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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
1 Corinthians 11

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 11:1. Be ye followers of me, &c.— This verse seems to belong to the preceding chapter, where the Apostle had proposed himself as an example, and therefore it should not be separated from it. From what St. Paul says in this and the preceding verse, taken together, we may collect that he makes some reflection on the false Apostle; at least it is no small proof of St. Paul's integrity and humility, that he proposes himself to be followed no further, than as he sought the good of others, and not his own, and as he had Christ for his pattern. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:16 and Romans 15.


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 11:2.— St. Paul commends the Corinthians for observing the orders he had left with them, and uses arguments to justify the rule he had given them, that women should not pray or prophesy in their assemblies uncovered; concerning which, it seems, there was some contention, for the resolution whereof they had appealed to St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.


Verse 3

1 Corinthians 11:3. And the head of Christ is God When God is said to be the head of Christ, it relates to office constitution; and we can no more infer thence, that they are not partakers of the same divine nature, than that man and woman are not of the same human nature, when the man is said to be the head of the woman: but as there is a difference in order and authority between the man and the woman; so there is between God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, in that constitution, by which he, in his office capacity, is both head and Lord of all.


Verse 4

1 Corinthians 11:4. Dishonoureth his head It was the custom among the Greeks and Romans, as well as the Jews, to appear in places of worship with their heads covered; and it is certain that the Jewish priests wore a kind of turban, when ministering in the temple: but it seems that the Corinthian men wore a veil, out of regard to a Pharisaical institution, and in imitation of the custom observed in the synagogues, of which the Apostle therefore disapproves. The priests and prophetesses of the Gentiles had their faces uncovered, when they were under a holy rapture, and delivered their oracles; and at this time the hair of the priestesses wasgenerally dishevelled: as the Corinthian women, when under the divine inspiration, wore their hair in the same fashion, it made them too much resemble the pagan priestesses; and for this reason, amongst others, the Apostle, with great propriety, discourages the practice. See Mede's 16th discourse, Whitby, Hammond, Elsner, and the foregoing note.


Verse 5

1 Corinthians 11:5. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth Because they who gave thanks, and praised the Lord with musical instruments, are said, 1 Chronicles 25:1-2 to prophesy with harps, &c.; and because the priests of Baal, who prayed and sang hymns to that idol in the contest with Elijah, are said, 1 Kings 18:29 to have prophesied till the time of the evening sacrifice, many, by the women's praying and prophesying, understand their joining in the public prayers and praises, as a part of the congregation. Yet, as it is reasonable to think that this praying and prophesying of the women, was of the same kind with the praying and prophesying of the men who acted as teachers, mentioned 1 Corinthians 11:4 we may suppose that the Corinthian women affected to perform these offices in the public assemblies, on pretence of their being inspired; and though the Apostle in this place has not condemned that practice, it does not follow that he allowed it, or that it was allowed in any church. His design here, was not to consider whether that practice was allowable, but to condemn the indecent manner in which it had been performed. For the women, when they felt, or thought they felt, themselves moved by the Holy Spirit in the public assemblies, throwing away their veils, prayed and prophesied with their heads uncovered, and perhaps with their hair dishevelled, in imitation of the heathen priestesses in their heathen raptures. See Virgil Eneid. lib. vi. l. 48. Non comptae mansere comae, &c. This indecency in the manner of their praying and prophesying the Apostle thought proper to correct before he prohibited the practice itself, because it gavehim an opportunity of inculcating due subjection to the men, which is their duty, though some of them are unwilling to acknowledge it. Women's praying and prophesying in the public assemblies, the Apostle afterwards condemned in the most express terms, chap. 1 Corinthians 14:34. See the note there. We have an example of the same method of teaching, 1 Corinthians 8 where, without considering whether it was lawful to join the heathens in their feasts on the sacrifice in the idol's temple, the Apostle shewed the Corinthians, that although they thought it was lawful because they knew an idol was nothing, yet the weak, who had not that knowledge, but who believed the idol to be a real, though subordinate god, might, by their example, be led to join in these feasts, and thereby be guilty of direct idolatry. This evil consequence the Apostle thought proper to point out before he determined the general question: because it afforded him an opportunity of inculcating the great Christian duty, of taking care never to lead our brethren into sin, even by our most innocent actions. See the note on Romans 16:1.


