1 CORINTHIANS - CHAPTER 11
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“Be ye followers (imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
4:16 Paul had given the same exhortation, but there it was based on the fact that
they were his spiritual children, and should follow him as their spiritual father:
here there is added another reason: he was a follower or imitator of Christ.
This carries the appeal beyond the Corinthian saints, and makes it applicable
to all believers. It is obvious that we
will be able to imitate Christ only as we are acquainted with His life, hence the
need to study what is written of Him, not only in the NT but also in the Old.
(Many, incidentally, believe that this verse belongs properly at the end of
“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the
ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
admonished them severely, because that admonition was needed, Paul now continues to
disclose to them his love indicated in 10:14 where he addresses them as “my dearly
beloved.” In the midst of much that
merited rebuke there was that which was worthy of commendation - they had remembered
what he had taught them, and had kept the ordinances as he had instructed.
“Ordinances” here is literally “traditions,” but they were traditions,
not because they were mere human ideas handed down from one generation to another,
but because they were the commandments of God, and were traditional in the sense that
all the churches kept them. They included, but weren’t limited to believer’s baptism and
the Lord”s Supper, for the word indicates the whole body of apostolic teaching.
“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
verse introduces the matter of headship, i.e., the place which God has appointed for
the man and the woman in relation to one another as believers, and has nothing to do
with superiority or inferiority, but of submission to divine authority.
It begins with the statement that Christ is under the authority of the Father;
the man is under the authority of Christ, and the woman is under the authority of the
man. The woman’s position as a wife is
dealt with in Col 3:18 and 1 Pe 3:1 (Since Christ is God, coequal and coeternal
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the reference is clearly to His position as the Anointed
One or the Messiah, which is the literal meaning of Christ).
That this distinction will exist eternally is indicated in 1 Co 15:28, “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.”
“Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his
prophesying ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture, the instruction
since then relates only to the matter of praying.
When the man prays he is to uncover his head, and not to do so is to dishonor
the One Who is his Head, i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ.
“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered
dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
is no question that prior to the completion of the canon of Scripture, women had the
gift of prophesying, see Ac 21:9, but there is no record of how or where they
exercised their gift, and since the gift has ceased, the instruction now relates only
to prayer. Furthermore, since the woman
is to be silent in the church, see 14:34, this instruction relative to head covering
applies to all the meetings of the church in which prayer is offered, for just as the
brethren who present worship audibly are doing so on behalf of the assembled company,
so also in any meeting where prayer is offered: the speaker is acting on behalf of
the whole company. For the woman
therefore to be without a head covering in any meeting where prayer is offered, is to
dishonor her divinely appointed head, i.e., the man, but since Christ is the Head of
the man, it is He Who is ultimately dishonored.
for that is even all one as if she were shaven,” points up the enormity of the
offense. Only slaves were shorn, and
prostitutes unveiled, so that for the woman to be without a head covering at any
meeting where prayer is offered, is not only to disobey God, but also to degrade
“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.”
verse continues to emphasize the shame connected with the woman’s refusal to wear a
head covering in the meetings of the church.
“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.”
man praying in any meeting of the church is not to cover his head because he is the
image and glory of God, and God’s glory is not to be covered, even symbolically.
The woman, however, being the glory of the man, is to cover her head,
for God does not permit the display of any glory but His own, and the woman without a
head covering is symbolically putting man’s glory on display with God’s.
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.”
to the method of her creation, the first woman was made from man, and while man is
said to have been made in the image of God, it is not said that woman was made in the
image of man, which would have been to say that she too was made in God’s image.
As a creature of intelligence, emotion, and will, she is of course made in the
divine image, but it was to the man, not the woman, that God entrusted the government
of the earth, so that part of the image and likeness of God involves the government
of the earth, something with which the woman has not been entrusted.
“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
is further declared that the woman was created to meet man’s need, and not man to
meet the need of the woman.
