1Corinthians 11 - Outline of 1Corinthians (MENU page)
This chapter starts a new section of Paul's letter, in which he addresses difficulties relative to public worship. (See the book outline, for the subjects discussed.) Paul may be answering additional questions from the Corinthian church, or he may be addressing problems of which he had heard from travelers who came from there.
1. Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ.
This verse properly belongs to the previous chapter. We touched on it, in the notes on ch.10.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things,
and keep the ordinances, as I delivered [them] to you.
Paul begins this section with a commendation of the Corinthian church. They had not forgotten his teaching, but rather were holding to the 'ordinances' {GK=paradosis, lit., things handed down, traditions (ie., the apostolic teachings)} which he had entrusted to them. eg., Rom 6:17; 1Cor 4:16,17; 2The 2:15
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:
{Gen 1:26,27; 5:1}
but the woman is the glory of the man.
{Gen 2:23,24}
8 For the man is not of the woman;
but the woman of the man.
{Gen 2:21,22; 1Tim 2:13}
9 Neither was the man created for the woman;
but the woman for the man.
{Gen 2:18}
10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on [her] head
because of the angels.
This passage (v.3-16), which deals with the place of women in the congregation, runs contrary to the modern cultural thinking, because it appears to conflict with the 'rights' and 'empowerment' of women. However, the biblical principals presented here have not become obsolete with the changing times. God has established an order of authority, which applies to the church and the home. This order is set forth succinctly, in v.3:
  1. God the Father is the head of Christ. Joh 3:34-36; 1Cor 15:27,28
    Although God the Father and God the Son are co-equal (Joh 10:30), the Son voluntarily put aside His privileges as God, to do the Father's will (Joh 14:28; Php 2:5-8).
  2. Christ is the head of the church and of the believing man. 1Cor 3:23; Eph 1:22,23
    Actually, Christ is the head of "every man" (v.3). Though, today, some refuse His headship, all will eventually acknowledge Him (Php 2:9-11).
  3. The husband is the head of his wife. Eph 5:22-25; Gen 3:16
    Note how Eph 5:22-25 encapsulates all 3 points, and also shows that this order is for the good of all concerned.
...every man praying or prophesying, having [his] head covered, dishonoureth {disgraces} his head.
The man, who speaks before the church, is to speak as the 'oracles of God,' with the authority of his Lord, and for His glory (1Pet 4:11).
     However, a covered head implies submission, or even remorse (eg., 2Sam 15:30; 19:4). The words used for 'covered' or 'uncovered' (in v.4-7) are all related to GK=katakalupto, to cover fully. (Picture a man raising his prayer shawl or cape from off his shoulders and draping it over his head.) Such a symbol is not fitting for the One, whom the man represents.
     Paul's teaching conflicts with the practice of the Jewish rabbis, who covered their heads in prayer, because they misinterpreted the purpose of Moses' veil (Ex 34:33-35; 2Cor 3:13). Moses covered his head with a veil to prevent the people from gazing at his glowing face. That glow was a fading reminder of his "face to face" encounter with the Lord of glory (Ex 33:11). God's people must give their attention to His Word, not to the fading glory of His servant.
     Thus, in proclaiming God's Word, His representatives are to be uncovered, as they uncover the unfading glory of their Lord, with great "plainness of speech" {ie., speech that is bold, unreserved, and open} (2Cor 3:11-13; cp. Eph 6:19,20).
...every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with [her] head uncovered dishonoureth her head...
The woman's head covering represents 'power' {GK=exousia, authority}, which the NASB renders as: "a symbol of authority" (v.10). It is an expression that the woman willingly submits to God's prescribed order of authority.
     One reason to demonstrate such submission is 'because of' {on account of} the angels, who observe the order of the church (Heb 1:14; 1Pet 1:12). The angels recall, all too well, that sin began in heaven, when an angelic being refused to submit to God's established order (Isa 14:12-14).
