having three kingdoms on its head." The apostle had asserted and proved that the woman is subordinate to the man, and he had assumed as granted that the veil was the conventional symbol of the man's authority. The inference is that the woman ought to wear the ordinary symbol of the power of her husband. As it was proper in itself, and demanded by the common sense of propriety, that the woman should be veiled, it was specially proper in the worshipping assemblies, for there they were in the presence not merely of men but of angels. It was therefore, not only out of deference to public sentiment, but from reverence to those higher intelligences that the woman should conform to all the rules of decorum. This is the common and only satisfactory interpretation of the passage. Of those who dissent from this view, some propose various conjectural emendations of the text; others vainly endeavor to prove that the word ו ̓ מןץףי ́ ב may be made to mean a veil; others take the word literally. And as to the last clause, instead of taking the word angels in its ordinary sense, some say it here means the angels, or presiding officers, of the church; others, that it means messengers or spies from the heathen who came to observe the mode in which the Christians worshipped, and would report any thing they observed to their disadvantage. The great majority of commentators acquiesce in the interpretation stated above, which satisfies all the demands of the context.


Verse 11

Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

That is, although there is this subordination of the woman to the man, they are mutually dependent. The one cannot exist without the other. In the Lord. This does not mean that the one is not in the Lord to the exclusion of the other. The apostle is not here speaking of the spiritual equality of the sexes. In Galatians 3:28 and elsewhere he abundantly teaches that in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female; that the one is as fully a partaker of all the benefits of redemption as the other. And it is also true that he teaches that this equality of Jews and Greeks, bond and free, before God is perfectly consistent with the social inequalities existing in this world. But these truths, however important, and however they distinguish the Christian doctrine of the equality and dignity of woman from all other forms of religious doctrine on the subject, are foreign to this connection. The apostle's single object is to show the true nature and limitations of the subordination of the woman to the man. It is a real subordination, but it is consistent with their mutual dependence; the one is not without the other. And this mutual dependence is ו ̓ ם ךץסי ́ ש ͅ, i.e. by divine appointment — according to the will of the Lord. These words are used here, as so frequently elsewhere, as an adverbial qualification, meaning religiously, after a Christian manner, or divinely, i.e. by divine appointment. The same idea is substantially expressed by those who explain the words in the Lord as tantamount to "in Christianity;" in the sense that it is a Christian doctrine that the man and the woman are thus mutually dependent.


Verse 12

For as the woman (is) of the man, even so (is) the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

The one is not without the other, for as the woman was originally formed out of the man, so the man is born of the woman. This is a proof, not of the admitted equality of the sexes in the kingdom of God, but of their mutual dependence in the kingdom of nature. It therefore confirms the interpretation given of the preceding verse. But all things are of God; these subordinate relations of one creature to another are merged, as it were, in the supreme causality of God. It matters little whether the man was of the woman or the woman of the man, as both alike are of God; just as he before said, it matters little whether a man were a Jew or Gentile, bond or free, since all are alike before God.


Verse 13

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

This is an appeal to their own sense of propriety. The apostle often recognizes the intuitive judgments of the mind as authoritative. Romans 1:32; Romans 3:8. The constitution of our nature being derived from God, the laws which he has impressed upon it, are as much a revelation from him as any other possible communication of his will. And to deny this, is to deny the possibility of all knowledge. It is comely ( נסו ́ נןם ו ̓ ףפי ́), is it becoming or decorous?


Verse 14

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for (her) hair is given her for a covering.

Doth not nature itself. The word ( צץ ́ ףיע), nature, sometimes means essence or substance, sometimes the laws of nature or of our natural constitution; sometimes, the instinctive feelings or judgments which are the effects of those laws. The form which feelings assume is necessarily determined in a great measure by education and habit. The instinctive sense of propriety in an eastern maiden prompts her, when surprised by strangers, to cover her face. In an European it would not produce that effect. In writing, therefore, to eastern females, it would be correct to ask whether their native sense of propriety did not prompt them to cover their heads in public. The response would infallibly be in the affirmative. It is in this sense the word nature is commonly taken here. It may, however, mean the laws or course of nature. Nature gives the man short hair and the woman long hair; and therefore nature itself teaches that long hair is a disgrace to the one and an ornament to the other; for it is disgraceful in a man to be like a woman, and in a woman to be like a man. Wearing long hair was contrary to the custom both of the Hebrews and Greeks. The Nazarites, as a distinction, allowed their hair to grow. Numbers 6:8; see also Ezekiel 44:20. It was considered so much a mark of effeminacy for men to wear long hair, that it was not only ridiculed by Juvenal, but in after times seriously censured by church councils. To a woman, however, in all ages and countries, long hair has been considered an ornament. It is given to her, Paul says, as a covering, or as a natural veil; and it is a glory to her because it is a veil. The veil itself, therefore, must be becoming and decorous in a woman.


Verse 15

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for (her) hair is given her for a covering.

Doth not nature itself. The word ( צץ ́ ףיע), nature, sometimes means essence or substance, sometimes the laws of nature or of our natural constitution; sometimes, the instinctive feelings or judgments which are the effects of those laws. The form which feelings assume is necessarily determined in a great measure by education and habit. The instinctive sense of propriety in an eastern maiden prompts her, when surprised by strangers, to cover her face. In an European it would not produce that effect. In writing, therefore, to eastern females, it would be correct to ask whether their native sense of propriety did not prompt them to cover their heads in public. The response would infallibly be in the affirmative. It is in this sense the word nature is commonly taken here. It may, however, mean the laws or course of nature. Nature gives the man short hair and the woman long hair; and therefore nature itself teaches that long hair is a disgrace to the one and an ornament to the other; for it is disgraceful in a man to be like a woman, and in a woman to be like a man. Wearing long hair was contrary to the custom both of the Hebrews and Greeks. The Nazarites, as a distinction, allowed their hair to grow. Numbers 6:8; see also Ezekiel 44:20. It was considered so much a mark of effeminacy for men to wear long hair, that it was not only ridiculed by Juvenal, but in after times seriously censured by church councils. To a woman, however, in all ages and countries, long hair has been considered an ornament. It is given to her, Paul says, as a covering, or as a natural veil; and it is a glory to her because it is a veil. The veil itself, therefore, must be becoming and decorous in a woman.


Verse 16

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

The arguments against the custom of women appearing in public unveiled having been presented, the apostle says, if any man, notwithstanding these arguments, is disposed to dispute the matter, or appears to be contentious, we have only further to say, that we (the apostles) have no such custom, neither have the churches of God. To be contentious, i.e. disposed to dispute for the sake of disputation. With such persons all argument is useless. Authority is the only end of controversy with such disturbers of the peace. The authority here adduced is that of the apostles and of the churches. The former was decisive, because the apostles were invested with authority not only to teach the gospel, but also to organize the church, and to decide every thing relating to Christian ordinances and worship. The authority of the churches, although not coercive, was yet great. No man is justified, except on clearly scriptural grounds, and from the necessity of obeying God rather than man, to depart from the established usages of the church in matters of public concern.