“For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the
of the order and purpose of her creation, therefore, the woman, in the meetings of
the church, is to have upon her head the visible sign that she has been placed by God
under man’s authority, it being specifically stated that this is because she is
being observed by the angels, and God is glorified by their seeing in her submission
the same obedience as is found in them.
“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman
without the man, in the Lord.”
mutual need of man and woman emphasized here excludes any thought of inferiority on
the woman’s part. The one is the
necessary complement of the other, a careful study of Scripture making it clear that
the godly wife represents the expression of the man’s spiritual life, God’s
assurance that it was not good for the man to be alone, being the symbolic revelation
of the greater truth that it isn’t good for the man to be without what the godly
wife represents: the expression of his spiritual life.
“For as the woman is of the man, even
so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”
dependence continues to be emphasized. While
the first woman came out of man, all other men have come out of the woman; but here
too, there is the declaration of transcendent spiritual truth, for Eph 5:23 assures
us that as the husband is the head of the wife, so is Christ the Head of the Church,
she having come out of Him, as Eve came out of Adam, and it is now through her, by
means of her faithful proclamation of the Gospel that men and women experience the
second birth. That God, however, is the
ultimate power, is declared in the words, “but all things of God.”
“Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?”
first glance this might appear to be an appeal simply to what was then culturally
acceptable, but the opposite is true, for the question must be answered, Where or
when did the custom originate? Having regard to the spiritual significance of the woman’s
covered head, there can be no doubt that what had become traditional had its origin
in an earlier unrecorded command from God. And since the woman is forbidden to speak in the meetings of the
Church, she is to pray silently.
“Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is
a shame unto him?”
it may be contended that this bolsters the argument of those who insist that the
whole matter of head covering was local and cultural, and has no application to the
present. On the contrary, the very fact
that the revulsion against a man’s having long hair is innate, discounts the idea
of its being merely cultural. It is similar to the inherent shame associated with nakedness.
Society’s present acceptance of men’s long hair, and the increasing
tolerance of nudity, point, not to what is natural, but to the rebellion which would
reject God’s control. And again there
is the implication that there had been an early unrecorded command of God relative
to the length of a man’s hair. The
very fact that the Nazarite was to let his hair grow long implies that from a very
early time men did not allow their hair to grow long.
is to be noted in this connection, that contrary to usual belief, the Lord’s hair
was too short to grasp, hence their plucking the hairs from His cheeks. It is
to be noted also that He was a Nazarene because He came from the city of that name,
but He was not a literal Nazarite, though spiritually He was everything that is
implied in that name.
“But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given
her for a covering.”
verse is also frequently used to bolster rejection of the woman’s head covering in
the meetings of the Church, it being asserted that her long hair is all the head
covering she needs. The senselessness of
this argument is revealed by what is written in verse 6.
If her hair is not to be veiled why should she be shorn or shaven?
It is, in fact, because her long hair is her glory that she is required to put
a covering over her hair, so as to avoid the symbolic presentation of her
glory in competition with God’s in the meetings of the Church, the man having been
appointed by God to be the symbolic display of the divine glory.
“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the
churches of God.”
Paul (God’s amanuensis, it is to be remembered), having explained the reason for
the divine command relative to head covering, concludes the discussion.
The churches everywhere recognized the spiritual significance of God’s
appointed order for the man as well as the woman, and rightly rejected all arguments
against it. Obedient believers today do
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together
not for the better, but for the worse.”
Apostle now takes up another matter: that of disorders at the Lord’s table, and
very obviously there was nothing to be commended in connection with these evils, for
their meetings were doing more harm than good.
“For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be
divisions among you; and I partly believe it.”
in the church” is a misleading translation which seems to imply that the building
in which they met was the church. It
wasn’t and isn’t. The more accurate
rendering is “when you meet together as a church or assembly.”
They, as a corporate body, were the local church, as is every such corporate
body wherever and whenever found. The
divisions undoubtedly were those discussed in chapter 1.
