Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Church;   Family;   Husband;   Jesus Continued;   Wife;   Women;   Thompson Chain Reference - Woman;   Women;   The Topic Concordance - God;   Jesus Christ;   Man;   Men;   Women;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ, the Head of the Church;   Head;   Husbands;   Man;   Vail or Veil;   Woman;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Garments;   Woman;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Head;   Husband;   Marriage;   Men;   Wife;   Women;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Corinthians, First and Second, Theology of;   Family Life and Relations;   Marriage;   Overseer;   Sexuality, Human;   Woman;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Death;   Lord's Supper;   Worship of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Woman;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Dress;   Marriage;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Christ, Christology;   Covering the Head;   Head;   Woman;   1 Corinthians;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Church;   Paul the Apostle;   Person of Christ;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Attributes of Christ;   Head;   Headship;   Pre-Eminence ;   Saint;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Head;   Man;   Woman;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Generation;   Gold;   Head;   Veil;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Adam;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Father;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Head;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Veil;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Anthropology;   Head;   Pauline Theology;   Veil (1);   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Bareheadedness;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 1 Corinthians 11:3. The head of every man is Christ — The apostle is speaking particularly of Christianity and its ordinances: Christ is the Head or Author of this religion; and is the creator, preserver, and Lord of every man. The man also is the lord or head of the woman; and the Head or Lord of Christ, as Mediator between God and man, is God the Father. Here is the order-God sends his Son Jesus Christ to redeem man; Christ comes and lays down his life for the world; every man who receives Christianity confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father; and every believing woman will acknowledge, according to Genesis 3:16, that God has placed her in a dependence on and subjection to the man. So far there is no difficulty in this passage.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary".​commentaries/​acc/1-corinthians-11.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


When women pray or prophesy (11:2-16)

Paul had heard from the visitors from Corinth of disorder in the public worship of the church. To start with, some of the Corinthian women were speaking in the church services without the veil over their heads. This was shameful by current social standards in that part of the world. Paul argues that Christians do not have to show their new-found freedom by rejecting the local customs of politeness and etiquette. In fact, these customs may reflect a basic God-given principle.
Although he praises the Corinthians for their steadfastness in following his teachings (2), Paul realizes that certain matters still need attention. He reminds them that the woman is under the authority of the man, just as the man is under the authority of Christ (3). The head covering may be seen as a sign of that relationship. Therefore, a man should not wear a head covering when he prays or prophesies, because he is not under any creature’s authority; but a woman should, because she is under the authority of the man. To have her head uncovered is as shameful as to have it shaved bare (4-6). Woman was made from man and for man, and though she has a special status as the glory of man, she is nonetheless under his authority (7-9). The angels observe this order in the church (10).
This does not mean that the woman is inferior or that the man is superior. Neither man nor woman can exist without the other (11-12). The Corinthians can see for themselves that it is shameful for a woman to pray with her head uncovered. It is as shameful as for a man to have long hair like a woman, or a woman to have short hair like a man. The environment in which they live should tell them what is natural and what is not, and this order should be reflected in the church (13-15). Paul does not want to argue the matter further, but he reminds them that what he has just outlined is the common practice among the churches (16).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary".​commentaries/​bbc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

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.

In the threefold step from woman to man to Christ to God, it may appear surprising that Paul began with the center stop; but there seems to have been a design in this. Paul, who was about to speak of the subordination of woman to her husband, would first speak to man with a reminder that he himself is subordinated to Christ the Lord. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul made it abundantly clear that the subjection of wives to their husbands was coupled with the sternest commandments with regard to the husband's duty to the wife.

In the current era, there are those who would set aside the apostolic authority regarding the question of the subordination of the wife to her husband; but the wisdom of the ages and also the word of God concur in teaching the necessity that every organism must have a head; and there cannot be any denial that in God's basic unit of all civilization and all progress, which is the family, the head must be either the man or the woman; and God here commanded man to fulfill that function of being the head of the family. If history has demonstrated anything, it is the truism that a matriarchal society is, by definition, inferior.

The head of Christ is God ... The equality of Christ with the Father is everywhere apparent in Scripture, as Paul himself said in Philippians 2:6; but, even so, the Godhead itself could not function in the project of human redemption without the subordination of the Son "for that purpose." Just so, the subordination of woman to her husband does not set aside the equality of both male and female "in Christ," but it is for the purpose of making the family a viable and successful unit. This verse makes the "headship of the man over the woman parallel to the leadership of God over Christ."[12] Thus the same equality, unity of purpose and unity of will, should exist between a man and his wife as exists between the Father and the Son.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible".​commentaries/​bcc/1-corinthians-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But I would have you know - “I invite your attention particularly to the following considerations, in order to form a correct opinion on this subject.” Paul does not at once answer the inquiry, and determine what ought to be done; but he invites their attention to a series of remarks on the subject, which led them to draw the conclusion which he wished to establish. The phrase here is designed to call the attention to the subject, like that used so often in the New Testament, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

That the head ... - The word “head,” in the Scriptures, is designed often to denote “master, ruler, chief.” The word ראשׁ ro'sh is often thus used in the Old Testament; see Numbers 17:3; Numbers 25:15; Deuteronomy 28:13, Deuteronomy 28:44; Judges 10:18; Judges 11:8, Judges 11:11; 1 Samuel 15:17; 2 Samuel 22:44. In the New Testament the word is used in the sense of Lord, ruler, chief, in Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 2:10. Here it means that Christ is the ruler, director, or Lord of the Christian man. This truth was to be regarded in all their feelings and arrangements, and was never to be forgotten. Every Christian should recollect the relation in which he stands to him, as one that is suited to produce the strictest decorum, and a steady sense of subordination.

Of every man - Every Christian. All acknowledge Christ as their Ruler and Master. They are subject to him; and in all proper ways recognize their subordination to him.

And the head of the woman is the man - The sense is, she is subordinate to him, and in all circumstances - in her demeanor, her dress, her conversation, in public and in the family circle - should recognize her subordination to him. The particular thing here referred to is, that if the woman is inspired, and speaks or prays in public, she should by no means lay aside the usual and proper symbols of her subordination. The danger was, that those who were under the influence of inspiration would regard themselves as freed from the necessity of recognising that, and would lay aside the “veil,” the usual and appropriate symbol of their occupying a rank inferior to the man. This was often done in the temples of the pagan deities by the priestesses, and it would appear also that it had been done by Christian females in the churches.

And the head of Christ is God - Christ, as Mediator, has consented to assume a subordinate rank, and to recognize God the Father as superior in office. Hence, he was obedient in all things as a Son; he submitted to the arrangement required in redemption; he always recognized his subordinate rank as Mediator, and always regarded God as the supreme Ruler, even in the matter of redemption. The sense is, that Christ, throughout his entire work, regarded himself as occupying a subordinate station to the Father; and that it was proper from his example to recognize the propriety of rank and station everywhere.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible".​commentaries/​bnb/1-corinthians-11.html. 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

An overview of the “head covering” (veil) issue:

Since Paul has discussed questions related to eating meat sacrificed to idols in the previous chapter, he is now ready for new material, some of which is difficult and controversial. The next four chapters may be divided into three sections: (1) 11:2-16-the wearing of the head covering (veil); (2) 11:17-34-problems pertaining to the Lord’s Supper; (3) 12:1-14:40-problems pertaining to spiritual gifts. We may not understand everything that took place at Corinth, but we can have a general understanding of this congregation’s problems and the corrective instructions given in these chapters.

Many commentators, including this one, believe some of the Corinthian women had taken the truth of Galatians 3:28 to an extreme (they had started or were interested in what might be called a woman’s liberation movement). Christian women at Corinth were not complying with their God given role or they were tempted to not follow it. One indication of their actual or possible rebellion against God’s plan for their lives involved a veil (head covering), so this subject (as well as God’s role for women) is discussed in this chapter.

In the Corinthians’ society veils were one means of differentiating between men and women. Veils also, just as long hair (verses 15-16), symbolized womanhood. If the Corinthian women refused to wear veils or had what was considered short hair, they rejected things their culture associated with femininity and implied they were not willing to follow God’s plan for womanhood (they were essentially making a declaration of insubordination).

Warren Wiersbe (First Corinthians, p. 603) aptly described part of the problem: “Eastern society at that time was very jealous over its women. Except for the temple prostitutes, the women wore long hair and, in public, wore a covering over their heads…For the Christian women in the church to appear in public without the covering, let alone to pray and share the Word, was both daring and blasphemous.” The Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible (p. 326) offers similar information: “Required head coverings for women are an Eastern custom. A Middle Assyrian law required that all women except prostitutes and slaves be veiled. Jewish communities of the New Testament period were strict about this. The Mishnah (A.D. 250) held that failure to comply was grounds for divorce (Ketubin 7:6). A moral, unmarried woman even wore a veil in front of her parents. Removal of the veil was a sign of disgrace (3 Macc. 4:6). Philo of Alexandria indicated that this regularly worn covering was a symbol of modesty (Special Laws 3.56; Josephus Ant. 3.270). Women charged with adultery had this veil removed.”

Even now every culture has specific customs, one of which may involve males removing their hats. In the United States it used to be normal for men to remove their hats when the Pledge of Allegiance was said or the National Anthem was sung. Males have also traditionally removed their hats when attending worship. Men who refused to respect these cultural traditions were seen as disrespectful, just as the Corinthian women would have been regarded if they rejected the veils (verse 5) and men would have been disrespectful if they had worn a covering (verse 4).

Women have also been expected to observe some cultural practices, some of which are found in marriage. In many wedding ceremonies it has been customary for a bride to say she will “obey” her husband and the bride traditionally accepts her husband’s last name to show her recognition and acceptance of his authority (headship). Paul dramatically emphasized the need to observe customs such as the head coverings at Corinth by appealing to both the Godhead (11:3) and angels (11:10).

Today it is still very important to respect the customs in the culture where we live or work. This means we respect the way people talk, dress, think, etc. It is also necessary to live in such a way where males and females carry out their God given roles (i.e. men behave like men and women behave like women). This latter point is so important that it is even found in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 22:5 God said: “A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto Jehovah thy God.” “The adoption of clothing of the opposite sex was forbidden because it obscured the distinction of the sexes and thus violated an essential part of the created order of life (Genesis 1:27)” (Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 301). Our culture may not always use the same symbols used by the Corinthians to distinguish males from females (i.e. head coverings and the length of hair), but there will always be established ways to distinguish males from females and these distinctions need to be observed.

The custom of wearing veils is also related to what Paul said at the end of the previous chapter (in 10:25-26 he spoke of buying food that may have been offered to idols). Paul said Christians could purchase this food if they “asked no questions.” If Christians asked shop owners about the origin of food, they would have been regarded as odd and probably gained a bad reputation among the unsaved-things the Corinthians church did not need. Paul knew Christianity was a new religion and it was important for saints to leave a good impression with the unsaved (compare Titus 2:5, “that the word of God be not blasphemed”). This is partly why he spoke of being “all things to all men” in 9:20, 22; 10:33. If the Corinthian women chose to stop wearing veils or opted for short hair (compare verse 15), they would not have been “all things to all people.” They would have violated local customs, offended outsiders, and very possibly offended fellow Christians (compare 10:29). Refusing to wear head coverings or follow other customs would have been “an occasion of stumbling” to others (10:32) so this chapter tells women to obey this cultural practice.

In the following verses Paul offered six arguments related to Christian women fulfilling and demonstrating their divine role, especially their role in the church. These arguments are: (1) Man has been made the head of the woman; (2) Being uncovered was equal to having the head shaven; (3) The order of creation proves that women are subject to men; (4) Women should be subject to men because of the angels; (5) Nature proved that women should be covered; (6) The general practice of the church demanded a covering.

Is it necessary for women to wear a “head covering” (veil) today?

While commentators and very sincere Bible students greatly differ on this question, there is some general agreement on two things. First, if God wants women to wear head coverings today, this is the only action in the New Testament that God does not fully explain. Second, no other book or passage in the New Testament deals with this issue and we have a limited amount of information in this chapter about women wearing a head covering (veil).

Some believe all Christian women in first century times were bound to wear a head covering and this obligation is still in force (i.e. today all women must wear a covering in church assembles). Those who take this view often differ on the specifics of what must be done. Some think a woman’s covering is her natural hair (this is a difficult explanation to defend, especially in view of verse 7. If a woman’s covering is her natural hair, and men are prohibited from wearing a covering-their natural hair-only bald men can approach God). Others think a literal covering must be worn (i.e. the natural hair is not enough so an additional covering must be added).

Those who believe in an artificial covering often disagree on what constitutes a covering. Some think almost anything on a woman’s head qualifies and others believe a woman’s head must be fully covered (for a discussion of what constitutes a covering, see the What was the head covering discussion located in the commentary on verse 4). A related view associates the head coverings with supernatural gifts. According to this explanation, the coverings were needed during the era of the spiritual gifts. Since the supernatural gifts ceased towards the end of the first century (see the commentary on 13:8-10), head coverings are no longer required.

The second major view about head coverings (and this is the one advocated by this author) is that veils were a well-established custom and this custom was to be respected and followed because it was an important part of the Corinthians’ culture. Stated another way, wearing a veil was like foot washing and “holy kisses” (1 Timothy 5:10; Romans 16:16). McGarvey (First Corinthians, p. 110) well said: “For Christians to introduce needless innovations (in this case abandoning the customary veil, BP) would be to add to the misconceptions which already subjected them to persecution. One who follows Christ will find himself conspicuously different from the world, without practicing any tricks of singularity.” Even now this principle is true (people who do not follow the customs of their society are regarded as bizarre and frequently become an object of derision). When cultural customs do not conflict with the Bible, they should be followed.

Reasons to believe head coverings (veils) were cultural:

Every explanation about the Corinthian head coverings has some difficulties associated with it. The view that head coverings were a well-established custom, however, seems to have fewest problems/objections. Also, there are indications in this chapter that Paul was speaking about a cultural belief instead of a divine command. For instance, he spoke of the shame borne by those who are shaven (verse 6). Since there is no Bible passage that forbids the shaving of a woman’s head, what was the basis for this disgrace? If it was not from God, it must have been society (culture). Furthermore, since Paul joins shame with the word veil (6b), both the disgrace and the veil seem to have been part of the Corinthians’ culture (way of life).

Paul said nature (phusis) offered some instructions about a woman’s covering (verses 14-15). Why appeal to nature if head coverings are a divine command and a perpetual obligation for Christian women? Appealing to nature is a possible Biblical argument to prove something (compare James 3:11 where James used nature to argue against improper speech), but this does not seem to be Paul’s purpose in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34 because he said women “ought” to have a head covering (verse 10).

The Greek language has a word for must (dei) and Paul used this term many times in his writings including this letter (11:19; 15:25, 53). When discussing the veil issue, however, inspiration led him to use a less forceful word meaning “ought.” When combined with the previous information, the bulk of the evidence, in this author’s judgment, favors the explanation that head coverings were part of the Corinthians’ culture. Finally, Paul speaks of “in the church” several times in this letter, including this chapter (11:18; 12:28; 14:19, 23, 28, 33, 34, 35). With the exception of verse 16, where he said, “we have no such custom,” the word church is never associated with the head covering. Thus, this author understands verse 16 to mean there was no church custom to wear the veil (i.e. head coverings were a part of society instead of a divine command).

A good summary of the opening information in this chapter as well as the head covering issue is given by MacKnight (p. 178): “From the things written in this chapter, and in chap. xiv. ver. 34, 35, 36. it appears that some of the Corinthian women on pretence of being inspired, had prayed and prophesied in the Christian assemblies as teachers; and while performing these offices, had cast off their veils, after the manner of the heathen priestesses in their ecstasies. These disorderly practices, the false teacher, it seems, had encouraged, ver. 16. from a desire to ingratiate himself with the female part of the Corinthian church. But the apostle’s adherents, sensible that it did not become the women to be teachers of the men, had restrained them. And this having occasioned disputes between the church and the faction, the church, in their letter, applied to the apostle for his decision. In answer, he first of all commended them for having held fast his traditions or ordinances concerning the public worship of God.”

Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".​commentaries/​bpc/1-corinthians-11.html.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

11:3: 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.

God made mankind (Genesis 1:26-27) and He intended for males and females to have and fulfill specific roles, just as Jesus and the Father have and fulfill specific roles (see the preceding commentary on 2b). When men and women come together for worship (i.e. the assembly is mixed), males are to lead the worship (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Male leadership is also to be in the home (Ephesians 5:22-24). These two points are not just New Testament teachings; male leadership is based on the creation (1 Timothy 2:13). While males and females are virtually identical (equal) in most other ways, some of which including the following, God has given males the role of leadership in the home and in the church.

Some of the many ways males and females are equal (identical):

Ø Genesis 1:27 (Both are equal in status since both are in God’s image).

Ø Proverbs 31:1-31 (Women are equal to men as far as their intelligence and a wise development or use of resources).

Ø Matthew 15:28 (Both are equal in their ability to excel in faith).

Ø Matthew 19:4-5 (Both are equal in the range of human experiences).

Ø Acts 2:17-18 (Both have an equal amount of usefulness in God’s kingdom).

Ø Acts 5:14 (Both are equal in their ability to access salvation).

Ø Acts 16:14; Acts 18:1-3 (Both are to be equal in the opportunity to have a career).

Ø Romans 3:23 (Both are equal in their need for salvation).

Ø Romans 16:3-4 (Both are equal in their potential for bravery and or sacrifice).

Ø 1 Corinthians 7:4 (Both are equal in their rights for a sexual relationship in marriage).

Ø 1 Corinthians 7:16 (Both are equal in their power to convert an unbelieving mate).

Ø 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 (Both are equal in their innate self worth).

Ø Galatians 3:28 (Both are equally entitled to all spiritual blessings in Christ).

Ø Ephesians 6:1-2 (Both are equally deserving of receiving respect from their children).

Ø Philippians 4:3 (Both are equal in the “labor of love”).

Ø 1 Timothy 5:16 (Both are equal in their responsibility to honor parents).

Ø 2 Timothy 1:5; Ephesians 6:4 (Both are equal in their responsibility to teach young people).

Ø 1 Peter 3:7 (Both are equal partners in the eternal inheritance).