Calvin, and many of the best modern commentators, give a different view of this passage. They understand the apostle to say, that if any one seems to be disputatious, neither we nor the churches are accustomed to dispute. It is not our wont to waste words with those who wish merely to make contention. The only reason assigned for this interpretation, is Paul's saying we have no such custom; which they say cannot mean the custom of women going unveiled. But why not? The apostles and the churches constituted a whole neither the one nor the other, neither the churches nor their infallible guides, sanctioned the usage in question. Besides, no other custom is mentioned in the context than the one which he has been discussing. "If any one appear contentious," is not a custom and suggests nothing to which the words such a custom can naturally refer.


Verse 17

Celebration of the Lord's Supper — 1 Corinthians

This section relates to the disorders connected with the celebration of the Lord's supper. These disorders were of a kind which, according to our method of celebrating that sacrament, seems almost unaccountable. It was, however, the early custom to connect the Lord's supper in the strict sense of the words with an ordinary meal. As this sacrament was instituted by our Lord at the close of the Paschal supper, so it appears to have been customary at the beginning for the Christians to assemble for a common meal and to connect with it the commemoration of the Redeemer's death. Intimations of this usage may be found in such passages as Acts 2:42. "They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer." In Acts 2:46 it is said, this breaking of bread was from house to house. In Acts 20:7, it is said, "The disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread," which, from the narrative which follows, appears to have been an ordinary meal. Whatever may be thought of these passages, it is clear from the paragraph before us that at Corinth at least, the sacrament of the Lord's supper was connected with a regular meal. This may have arisen, not so much from the original institution of the Eucharist in connection with the Paschal supper, as from the sacred festivals both of the Jews and Greeks. Both classes had been accustomed to unite with their sacrifices a feast of a more or less public character. It is also evident that, agreeably to a familiar Grecian custom, the persons assembled brought their own provisions, which being placed on the table formed a common stock. The rich brought plentifully, the poor brought little or nothing. It was, however, essential to the very idea of a Christian feast, that it should be a communion; that all the guests at the table of their common Lord should be on the terms of equality. Instead of this fraternal union, there were divisions among the Corinthians even at the Lord's table. The rich eating by themselves the provisions which they had brought, and leaving their poorer brethren mortified and hungry. It is to the correction of these disorders that the concluding portion of this chapter is devoted.

It was no matter of praise that the assemblies of the Corinthians made them worse rather than better, 1 Corinthians 11:17. The prominent evil was, that there were schisms even in their most sacred meetings; an evil necessary in the state in which they were, and which God permitted in order that the good might be made manifest, 1 Corinthians 11:18, 1 Corinthians 11:19. The evil to which he referred was not merely that they had degraded the Lord's supper into an ordinary meal, but that in that meal they were divided into parties, some eating and drinking to excess, and others left without any thing, 1 Corinthians 11:20, 1 Corinthians 11:21. This was not only making the Lord's supper a meal for satisfying hunger — contrary to its original design, but a cruel perversion of a feast of love into a means of humiliating and wounding their poorer brethren, 1 Corinthians 11:22. In order to show how inconsistent their conduct was with the nature of the service in which they professed to engage, the apostle recounts the original institution of the Lord's supper, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. From this account it follows, first, that the Lord's supper was designed not as an ordinary meal, but as a commemoration of the death of Christ; secondly, that to participate in this ordinance in an unworthy manner, was an offense against his body and blood, the symbols of which were so irreverently treated; thirdly, that no one ought to approach the Lord's table without self-examination, in order that with due preparation and with a proper understanding of the ordinance, he may receive the bread and wine as the symbols of Christ's body and blood, 1 Corinthians 11:26-29. In this way they would escape the judgments which the Lord had brought upon them on account of their profanation of his table, 1 Corinthians 11:30-32. In conclusion, he exhorts them to use their houses for their ordinary meals, and to make the Lord's supper a real communion, 1 Corinthians 11:33, 1 Corinthians 11:34.

Now in this that I declare (unto you) I praise (you) not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

In 1 Corinthians 11:2 he said, I praise you. His praise was consistent with grave disapprobation of many things in their condition as a church. He did not praise them for the manner in which they conducted their public worship. Their assemblies were disgraced not only by women appearing unveiled, contrary to the established rules of decorum, but also by the unfraternal and irreverent manner of celebrating the Lord's supper — and also by the disorderly manner in which they used their spiritual gifts. These evils he takes up in their order. Having dispatched the first, he comes now to the second.

Now in this that I declare unto you. ‹17› The Greek is not in this, but this. The passage may be rendered, Declaring this I do not applaud. To this, however, it is objected that נבסבדדו ́ ככוים in the New Testament never means to declare, but always to command. Hence, the better translation is, Commanding or enjoining this I do not applaud. It is doubtful whether this refers to what precedes or to what follows. If the former, then the sense is, ‘While I command what precedes respecting women appearing veiled, I do not praise you, that,' etc. If the latter, the meaning is, ‘Commanding what follows, I do not praise,' etc. That ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. That is, your public assemblies are so conducted that evil rather man good results. The censure is general, embracing all the grounds of complaint which are specified in this and the following chapters.


Verse 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.

For first of all, or, For in the first place. Paul often begins an enumeration which he does not follow out. There is nothing to answer to these words in what follows. According to one view the first censure is directed against the divisions, and the second against their mode of celebrating the Lord's supper. But the only divisions which he here refers to are those connected with their public worship, and especially with the celebration of the sacrament. Besides, the subject of divisions was treated in the beginning of the epistle. He is here speaking of their assemblies. The second ground of censure is to be found in the following chapter. When ye come together in the church. The word ( ו ̓ ךךכחףי ́ ב) church never means in the New Testament, a building. The meaning is, when ye come together in convocation, or assemble as a church. I hear that there be divisions among you. Literally, schisms. For the meaning of that word, see 1 Corinthians 1:10. The nature of these schisms is described in what follows. They were cliques, not sects, but parties, separated from each other by alienation of feeling. It is evident that the rich formed one of these parties, as distinguished from the poor. And probably there were many other grounds of division. The Jewish converts separated from the Gentiles; those having one gift exalted themselves over those having another. It is not outward separation, but inward alienation, which is here complained of. And I partly believe it. Paul intimates that he was loath to believe all he had heard to their disadvantage in this matter; but he was forced to believe enough to excite his serious disapprobation.


Verse 19

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

This is the reason why he believed what he had heard. He knew that such things must happen, and that God had a wise purpose in permitting them; comp. Matthew 18:7, "It must needs be that offenses come." Evil as well as good is included in the divine purpose. It is purposed not as evil, but for the sake of the good which infinite wisdom evolves from it. Also heresies. This does not mean heresies in addition to schisms, as something different from them. But heresies as well as other evils. ‘I hear there are divisions ( ףקי ́ ףלבפב) among you, and I believe it, for such divisions ( בי ̔ סו ́ ףויע) must occur.' What in the one verse are called schisms, in the next are called heresies; both words having the general sense of divisions. The nature of these divisions is to be determined by the context. The word ( בי ̔́ סוףיע) heresy means literally an act of choice, then a chosen way of life, a sect or party; not always in a bad sense, but in the sense of schools; as, "the heresies of philosophers" means "the schools or different classes of philosophers." So in the New Testament it is repeatedly used of "the sect of the Pharisees," or "of the Sadducees," Acts 15:5; Acts 5:17. Here and in Galatians 5:20 it means dissension. The ecclesiastical sense of the word heresy, is, the choice of an opinion different from that of the church, or a doctrine contrary to Scripture. There is nothing to favor the assumption that such is its meaning here.