It is sad to relate that divisions of one form or another have plagued the
Church from that day to this.
and I partly believe it” is perhaps better translated, “and I believe there is
some truth in it (i.e., in the report he had heard).”
“For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may
be made manifest among you.”
according to Vine, is the choice of “an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion,
which ... leads to division and the formation of sects.”
It seems strange that these heresies should be declared necessary, but the
thought appears to be that the right “opinion” is revealed when the one holding
it shows the error of the heresy. In
other words, the heresies are the equivalent of the process by which metal is proved,
by assaying, to be pure. It follows
therefore, that those who would be approved by God must first know and accept the
truth themselves, hence the need to study Scripture, and obey its teaching.
The sincere desire of every believer ought to be that he will be thus approved
rather than be found to be but the one whose error manifests another’s possession
“When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the
might assemble and go through the motions of eating the Lord’s supper, but under
such circumstances it would be a mere empty ritual, and it is sadly apparent that in
all too many companies of believers today the Lord’s supper has become just that, a
ritual as abhorrent to God as was the ritualistic, but faithless “worship” of
Israel long ago.
incidental truth taught in the words, “When ye come together ... into one place,”
is that the Lord’s supper is a corporate ordinance, and is unscriptural in
any context other than the assembling of the whole local church on the first day of
each week. It excludes observance by
individuals or groups, e.g., shut-ins, campers, etc.
In regard to the sick, the shut-in, the isolated missionary, etc., the Lord is
fully aware of the circumstances, yet His Word reveals no hint that such are to eat
the Lord’s supper. Believers concerned
about obeying the Lord will plan their vacations so that there will be a Scriptural
assembly available on Lord’s day. Those
who have no such concern ought not to compound indifference with a wilful going
beyond the authority of Scripture to make a fetish of the emblems.
to the time of day when the Lord’s Supper is to be eaten, every Scriptural
reference is to the evening, but nowhere is the evening specifically designated as
the time, and we have to remember that the first day of the week was a working day,
the Jewish Sabbath being on Saturday. Obviously therefore the evening was the only time when the
believers could meet to keep the ordinance (the average believer had to work all
day), so that its being eaten in the evening was a matter of practicality, not of
divine legislation, the implication being that the time of day is a matter which God
has left to the judgment of the elders of each local church.
That being so, many assemblies today have elected to keep the feast in the
morning, so that the Lord’s day very fittingly begins with worship.
“For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is
hungry, and another is drunken.”
careful study of Scripture reveals that it was customary for the believers to
assemble together to share a common meal called the love feast, before the Lord’s
supper, each bringing some item of food, and then when all was placed on the table,
partaking of it together. The spirit of
love, however, had disappeared, and cliques had formed, so that instead of a common
table, they sat each in his own exclusive group, the rich looking disparagingly on
the inferior fare of the poor, instead of, as formerly, seizing the opportunity to
share with their poorer brethren. The
spirit of sharing had all but disappeared, selfishness having taken its place.
is probably not to be presumed, however, that they didn’t speak to one another, or
that the poor, for example, were literally forbidden to sit with the rich.
No, it is much more likely that the same subtlety as governs many a local
church today accomplished the goal just as effectively.
There is more than one way of showing a believer that he isn’t welcome in
our special clique! It is sad to realize
that the love feast which was meant to be an expression of mutual love, should have
degenerated into that which now merited the Lord’s rebuke.
It is difficult also to believe that some could actually have been drunken at
the Lord’s Supper, yet Scripture states that such was the case.
It says much for God’s patience that He was willing to use His servant Paul
to seek to call them back to a proper condition of heart.
“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.”
the love feast had completely lost its original character, Paul’s declaration is
that it were better abandoned, and better for each to eat his own supper in his own
house before assembling to eat the Lord’s supper.
To continue an activity which had degenerated into an empty form, and which
simply resulted in the embarrassment of the poor, was an offense to God, for instead
of building up the church in love, it was tearing it apart.