Instead of making Eve from a bone in Adam’s foot (an action suggestive of slavery and inferiority), or using part of Adam’s head to make Eve (an indication of female superiority), God used one of Adam’s ribs (this implies basic equality between the sexes plus male headship). Distinction between roles is not only found with males and females, it is found within the male and female genders. For instance, single men are not qualified to be elders (1 Timothy 3:1-2). New converts are not entitled to be elders (1 Timothy 3:6). Deacons are to be “proven” before they serve (1 Timothy 3:10), and deacons are to be married men with children (1 Timothy 3:12). The principles of headship and specific people having explicit roles are a regular part of our world. These things are also found in the church (males have a head-Jesus-and females have a head-males).

Women who want to act like men:

Since the time of Eve, there have been men who wanted to act like women and women who wanted to act like men. One intriguing example of this is found in some early American history. Before women were allowed to vote in the United States, Belva A. Lockwood (October 24, 1830 - May 19, 1917) ran for the U.S. Presidency. Although Lockwood was not part of a major political party, she (and other early female contenders for this position) sought an office that, at this time in history, was specifically associated with males.

A copy of the handbill used in her Presidential bid is on the next page. Permission was given to use this flyer in this book by the gracious curator (Louise D. Pittaway) at the Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington, CT, but since this author’s copy of the handbill was not suitable for reproduction, the following image contains the exact wording from the poster and attempts to match the font type and size as closely as possibly to approximate the original document.

“The lords of creation men we call,

And they think they rule the whole;

But they’re much mistaken, after all,

For they’re under woman’s control!”

Women of Stonington, Arouse! __________________





AT 8 P. M.,



Will emit Impassioned Yawps at


In advocacy of the election of





At 7 o’clock, preceding the address, the Belva A. Lockwood Club will make a Triumphal Parade that will Be Just Too Lovely For Anything. The Route will include the principal streets of the Borough.

After the Address a Grand Banquet will be tendered to the Club at MUSIC HALL.


Come One, Come All, and Bring Your Chewing Gum.

What about women and indirect authority?

There have been many cases (and preachers can usually attest to at least one instance) where women did not openly take a leadership role, but they did work indirectly or secretly to lead or direct things. In these cases we must recognize that indirect leadership is still leadership and it is certainly possible for Christian women to violate the information in verses 34-35 in this chapter by “working/leading behind the scenes.”

When men are mere figureheads for male leadership (i.e. women are setting the policies and making decisions), both males and females are guilty of sin. Males surrender their God-given leadership role and women accept or take what God has not entrusted to them. While we should not be surprised to find this type of activity among the unsaved, it should never be found within Christ’s church. Women can and should be an influence for good in their local congregation, just like all other faithful members, but they have no authority to directly or indirectly do things that have been assigned to males. A Christian woman who takes (appropriates) authority from males engages in the same type of sin the Corinthian women committed-a sin Paul strongly rebuked.

Christian women and “perceived leadership”:

If a woman is not directly or indirectly leading, may she assume duties that merely make her look like a leader? Is it wrong for a Christian woman to make announcements, read Scripture, or be one of the people that helps distribute the Communion? Some congregations have concluded that a woman cannot preach and pray in a worship assembly where men and women have come together (1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:12), but she can do everything else. Some have concluded that “Christian sisters pass Communion trays to those sitting next to them in worship, so they can also help distribute the Communion items to the entire congregation.”

As noted in the previous comments, leadership may be direct or indirect. Leadership also falls into the categories of “real or perceived” and we may demonstrate the point in this way. If a person makes a comment while sitting in a Bible class, there is no perception of leadership. If this same person makes the same comments while standing in a pulpit, there could or would be the perception of leadership. Such is also true for other activities in Christian assemblies-activities such as making announcements, publicly reading the Scriptures or standing up with others to pass the Communion (the actions fall into the category of perceived leadership). Stated another way, whoever helps in these kinds of ways leaves the impression that he has some type of leadership role in that worship service. For this reason Christian women should not engage in activities in mixed assemblies that would cause them to directly or indirectly be perceived as leaders. It may be going too far to say that a woman who helps pass the Communion items or make announcements is committing a definite sin, but these kinds of activities are extremely unwise, they set a bad precedent, and they are certainly not “expedient” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23).

Consequences of rejecting male headship:

When men and women will not fulfill their respective roles, there will be problems. One illustration of this point is found in the opening pages of the Bible. A careful reading of Genesis 3:1-24 shows that Adam was “with” Eve when she sinned (Genesis 3:6), and Adam failed to fulfill his role as the leader of his family. In Genesis 3:17 we read: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree…” Eve assumed a role she was not entitled to, Adam relinquished authority he should have exercised, and the end result was the loss of perfection.

Today, when God’s rules about headship, subjection, and the roles for men and women are not followed, families, congregations and nations will face numerous and serious problems. It is, therefore, imperative for Christians to observe the headship role for males in the home and in the church, even if the society they live in does not (compare Acts 5:29; 2 Timothy 4:2). Paul illustrated this need several times in the next chapter by appealing to the human body. Just as there must be “several parts” in a human body, and each part must carry out its respective task (1 Corinthians 12:14-20), so things will not go well in the world if people do not know and fulfill their respective roles.

Resistance to male leadership:

The world and even some religious groups have often opposed what the Bible says regarding the specific roles of men and women. In this author’s lifetime there was the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) of the 1970’s as well as various social experiments to diminish or erase gender differences. The world has tried numerous schemes to undermine or undo God’s plan for male leadership in the home and church (including the promotion of “gender neutral toys” for children), but all the world’s plans in this regard are earthly, sensual and devilish wisdom (James 3:15 and compare the commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18-19). God says the rejection of His plan leads to confusion and evil (James 3:16) as well as eventual failure (compare Psalms 2:1-4).

When Christians hear nonbelievers say things like: “A woman can do anything a man does and often do it better,” “God’s plan for women makes them second class citizens,” or “Not having female preachers is discriminatory”,” they should recall verses like Romans 1:22 (“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”). Mixing the role of men and women is a way that may seem “right to man but the end thereof is destruction” (Proverbs 16:25). Even if a woman could be a better preacher than a man, Christians know that God has assigned this function to males and they must abide by God’s will (John 14:15). Christians also know and teach that women are not second class citizens. An old adage has been proven many, many times: “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” (compare 2 Timothy 1:5).

The abuse of male headship:

Some have attempted to dismiss or “re-think” God’s plan for male leadership because some women have been verbally or physically abused by men. What needs to be “re-thought” is how men are to treat women. A husband is to “cherish and nurture his wife as his own body (Ephesians 5:28). He may not deprive her of what she needs for her happiness and well-being (1 Corinthians 7:3). He must be understanding, considerate, and respectful of her as a joint heir of life (1 Peter 3:7). His love for her is more than physical. It must be the same kind of sacrificial love Christ has for the church” (Baker’s Theological Dictionary of the Bible, p. 327). When husbands treat their wives as the Bible describes (Ephesians 5:28), their wives will recognize and submit to the loving leadership given by their spouse (compare Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1-6).

Can a man rightfully renounce his divine role?

There are those who acknowledge that men have been given leadership in the home and the church, but believe men can renounce these roles (i.e. they can ask women to serve as church leaders or take responsibility for being the head of a home). A simple and complete response to this error is that we cannot give something we do not have. Men have not been invested with the right or authority to turn their leadership roles in the church and home over to women, so it is impossible for them to give these roles to women. Men may ask women to take these roles and women may accept these jobs, but the men who abdicate their leadership roles and the women who try to assume these functions are both guilty of sin. The Bible warns that people can “believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11), and this is precisely what happens when people think God allows men to pass off their leadership roles to women.

Ten Commandments for Husbands:

Hugo McCord, a wonderful preacher this author was privileged to hear several times before his death, once penned the following “Ten commandments for husbands.” When husbands behave in this manner, wives will have a strong desire to fulfill their divine role.

1. Thou shalt remember that thy wife is thy partner and not thy property.

2. Thou shalt hold thy wife’s love by the same means that thou won it.

3. Thou shalt enter thy house with cheerfulness.

4. Thou shalt not let anyone criticize thy wife and get away with it, neither thy father, nor thy mother, nor thy brothers, nor thy sisters, nor any other relative.

5. Thou shalt not take thy wife for granted.

6. Thou shalt not think thyself are “IT.”

7. Thou shalt not praise thy neighbor’s wife; praise thine own.

8. Thou shalt not keep any secrets from thy wife; secrets breed suspicion and wreck confidence.

9. Thou shalt not fail to kiss thy wife good-bye every morning.

10. Thou shalt not forget through all the years of thy life that thy wife whom God hath given thee is the queen in your home and in honor takes precedence over thee.

Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".​commentaries/​bpc/1-corinthians-11.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

3.But I would have you know It is an old proverb: “Evil manners beget good laws.” (618) As the rite here treated of had not been previously called in question, Paul had given no enactment respecting it. (619) The error of the Corinthians was the occasion of his showing, what part it was becoming to act in this matter. With the view of proving, that it is an unseemly thing for women to appear in a public assembly with their heads uncovered, and, on the other hand, for men to pray or prophesy with their heads covered, he sets out with noticing the arrangements that are divinely established.

He says, that as Christ is subject to God as his head, so is the man subject to Christ, and the woman to the man We shall afterwards see, how he comes to infer from this, that women ought to have their heads covered. Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.

There is somewhat more of difficulty in what follows. Here the man is placed in an intermediate position between Christ and the woman, so that Christ is not the head of the woman. Yet the same Apostle teaches us elsewhere, (Galatians 3:28,) that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Why then does he make a distinction here, which in that passage he does away with? I answer, that the solution of this depends on the connection in which the passages occur. When he says that there is no difference between the man and the woman, he is treating of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, in which individual distinctions (620) are not regarded, or made any account of; for it has nothing to do with the body, and has nothing to do with the outward relationships of mankind, but has to do solely with the mind — on which account he declares that there is no difference, even between bond and free. In the meantime, however, he does not disturb civil order or honorary distinctions, which cannot be dispensed with in ordinary life. Here, on the other hand, he reasons respecting outward propriety and decorum — which is a part of ecclesiastical polity. Hence, as regards spiritual connection in the sight of God, and inwardly in the conscience, Christ is the head of the man and of the woman without any distinction, because, as to that, there is no regard paid to male or female; but as regards external arrangement and political decorum, the man follows Christ and the woman the man, so that they are not upon the same footing, but, on the contrary, this inequality exists. Should any one ask, what connection marriage has with Christ, I answer, that Paul speaks here of that sacred union of pious persons, of which Christ is the officiating priest, (621) and He in whose name it is consecrated.

(618) Matthew Henry makes use of this proverb in his Commentary, when summing up the contents of Luke 15:0. — Ed.

(619)N’en auoit rien touche es enseignemens qu’il auoit donnez;” — “Had not touched upon it at all in the instructions which he had given.”

(620)Les qualites externes;” “External qualities.”

(621)Autheur et conducteur;” — “Author and conductor.”

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible".​commentaries/​cal/1-corinthians-11.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn in our Bibles now to I Corinthians 11 .

Paul here in the first verse said,

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 11:1 ).

In the previous verse he spoke about how he was not seeking his own profit, his own glory, but the profit of the whole body of Christ. And then he said, "Be followers of me." The word followers in the Greek is mimetes, in which we get our word mimic. Be mimickers, or be imitators of me. Follow the example that I have set. That is, don't seek for your own profit, but seek for the profit of the whole body. Don't just be looking out for yourself, but look out for one another. Be sensitive to one another's needs, and be looking out for each other.

Now [he said] I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and you keep the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you ( 1 Corinthians 11:2 ).

So Paul is giving them praise for the fact that they did remember him, that they were keeping ordinances that he had established among them.

But I would have you to know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of every woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head ( 1 Corinthians 11:3-4 ).

Now, Paul is establishing here sort of a chain of command. The word head here being the idea of authority. And so the husband the authority over the wife. Christ is the authority over the husband. And God is the authority over Christ. This, of course, gets into issues which are being debated today in our society as we find all of these E.R.A. type of movements.

I do not believe that the Bible has ever taught that God favors the man over the woman. The Bible does teach that God made man first, and then from man formed the woman. When God looked at man and said, "It is not good that man should live alone," and so He made the woman from man that she might be a helpmeet for him.

Now, some people misinterpret that. The helpmeet, the word meet is an old English word fit, a help that is fit for him, created for him. No way does it signify a subservient position. God saw that man by himself could never make it, and thus, the woman created, as God said, "for the man."

Now, the woman is weaker than the man, in a physical sense. I had a mental picture of these women and, of course, I guess it has become quite a thing for women to get involved now in bodybuilding programs. I personally think that men involved in bodybuilding programs get to the place where they look grotesque; those bulges and all, they get grotesque. But for a woman to be bulging in the wrong areas is also grotesque. I think it is rather sad that to develop an identity of sorts to try and show that they are capable and all that they get involved in this bodybuilding kind of a thing. That isn't really, to me, the best use of a person's time.

He is establishing the chain of command. However, I do think that there is something worth noting here. The authority over the man is Christ, even as the authority over the woman is the man. And I feel that if the man, the husband, is not under the authority of Christ, then the woman has to jump the missing link. I do not believe that God intends that a godly woman be under the authority of an ungodly man. Under the authority of man only as he is under the authority of Jesus Christ. God never meant marriage to be a slavery kind of a situation, or a tyranny kind of a situation, where some big oaf rules over his wife with force, or whatever. And I am totally opposed to that kind of an interpretation or understanding of the scripture that a woman thinks, "Well, he is my husband. I have got to be in submission to him." Yes, as he is in submission to Christ.

Now, we are dealing with an Eastern culture. In this Eastern culture the women wore veils, and the veils, many times, were across the bridge of their nose tied in the back and went all the way to the ground. Now, in some of the Eastern areas it was even more than that. The veils covered their head and they had just slits for their eyes. And of course, they wore these bulky clothes, and how can you know you were really in love when all you can see is just the eyes? When you got married it was really an interesting thing, I suppose. However, this veil was a protection to the woman. It was a covering for her, which was a covering of protection, and no man would approach a woman, accost a woman, or flirt with a woman who was covered with a veil. It was almost death for the man to touch a woman or to approach her in an overt way when she was covered with her veil. For a woman to go out without a veil was an open invitation for the men. It was sort of a declaration, "I am available." But for a veiled woman, no man would dare to approach her. Thus, it was a covering.

Today it is still this way in Eastern cultures, especially in the Moslem world. Of course, the women in Iran, the more liberalized women are really chasing under Khomeini, because he went back to the old veils. You see, these orthodox Moslem women now with the black covers, and all you can see are the eyes again. Many times on our tours to the Middle East, the liberated ladies from America, not understanding the mindset of the Oriental, would go over there with sleeveless dresses or things of this nature, and they don't know what it does to some of these men who are used to not seeing a woman except she be totally veiled. Many times they have been accosted by these men, because it is just a part of their whole cultural background and thinking.

So, Paul is dealing with a cultural situation when he addresses the subject here of head coverings, or of veils.

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head ( 1 Corinthians 11:4 ).

The idea here is that man was made in the glory of God and it would be dishonoring to God for him to cover his head while he prayed or prophesied. Now that is interesting coming from Paul considering that in Orthodox Jewry today, they all wear their little hats whenever they come into any sacred place of prayer. You can wear any kind of a hat, but they won't let the men into the Western Wall, or those areas, unless you do have your head covered. Coming from Paul, it is an interesting thing that he would speak of the men with their heads uncovered and it would be a dishonoring thing to pray with his head covered.

But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is even as one if she were shaven ( 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 ).

So Paul, then, speaking of the woman is saying it is dishonoring in a sense to her husband, her head, if she would go unveiled.

Now evidently, the women in Corinth were feeling that liberty that was theirs in Christ. "We are no longer under a yoke of bondage, for in Christ we are all one, neither male nor female, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free." So they were beginning to come without veils and it, no doubt, created some problems. Paul said that it was dishonoring to your husbands, because living there in Corinth they were living in the center of pagan licentiousness. The temple of Aphrodite was on the Acropolis above Corinth. The priestesses within the temple of Aphrodite, some one thousand of them, would nightly come down into the city of Corinth. They were prostitutes, and the temple was supported by their prostitution. And they could be recognized in that they didn't wear veils. So the women in Corinth who were then beginning to feel liberty in Christ, not wanting to wear their veils, not being understood by the world, were opening themselves to be misidentified as a prostitute, and thus, dishonoring their husbands. So Paul is encouraging them to continue with the customs of wearing the veils there in Corinth.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is in the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of man ( 1 Corinthians 11:7 ).

That is, God created man in His own image, and from the man He took the woman.

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman is of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power [or the authority, the veil] upon her head [then he said] because of the angels ( 1 Corinthians 11:8-10 ).

Now, I wish he hadn't of said that, because I was able to follow him pretty well up to this point. But what he meant by "because of the angels" is something that theologians have discussed through the years. One suggestion . . . now, we know that when we gather together, the angels of the Lord gather with us. And it has been suggested that the angels, being creatures of rank and order, respect the order of God, and they like to see the orders and the rankings of God followed.

The second suggestion is that there are also evil angels present and a woman without a veil is attractive to them. I sort of reject the second idea, because nowhere in the New Testament where angels are mentioned in this sense are they fallen angels. I would prefer the former, but I am not satisfied with it. I don't really know what he is referring to, to tell you the truth.

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 11:11 ).

In other words, as far as the Lord is concerned we are all on an equal par. And the woman is not without the man and the man is not without the woman. We are both necessary for each other.

For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God ( 1 Corinthians 11:12 ).

I was born by my mother is what Paul is saying. My mother was necessary for my existence being here. The woman was taken out of the man, but yet, it is reversed now. God has established them male and female and they are all a part of God's divine order.

Now judging yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? ( 1 Corinthians 11:13 )

Is it proper? Is it the right thing to do?

One thing that we should definitely note here in light of I Corinthians 14 , where Paul said, "Let the women keep silent in the church, and if they would learn, let them ask their husbands when they get home," Paul evidently is not at all assigning her to total silence in the church. Here she is recognized as having a right to pray. Here she is recognized as having a right to exercise the gift of prophecy within the church. He is not saying anything contrary or against her praying and prophesying, only should she be doing it without a veil in the church of Corinth.

So he said,

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? ( 1 Corinthians 11:14 )

Now, during the hippie movement when a lot of the fellows decided to let their hair grow, this was a scripture that was brought up quite a bit by the Bible thumpers down in the south who were so opposed to these young men having long hair.

I, in traveling around the country, was a guest on some of the radio talk shows, and some of these irate people would call in. And the thing that was really bothering them were these young people with long hair, because they had pictures of our baptisms and a lot of young men with long hair and all were being baptized, and it really bothered these people for these young men to have long hair. They would call in and they would make their crude remarks and then quote this verse of scripture.