That they which are approved may be made manifest. This is the end which God has in view in permitting the occurrence of such divisions. It is, that they which are approved ( ןי ̔ הן ́ ךילןי), the tried, those who have stood the test, and are worthy of approbation. The opposite class are called ( ב ̓ הן ́ ךילןי) reprobate. By the prevalence of disorders and other evils in the church, God puts his people to the test. They are tried as gold in the furnace, and their genuineness is made to appear. It is a great consolation to know that dissensions, whether in the church or in the state, are not fortuitous, but are ordered by the providence of God, and are designed, as storms, for the purpose of purification.


Verse 20

When ye come together therefore into one place, (this) is not to eat the Lord's supper.

Ye coming together then into one place. 1 Corinthians 11:19 is an interruption. The connection with 1 Corinthians 11:18 is resumed by the particle ( ןץ ̓͂ ם) then. When you assemble it is not to eat the Lord's supper. This is not the real, though it is your professed purpose. ‘You come together for a common, and that too, a disorderly, unbrotherly meal.' The words, however, admit of two other interpretations. We may supply, as our translators have done, the word this; ‘This is not to eat the Lord's supper; your meal does not deserve that sacred character.' Or, ‘Ye cannot eat the Lord's supper.' The substantive verb ( ו ̓́ ףפי) followed by an infinitive often means can; ןץ ̓ ך ו ̓́ ףפים וי ̓ נוי ͂ ם, one cannot say; ןץ ̓ ך ו ̓́ ףפי צבדוי ͂ ם, one cannot eat. ‘Coming together as you do it is impossible to celebrate the Lord's supper.' This gives a very pertinent sense. The Lord's supper is the supper instituted by the Lord, one to which he invites the guests, and which is celebrated in commemoration of his death. That was a very different service from the Agapae, or love feasts to which each one brought his contributions, during and after which (the bread them, were subsequently prohibited by the Council of Carthage. These Agapae were feasts to which each one brought his contributions, during and after which (the bread during, and the cup after) the consecrated elements were distributed. See Augusti's Antiquities of the Christian Church, 1. p. 299; and Pool's Synopsis on Matthew 26:26. Coleman's Ancient Christianity, p. 443.


Verse 21

For in eating every one taketh before (other) his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

For, i.e. the reason why the Corinthian suppers were not the Lord's supper, is (so far as here stated) that there was no communion, or eating together. They were not all partakers of one bread, 1 Corinthians 10:17. They did not wait for each other. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:33. On the contrary, each one took beforehand, i.e. before others could join with him, his own supper, i.e. that which he had brought. The consequence was, that one was hungry; the poor had nothing, while another was drunk. Such is the meaning of the word. Whether the apostle intended to say that any of the Corinthians actually became intoxicated at the table which they called the table of the Lord, or whether he meant simply to say, that while one had more, another had less, man enough, it is not easy to decide. As they seem to have accommodated their service to the sacrificial feasts to which they had, while yet heathens, been accustomed, it is the less improbable that in some cases they were guilty of actual excess. "It is wonderful, and well nigh portentous," says Calvin, "that Satan could have accomplished so much in so short a time. We may learn from this example, what is the worth of mere antiquity; that is, what authority is due to custom unsustained by the word of God …. Yet this is the firmest foundation of Popery: it is ancient; it was done of old, therefore it has divine authority!" If, within twenty years of its institution, the Corinthians turned the Lord's supper into a disorderly feast, although the apostles were then alive, we need not wonder at the speedy corruption of the church after their death.


Verse 22

What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them which have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise (you) not.

The two grounds on which the apostle condemned this conduct of the Corinthians were, first, that it was a perversion of the Lord's supper; and secondly, that it was disrespectful and mortifying to their poorer brethren. It was a perversion of the Lord's supper, because it made it an ordinary meal designed to satisfy hunger. For that purpose they had their own houses. The church comes together to worship God and to celebrate his ordinances, not for the purpose of eating and drinking. It is important that the church, as the church, should confine itself to its own appropriate work, and not as such undertake to do what its members, as citizens or members of families, may appropriately do. The church does not come together to do what can better be done at home. Or despise ye the church of God? This was the second ground of condemnation. Their conduct evinced contempt of their brethren. They treated them as unfit to eat with them. Yet the poor were constituent members of the church of God. They were his people; those whom he had chosen, whom he had made kings and priests unto himself. These persons, thus highly honored of God, the richer Corinthians treated with contempt; and that too at the Lord's table, where all external distinctions are done away, and the master is not a hair's breadth above his slave. And shame those who have not. To shame, i.e. to mortify and humble, by rendering conscious of inferiority. Those who have not may mean, either those who have not houses to eat or drink in, or simply the poor. Those who have, are the rich; those who have not, are the poor. The latter interpretation is not only consistent with the Greek idiom, but gives a better sense. Even the poorer members of the church did not, and ought not, come to the Lord's table for the sake of food. Much as Paul was disposed to praise the Corinthians, in this matter he could not praise them.

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:

‘I cannot praise you, for your manner of celebrating the Lord's supper is utterly inconsistent with its original institution.' They were the more inexcusable in departing from the original mode of celebrating this ordinance, first, because the account of its original institution had been received by Paul from the Lord himself; and secondly, because he had delivered it to them. Their sin was therefore one of irreverent disobedience, without the excuse of ignorance. For I have received of the Lord. Paul asserts that he received from the Lord the account here given. The whole context shows that he intends to claim for this narrative the direct authority of the Lord himself. As with regard to his doctrines generally, so with regard to the institution and design of this ordinance, he disclaims all indebtedness to tradition or to the instructions of men, and asserts the fact of a direct revelation to himself. Of the gospel he says, "I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ," Galatians 1:12. To this interpretation, however, it is objected,

1. That he uses the preposition ב ̓ נן ́, which properly expresses a mediate derivation (i.e. through the instrumentality of others), and not נבסב ́, which would imply a direct communication. This objection supposes a refinement in the use of the Greek particles, which is not consistent with the character of the Greek of the New Testament. The Apostle John says: "This is the message which we have heard of him ( ב ̓ נ ̓ בץ ̓ פןץ ͂)," 1 John 1:5, which certainly does not refer to an indirect communication received through others. In this place ב ̓ נן ̀ פןץ ͂ ךץסי ́ ןץ, from the Lord, is evidently opposed to ב ̓ נ ̓ ב ̓ םטסש ́ נשם, from men. He received his knowledge from the Lord and not from men. Comp. Galatians 1:12. So in Galatians 1:1, he says he was an apostle not by men ( ןץ ̓ ך ב ̓ נ ̓ ב ̓ םטסש ́ נשם), but by Jesus Christ ( היב ̀ ֹ ̓ חףןץ ͂ ׳סיףפןץ ͂). Must it be inferred from this latter expression that Christ was only the medium of Paul's call to the apostleship, because היב ́ expresses the instrumental cause? This would be as reasonable as to infer from the use of ב ̓ נן ́ in the text, that the knowledge of Paul was derived indirectly from the Lord. The apostle however says in Galatians 1:1, that he received his apostleship, not only through Jesus Christ, but also through God the Father; must this also mean through the instrumentality of God? is God the Father a mere instrument? No writer uses language with such strict grammatical accuracy as this objection supposes; much less did Jews writing Greek. It is of course important to adhere as far as possible to the exact meaning of the words; but to sacrifice the sense and obvious intent of the writer to such niceties is unreasonable. The use of ב ̓ נן ́ in this case, probably arose from the desire to avoid the triple repetition of נבסב ́; נבסו ́ כבגןם, נבסב ́, נבסו ́ השךב.

