1 Corinthians Chapter 11: Headship in Christ, Partaking Worthily

Jan 5th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Corinthians Chapter 11: Headship in Christ, Partaking Worthily

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

Verse 1 belongs at the end of the tenth chapter, as shown in the Revised Standard Version. Paul was urging the Corinthian brethren to follow his example in circumscribing or sacrificing his liberties for others. The word “followers” should be “imitators,” for we are followers of Christ. “Be ye imitators of me [Paul], even as I also am of Christ.” The last clause, “even as I also am of Christ,” is a modifying factor.

1 Cor. 11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

“Now I praise you, brethren.” Verse 2 begins a new subject. Characteristically, wherever possible, Paul put a word of commendation in his epistles, complimenting the brethren. Here he praised the brethren for trying to obey and for remembering him, for even though he had left Corinth, they were writing to him for advice.

Many of the brethren in the class were looking to Paul for advice, and they were troubled by certain leaders in their midst who, although a minority, were influential. These leaders found fault with Paul’s judgment on various matters, and in “examining” him, they raised seeds of doubt in the other brethren. In an indirect but very effective manner, Paul was trying to strengthen the brethren to realize that these leaders, who were not apostles, were putting forth wrong teachings; namely, he called attention to what he was doing and to the fact that the others were not suffering for Christ. Paul advised the brethren to listen to his admonitions and to be imitators of him as he was a follower of Christ.

We do not fully know what “ordinances” Paul had previously delivered to the Corinthians.

Whether they were given when he first established the ecclesia and/or subsequently in his first letter, which is not recorded in Scripture, we do not know.

Comment: Some feel that Paul’s advice later on in this chapter with regard to a woman’s head being covered is not a commandment, but the fact he is introducing the subject by praising the Corinthians for keeping his previous instructions, ordinances, and traditions indicates that he will be giving them yet another instruction from God, which is meant to be kept.

Paul praised the Corinthians for keeping “the ordinances, as I [had previously] delivered them [un]to you.” 1 Corinthians 7:17 provides a possible clue as to what Paul had ordained: “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” What did God deliver unto every man? Those in the early Church did not have personal copies of the Old Testament, let alone complete Bibles. Therefore, when a person consecrated, he was given a mechanical gift of the Holy Spirit along one or more lines.

Some were given the gift of a startling memory, being able to quote the entire Old Testament (probably in the Hebrew tongue). Others who attended the local meetings might not know Hebrew but could speak Greek. Someone else in the congregation had the gift of putting the Hebrew into Greek so that the others could clearly understand the lesson for the day. Still others had the gift of prophecy. Thus the brethren had plenty of help from one another.

However, Paul had to tell them not to all speak at the same time and to caution them that one individual should not monopolize too much of the time but should endeavor to be as brief and as clear as possible. Another person would have the gift of explaining what the text meant in a more doctrinal fashion. After that, the meeting was open for commentary. As long as everything was done decently and in order, the class got the maximum profit. Paul said, “I would rather speak five words that the brethren could understand than 10,000 words that would not be helpful” (1 Cor. 14:19 paraphrase). Evidently, he had given previous instructions to the Corinthians along various lines, so we are not exactly sure what ordinances he was referring to in verse 2.

1 Cor. 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.

Paul was calling attention to headship. The order, hierarchy, or chain of command, starting at the top, is God, Christ, man, woman. With all being separate individuals, verse 3 refutes the Trinity. Just as the man being the head of the woman indicates two separate people, so God being the head of Christ indicates two separate beings. God is supreme over all.

The theme of headship becomes prominent in subsequent verses, so verse 3 was gradually introducing a new subject. Also, verse 3 indicates that a man should have headship in the home. Especially today headship in the home is a touchy subject, but the scriptural principle is plain. Christ wanted his disciples to suffer and be tried along Christian lines and the commandments of God rather than on social issues, which have both justices and injustices.

The attention of the Christian is not to be diverted into these paths and away from Christ.

A possible problem in the church at Corinth was that the sisters were teaching indiscriminately, and perhaps even more than the brothers. Clues back in the apostles’ day, as well as in our present experience at this end of the age, indicate that the majority of those who give their hearts to the Lord are women. Therefore, a reasonable assumption is that sisters were teaching. Paul would now give advice along that line. In fact, the discussion of this issue, as well as other practical, pragmatic matters that can be disturbing factors in the Christian church, is what makes 1 and 2 Corinthians startlingly different from Paul’s other epistles.

Comment: Galatians 3:28 reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, … bond nor free, … male nor female [in the church]: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” but that text is not discussing the hierarchical standpoint.

Reply: That is true. Each consecrated individual is a child of God, and one who may seem to us to be inferior in knowledge or development may end up, before finishing his (or her) course, much more advanced than we are. Therefore, in looking upon one another, we should try to find some quality in each individual, male or female, that we lack. By observing behavior in meetings and in fellowship, we can see brethren who are an example and a help to us in our own development. We should not be unduly influenced by any ethnic or other type of

differentiation of the body members of Christ. In the organization and functioning of church meetings, we need decency and order, but otherwise, all are equal. We should not be highminded.

1 Cor. 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

1 Cor. 11:5 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.

1 Cor. 11:6 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.

Paul now began to discuss praying and prophesying. Prophesying is usually thought of as public speaking, but it can also be a public statement either to the Church or to others.

Attention was being called to the brother or sister who verbally expresses a thought. If the man prays or prophesies with his head covered, he dishonors God. To the contrary, if the woman prays or prophesies with an uncovered head, she dishonors God. It is permissible for a woman to speak with her head uncovered only if she is shorn of her hair. Stated another way, the woman should either cover her head or have her scalp shaved. This comment was a dig, for Grecian women were noted for their long, beautiful hair and the way it was adorned and displayed. Since they prized their hair, of the two choices, it was better for them to cover their heads when praying or prophesying. To get his point across, Paul used sarcasm: “For those women who do not want to cover the head, let them cut off their hair. And if to cut off the hair would be a shame for a woman, let her take the lesser of the two restrictions. Since it is severe to have the hair removed, why not take the more moderate course of just covering the head?”

Comment: If a woman would not cover her head, she was acting like a man and should look like a man.

Again Paul used common-sense reasoning. To the women, he was saying, “Can you not forbear a moment of glory and subdue yourselves by this act of covering your heads? Not only does an uncovered head call attention to yourselves, but you would be violating the symbolism.” Today brethren emphasize the symbolism, which is proper, for a covered head shows the headship of Christ. However, there is also the practical aspect, which was especially pertinent in the early Church, of not calling attention to oneself.

Comment: A woman should cover her head in the ecclesia arrangement, which is public praying or prophesying, but not for something like saying grace at the table with the family.

Q: Should a sister cover her head in witnessing, colporteuring, follow-up work, and tracting?

A: Covering the head pertains more to the ecclesia arrangement. However, for planned witnessing to the public, such as colporteur work, a sister should be especially careful of her dress because she is going forth expressly to speak as a representative of the Lord, and a head covering is advisable. In principle, a sister should always dress appropriately, but when the purpose is to go out witnessing, a little more discretion should be used.

Q: Should a sister who sings before a congregation have her head covered?

A: Yes, because she is singing publicly.

Q: If sisters meet together and no brother is present, should they cover their heads?

A: In sisters’ meetings that are planned, not impromptu, it is advisable for them to cover their heads, but head coverings are more important when brothers are present. Sisters might not cover their heads if praying or witnessing on the street, for example, but would cover them in a friend’s house when praying. The point is to obey the principle of what Paul was saying with regard to public praying and prophesying and to try to judge (and follow) the propriety of its application under various circumstances. As a guideline along another line, a woman can express herself—she can pray and prophesy in the Church—as long as she uses moderation and does not monopolize a meeting or try to be the elder.

Having the head covered was a sore issue in the Corinthian ecclesia. Because many sisters did not want to cover their heads, Paul led into the subject by thanking the brethren for asking his advice (verse 1). Then he explained that the head of woman is man, the head of man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God (verse 2). Now he would devote a number of verses to the subject of covering the head.

Incidentally, some of the Christian Jews might have thought a man should cover his head when praying or prophesying because in the type, the underpriests in the Levitical priesthood wore bonnets according to the Law, and the head of the high priest was uncovered. However, in that symbolism, the underpriests (men) represented the Bride of Christ, whereas the high priest represented Jesus. (The high priest wore a turban that left the top of the head bare. The purpose of the turban was to hold the golden plate, which was affixed to the turban with a blue lacer. Thus the turban and the golden plate became like a tiara.) To preserve the symbolism in the Gospel Age, the men with their heads uncovered represent Jesus, the Head and High Priest of the Church, and the women with their heads covered picture the Bride.

Comment: Some have tried to say a woman’s hair is her “covering,” but Weymouth, Moffatt, and other translations use the word “veil,” showing that the covering is something external and separate. Verses 4 and 6 state, “A man who wears a veil when praying or prophesying dishonors his Head…. If a woman will not wear a veil, let her also cut off her hair.”