So, the Lord did a very interesting thing. He called me to defend these young men, their right to have long hair. I always figured the Lord had a sense of humor. And I would point out to these irate callers that, first of all, Paul said, "Does not nature itself." It doesn't say that God is teaching this. It said that nature is teaching it. "Does not nature itself teach you that it is a shame?" It doesn't teach you that it is a sin. They were trying to make a sin out of this thing. But it doesn't say God says it is a sin. It says nature says it is a shame.

Now, long hair is a relative term. My barber this morning signaled me in service . . . I do go to the barber. And it's coming over my collar in the back and it is time. But long is a relative term.

If you look at some of the presidents of the United States, they had long hair compared to the forties and fifties looks where the guys had the crew cuts and all. So long is a relative term.

I have seen some fellows whose hair I would say was indeed a shame with flowing hair down to their waist. Nature tells you what a shame. I see them with their long locks and I just sort of say, "What a shame." But in reality, when I try to comb what I have, I also say, "What a shame!" So, nature teaches you to not have long hair, and if you don't have any hair, it is all a shame. That is all it is.

But if a woman have long hair ( 1 Corinthians 11:15 ),

Hey, that is another matter.

it is a glory to her: for her hair is given to her for her covering. But if any man seems to be contentious ( 1 Corinthians 11:15-16 ),

Now, if you got a big deal over this, Paul says,

we don't have any such custom, in all of the churches ( 1 Corinthians 11:16 ).

Thus, it was not intended to be a universal rule for the church as some of the churches sought to make it a universal rule. For years the women have had to wear hats and all when they went to church. But Paul said that we don't have any such custom in all the churches. If you want to argue about it and all, there is no such custom in all the churches. It was something that did relate more to the church in Corinth.

I praise you that you kept my ordinances and all, but there is something I don't praise you for, what I am going to talk to you about now.

For when you gather together sometimes it is for the worse, not for the better. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I really partly believe this. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When you come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one takes before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken ( 1 Corinthians 11:17-21 ).

Now, in the early church they had a beautiful fellowship that seemed that it happened every week. And in this beautiful fellowship they had what they called the agape feast. Today, we call it a potluck. We have got a crude name for it. They had a beautiful name, an agape feast. Our various fellowship groups in the church that have their potlucks, it would probably be a good idea to start calling them agape feasts. That is much better, a love feast.

In these love feasts, which were like a potluck, everybody would bring their dishes and they'd pool it all together and all would eat. But there were some piggish fellows who would make their way to the front of the line and they would just take more than their share. So oftentimes there would not be enough food to go around. And so some people were left hungry, while others had more than they could handle. It seemed that the wealthier people were those that were just sort of pushing their way ahead. And the poor people who really were needing it . . . actually, you see, the church in those days had many slaves, and a lot to them never did have a decent meal, except for the agape feast. That is the only time they really had a decent meal. And yet, these people were not really sensitive to the needs of the poor and they were going in and filling their plates and the poor were being left hungry. So Paul said, "That is not good."

Don't you have your own house to feast in and to drink in? Do you despise the church of God, and do you shame those [that are poor] that have not? ( 1 Corinthians 11:22 )

Actually became embarrassed and ashamed. And these people were sort of making it that way.

I do remember when we used to have our church picnic and we had our houses where a lot of the young people were living. You remember those days of the Mansion Messiah and the Lord's House and the House of Psalms and these various houses that we had. This one time at our picnic out at Orange County Park, one of the houses brought to the picnic a large pan of beans. You know, put it in the potluck. And then the kids headed for the steaks. That's good that we ate beans that year, because a lot of them hadn't had a steak in a long time.

Paul said, "Look, a lot of you have your own homes. You can eat and drink in your own homes. You shouldn't really make these people feel embarrassed or ashamed because of their financial plights."

What shall I say to you? I don't praise you in this matter ( 1 Corinthians 11:22 ).

He is actually rebuking them for this.

Now, in talking about the Lord's supper, this agape feast, they would always end the agape feast with the Lord's supper, or taking together of the bread and the cup. And so Paul said,

As I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread ( 1 Corinthians 11:23 ):

This phrase, "For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you," this should be a phrase that every minister of Jesus Christ should be able to use every time he stands up to talk to the church. "I have received of the Lord that which I have delivered unto you." That should always be the origin of the message that we bring. God having spoken to our hearts and now we impart that which God has spoken to us.

As we mentioned this morning, the first work of the Spirit in our lives is subjective. The second is objective. God works in me that He might work through me. I must partake in order that I might impart. That which I have received from the Lord I also delivered. That is always the true order in which God works. And that should always be the concern of every man of God who stands before the people of God as he talks to them of the things of God. That which I received of the Lord I also delivered unto you.

That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 ).

There are those who interpret the bread to be transubstantiated into the actual body of Christ by some miracle. However, it is important to note that when Jesus said this He was still in His body. And thus, it had to be a spiritualization, so that the bread becomes representative of the body of Christ. To me it represents the body of Christ. But it is not changed by some miracle into the actual physical body of Jesus. And the same is true of the cup. That is, it becomes to me a very poignant reminder of the body of Jesus broken for me and the blood of Jesus shed for my sins. I am to do it in remembrance of Him.

After the same manner also he took the cup, after their supper, and he said, This cup is a new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till he comes ( 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 ).

Notice he did not tell us how often we were to do it. In the early church, it seems that in some of them they did it once a week. These agape feasts were usually a weekly affair. Some churches today observe it once a week. It doesn't really matter how often you do it. It just does matter that every time you do it, that you do it in remembrance of Him, showing the Lord's death until He comes.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 11:27 ).

Now, he is talking about their coming together and they were getting drunk at these feasts. They were gorging themselves at the agape feasts and getting drunk, and then going right in and partaking of the body and the blood of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of communion.

A person when he is drunk oftentimes loses a lot of his inhibitions. He is not fully aware of what is going on. And to partake of the Holy Communion in this condition would be to do it in an unworthy fashion. This is what Paul is warning against.

When I was a child they interpreted this as saying that you have to be worthy to partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and if you are taking it unworthily, you are drinking damnation to your own soul. There was more than once that I let the cup go by. I was really afraid to drink, because I thought, "Man, I'm not worthy." The problem was they usually served it Sunday morning and I didn't get saved till Sunday night...again, every Sunday night. I really did well for the statistics of those pastors. I was always concerned about my unworthiness. And when I really stopped to think about it, I would think, "Man, I am not worthy to partake of the body and blood of Jesus." So many times I would pass on communion. But my worthiness is not something that is predicated upon my goodness, my works or my efforts, but it is on the grace of God and my believing in Jesus Christ. Thus, I partake freely today, because I believe in Him and I rest in His grace. You talk about truly being worthy, in that sense, I never have been, but by the grace of God I stand through faith in Jesus Christ.

What Paul is referring to here is the manner in which they were eating and drinking. It was disgraceful. Paul is rebuking them for it.

Therefore whosoever shall eat the bread, and drink the cup of the Lord, in an unworthily fashion [or an unworthy way], shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. So let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and some have even died ( 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 ).

There is another possible interpretation for this that I have heard suggested, and it does have merit. That is, partaking of the Lord's body without discerning the Lord's body. Because people partake of it not discerning the Lord's body, many are weak and sickly and some have even died. The suggestion has been made, what does the broken bread truly symbolize? Jesus said, "This is My body broken for you." What was meant by that? When was the body of Christ broken?

We read that because it was the preparation for the Sabbath the Jews came to Pilate that they might have permission to break the legs of the prisoners that their bodies would not be hanging on the Sabbath day, and so Pilate gave them permission. They broke the legs of both of the thieves on either side of Jesus, but when they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead. So they did not break His legs, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled that says, "Not a bone of Him shall be broken." You see, under the law you could not offer to God a lamb for a sacrifice that had any broken bones. So in keeping with the type of the Lamb of God for the sin of the world, He could not have broken bones. So one of the soldiers took his spear and thrust it in His side, into His heart, to make sure that He was dead. And when he pulled the spear out there came out blood and water.

If they did not break His legs so the scriptures might be fulfilled that not a bone of Him was broken, then what did He mean, "This is my body broken for you"? When was the body of Jesus broken? And how was it broken? There is one event related to the cross that the scripture in the New Testament only refers to in the gospels, "And Pilate took Him and scourged Him."

The scourging was a method of interrogation by the Roman government, and those who were to be crucified were usually scourged before their crucifixion. They were tied to a post, leaning over so that their back was exposed and stretched out. A Roman soldier would take a whip in which were embedded little bits of glass and lead, and he would lay the whip across the back of the prisoner. The idea in interrogation was that the prisoner would then call out a crime that he had committed. And every time they would lay a stripe on his back, if he would cry out a crime, they would lay it a little softer and a little softer. But if he would not confess to a crime, then each time they would lay the whip across his back, they would lay it on harder and harder until the back was completely ripped to shreds. It looked like hamburger. By this method of interrogation the Roman government was able to solve a lot of their unsolved crimes. It was a common practice.

You remember when Paul the apostle was caught in the temple by the Jews and they were trying to kill him when the captain of the guard, Lysias, came down with a bunch of Roman soldiers and rescued Paul. When they got back up to the steps of the Antonio Fortress, Paul said, "Can I speak to these guys?" He said, "You speak Greek?" And Paul said, "Of course." He said, "Aren't you that Egyptian?" He said, "No," and gave his background, and started speaking to the people in Hebrew, which the captain could not understand. As Paul was talking to the people, suddenly they went into a rage. They started throwing dirt in the air. They started calling out. They started ripping off their clothes. And Lysias said to the soldiers, "Get him inside quickly." And then sort of turning in a matter-of-fact way said, "Scourge him to find out what he said," interrogate him with the scourging process. So as the guy started to tie Paul to scourge him, Paul said, "Is it lawful to scourge a Roman citizen who has not been condemned?" The guy said, "Are you a Roman citizen?" Paul said, "Yes." So he ran and told the captain, Lysias, and said, "That guy is a Roman citizen." So he came to Paul and said, "Are you a Roman citizen?" And Paul said, "You bet I am." He said, "I bought my citizenship. It cost me quite a bit of money. How much did you have to pay?" Paul said, "I was free born." So he was fearful and untied Paul and did not scourge him because there was a law that no Roman citizen could be scourged without charges first having been filled against him. But it was the third degree, the Roman method of interrogation.

Now Jesus, according to Isaiah, "As a lamb before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth" ( Isaiah 53:7 ). Pilate scourged Him. He had laid upon Him thirty-nine lashes or stripes. This was no accident. This was something that was prophesied in the book of Isaiah, when Isaiah prophesied of His death. He said, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquity. The chastisement of our peace is upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed" ( Isaiah 53:5 ).

So through the broken body of Christ we were healed. He suffered for us. So that he who eats of the body of Christ not discerning the Lord's body does not take and receive that healing provided for through the suffering of Jesus. And for this cause a lot of people are sick, a lot of people are weak; some have even died. You could have been healed if you had only appropriated the work of Jesus Christ. But they have not discerned the Lord's body when they took the broken bread.

I think that there is a lot of validity to this position. There are those that object to it, but I really feel that an honest evaluation of the scriptures does lend a lot of validity to that position. I personally take it. I believe that there are a lot of people who could be healed if they would just appropriate that work of Jesus Christ.

Now Paul told us to examine ourselves when we eat the bread. Take a look at yourself.

For if we would judge ourselves, [he said] we would not be judged of God ( 1 Corinthians 11:31 ).

It is a very serious thing the partaking of the body of Jesus Christ and of the blood of Jesus Christ. We should really examine our hearts before we do so and always do it in a very reverent and worshipful manner.

But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 11:32 ),

So Paul is probably talking about some of the sicknesses and the weaknesses that people have as they have eaten and drunk in an unworthy manner. So when we are judged, God chastens us for what purpose?

that we would not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait one for another ( 1 Corinthians 11:32-33 ).

Don't rush to the head of the table to fill your plate and disregard others that are there. Wait for each other.

And if any man is hungry, let him eat at home; that you come not together unto condemnation [to just gorge yourselves]. And the rest I will take care of when I get there ( 1 Corinthians 11:34 ). "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Smith's Bible Commentary".​commentaries/​csc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

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.

But I would have you know: It appears that Paul is now giving additional instructions to what he has previously taught about the headship. As noticed in verse 2, some of the Corinthians had not properly understood and obeyed these teachings; therefore, Paul teaches more about this crucial subject.

The words "would have" (thelo) mean to be "determined" (Thayer 285-2-2309). Paul is determined for everyone to understand the teaching found in this chapter about headship. The Revised Standard Version renders this passage: "But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God."

that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God: Paul speaks of the headship three times by referring to the word "head" (kephale), which means "to rule over...has authority over...or is chief of" (Bratcher 103). The word "head" includes having dominion. In all areas of life, someone must have authority; therefore, others must be submissive. In verse 3, Paul speaks of three areas of life and the one who has authority in each:

1.    In the family, man is the head.

2.    In the church (which rules the family), Christ is the head.

3.    In the universe (which rules all), God is the head.

The same relationship exists between man and woman as between Christ and man and between God and Christ. Paul clearly states that God’s ladder of authority shows that God is supreme, followed by Christ, then man, and finally woman. The fact that God is the head of Christ is documented by Paul:

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (15:27-28).

The fact that Christ is the head of every man is clearly seen in Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 1:18, and Colossians 2:19. Also, the undeniable fact that man is the head of woman is seen in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).

It appears that some of the Christian women in Corinth were claiming equality with man in all areas of life (possibly from a misunderstanding of Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 where he says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus").

There is no contradiction between Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 11:3. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is speaking of woman’s submissiveness in a social position, and in Galatians he is speaking of all people being one in the sense of being united in Jesus Christ.

The passage in Galatians denotes the unity, and not necessarily the equality, of man and woman. The nature of the apostle’s argument in that passage is not such as to involve any question of equality of condition. He starts with the difference between Jews and Gentiles, and shows that it is not such as will make the obtaining of salvation, or of the blessings of salvation, different in the two. Then he passes from this to the other distinctions of race, condition, and sex, showing the same thing in reference to them. All this would not affect the question here considered, of social position and relative rank (Gould 94).

Paul is now determined for everyone to understand the truth about this matter--man is the head of woman, and woman is to be submissive to man! Woman’s subjection to man does not mean that man has more intelligence or capabilities, nor that man is superior; but, instead, God placed man in authority over the woman because of the order of creation. Paul says, "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" (11:8-9). The subordination of the woman to man is rooted in creation and caused by Eve’s being deceived, as Paul teaches in 1 Timothy:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (2:11-15).

This order of authority was originally set up in the beginning of time. "Unto the woman he said,...thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16). An example of a Godly woman’s subjection to her husband can be seen in the lives of Abraham and Sarah.

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement (1 Peter 3:5-6).

Verse 3 establishes the order of authority. But this arrangement does not give man the right to abuse his wife physically or verbally. Paul says, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Colossians 3:19). Man should never take the "it’s my way or no way" attitude. Instead, he should always treat his wife as he desires Christ (his head) to treat him. Paul again says, "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23). In the same way that Christ is head of the church, man is the head of woman.

It is important, in order to understand Paul’s teaching correctly, that we keep in mind that even though Christ is the "head" and is man’s supreme, His love has always been so great that He has never abused man, but on the contrary, He died for man. Paul, likewise, instructs man to follow this example of Christ: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). Man would never abuse his authority if he would commit to memory and practice Paul’s words as he says, "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself" (Ephesians 5:28). On the other hand, it is just as important for the wife to respect her husband’s authority. Paul teaches, "As the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:24). Paul also says, "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18).

Even though God’s order of authority has woman in subjection to man, Paul reminds them that they are both essential for future existence. Neither can exist without the other. Later in this chapter Paul says,

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God (11:11-12).

Basically, verse 3 is the foundation of Paul’s teachings in verses 4-16. Everything that Paul has to say about men being uncovered and women being covered is spoken of in reference to headship.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Contending for the Faith".​commentaries/​ctf/1-corinthians-11.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. The argument from culture 11:2-6

Paul introduced the first of the two subjects he dealt with in this chapter, the Corinthian women’s participation in church worship, with praise. He did not introduce the second subject this way (1 Corinthians 11:17; 1 Corinthians 11:22). As with the other sections of this epistle, we can see the influence of Corinthian culture and worldview in this one, particularly in the behavior of the women in the church.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

C. Propriety in worship 11:2-16

This section and the next (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) deal with subjects different from meat offered to idols, but Paul did not introduce them with the phrase "now concerning." These were additional subjects about which he wanted to give the Corinthians guidance. He had evidently learned of the Corinthians’ need for instruction in these matters either through their letter to him, from the messengers that brought that letter to him, or from other sources.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

"But" indicates that things were not quite as Paul thought they should be. He began dealing with his subject by reminding the Corinthians again (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 8:6) of God’s administrative order. This is the order through which He has chosen to conduct His dealings with humans.

Jesus Christ is the head of every male human being (Gr. aner). Second, the male is the head of woman (Gr. gune). This Greek word for woman is very broad and covers women of any age, virgins, married women, or widows. Paul used it earlier in this epistle of a wife (1 Corinthians 7:3-4; 1 Corinthians 7:10-12; 1 Corinthians 7:14; 1 Corinthians 7:16). In this chapter it evidently refers to any woman who was in a dependent relationship to a man such as a wife to a husband or a daughter to a father. Paul probably did not mean every woman universally since he said the male is the head of woman, or a woman, but not the woman. He was evidently not talking about every relationship involving men and women, for example the relationship between men and women in the workplace. Third, God the Father is the head of God the Son. This shows that headship exists even within the Godhead.

The New Testament uses the term "head" (Gr. kephale) to describe headship in two ways. Sometimes it describes origin (source), and other times it describes authority (leader). Some scholars favor one interpretation and others the other. [Note: For helpful studies, see Stephen Bedale, "The Meaning of kephale in the Pauline Epistles," Journal of Theological Studies NS5 (1954):211-15; Paul S. Fiddes, "’Woman’s Head Is Man:’ A Doctrinal Reflection upon a Pauline Text," Baptist Quarterly 31:8 (October 1986):370-83; Wayne Grudem, "Does kephale (’Head’) Mean ’Source’ or ’Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A survey of 2,336 Examples," Trinity Journal 6NS (1985):38-59; idem. "The Meaning of kephale: A Response to Recent Studies," Trinity Journal 11NS (1990):3-72; and idem, "The Meaning of kephale (’head’): An Evaluation of New Evidence, Real and Alleged," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44:1 (March 2001):25-65.] Both meanings are true to reality, so it is difficult to decide what Paul meant here.