Verse 7

1 Corinthians 11:7. Glory of God The word rendered glory signifies both a beam or irradiation, and a likeness. But I apprehend, that here the word must be taken in the latter sense. As a man ought not to have his head covered, as being the immediate image and glory of God, made in his likeness, as the first copy of his kind, before woman was created; it is therefore decent that he should appear with the marks of that superiority which he bears. But the woman should forbear it; and it is enough to say of her, that she is the glory of the man, to whom God hath done no inconsiderable honour, as well as favour, in making so excellent and amiable a creature for his consort. Yet still her state of subjection to him should be remembered; and it is very expedient that she should appear in public with some tacit acknowledgments of it. See Hammond, Locke, Elsner, and Calmet. Theodoret observes, that man is here stiled the image and glory of God, neither as to his body, nor as to his soul; for in respect of the soul the woman is equally the glory of God, as to spirituality and immortality, and so is equally said to be made after his image. See Genesis 1:26-27.


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 11:10. For this cause ought the woman to have power, &c.— Mr. Locke acknowledges, with a modesty which does him much honour, that he did not understand this text,—and many seem to have darkened it bytheir attempts to explain it. The chief difficulty does not lie in the word power, which undoubtedly must be understood of the veil worn on their heads by married women, as a token of subjection to their husbands; (see Genesis 24:65.) and some suppose that the veil was in Hebrew called רדיד redid, from the root רדד reded, which signifies subjection: So that the veil was as it were the habit by which the woman shewed that she considered herself as in subjection: and Chardin observes, that the married women in Persia wear a peculiar habit to the very same purpose. It is more difficult to understand the meaning of the clause, because of the angels,— δια τους αγγελους . It seems neither reasonable nor decent to understand this of young ministers, as if they were in peculiar danger of being ensnared by the beauty of women; and it is more grossly absurd, still to suppose with Tertullian, that there was any room to apprehend it could be a snare to celestial spirits:—a mistake which seemed to be grounded on the wild interpretation of Genesis 6:2 so generally received among the fathers. Dr. Whitby understands it of evil angels, and thinks it refers to the punishment which Eve incurred, Genesis 3:16 for hearkening to the suggestions of Satan. Mr. Gough, in a dissertation on the place, by ' Αγγελους understands spies, who he supposes came into Christian assemblies to make ill-natured remarks, and so would be glad to blaze abroad any indecencies which they might observe there. Others suppose that the presence of good angels is implied; and they understand the passagethus,[observingthatthepresenceofangelsinreligiousassembliesisfavoured by Ecclesiastes 5:6 and the figures of the cherubim in the tabernacle and temple:] "The woman ought to have upon her head a veil, as a token of her being under the power and subjection of the man; and so much the rather ought she to wear it in religious assemblies, because of the angels; who are especially present there, and before whom we ought to be exceedingly careful that nothing pass which may be indecent and irregular, and unlike that perfect order and profound humility with which they worship in the divine presence."

It is notfor me to determine amid this variety of opinions; I shall therefore only add, that the reader will find in the note on Romans 16:1 an explanation of this passage, which appears to me as satisfactory as any other; and by referring to Gough's Dissertation at the end of his sermons, he will meet with copious matter for inquiry on the subject. See on Numbers 6:7. The word εξουσια, rendered power, is used by Lucian, in his " u914?ιων πρασις, " for a veil.


Verse 15

1 Corinthians 11:15. But if a woman have, &c.— This should be read with an interrogation, connecting it with the former verse,—But that if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her?—For, &c.


Verse 16

1 Corinthians 11:16. But if any man seem to be, &c.— Be, or is disposed to be, &c. "If any one, from a love of disputing, or from his own different views of what is naturally decent, should controvert what I advance, I shall not contend further; but content myself with saying, that we have here no such custom, for women to appear with their heads uncovered; neither do I know of its prevailing in any other of the churches of God, whether planted by me, or any of my brethren. I think, therefore, that it ought to be avoided, as a singularity which may appear like affectation, and give offence, even if it be not judged a natural indecorum." See Doddridge and Cal


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 11:17.— We may observe from several passages in this epistle, that many Judaical customs had crept into the Corinthian church: this church being of St. Paul's own planting, who spent two years at Corinth in forming it, it is evident that these abuses had their rise from some other teacher, who came to them after St. Paul's leaving them, which was about five years before he wrote this epistle. These disorders therefore may, with reason, be ascribed to the head of the faction which opposed St. Paul, and who, as has been remarked, was a Jew, and probably judaized; and this, it is likely, was the foundation of the great opposition between him and St. Paul, and the reason why St. Paul laboured so earnestly to destroy his credit among the Corinthians; this sort of men being very busy, very troublesome, and very dangerous to the Gospel, as may be seen in other of St. Paul's Epistles, particularly that to the Galatians.—The celebrating the passover among the Jews, was plainly the eating of a meal distinguished from other ordinary meals by several peculiar ceremonies. Two of these ceremonies were, eating of bread solemnly broken, and drinking a cup of wine, called "the cup of blessing." These two our Saviour transferred into the Christian church, to be used in their assemblies, for a commemoration of his death and sufferings.In celebrating this institution of our Saviour, the judaizing Corinthians followed the Jewish custom of eating their passover. They ate the Lord's supper as a part of their meal, bringing their provisions into the assembly, where they ate, divided into distinct companies, some feasting to excess, whilst others, ill provided, were in want. Their eating thus in the public assembly, and mixing the Lord's supper with their ordinary meal, as a part of it, with other disorders and indecencies accompanying it, is the subject matter of what remains in this chapter. The Apostle tells them, that he blames them for these innovations as much, as in the beginning of the chapter he commends them for keeping to his directions in other particular


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 11:18. For first of all, &c.— To understand this, we must observe, first, that they had meetings sometimes on purpose only for eating the Lord's supper, 1 Corinthians 11:33. Secondly, That to those meetings they brought their own supper, 1 Corinthians 11:21. Thirdly, That though every one's supper was brought into the common assembly, yet it was not to eat in common, but every one fell to his own supper apart, as soon as it was ready, without staying for the rest of the company, or communicating with them in eating, 1 Corinthians 11:21-23. In this St. Paul blames three things especially. First, That they ate their common food in the assembly, which was to be eaten at home in their houses, 1 Corinthians 11:22-34. Secondly, That though they ate in their common meeting-place, yet they ate separately, every one his own supper apart; so that the plenty and excess of some shamed the want and penury of others, 1 Corinthians 11:22. Hereby also the divisions among them were kept up, 1 Corinthians 11:18 they being as so many separated and divided societies, not as one united body of Christians, commemorating their common Head, as ought to have been the case in celebrating the Lord's supper, ch. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. Thirdly, That they mixed the Lord's supper with their own, eating it as a part of their ordinary meal; where they made not that discrimination between it and their common food, which they ought to have done, 1 Corinthians 11:29.


Verse 19

1 Corinthians 11:19. There must be also heresies There must be even heresies. Hence it seems evident, that heresy is spoken of as something worse than the schisms or divisions mentioned 1 Corinthians 11:18 but whether it be an evil entirely of a different kind, or only of a higher degree, is not so clear from this passage. The word ' Αιρεσις may probably here signify a party of people separated from their brethren, and forming what is called a distinct denomination; whereas there may be a schism without separation, if the people assembling together have uncharitable contentionswith each other; which was the case with these schismatical Corinthians. See Doddridge


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 11:21. Every one taketh before other, &c.— This circumstance of their rapacious and indecent behaviour at their feasts is finely illustrated by a passage from Xenophon, Memorab. lib. 3 : 100: 41 in which he observes, that Socrates was much offended with the Athenians for their conduct at their common suppers, as some prepared delicately for themselves, while others were but slenderly provided for: he endeavoured to shame them out of this low taste, by offering his provisions to all the company. Socrates,theecclesiasticalhistorian,speaksofsomeEgyptianslivingnearAlexandria, who partook of the sacrament in a very particular manner, much, as it seems, after the Corinthianfashion;introducingit with a jovial feast, in which they regaled themselves with all kinds of food. It may be proper just to observe, that many well-disposed Christians being deterred from communicating at the Lord's supper, by passages in this chapter, particularly 1 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:29 they have no need to fear the unworthy receiving so strongly condemned here by St. Paul; since the abuses which crept into the Corinthian church are such, as can never be admitted in ours, upon the present mode of receiving the sacrament.


Verse 22-23

1 Corinthians 11:22-23. Shall I praise you, &c.— The Apostle plainly refers here to what he had said 1 Corinthians 11:2 where he praised them for remembering him in all things, and for retaining what he had delivered to them. This commendation he now retracts; for in this matter of eating the Lord's supper they did not retain what he had delivered to them, 1 Corinthians 11:23 which therefore, in the immediately following words, he repeats to them again. It is very remarkable, that the institution of the ordinance of the Lord's supper should make a part of that immediate revelation with which our Lord honoured this great Apostle; and it affords a strong argument for the perpetuity of it in the church: for had others of the Apostles (as Barclay presumes to insinuate) mistaken what had happened at the last passover, and founded the observation of the Eucharist on that mistake, surely Christ would rather have corrected this error in his new revelation to St. Paul, than have administered such an occasion of confirming Christians in it. See Locke, Doddridge, Barclay's Apol. prop. 13 and the notes on the parallel plac


Verse 24-25

1 Corinthians 11:24-25. And when he had given thanks, &c.— This is a remarkable instance, among a thousand, to prove the authenticity of St. Luke's Gospel. The Apostle, finding it necessary to reprove the Corinthians for their behaviour at the Lord's supper, labours to convince them of the heinousness of their conduct, by shewing how unsuitable it was to the nature and end of that solemn institution: but when he comes to explain the institution itself, though he acquired the knowledge of it by immediate revelation, yet it is very remarkable that he expresses himself in the words of the Evangelist, Luke 22:19-20 intending, it should seem, by this quotation, to make them sensible, that though they might plead the frailty of their memory, in excuse of their forgetfulness of what himself had delivered on this subject by word of mouth, theywere nevertheless extremely culpable, in not attending to the information of the Gospel that they had then in their hands; which, if duly regarded, would have effectually restrained them from such infamous proceedings. If this be allowed, and St. Paul had actually an eye to St. Luke in this passage, we have seen a pretty clear proof that his Gospel was written before this 1st Epistle to the Corinthians; that is, before the year fifty-seven, and may thence conclude, that we cannot be far distant from the truth in fixing the date of its publication to the year fifty-three. See Owen's Observations on the four Gospels, p. 47, &c. The word γαρ, for, 1 Corinthians 11:26 has the force of an illative particle; accordingly we may read it therefore. Instead of testament, some read covenant.


Verse 26

1 Corinthians 11:26. As often as ye eat this bread It is no wonder that a text, in which this element is so plainly called bread, after consecration, should be urged against the popish doctrine of transubstantiation: it signifies little for the favourers of that opinion to plead, that the Scriptures sometimes call things changed by the name of the thing out of which they were made, (as Adam is called dust, Gen. iii 19. Aaron's serpent a rod, Exodus 7:12.) or call them according to their sensible appearance (as Joshua 5:13. Mark 16:5.); for these instances rather turn against them, by proving that where the literal interpretation is evidently absurd, we must have recourse to the figurative. Nothing can be more unreasonable than to refer the last clause of this verse, as the Quakers do, to the time when Christ should come, by his spiritual illumination on their minds, to take them off from carnal ordinances; for, not to insist upon it, that we have at least as much need of the Lord's supper as the primitive Christians had,—not having many advantages which they had, such as the miraculous gifts, &c.—it is evident that the grand coming of Christ by the Spirit was, when it was poured out on the day of Pentecost; an event many years prior to the date of this Epistle. See Doddridge, Stillingfleet, and Tillotson.


Verse 27

1 Corinthians 11:27. And drink The original is, or drink. Our Saviour, in the institution of the Lord's supper, tells the Apostles, that the bread and the wine were sacramentally his body and blood, and that they were to be eaten and drunk in remembrance of him; which, as St. Paul interprets it, was to shew forth his death till he came. Whoever, therefore, ate and drank them so as notsolemnly to shew forth his death, followed not Christ's institution, but used them unworthily; that is, not to the end for which they were instituted. This makes St. Paul tell them, 1 Corinthians 11:20 that their coming together to eat as they did, namely, the sacramental bread and wine, promiscuously with their own food, as a part of their meal,—and that, though in the same place, yet not all together, in one company,—was not the eating of the Lord's supper. Shall be guilty of the body, &c. means, "shall be liable to the punishment due to one who makes a wrong use of the sacramental body and blood of Christ in the Lord's supper." What that punishment was, see 1 Corinthians 11:30.


Verse 28

1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself St. Paul, as we have observed, tells the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11:20 that to eat it after the manner they did, was not to eat the Lord's supper. He tells them also, 1 Corinthians 11:29 that to eat it without a due and direct imitating regard had to the Lord's body, (for so he calls the sacramental bread and wine, as our Saviour did in theinstitution) by separating the bread and wine from the common use of eating and drinking for hunger and thirst, was to eat unworthily. To remedy these disorders herein, he sets before them Christ's own institution of this sacrament, that in it they might see the manner and end of its institution, and by that every one might examinehisowncomportmentherein,whetheritwereconformableto that institution, and suited to that end. In the account that he gives of Christ's institution, we may observe, he particularly remarks to them, that this eating and drinking was no part of common eating and drinking for hunger and thirst; but was instituted in a very solemn manner, after they had supped, and for another end, viz. to represent Christ's body and blood, and to be eaten and drunk in remembrance of him; or as St. Paul expounds it, to shew forth his death. Another thing which they might observe in the institution was, that this was done by all who were present, united together in one company, at the same time. All which put together, shews us what the examination here proposed is. For the design of the Apostle being to reform what he found fault with in their celebrating the Lord's supper, it is by that alone that we must understand the directions he gives them about it, if we would suppose that he talked pertinently to this captious people, whom he was very desirous to reduce from the irregularities they were running into in this matter, as well as several others. And if the account of Christ's institution be not in order to their examiningtheir carriage by it, and adjusting it to it, to what purpose is it here? The examination therefore proposed was no other but an examination of their manner of eating the Lord's supper by Christ's institution, to see how their behaviour herein comported with the institution, and the end for which it was instituted. Which further appears to be so by the punishments annexed to their miscarriages herein, which were infirmities, sickness, and temporal death, with which God chastened them, that they might not be condemned with the unbelieving world, 1 Corinthians 11:30-32. For if the unworthiness here spoken of, were either unbelief, or any of those sins which are usually made the matter of examination, it is to be presumed the Apostle would not wholly have passed them over in silence: this at least is certain, that the punishment of these sins is infinitely greater than that which God here inflicts on unworthy receivers, whether they who are guilty of them received the sacrament or not. The words Και ουτως, as to the letter, are rightly translated and so; but that translation leaves generally a wrong sense of the place in the mind of an English reader. For, in ordinary speaking, these words, let a man examine himself, and so let him eat, are understood to import the same with these, let a man examine himself, and then let him eat; as if they signified no more, but that examination should precede, and eating follow; which I take to be quite different from the meaning of the Apostle here, whose sense the whole design of the context shews to be this: I here set before you the institution of Christ; by that let a man examine his carriage; και ουτως, and according to that let him eat; let him conform the manner of his eating to that.


Verse 29

1 Corinthians 11:29. Unworthily See 1 Corinthians 11:27. To receive for the purposes of intemperance or of faction, was certainly receiving very unworthily. The sense of the Apostle's expression, however, may be extended to every manner of receiving contrary to the nature and design of this solemn ordinance, and consequently to the case of doing it merely in a secular view, which it is heartily to be wished that all concerned in it would seriously consider. It is perhaps one of the most unhappy mistakes in our version of the Bible, that the word κριμα is rendered damnation. It has raised a dread in tender minds, which has greatly obstructed the comfort and edification that they might have received from this ordinance. As the word signifies only that the unworthyreceiver is guiltyof sin, and may expect such punishment as is mentioned in the next verse; so, in conformity with the whole context,it should have been rendered judgment. The Apostle afterwards says, we are judged, εκρινομεθα, that is, "we are chastened or corrected, that we may not be condemned,"— κατακριθωμεν ; which plainly shews, that the judgment spoken of might be fatherly chastisement. It should likewise be observed, that St. Paul does not say, Whosoever shall eat this bread, being not worthy of it; but whoever eats it in such an unworthy or irreverent manner as he describes above; and therefore the text in this view certainly ought not to discourage Christians at present from approaching the Lord's table. See Wall, Locke, Doddridge, and the next note.


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 11:31. For if we would judge ourselves, &c.— In 1 Corinthians 11:29 the Apostle uses the word διακρινων,— μη διακρινων,— "Not discriminating, or not putting a difference between the sacramental bread and wine, which St. Paul, with our Saviour, calls Christ's body, and other bread and wine, in the solemn and separate use of them." The Corinthians, as has been remarked, ate the Lord's supper at and with their own ordinary supper, whereby it came not to be sufficiently distinguished (as became a Christian and religious observance so solemnly instituted) from common eating for bodily refreshment; nor from the Jewish paschal supper, and the bread broken, and the cup and blessing used in that: nor did it in this way of eating shew forth the Lord's death, as it was designed to do by the concurrence and communion of the whole assembly of Christians, jointly united in the partaking of bread and wine in a way peculiar to them,—with reference solely to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what St. Paul calls eating unworthily: to avoid which, he exhorts them to judge themselves, or rather (in plain allusion to this not discriminating the Lord's body) to distinguish or discriminate themselves; for διακρινειν means the same here as it does 1 Corinthians 11:29 and is never used to signify judge. He is little versed in St. Paul's writings, who has not observed how frequently he uses the same word that he had used before, to the same purpose, though in a different construction; as here he applies διακρινειν to the persons discriminating, as in the 29th verse, to the thing to be discriminated; though in both places it be put to denote the same action.


Verse 32

1 Corinthians 11:32. We are chastened The word Παιδευομεθα properly signifies to be corrected, as scholars are by their masters for their good. Some render the verse, But when we judge NOT ourselves, we are chastened by the Lord, &c.


Verse 33-34

1 Corinthians 11:33-34. Tarry one for another, &c.— Some would read this passage thus, Wait one for another, (and if any man hunger, let him eat at home) THAT ye may not come together to your guilt. See Musculus and Bengelius.

Inferences.—It is the duty of Christians frequently to remember the honourable relation in which they stand to Christ, as their head; and as beyond all doubt, under his mediatorial character, he is most willingly and joyfully subject to God, we should learn to imitate him in that cheerful and entire subjection, out of love and reverence to him; guarding against whatever is unbecoming, lest he be dishonoured thereby, 1 Corinthians 11:3-4.

When in any act of divine worship we have the happiness to approach the blessed God, let us reverence his awful presence.

What St. Paul observes of the mutual dependance which the sexes have on each other, should dispose them to mutual candour and respect; avoiding the cruel tyranny or the vain affectation which often arms them on either side with ungenerous reflections; and as all things are of God, it should be our concern that all things be faithfully employed for his glory. Whatever comforts we receive in relative life, (which are indeed many and important) should lead us to adore the wisdom of the divine constitution, in the original formation of our nature, and the secret influence and conduct of his providence in the regulation of our respective circumstances and affairs, 1 Corinthians 11:11-12.

We see from 1 Corinthians 11:14-16 the force of custom for determining in many respects what is decent, and what is otherwise. We ought to maintain a proper regard to this, lest, through our imprudence, even our good should be evil spoken of, and all our infirmities magnified into crimes.

What just matter of thankfulness to our blessed Redeemer does that account of the institution of his sacred supper afford, which St. Paul assures us he received immediately from him! Let us reflect, that it was in that very night in which he was betrayed, that his thoughts were so compassionately employed for our comfort and happiness;—a time when it might have been imagined that his mind would be entirely possessed with his personal concerns, with the doleful scene of his approaching sufferings, 1 Corinthians 11:23. We learn from this account the perpetuity as well as the great leading design of the ordinance,—We shew forth the Lord's death, and we shew it forth till he come, 1 Corinthians 11:26. If we do, indeed, desire to preserve the memory of our dying Saviour's love in the world, if we desire to maintain it in our own souls,—we must constantly and regularly attend this blessed institution, endeavouring, by the lively exercise of faith and love, to discern, and in a spiritual sense to feed upon the Lord's body. Nor let any humble and upright soul be discouraged by these threatenings of judgment to those profane sinners, who offered such gross affronts to this holy solemnity; affronts which none of us are in danger of repeating. Their scandalous excesses, when they pretended to be worshipping God on this awful occasion, might justly provoke the eyes of his holiness, might awaken the arm of his indignation; yet even these sinners were chastised, that they might not be finally and for ever condemned, 1 Corinthians 11:29-32.

Let not any then be terrified, as if every soul that approached the ordinance without a proper penitential spirit, must by necessary consequence seal its own damnation. Thus to attend the table of the Lord is indeed a sin; but, blessed be God, not a sin too great to be forgiven. Those therefore who, though they feel in their hearts a reverential love to Christ, yet have hitherto refrained from attending this feast of love, should, from these considerations, be engaged to attend it;—to attend it with repentant spirits. Then may they with the most hearty welcome from the great Lord of the feast eat of this bread, and drink of this cup, receiving it as the memorial of Christ's body broken, and of his blood shed, for the remission of sins. Through that Blood alone may we seek this invaluable blessing, without which, indeed, nothing can be a solid and lasting blessing to us! May we, on every occasion, treat our brethren with a tenderness and respect becoming those, who consider ourselves and them as redeemed by that precious Blood, and indebted to it for the hopes of everlasting salvation!

In a word, let us never rest in the external rites or exercises of worship, how decently and regularly soever performed; but look to our inward temper, and the conduct of our minds, if we desire to maintain their peace, and that our coming together should be for the better, and not for the worse, 1 Corinthians 11:17.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle had proposed to his Corinthian brethren, in the conclusion of the former chapter, his own example; and he here exhorts them, be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. He copied after his divine Master, and therefore could speak freely, when his own practice was so eminently a comment on his discourses.

1. To introduce with greater efficacy the reproofs which he was constrained to give, he commends them for what was praise-worthy among them. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you; at least, the main body of the church loved, honoured, and respected him, and were observant of his instructions.

2. He lays a foundation for the rebuke which he was obliged to give, in reminding them of the superiority of the man over the woman. I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; he is the Creator and Governor of all, and in a peculiar manner the head of his church: and the head of the woman is the man, who has by creation and nature the superiority, and therefore the woman should be in subjection: and the head of Christ is God, considered as Mediator; and, in his human nature, he is inferior to the Father; though, in his Godhead, co-equal and co-eternal.

3. The thing that he blames is, that their men prayed and prophesied covered, the women uncovered. Veiling the head, in the Eastern countries, was regarded as a token of modesty and subjection in the woman; and having the head uncovered, betokened the superiority of the man: when therefore any man prayed or prophesied with a covering on his head, he dishonoured Christ his head, who had given him the superiority; on the contrary, if any woman, under extraordinary inspiration, prayed or prophesied with her head uncovered, she dishonoured the man who is her head, by such an affectation of appearing like him; and, instead of modest subjection, pretended to an equality with him; and she might, with equal decency, cut her hair short, and wear it in the form peculiar to men, as thus appear unveiled. But if such a sight would appear shocking and highly immodest, then let her be covered. The man ought not to cover his head; it would be to debase his dignity, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God, invested with the supreme dominion; but the woman is the glory of the man, who has the honour of being placed in the rank of creation above her, and has a becoming dominion over her. For the man is not of the woman, created from her substance; but the woman of the man, from his rib. Neither was the man created for the woman, seeing he was in being before her, but the woman for the man, to be his helpmate; and therein was implied a reasonable subjection to him. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, and to be veiled, in token of her subjection, because of the angels, or messengers of Christ, who should preside in the assembly; and it would be highly arrogant to affect equality with them. Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord, both sexes partaking alike of that common salvation which is in Jesus Christ; so that though subjection be due, the woman is not to be tyrannized over as a slave, but to be cherished with the warmest affection and becoming respect. For as the woman is of the man, taken from his side, even so is the man also by the woman, springing from her; but all things of God, who hath placed each in their respective stations; which, therefore, for conscience sake, they should fill up. Judege in yourselves; is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered, affecting to be like the men, and inverting the established order of God? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a distinction should be observed in the dress of the different sexes? And as it is the custom of the country where you live, to cut the hair short, it is regarded as a token of great effeminacy to appear otherwise. So 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, comely, and becoming her sex; for her hair is given her for a covering, and should be managed so as to avoid all confusion of dress between the sexes. But if any man seem to be contentious, and disposed to vindicate such a preposterous practice, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God, where every appearance of a contentious spirit is condemned, and all such indecent affectation discountenanced.

2nd, Shocking abuses early crept into the Corinthian church, some of which the Apostle mentions; and sharply rebukes the offenders. Though he would praise them (1 Corinthians 11:2.) in general, there were some among them who were a dishonour to their holy profession; who met with them, not for the better, to receive edification, but for the worse, growing more corrupt, even in the very use of holy ordinances.

1. When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, one being for Paul, and another for Apollos, and the church thus torn with factions; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you; such is the corruption of man's nature, and the craft of the wicked one, that tares will be sown among the wheat; and for wise purposes God permits it should be so, that they which are approved, may be made manifest among you, their faith tried, and their sincerity evidenced. Note; (1.) Nothing is more fatal to the church of Christ, than uncharitable divisions and discords between the members. (2.) God can over-rule even the wickedness of apostates, to the furtherance of his believing people in faith and holiness.

2. Some of them committed the most scandalous irregularities at the Lord's table. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper, the method in which you proceed being utterly subversive of the very intention of that holy ordinance; for in eating, every one taketh, before other, his own supper, as if it was a mere common meal; and what is still worse, one is hungry, the poor man goes away without any refreshment, the bread and wine being devoured by those who came first; and another is drunken, the rich indulging themselves to excess. What a scandalous abuse! Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in, when you want to nourish your bodies? or despise ye the church of God, and put contempt on the poor members of it, and shame them that have not, have no houses of their own, nor ability to provide the elements for themselves? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this, thus to form parties even in the church, and devour the provision of which the poor should partake? No, assuredly, I praise you not; I blame you exceedingly.

3rdly, To rectify these gross abuses which he reprehended, the Apostle sets before them,

1. The true nature of the sacred institution, as he received it from the Lord, and had faithfully delivered it unto them. The Lord Jesus, the king of his church, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this bread is the symbol and representation of my body, which is broken for you, and offered upon the cross in your stead; this do in remembrance of me; continue, in this ordinance, a constant memorial of my dying love, and of the benefits which you receive thereby. After the same manner, also, he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament, or covenant, in my blood, which is now ratified by the blood-shedding of the Mediator, and all the inestimable privileges contained in it are secured to every faithful soul. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me, frequently meeting to celebrate this sacred feast, remembering therein my matchless grace, manifest, in those precious and plenteous drops of blood shed for your redemption; for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come, declaring your dependance thereon, as the ground of all your hope towards God, and openly professing your faith in a crucified Redeemer, as all his people are called upon to do, until the day comes when his faithful saints shall appear with him in glory.

2. He warns them of the danger of an irreverent use of this holy ordinance, wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, in such a scandalous, factious, and sensual manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, incurring the heavy guilt of treating with contempt the Blood of the covenant. But let a man examine himself, with regard to the truth of his faith, love, and conversion to God, and his knowledge of the design of this sacred institution; and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup, to his soul's edification and comfort. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, in the shocking manner before described, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, provoking some temporal judgment of God upon him; not discerning the Lord's body, nor making a difference between the sacred symbol thereof, and common food. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep, God visiting in sickness, disease, and death, your provocations. For if we would judge ourselves, and seriously examine into our conduct, that with real penitence we might return unto God, we should not be judged with such heavy providential afflictions. But when we are thus judged, we are chastened of the Lord in mercy, that we should not be condemned with the world, left to go on securely, and perish in our sins. Note; None should be discouraged from the Lord's table, who, on examining themselves, can say, that in simplicity they desire to approve themselves to him.

3. He directs them how to celebrate this sacred ordinance. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another till all are assembled, and you can eat together, as children of one family, at the table of the Lord. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home, this being not designed as an ordinary meal; that ye come not together unto condemnation, provoking God by your irreverence, dissentions, or excess. And the rest, if there be any thing further amiss, respecting the proper discipline to be observed, will I set in order when I come.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-corinthians-11.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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