Comment: Phillips is also clear: “But in the case of a woman, if she prays or preaches with her head uncovered, it is just as much a disgrace as if she had had it closely shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head she might just as well have her head cropped. And if to be cropped or closely shaven is the sign of disgrace to a woman (as it is with many peoples), then that is all the more reason for her to cover her head.”

Reply: Phillips goes into the philosophy from a natural standpoint. Subsequent verses in the King James will shed more light.

Although the usual definition of prophesying is “public teaching,” there were women who prophesied when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Generally speaking, they prophesied in a mechanical fashion, as they were moved, making utterances that were profitable particularly to the consecrated. Sometimes women prophesied to the public, but Paul seems to have been speaking about the ecclesia arrangement. This “prophesying” was not teaching, for Paul said that a woman was not to “usurp [teaching] authority over the man” (1 Tim. 2:12).

Referring to Old Testament times, the Apostle Peter said that holy men of old spoke “as they were moved” by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). On different occasions, the Prophet Jeremiah was told to go to a specific location and make a certain statement to the Jewish people. The prophets typically went to the city gate and waited. Meanwhile, the people saw them standing there silently. All of a sudden, a seizure or some outside invisible force would move them to speak in an extraordinary fashion. So unusual was the speaking that if their ordinary voice did not have a carrying quality so people afar off could hear, their own voice was amplified in a startling fashion as though they were speaking through a loudspeaker. On these occasions, if the Lord wished to witness to a great many people in a noisy marketplace, for example, the voice was miraculously amplified. Similarly, when a woman stood up in an ecclesia meeting, the brethren saw that she was teaching not with her own understanding but under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The brethren recognized what was happening.

Comment: How fitting, then, for the woman to have her head covered! Her speaking under such circumstances was not ordinary teaching but was something a little above and beyond and very necessary and significant to the Church back there.

“Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for [she] … is … as if she were shaven.” A woman’s uncovered head was shameful to God. If she prophesied with her head uncovered, speaking in the name of the Lord, it was so dishonoring to the Holy Spirit coming upon her that it was like seeing her prophesying with a bald head, which would be so distracting that the hearers would not receive what she had to say. Therefore, in God’s sight, if a woman’s head was uncovered in prophesying, it was as though she were preaching with a stark bald head.

Comment: If an elder is in an ecclesia or a setting where sisters do not cover their heads, he should not call on them for prayer. And conversely, if a man has abnormally long hair, he should not be called on for prayer.

Reply: Yes, to ask them to pray would be unbecoming. Elders are responsible for doing the admonishing in such instances.

1 Cor. 11:7 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.

1 Cor. 11:8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

1 Cor. 11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

Paul certainly was not encouraging women’s liberation! Some limitations in the ecclesia arrangement have remained throughout the Gospel Age. Generally speaking, persecution during the Dark Ages was harsher on Christian men than on women. Teaching publicly and having the prestige that accompanies such teaching, the men often received greater outward persecution, whereas the women were judged on the basis of being the wives, friends, and companions of the men who suffered; that is, God regarded the women’s support for and cooperation with the men who were physically persecuted as equal loyalty. In the final analysis, God is looking for faithfulness to Him, so a sister can be just as loyal by obeying the Word as a man is in suffering physical persecution. What is important is the manifestation of loyalty with regard to the truth and doing God’s will.

Some would feel the relationship of men and women is unfair, but it is not. Similarly, the gospel is not one of freedom for slaves or emancipation of the oppressed of the world. Rather, the gospel speaks of liberty for those under sin and moral degradation. What is important is liberty of the spirit and of the soul. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [of soul]” (Matt. 11:28). The Christian may have to contend with poverty, but internal comfort gives an entirely different perspective on life. The Lord looks on the inner man, and the degree of loyalty is manifested by one’s effort to follow God’s Word.

Comment: Since the world today is interested in women’s liberation, the persecution to come on the Church in the near future during the church-state hour of power will probably be equally severe for men and women.

Reply: Yes. Even in the past, as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs testifies, many women suffered harsh persecution, but in numerical terms, men usually got the brunt of the persecution.

Why did Paul say, “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”? If headship of the man was a problem in the ecclesia, with women wanting an equal say, then surely it was also a problem in the home. However, although the office of elder, with the function of teaching, is one thing, there should be liberty to question. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. 6:6). All who are being taught, both male and female, should have free communication on the subject matter being presented.

Comment: There seems to have been a problem in the Corinthian church with the women being too outspoken. Apparently, the Greek women tended to be overbearing.

Reply: Since Paul said there is neither male nor female in Christ, some of the Corinthian women might have felt there should be no sex discrimination at all in the ecclesia (Gal. 3:28).

However, only men are to be elders. And yes, the Corinthian women were too outspoken. After instructing the women to cover their heads, Paul had to go further and tell them to be silent in the ecclesia (1 Cor. 14:34). Paul met this problem with common-sense reasoning from the Bible. Man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man, that is, to be his helpmate. All down through history, women have given birth to both males and females, but if we go back to Adam, woman came out of man. Using a little sarcasm and constructive criticism, Paul said, “If you are going to reason that there is neither male nor female in Christ, then go back to the original picture with Adam and Eve.”

Saying that man “is the image and glory of God” is another reference to Adam. God created man (Adam) first and then woman (Eve) out of man. God stretched out and enlarged a rib of Adam to make a very beautiful woman, who was given to Adam as a companion. Thus “the woman is the glory of the man,” for her origin goes back to the man.

Paul’s reasoning continued. If man, when originally made, was the glory of God, then from a practical standpoint, that glory would be inhibited if a hat, or covering, were worn. Just from a natural, psychological standpoint, when man was created, he must have had beautiful hair. To have the hair covered under that circumstance would seem inauspicious, for those beholding Adam should see all of him.

“If the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn” (verse 6). Paul knew that no woman in her right senses would be so interested in prophesying that she would shave her head and be bald in order to do so. This unusual approach was his way of stating the reason why a woman should have her head covered. He was saying, “If you want to be stubborn and different from other women by not covering your head, then you can have that privilege, but make sure that you take off all your hair.” Of course Paul knew that this logic, a form of sarcasm, would silence the women along this line, but this reasoning was only a part of the answer.

In verse 7, Paul switched back to the man: “A man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.” The scriptural precedent of Genesis 1:27, that man was created in the image of God, was a reasonable explanation as to why a man should not cover his head. Paul used common-sense reasoning on this delicate, troublesome subject. He gave a good, solid reason for reversing the former Jewish practice.

“The woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man” (verses 7b and 8). Paul was giving a lesson according to a particular question the Corinthian brethren wanted him to resolve. Verse 9 continued the same theme: “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” This was practical advice that if a woman faithfully curbed her inhibitions and frustrations along this line, she would be rewarded in proportion to her obedience.

Comment: Just as Eve would not have existed without Adam, so the Church would not exist without Jesus.

1 Cor. 11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

The woman ought to have “power [a covering] on her head because of the angels,” the messengers, that is, primarily the elders. The ministers to the church are called “angels” (1 Tim. 5:21). In the sin city of Corinth, women had long hair richly adorned in various ways. If an elder was giving a sermon or a lesson, and right in front of him was a beautiful woman with an elaborate hairdo, she would be a distraction. The principle is the same with a short skirt or any part of a woman’s external appearance that calls attention to herself.

Comment: Other males in the ecclesia could also be distracted and thus not pay attention to the speaker. And a woman with an elaborate hairdo could even distract other sisters.

Reply: That is true, and the principle of a woman being “covered” is to be applied in each circumstance. When a woman prays or a man teaches in a meeting, the individual becomes the focus of attention. There are two possible dangers: The person praying or teaching can be (1) a distraction to others or (2) distracted by others.

Comment: Young’s Analytical Concordance defines “power” as “authority” or “privilege.” It is a privilege for a woman to cover her head and thus show the headship of Christ.

Reply: Obedience to the instruction to cover the head is in itself a privilege. It is also an evidence of her humility.

Incidentally, a certain amount of formality and decorum is desirable but not so much that spirituality is destroyed. Either extreme is a problem—carelessness and being too relaxed are not conducive to spirituality, but neither is an atmosphere that is too rigid and strict.

The margins of some Bibles have a reference to literal spiritual angels. That thought goes back to the days prior to the Flood, when some of the angels were attracted to the daughters of men. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Gen. 6:2). However, Paul was talking primarily of human “messengers” in the church, that is, elders. The “power,” or head covering, subdues and modifies the distracting influence. It is also a symbol of the woman’s humility and her recognition of the male as the head in the marriage relationship.

Comment: The Weymouth translation reads, “That is why a woman ought to have on her head a symbol of subjection, because of the angels.”

1 Cor. 11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

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

Paul made these statements in order to keep the relationship balanced between the man and the woman. He kept the right perspective by not letting the issue go too far in the other direction with the man becoming a dictator. Verses 11 and 12 are balancing-out statements. Man and woman are not completely independent of each other in the marriage relationship— there should be a close rapport between the two—“but all things [both man and woman are] of God.” In other words, the obligation toward God is superior to the marriage relationship.