In favor of the origin view, it is true that Christ created mankind, Eve came from Adam, and Christ came from the Father in the Incarnation to provide redemption. In favor of the authority view, humanity is under Christ’s authority, God created woman under man’s authority, and the Son is under the Father’s authority. The idea of origin is more fundamental than that of authority. Also "head" occurs later in this passage with the idea of source (1 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Corinthians 11:12), so origin may be the preferable idea here too. [Note: Barrett, p. 248.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 11

THE LIMITS OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM ( 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ; 1 Corinthians 11:1 )

11:1 All things are allowed to me, but all things are not good for me. All things are allowed, but all things do not build up. Let no one think only of his own good, but let him think of the good of the other man too. Eat everything that is sold in the market place, and don't ask fussy questions for conscience sake; for the earth and its fulness belong to god. If one of the pagans invites you to a meal, and you are willing to go, eat anything that is put before you, and don't ask questions for conscience sake. But if anyone says to you, "This is meat that was part of a sacrifice," don't eat it, for the sake of him who told you and for conscience sake. I don't mean your own conscience, but the conscience of the other man, for why has my liberty to be subject to the judgment of any man's conscience? If I partake of something after I have given thanks for it, how can I unjustly be criticized for eating that for which I gave thanks? So then, whether you eat or whether you drink or whatever you do, do all things to God's glory. Live in such a way that you will cause neither Jew nor Greek nor church member to stumble, just as I in all things try to win the approval of all men, for I am not in this job for what I can get out of it, but for what benefits I can bring to the many, that they may be saved. So then show yourselves to be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Paul brings to an end this long discussion of the question of meat offered to idols with some very practical advice.

(i) His advice is that a Christian can buy anything that is sold in the shops and ask no questions. It was true that the meat sold in the shops might well have formed part of a sacrifice or have been slaughtered in the name of some god lest the demons enter into it; but it is possible to be too fussy and to create difficulties where none need exist. After all, in the last analysis, all things are God's.

(ii) If the Christian accepts an invitation to dinner in the house of a pagan, let him eat what is put before him and ask no questions. But, if he is deliberately informed that the meat is part of a sacrifice, he must not eat it. The assumption is that he is told by one of these brothers who cannot rid his conscience of the feeling that to eat such meat is wrong. Rather than bring worry to such a man the Christian must not eat.

(iii) So once again out of an old and remote situation emerges a great truth. Many a thing that a man may do with perfect safety as far as he himself is concerned, he must not do if it is going to be a stumbling-block to someone else. There is nothing more real than Christian freedom; but Christian freedom must be used to help others and not to shock or hurt them. A man has a duty to himself but a still greater duty to others.

We must note to where that duty extends.

(i) Paul insisted that a Corinthian Christian must be a good example to the Jews. Even to his enemies a man must be an example of the fine things.

(ii) The Corinthian Christian had a duty to the Greeks; that is to say he had to show a good example to those who were quite indifferent to Christianity. It is in fact by that example that many are won. There was a minister who went far out of his way to help a man who had nothing to do with the Church and rescued him from a difficult situation. That man began to come to Church and in the end made an astonishing request. He asked to be made an elder that he might spend his life showing his gratitude for what Christ through his servant had done for him.

(iii) The Corinthian Christian had a duty to his fellow Church member. It is the plain fact of life that somebody takes the cue for his conduct from everyone of us. We may not know it; but a younger or a weaker brother is often looking to us for a lead. It is our duty to give that lead which will strengthen the weak and confirm the waverer and save the tempted from sin.

We can do all things to the glory of God only when we remember the duty we must discharge to our fellow men; and we will do that only when we remember that our Christian freedom is given to us not for our own sake but for the sake of others.

1 Corinthians 11:1-34; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 are amongst the most difficult in the whole epistle for a modem person in the western world to understand; but they are also among the most interesting, for they deal with the problems which had arisen in the Corinthian Church in connection with public worship. In them we see the infant Church struggling with the problem of offering a fitting and a seemly worship to God. It will make the section easier to follow if we set out at the beginning the various parts of which it is composed.

(i) 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 deals with the problem of whether or not women should worship with their heads uncovered.

(ii) 1 Corinthians 11:17-23 deals with problems which have arisen in connection with the Agape ( G26) or Love Feast, the weekly common meal which the Christian congregation held.

(iii) 1 Corinthians 11:24-34 deals with the correct observance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

(iv) 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 discusses the problem of welding into one harmonious whole those who possess all kinds of different gifts. It is here that we have the great picture of the Church as the Body of Christ, and of each member as a limb in that body.

(v) 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 is the great hymn of love which shows men the more excellent way.

(vi) 1 Corinthians 14:1-23 deals with the problem of speaking with tongues.

(vii) 1 Corinthians 14:24-33 insists on the necessity of orderliness in public worship and seeks to bring under necessary discipline the overflowing enthusiasm of a newly born Church.

(viii) 1 Corinthians 14:24-36 discusses the place of women in the public worship of God in the Church of Corinth.

THE NECESSARY MODESTY ( 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 )

11:2-16 I praise you because you remember me in all things and because you hold fast to the traditions as I handed them down to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and that the man is the head of the woman, and that God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or preaches with his head covered shames his head. Every woman who prays or preaches with her head uncovered shames her head, for she is in exactly the same case as a woman whose head has been shaved; for, if a woman does not cover her head, let her have her hair cut also. If it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or to be shaved, let her have her head covered. A man ought not to cover his head because he is the image and the glory of God; but woman is the glory of man; for the man did not come from the woman but the woman from the man; for the man was not created for the sake of the woman but woman for the sake of man. For this reason a woman ought to retain upon her head the sign that she is under someone else's authority, for the sake of the angels. All the same it is true that, in the Lord, woman is nothing without man nor man without woman; for just as woman came from man, so man is born through woman, and all things are from God. Use your own judgment on this. Is it fitting for a woman to pray to God uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach us that it is a dishonour to a man if he lets his hair grow long? But if a woman lets her hair grow long it is her glory, because her hair was given to her for a covering. All the same, if anyone wishes to go on arguing for the sake of arguing, it is sufficient to say that we have no such custom, nor have the Churches of God.

This is one of these passages which have a purely local and temporary significance; they look at first sight as if they had only an antiquarian interest because they deal with a situation which has long since ceased to have any relevance for us; and yet such passages have a very great interest because they shed a flood of light on the domestic affairs and problems of the early Church; and, for him who has eyes to see, they have a very great importance, because Paul solves the problems by principles which are eternal.

The problem was whether or not in the Christian Church a woman had the right to take part in the service unveiled. Paul's answer was bluntly this--the veil is always a sign of subjection, worn by an inferior in the presence of a superior; now woman is inferior to man, in the sense that man is head of the household; therefore it is wrong for a man to appear at public worship veiled and equally wrong for a woman to appear unveiled. It is very improbable that in the twentieth century we are likely to accept this view of the inferiority and subordination of women. But we must read this chapter in the light not of the twentieth century but of the first, and as we read it we must remember three things.

(i) We must remember the place of the veil in the East. To this day eastern women wear the yashmak which is a long veil leaving the forehead and the eyes uncovered but reaching down almost to the feet. In Paul's time the eastern veil was even more concealing. It came right over the head with only an opening for the eyes and reached right down to the feet. A respectable eastern woman would never have dreamed of appearing without it. Writing in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, T. W. Davies says, "No. respectable woman in an eastern village or city goes out without it, and, if she does, she is in danger of being misjudged. Indeed English and American missionaries in Egypt told the present writer that their own wives and daughters when going about find it often best to wear the veil."

The veil was two things. (a) It was a sign of inferiority. (b) But it was also a great protection. 1 Corinthians 11:10 is very difficult to translate. We have translated it: "For this reason a woman ought to retain upon her head the sign that she is under someone else's authority," but the Greek literally means that a woman ought to retain "her authority upon her head." Sir William Ramsay explains it this way--"In Oriental lands the veil is the power and honour and dignity of the woman. With the veil on her head she can go anywhere in security and profound respect. She is not seen; it is a mark of thoroughly bad manners to observe a veiled woman in the street. She is alone. The rest of the people around are non-existent to her, as she is to them. She is supreme in the crowd.... But without the veil the woman is a thing of nought, whom anyone may insult.... A woman's authority and dignity vanish along with the all-covering veil that she discards."

In the East, then, the veil is all-important. It does not only mark the inferior status of a woman; it is the inviolable protection of her modesty and chastity.

(ii) We must remember the status of women in Jewish eyes. Under Jewish law woman was vastly inferior to man. She had been created out of Adam's rib ( Genesis 2:22-23) and she had been created to be the helpmeet of man ( Genesis 2:18). There was a Rabbinic piece of fanciful exegesis which said, "God did not form woman out of the head lest she should become proud; nor out of the eye lest she should lust; nor out of the ear lest she should be curious; nor out of the mouth lest she should be talkative; nor out of the heart lest she should be jealous; nor out of the hand lest she should be covetous; nor out of the foot lest she should be a wandering busybody; but out of a rib which was always covered; therefore modesty should be her primary quality."

It is the unfortunate truth that in Jewish law a woman was a thing and was part of the property of her husband over which he had complete rights of disposal. It was true that in the synagogue, for instance, women had no share whatever in the worship but were segregated completely from the men in a shut-off gallery or other part of the building. In Jewish law and custom it was unthinkable that women should claim any kind of equality with men.

In 1 Corinthians 11:10 there is the curious phrase that women should be veiled "for the sake of the angels." It is not certain what this means, but probably it goes back to the strange old story in Genesis 6:1-2 which tells how the angels fell a prey to the charms of mortal women and so sinned; it may well be that the idea is that the unveiled woman is a temptation even to the angels, for an old Rabbinic tradition said that it was the beauty of women's long hair which tempted the angels.

(iii) It must always be remembered that this situation arose in Corinth, probably the most licentious city in the world. Paul's point of view was that in such a situation it was far better to err on the side of being too modest and too strict rather than to do anything which might either give the heathen a chance to criticize the Christians as being too lax or be a cause of temptation to the Christians themselves.

It would be quite wrong to make this passage of universal application; it was intensely relevant to the Church of Corinth but it has nothing to do with whether or not women should wear hats in church at the present day. But for all its local significance it has three great permanent truths in it.

(i) It is always better to err on the side of being too strict than on the side of being too lax. It is far better to abandon rights which may be a stumbling-block to some than to insist on them. It is the fashion to decry convention; but a man should always think twice before he defies it and shocks others. True, he must never be the slave of convention, but conventions do not usually come into being for nothing.

(ii) Even after he has stressed the subordination of women, Paul goes on to stress even more directly the essential partnership of man and woman. Neither can live without the other. If there be subordination, it is in order that the partnership may be more fruitful and more lovely for both.

(iii) Paul finishes the passage with a rebuke to the man who argues for the sake of argument. Whatever the differences that may arise between men, there is no place in the Church for the deliberately contentious man or woman. There is a time to stand on principle; but there is never a time to be contentiously argumentative. There is no reason why people should not differ and yet remain at peace.

THE WRONG KIND OF FEAST ( 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 )

11:17-22 When I give you this instruction, I am not praising you, because when you meet together it is actually doing you more harm than good. Firstly, I hear that when you meet together in assembly, there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. There are bound to be differences of opinion among you, so that it may become clear which of you are of tried and sterling quality. So then when you assemble together in the same place it is certainly not the Lord's meal that you eat; for each of you, when you eat, is in a hurry to get his own meal first, and the result is that some go hungry and some drink until they are drunk. Have you not your own houses for eating and drinking? Have you no reverence for the assembly of God? Are you going to shame those who are poor? What am I to say to you? Am I to commend you in this? I certainly do not.

The ancient world was in many ways much more social than ours is. It was the regular custom for groups of people to meet together for meals. There was, in particular, a certain kind of feast called an eranos to which each participant brought his own share of the food, and in which all the contributions were pooled to make a common meal. The early Church had such a custom, a feast called the Agape ( G26) or Love Feast. To it all the Christians came, bringing what they could, the resources were pooled and they sat down to a common meal. It was a lovely custom; and it is to our loss that the custom has vanished. It was a way of producing and nourishing real Christian fellowship.

But in the Church at Corinth things had gone sadly wrong with the Love Feast. In the Church there were rich and poor; there were those who could bring plenty, and there were slaves who could bring hardly anything at all. In fact for many a poor slave the Love Feast must have been the only decent meal in the whole week. But in Corinth the art of sharing had got lost. The rich did not share their food but ate it in little exclusive groups by themselves, hurrying through it in case they had to share, while the poor had next to nothing. The result was that the meal at which the social differences between members of the Church should have been obliterated only succeeded in aggravating these same differences. Unhesitatingly and unsparingly Paul rebukes this.

(i) It may well be that the different groups were composed of those who held different opinions. A great scholar has said, "To have religious zeal, without becoming a religious partisan, is a great proof of true devotion." When we think differently from a man, we may in time come to understand him and even to sympathize with him, if we remain in fellowship with him and talk things over with him; but, if we shut ourselves off from him and form our own little group while he remains in his, there is never any hope of mutual understanding.

He drew a circle that shut me out--

Rebel, heretic, thing to flout--

But love and I had the wit to win--

We drew a circle that took him in.

(ii) The early Church was the one place in all the ancient world where the barriers were down. That world was very rigidly divided; there were the free men and the slaves; there were the Greeks and the barbarians--the people who did not speak Greek; there were the Jews and the Gentiles; there were the Roman citizens and the lesser breeds without the law; there were the cultured and the ignorant. The Church was the one place where all men could and did come together. A great Church historian has written about these early Christian congregations, "Within their own limits they had solved almost by the way the social problem which baffled Rome and baffles Europe still. They had lifted woman to her rightful place, restored the dignity of labour, abolished beggary, and drawn the sting of slavery. The secret of the revolution is that the selfishness of race and class was forgotten in the Supper of the Lord, and a new basis for society found in love of the visible image of God in men for whom Christ died."

A church where social and class distinctions exist is no true church at all. A real church is a body of men and women united to each other because all are united to Christ. Even the word used to describe the sacrament is suggestive. We call it the Lord's Supper; but supper is to some extent misleading. Usually to us it is not the main meal of the day. But the Greek word is deipnon ( G1173) . For the Greek the breakfast was a meal where all that was eaten was a little bread dipped in wine; the midday meal was eaten anywhere, even on the street or in a city square; the deipnon ( G1173) was the main meal of the day, where people sat down with no sense of hurry and not only satisfied their hunger but lingered long together. The very word shows that the Christian meal ought to be a meal where people linger long in each other's company.

(iii) A church is no true church if the art of sharing is forgotten. When people wish to keep things to themselves and to their own circle they are not even beginning to be Christian. The true Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little; he finds his greatest privilege not in jealously guarding his privileges but in giving them away.

THE LORD'S SUPPER ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 )

11:23-34 For I received of the Lord that which I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was being delivered up, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body which is for you; this do that you may remember me." In the same way, after the meal, he took the cup and said, "This cup is the new covenant and it cost my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, so that you will remember me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you do proclaim the death of the Lord until he will come. Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unfitting way is guilty of a sin against the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats and drinks as some of you do, eats and drinks judgment to himself, because he does not discern what the body means. It is because of this that many among you are ill and weak and some have died. But if we truly discerned what we are like we would not be liable to judgment. But in this very judgment of the Lord we are being disciplined that we may not be finally condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together wait for each other. If anyone is hungry let him eat at home, so that you may not meet together in such a way as to render yourselves liable to judgment. As for the other matters, I will put them in order when I shall have come.

No passage in the whole New Testament is of greater interest than this. For one thing, it gives us our warrant for the most sacred act of worship in the Church, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper; and, for another since the letter to the Corinthians is earlier than the earliest of the gospels, this is actually the first recorded account we possess of any word of Jesus.

The Sacrament can never mean the same for every person; but we do not need fully to understand it to benefit from it. As someone has said, "We do not need to understand the chemistry of bread in order to digest it and to be nourished by it." For all that we do well to try at least to understand something of what Jesus meant when he spoke of the bread and the wine as he did.

"This is my body," he said of the bread. One simple fact precludes us from taking this with a crude literalism. When Jesus spoke, he was still in the body; and there was nothing clearer than that his body and the bread were at that moment quite different things. Nor did he simply mean, "This stands for my body." In a sense that is true. The broken bread of the Sacrament does stand for the body of Christ; but it does more. To him who takes it into his hands and upon his lips with faith and love, it is a means not only of memory but of living contact with Jesus Christ. To an unbeliever it would be nothing; to a lover of Christ it is the way to his presence.

"This cup," said Jesus, in the usual version, "is the new covenant in my blood." We have translated it slightly differently, "This cup is the new covenant and it cost my blood." The Greek preposition en most commonly means in; but it can, and regularly does, mean at the cost or price of, especially when it translates the Hebrew preposition be. Now a covenant is a relationship entered into between two people. There was an old covenant between God and man and that old relationship was based on law. In it God chose and approached the people of Israel and became in a special sense their God; but there was a condition, that, if this relationship was going to last, they must keep his law. (compare Exodus 24:1-8). With Jesus a new relationship is opened to man, dependent not on law but on love, dependent not on man's ability to keep the law--for no man can do that--but on the free grace of God's love offered to men.

Under the old covenant a man could do nothing other than fear God for he was ever in default since he could never perfectly keep the law; under the new covenant he comes to God as a child to a father. However you look at things, it cost the life of Jesus to make this new relationship possible. "The blood is the life," says the law ( Deuteronomy 12:23); it cost Jesus' life, his blood, as the Jew would put it. And so the scarlet wine of the sacrament stands for the very life-blood of Christ without which the new covenant, the new relationship of man to God, could never have been possible.

This passage goes on to talk about eating and drinking this bread and wine unworthily. The unworthiness consisted in the fact that the man who did so did "not discern the Lord's body." That phrase can equally well mean two things; and each is so real and so important that it is quite likely that both are intended.

(i) It may mean that the man who eats and drinks unworthily does not realize what the sacred symbols mean. It may mean that he eats and drinks with no reverence and no sense of the love that these symbols stand for or the obligation that is laid upon him.