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without {separate from} the woman,
neither the woman without
{separate from} the man, in the Lord. {Gal 3:28}
12 For as the woman [is] of
{GK=ek, out of} the man, {cp. Gen 2:21,22}
even so [is] the man also by
{GK=dia, through} the woman; {eg., Gen 4:1,2}
but all things of
{GK=ek, out of} God. {1Cor 8:6}
Although believers hold differing levels of authority, all have the same standing in Christ. We are to show respect and love toward our brothers and sisters in the Lord. A man has no excuse for brutal domination of his wife. Col 3:18,19
     We are to submit ourselves to one another, according to the Lord's order and design. Eph 5:21-23
13 Judge in yourselves:
is it comely
{proper} 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?
Long hair can interfere with manly activities, whether in war or marriage.
     (eg., 2Sam 14:25,26; 18:9)
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her:
for [her] hair is given her for a covering
{GK=peribolaion, something thrown around, a veil}.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious
{GK=philoneikos, fond of strife},
we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
"If one is inclined to be contentious {ie., to quarrel about this},
we have no other practice." [NASB, {words in curly brackets supplied by the editor}.]
In other words, in order to honor our Lord, we will maintain this manner of life.
In the remainder of this chapter, Paul corrects disorderly conduct of the Lord's Supper.
17. Now in this that I declare [unto you] I praise [you] not,
that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church,
I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19 For there must be also heresies among you,
that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Paul could not commend the Corinthian church for their behavior at the Lord's Supper (cf. v.2).
He presents two points of disapproval (v.17-19, then v.20-22)...
...first of all... I hear that there be divisions among you... (cp. 1Cor 1:10-12)
The Lord's Supper is supposed to express our 'communion' with our Lord, and with all who belong to Him (1Cor 10:16,17). Paul was not sure how deep or wide these divisions were.
...for there must be also heresies among you...
The word 'heresies' {GK=hairesis} refers to strongly held opinions. It is often translated 'sects,' referring to groups with partially erroneous views. But it can also refer to complete apostasy (eg., 2Pet 2:1,2). Jesus told us that "the wheat and the tares" would grow together, until He separates them (Mat 13:24-30,36-43). However, when confronted with blatantly false doctrine, God's true children will be 'manifest' {made apparent) as those who are 'approved' {tested and found acceptable}, because they cling to, and contend for, 'the faith' (Jude 1:3,4).
20 When ye come together therefore into one place,
[this] is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For in eating every one taketh before [other] his own supper:
and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?
or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?
What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise [you] not.
Paul's second point of disapproval was that some had made the gathering an occasion for selfish gluttony, without consideration for those who could not bring their own meals.
How could they claim to be gathering around the Lord?
Where was the 'communion' of brothers in Christ? Gal 3:28; Jam 2:5-9
Next, Paul explains the purpose and order of the Lord's Supper.
It must be centered around the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
23. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,
That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said,
Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you:
this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying,
This cup is the new testament in my blood:
this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,
ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
...I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you...
The account which Paul delivered to the Corinthian believers is parallel to the accounts recorded in the Gospels (see Mat 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luk 22:19,20). However, Paul says that he received this order of events, by direct revelation from Christ, probably before the other accounts were written or became available to the apostle (cp. Gal 1:11,12). The Gospels record the Lord's 'last supper' which the eleven disciples witnessed on the night before His crucifixion. Here, Christ Himself (through Paul) establishes a memorial meal for all believers throughout the Church age.
...the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed {lit., delivered up}...
The same Greek word is applied to the teaching which Paul 'delivered' {entrusted} to believers (v.2, v.23), and to the One who was not only 'betrayed' {delivered up to His enemies}, but "delivered... up for us all" (Rom 8:32).
...took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it...
He gave thanks, not merely for the bread at that meal, but for the bread which came down from heaven to give life to the perishing (Joh 6:51). He thanked the Father that the purpose, for which He had come, was about to be accomplished (see Luk 12:50; 18:31; 22:37; Joh 17:1-3).