2. It is objected that, as the Lord's supper had been celebrated without interruption from the time of its institution, the facts concerning it must have been universally known, and therefore needed no direct revelation. The same objection might be made to a special revelation of the gospel to Paul. Why might he not have been allowed to learn it from the other apostles? Besides, Paul, as he shows in the first and second chapters of his epistle to the Galatians, had no communication with the other apostles for three years after his conversion.

3. It is objected that ideas and truths may be communicated by visions and inward influences, but not historical facts. Then a large part of the prophecies of the Old Testament must be fabulous.

The evidence is so strong from the context, that Paul claims independent authority for what he here says, that many who bow to the force of the Greek preposition, say that the account received by Paul from Christ through others, was authenticated to him by an inward revelation. But this is not what he says. He says he received it from Christ, which, in the connection, can only mean that he received it directly from Christ; for his object is to give authority to his account of the ordinance. It was not only of importance for the Corinthians, but for the whole church, to be assured that this account of the Lord's supper, was communicated immediately by Christ to the apostle. It shows the importance which our Lord attributes to this ordinance.

The account which Paul received was, That the same night in which he was betrayed, i.e. while he was being betrayed — while the traitorous scheme was in progress. Under these affecting circumstances the ordinance was instituted. This fact, which Christ saw fit to reveal to Paul, must be of permanent interest to his people. It is not a matter of indifference, that this sacred rite was instituted on the last night of our Redeemer's life, and when he knew what the morrow was to bring forth. This fact gives a peculiar solemnity and interest to the institution. Romanists, in answer to the objections made by Protestants to the mass, that it is a departure from the original mode of celebrating the Lord's supper, say that if the example of Christ be obligatory, we should celebrate the ordinance at night, after a meal, and at a table covered with provisions, etc. Protestants, however, do not hold that the church in all ages is bound to do whatever Christ and the apostles did, but only what they designed should be afterwards done. It is not apostolic example which is obligatory, but apostolic precept, whether expressed in words or in examples declared or evinced to be preceptive. The example of Christ in celebrating the Lord's supper is binding as to every thing which enters into the nature and significancy of the institution; for those are the very things which we are commanded to do. They constitute the ordinance.

Took bread. Matthew 26:26, it is said, "as they were eating," i.e. during the repast, "Jesus took bread," that is, he took of the bread lying on the table; and as it was at the time of the Passover, there is no doubt that the bread used was unleavened. It was the thin Passover bread of the Jews. But as no part of the significancy of the rite depends on the kind of bread used, as there is no precept on the subject, and as the apostles subsequently in the celebration of the ordinance used ordinary bread, it is evidently a matter of indifference what kind of bread is used. It was however for a long time a subject of bitter controversy. At first the Latins and Greeks used leavened bread; when the Latins introduced the unleavened wafer from superstitious fear of any of the fragments being dropped, the Greeks retained the use of fermented bread, and accused the Latins of Judaizing. Romanists and Lutherans use unleavened wafers; Protestants generally ordinary bread.

And when he had given thanks, he brake (it), and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Having given thanks. In Matthew 26:26, and Mark 14:22, it is, "Having blessed it" In Luke 22:19, it is as here. The two expressions mean the same thing. Both express the act of consecration, by a grateful acknowledgment of God's mercy and invocation of his blessing. See the remarks on 1 Corinthians 10:16. He brake it. This circumstance is included in all the accounts; in those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as in Paul's. This is one of the significant parts of the service, and ought not to be omitted as is done by Romanists, by the Greek church and by Lutherans. And said. The words uttered by our blessed Lord at this moment are differently reported by the different evangelists. In Matthew 26:26, it is, "Take, eat." In Mark 14:22, the latter word (according to the best authorities) is omitted. In Luke 22:19, both are omitted. Here, although both are found in the common text, yet, as they are wanting in the oldest MSS., they should probably be omitted; so that Paul's account agrees as to this point with that of Luke. The proper inference from this diversity is, that the words were uttered by our Lord; but as the ideas which they express were sufficiently indicated by the gesture of reaching the bread to his disciples, they were omitted by some of the narrators as unnecessary. The idea, whether expressed by words or gesture, is however of importance. The bread was to be taken and eaten. — There must be a distribution of the elements to those participating in the service. Otherwise it is not a communion. This distribution is omitted by Romanists in the ordinary celebration of the Mass. The priest alone eats the consecrated wafer. The next words, this is my body, are found in all the accounts. Probably the history of the world does not furnish a parallel to the controversies occasioned by these simple words. The ordinary and natural interpretation of them is, that the pronoun this refers to the bread. ‘This bread which I hold in my hand, and which I give to you, is my body.' That is, is the symbol of my body; precisely as we say of a statue, it is the person which it represents; or as the Scriptures say that the sign is the thing of which it is the symbol, Ezekiel 5:4, Ezekiel 5:5. Galatians 4:24; or as our Savior says, I am the vine, ye are the branches. I am the door; or as in the preceding chapter it was said, "that rock was Christ;" or as in John 1:32, the dove is said to be the Holy Ghost; or as baptism is said to be regeneration. This is a usage so familiar to all languages that no one disputes that the words in question will bear this interpretation. That they must have this meaning, would seem to be plain,

1. From the impossibility of the bread in Christ's hand being his literal body then seated at the table; and the wine the blood men flowing in his veins.

2. From the still more obvious impossibility of taking the words "this cup is the New Testament" in a literal sense. In Matthew 26:28 it is said, "this (cup) is my blood." But Romanists do not hold to a transubstantiation of the cup, but only of the wine. But if the words are to be taken literally, they necessitated the belief of the one as well as of the other.

3. From the utter subversion of all the rules of evidence and laws of belief necessarily involved in the assumption that the bread in the Lord's supper is literally the crucified body of Christ.

4. From the infidelity on the one hand, and the superstitious idolatry on the other, which are the unavoidable consequences of calling upon men to believe so glaring a contradiction. It is only by denying all distinction between matter and spirit, and confounding all our ideas of substance and qualities, that we can believe that wine is blood, or bread flesh.

The Romish interpretation of these words is, that the bread is the body of Christ, because its whole substance is changed into the substance of his body. The Lutherans say, It is his body, because his body is locally present in and with the bread. Calvin says, It is his body in the same sense that the dove (John 1:32) was the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove, which was the pledge of his presence. So the bread is the symbol of Christ's body, because with the one we receive the other. What is received, however, and what Calvin calls Christ's body, and sometimes the substance of his body, is not the body itself, which, he admits, is in heaven only, but a life-giving power (vim vivificam) which flows to us from the glorified body of our Lord. The only presence of Christ's body in the sacrament admitted by Calvin was this presence of power.‹18› The Reformed churches teach that the bread is called the body of Christ in the same sense that the cup is called the new covenant. He who in faith receives the cup, receives the covenant of which it was the pledge; and he who receives in faith in the bread receives the benefits of Christ's body as broken for sin. The one is the symbol and pledge of the other.