(ii) It may also mean this. The phrase the body of Christ again and again stands for the Church; it does so, as we shall see, in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. Paul has just been rebuking those who with their divisions and their class distinctions divide the Church; so this may mean that he eats and drinks unworthily who has never realized that the whole Church is the body of Christ but is at variance with his brother. Every man in whose heart there is hatred, bitterness, contempt against his brother man, as he comes to the Table of our Lord, eats and drinks unworthily. So then to eat and drink unworthily is to do so with no sense of the greatness of the thing we do, and to do so while we are at variance with the brother for whom also Christ died.

Paul goes on to say that the misfortunes which have fallen upon the Church at Corinth may be due to nothing else than the fact that they come to this sacrament while they are divided among themselves; but these misfortunes are sent not to destroy them but to discipline them and to bring them back to the right way.

We must be clear about one thing. The phrase which forbids a man to eat and drink unworthily does not shut out the man who is a sinner and knows it. An old highland minister seeing an old woman hesitate to receive the cup, stretched it out to her, saying, "Take it, woman; it's for sinners; it's for you." If the Table of Christ were only for perfect people none might ever approach it. The way is never closed to the penitent sinner. To the man who loves God and his fellow men the way is ever open, and his sins, though they be as scarlet, shall be white as snow.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible".​commentaries/​dsb/1-corinthians-11.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 11:3

But -- contrast.

Head of Christ -- Philippians 2:6; Equal, but Christ submits to God. Woman is to submit to man though equal.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". Gann's Commentary on the Bible.​commentaries/​gbc/1-corinthians-11.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But I would have you to know,.... Though they were mindful of him, and retained in memory many things he had declared among them, and kept the ordinances as delivered to them; yet there were some things in which they were either ignorant, or at least did not so well advert to, and needed to be put in mind of, and better informed about: and as the apostle was very communicative of his knowledge in every point, he fails not to acquaint them with whatsoever might be instructive to their faith, and a direction to their practice:

that the head of every man is Christ; Christ is the head of every individual human nature, as he is the Creator and Preserver of all men, and the donor of all the gifts of nature to them; of the light of nature, of reason, and of all the rational powers and faculties; he is the head of nature to all men, as he is of grace to his own people: and so he is as the Governor of all the nations of the earth, who whether they will or no are subject to him; and one day every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess that he is the Lord of all. Moreover, Christ is the head of every believing man; he is generally said to be the head of the church, and so of every man that is a member of it: he is a common public head, a representative one to all his elect; so he was in election, and in the covenant of grace; so he was in time, in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to, and entrance into heaven; and so he is now as an advocate and intercessor there: he is the political head of his people, or an head in such sense, as a king is the head of his nation: he is also an economical head, or in such sense an head as an husband is the head of his wife, and as a parent is the head of his family, and as a master is the head of his servants; for all these relations Christ sustains: yea, he is a natural head, or is that to his church, as an human head is to an human body: he is a true and proper head, is of the same nature with his body, is in union to it, communicates life to it, is superior to it, and more excellent than it. He is a perfect head, nothing is wanting in him; he knows all his people, and is sensible of their wants, and does supply them; his eye of love is always on them; his ears are open to their cries; he has a tongue to speak to them, and for them, which he uses; and he smells a sweet savour in them, in their graces and garments, though they are all his own, and perfumed by himself: there are no vicious humours in this head, flowing from thence to the body to its detriment, as from Adam to his posterity, whose head he was; but in Christ is no sin, nothing but grace, righteousness, and holiness, spring from him. There's no deformity nor deficiency in him; all fulness of grace dwells in him to supply the members of his body; he is an one, and only head, and an ever living and everlasting one.

And the head of the woman is the man, The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief; as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries.

And the head of Christ is God; that is, the Father, not as to his divine nature, for in respect to that they are one: Christ, as God, is equal to his Father, and is possessed of the same divine perfections with him; nor is his Father the head of him, in that sense; but as to his human nature, which he formed, prepared, anointed, upheld, and glorified; and in which nature Christ exercised grace on him, he hoped in him, he believed and trusted in him, and loved him, and yielded obedience to him; he always did the things that pleased him in life; he prayed to him; he was obedient to him, even unto death, and committed his soul or spirit into his hands: and all this he did as to his superior, considered in the human nature, and also in his office capacity as Mediator, who as such was his servant; and whose service he diligently and faithfully performed, and had the character from him of a righteous one; so that God is the head of Christ, as he is man and Mediator, and as such only.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible".​commentaries/​geb/1-corinthians-11.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Directions Concerning Attire; Female Subjection. A. D. 57.

      1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.   2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.   3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.   4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.   5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.   6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.   7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.   8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.   9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.   10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.   11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.   12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.   13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?   14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?   15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.   16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

      Paul, having answered the cases put to him, proceeds in this chapter to the redress of grievances. The Romans 11:1 of the chapter is put, by those who divided the epistle into chapters, as a preface to the rest of the epistle, but seems to have been a more proper close to the last, in which he had enforced the cautions he had given against the abuse of liberty, by his own example: Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ (Romans 11:1; Romans 11:1), fitly closes his argument; and the way of speaking in the Romans 11:2 looks like a transition to another. But, whether it more properly belong to this or the last chapter, it is plain from it that Paul not only preached such doctrine as they ought to believe, but led such a life as they ought to imitate. "Be ye followers of me," that is, "Be imitators of me; live as you see me live." Note, Ministers are likely to preach most to the purpose when they can press their hearers to follow their example. Yet would not Paul be followed blindly neither. He encourages neither implicit faith nor obedience. He would be followed himself no further than he followed Christ. Christ's pattern is a copy without a blot; so is no man's else. Note, We should follow no leader further than he follows Christ. Apostles should be left by us when they deviate from the example of their Master. He passes next to reprehend and reform an indecency among them, of which the women were more especially guilty, concerning which observe,

      I. How he prefaces it. He begins with a commendation of what was praiseworthy in them (Romans 11:2; Romans 11:2): I praise you, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you. Many of them, it is probable, did this in the strictest sense of the expression: and he takes occasion thence to address the body of the church under this good character; and the body might, in the main, have continued to observe the ordinances and institutions of Christ, though in some things they deviated from, and corrupted, them. Note, When we reprove what is amiss in any, it is very prudent and fit to commend what is good in them; it will show that the reproof is not from ill-will, and a humour of censuring and finding fault; and it will therefore procure the more regard to it.

      II. How he lays the foundation for his reprehension by asserting the superiority of the man over the woman: 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. Christ, in his mediatorial character and glorified humanity, is at the head of mankind. He is not only first of the kind, but Lord and Sovereign. He has a name above every name: though in this high office and authority he has a superior, God being his head. And as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of the whole human kind, so the man is the head of the tow sexes: not indeed with such dominion as Christ has over the kind or God has over the man Christ Jesus; but a superiority and headship he has, and the woman should be in subjection and not assume or usurp the man's place. This is the situation in which God has placed her; and for that reason she should have a mind suited to her rank, and not do any thing that looks like an affectation of changing places. Something like this the women of the church of Corinth seem to have been guilty of, who were under inspiration, and prayed and prophesied even in their assemblies, Romans 11:5; Romans 11:5. It is indeed an apostolical canon, that the women should keep silence in the churches (Romans 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12), which some understand without limitation, as if a woman under inspiration also must keep silence, which seems very well to agree with the connection of the apostle's discourse, Romans 14:1-23; Romans 14:1-23. Others with a limitation: though a woman might not from her own abilities pretend to teach, or so much as question and debate any thing in the church yet when under inspiration the case was altered, she had liberty to speak. Or, though she might not preach even by inspiration (because teaching is the business of a superior), yet she might pray or utter hymns by inspiration, even in the public assembly. She did not show any affectation of superiority over the man by such acts of public worship. It is plain the apostle does not in this place prohibit the thing, but reprehend the manner of doing it. And yet he might utterly disallow the thing and lay an unlimited restraint on the woman in another part of the epistle. These things are not contradictory. It is to his present purpose to reprehend the manner wherein the women prayed and prophesied in the church, without determining in this place whether they did well or ill in praying or prophesying. Note, The manner of doing a thing enters into the morality of it. We must not only be concerned to do good, but that the good we do be well done.

      III. The thing he reprehends is the woman's praying or prophesying uncovered, or the man's doing either covered, Romans 11:4; Romans 11:5. To understand this, it must be observed that it was a signification either of shame or subjection for persons to be veiled, or covered, in the eastern countries, contrary to the custom of ours, where the being bare-headed betokens subjection, and being covered superiority and dominion. And this will help us the better to understand,

      IV. The reasons on which he grounds his reprehension. 1. The man that prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonoureth his head, namely, Christ, the head of every man (Romans 11:3; Romans 11:3), by appearing in a habit unsuitable to the rank in which God has placed him. Note, We should, even in our dress and habits, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ. The woman, on the other hand, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head, namely, the man, Romans 11:3; Romans 11:3. She appears in the dress of her superior, and throws off the token of her subjection. She might, with equal decency, cut her hair short, or cut it close, which was the custom of the man in that age. This would be in a manner to declare that she was desirous of changing sexes, a manifest affectation of that superiority which God had conferred on the other sex. And this was probably the fault of these prophetesses in the church of Corinth. It was doing a thing which, in that age of the world, betokened superiority, and therefore a tacit claim of what did not belong to them but the other sex. Note, The sexes should not affect to change places. The order in which divine wisdom has placed persons and things is best and fittest: to endeavour to amend it is to destroy all order, and introduce confusion. The woman should keep to the rank God has chosen for her, and not dishonour her head; for this, in the result, is to dishonour God. If she was made out of the man, and for the man, and made to be the glory of the man, she should do nothing, especially in public, that looks like a wish of having this order inverted. 2. Another reason against this conduct is that the man is the image and glory of God, the representative of that glorious dominion and headship which God has over the world. It is the man who is set at the head of this lower creation, and therein he bears the resemblance of God. The woman, on the other hand, is the glory of the man (Romans 11:7; Romans 11:7): she is his representative. Not but she has dominion over the inferior creatures, as she is a partaker of human nature, and so far is God's representative too, but it is at second-hand. She is the image of God, inasmuch as she is the image of the man: For the man was not made out of the woman, but the woman out of the man,Romans 11:8; Romans 11:8. The man was first made, and made head of the creation here below, and therein the image of the divine dominion; and the woman was made out of the man, and shone with a reflection of his glory, being made superior to the other creatures here below, but in subjection to her husband, and deriving that honour from him out of whom she was made. 3. The woman was made for the man, to be his help-meet, and not the man for the woman. She was naturally, therefore, made subject to him, because made for him, for his use, and help, and comfort. And she who was intended to be always in subjection to the man should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, that looks like an affectation of equality. 4. She ought to have power on her head, because of the angels. Power, that is, a veil, the token, not of her having the power or superiority, but being under the power of her husband, subjected to him, and inferior to the other sex. Rebekah, when she met Isaac, and was delivering herself into his possession, put on her veil, in token of her subjection, Genesis 24:65. Thus would the apostle have the women appear In Christian assemblies, even though they spoke there by inspiration, because of the angels, that is, say some, because of the evil angels. The woman was first in the transgression, being deceived by the devil (1 Timothy 2:14), which increased her subjection to man, Genesis 3:16. Now, believe evil angels will be sure to mix in all Christian assemblies, therefore should women wear the token of their shamefacedness and subjection, which in that age and country, was a veil. Others say because of the good angels. Jews and Christians have had an opinion that these ministering spirits are many of them present in their assemblies. Their presence should restrain Christians from all indecencies in the worship of God. Note, We should learn from all to behave in the public assemblies of divine worship so as to express a reverence for God, and a content and satisfaction with that rank in which he has placed us.

      V. He thinks fit to guard his argument with a caution lest the inference be carried too far (Romans 11:11; Romans 11:12): Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord. They were made for one another. It is not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18), and therefore was a woman made, and made for the man; and the man was intended to be a comfort, and help, and defence, to the woman, though not so directly and immediately made for her. They were made to be a mutual comfort and blessing, not one a slave and the other a tyrant. Both were to be one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and this for the propagation of a race of mankind. They are reciprocal instruments of each other's production. As the woman was first formed out of the man, the man is ever since propagated by the woman (Romans 11:12; Romans 11:12), all by the divine wisdom and power of the First Cause so ordaining it. The authority and subjection should be no greater than are suitable to two in such near relation and close union to each other. Note, As it is the will of God that the woman know her place, so it is his will also that the man abuse not his power.

      VI. He enforces his argument from the natural covering provided for the woman (Romans 11:13-15; Romans 11:13-15): "Judge in yourselves--consult your own reason, hearken to what nature suggests--is it comely for a woman to pray to God uncovered? Should there not be a distinction kept up between the sexes in wearing their hair, since nature has made one? Is it not a distinction which nature has kept up among all civilized nations? The woman's hair is a natural covering; to wear it long is a glory to her; but for a man to have long hair, or cherish it, is a token of softness and effeminacy." Note, It should be our concern, especially in Christian and religious assemblies, to make no breach upon the rules of natural decency.

      VII. He sums up all by referring those who were contentious to the usages and customs of the churches, Romans 11:16; Romans 11:16. Custom is in a great measure the rule of decency. And the common practice of the churches is what would have them govern themselves by. He does not silence the contentious by mere authority, but lets them know that they would appear to the world as very odd and singular in their humour if they would quarrel for a custom to which all the churches of Christ were at that time utter strangers, or against a custom in which they all concurred, and that upon the ground of natural decency. It was the common usage of the churches for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was manifestly decent that they should do so. Those must be very contentious indeed who would quarrel with this, or lay it aside.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible".​commentaries/​mhm/1-corinthians-11.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

As usual, the introductory words (1 Corinthians 1:1-3) of the epistle give us no little intimation of that which is to follow. The apostle speaks of himself as such "called [to be ] an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God," but coupling a brother with him, "and Sosthenes our brother," he writes to "the church of God at Corinth" not to the saints, as was the case in the epistle to the Romans, but to the church at Corinth "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," as in the former epistle "called [to be] saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."

This will be found to lead the way into the main subject of the present communication. Here we must not look for the great foundations of Christian doctrine. There is the unfolding of the assembly in a practical way; that is, the church of God is not viewed here in its highest character. There is no more than an incidental glance at its associations with Christ. No notice is here taken of the heavenly places as the sphere of our blessing; nor are we given to hear of the bridal affections of Christ for His body. But the assembly of God is addressed, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called, "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." Thus room is left for the profession of the Lord's name. It is not, as in Ephesians, "to the saints which are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." There is no such closeness of application, nor intimacy, nor confidence in a really intrinsically holy character. Sanctified they were in Christ Jesus. They had taken the place of being separate, "calling upon the name of the Lord;" but the remarkable addition should be noticed by the way "with all that in every place call upon the name of the Lord, both theirs and ours." And this is the more notable, because if there be an epistle which the unbelief of Christendom tries more than another to annul in its application to present circumstances, it is this first letter to the Corinthians. Nor need we wonder. Unbelief shrinks from that which calls, now rather recalls, the saints to a due sense of their responsibility in virtue of their position as the church of God here below. Those at Corinth had forgotten it. Christendom has not merely forgotten but denied it, and so would fain treat a large part of that which will come before us tonight as a bygone thing. It is not disputed that God did thus work in times past; but they have not the smallest serious thought of submitting to its directions as authoritative for present duty. Yet who can deny that God has taken more care to make this plain and certain in the very frontispiece of this epistle than anywhere else? He is wise and right: man is not. Our place is to bow and believe.

There is another point also to be weighed in the next verses (4-8). The apostle tells them how he thanks his God always on their behalf, but refrains from any expression of thankfulness as to their state. He recognises their rich endowments on God's part. He owns how they had been given all utterance, and all knowledge, the working of the Spirit of God, and His power. This is exceedingly important; for there is a disposition often to consider that difficulties and disorder among the saints of God are due to a want of government and of ministerial power. But no amount of gift, in few or many, can of itself produce holy spiritual order. Disorder is never the result of weakness alone. This, of course, may be taken advantage of, and Satan may tempt men to assume the semblance of a strength they do not possess. No doubt assumption would produce disorder; but weakness simply (where it leads souls, as it should, to spread out their need before the Lord) brings in the gracious action of the Holy Ghost, and the unfailing care of Him who loves His saints and the assembly. It was not so at Corinth. Theirs was rather the display of conscious strength; but at the same time they lacked the fear of God, and the sense of responsibility in the use of what God had given them. They were like children disporting themselves with not a little energy that wrought in vessels which altogether failed in self-judgment. This was a source, and a main source, of the difficulty and disorder at Corinth. It is also of great importance to us; for there are those that continually cry out for increase of power as the one panacea of the church. What reflecting spiritual mind could doubt that God sees His saints are not able to bear it? Power in the sense in which we are now speaking of it that is, power in the form of gift is far from being the deepest need or the gravest desideratum of the saints. Again, is it ever the way of God to display Himself thus in a fallen condition of things? Not that He is restrained, or that He is not Sovereign. Not, moreover, that He may not give, and liberally as suits His own glory; but He gives wisely and holily, so as to lead souls now into exercise of conscience and brokenness of spirit, and thus keep and even deepen their sense of that to which God's church is called, and the state into which it has fallen.

At Corinth there was a wholly different state of things. It was the early rise of the church of God, if I may so say, among the Gentiles. And there was not wanting an astonishing sample of the power of the Spirit in witness of the victory that Jesus had won over Satan. This was now, or at least should have been, manifested by the church of God, as at Corinth. But they had lost sight of God's objects. They were occupied with themselves, with one another, with the supernatural energy which grace had conferred on them in the name of the Lord. The Holy Ghost in inspiring the apostle to write to them in no way weakens the sense of the source and character of that power. He insists on its reality, and reminds them that it was of God; but at the same time he brings in the divine aim in it all. "God," says he, "is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Immediately after he alludes to the schisms that were then at work among them, and calls on them to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment; informing them of the tidings which had reached him through the house of Chloe, that there were contentions among them, some saying, "I am of Paul," others "I am of Apollos;" some, "I am of Cephas," and others "I am of Christ himself." There is no abuse to which flesh cannot degrade the truth. But the apostle knew how to introduce the Lord's name and grace with the grandly simple but weighty facts of His person and work. It was unto His name that they were baptized; it was He that had been crucified. And be it observed, that from the first of this epistle it is the cross of Christ that has the prominence. It is not so much His blood-shedding, nor even His death and resurrection, but His cross. This would have been as much out of place in the beginning of Romans as the putting forward of propitiation would be out of place here. Expiation of sins by Christ, His death and resurrection, are given of God to be displayed before the saints, who needed to know the firm, immutable foundation of grace; but what the saints wanted most was to learn the gross inconsistency of turning to selfish ease, honour, and aggrandisement the privileges of God's church, and the power of the Spirit of God that wrought in its members.