...and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you:
this do in remembrance of me.
How are we to understand the Lord's invitation to receive and eat His broken body?
There are three conflicting viewpoints among Christians.
  1. Some teach 'trans-substantiation'.-
    These believe that the bread and wine, employed in the Communion service, are transformed into the literal body and blood of the Lord. Therefore, by the act of physical eating, the partaker participates in the literal sacrifice of Christ (which according to the R.C.C., is continually offered for the forgiveness of sins). Grace is conveyed to the participants because they eat the physical (but transformed) food.
       However, when Jesus spoke these words to the disciples in the upper room, he did not intend for them to eat His literal flesh. Rather, they partook of a symbol, which anticipated what He was about to do for them. They ate and drank, because they believed His words; but they would play no role in His work (cp. Joh 6:35,53,63). The One who came down from heaven accomplished our salvation by sacrificing Himself by Himself. We are joined to Him and partake of His provision, not by any physical act, but by simple faith in the Son of God who died our death, so that we might live (Joh 6:47-51).
  2. Some teach 'con-substantiation'.-
    These believe that Christ is really present in (or with) the bread and wine, though the substance of those elements remains unchanged (ie., the bread is still bread, the wine is still wine). Those who partake obtain grace from Christ, because of His presence in these elements.
       However, the question is not: 'Have you eaten the bread which speaks of Christ?' but rather: 'Have you put your faith in the One of whom the bread speaks?' When a person 'believes on' the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit places him or her into the body of Christ. Therefore, it is by faith, not by eating, that we become "partakers of that one Bread." Joh 6:29,35; 1Cor 10:16,17; 12:12,13; Eph 1:12,13
  3. Some teach that the bread and wine are symbolic. (The editor sees this as the biblical view.)
    He told us why we are to partake: "In remembrance of Me." v.24,25; Luk 22:19
    These symbols (bread and wine) remind us of Christ's finished work of salvation, which He accomplished once for all, on the cross, according to the will of the Father (Heb 10:10-14). The participant obtains neither grace nor merit through eating the physical elements. By the act of partaking, an unbeliever does not obtain salvation.
       However, as believers obey the Lord's command: "Do this in remembrance of Me," our minds turn again to consider the greatness of His love and of the price He paid to purchase our redemption. For the born-again believer, the presence of Christ can be very real, during the Communion service, as he worships his Lord in Spirit and in truth (Joh 4:23,24). Yet, such worship should characterize the believer's entire life (not just special occasions).
...after the same manner also... This cup is the new testament in my blood:
this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me.
The communion cup is also 'in remembrance' of Christ and the price He paid in our behalf. Notice that the Lord did not say, 'This cup is my blood.' Rather, He said: "This cup is the new testament in my blood." We do not drink His blood, but rather we drink of the redemption, which He purchased with His blood.
     He established 'the New Covenant' in His blood. The Old Covenant was established by the ceremonial atonement (covering) of sin, by the blood of animal sacrifices (symbolizing the payment of sin's penalty). Those sacrifices could not take away sin, but they anticipated the sacrifice of "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Joh 1:29). "The life of the flesh is in the blood..." (Lev 17:11). The 'flesh' (human nature) cannot please God, because it is corrupt (Rom 8:7,8). Therefore, in order to reconcile us to God, Christ took our sin upon Himself, and died, pouring out His blood, to do away with our sinfulness (2Cor 5:21; Rom 6:23).
     There has been needless controversy concerning whether wine or unfermented grape juice should be used in the observation of the Lord's Supper. In this context, the Scriptures never mention 'wine.' In the accounts of Matthew and Mark, Jesus refers to "the fruit of the vine" (which would seem to be unfermented juice). The cup of salvation, which He drank for us, involved the shedding of His blood. The cup we drink is "the fruit of the vine," for by faith, we become partakers of the salvation which He accomplished, and enter into eternal life in vital union with Him who is the true Vine (cp. Joh 15:1-5).