“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:”
had to remind them that their sinful conduct, instead of putting the focus on the
Lord’s Supper, had put it on the love feast which had become the forum in which
they displayed, not only their contempt of their poorer brethren, but also of God
Himself. That which should have been the
means of expressing their love for one another, and therefore of better fitting them
to express their worship as they ate the Lord’s Supper, had instead robbed the
latter of its true significance, and reduced it to an empty form.
call them back to a proper state of heart he had to remind them that when he had
first instructed them relative to the Lord’s Supper, it was because he had first
received that instruction from the Lord Himself.
His describing the night of the Supper’s institution as “the same night in
which he was betrayed,” may perhaps have been meant to remind them that their
present evil conduct could produce in them the same heart attitude as had led Judas
to betray the Lord that fateful night. There
is no telling to what sin that first disobedient step may lead.
“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.”
can’t help wondering why the Lord should have given thanks for that which was the
symbol of His body about to be yielded up to death, though one reason suggests
itself. Was it that His incomprehensible
love for the Father welcomed the opportunity to display that love in willingly
submitting Himself to death, first and above all else, for the Father’s glory, as
symbolically portrayed in the burnt offering? No
other readily discernible reason presents itself.
erroneous teaching that the bread and wine, by transubstantiation, become the literal
flesh and blood of Christ, is refuted by the fact that when the Lord instituted the
remembrance feast His body had not yet been given, His blood had not yet been shed,
He had not yet died. Incidentally, the
words Take, eat, and broken aren’t found in some manuscripts, the literal
translation being “This is my body which is for you,” i.e., “given to die in
your place,” a rendering which seems more in keeping with the fact that none of His
bones were broken. If broken is
retained, then clearly the application is to His flesh: His brow pierced with thorns,
His hands and feet with nails, His side with the spear.
is a sad commentary on the state of the Church that so many believers have made this
remembrance an annual or semi-annual event, though Scripture leaves no doubt that it
is to be celebrated on the first day of the week.
That it is to be a weekly celebration is made clear not only in Ac 20:7, but
also in Le 24:5-9, for those familiar with Biblical typology agree that the weekly
ritual of replacing the shewbread is the OT foreshadowing of the Lord’s Supper.
to whether the bread should be unleavened, some feel that this would be more
appropriate, since leaven represents sin, but the comment of the late Dr. Heading
merits consideration, “The Lord took the bread that was most conveniently to
hand, and the saints today should do the same without question.”
Controversy is avoided by leaving to the elders of each assembly the decision
as to the type of bread.
“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.”
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's
death till he come.”
new testament in my blood,” is literally “new covenant sealed or ratified by my
as oft as ye drink it,” has been erroneously construed by some as authority for
keeping the remembrance feast more frequently than once a week.
This, however, is as much error as is keeping it less often.
Here the emphasis is upon the purpose, not the frequency of the ordinance.
Relative to that time, there is no one verse that says, “Keep it on the
first day of the week,” but when we put together what is written, it is
clear that it is to be on the first day of the week, see e.g., Ac 20:7, “And upon
the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread....”; 1
Co 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store,
as God hath prospered him....” (the presentation of our offering is a part of
worship). The Lord rose from among the
dead on the first day of the week, and it was in breaking bread that He revealed
Himself to the two He had accompanied on the road to Emmaus that same day.
And then there is the witness of the Levitical ritual.
It is generally agreed that the table of shewbread is a figure, not only of
Christ, but also of the Lord’s supper, and it is to be noted that the shewbread was
to be eaten in the Tabernacle by the priests each Sabbath (Le 24:5-9), the OT Sabbath
having been replaced with the Christian first day of the week.
who contend for a different interval are obligated to produce Scripture to validate
their opinion, for to reject the weekly interval is to leave the time to every
man’s discretion, and it is highly unlikely that God would have done so relative to
that which commemorates the transcendent event anticipated by eternity past, and that
will be remembered by eternity future.
should note also that while the Lord’s supper reminds us of His death, it points
also to His coming again, first for His Church, and then seven years later at
the end of the Tribulation, with her, to judge the nations and establish His
“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.”
unworthily” is literally “treating the bread and cup as common things, not
apprehending their solemn symbolic import” (Vine). It is, in other words, to make a fetish of the emblems -
an offense with which many professing Christians are to be charged.
be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” is literally to be guilty of
desecrating (treating irreverently) 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.”
that self-examination, the emphasis doesn’t appear to be on whether the man is
saved, though certainly that aspect isn’t excluded, but rather, upon the manner of
his life. Clearly, the man who is living
in sin is in no fit spiritual state to eat the Lord’s Supper.
must note, however, that that examination is not meant to exclude him from the
Lord’s Supper (unless of course he finds that he has, in fact, not been born
again), but rather to lead him to repentant confession to God, and a forsaking of his
sin. It is apparent that that
self-examination, honestly carried out, must either produce repentant confession, or
result in the man’s compounding his sin by deliberate determination to continue in
it, an attitude which of course renders him unfit to sit at the Lord’s table.
The great danger lies in the indifference which neglects that examination, and
it is to be feared that it is indifference which has produced many of the disorders
with which the professing church is to be charged relative to the Lord’s supper.
“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation
to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
neglect the enjoined examination (or, in spite of it, to continue in sin) is to be
guilty of the very offense it is designed to eliminate, and therefore to make the
offender the object of Divine condemnation and judgment.
(Damnation relates to the fate of the impenitent unbeliever, and in the
present context which seems to relate to believers, is better translated condemnation
or judgment, for the true believer, no matter what his sin, can never lose his
“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”
is little reason to believe that the conditions described were spiritual rather than
physical. Their abuses of the Lord’s
supper had brought Divine chastisement in the form of physical maladies, and in some
cases even death. In regard to those who
had died it is not to be supposed that they weren’t believers, but that God by His
foreknowledge knew that chastisement would effect no change, and rather than leave
them on earth to dishonor His name, had called them home to heaven. The question
therefore may well be asked why He doesn’t deal today in similar fashion with those
guilty of the same offense, and the answer is that having left this example on record
as warning to the Church universal, He has chosen to leave till the judgment seat of
Christ the recompense of offenders.
practical lesson to be learned from this is that when sickness overtakes us we ought
to be willing to examine ourselves as to whether there might be reason for God to be
chastening us. A very necessary warning,
however, is needed in connection with sickness, especially that of others.
Not all sickness is due to chastisement, and we must never undertake to judge
the cause of sickness in others.
“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”
the self-examination mentioned in verse 28 were honestly carried out there would be
no need for God to judge us, i.e., to chasten us.
“But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be
condemned with the world.”
God does find it necessary to chasten us - and if we’re honest we must confess that
all too often we give Him cause - it is to restore us to an obedient walk so that He
can bestow blessing. In regard to not
being condemned with the world, the idea is not that any believer will ever
experience the condemnation that will be the eternal portion of the unbeliever, but
that in remaining impenitent we manifest the same rebellious spirit as the worldling,
and are therefore as worthy of condemnation as he.
The great difference, however, is that the same judgment will never be ours,
for Christ has borne ours at Calvary. That
knowledge alone should compel our obedience.
“Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for
for one another” therefore means probably that they were to wait till everyone had
arrived, and then with all the food on the table, to eat, not in exclusive little
groups, but as one company joined together in the bond of love for the Lord and for
“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.”
abuses of the love feast were apparently so great, however, that Paul felt it would
be better discontinued altogether, and for each to eat the evening meal in his own
home before coming together to eat the Lord’s supper.
promise to set other matters in order when he came makes it clear that not every
problem in the Corinthian assembly was addressed in this letter.