It is the cross which stains the pride of man, and puts all his glory in the dust. Hence the apostle brings Christ crucified before them. This to the Jew was a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. These Corinthians were deeply affected by the judgment of both Jews and Greeks. They were under the influence of man. They had not realized the total ruin of nature. They valued those that were wise, scribes, or disputers of this world. They were accustomed to the schools of their age and country. They conceived that if Christianity did such great things when those who possessed it were poor and simple, what might it not do if it could only be backed by the ability, and the learning, and the philosophy of men! How it must ride triumphantly to victory! How the great must bow, and the wise be brought in! What a glorious change would result when not the unlettered poor only, but the great and the noble, the wise and the Prudent, were all joined in the confession of Jesus!

Their thoughts were fleshly, not of God. The cross writes judgment on man, and folly on his wisdom, as it is itself rejected by man as folly; for what could seem more egregiously unreasonable to a Greek than the God that made heaven and earth becoming a man, and, as such, crucified by the wicked hands of His creatures here below? That God should use His power to bless man was natural; and the Gentile could coalesce as to it with the Jew. Hence too, in the cross, the Jew found his stumbling-block; for he expected a Messiah in power and glory. Though the Jew and the Greek seemed opposite as the poles, from different points they agreed thoroughly in slighting the cross, and in desiring the exaltation of man as he is. They both, therefore, (whatever their occasional oppositions, and whatever their permanent variety of form,) preferred the flesh, and were ignorant of God the one demanding signs, the other wisdom. It was the pride of nature, whether self-confident or founded on religious claims.

Hence the apostle Paul, in the latter part of chap. 1, brings in the cross of Christ in contrast with fleshly wisdom, as well as religious pride, urging also God's sovereignty in calling souls as He will. He alludes to the mystery (1 Corinthians 2:1-16), but does not develop here the blessed privileges that flowed to us from a union with Christ, dead, risen, and ascended; but demonstrates that man has no place whatever, that it is God who chooses and calls, and that He makes, nothing of flesh. There is glorying, but it is exclusively in the Lord. No flesh should glory in his presence."

This is confirmed in1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, where the apostle reminds them of the manner in which the gospel had entered Corinth. He had come there setting his face against all things that would commend himself. No doubt, to one of such eminent ability and such varied gifts as the apostle Paul, it was hard, to speak after the manner of men, to be nothing. How much it must have called for self-denial utterly to decline that which he could have handled so well, and which people at Corinth would have hailed with loud acclamation. Just think of the great apostle of the Gentiles, on the immortality of the soul, giving free rein to the mighty spirit that was in him! But not so. What absorbed his soul, in entering, the intellectual and dissolute capital of Achaia, was the cross of Christ. He determined therefore, as he says, to know nothing else not exactly to know the cross alone, but "Jesus Christ and him crucified." It was emphatically, though not exclusively, the cross. It was not simply redemption, but along with this another order of truth. Redemption supposes, undoubtedly, a suffering Saviour, and the shedding of that precious blood which ransoms the captives. It is Jesus who in grace has undergone the judgment of God, and brought in the full delivering power of God for the souls that believe. But the cross is more than this. It is the death of shame pre-eminently. It is utter opposition to the thoughts, feelings, judgments, and ways of men, religious or profane. This is the part accordingly that he was led in the wisdom of God to put forward. Hence the feelings of the apostle were distrust of self, and dependence on God according to that cross. As he says, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." Thus, as Christ Himself is said in 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 to be crucified in weakness, such was also the servant here. His speech and his preaching was "not in enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Accordingly, in this chapter he proceeds to supplement the application of the doctrine of the cross to the state of the Corinthians by bringing in the Holy Ghost; for this again supposes the incapacity of man in divine things.

All is opened out in a manner full of comfort, but at the same time unsparing to human pride. Weigh from the prophecy of Isaiah the remarkable quotation "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." There is first the great standing fact before our eyes. Such is the Saviour to the saved. Christ crucified is the death-knell on all man's wisdom, and power, and righteousness. The cross writes total condemnation on the world. It was here the world had to say to Jesus. All that it gave Him was the cross. On the other hand, to the believer it is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because he humbly but willingly reads in the cross the truth of the judgment of his own nature as a thing to be delivered from, and finds Him that was crucified, the Lord Himself, undertaking a deliverance just, present, and complete; as he says, "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Flesh is absolutely put down. Man cannot go lower for weakness and ignominy than the cross on which hangs all the blessedness God gives the believer. And therein God is glorified as He is nowhere else. This in both its parts is exactly as it should be; and faith sees and receives it in Christ's cross. The state of the Corinthians did not admit of Christ risen being brought in, at least here. It might have drawn a halo, as it were, round human nature this presenting the risen man in the first instance. But he points to God as the source, and Christ as the channel and means, of all the blessing. "Of him," says he, "are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." But then, as he shows, there was not only this great source of blessing in Christ, but there is the power that works in us. Never is it the spirit of man that lays hold of this infinite good which God vouchsafes him. Man requires a divine power to work within him, just as he needs the Saviour outside himself

Accordingly, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, still carrying on the thought of Christ crucified, and connecting it with their condition, he intimates that he was in no wise limited to it. If persons were grounded in Christianity, he was prepared to go into the greatest depths of revealed truth; but then the power of entering safely was not human, but of the Holy Ghost. Man is no more capable of fathoming the depths of divine things than a brute can comprehend the works of human wit or science. This doctrine was utterly repulsive to the pride of the Greeks. They might admit man to have need of pardon, and of moral improvement. They fully admitted his want of instruction, and refinement, and, so to speak, of spiritualization, if it only might be. Christianity deepens our estimate of every want. Man not only wants a new life or nature, but the Holy Ghost. It is not merely His grace in a general sense, but the power of the Holy Ghost personally dwelling in him. It is this alone which can lead us into the deep things of God. And this, he lets us see, affects not merely this particular or that, but the whole working of divine grace and power in man. The whole and sole means of communicating blessing to us must be the Holy Ghost. Hence he insists, that as it is the Spirit of God in the first place who reveals the truth to us, so it is the same Spirit who furnishes suitable words, as, finally, it is through the Holy Ghost that one receives the truth revealed in the words He Himself has given. Thus, from first to last, it is a process begun, carried on, and completed by the Holy Ghost. How little this makes of man!

This introduces 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 and gives point to his rebukes. He taxes them with walking as men. How remarkable is such a reproach! Walking as men! Why, one might ask, how else could they walk? And this very difficulty as no doubt it would be to many a Christian now (that walking as men should be a reproach) was no doubt a clap of thunder to the proud but poor spirits at Corinth. Yes, walking as men is a departure from Christianity. It is to give up the distinctive power and place that belongs to us; for does not Christianity show us man judged, condemned, and set aside? On the faith of this, living in Christ, we have to walk. The Holy Ghost, besides, is brought in as working in the believer, and this, of course, in virtue of redemption by our Lord Jesus. And this is what is meant by being not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, which is proved by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.

Here the apostle does not explain all this, and he gives a very withering reason for his reticence. These Corinthians had an uncommonly good opinion of themselves, and so they must be told plainly the reason why he does not open out these deep things. They themselves were not fit; they were but babes. What! the polished Greek believers no more than babes! This was rather what they would have said of the apostle or of his teaching. They thought themselves far in advance. The apostle had dwelt on the elementary truths of the gospel. They yearned after the fire of Peter and the rhetoric of Apollos. No doubt they might easily flatter themselves it was to carry on the work of God. How little many a young convert knows what will best lead him on! How little the Corinthians dreamt of depreciating the Second man, or of exalting the first! Hence the apostle tells them that he could not speak unto them as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." Far from denying, he owns that their insinuation was true he had only brought before them elementary truths. They were not in a condition to bear more. Now this is full of meaning and importance practically at all times. We may damage souls greatly by presenting high truths to those that want the simplest rudiments of divine truth.

The apostle, as a wise master-builder, laid the foundation. The state of the Corinthians was such that he could not build on the foundation as he would have desired. His absence had given occasion for the breaking out of their carnal wishes after the world's wisdom. They were making even the ardour of a Peter and the eloquence of an Apollos to be a reason for dissatisfaction with one that, I need not say, was superior to both of them. But the apostle meets them in a way most unexpected to their self-satisfaction and pride, and lets them know that their carnality was the real reason why he could not go on with them into deeper things.

This leads him to point out the seriousness of the work or building; for he presents the church of God under this figure. What care each servant needs to take how and what he builds! What danger of bringing in that which would not stand the fire or judgment of God nay, further, of bringing in that which was not simply weak and worthless, but positively corrupting; for it was to be feared there were such elements even then at Corinth! Again he brings in another principle to bear upon them. Their party spirit, their feeling of narrowness, the disposition to set up this servant of Christ or that, was not only a dishonour to the Master, but a real loss to themselves. Not that there is any ground to suppose it was the fault of Peter or Apollos any more than of Paul. The evil was in the saints themselves, who indulged in their old zeal of the schools, and allowed their natural partiality to work. In point of fact this never can be without the most grievous impoverishment to the soul, as well as a hindrance to the Holy Ghost. What faith must learn is, that "all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; . . . . . all are yours." Thus the subject enlarges, as is his wont, taking in an immense breadth of the Christian's possessions life, death, things present, and things to come. "All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

This again brings in another point before the subject closes. He is not content with the pressing of responsibility on others; he had a solemn sense of his own place, which made him wonderfully independent of the judgments of men. Obedience gives firmness as well as humility. Not in the smallest degree was the pride of the Corinthians met by pride on his part, but by keeping the Lord and His will before his soul. Yet this is certainly true that this effect of faith looks like pride to a man who merely views things on the surface. The calm going on in the service of Christ, the endurance of this spirit or that, as no more than the idle wind, was no doubt exceedingly unpleasant to such as were wise in their own conceit, and valued the criticism they freely bestowed on the different servants of the Lord. But Paul sees all in the light of the eternal day. They had forgotten this, and were in a sense trafficking with these powers of the Spirit of God. They were making them the counters of a game they were playing in this world. They had forgotten that what God gives He gives in time, but in view of eternity. The apostle puts the truth of the case before their souls as he had it vividly before his own. (1 Corinthians 4:1-21)

Another thing is noticeable here. He had reproached them with walking not as Christians but as men (that is, with their habitual life and conversation formed on human principles instead of divine). On the other hand, it would appear from what follows, that they reproached the apostle in their hearts, not, of course, in so many words, with not being enough of a gentleman for their taste. This seems to me the gist of the fourth chapter. It was a thing that they considered quite beneath a Christian minister to work from time to time with his hands, often poor, occasionally in prison, knocked about by crowds, and so on. All this they thought the fruit of indiscretion and avoidable. They would have preferred respectability, public and private, in one who stood in the position of a servant of Christ. This the apostle meets in a very blessed way. He admitted that they were certainly not in such circumstances; they were reigning as kings. As for him it was enough to be the off-scouring of all men, this was his boast and blessedness. He wished that they did indeed reign that he might reign with them (that the blessed time might really arrive). How his heart would rejoice in that day with them! And surely the time will come, and they would all reign together when Christ reigns over the earth. But he quite admits that for the present the fellowship of Christ's sufferings was the place he had chosen. Of honour in the world, and ease for the flesh, he at least could not, if they could, boast. Present greatness was what he in no wise coveted; to suffer great things for His sake was what the Lord had promised, and what His servant expected in becoming an apostle. If his own service was the highest position in the church, his was certainly the lowest position in the world. This was as much an apostle's boast and glory as anything that God had given them. No answer can I conceive more telling to any one of his detractors at Corinth who had a heart and conscience.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 we enter on another and more painful part of the epistle. A fearful instance of sin had come to light, so gross, indeed, that the like was not even named among the Gentiles. In fact it was a case of incest, and this among those called of God, and sanctified in Christ Jesus! The question is not in the least raised whether the guilty person was a saint or not; still less does he allow that which one so often and painfully heard pleaded in extenuation, "Oh, but he [or she] is a dear Christian." Christian affection is most excellent; as brethren we should love even to laying down life for each other; as it is also very right that we should own the work God has wrought, above all what He has wrought in grace. But when one bearing the name of the Lord has, through unwatchfulness, fallen into wickedness, which of course grieves the Holy Ghost and stumbles the weak, it is not the time to talk thus. It is the time, in the very love that God implants, to deal sternly with that which has disgraced the name of the Lord. Is this to fail in love to the person? The apostle showed ere long that he had more love for this evildoer than any of them. The second epistle to the Corinthians entreats them to confirm their love to him whom they had put away. They were too hard against him then, as they were too loose now. Here their consciences needed to be roused. To deal with the matter they owed to the Lord Jesus. It was not merely getting rid of the obnoxious man. They had to prove themselves clear in the matter certainly; but he puts before them another course, whenever the guilty one had repented.

"I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already," etc. The case was most gross, and there was no question about it. The facts were indisputable; the scandal was unheard of. "I have judged already, as though present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." There was no discussion raised whether the person might be converted. The fact is, church discipline supposes and goes on the ground that those on whom it is exercised are Christians; but when it is a question of discipline, it is not the season for the display of Christian affection. This would falsify the conscience and turn the eye from off the point to which the Holy Ghost was directing attention. There was wickedness in their midst; and while known and unjudged, all were implicated; none could be clean till it was put away. Accordingly the apostle, while he expresses the desire that the spirit of the man should be saved in the day of the Lord, flesh being destroyed, at the same time rouses the saints to that which became the name of the Lord on the very ground that they were unleavened. If they were free from evil, let them act consistently. Let them preserve that purity in practice which was theirs in principle. They were unleavened, and therefore should be a new lump. Notoriously there was old leaven among them. What business had it there? "Put away from" not the table of the Lord merely, this he does not say, but "Put away from among yourselves." This is much stronger than expelling from the table. Of course, it implies exclusion from the Lord's table, but from their table too "with such an one, no, not to eat." An ordinary meal, or any such act expressive even in natural things of fellowship with the person thus dishonouring the Lord, is forbidden.

Mark, they must put away. It is not the apostle acting for them; for God took particular care that this case, demanding discipline to the uttermost, should be where the apostle was not. What an admirable instruction for us who have no longer an apostle! None can pretend that it was an assembly where there was a high degree of knowledge or spirituality. The very reverse was the case. The responsibility of discipline depends on our relationship as an assembly to the Lord, not on its changing states. The Corinthians were babes; they were carnal. He who loved them well could not speak of them as spiritual. Nevertheless, this responsibility attached to the very fact that they were members of Christ His body. If saints are gathered to the name of the Lord, and so are God's assembly, if they have faith to take such a position here below, and have the Holy Ghost owned as in their midst, this, and nothing short of this, is their responsibility; nor does the ruined state of the church touch the question, nor can it relieve them from their duty to the Lord. The church at Corinth had soon failed most gravely far and wide. This was the more shameful, considering the brightness of the truth vouchsafed to them, and the striking manifestation of divine power in their midst. The presence of apostles elsewhere in the earth, the beautiful display of Pentecostal grace at Jerusalem, the fact that so short a time had elapsed since they had been brought out of heathenism into their standing in God's grace, all made the present state of the Corinthians so much the more painful; but nothing can ever dissolve the responsibility of saints, whether as individuals or as an assembly. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

Another thing is to be observed, that the Holy Spirit's scale of sin is not that of man. Which of you, my brethren, would have thought of classing a railer with an adulterer? A railer is one who uses abusive language for the purpose of injuring another, not the transient out-breaking of flesh, sad as it is, but provoked it may be, or at any rate, happening through unwatchfulness. The habit of evil speaking stamps him who practises it as a railer; and such a man is unfit for the company of the saints, for God's assembly. It is the old leaven of malice and wickedness. He is unclean. Doubtless the world would not so judge; but this is not the world's judgment. The Corinthians were under the influence of the world. The apostle had already shown that to walk as men is beneath the Christian. Now we see that to walk as the world, no matter how refinedly, ever exposes Christians to act worse than men of the world. God has stamped upon His children the name of Christ; and what does not express His name is inconsistent, not only with the Christian, but with His assembly. They are all as such held responsible, according to the grace and holiness and glory of Christ, for the sin done in their midst, of which they are cognisant. They are bound to keep themselves pure in ways.

There was another case also: brother was going to law with brother. (1 Corinthians 6:1-20) We have no reason to think they had fallen so far as to go to law with those that were not brethren; this would seem to be a lower step still. But brother was going to law with brother, ,and this before the unjust. How often now-a-days one hears, "Well, one expects something better from a brother; and surely he ought to suffer the consequences of his ill-doing." This was just the feeling of the Corinthian plaintiff. What, then, is the weapon that the apostle uses in this case? The dignified place in the glory that God designs for the Christian: "Know ye not that we shall judge the world judge angels?" Were such going before the Gentiles? Thus is seen how practical all truth is, and how God casts the bright light of the approaching day on the smallest matters of the life of today.

Again, there was no quarter in the world where personal purity was more unknown than at Corinth. Indeed, such were the habits of the ancient world, it would only defile the ears and minds of God's children to have any proofs of the depravity in which the world then lay, and that too in its best estate, the wisest and the greatest not excepted, those, alas. whose writings are in the hands of the youth of our day, and more than ever, perhaps, in their hands. Those wits, poets, and philosophers of heathen antiquity lived in habitual, yea, often in unnatural grossness, and thought nothing of it. It is a danger for the saints of God to be tinctured by the atmosphere of the world outside when the first fervour of grace cools, and they begin to take up their old habits. It was certainly so at Corinth.