Paul was directing attention away from the male and female aspect and giving the perspective that all things are of God. The order of importance is God first, family second (particularly the marriage as a mortgage), and duty to fellow man third.

One should not think too much of himself or herself, especially in the family relationship. Even though an order is to be observed, there is not to be a dictator relationship but a relationship based on respect for the principles laid down in God’s Word.

Comment: Paul had said that the head of the woman is the man, the head of the man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God. Now, lest the woman (the wife) become a slave to the man (her husband), Paul was showing the balance.

Reply: The wife should try to be responsive to her husband and vice versa, but the husband has the decision-making role in the marriage. However, he is not to be a dictator.

Q: How is the woman “of the man,” and how is the man “by the woman”?

A: Eve was made out of Adam’s rib, and a man is born by a woman. They both (the man and the woman) need each other in one way or other. Verses 8 and 9 refer to Adam and Eve: “The man is not of the woman [originally]; but the woman [was] of the man. Neither was the man [Adam] created for the woman [Eve]; but the woman [was originally created as a helpmate] for the man.” But lest the reader get an imbalanced view of this matter, Paul was saying, “Do not go too far in this analogy.” He put both the man and the woman in the proper perspective.

Both have their place in God’s arrangement, and they need each other, so the man should not feel too independent or be too domineering. An abnormal condition existed in Corinth.

Comment: Because of the type, the man is above the woman, but nevertheless, both are needed for propagation. On the one hand, the man needs the woman in order to keep the human race going, and on the other hand, the woman needs the man.

Reply: “In the Lord” there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28). In their relationship to God, the man and the woman are equal. There may be a few exceptions where some men are more recognized, but it should never be in a domineering sense. Prophetesses and deaconesses were in the ecclesia, but modesty and decorum were needed by the women.

1 Cor. 11:13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

In verses 13 and 14, Paul gave a practical, pragmatic evaluation in regard to covering the head.

How does the subject pertain to a woman? How does the subject pertain to a man?

If a woman prays (or prophesies) unto God, especially in the ecclesia, she should cover her head. Paul then asked a common-sense rhetorical question: “Is it becoming for a women to pray unto God with an uncovered head?” By nature, women are endowed with beautiful hair, so when they pray publicly, where brethren are trying to commune with God, the less distraction the sisters cause with their hair, the better. Covering the head is a mark of humility and modesty in a woman. The women in Corinth were more apt to adorn themselves with long and ornamented hair. Consecrated women should have a reverent, modest appearance in dress as well as hair.

Comment: Paul was saying, “I have given you evidence and the reasons for a woman to cover her head. Now you judge the matter.”

Reply: Yes, he gave about three perspectives on the propriety of a woman covering her head.

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

“Nature itself” teaches that it is shameful for a man to have long hair, for long hair makes him look effeminate. When a man’s hair creeps down over the back of his shoulders, it is hard to tell the difference between a man and a woman.

Q: Did Jesus have long hair?

A: He probably had longer hair but not down to his shoulders, as is often portrayed. The Gospels do not tell what Jesus’ face looked like, how tall he was, or what he weighed, but they do indicate that he was very handsome like Moses. When born, Moses was a “goodly [fair] child” (Exod. 2:2). No doubt when he grew up, he was unusual in his bearing. We believe that Jesus had a natural grooming and bearing befitting one who would become, in a special sense, the image of God.

With regard to Jesus’ hair, much would have to do with the way it was cut. It could be worn long, but not abnormally long. Just as a woman is to exercise moderation, so a man should do likewise. The manliness of Jesus was not feminized, even though, in a sense, he was representative of Adam before Eve was taken out of his side. As originally created, man had in his person a blend of male and female qualities. When the rib was taken out of Adam’s side and woman was made, there was a separation of the common characteristics of true womanhood (a certain delicateness) and true manhood (manliness). We think, therefore, that there was an unusual blend of both natures in the personage of Jesus Christ himself.

Apparently, the length of the man’s hair was another problem in the church at Corinth. Some of the men were beginning to let their hair grow long. First, Paul said it was a shame for a man’s head to be covered. Now he added that a man’s hair should not be allowed to grow to an unseemly length.

Today the main motivation for long hair is rebellion, independence, and nonconformity. One who wants to be different also wants to call attention to himself and show that he is liberal and a free thinker. The practice, or habit, of being different is somewhat like the conscience. The conscience is tender, but through disobedience, it becomes hardened.

1 Cor. 11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

To the contrary, a woman’s long hair is natural; it is a glory given to her by God. Therefore, she should humble herself in prayer by covering that glory. Verses 14 and 15 are common sense.

Comment: The length of a woman’s hair is modified somewhat by the custom of the time. The main point is that it should look feminine.

Reply: Similarly under the Law, a man was not to wear woman’s clothing and vice versa in order to preserve masculinity and femininity, respectively. Today, with changing customs, a woman can wear pants under certain circumstances, but there are still guidelines.

Incidentally, at the time Paul was speaking, the Roman men who were eligible for warfare did not have long hair because long hair would have been a real handicap in hand-to-hand combat.

Grabbing another man’s long hair would give considerable control and psychologically break his spirit, especially since the neck represents pride, resistance, and stubbornness. The long hair of Absalom, the son of David, got caught in an oak tree and led to his downfall. “And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away” (2 Sam. 14:25,26; 18:9).

If a fair, noble woman shaved off all her hair, making herself bald, her femininity would be lost. Of course if a woman lost her hair through radiation treatments or an illness, or if she became naturally bald, we would not disapprove of her wearing a wig. Certainly there should be more empathy for a woman in that circumstance than for a man.

When God made woman from Adam, she was startlingly different—almost like a new creation—for the angels were all sons (males) of God. When angels materialize, they can assume the likeness of a woman, but they do not have that likeness in their normal spiritual estate. When man was created, the morning stars sang together, and the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:7). However, we can imagine that the angels were silent in their astonishment and pleasure at seeing Eve, for she was unique and so different from what the angels were accustomed to. In fact, many of the angels were so enamored with the arrangement God had made for the multiplication of the human race that they left their first estate and stayed down here, taking unto themselves wives as they chose (Gen. 6:2). Thus we can see that hair is like an essential for one to be a woman. This is a sensitive subject, but in an idealistic sense, we can see that there is a distinction between male and female.

Comment: For verse 15, the King James margin has “veil” for “covering.”

Reply: The thought is of a natural veil: “[A woman’s] hair is given [to] her for a [natural] covering” outside the Church, but inside the Church is a different situation because of the new nature and Spirit-begettal. God made woman with long hair, but there is a problem inside the Church, for as new creatures, we are told that henceforth we know neither male nor female. Of course we recognize that we are all of God’s family, being either sons or daughters, but we do not make that distinction in the Church as far as our relationship to each other and to God is concerned. An equality exists, yet there is a dual role in that a woman should have her head, including her hair, covered during the church service.

The woman covers her head in the Church for two reasons. (1) Long, flowing hair is not a distraction if covered. (2) The symbolism of headship is important. The woman shows deference in covering her head. Therefore, Paul’s advice is proper from both a pragmatic and a symbolic standpoint.

Q: Wouldn’t the fallen angels appear as men rather than women?

A: They can do either according to their purpose, and they can even materialize as animals.

They fashion garments and appearances that best suit their intended purpose of deception. It is true that the fallen angels do not usually appear as woman because their very aggressiveness and hardness make them desire to be of the male sex. They enjoy the capacity of the male, and they want license to accommodate it.

1 Cor. 11:16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

There was trouble in the Corinthian church. Some, both male and female, were contending for their liberty. At first, Paul seems to be saying, “If you are going to be contentious, let’s drop the matter. Do not worry, for this is just my advice and not dogma.” The Diaglott and the Sinaitic harmonize with the King James translation, but there is a problem, and some of the other translations are helpful. “But if anyone wants to argue about this, all I can say is that we never teach anything else than this—that a woman should wear a covering when prophesying or praying publicly in the church, and all the churches feel the same way about it” (Living Bible).

“If anyone is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God” (Revised Standard). “But if anyone wants to be argumentative about it, I can only say that we and the churches of God generally hold this ruling on the matter” (Phillips). What, then was Paul calling attention to? The Phillips translation and the Living Bible properly reflect the context—it does matter that a woman’s head should be covered. Notice verses 4 and 5: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.” It would be strange if the Apostle Paul was saying in one place, “You are dishonoring the head,” and then said in verse 16, “What you do does not matter. If you are going to be argumentative, we do not have any ruling on the matter.”

We will make a suggestion for verse 16 that favors the King James translation but gives a different twist. Notice, first, that verse 6 says, “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn [either close-cropped like a crew cut or clean-shaven with a razor].” Either way the lack of hair was a shame, as shown by customs of the past. For instance, when barbarians invaded Italy and became converted, it was a custom among the Jews to cut off the hair of a woman found in adultery. To have the hair cut was both a symbol of shame and a punishment.

