Friday, February 23, 2018

The Apostle by Chapter | 1 Corinthians Chapter 11

By Sam Nobles

Having spent the last three chapters discussing the issues surrounding eating things sacrificed to idols, Paul now rapidly covers two separate matters in this one chapter. Some of the things covered in this chapter may only have a local or cultural meaning to the Corinthians, but even if that is the case, the spiritual truths are valid and relevant for us today.

The first matter that Paul covers is that of women praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered (v.2-16). This particular section of chapter 11 has been disputed and debated. Some think that the teaching given here was only able to be applied to that particular culture in Corinth. There are also some who even go so far as to contend that these verses reflect Paul's prejudice against women, since he was unmarried. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who accept the teaching of this portion, seeking to obey its precepts, even if they do not understand them. The problem with this portion of Scripture is that it implies that it is all right for a woman to pray or prophesy in the assembly as long as she has a veil or other covering on her head. But in another letter to the same church, Paul teaches that women should be silent in the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34), and that they are not permitted to teach or to have authority over the man, but learn in silence (1 Timothy 2:12). This passage is a difficult one to decipher, but what does seem clear is that both men and women have specific expectations in the eyes of the Lord. In the matter of head coverings, the woman's duty is the exact opposite of the man's; therefore, the spiritual truth we take from this passage is God functions through authority.

The second matter that Paul concerns the manner in which the Corinthian church was abusing the observance of the Lord's Supper (v.17-34). “In the early days of the church, Christians celebrated the “agape,” or love feast along with the Lord's Supper. The love feast was something like a common meal, shared in a spirit of love and fellowship. At the end of the love feast, the Christians often had the remembrance of the Lord with the bread and wine. But before very long, abuses crept in.”i  Not only were the Corinthian Christians missing the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, but the rich believers were shaming the poor believers by having extravagant meals and not sharing with them. It was so bad that some of the believers were leaving this feast hungry, while others were drunk as they sat down to partake of the Lord's Supper. Paul angrily rebukes this dishonorable conduct by letting them know that the consequences for profaning such a holy sacrament were serious in the eyes of God – some were weak, ill, and even dying because of their lack of self-control, not discerning the Lord’s body, and shaming the poor.

[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition, ed. Arthur L. Farstad, 2nd ed. edition (Thomas Nelson, 2016).

Scripture to Claim:
“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment…” (1 Corinthians 11:33-34a ESV).

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