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,
ye do shew {GK=kataggello, proclaim, declare, preach} the Lord's death till he come.
This statement is true, only because Christ arose from the dead and ascended into heaven. The Gospel message requires faith in His death and resurrection (Rom 10:9,10; 1Cor 15:1-4). The believer lives in anticipation of His return (eg., Heb 9:28; Rev 1:7).
     Believers proclaim the Gospel, in partaking of this symbolic meal, which declares who He is and what He has done... and that salvation is available through faith in Him.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread,
and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily,
shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself,
{cp. 2Cor 13:5; Psa 139:23,24}
and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily,
eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord,
that we should not be condemned with the world.
...whosoever shall eat this bread, and... cup of the Lord, unworthily... shall be guilty...
No one is 'worthy' of Christ's sacrifice. The sense of 'unworthily' is 'in an unworthy manner' or 'assigning little worth' to the occasion. A few examples:
  • Perverting 'the Lord's Supper' into a means of self-satisfaction (v.20-22).
  • Participation while in a state of unbelief (Joh 6:64; 13:18,19).
  • Participation while harboring unconfessed and unforsaken sin (1Cor 5:7,8; 1Joh 1:9).
  • Participation while holding to false or occultic doctrines (1Cor 10:21).
...shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (v.27)
For apostates and other unbelievers, who knew the way of salvation, but turned away, the future is very bleak. Heb 10:29-31
     But here, Paul is speaking to believers, warning us to examine ourselves and correct our ways in order to avoid God's 'damnation' {condemnation, judgment} for treating the Lord's sacrifice lightly.
...not discerning the Lord's body... (v.29)
By His sacrifice, the Lord purchased to Himself, the Church, which is His Body (Acts 20:28).
In the context, Paul has been dealing with sinful divisions between members of the Body of Christ (v.18) and emphasizing the essential unity of the Body (1Cor 10:16,17; 12:12,13). If we fail to recognize that unity and perpetuate division, we dishonor Christ (cf. Joh 13:34,35).
For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep {ie., have died}.
True believers will not suffer eternal damnation. But the Lord will chastise sinning believers, in order to prevent them from falling away entirely, lest they suffer the condemnation of the unbelieving world (v.32). He chastens His children according to the severity of their sin. His chastening could involve terminating the earthly life, of His born-again child, who remains in rebellion and unrepentance. This is the primary meaning of "a sin unto death" in 1Joh 5:16,17 (where a secondary meaning applies to a professed believer who persists in sin because he was never born of God's Spirit).
     In the closing verses of the chapter, Paul urges correction of the disorder which he identified in v.20-22.
33 Wherefore, my brethren,
when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home;
that ye come not together unto condemnation.
And the rest will I set in order when I come.
...tarry {GK=ekdechomai, wait for, watch out for} one another...
The Lord's Supper is not to be a mere ritual. Rather, it is a reminder of the greatness of our Lord's selfless sacrifice. In this passage, He is placed in the midst of His disorderly and selfish people. While 'every one takes his own supper' (v.21), He says, 'Take ye, and eat of my broken self' (v.24). Then He says: "This do in remembrance of me." (cp. 1Joh 3:16)
     There is a striking parallel to the gathering at the Lord's last passover meal. He, the Master, took the role of a servant to wash their feet, and then told them to "do as I have done to you..." and to love one another, "as I have loved you" (Joh 13:12-17,34-35).
     His body was broken, His blood was shed, to purchase His called out people (Titus 2:14). Do we properly remember His broken body, if we fail to discern the needs of His body, which is His church? (v.29; cp. Col 1:24)
...the rest I will set in order {thoroughly arrange} when I come.
Apparently, there were other related matters, which the apostle needed to address in person.

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