In the East, generally speaking, when a woman was out in public, she covered her hair, and some even wore a veil. The covering was a symbol of modesty, decorum, and headship either to her husband, who was her head, or to her father if she was single. The covering showed that the woman recognized her place, or station, in life.

Corinth was a worldly commercial city. In connection with their rights, the women were beginning to abandon this practice and not wear a head covering. They were known for their beautiful hair, and now, instead of the hair being just for their husbands, the women were demonstrating their long hair to the public. Paul was saying that this practice was bad enough in the world, but it should not be carried into the Church. In alluding to the practice of shaming the woman by cutting off her hair, Paul was asking the Corinthians, “If you are contentious about the matter, would you want your head shaved?”

In other words, we understand verse 16 to have an opposite connotation to what is expressed in the King James. Paul said, “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom,” but what was the “such custom”? Invariably, translators misapply this term. Paul was referring to the custom of a women having an uncovered or shorn head, or of a man having a covered head or long hair, when praying or prophesying. Any of these customs would be “a shame.”

The women in the church in Corinth were following the practice of not covering the head. Paul said, “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head [Christ]” (verse 5). He recognized that women had the right to pray and to prophesy publicly—he was not abridging their liberty of expression. A woman has a place in God’s arrangement, but in that capacity, she should modestly cover her hair with a veil. Therefore, Paul was advising modesty and decorum and not trying to curtail liberty in praying and prophesying.

Some women in the Corinthian church were praying and prophesying with uncovered heads, and some men had long hair. In addition, a number of the male Christian Jews were probably covering their heads because of the Jewish custom under the Law. Hence in verse 16, Paul was talking about the wrong “custom.” He was saying, “I am not in favor of, nor do I advise, this innovation, which is improperly being brought into the church in Corinth. This custom is not practiced in any of the other churches. Therefore, you are setting a precedent that dishonors Christ.” A woman who refuses to cover her head dishonors her own natural head, her family head, and Christ—she destroys the whole arrangement. And the man who covers his head does likewise. Even in appearance, he looks foolish. Christ, as the High Priest, had his head uncovered. The woman, as a picture of the Church under Christ, should have her head covered.

When this subject matter originally came up, Paul commended the Corinthians: “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things [I advised], and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (verse 2). Evidently, Paul had instructed earlier, and set as a pattern in the Church, that women should cover their heads and men should have uncovered heads. The Corinthians were following this practice while Paul was with them, but in his absence, others introduced new ideas. Apparently, however, Paul had not explained in depth the reason for the practice. Therefore, he now gave the basis for the ordinances. The Corinthians seemed to have a logical reasoning for doing otherwise—that there is neither male nor female in the Church, for example—but they were giving the Scriptures a twist that was not permissible. In summation, the King James translation of verse 16 is all right when we realize that Paul was saying, “We have no such custom as these new teachers are bringing in.”

Q: Should a woman cut her hair?

A: To do so back there was a shame. The problem is where a woman tries to appear masculine and loses her femininity. The criteria pertain to decorum, modesty, and femininity. By nature, a woman should be feminine, and a man should be masculine. Each Christian is responsible for where he or she draws the line, but Paul gave clear-cut instructions on the matter of having a head covered or uncovered in the Church.

Comment: An argument sometimes used for women not covering their heads is that her hair is her covering (verse 15). The premise continues that back in Paul’s day, only those who had shaved heads were required to cover their heads, but the argument falls flat because, both then and now, women do not have shaved heads.

Reply: Verse 6 contradicts the argument, for it says that if a woman does not want her head to be covered, her hair should be cut off. Paul coupled verse 15 with verse 14 and was talking along natural lines. If a man tries to grow long hair, he loses his masculinity and begins to look like a woman. With a woman, however, the longer her hair, the more beautiful it is. Long hair is God’s gift, or endowment, to the woman; it is her “glory.” The hair itself is not a covering in the Church because Paul said that a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. Moreover, verse 10 uses the word power: “For this cause ought the woman to have power [an additional covering, that is, a veil] on her head because of the angels.” In other words, “For this reason, it is necessary for a woman not merely to have hair on her head but also to have a veil above that hair.”

Comment: The point is not to distract those in the congregation by the beauty of the woman’s hair. A general rule is not to call attention to self, and that rule is somewhat based on the custom of the time. For example, a distraction today would be inordinate makeup.

Reply: In the Church, a woman’s hair is to be covered. What is done in the private home is another matter. In Paul’s day, the longer the hair, the better. With regard to today, Paul merely used the criterion that it is not becoming for a woman to pray with her hair uncovered. The general rule is that the beauty of a woman’s hair should be subdued when praying to God. The real issue is not so much the length of the hair as it is to maintain femininity or masculinity.

Comment: Today a head covering for a woman is more symbolic than practical because the covering is often very small.

Reply: If a woman has unusual adornment such as an elaborate hairdo or excessive jewelry, she should put a larger covering on the head, but if a woman’s head is not adorned, the simple small covering is sufficient because it shows she recognizes her submission. As has been expressed, a woman should not call attention to self—in other words, she should be modest. Being a Christian today is difficult. Because of the subtle temptations, very few Christians will make the Little Flock. Throughout the Gospel Age, there has been physical persecution except for the Laodicean period thus far, so we are living in a peculiar time. Nevertheless, the Scriptures teach that some members of the Little Flock are still in the flesh. The battle now is primarily mental—it is one of decision making with principles involved in a subtle way. In the future, when members of the Little Flock consider one another impartially, those who suffered physical persecution will recognize that the ones chosen now are just as worthy because of the subtle and severe trials along mental lines. Of course at the very end of the age, there will again be physical persecution, for the feet members have to be off the scene at a time known to the Lord. Meanwhile, Christians in this country are living in luxury and ease with many study helps like concordances and numerous Bible translations.

In the near future, the “mark of the beast” will be applied in the business and social world of Christendom (Rev. 13:16,17). Efforts are already being made to organize orthodox Christians to buy from other orthodox Christians. And methods are being devised to eliminate the need for checkbooks. Advancing technology is hastening the coming persecution.

Let us consider verse 16 again but from another standpoint. “But if any man [that is, any individual, man or woman] seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” Who was contentious? Why did Paul, after making strong recommendations and giving logical reasons for his advice, from both a spiritual and a natural standpoint, say that his advice on covering the head could not be made mandatory in this situation?

Comment: Paul felt his advice had God’s approval but did not want the issue to cause divisions.

Reply: Paul’s advice was important but not absolutely essential. If there were to be a split in the class, which could be proper depending on the circumstance, it should not occur over this particular issue. However, he had something else in mind.

Comment: 1 Timothy 6:3-5 reads, “If any man teach otherwise [being contentious], and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

Reply: That is part of the reason for not making the advice mandatory at the present time, but a peculiar circumstance existed, chiefly with regard to men, at the time Paul wrote this advice.

The Christian Jews in Corinth had a problem because in the Tabernacle arrangement, all of the underpriests wore bonnets. In addition, when the people came into the Tabernacle arrangement after the services, there was no particular injunction whether they had their heads covered or uncovered. A radical dispensational change took place at the beginning of the Gospel Age. That which was proper from a natural standpoint in common society was now considered otherwise when it came to spiritual worship as a new creature. In the gospel Church, those who ministered in the services were not to have their head covered, whereas those who participated in the Tabernacle service did have their head covered. It was difficult for some of the Jews to understand and thus make the distinction and heartily accept Paul’s advice.

Because their conscience had been trained the other way, they thought, “We are not so sure that Paul is correct on this particular issue.” Therefore, because of this problem, it was not absolutely necessary for a class to split on this issue, but as time went on in the gospel Church, this indoctrination of the Jews evaporated, for relatively few Jews accepted the gospel. The point is that it is more important today to observe the Apostle Paul’s advice, for the exceptions he made during the transitional period from the Jewish Age to the Gospel Age no longer apply. In other words, the Jews had difficulty overcoming the culture they were born into, but now Paul’s advice is more essential.

Comment: If a sister in our day refuses to wear a head covering, we would not make an issue out of her refusal, but she should not be called on to pray.

Reply: That is one way this problem could be treated. Back there quite a number of Jewish Christians did not follow Paul’s advice and thus were contentious about this matter.

Comment: After discussing the subject for many verses, Paul now seems to be diminishing his reasoning by saying the issue is not that important.

Reply: From the standpoint of back there, under those circumstances, the issue was not dogmatic.

1 Cor. 11:17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

“Now in this [custom not practiced in other churches] … I praise you not.” Paul did not praise the Corinthians for their innovations. Therefore, when he said in verse 16, “We have no such custom, [and] neither [do] the [other] churches of God,” he was talking about customs that were not praiseworthy. He did not approve of the novel practices the new teachers were trying to introduce. Not only did they come in with new teachings, but they tried to bring Paul down to their level from his pedestal as an apostle.