Broken for you. In Luke it is, given for you. In Matthew and Mark these words are omitted. In some manuscripts‹19› the word ( ךכש ́ לוםןם), broken, is wanting in this passage; so that it would read simply for you, leaving the participle to be supplied from the context. Broken or given for you means slain, or given unto death for you. The sacrificial character of the death of Christ enters essentially into the nature of this ordinance. It is the commemoration of his death, not as a teacher, or a benefactor, but as a sacrifice; so that if this idea be kept out of view the sacrament loses all its significance and power.

This do in remembrance of me. These words are not found in Matthew or Mark. They occur in Luke 22:19, as they do here. This do, i.e. ‘Do what I have just done; take bread, consecrate it, break it, distribute and eat it. In remembrance of me, i.e. that I may be remembered as he who died for your sins. This is the specific, definite object of the Lord's Supper, to which all other ends must be subordinate, because this alone is stated in the words of institution. It is of course involved in this, that we profess faith in him as the sacrifice for our sins; that we receive him as such; that we acknowledge the obligations which rest upon us as those who have been redeemed by his blood; and that we recognize ourselves as constituent members of his church and all believers as our brethren. We are thus, as taught in the preceding chapter, brought into a real communion with Christ and with all his people by the believing participation of this ordinance.


Verse 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:

‘I cannot praise you, for your manner of celebrating the Lord's supper is utterly inconsistent with its original institution.' They were the more inexcusable in departing from the original mode of celebrating this ordinance, first, because the account of its original institution had been received by Paul from the Lord himself; and secondly, because he had delivered it to them. Their sin was therefore one of irreverent disobedience, without the excuse of ignorance. For I have received of the Lord. Paul asserts that he received from the Lord the account here given. The whole context shows that he intends to claim for this narrative the direct authority of the Lord himself. As with regard to his doctrines generally, so with regard to the institution and design of this ordinance, he disclaims all indebtedness to tradition or to the instructions of men, and asserts the fact of a direct revelation to himself. Of the gospel he says, "I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ," Galatians 1:12. To this interpretation, however, it is objected,

1. That he uses the preposition ב ̓ נן ́, which properly expresses a mediate derivation (i.e. through the instrumentality of others), and not נבסב ́, which would imply a direct communication. This objection supposes a refinement in the use of the Greek particles, which is not consistent with the character of the Greek of the New Testament. The Apostle John says: "This is the message which we have heard of him ( ב ̓ נ ̓ בץ ̓ פןץ ͂)," 1 John 1:5, which certainly does not refer to an indirect communication received through others. In this place ב ̓ נן ̀ פןץ ͂ ךץסי ́ ןץ, from the Lord, is evidently opposed to ב ̓ נ ̓ ב ̓ םטסש ́ נשם, from men. He received his knowledge from the Lord and not from men. Comp. Galatians 1:12. So in Galatians 1:1, he says he was an apostle not by men ( ןץ ̓ ך ב ̓ נ ̓ ב ̓ םטסש ́ נשם), but by Jesus Christ ( היב ̀ ֹ ̓ חףןץ ͂ ׳סיףפןץ ͂). Must it be inferred from this latter expression that Christ was only the medium of Paul's call to the apostleship, because היב ́ expresses the instrumental cause? This would be as reasonable as to infer from the use of ב ̓ נן ́ in the text, that the knowledge of Paul was derived indirectly from the Lord. The apostle however says in Galatians 1:1, that he received his apostleship, not only through Jesus Christ, but also through God the Father; must this also mean through the instrumentality of God? is God the Father a mere instrument? No writer uses language with such strict grammatical accuracy as this objection supposes; much less did Jews writing Greek. It is of course important to adhere as far as possible to the exact meaning of the words; but to sacrifice the sense and obvious intent of the writer to such niceties is unreasonable. The use of ב ̓ נן ́ in this case, probably arose from the desire to avoid the triple repetition of נבסב ́; נבסו ́ כבגןם, נבסב ́, נבסו ́ השךב.

2. It is objected that, as the Lord's supper had been celebrated without interruption from the time of its institution, the facts concerning it must have been universally known, and therefore needed no direct revelation. The same objection might be made to a special revelation of the gospel to Paul. Why might he not have been allowed to learn it from the other apostles? Besides, Paul, as he shows in the first and second chapters of his epistle to the Galatians, had no communication with the other apostles for three years after his conversion.

3. It is objected that ideas and truths may be communicated by visions and inward influences, but not historical facts. Then a large part of the prophecies of the Old Testament must be fabulous.

The evidence is so strong from the context, that Paul claims independent authority for what he here says, that many who bow to the force of the Greek preposition, say that the account received by Paul from Christ through others, was authenticated to him by an inward revelation. But this is not what he says. He says he received it from Christ, which, in the connection, can only mean that he received it directly from Christ; for his object is to give authority to his account of the ordinance. It was not only of importance for the Corinthians, but for the whole church, to be assured that this account of the Lord's supper, was communicated immediately by Christ to the apostle. It shows the importance which our Lord attributes to this ordinance.

The account which Paul received was, That the same night in which he was betrayed, i.e. while he was being betrayed — while the traitorous scheme was in progress. Under these affecting circumstances the ordinance was instituted. This fact, which Christ saw fit to reveal to Paul, must be of permanent interest to his people. It is not a matter of indifference, that this sacred rite was instituted on the last night of our Redeemer's life, and when he knew what the morrow was to bring forth. This fact gives a peculiar solemnity and interest to the institution. Romanists, in answer to the objections made by Protestants to the mass, that it is a departure from the original mode of celebrating the Lord's supper, say that if the example of Christ be obligatory, we should celebrate the ordinance at night, after a meal, and at a table covered with provisions, etc. Protestants, however, do not hold that the church in all ages is bound to do whatever Christ and the apostles did, but only what they designed should be afterwards done. It is not apostolic example which is obligatory, but apostolic precept, whether expressed in words or in examples declared or evinced to be preceptive. The example of Christ in celebrating the Lord's supper is binding as to every thing which enters into the nature and significancy of the institution; for those are the very things which we are commanded to do. They constitute the ordinance.

Took bread. Matthew 26:26, it is said, "as they were eating," i.e. during the repast, "Jesus took bread," that is, he took of the bread lying on the table; and as it was at the time of the Passover, there is no doubt that the bread used was unleavened. It was the thin Passover bread of the Jews. But as no part of the significancy of the rite depends on the kind of bread used, as there is no precept on the subject, and as the apostles subsequently in the celebration of the ordinance used ordinary bread, it is evidently a matter of indifference what kind of bread is used. It was however for a long time a subject of bitter controversy. At first the Latins and Greeks used leavened bread; when the Latins introduced the unleavened wafer from superstitious fear of any of the fragments being dropped, the Greeks retained the use of fermented bread, and accused the Latins of Judaizing. Romanists and Lutherans use unleavened wafers; Protestants generally ordinary bread.