Accordingly the believers there were betrayed into their former uncleanness of life when the heavenly light got dim. And how does the apostle deal with this? He recalls to them the Holy Spirit's dwelling in them. What a truth, and of what force to the believer! He does not say simply that they were redeemed, though he brings it in also; still less does he merely reason on the moral heinousness of the sin; neither does he cite the law of God that condemned it. He presses upon them that which was proper to them as Christians. It was no question of man, let him be Gentile or Jew, but of a Christian. Thus he sets before them the distinctive Christian blessing the Holy Ghost dwelling in the believer, and making his body (not his spirit but his body) a temple of the Holy Ghost; for here was precisely where the enemy seems to have misled these Corinthians. They affected to think they might be pure in spirit, but do what they liked with their bodies. But, answers the apostle, it is the body which is the temple of the Holy Ghost. The body belongs to the Lord and Saviour; the body, therefore, and not the spirit only, He claims now. No doubt that the spirit be occupied with Christ is a grand matter; but the licentious flesh of man would talk, at any rate, about the Lord, and at the same time indulge in evil. This is set aside by the blessed fact that the Holy Ghost even now dwells in the Christian, and this on the ground of his being bought with a price. Thus the very call to holiness ever keeps the saint of God in the sense of his immense privileges as well as of his perfect deliverance.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 naturally leads from this into certain questions that had been proposed to the apostle touching marriage and slavery questions which had to do with the various relationships of life. The apostle accordingly gives us what he had learned from the Lord, as well as what he could speak of as a commandment of the Lord, distinguishing in the most beautiful manner, not between inspired and non-inspired, but between revelation and inspiration. All the word is inspired; there is no difference as to this. There is no part of Scripture that is less inspired than another. " All (every) scripture is given by inspiration of God;" but all is not His revelation. We must distinguish between parts revealed and the whole inspired. When a thing is revealed of God, it is absolutely new truth, and of course is the commandment of the Lord. But the inspired word of God contains the language of all sorts of men, and very often the conversation of wicked men nay, of the devil I need not say that all this is not a revelation; but God communicates what Satan and wicked men say (as for instance Pilate's words to our Lord and the Jews). None of these evidently was that which is called a revelation; but the Holy Ghost inspired the writers of the book to give us exactly what each of these said, or revealed what was in the mind of God about them. Take, for example, the book of Job, in which occur the sayings of his friends. What intelligent reader could think that they were in any way authorised communicators of the mind of God? They say sometimes very wrong things, and sometimes wise, and often things that do not in the smallest degree apply to the case. Every word of the book of Job is inspired; but did all the speakers utter necessarily the mind of God? Did not one of the speakers condemn one or other of the rest? Need one reason on such facts? This, no doubt, makes a certain measure of difficulty for a soul at the first blush; but on maturer consideration all becomes plain and harmonious, and the word of God is enhanced in our eyes.

And so it is in this chapter, where the apostle gives both the commandment of the Lord, and his own matured spiritual judgment, which he expressly says was not the commandment of the Lord. Still he was inspired to give his judgment as such. Thus the whole chapter is inspired, one part of it just as much as another. There is no difference in inspiration. What was written by the different inspired instruments is of God as absolutely as if He had written it all without them. There is no degree in the matter. There can be no difference in inspiration. But in the inspired word of God there is not always revelation. Sometimes it is a record which the Spirit gave a man to make of what he had seen and heard, sometimes he recorded by the Spirit what no man could have seen or heard. Sometimes it was a prophecy of the future, sometimes a communication of God's present mind according to His eternal purpose. But all is equally and divinely inspired.

The apostle then lays down at least as far as may be here briefly sketched that while there are cases where it is a positive duty to be married, undisguisedly there was a better place of undivided devotedness to Christ. Blessed is he who is given. thus to serve the Lord without let: still it must be the gift of God. The Lord Jesus had laid down the same principle Himself. InMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30, it is needless to say, you have the selfsame truth in another form.

Again, while the Lord employs the apostle thus to give us both His own commandment and His mind, the general principle is stated as to the relationships of life. It is broadly laid down that one should remain in that condition in which he is called, and for a very blessed reason. Supposing one were a slave even, he is already, if a Christian, a freeman of Christ. You must remember that in these days there were everywhere bondmen: those that then ruled the. world took them from all classes and all countries There were bondmen highly educated, and once in a high position of life. Need it be said that often these bondmen rose up against their cruel masters? The very knowledge of Christ, and the possession of conscious truth, if grace did not counteract mightily, would tend to increase their sense of horror at their position. Suppose, for instance, a refined person, with the truth of God communicated to his soul, was the slave of one living in all the filth of heathenism, what a trial it would be to serve in such a position! The apostle urges the truth of that liberty in Christ which Christendom has well-nigh forgotten that if I am Christ's servant I am emancipated already. Match if you can the manumission he has got. Twenty millions will procure no such emancipation. At the same time, if my master allows me liberty, let me use it rather. Is it not a remarkable style of speech and feeling? The Christian, even if a slave, possesses the best freedom after all: anything else is but circumstantial. On the other hand, if you are a freeman, take care how you use your liberty: use it as the Lord's bondman. The freeman is reminded of his bondmanship; the bondman is reminded of his freedom. What a wonderful antithesis of man is the Second Man! How it traverses all the thoughts, circumstances, and hopes of flesh!

Then he brings before us the different relationships at the end of the chapter, as they are affected by the coming of the Lord. And there is nothing which shows more the importance of that hope as a practical power. There is not only the direct but the indirect allusion when the heart is filled with an object; and the indirect is a yet stronger witness of the place it holds than the direct. A mere hint connects itself with that which is your joy and constant expectation; whereas when a thing is little before the heart you require to explain, prove, and insist upon it. But this chapter brings vividly before them how all outward things pass away, even the fashion of this world. Time is short. It is too late either to make much of scenes so changing, or to seek this thing or that here below with such a morrow before our eyes. Hence he calls on those who had wives to be as those who had none, on those who were selling and buying to be above all the objects that made up the sum of business. In short, he puts Christ and His coming as the reality, and all else as the shadows, transitions, movements of a world that even now crumbles underneath us. No wonder that he follows all up at the end with his own judgment, that the man most blessed is he who has the least entanglement, and is the most thoroughly devoted to Christ and His service.

Next in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 he begins to take up another danger for the Corinthian saints. They had the sound of the truth ringing in their ears; and assuredly there are few sounds sweeter than the liberty of the Christian. But what is more liable to abuse? They had abused power to self-exaltation; they were now turning liberty to license. But there is a solemn fact which none can afford to forget as to both power and liberty that without responsibility nothing is more ruinous than either. Herein lay the sad failure of these saints. In the sense of responsibility they were utterly wanting They seem to have forgotten completely that the Lord from whom the liberty had come is the One in whose sight, and for whose glory, and according to whose will, all power was to be used. The apostle recalls them to this; but he takes up their license in going into heathen temples, and eating things offered to idols, not first of all on the high ground of the Lord, but on account of their brethren. In their boasted liberty, and because they knew an idol was nothing, they considered that they might go anywhere, and do what they pleased. Nay, not so, cries the apostle; you must consider your brother. There is many a disciple who, far from knowing how vain idolatry is, thinks a good deal of the idol. Thus, you that know so much, if you make light of going here and there, will induce other disciples to follow your steps who may slip into idolatry through it, and thus a brother perish for whom Christ died; and what is the liberty of one who is instructed may prove the extreme ruin of one who is equally a believer in the Lord. Thus he looks at the thing in its full character and ultimate tendency if unchecked. Grace, as we know, can arrest these tendencies, and avert the evil results.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 he interrupts the course of his argument by an appeal to his own place as an apostle. Some were beginning to question his apostolate. It was not that he in the slightest degree forgot his call by God's will to that special service; neither was he insensible to the blessed liberty in which he was serving the Lord. He could lead about a sister-wife like another; he had foregone this for the Lord's sake. He could look for support from the church of God; he preferred to work with his own hands. So in the second epistle to the Corinthians he begs them to forgive the wrong; for he would not accept anything from them. They were not in a condition to be entrusted with such a gift. Their state was such, and God had so overruled it in His ways, that the apostle had received nothing from them. This fact he uses in order to humble them because of their pride and licentiousness.

The course of this chapter then touches on his apostolic place, and at the same time his refusal to use the rights of it. Grace can forego all questions of right. Conscious of what is due, it asserts rights for others, but refuses to use them for itself. Such was the spirit and the faith of the apostle. And now he shows what he felt as to practical state and walk. Far from being full of his knowledge, far from only using his place in the church for the assertion of his dignity and for immunity from all trouble and pain here below, he on the contrary was as one under the law to meet him that was under it; he was as a Gentile to meet him that was free from law (that is, a Gentile). Thus he was a servant of all that he might save some. Besides, he lets them know the spirit of a servant, which was so lacking in the Corinthians in spite of their gifts; for it is not the possession of a gift, but love which serves and delights in service. The simple fact of knowing that you have a gift may and often does minister to self-complacency. The grand point is to have the Lord before you, and when others are thought of, it is in the love which has no need to seek greatness, or to a et it. The love of Christ proves its greatness by serving others.

This, then, was the spirit of that blessed servant of the Lord. He reminds them of another point that he was himself diligent in keeping his body in subjection. He was like a man with a race that was going to be run, and who gets his body into training. He puts this in the strongest way, "Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Mark the tact of the apostle. When he has something discreditable to say, he prefers to say it about himself; when he has something pleasing to say, he loves to put it with regard to others. So here he says, "Lest I myself become a castaway," not " you." He meant their profit, no doubt; his aim was for them to have their own consciences searched by it. If Paul even was exercising himself to have a conscience void offence; if Paul was keeping his body in subjection, how much more did these men need it? They were abusing all the comfort that Christianity brings, to live at ease and play the gentleman, if one may speak according to modern language. They had not entered in the smallest degree into the spirit of the moral glory of Christ humbled here below. They had dislocated the cross from Christianity. They had severed themselves from the power of service. Thus they were in the utmost possible jeopardy; but the apostle, who had the blessedness of Christ before him, and the fellowship of His sufferings is scarce another had like him, even he used all diligence of heart, and held a tight rein over himself. Faithful man as he was, he allowed himself none of these licenses. Liberty indeed he prized, but it was not going here and there to feasts of idols. He was free to serve Christ, and time was short: what had such an one to do with heathen temples?

Thus he wants them to feel their danger, but first of all he begins with himself. He was free but watchful; and he was jealous over himself, the greater the grace shown him. It was not that he in the smallest degree doubted his security in Christ, as some so foolishly say; or that such as have eternal life may lose it again. But it is plain that men who merely take the place of having eternal life may, and often do, abandon that place. Those who have eternal life prove it by godliness; those who have it not prove the lack of it by indifference to holiness, and lack of that love which is of God. So the apostle shows that all his knowledge of the truth, far from making him careless, prompted him to yet greater earnestness, and to daily denial of himself. This is a very important consideration for us all (I press it more especially on the young in such a day as this); and the greater the knowledge of the saints, the more they need to keep it in view.

The apostle draws their attention to another warning in the history of Israel. These had eaten of the same spiritual meat, for so he calls it; they had the heaven-sent manna, had drunk of the same spiritual drink; yet what became of them? How many thousands of them perished in the wilderness? The apostle is approaching far closer to their state. He began with application to his own case, and now he points to Israel as a people sanctified to Jehovah. At length the word is, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful." This was a great comfort, but it was also a serious caution. "God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." It is in vain, therefore, to plead circumstances as an excuse for sin. "But [He] will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." He makes it plain that he is, with characteristic address, dealing with their little-exercised consciences from the statement of his own earnest vigilance over his ways, and then from the sad and solemn history of Israel judged of the Lord. Thus, too, he goes forward into new ground, the deeper spiritual motives, the appeal to Christian affection as well as to faith. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? He begins with that which most nearly touches the heart. It would have been an order more natural, if one may so say, to speak of the body of Christ; as we know in the Lord's supper habitually, there is that which brings before us first the body and then the blood. The departure from what may be called the historical order makes the emphasis incomparably greater. More than that, the first appeal is founded on the blood of Christ, the answer of divine grace to the deepest need of a soul found in its guilt before God and covered with defilement. Was this to be slighted? "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" He does not here say, "the blood" or the "body of the Lord." This we find in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34; but it is here Christ, because it becomes a question of grace. "The Lord" brings in the idea of authority. This, then, is evidently an immense advance in dealing with the subject. Accordingly he now develops it, not on the ground of injury to a brother, but as a breach of fellowship with such a Christ, and indifference to His immense love. But he does not forget His authority: "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of demons." It is not simply the love of Christ, but His full authority as the Lord. The apostle contrasts two mighty powers that were contesting demons, on the one hand, a power stronger than man, struggling as to him here below; and, on the other hand, there was the Lord that had shed His blood for them, but the Lord of all who should judge quick and dead. Hence he follows up with a comprehensive and simple principle, but full of liberty withal, that in going into the market you need ask no questions. If I do not know that the food has been connected with idols, the idol is nothing to me; but the moment I know it, it is no longer the question of an idol but a demon; and a demon, be assured, is a very real being indeed. Thus what the apostle insists on amounts to this, that their vaunted knowledge was short indeed. Whenever a person boasts, you will in general find. that he particularly fails precisely where he boasts most. If you set up for great knowledge, this will be the point in which you may be expected to break down. If you set up for exceeding candour, the next thing we may well dread to hear is that you have played very false. The best thing is to see that we give ourselves credit for nothing. Let Christ be all our boast. The sense of our own littleness and of His perfect grace is the way, and the only way, to go on well. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"

Then in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34 we enter on another point. It would seem that the sisters at Corinth gave them a deal of trouble, and that they had forgotten entirely their due relative place. No doubt the men were at least as much to blame. It is hardly possible that women should ever put themselves forward in the church unless Christian men have deserted their true, responsible position and public action. It is the man's place to guide; and although women may assuredly be far more useful in certain cases, still, unless the man guides, what an evident departure from the order God has assigned to them both! How complete a desertion of the relative position in which they were placed from the first! Thus it was at Corinth. Among the heathen, women played a most important part, and in no quarter of the world, perhaps, so prominent a one as there. Need it be said that this was to their deep shame? There was no city in which they were so degraded as that in which the attained such conspicuous and unnatural prominence. And how does the apostle meet this new feature? He brings in Christ. This is what decides all. He affirms the everlasting principles of God, and he adds that which has so brightly been revealed in and by Christ. He points out that Christ is the image and the glory of God, and that the man stands in an analogous place as connected with and distinguished from the woman. That is to say, the woman's place is one of unobtrusiveness, and in fact, she is most effective where she is least seen. The man, on the contrary, has a public part a rougher and ruder task, no doubt one that may not at all bring into play the finer affections, but which demands a calmer and more comprehensive judgment. The man has the duty of the outward rule and administration.

Accordingly he marks the first departure from what was right by the woman's losing the sign of her subjection. She was to have a covering, on her head; she was to have that which indicated as a sign that she was subject to another. The man seemed to have failed just in the opposite way; and although this may seem a very little thing, what a wonderful thing it is, and what power it shows, to be able to combine in the same epistle eternal things and the very smallest matter of personal decorum, the wearing of long hair or short, the use of a covering on the head or not! How truly it marks God and His word!! Men. would scorn to combine them both in the same epistle; it seems so petty and so incongruous. But it is the littleness of man which calls for big matters to make him important; but the smallest things of God have significance when they bear on the glory of Christ, as they always do. In the first place, it was out of order that a woman should prophesy with her head uncovered; man's place was to do so. He was the image and the glory of God. The apostle connects it all with first principles, going up to the creation of Adam and Eve in a very blessed manner, and above all bringing in the second Man, the last Adam. Did they think to improve on both?

The latter part of the chapter takes up not the relative place of the man and the woman, but the supper of the Lord, and so the saints gathered together. The first part of it, as is evident, has nothing to do with the assembly, and thus does not dispose of the question whether a woman should prophesy there. In fact, nothing is said or implied in the early verses of the assembly at all. The point primarily mooted is of her prophesying after the manner of a man, and this is done with the greatest possible wisdom. Her prophesying is not absolutely shut out. If a woman has a gift for prophecy, which she certainly may have as well as a man, for what is it given of the Lord but for exercise? Certainly such an one ought to prophesy. Who could say the gift of prophecy given to a woman is to be laid up in a napkin? Only she must take care how she does exercise it. First of all, he rebukes the unseemly way in which it was done the woman forgetting that she was a woman, and the man that he is responsible not to act as a woman. They seem to have reasoned in a petty way at Corinth, that because a woman has a gift no less than a man, she is free to use the gift just as a man might. This is in principle wrong; for after all a woman is not a man, nor like one officially, say what you please. The apostle sets aside the whole basis of the argument as false; and we must never hear reasoning which overthrows what God has ordained. Nature ought to have taught them better. But he does not dwell on this; it was a withering rebuke even to hint at their forgetfulness of natural propriety.

Then, in the latter verses, we have the supper of the Lord, and there we find the saints expressly said to be gathered together. This naturally leads the way to the spiritual gifts that are treated of in1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. As to the supper of the Lord, happily I need not say many words to you. It is, by the great mercy of God, familiar to most of us; we live, I may say, in the enjoyment of it, and know it to be one of the sweetest privileges God vouchsafes us here below. Alas! this very feast had furnished occasion, in the fleshly state of the Corinthians, to a most humiliating abuse. What led to it was the Agape, as it was styled; for in those days there was a meal which the Christians used to take together. Indeed, the social character of Christianity never can be overlooked without loss, but in an evil state it is open to much abuse. Everything that is good may be perverted; and it never was intended to hinder abuse by extinguishing that which was only to be maintained aright in the power of the Spirit of God. No rules, no abstinence, no negative measures, can glorify God, or make His children spiritual; and it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost in producing a sense of responsibility to the Lord as well as of His grace that saints are duly kept. So it was then at Corinth, that the meeting for the Lord's Supper became mingled with an ordinary meal, where the Christians ate and drank together. They were glad to meet at any rate, originally it was so, when love was gratified with the company of each other. Being not merely young Christians, but unwatchful and then lax, this gave rise to sad abuse. Their old habits re-asserted their influence. They were accustomed to the feasts of the heathen, where people thought nothing whatever of getting drunk, if it was not rather meritorious. It was in some of their mysteries considered a wrong to the god for his votary not to get drunk, so debased beyond all conception were the heathen in their notions of religion.