Verse 17 expresses the situation in some ecclesias; namely, when the brethren come together, it is “not for the better, but for the worse.” Various issues and contentions can destroy the spirituality of the meetings. In the apostle’s absence, a number of problems arose in Corinth, with some brethren defending one side and others arguing for the other side. Nevertheless, Paul praised the ecclesia for trying as a whole. And it was praiseworthy that at least some in the class sought his advice by sending him a list of questions.

Blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity, as is increasingly happening today, encourages the problems of homosexuality and lesbianism, for by culture and practice, one can become abnormal. As for those who are born with this weakness, we can have more commiseration for them if they fight and desperately try to overcome that which seems to be in their genes. We would have less sympathy for those who deliberately indulge themselves in a culture along that line, for they are doing that which is forbidden in the Old Testament. This danger is surfacing now with women becoming more and more liberal and men becoming abnormal in many respects. We are truly living in “perilous times” (2 Tim. 3:1).

Evidently, there was much contention about the covering of the head in the class at Corinth. Paul was saying, “Rather than make a hard-and-fast rule, I will give you my advice and thinking on the matter. In the final analysis, it is more important not to have these arguments when you get together, with some taking one side and others taking the other side. Let every man be persuaded in his own mind.”

1 Cor. 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

In review, the Corinthian church had numerous problems, and the letter sent to Paul contained questions on various issues: (1) There were divisions with brethren saying “I am of Paul,” “I am of Cephas,” etc. (chapters 1-3). (2) When Paul’s authority was questioned, he first tried to minimize himself, showing that all were of God in Christ (chapter 4). But rather than to deprecate himself continually, he then showed that the new teachers were puffed up and trying to reign as kings. They began to minimize Paul and inflate their own importance. (3) The next problem was fornication, which involved a particular individual in the church (chapter 5). (4) Judging and taking a brother to court were another problem (chapter 6). (5) Paul gave advice on marriage problems and relationships (chapter 7). (6) Meat offered to idols was next addressed (chapters 8-10). (7) Paul defended his apostleship and the things he sacrificed. He showed that the Christian is called to suffer and that the suffering should be marks of commendation rather than of criticism (also in chapter 9). (8) Praying with the head covered or uncovered was another issue (chapter 11). Imagine getting a letter with all of these questions!

Any one of them could have been treated as a separate epistle, but Paul, through the help of the Holy Spirit, was able to condense the advice into one epistle.

Verse 18 can be read two ways. “I partly believe it” is sometimes rendered, and more properly, “I believe it respecting part of you.” When Paul mentioned the divisions in chapter 1, it sounded as if all of the brethren were being divisive, but that was not the case, as is seen here. There were divisions with some of the Corinthians—with a major part of the class.

1 Cor. 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

It is important to realize that divisions must come eventually. The “heresies” (or sects) were the attitudes “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” etc. Different brethren followed different individuals, all the while thinking they were doing God a service. The attitude of some was, “Since Christ is the Head of the Church, how can saying, ‘I am of Christ,’ be wrong?” The error was their use of the pronoun “I” instead of saying, “We are all of God in Christ.” Harmony in the class would be impossible unless the Corinthians were straightened out on this matter.

Probably some even met separately according to the leader they were following, so that the ecclesia Paul had established was fragmented into three or four smaller classes.

Perhaps some of the advice for our day, at the end of the Gospel Age, would be a little different from that given in the early Church, when there was no collated Bible. At most, the brethren had just a few isolated letters in their possession. And with Paul having been cast out of the synagogues, there was not even access to the scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, it was important for the Corinthians to get together to learn the basics of truth so that later, as dispensational truths became due, they had a background or substance from which to reason on the Old and New Testaments. Paul was very concerned that the Corinthians become established in truth. Not until after his death and the Apostle John was on the scene was the greater part of the New Testament available, and even then the manuscripts were handwritten. Of course, since the invention of the printing press in the 1400s and the Reformation in the 1500s, Bibles have been much more readily available.

Comment: Paul was saying, “Ideally, there should not be divisions, yet differences of opinion and divisions will occur in order for the Lord to judge how we reason and to see which side we take when principle is involved.”

Reply: As a peacemaker, one should try, if possible, to find a solution that is amicable to all, but the solution must not compromise principle. Nevertheless, from a practical standpoint, the history of the Church has been one of divisions and contentions, not only between the nominal Church and the true Church but also within both the nominal and the real Church.

Comment: Verses 17-19 read as follows in the Diaglott: “But in noticing this matter, that you come together not for the better but for the worse, I do not praise you. For indeed, in the first place, I hear that, on your coming together in the assembly, there are divisions among you; and, as to a certain part I believe it; for it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that the approved may be apparent among you.”

Reply: On the one hand, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send [bring] peace on earth: I came not to send [bring] peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). On the other hand, he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9). Along another line, the Apostle Paul said, “Be angry, but sin not” (Eph. 4:26 paraphrase). The point is that we must consider the circumstance of each issue.

Comment: If there are differences of opinion on a matter and no discussion, the class does not grow. But if the matter is prayerfully discussed, and the class works together based on God’s Word, those with the improper understanding or thinking have an opportunity to learn.

Reply: There are different responsibilities. For instance, if the division is fixed, onerous, and contentious, the class should split, for in continuous bickering, no progress will be made, and both those with the proper view and those with the wrong view will be sullied. Where a difference of opinion exists, the matter can be brought up when a pertinent Scripture being studied justifies a particular line of reasoning. Otherwise, to keep bringing up the matter is the characteristic of thorns and thistles. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things [in study]” is the principle (Gal. 6:6).

Comment: The matter should be aired, however.

Reply: Yes, and especially among elders, the one who seems to be the most contentious should be given opportunity to speak on one occasion on the issue. Then he should refrain from bringing up the matter. With a difference of opinion, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). We can compromise on preference but never on principle.

There were not many sects until after the Protestant Reformation. Previously, one was either a Catholic or a “heretic,” and depending on the period of history, the latter was a Waldensian or an Albigensian.

Q: What would “heresies” be in our day?

A: The King James margin has “sects,” and the Revised Standard has “factions,” the latter being closer to what we would think of today. In order to be approved of God, any divisions have to be according to His Word. For instance, Paul said, “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine [instruction] which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). Some divisions are proper, but they must be according to the Word of the Lord and not according to a misapplication of the Word. Paul was trying to keep the class together, and the brethren surely needed Paul’s letter. There may still have been divisions later, but those who accepted Paul’s advice and obeyed got the right perspective. If the others persisted in their wrong ways, either they were demoted from office, or a division was necessary based on the Word of God. In other words, a division should be according to understanding, not according to misunderstanding. Paul was saying, “Divisions must come but not now.” He wanted the Corinthians to meet in harmony if possible, but if some were still disobedient after receiving his advice, then divisions would come so that those “which are approved [those who take the right stand] may be made manifest.” The principle of division has to come eventually.

“For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” On the surface, verse 19 sounds different from Paul’s advice in the first chapter, where he mentioned having heard from the house of Chloe and others that a sectarian spirit existed in the class. He tried to correct the attitude “I am of Paul,” “I am of Christ,” etc. It is well, if possible, that brethren dwell together in unity. An exception would be where a violation of conscience is involved. In other words, the ideal is unity of doctrine without any violation of principle, not unity just for the sake of peace regardless of conscience. Here Paul was emphasizing that divisions manifest to God those who stand up for principle. In some instances, divisions are necessary, and they are actually profitable to those who are rightly exercised by taking the proper stand on principle. When divisions occur, those who take the right stand are seen not only by God and Jesus but also by the angels.

Jesus said, as quoted earlier, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). In other words, the “sword,” divisions, are absolutely necessary in some cases.

The main theme or burden on the apostle’s heart is the remaining portion of the chapter.

1 Cor. 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

1 Cor. 11:21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

1 Cor. 11:22 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.

1 Cor. 11:23 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:

1 Cor. 11:24 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.

1 Cor. 11:25 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.

1 Cor. 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.

1 Cor. 11:27 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.

1 Cor. 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

1 Cor. 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

1 Cor. 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

1 Cor. 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

1 Cor. 11:32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

1 Cor. 11:33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

1 Cor. 11:34 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.

The full understanding of what Paul was driving at in verses 20-34 is difficult to grasp, and we know of no one who has written on the subject. Others have written on isolated verses—what the Lord’s Supper is and what the bread and the cup represent—but that is not the point here.

We want to understand why Paul used this argument with the Corinthians.

Other translations usually break these verses down into one of two lines of thought. They may use different words, but the words all add up to one of the two standpoints. One thought is that verse 20 refers to the weekly meeting and verses 23-26 refer to the annual Memorial, but we have to analyze the context to see if that thought is correct.

Some of the other translations for verse 20 (or verses 20 and 21) are as follows. The Living Bible is more or less the same as the King James: “When you come together to eat, it isn’t the Lord’s Supper you are eating.” The Revised Standard is in agreement that the eating does not pertain to the Lord’s Supper. The New English Bible reads, “The result is that when you meet as a congregation, it is impossible for you to eat the Lord’s Supper.” The Phillips translation states, “It follows, then, that when you are assembled in one place you do not eat the Lord’s supper.