Verse 24

And when he had given thanks, he brake (it), and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Having given thanks. In Matthew 26:26, and Mark 14:22, it is, "Having blessed it" In Luke 22:19, it is as here. The two expressions mean the same thing. Both express the act of consecration, by a grateful acknowledgment of God's mercy and invocation of his blessing. See the remarks on 1 Corinthians 10:16. He brake it. This circumstance is included in all the accounts; in those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as in Paul's. This is one of the significant parts of the service, and ought not to be omitted as is done by Romanists, by the Greek church and by Lutherans. And said. The words uttered by our blessed Lord at this moment are differently reported by the different evangelists. In Matthew 26:26, it is, "Take, eat." In Mark 14:22, the latter word (according to the best authorities) is omitted. In Luke 22:19, both are omitted. Here, although both are found in the common text, yet, as they are wanting in the oldest MSS., they should probably be omitted; so that Paul's account agrees as to this point with that of Luke. The proper inference from this diversity is, that the words were uttered by our Lord; but as the ideas which they express were sufficiently indicated by the gesture of reaching the bread to his disciples, they were omitted by some of the narrators as unnecessary. The idea, whether expressed by words or gesture, is however of importance. The bread was to be taken and eaten. — There must be a distribution of the elements to those participating in the service. Otherwise it is not a communion. This distribution is omitted by Romanists in the ordinary celebration of the Mass. The priest alone eats the consecrated wafer. The next words, this is my body, are found in all the accounts. Probably the history of the world does not furnish a parallel to the controversies occasioned by these simple words. The ordinary and natural interpretation of them is, that the pronoun this refers to the bread. ‘This bread which I hold in my hand, and which I give to you, is my body.' That is, is the symbol of my body; precisely as we say of a statue, it is the person which it represents; or as the Scriptures say that the sign is the thing of which it is the symbol, Ezekiel 5:4, Ezekiel 5:5. Galatians 4:24; or as our Savior says, I am the vine, ye are the branches. I am the door; or as in the preceding chapter it was said, "that rock was Christ;" or as in John 1:32, the dove is said to be the Holy Ghost; or as baptism is said to be regeneration. This is a usage so familiar to all languages that no one disputes that the words in question will bear this interpretation. That they must have this meaning, would seem to be plain,

1. From the impossibility of the bread in Christ's hand being his literal body then seated at the table; and the wine the blood men flowing in his veins.

2. From the still more obvious impossibility of taking the words "this cup is the New Testament" in a literal sense. In Matthew 26:28 it is said, "this (cup) is my blood." But Romanists do not hold to a transubstantiation of the cup, but only of the wine. But if the words are to be taken literally, they necessitated the belief of the one as well as of the other.

3. From the utter subversion of all the rules of evidence and laws of belief necessarily involved in the assumption that the bread in the Lord's supper is literally the crucified body of Christ.

4. From the infidelity on the one hand, and the superstitious idolatry on the other, which are the unavoidable consequences of calling upon men to believe so glaring a contradiction. It is only by denying all distinction between matter and spirit, and confounding all our ideas of substance and qualities, that we can believe that wine is blood, or bread flesh.

The Romish interpretation of these words is, that the bread is the body of Christ, because its whole substance is changed into the substance of his body. The Lutherans say, It is his body, because his body is locally present in and with the bread. Calvin says, It is his body in the same sense that the dove (John 1:32) was the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove, which was the pledge of his presence. So the bread is the symbol of Christ's body, because with the one we receive the other. What is received, however, and what Calvin calls Christ's body, and sometimes the substance of his body, is not the body itself, which, he admits, is in heaven only, but a life-giving power (vim vivificam) which flows to us from the glorified body of our Lord. The only presence of Christ's body in the sacrament admitted by Calvin was this presence of power.‹18› The Reformed churches teach that the bread is called the body of Christ in the same sense that the cup is called the new covenant. He who in faith receives the cup, receives the covenant of which it was the pledge; and he who receives in faith in the bread receives the benefits of Christ's body as broken for sin. The one is the symbol and pledge of the other.

Broken for you. In Luke it is, given for you. In Matthew and Mark these words are omitted. In some manuscripts ‹19› the word ( ךכש ́ לוםןם), broken, is wanting in this passage; so that it would read simply for you, leaving the participle to be supplied from the context. Broken or given for you means slain, or given unto death for you. The sacrificial character of the death of Christ enters essentially into the nature of this ordinance. It is the commemoration of his death, not as a teacher, or a benefactor, but as a sacrifice; so that if this idea be kept out of view the sacrament loses all its significance and power.

This do in remembrance of me. These words are not found in Matthew or Mark. They occur in Luke 22:19, as they do here. This do, i.e. ‘Do what I have just done; take bread, consecrate it, break it, distribute and eat it. In remembrance of me, i.e. that I may be remembered as he who died for your sins. This is the specific, definite object of the Lord's Supper, to which all other ends must be subordinate, because this alone is stated in the words of institution. It is of course involved in this, that we profess faith in him as the sacrifice for our sins; that we receive him as such; that we acknowledge the obligations which rest upon us as those who have been redeemed by his blood; and that we recognize ourselves as constituent members of his church and all believers as our brethren. We are thus, as taught in the preceding chapter, brought into a real communion with Christ and with all his people by the believing participation of this ordinance.


Verse 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.

This second part of the service is introduced by Luke with the same words which are here used, though our translators there render them Likewise also the cup, after supper. This latter version is the literal and simple rendering of the original. In Matthew and Mark it is said, "Having taken the cup, and having given thanks." This explains what Paul and Luke mean by likewise, or after the same manner. They intend to say that Christ did with the cup what he had done with the bread, i.e. he took it, and pronounced over it the eucharistical benediction, i.e. a blessing connected with thanksgiving. In this particular there is a slight departure in our mode of administering this ordinance, from the example of Christ. With us there is generally but one eucharistical blessing at the introduction of the service, having reference both to the bread and to the cup. Whereas it seems that our Lord blessed the bread, and having broken, distributed it to his disciples; and then took the cup, and having blessed it, gave it to them to drink. After supper, i.e. after the conclusion of the paschal supper.

Saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood. The same words occur in Luke 22:20. In Matthew and Mark the corresponding expression is, "This is my blood of the New Testament." The sense must be the same. "The blood of the covenant" means here, as in Exodus 24:8, the blood by which the covenant was ratified and its blessings secured. The passage referred to in Exodus shows the manner in which covenants were anciently ratified in the East. A victim was slain and the blood sprinkled upon the contracting parties, by which they were solemnly bound to their mutual engagements. The word היבטח ́ ךח so constantly, after the Vulgate, rendered Testament by our translators, always in the New Testament means a covenant, unless Hebrews 9:16 be an exception. Here that sense is required by the context, as a covenant and not a testament was ratified by blood. This covenant is called new in reference to the Mosaic covenant. The latter was ratified by the blood of animals; the new, by the blood of the eternal Son of God; the one in itself could secure only temporal benefits and the remission of ceremonial offenses; the other secures eternal redemption, and the remission of sin in the sight of God. As the Hebrews entered into covenant with God when the blood of the heifer was sprinkled upon them and thereby bound themselves to be obedient to the Mosaic institutions, and as God thereby graciously bound himself to confer upon them all its promised blessings on condition of that obedience; so, in the Lord's supper, those who receive the cup profess to embrace the covenant of grace, and bind themselves to obedience to the gospel; and God binds himself to confer on them all the benefits of redemption. In receiving the cup, therefore, they receive the pledge of their salvation. The death of Christ, which is so often compared to a sin-offering, is here, as well as in the Epistle to the Hebrews, compared to a federal sacrifice. The two, however, do not differ. The death of Christ is the latter only in virtue of its being the former. It ratifies the covenant of grace and secures its benefits, only because it was a propitiation, i.e. because it was a satisfaction to divine justice, as is so clearly taught in Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26. Every time, therefore, the consecrated wine touches the believer's lips, he receives anew the application of the blood of Christ for the remission of his sins and his reconciliation with God. If the Bible says we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, 1 Peter 1:2, why may we not be said to receive his blood? If the former expression means the application of the benefits of his sacrificial death, why may not the latter mean the reception of those benefits? Here, as elsewhere, the difficulty is the want of faith. He who by faith appropriates a divine promise recorded in the word, receives the blessing promised; and he who in the exercise of faith receives the sacramental cup receives the benefits of the covenant of which that cup is the symbol and the pledge. But what is faith? or rather, what is it that we are required to believe, in order to experience all this?

1. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he loved us and gave himself for us.

2. That his blood cleanses from all sin.

3. That in the sacrament he offers us, with the symbols of his broken body and his shed blood, the benefits of his death; and that he will certainly convey those benefits to all those who hold out even a trembling hand to receive them.

In Luke, after the words in my blood, it is added, which is shed for you. In Mark the explanation is, which is shed for many; and in Matthew, still more fully, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. These are different forms of expressing the sacrificial character of the death of Christ. Though it was the blood of the covenant, yet it was at the same time shed for many, not merely for their benefit in the general, but for the specific object of securing the remission of sins. It was, therefore, truly a sin-offering. Thus does Scripture explain Scripture. What is said concisely in one place is more fully and clearly stated in another.

This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. These words do not occur in Luke. In Matthew the words are, Drink ye all of it. Mark says, They all drank of it. In each account the fact is made plain that the cup was distributed to all at the table and that all drank of it. The words This do are to be understood here as in 1 Corinthians 11:24, ‘Do what I have done, i.e. bless the cup and distribute it among yourselves.' As oft as ye drink of it. This does not mean that every time Christians drank wine together they should do it in commemoration of Christ's death; but, ‘as often as this ordinance is celebrated, do what I have done, to commemorate my death.' The Lord's Supper is a commemoration of Christ's death, not only because it was designed for that purpose, but also because the bread and wine are the significant symbols of his broken body and shed blood. In this ordinance therefore Christ is set forth as a sacrifice which at once makes expiation for sin and ratifies the covenant of grace.


Verse 26

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

What Paul had received of the Lord is recorded in the preceding verses. Here and in what follows we have his own inferences from the account which the Lord had given him. The first of those inferences is, that the Lord's supper is, and was designed to be, a proclamation of the death of Christ to continue until his second advent. Those who come to it, therefore, should come, not to satisfy hunger, nor for the gratification of social feelings, but for the definite purpose of bearing their testimony to the great fact of redemption, and to contribute their portion of influence to the preservation and propagation of the knowledge of that fact. For indicates the connection with what precedes. ‘It is a commemoration of his death, for it is in its very nature a proclamation of that great fact.' And it was not a temporary institution, but one designed to continue until the consummation. As the Passover was a perpetual commemoration of the deliverance out of Egypt, and a prediction of the coming and death of the Lamb of God, who was to bear the sins of the world; so the Lord's supper is at once the commemoration of the death of Christ and a pledge of his coming the second time without sin unto salvation.


Verse 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.

This is the second inference. Wherefore, i.e. so that, hence it follows. If the Lord's Supper be in its very nature a proclamation of the death of Christ, it follows that those who attend upon it as an ordinary meal, or in an irreverent manner, or for any other purpose than that for which it was appointed, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. That is, they contract guilt in reference to the body and blood of Christ. See James 2:10. The man who tramples on the flag of his country, insults his country; and he who treats with indignity the representative of a sovereign, thereby offends the sovereign himself. In like manner, he who treats the symbols of Christ's body and blood irreverently is guilty of irreverence towards Christ. The idea that he is so evil that he would have joined in the crucifixion of the Lord; or that he makes himself a partaker of the guilt of his death, does not lie in the words. It is also obvious that this passage affords no ground for either the Romish or Lutheran view of the local presence of Christ's body in the sacrament, since an insult to the appointed symbol of his body, is an insult to his body itself. Neither does the passage countenance the doctrine held by both Romanists and Lutherans, that unbelievers receive the body and blood of Christ. If they do not receive them, it is asked, how can they be guilty in respect to them? By treating them, in their appointed symbols, irreverently. It is not necessary, therefore, in order to the guilt here spoken of, either that the body of Christ should be locally present, or that the unworthy receiver be a partaker of that body, which is received by faith alone. In our version it is, "whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup;" in the Greek it is ( ח ̓́) or, not and. And this the sense requires. The irreverent use of either the bread or the cup in this ordinance involves the guilt of which the apostle here speaks; because the indignity extends to the whole service.

But what is it to eat and drink unworthily? It is not to eat and drink with a consciousness of unworthiness, for such a sense of ill-desert is one of the conditions of acceptable communion. It is not the whole, but the consciously sick whom Christ came to heal. Nor is it to eat with doubt and misgiving of our being duly prepared to come to the Lord's table; for such doubts, although an evidence of a weak faith, indicate a better state of mind than indifference or false security. In the Larger Catechism of our Church, in answer to the question, whether one who doubts of his being in Christ, may come to the Lord's supper, it is said, "One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord's supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God's account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity; in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, that he may be further strengthened." To eat or drink unworthily is in general to come to the Lord's table in a careless, irreverent spirit, without the intention or desire to commemorate the death of Christ as the sacrifice for our sins, and without the purpose of complying with the engagements which we thereby assume. The way in which the Corinthians ate unworthily was, that they treated the Lord's table as though it were their own; making no distinction between the Lord's supper and an ordinary meal; coming together to satisfy their hunger, and not to feed on the body and blood of Christ; and refusing to commune with their poorer brethren. This, though one, is not the only way in which men may eat and drink unworthily. All that is necessary to observe is, that the warning is directly against the careless and profane, and not against the timid and the doubting.


Verse 28

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of (that) bread, and drink of (that) cup.

This is the third inference from the account of the Lord's supper which Paul had received. It requires self-examination and preparation in order to being worthily received. If it be a commemoration of Christ's death; if we are therein "made partakers of his body and blood;" if we contract such guilt by eating and drinking unworthily; in other words, if such blessings attend the worthy receiving, and such guilt the unworthy receiving of this ordinance, it is evident that we should not approach it without due self-inspection and preparation. Let a man examine himself. In other words, let him ascertain whether he has correct views of the nature and design of the ordinance, and whether he has the proper state of mind. That is, whether he desires thankfully to commemorate the Lord's death, renewedly to partake of the benefits of that death as a sacrifice for his sins, publicly to accept the covenant of grace with all its promises and obligations, and to signify his fellowship with his brethren as joint members with himself of the body of Christ. And so let him eat. That is, after this self-examination, and, as is evidently implied, after having ascertained that he possesses the due preparation. It is not essential, however, to this preparation, as before remarked, that we should be assured of our good estate, but simply that we have the intelligent desire to do what Christ requires of us when we come to his table. If we come humbly seeking him, he will bid us welcome, and feed us with that bread whereof if a man eat, he shall never die.