Accordingly these Corinthian brethren had by little and little got on until some of them had fallen into intemperance on the occasion of the Eucharist; not, of course, simply by the wine drank at the table of the Lord, but through the feast that accompanied it. Thus the shame of their drunkenness fell upon that Holy Supper; and hence the apostle regulated, that from that time forward there should be no such feast coupled with the Lord's Supper. If they wished to eat, let them eat at home; if they came together in worship, let them remember it was to eat of the Lord's body, and to drink of the Lord's blood. He puts it in the strongest terms. He does not feel it needful or suitable to speak of "the figure" of the Lord's body. The point was to make its grace and holy impressiveness duly felt. It was a figure, no doubt; but .still, writing to men who were at least wise enough to judge aright here, he gives all its weight, and the strongest expression of what was meant. So Jesus had said. Such it was in the sight of God. He that partook undiscerningly and without self-judgment was guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It was a sin against Him. The intention of the Lord, the true principle and practice for a saint, is to come, examining his ways, trying his springs of action, putting himself to the proof; and so let him eat (not stay away, because there is much discovered that is humbling). The guard and warning is, that if there be not self-judgment, the Lord will judge. How low is the state of things to which all saints tend, and not the Corinthians only! There ought to have been, I suppose, an interposition of the church's judgment between the Christian's lack of self-judgment and the Lord's chastenings; but, alas! man's duty was altogether lacking. It was from no want of gifts. They had no sense of the place God designed self-judgment to hold; but the Lord never fails.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 accordingly, the apostle enters on a full statement of these spiritual powers. He shows that the distinctive feature of that which the Spirit of God leads to is the confession, not exactly of Christ, but of Jesus as Lord. He takes the simplest and most necessary ground that of His authority. This is observable in verse 3: "Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." Impossible that the Spirit should dishonour, yea, that He should not exalt, Him who humbled Himself for God's glory. "Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all." They had forgotten all this. They were pre-occupied with human thoughts, with this clever Jew and that able Gentile. They had lost sight of God Himself working in their midst. The apostle points out that if there were different services, if distinct gifts to one and another, it was for the common good of all. He illustrates the nature of the church as a body with its various members subserving the interests of the body and the will of the head. "By one Spirit were we all baptized into one body;" it is not the Holy Ghost merely making many members, but "one body." Accordingly he confronts with this divine aim their misuse of their spiritual powers, independence one of another, disorder as to women, self-glorification, and the like, as we see in1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 the detail. He presses that the least comely members, those that are least seen, may be of more importance than any others; just as in the natural body some of the most vital parts are not even visible. What would a man do without a heart, or liver, or lungs? So in the spiritual body there are members which are most important and not seen at all. But men are apt to value most those which make a showy appearance. Thus he rebukes the whole tenor and spirit of Corinthian vanity; at the same time he maintains their place of blessing and responsibility to the last. After all their faults he does not hesitate to, say, "Now ye are the body of Christ." This way of dealing with souls has been grievously enfeebled in the present day. Grace is so feebly known, that the first thought you will find amongst godly people is what they ought to be; but the ground and weapon of the apostle Paul is what they are by God's grace. "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church." It was far from his mind in the least to deny it. Observe here an important use of the expression, "the church." It cannot be the local assembly, because, looking at Corinth, no apostles were there. Whatever might be the providential arrangements outside in the world, he is looking at the assembly of God here on earth; and it is the assembly as a whole, the Corinthian assembly being, as every true assembly is, a kind, of representative, of the church universally. It is the church of God here below; not merely churches, though that was true also.

Thus we can look at what the church will be by-and-by glorified and absolutely perfect. We can also look at a particular local assembly. Besides there is this most important sense of the church never to be forgotten namely, that divine institution viewed as a whole on. earth. Members of Christ no doubt compose it; but there is His body, the assembly as a whole, in which God works here below. Such is the reason why we do not find in this epistle evangelists or pastors, because it is not a question of what is needed to bring souls in or lead them on. He looks at the church as a thing already, subsisting as the witness of the power of God before men. Therefore it was not at all necessary to dwell on those gifts which are the fruit of Christ's love to and cherishing of the church. It is regarded as a vessel of power for the maintenance of God's glory, and responsible for this here below. Therefore tongues miracles, healings, the use of outward powers, are largely dwelt on here.

But we pass on to another and a still more important theme, a wonderfully full picture even for God's word, that most perfect and beautiful unfolding of divine love which we have in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. After all, if the Corinthians had coveted gifts, they had not coveted the best But even if we may desire the best gifts, there is better still; and the best of all is charity love. Accordingly we have this in the most admirable manner brought out both in what it is and in what it is not, and that too as corrective of the wrong desires of the Corinthians, and the evil spirit which had manifested itself in the exercise of their gifts; so that what seems to be an interruption is the wisest of parentheses between chapter 12, which shows us the distribution of gifts and their character, and chapter 14, which directs the due exercise of gifts in the assembly of God. There is but one safe motive-power for their use, even love. Without it even a spiritual gift only tends to puff up its owner, and to corrupt those who are its objects.

Hence 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 thus opens: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." And why? Prophecy seemed to be somewhat despised amongst the Corinthians. Miracles and tongues were liked, because these made themselves of importance. Such wonders made men stare, and drew general attention to those who were invested evidently with a superhuman energy. But the apostle lays it down, that the gifts which suppose the exercise of spiritual understanding have a far higher place. He himself could speak more tongues than they all. It need hardly be added that he did more miracles than any of them. Still, what he valued most was prophesying. We must not suppose that this gift simply means a man preaching. Prophesying never means preaching. More than this, prophesying is not simply teaching. It, no doubt, is teaching; but it is a good deal more. Prophesying is that spiritual application of the word of God to the conscience which puts the soul in His presence, and makes manifest as light to the hearer the mind of God. There is a great deal of valuable teaching, exhortation, and application, that has no such character. It is all very true, but it does not put the soul in the presence of God; it gives no such absolute certainty of God's mind flashing on the condition and judging the state of the heart before Him. I do not speak now of the unconverted, though prophesying might affect such as well as the converted. The direct object of it was, of course, the people of God; but in the course of the chapter the unbeliever is shown coming into the assembly and falling on his face, and owning that God was among them of a truth. Such is the genuine effect. The man finds himself judged in the presence of God.

There is no need to enter into all that this chapter brings before us, but it may be well to observe that we have giving of thanks and blessing, as well as singing and prayer. Prophesying and the rest are brought in as all pertaining to the Christian assembly. What was not directly edifying, as speaking in a tongue, is forbidden unless one could interpret. I doubt very much whether there was any revelation after the scheme of Scripture was complete. To suppose anything revealed, when that which is commonly called the canon was closed, would be an impeachment of God's purpose in it. But till the last portion of His mind was written down in a permanent form for the church, we can quite understand His goodness in allowing a special revelation now and then. This gives no warrant to look for anything of the sort at any time subsequent to the completion of the New Testament. Again, it is plain from this that there are certain modifications of the chapter. Thus so far it is true that if anything has, through the will of God, terminated (for instance, miracles, tongues, or revelations), it is evident that such workings of the Spirit ought not to be looked for; but this does not in the smallest degree set aside the Christian assembly or the exercise according to God's will of what the Spirit still distinctly gives. And undoubtedly He does continue all that is profitable, and for God's glory, in the present state of His testimony and of His church here below. Otherwise the church sinks into a human institute.

In the end of the chapter a very important principle is laid down. It is vain for people to plead the mighty power of God as an excuse for anything disorderly. This is the great difference between the power of the Spirit and the power of a demon. A demon's power may be uncontrollable: chains, fetters, all the power of man outside, may utterly fail to bind a man who is filled with demons. It is not so with the power of the Spirit of God. Wherever the soul walks with the Lord, the power of the Spirit of God on the contrary is always connected with His word, and subject to the Lord Jesus. No man can rightly pretend that the Spirit forces him to do this or that unscripturally. There is no justification possible against Scripture; and the more fully the power is of God, the less will a man think of setting aside that perfect expression of God's mind. All things therefore are to be done decently and in order an order which Scripture must decide. The only aim, as far as we are concerned, that God endorses, is that all be done to edification, and not for self-display.

The next theme (1 Corinthians 15:1-58) is a most serious subject doctrinally, and of capital importance to all. Not only had the devil plunged the Corinthians into confusion upon moral points, but when men begin to give up a good conscience, it is no wonder if the next danger is making shipwreck of the faith. Accordingly, as Satan had accomplished the first mischief among these saints, it was evident the rest threatened soon to follow. There were some among them who denied the resurrection not a separate state of the soul, but the rising again of the body. In fact the resurrection must be of the body. What dies is to be raised. As the soul does not die, "resurrection" would be quite out of place; to the body it is necessary for God's glory as well as man. And how does the apostle treat this? As he always does. He brings Christ in. They had no thought of Christ in the case. They seem to have had no wish to deny the resurrection of Christ; but should not a Christian have at once used Christ to judge all by? The apostle at once introduces His person and work as a test. if Christ did not rise, there is no resurrection, and therefore no truth in the Gospel; "your faith is vain: you are yet in your sins." Even they were quite unprepared for so dreadful a conclusion. Shake the resurrection and Christianity goes. Having reasoned thus, he next points out that the Christian waits for the time of joy and glory and blessing for the body by-and-by. To give up resurrection is to surrender the glorious hope of the Christian, and to be the most miserable of men.. For what could be more cheerless than to give up all present enjoyment without that blessed hope, for the future at Christ's coming? Thus strongly was the whole complex nature of man before the apostle's mind in speaking of this hope of blessedness by-and-by.

Then, somewhat abruptly, instead of discussing the matter any more, he unfolds a most weighty revelation of truth "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the. resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." True, the kingdom is not yet come for which we are waiting, but it 'will come. See how all truth hangs together, and how Satan labours to make a consistency in error. He knows the weakness of man's mind. Nobody likes to be inconsistent. You may be dragged into it, but you are never comfortable when you have a sense of inconsistency about you. Hence, after one. error gains empire over the mind of man, he is ready to embrace others just to make all consistent.

Such was the danger here among the Corinthians. They had been offended by the apostle's supreme indifference to all that is of esteem among men. His habits of speech and life were not at all up to the mark that they supposed seemly before the world in a servant of God. Out of this fertile root of evil has the clergy grown. It has been the effort to acquire as much refinement as possible. Holy orders make a man a sort of gentleman if he was not so before. This seems to have been at work in, the minds of these critics of the apostle. Here we find what lay at the bottom of the matter. There is generally a root of evil doctrine where you find people wrong in practice. At any rate, where it is a deliberate, persistent, and systematic error, it will not be merely a practical one, but have a root deep underneath. And this was what now came out at Corinth. It was feebleness about that which, after all, lies at. the very foundation of Christianity. They did not mean to deny the person of Christ or His condition as risen from the dead; but, this is what the enemy meant, and into this their wrong notion tended to drift them. The next step, after denying resurrection for the Christian, would be to deny it about Christ. And here the apostle does not fail to rebuke them, and in a manner trenchant enough. He (exposes the stupidity of their questions, wise as they flattered themselves to be. How? It is always the danger of man that he is not content to believe; he would like first of all to understand. But this is ruinous in divine things, which are entirely outside sense and reason. All real understanding for the Christian is the fruit of faith.

The apostle does not hesitate in apostrophising the unbeliever, or at any rate, the errorist he has in view, to expose his folly. "Thou fool," says he, "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." Thus the strongest possible censure falls on these Corinthians, and this for the very matter in which they plumed themselves. Human reasoning is poor indeed outside its own sphere. However, he is not content merely with putting down their speculations; he brings in subsequent and special revelation. The previous part of the chapter had pointed out the connection of Christ's resurrection with our resurrection, followed by the kingdom which finally gives place in order that God may be all in all. In the latter part of the chapter he adds what had not been explained hitherto, From the early portion we should not have known but that all saints die, and that all rise at Christ's coming. But this would not be the full truth. It is most true that the dead in Christ rise, of course, but this does not explain about the living saints. He had vindicated the glorious character of the resurrection; he had proved how fundamental, and momentous, and practical, is the truth that the body is to be raised again, which they were disposed to deny as though it were a low thing, and useless even if possible. They imagined the true way to be spiritual was to make much of the spirit of man. God's way of making us spiritual is by a simple but strong faith in the resurrection-power of Christ; look to His resurrection as the pattern and spring of our own. Then at the last he adds that he would show them a mystery. On this I must just say a few words in order to develop its force.

The resurrection itself was not a mystery, The, resurrection of just and unjust was a well-known Old Testament truth. It might be founded on Scriptures comparatively few, but it was a fundamental truth of the Old Testament, as the apostle Paul lets us hear in his controversy with the Jews in the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, the Lord Jesus also assumes the same thing in the gospels. But if the raising of the dead saints was known, and even the raising of the wicked dead, the change of the living saints was a truth absolutely unrevealed. Up to this it was not made known, It was a New Testament truth, as this indeed is what is meant by a "mystery." It was one of those, truths that were kept secret in the Old Testament, but now revealed not so much a thing difficult to comprehend when stated, as a thing not revealed before. "And behold," says he, "I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Evidently this supports and confirms, while it might seem an exception to, the resurrection; but, in point of fact, it gives so much the more force and consistency to the rising of the dead in a very unexpected way. The general truth of the resurrection assuredly does put the sentence of death on all present things to the believer, showing that the earth cannot rightly be the scene of his enjoyment, where all is stamped with death, and that he must wait for the resurrection power of Christ to be applied before he enters the scene where the rest of God will be our rest, and where there will be nothing but joy with Christ, and even this earth will behold Christ and His saints reigning over it till the eternal day. The addition to this of the New Testament truth of the chance gives immense impressiveness to all, and a fresh force, because it keeps before the Christian the constant expectancy of Christ. "Behold, I show you a mystery" not now that the dead in Christ shall rise, but "we," beginning with the "we" "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." And "therefore," as he closes with the practical deduction from it all, "my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work, of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

The last chapter is now before us, in which the apostle lays down a weighty exhortation as to collections for the saints. He puts it on the ground of their being prospered in any degree, and connects it with the special day of Christian enjoyment, when they gather together for the communion of saints. "Upon the, first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store as he has been prospered, that there be no gatherings when I come." Need it be said how human influence has dislocated the truth there? No doubt this was precisely what the apostle, or the Holy Ghost rather, discerned to be at work at Corinth, the same mistake that has wrought so malignantly in Christendom; that is to say, personal rank, learning, eloquence, or a great name (as of an apostle for instance), invoked to call out the generosity of the saints (perhaps, even of the world), and increase the proceeds by all these or like means.

But is there not another danger? Is there no snare for you, beloved brethren? When persons are more or less free from the ordinary incubus of tradition, when they are not so much under the influence of excitement, and of those appeals to the love of being known and of pleasing this or that man, or the cause, or any of those human motives that often do operate, I apprehend that they are exposed to danger in a wholly opposite direction. Do we sufficiently make it a matter of personal responsibility to the Lord, everyone of us, to give, and that in connection with the first day of the week and its blessed surroundings and objects, when we meet at His table? Do we every one of us give as we are prospered by the way? It is very well to keep clear of human influence, but let us see to it that we do not forget that "the Lord has need" of our giving for the purposes He loves here below. And of this I am sure, that if we have rightly cast aside mere human calls, and if we do thank God for the deliverance from worldly influence, and from the power of custom, public opinion, etc., it would be a deep reproach if we did not do double as much now, under the grace that confides in us, as we used to do under the law that used to govern us. Your own consciences must answer whether you can meet the Lord about this matter. I believe that we are in no small danger of settling down in the conviction that our old way was quite wrong, and simply keeping the money in our pockets. It does seem to me, I confess, that bad as human pressure may be in order to raise money, bad as may be a variety of earthly objects in this way or that, bad as a worldly lavish expenditure is, after all, a selfish personal keeping to ourselves of what we have is the worst thing of all. I am quite persuaded that the danger of the saints of God who have been brought outside the camp lies here, lest, delivered from what they know to be wrong, they may not seek in this an exercised conscience. Standing in the consciousness of the power of God's grace, they need to be continually looking out that they be devoted to Him. To cease doing what was done in a wrong way, and sometimes for wrong ends too, is not enough. Let there be zealous and vigilant exercise of soul, and enquiry how to carry out right objects in right ways, and so much the more, if indeed a simpler, fuller knowledge of God's grace and of Christ's glory has been given us.

Then we have various forms of ministry noticed. It is not here gifts as such, but persons devoted to labouring in the Lord; for there is a difference between the two things, as this chapter shows us strikingly. For instance, the apostle himself comes before us in ministry with his especial gift and position in the church. Then again, Timothy is there, his own son in the faith, not only an evangelist, but with a charge over elders at length, to a certain extent acting occasionally for the apostle Paul. Again, we have the eloquent Alexandrian thus introduced: "As touching our brother Apollos I greatly desired him to come unto you, but his will was not at to come at this time." How delicate and considerate the grace of Paul who wished Apollos to go to Corinth then, and of Apollos who wished not to go under the circumstances! On the face of the case we have the working of liberty and responsibility in their mutual relations; and the apostle Paul is the very one to tell us that Apollos's will was not to go as he himself wished at this time. It was no question of one in a place of worldly superiority regulating the movements of another of subordinate degree. The apostle did express his strong desire for Apollos to go; but Apollos must stand to his Master, and be assured that he was using a wisdom greater than that of man's. Finally, we observe another character of service lower down in "the house of Stephanas." This was a simpler case and a humbler position, but very real before God, whatever the danger of being slighted of men. Hence, I think, the word of exhortation "I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)" etc. They gave themselves up in an orderly manner to this work. "That ye submit yourselves," not merely to Timothy or to Apollos, but to such, to the simple-hearted Christian men whose desire was to serve the Lord with the measure of power they had, and this proved by their persevering labour. Undoubtedly, in the midst of the difficulties of the church, in the face of the oppositions and disappointment, manifold griefs, enemies, and sources of sorrow and shame, it requires the power of God to go on without being moved by any of these things. It is an easy thing to make a start; but nothing short of the power of God can keep one without wavering at the work in the face of everything to cast down. And this was the question. We may suppose that these Corinthians were troublesome enough. From the statements made in the early part of the epistle it is evident; and so the apostle calls upon them to submit themselves. Evidently there was an unsubject spirit, and those ministered to thought they were just as good as the house of Stephanas. It is good to submit ourselves "unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." I am persuaded, beloved brethren, that it is no impeachment of the blessedness of the brotherhood to maintain the speciality of ministry in the Lord. There can be in these matters no more deplorable error than to suppose that there is not to be this godly submission one toward another, according to the place and power that the Lord is pleased to entrust.

The Lord grant that our souls may hold fast the truth here revealed, and in no general or perfunctory way. All I pretend to now is to give a sketch or combination of the parts of the epistle. But may the word itself, and every part of it, sink into our souls and be our joy, that we may not only take the precious truth of such an epistle as the Romans for the peace and joy of our hearts in believing individually, but also may understand our place by faith as of God's assembly on earth, and with thankful praise as those that call on the name of the Lord ours as well as theirs as those that find ourselves practically in need of such exhortations. The Lord give us His own spirit of obeying the Father.

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:3". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible.​commentaries/​wkc/1-corinthians-11.html. 1860-1890.