For everyone tries to grab his food before anyone else, with the result that one goes hungry and another has too much to drink.” In other words, “You come to the Lord’s Supper, but the spirit that is manifested is not pleasing to the Lord.” The Jerusalem Bible reads, “The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk.” Obviously, there was a lot of confusion on how to translate verse 20, so we need a background picture.

Jesus’ institution of the emblems at the original Memorial was preceded by a regular meal.

After the Last Supper, he took bread and broke it and gave wine to his apostles to drink. When the disciples celebrated the Memorial the following year—after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven—the circumstances were different from those of today, where a short sermon is usually followed by the bread and wine symbols. Brethren in the early Church came from great distances to celebrate the Memorial, and travel methods were slow. Therefore, when they came together, they met not for just an hour or two but spent considerable time fellowshipping. In addition, they tried to get the feeling of the original Memorial by eating a lamb supper (like the Jewish Passover) and afterwards having the Memorial observance.

Under those conditions, the translators felt that each Christian brought his own meal and that some could not wait until the others arrived but went ahead and ate. “For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper” (verse 21). However, there is an incongruity in giving this interpretation, for when others came late, one was “hungry,” and another was “drunken [full].” The problem was that some had consumed all of the food before the others got there. In other words, the brethren should have tarried for one another and then all eaten together.

Being “drunken” was not being inebriated. Rather, by not waiting for the others, some had too much to eat and drink and others did not have enough. In the household where they met for the Memorial, a Passover lamb was prepared, and as in the Jewish arrangement, all partook of the one meal and wholly consumed it. They were trying to observe the Jewish Passover plus the Lord’s Memorial.

With this explanation, all of the details in verses 20-34 fit the situation. In the house where the brethren met for Memorial, the lamb was already prepared. As they came in one by one, they sat down and, without waiting for the others, began to eat and totally consumed the lamb.

Then when the others arrived from a long distance, they went hungry. Moreover, those who did not wait ate more than their share of the lamb and were overfull.

Now we can understand why Paul said, “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry [wait] one for another” (verse 33). The meal and the fellowship were supposed to take a couple of hours, and then later, at a convenient time, the Memorial was celebrated. By having the lamb meal first, the brethren were trying to re-create the atmosphere of the original Memorial when Jesus first observed the Passover. However, not waiting for one another spoiled the spirit, or atmosphere, of the Memorial. Those who went ahead and ate  sinned by not considering, and thus shaming, their late brethren. Therefore, Paul was saying, “The practice of having a Passover lamb meal is not mandatory, but if you do this, I suggest the following. Those who cannot wait to eat should fill their stomachs before they get to the meeting, for it would be better for them to eat at home first than to arrive and deprive the others of a meal by eating too hastily.”

Why did Paul say in verse 20, “When ye come together … into one place”? Because of the divisions in the class in Corinth, the weekly meetings were held in various homes, but the brethren came together and met in one place for the Memorial. They forgot their clique divisions at Memorial time and assembled in one home. However, when they came together, there were a lot of problems. Accordingly, Paul was sarcastic in verse 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 [because there is no food to partake of when they arrive]? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.”

In verse 17, Paul said, “I praise you not, that ye come together [in separate groups] not for the better, but for the worse.” When the Corinthians came together as separate groups, they manifested a bad disposition. Ostensibly they met to be edified, but the meeting was otherwise.

In verse 22, Paul was saying, “Not only do you have problems in your regular meetings, where you meet in separate groups and have divisions and strife, but even when you get together in one place for the Memorial and momentarily forget your differences, you show a wrong spirit and a lack of understanding. Therefore, I will not praise you.” Then Paul gave the illustration of not waiting until all could eat together. The Passover lamb, with bread, bitter herbs, etc., was a substantial meal, and those who came from a distance were hungry, so to not wait until everyone had arrived was wrong.

This principle is not discussed in any length in Bible commentaries because there is more interest in the technical doctrinal aspects of the Lord’s Supper as an institution. The Pastor beautifully brought out the Church’s share in the sin offering, but he compared this portion of chapter 11 with previous chapters and other parts of the Bible to explain the Memorial, whereas Paul was telling the Corinthians that they had a wrong spirit and did not know proper Christian conduct. Similarly, at the end of the Parable of the Unjust Steward, Jesus brought in the subject of divorce, but his purpose was not to discuss the technicalities (Luke 16:1-18). Rather, he used the marriage contract to emphasize the point of the parable. Likewise, Paul used the Memorial here in chapter 11 to emphasize another point.

In verse 23, Paul said, “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.” Then Paul went into the Memorial. The question is, What was Paul’s purpose in introducing the Memorial? The main reason for the Corinthians to get together should have been the Memorial; the preceding meal was secondary. However, the Corinthians did the reverse—they gathered primarily for the substantial meal, and only secondarily for the Memorial as a procedural matter. To emphasize that the Memorial was the important part, Paul repeated Jesus’ words: “This [bread] is [represents] my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me…. This cup is [represents] the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (verses 24 and 25). The Corinthians were to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Jesus. They were to emphasize the emblems, but instead they focused on the preceding supper, the lamb meal. Thus the emphasis was misplaced.

Another point was that the cup represents the “new testament [the New Covenant]” in contradistinction to the Law Covenant and the Passover of the Jews. Then Paul gave a still further slant. Not only was the instruction (1) “this do” (2) “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) and (3) the cup represents the New Covenant, but he was saying that (4) the occasion is solemn (verse 26). The statement that the Memorial shows forth “the Lord’s death till he come” indicates the solemnity of the occasion—as opposed to the Jewish Passover, which was a

relatively festive occasion of rejoicing over deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The Passover was a national patriotic holiday as the Jews celebrated their “declaration of independence” in coming out of the Red Sea.

“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” (verse 27). The Corinthians were eating and drinking unworthily because of their selfish attitude in connection with the previous meal. By their actions in not waiting for the other brethren, they showed they were not in proper heart condition to realize the significance of the Memorial. Of course many lessons and principles can be drawn from Paul’s words, but the context was a specific situation back there. Selfishness and greed kept the Corinthians from realizing the importance of the emblems, which pertained to Jesus’ death. They were not in a worthy condition to partake of the emblems because they had not examined themselves and what they were really doing. They had not considered the depth of the significance of the emblems with regard to Jesus’ crucifixion.

At the Memorial, we are to think of the bread as Jesus’ body, which was broken for us, and the cup as Jesus’ blood, which was shed for the remission of our sins. Paul showed that there is a secondary application for the Church as being part of the loaf that is broken, and their blood is commingled with Jesus’ blood in connection with the cup. However, this secondary application is not to be the focus on the night of the Memorial. To repeat: The purpose of the Memorial is to remember Jesus, not our share in the sin offering. We memorialize Jesus’ personal death.

Comment: If one has not been living up to his consecration and feels estranged from the Lord, he should attend the Memorial and partake of the emblems after having asked for forgiveness.

Reply: Yes, we should encourage such an individual to partake. A tactic of the Adversary is to discourage one into thinking he is not worthy. The danger in not partaking is that a second Memorial will also be missed and a third, etc. Finally, the individual is apt to forsake his consecration entirely. Actually, none of us are worthy to partake of the emblems in our own righteousness. What counts is the spirit in which we partake. Paul was criticizing the Corinthian brethren for partaking perfunctorily and manifesting a wrong disposition.

Some Christians are such introverts that they examine themselves too closely. Jesus said that the robe of his righteousness covers our faults if we recognize them and ask for forgiveness. And when we ask for forgiveness, we should believe his promise of forgiveness.

When the brethren came together, their main purpose should not have been to eat the Lord’s Supper. A meal could be eaten first, but the main purpose was to partake of the emblems, the lamb meal being secondary and earlier. However, the meal was to be eaten quietly and more solemnly than on other occasions. The brethren could eat heartily, but they had to consider one another. Even today there would be nothing wrong in having a meal first followed by an intermission and then the partaking of the emblems.

“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 30). Many of the Corinthians were spiritually weak, sick, and lethargic because they did not properly consider what they were doing with regard to the Memorial. The lesson for us is that we should reflect on the meaning of these symbols.

“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (verses 31 and 32). If we follow the Lord’s advice and examine and judge ourselves, we will be spiritually strong. We should grow in understanding what our proper spirit should be. Otherwise, there is a danger of drifting out into the world, and we will be condemned.

Verse 33 is a summation of what Paul was saying: “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another [so that you can eat together].”

We will now review many of the verses in chapter 11, for a reconsideration will enhance our understanding of the details. Verse 20 reads, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s [combined] supper [primarily the Passover meal, plus the Memorial].” In other words, the brethren thought of the Memorial as consisting of two parts— the Passover meal and the emblems—but Paul was saying that Christians are to observe the Memorial and to think of Jesus on that occasion.

Verse 22 states, “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 wealthier Corinthians feasted before solemnly partaking of the emblems in remembrance of Jesus’ death and, in doing so, embarrassed those who were poor. If, instead, the wealthy ate at home first, then their coming together would be just for the Memorial service. The poorer Corinthians were accustomed to a plain diet, and that meager fare sustained them. Therefore, it was not fitting for them to either precede or follow the Memorial with a feast, for this one day of the year was especially sacred and solemn for the Christian.

Incidentally, Paul was very sensitive about embarrassing other people.

With the Jewish day beginning at 6 p.m. one day and extending until 6 p.m. the next day, Jesus took the bread (instituted the Memorial service) in “the same night in which he was betrayed” (verse 23). He died at 3 p.m. the following day, three hours before the end of that 24-hour day.

“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” (verse 24). Although the bread is composed of many grains, representing us, the emphasis the night of the Memorial is on Jesus’ flesh. The “bread from heaven,” pictured by the manna in the Old Testament, was Jesus’ body, his flesh, “which is broken for you [the Christian]” (John 6:31,32). In other words, the main theme at the Memorial service is not the Church’s share in the sin offering but what our Lord did for us. Verse 25 discusses the second symbol, the cup. “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.” The cup of wine represents Jesus’ blood. “When he had supped [that is, after Jesus had partaken of the cup at the conclusion of the Passover meal],” he instituted the symbols as a new service. The word “sup” comes from “sip,” which pertains to liquid. Jesus said to John and James Zebedee, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” (Matt. 20:22). Without knowing the full significance, they answered, “We are able.”

It was not necessary for Jesus to partake of the bread, but the wine represented his death. Blood in the veins is a symbol of life; blood outside the veins represents death. When Paul said on another occasion, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood,” he meant unto death (Heb. 12:4). Blood, then, has the basic connotation of death, and bread signifies life. Since Jesus is the bread of life, we must partake of the bread first, before partaking of the blood. We must be justified through consecration and thus become a member of Christ’ body before we can partake of the blood. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

In this eleventh chapter, Paul was speaking of the Memorial from the practical standpoint of attitudes and behavior. Verse 27 reads, “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.”

Comment: This is the second time Paul brought up the Memorial emblems (see 1 Cor. 10:16,17). Earlier he showed the partnership aspect—that one cannot take the cup of the Lord and also the cup of devils. Now he was showing the importance of discerning the body of Christ and drinking the cup worthily.

Reply: There are perhaps a dozen ways the Christian can partake of the emblems unworthily.

For example, one who is not consecrated or one who is living in sin such as adultery should not partake. But Paul was saying that even this simple matter of shaming the poor made some of the Corinthians unworthy to partake of the emblems, for they were sinning against Christ.

Their actions showed a lack of appreciation for his death on the Cross. Levity would be another way of partaking unworthily. Of course in rare instances, some allowance may be made because of certain circumstances unknown to those who are partaking.

Comment: Appropriate, darker clothing should be worn.

Reply: Yes, to do otherwise would also be partaking unworthily.

Comment: Paul spoke clearly: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (verse 28). One should make an internal inspection before partaking. Verse 29 not only figuratively describes a spiritual state but also sets forth a principle that applies to the Memorial and other aspects of the Christian walk. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 29). Many do not grow because they fail to take the proper steps. A babe should desire the sincere milk of the Word with the intent of both reading and doing. Eventually, one should eat meat, which requires more discernment and discipline.

“For if we would judge [and examine and discipline] ourselves, we should not be judged” (verse 31). “Discipline” can include prayer, repentance, and even fasting to make one right. In proportion as we examine ourselves, there will be less need for the Lord to judge us. If we do not judge ourselves, the Lord will draw our attention to our negligence—not necessarily immediately but sooner or later. When the correction is seen, it should be acted upon. If we do foolish things, they usually boomerang on us, and we learn by mistakes. This is a form of discipline, but the higher discipline is doing what is right and suffering for it. That is the difference between self-denial and cross bearing.

The reason for judging ourselves is so that “we should not be condemned with the world” (verse 32). Why did Paul make this statement?

Comment: If we are not circumspect in our walk, we will start to drift back into the world. The Lord may provide discipline, but if we fail to recognize the discipline, we could lose everything.

Reply: Yes, if we do not realize what is happening and we go back into sin, the robe of Christ’s righteousness will begin to slip off and expose our nakedness. We would then be in danger of eternal death.

Verse 33 reads, “When ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.” The brethren could have a meal together before the Memorial, but they would have to wait and consider the feelings of one another. This principle should be followed on other occasions as well. The value of eating together is in having fellowship. Even having the blessing on the meal together gives a better spirit.

Comment: In the early Church, some traveled for miles to get to the meeting, so they could eat a little snack first and then wait for the others for the main meal.

Verse 34 reads, “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.” The advice to “let him eat at home” applied to all in the class—to the “haves” as well as the “have-nots,” but particularly to the “haves,” for they were doing the sinning. The word “condemnation” does not limit this principle to the Memorial. For instance, when we have a doctrinal difference with someone, to bring up the matter continually would show a wrong spirit. When two who are at loggerheads get together, one may see the occasion as an opportunity to straighten out the other person. In fact, it becomes his mission. Such a spirit is wrong. Another example is a difference of opinion on the observance of a holy day, but one has to be careful not to infringe upon the conscience of another. Paul said, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). Another principle that would apply is, “Let your moderation [reasonableness] be [made] known unto all men” (Phil. 4:5). In other words, we should be flexible where principles are not involved.

Verse 34 continues, “And the rest will I set in order when I come.” Paul was given a list of problems, which he answered, but other issues still needed to be addressed. Some of the issues are treated in the second epistle. Paul was criticized for this comment, for some claimed he did not keep his word when his coming was delayed. Paul was laying down his life in many ways, but when he wrote the reason for not being able to come to Corinth, some of the brethren did not believe him. Paul was wounded many times by misunderstandings.

Because the “cup” is mentioned, verses 23-26 refer to the annual celebration of the Memorial in remembrance of Jesus’ death, and not to a weekly meeting with the breaking of bread. Verse 20 reads, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.” The word “this,” in italics, is a supplied word that should be omitted, for it tends to throw off the understanding, even though what remains does not sound grammatically correct. The disparity between rich and poor was particularly grievous at the time of the Memorial. Therefore, Paul wanted to stop a custom that was beginning to develop, a practice that was well-intentioned and benign in appearance; namely, brethren who had means wanted to replicate what had happened at the first Memorial by eating the Passover meal just as Jesus did before instituting the Memorial service. They felt this custom would create a nice mood, but for several reasons, it should not be followed. For one thing, the Passover supper and the Memorial are separate and distinct institutions that should not be confused. The Memorial is not an antitype of the Passover.

Some of the Corinthians were wealthy, but the majority were poor. Although, presumably, the rich intended to share the lamb meal with the poor, the meal brought in a mood that was injurious to the celebration of the Memorial, for it accentuated the temporal lack of the poor.

This thought would then be in the minds of the poor when they subsequently partook of the more serious service, the Memorial. Not only would the lavish and sumptuous meal create wrong feelings between the “haves” and the “have-nots” at the Memorial, but the poor would carry home the seeds of this disparity and feed on them in later days. Therefore, Paul said, “When you come to the Memorial, eat at home first, for you are coming together to have the Memorial service.”

Verse 21 continues: “For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken [overfull].” At the time of the Memorial, both conditions were wrong. Thus the Corinthians were to eat at home so that (1) they would not be hungry at the Memorial and (2) they would not bring food and be stuffed immediately before the Memorial.

“What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?” (verse 22). In other words, the brethren were to eat and drink at home. “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.” Now we are coming to a point that has not been perceived clearly.

Before considering verses 23-25, we will read Matthew 26:26-29. “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The clause “as they were eating” indicates that Jesus instituted the emblems during the Passover meal. Moreover, the eating of the bread preceded the drinking of the cup, for Jesus first asked a blessing on the bread and then on the cup. The sequence was (1) Jesus blessed the bread, (2) the disciples ate the bread, (3) Jesus blessed the cup, and (4) Jesus and the disciples drank the cup. Then Jesus said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The Luke account proves that Jesus drank of the cup before making this statement.

Luke 22:15-20 reads, “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Here in Luke’s Gospel, (1) the cup is mentioned first, (2) the bread is second, and (3) the cup is third. The Luke account harmonizes all of the Gospels with regard to sequence and Jesus’ partaking of the cup but not the bread. In other words, Jesus did something with the cup, he did something with the bread, and then he did something again with the cup.

Jesus said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” Thus Jesus actually ate the Passover supper with his disciples. While the others were still eating, Jesus began to institute the emblems. First, he said, “I will not any more eat thereof [of the Passover], until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” In other words, the words “not any more” do not prohibit his partaking of the Passover meal.

The account continues, “He took  the cup, and gave thanks”; that is, Jesus gave thanks at the first mention of the cup. He next said, “Take this [cup], and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink [any more] of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” The point is that Jesus partook of the cup, just as he had partaken of the Passover supper. He gave thanks for the cup for himself; thanking his Father for his own privilege of drinking the cup. Then he set the cup down on the table and instructed the disciples to divide the cup among themselves—but he did not pass, or distribute, the cup to them at that time.

Right away Jesus then took the bread. The disciples were a little confused, but they reverently watched as Jesus next gave thanks for the bread; that is, he gave thanks for the bread before the disciples got the cup. After thanking God for the bread and breaking it, Jesus gave the bread to his disciples and said, “This is my body which is given for you: this [eating] do in remembrance of me.” Proof that Jesus did not partake of the bread is the next statement: “Likewise also the cup after supper [the Greek indicates ‘after having previously partaken, or supped’].” In other words, after Jesus had previously drunk a good portion of the cup, he took the same cup again and said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” He had already earlier asked a blessing on this cup for himself, but now “likewise also”—that is, in the same manner that he had given the bread, first asking a blessing and then distributing it to the disciples—he asked a second blessing on the cup, this time on behalf of the brotherhood, and gave it to them to drink. It is important to compare the five accounts of the Memorial (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke plus 1 Corinthians 10:16,17 and 11:23-29).

Mark 14:25 reads, “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” It is significant that Jesus did not say he would no more eat the bread. Only with regard to the wine did he make this statement. With silence here and nothing in the account to indicate otherwise, we can conclude that he did not partake of the bread. Since he needed no justification because he already had pure and perfect humanity, the symbolism of not eating is fitting. However, the disciples needed justification before they could lay down their lives in sacrifice. Jesus said, “The bread that I will give is my flesh” (John 6:51). In drinking the cup, Jesus drank his own death, showing that he voluntarily laid down his life. With Paul being responsible for the Gospel of Luke, we know that he saw the distinction of Jesus’ partaking of the cup but not eating of the bread.

Verse 26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come,” refers to the annual observance of the Lord’s Memorial, which is as close as possible to the time of year Jesus instituted the emblems and died on the Cross. The main purpose of participation in the Memorial is to remember his death. Our consecration and dedication are not the focus on that night but the memory of Jesus: “Do this in remembrance of me,” he said.

What time is referred to in the expression “till he come”? Not only does the Second Presence embrace a period of time, but Jesus “comes” in various ways: on a horse, seated on a white cloud, with a shout, with a sickle, etc. His initial coming was secret and invisible, but later, in connection with the inauguration of the Kingdom, his presence will be made known by great signs and wonders in the earth so that all will know. The Memorial is to be celebrated until Jesus’ revealment to the whole Christian church, particularly the Little Flock, with whom he will drink the fruit of the vine anew in the Kingdom of God (Mark 14:25). Of course the Church will be complete and glorified when Jesus drinks the wine with them in the spirit realm.

However, even after the Little Flock is glorified, it will behoove the consecrated down here in the flesh to continue to memorialize his death until all are changed to spirit nature.

Q: For clarification, even though the door is closed and the Little Flock is complete, should the consecrated who remain behind continue to celebrate the Memorial service? At the most, those still here will be Great Company.

A: Yes, the celebration will still be appropriate, although the wine will not have the same significance from the standpoint that the sin offering will be complete. However, the Great Company must still be faithful unto death.

Comment: When Jesus drinks the wine with his Bride in the spirit realm, it will no longer be a cup of sorrow, trials, and death but a cup of joy, gladness, and victory.

Q: Will the drinking of the cup of joy be strictly between Jesus and the Bride only, or will it be between Jesus and all who overcome on any level?

A: It may be both, but not at the same time. The drinking with all overcomers would have to occur after the testing period of the Little Season at the end of the Millennial Age.

“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.” Verse 27 is starkly stated, but the thought is softened somewhat in subsequent verses. A judgment of condemnation comes on an individual in proportion to his partaking unworthily of the bread and the wine. In other words, there are degrees of unworthiness in connection with partaking of the symbols. Not only is the Memorial not to be celebrated in a prosaic manner, but it should be observed with sufficient sobriety and sincerity to show that we appreciate what the Lord did for us in dying on the Cross. Our attire and conduct should befit the occasion.

Verse 28 says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” If we deeply think about and consider the Lord and his death, our attitude and heart condition should automatically be appropriate. Verse 29 is similar to verse 27: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation [judgment] to himself [proportionate to the lack of reverence], not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Comment: The Sixth Volume, page 473, states that verses 27-29 are a warning “against a careless celebration of this Memorial, which would make of it a feast, and against inviting persons to it in a promiscuous manner.”

Reply: A good Reprint article (No. 5186) is “Decorum in the House of God.” Particularly on this occasion, a more reverential attitude is in order. Of course the unconsecrated should not partake.

The Catholic Church wrongly teaches that the bread and the wine are, respectively, the actual body and blood of Christ, whereas the Bible tells that the emblems are to be taken in memory of what Jesus did on our behalf. Because we have a little more understanding than those in the nominal Church, we should more deeply appreciate the symbols and have proper respect and reverence. Any who have been disfellowshipped for gross immoralities should be discouraged from partaking unless there has been proper repentance. Otherwise, the atmosphere of the service would be adversely affected.

One who feels unworthy should prepare himself and then partake, for not partaking can be dangerous, even leading, little by little, to thinking, “Perhaps the Lord did not accept my consecration.” The Adversary tries to discourage those who have a tender conscience, whereas the Scriptures encourage them to go to the throne of grace for forgiveness and for a renewal of their consecration.

“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 30). We should guard against seeing the Memorial as a perfunctory ritual like “going to church once a year.”

The angels are witnessing our zeal in performing Christian duties. If we run the race with the attitude and focus that there is only one prize and one winner, we will make our calling and election sure. Paul said that he did not shadowbox and hit the air, for he had a focus and an end in sight. Those who pursue that goal are certainly much more apt to make the Little Flock.

“This one thing I do” should be our attitude (Phil. 3:13). There are different degrees of sickness, weakness, and slothfulness on the one hand, and of zeal in following in the Lord’s footsteps on the other hand.

“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (verse 31). In examining ourselves with introspective judgment, we should ask for forgiveness at the throne of grace for those things we have done amiss. And then we should try to reform and rebuild our conduct.

Comment: If we judge ourselves properly, we will not have to worry about being judged by the Lord for partaking unworthily.

Comment: Psalm 32:5 reads, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”

Reply: That cross-reference is good. Even though David had faults, his repentant attitude and public acknowledgment were admirable.

Comment: Paul said earlier, “It is a very small matter that I should be judged of others, for I judge not mine own self,” yet here he said that we should judge (examine) ourselves (1 Cor. 4:3 paraphrase). The Scriptures have to be balanced.

Reply: We are not to judge our eternal destiny. We should not assume we have made our calling and election sure and thus take off the armor. Nor are we to condemn ourselves by saying, “I committed the sin unto Second Death, so I will go back into the world and not serve the Lord anymore.”

Comment: One who sins the sin unto Second Death sears his conscience beyond the point of repentance.

Reply: The individual becomes blind. “If therefore the light that is in thee be[come] darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23). One does not change overnight to that condition. The sin unto Second Death comes with little slides here and there until it goes rapidly downhill.

In stating, “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world,” verse 32 describes Christians who have not committed the sin unto Second Death, but they have failed to examine themselves. David said, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous [fully willful] sins” (Psa. 19:13). Those who commit fully willful sins merit death, but with those who are just careless, the Lord causes a providentially severe experience to wake them up. Unfortunately, many do not recognize the providence as a judgment from the Lord and thus miss the lesson. When trials happen to us, we should stop and think, “Did I do something wrong? Is there a reason for this experience?” If we have honestly searched our heart and find no cause, then we should conclude the trial is for an educational purpose. For example, perhaps we should be more sympathetic toward others.

The principle is, “If a man is judged for his faults, what reward does he have?” (compare 1 Pet. 2:20). An experience may be a correction, a chastening, to bring us to our senses. But if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, if we are persecuted for faithfulness to the Lord, we should rejoice in the privilege. The Scriptures help us to become more mature in our thinking, so that we will grow up into manhood in Christ and be acceptable as kings and priests.

“Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another” (verse 33). In olden times when one had to walk several miles to attend a meeting in someone’s home, a meal was necessary. Moreover, when brethren came together under those hardships, having to sacrifice to get there, they met for several hours. Paul was saying, “When someone is a little late in coming to the weekly meeting, wait for him so that you can all eat together.” When that individual saw everyone waiting for him, he would make an extra effort to be on time in the future. Eating together provided a wonderful communal spirit in the early Church.

“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” (verse 34). One should either eat enough at home to get the most benefit from the spiritual service or be on time to eat with the brethren at the meeting. It would be wrong for someone to bring a lunch and start eating after the meeting had started. The point was to have no distractions (such as habitual lateness or improper dress) when the meeting was in progress. The main purpose of the gathering was for spiritual food, but the circumstances of natural hunger made a meal necessary. However, the meal was to be done decently and in order, either at home or at the meeting at the appointed time.

Notice that Paul again promised to return to Corinth: “when I come [at a future time].” When certain providences delayed his coming, some in the class criticized him.

(1979, 1997, and 2001 Studies)

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