Verse 29

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, ‹20› eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

This verse assigns the reason why self-examination in preparation for the Lord's supper is necessary. It is because he that eateth and drinketh unworthily (in the sense before explained), eateth and drinketh judgment to himself. That is, he incurs the manifestation of God's displeasure by the act of eating. The word damnation, used in our version, originally and properly means simply condemnation, and not hopeless and final perdition, which is its modern and popular sense. In the original the word is ךסי ́ לב without the article, and therefore simply judgment, not the judgment. The meaning obviously is, that the unworthy eater contracts guilt; he exposes himself to the judgments of God. What kind of judgments the apostle had in his mind is plain from the next verse, where he refers to sickness and death. ‹21› This verse is only a repetition of the sentiment expressed in 1 Corinthians 11:27, where he who cast unworthily is said to contract guilt in reference to the body of the Lord. Not discerning, i.e. because he does not discern the Lord's body. The word היבךסי ́ םש, translated to discern, means to separate, men to cause to differ, as 1 Corinthians 4:7; and also, judge of, either in the sense of discriminating one thing from another, or in the sense of estimating aright. This passage may therefore mean, not discriminating the Lord's body, i.e. making no difference between the bread in the sacrament and ordinary food; or, it may mean, not estimating it aright, not reverencing it as the appointed symbol of the body of the Lord. In either case the offense is the same. The ground of the condemnation incurred is, regarding and treating the elements in the Lord's supper as though there was nothing to distinguish them from ordinary bread and wine. Here, as before, it is the careless and profane who are warned. There is, therefore, nothing in these passages which should surround the Lord's table with gloom. We are not called unto the mount covered with clouds and darkness, from which issue the signs of wrath, but unto Mount Zion, to the abode of mercy and grace, where all is love — the dying love of him who never breaks the bruised reed.


Verse 30

For this cause many (are) weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

For this cause, that is, because those who partake of the Lord's supper unworthily incur the judgment of God; many are weak and sickly. The distinction between these words made by commentators, is, that the former designates those whose strength decays as it were of itself, and the latter, those rendered infirm by sickness. The latter term is the stronger of the two. And many sleep, i.e. have already died. As there is nothing in the context to intimate that these terms are used figuratively of moral infirmities and spiritual declension, they should be taken in their literal sense. Paul knew that the prevailing sickness and frequent deaths among the Christians of Corinth were a judgment from God on account of the irreverent manner in which they had celebrated the Lord's supper.


Verse 31

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

For, i.e. these afflictions are judgments from God, because of your sin in this matter; for, if we judge ourselves, that is, if we examine ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 11:28) and prepare ourselves for the Lord's table, we should not be judged, i.e. thus afflicted. It is because we do not sit in judgment on ourselves, that God judges us.


Verse 32

But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

These judgments were chastisements designed for the benefit of those who suffered, to bring them to repentance, that they might not be finally condemned with the world; that is, with unbelievers. The world often means mankind as distinguished from the church, or those chosen out of the world. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world," John 17:16. What Paul says of the design of these judgments, proves that even the extreme irreverence with which he charges the Corinthians in reference to the Lord's supper, was not an unpardonable sin.


Verse 33-34

Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 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.

The two great evils connected with the observance of the Lord's supper at Corinth were, first, that it was not a communion, one took his supper before another, 1 Corinthians 11:21; and secondly, that they came to the Lord's table to satisfy their hunger. That is, they made it an ordinary meal. They thus sinned against their brethren, 1 Corinthians 11:22, and they sinned against Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:27. In the conclusion, therefore, of the whole discussion, he exhorts them to correct these evils; to wait for each other, and make it a joint service; and to satisfy their hunger at home, and come together only to commemorate the Lord's death. Mildly as this exhortation is expressed, it is enforced by the solemn warning already given, that ye come not together to condemnation, that is, so as to incur the displeasure of God. The rest will I set in order when (whenever ש ̔ ע ב ̓́ ם) I may come. There were, it seems, other irregularities of less importance than those above mentioned, which the apostle leaves to be corrected until he should again visit Corinth. The epistles of Paul abound in evidence of the plenary authority exercised by the apostles over the churches. The word היבפב ́ ףףש, to set in order, implies authoritative direction; see 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 16:1. Matthew 11:1. The apostles were rendered infallible, as the representatives of Christ, to teach his doctrines, to organize the church and determine its form of government, and to regulate its worship. And what they ordained has binding force on the church to this day. What Paul teaches in this chapter concerning the nature and mode of celebrating the Lord's supper, has determined the views and practice of evangelical Christians in every part of the world. It is not at all wonderful, considering that the festivals of the Jews, and especially the Passover, as well as the sacrificial feasts of the Gentiles, were social repasts, and especially considering that our Lord instituted this ordinance in connection with the Paschal supper, that the early Christians should have so generally combined it with a social meal; or that this custom should have continued so long in the church. Nor is it a matter of surprise, that the social element in this combined service should so often have prevailed over the religious one. That this was to a lamentable degree the case in Corinth, is evident from this chapter; and it is probable from Jude 1:12, that the evil was by no means confined to Corinth. That apostle, speaking of certain sensual persons, says, "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you without fear." Hence the unspeakable importance of the instructions and directions given by St. Paul, which are specially designed to separate the Lord's supper as a religious rite from the social element with which it was combined. The apostle urges that neither the sacrament itself, nor any feast with which it might be connected, should be regarded as the occasion of satisfying hunger. The communion of saints and the commemoration of the death of Christ as a sacrifice for our sins, are the only legitimate objects which could be contemplated in the service. And by exhibiting the intimate fellowship with the Lord involved in the right use of this ordinance, and the dreadful consequences of unworthily participating, he has raised it to a purely religious service, and made it the highest act of worship. From one extreme the church gradually passed over to the opposite. From regarding it as it had been in Corinth, little more than an ordinary meal, it came to be regarded as an awful mystery, a sacrifice which the people were to witness, and in which they were to adore the Redeemer as locally present in his corporeal nature under the form of a wafer! So strong a hold had this unscriptural view taken of the mind of the church, that Luther found it impossible to emancipate himself from the belief of the local presence of Christ's real body in this sacrament. And even Calvin could not divest himself of the conviction, not only of its supernatural character, which all admit who regard it as a means of grace, but also of its being truly miraculous. It was only after a severe struggle that the Reformed church got back to the simple, yet sublime view of the ordinance presented by the apostle Paul. The danger has often since been that the church should go back to the Corinthian extreme, and look upon the Lord's supper as a simple commemoration, involving nothing supernatural either in its nature or effects. Our only safety is in adhering strictly to the teachings of the Scriptures. The apostle tells us, on the authority of a direct revelation from the Lord himself, that while the ordinance is designed as a memorial of Christ's death, it involves a participation of his body and blood, not of their material substance, but of their sacrificial efficacy, so that, "although the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord's supper; and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal or carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death." Larger Catechism.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/1-corinthians-11.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology