Translations: Chinese 简体中文 繁體中文

1Corinthians 11 (web)

Ceremonial Divisions

Gender Differences

11:1 Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.
11:2 Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things,
and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.


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.


11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
11:5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head.
For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved.

11:6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn.
But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

11:7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered,
because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man.

Supporting Arguments

11:8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man;
11:9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
11:10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head,
because of the angels.
11:11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man,
nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord.
11:12 For as woman came from man,
so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God.
11:13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled?

11:14 Doesn't even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
11:15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her,
for her hair is given to her for a covering.

11:16 But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God's assemblies.

The Communion Service

11:17 But in giving you this command, I don't praise you,
that you come together not for the better but for the worse.

11:18 For first of all, when you come together in the assembly,
I hear that divisions exist among you, and I partly believe it.
11:19 For there also must be factions among you,
that those who are approved may be revealed among you.

11:20 When therefore you assemble yourselves together,
it is not possible to eat the Lord's supper.
11:21 For in your eating each one takes his own supper before others.
One is hungry, and another is drunken.
11:22 What, don't you have houses to eat and to drink in?
Or do you despise God's assembly, and put them to shame who don't have?

What shall I tell you? Shall I praise you? In this I don't praise you.

11:23 For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread.
11:24 When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me."(Lk 22:19)
11:25 In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me." (Lk 22:20)

11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

11:27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord's cup in a manner
unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.
11:29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks
judgment to himself, if he doesn't discern the Lord's body.
11:30 For this cause many among you are weak and sickly,
and not a few sleep.
11:31 For if we discerned ourselves, we wouldn't be judged.
11:32 But when we are judged, we are punished by the Lord,
that we may not be condemned with the world.
11:33 Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait one for another.
11:34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest your coming together be for judgment.
The rest I will set in order whenever I come.

Discussion Questions

What physical analogies do you see Paul making in this section?
In vs 6 why is it disgraceful for women to have their hair cut off or shaved?
A question especially for women, how do you suppose other Christians in your church react (men and women) if you did what Paul said and covered your head, perhaps as Muslim women do today, whenever you prayed or prophecied?
What other issues like this can we learn from nature as in vs 14?
What does the communion service represent?
How were they abusing it?
Why does God consider such abuse to be so serious that He kills people?
How might we be abusing it?


Christian Regulations

1Cor 11:1,2 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.

Having just taught on the idea of practicing freedom in Christ by developing regulations in accordance with the spirit of the law as would benefit others, in this chapter he gives examples of doing so with regards to ceremonial matters of which he applied to the early church. And though the saints have the option of applying these particular regulations to oneself or developing their own, the saints are not free to tinker with the principles upon which they are based.

One example elsewhere of a regulation he developed is 2Thess 3:10 "we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." This he gave in order to stem the tide of laziness among the Thessalonians. Let us follow Paul's example in developing applications to regulate our Christian lives and hold to the absolute principles upon which they are to be based.

The Principle of Male Headship

 1Cor 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

The Gender difference which God created in the human race was meant to reflect the distinct persons of the godhead. Namely woman is to man as Christ is to God. Christ is subordinate to God. And so woman is to be subordinate to man. Thus Paul writes in 1Tim 2:11-13 "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." Notice he developed this application based upon facts and principles found in the Law. It is inappropriate for women to hold positions of teaching nor that of authority over men both because the order of creation shows women are to be subordinate to men and because the order of the fall shows women to be more gullible than men and thus more prone to fall into false teachings.

Thus when the opportunity presents itself, men over women are to be chosen with regards to positions of authority in the church, in the home, and in the society in general, women embracing their godly role submissive to male authority. This is one reflection of the saint's godly values - a value of which in many cases is in stark contrast with that of the world.

Honoring the Head

1Cor 11:4-6  Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head- it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

One way to apply the prinicple of male headship is by what we wear. What we wear can  reflect our beliefs. Thus the Law says, "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this." Deut 22:5 Much as clothing has a practical purpose, clothing also has symbolic significance, and thus the idiom "who wears the pants in your family?" What one wears on their head symbolizes their view of authority. Today Jewish men who have not come to faith in the Lord Jesus wear a yamaka on their head to represent separation between them and God. In the temple there was a curtain in front of the most Holy Place. But when Jesus died, "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom."  Mr 15:38  Now "we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body" Heb 10:19,20 So to represent this new openness between man and God experienced by Christians, men no longer were to wear head coverings when carrying out religious activities. For to cover one's head would be to symbolically deny one has been reconciled with God and thus dishonor God. "Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." 2Cor 13:15,16

But while this reconciled relationship with God applies to women as well, for a woman to have her head uncovered is to imply a rebellious feminist attitude contrary to the subordinate role to which God has assigned them. While some do so out of necessity, since the rise of feminism in the 1960's women, intentionally or otherwise, have portrayed their feminism by their dress and by cutting their hair short, even shaven. Yet rather than have a sense of shame they glory in it, kind of like Paul says, "their glory is in their shame." Php 3:19b

Likewise with regards marriage, the relationship between husband and wife is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the church." Eph 5:31,32 For a wife to usurp authority over her husband is as if the church were to treat itself as Lord over Christ. Thus is says, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church" Eph 5:22,23

Woman the Glory of Man

1Cor 11:7-9 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Neither! The rooster came first in the case of Adam. "For Adam was formed first, then Eve." 1Tim 2:13 Woman was created for man. For "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Gen 2:18 "So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man." Gen 2:21,22 (內人 from 肉) As man glorifies God, so woman glorifies man. But as man dishonors God so also women dishonor men.

The Culture of Angels

1Cor 11:10  For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

Shakespeare once said, "All the world is a stage, and all the people actors therein.", as Paul said previously about himself, "it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men." 1Cor 4:9 Not only should we concern ourselves as to what we are communicating to other people, but to angels. This verse shows that this application about head coverings is not simply about the culture at the time, but about the timeless culture of the kingdom of God, including angels. In particular a woman is to have a sign of authority on her head, lest she be viewed as usurping authority, much as the devil did putting himself in the place of God and causing many angels to fall. It's a reminder to the angels of their own subordinate position. For "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" Heb 1:14

Essential Interdependence

1Cor 11:11,12  In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Much of the theme of 1Corinthians is about embracing diversity within appropriate limits For in once sense, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:28 Yet there is a diversity of roles in Christ - even roles of subordination. To embrace diversity in a Biblical sense is not the same as treating everyone equally. For how can differences be appreciated if they are ignored or reckoned of no consequence?

The church would have suffered unnecessarily but for the help of women. We note that Jesus was supported by women. For example "Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs." Mt 27:55 Paul spoke of Euodia and Syntyche of whom he said, "have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel" Php 4:3 And John in his second letter spoke of a "chosen lady" who was discipling others. And this leads me to point out one application is particular.It is best for men to personally disciple men and women to disciple women. Older women should "train the younger women" Titus 2:4 When Jesus chose the twelve to personally disciple, not a single one of them was a women.

A Lesson from Nature

1Cor 11:13-16 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice— nor do the churches of God.

By "nature" he is not talking about animal kindom but rather the nature of the human race. (But if people want to act like animals, they shouldn't mind being treated like them). Why is it throughout the world and throughout history, men have characteristically kept their hair short and women long? Grant this is not always that case, but it is a truism. Why? Because consciously or not there is an intuitive principle involved, namely that long hair is a sign of subordination. In fact within the corporate culture this is the reason men wear ties.

Wikipedia also notes, "During the cultural revolutions of the sixties and seventies in America and across the western world, long hair remained a strong symbol of rebellion against the cultural norm." and "Among women, the signal is reversed. Long hair becomes an acceptance of culture, while short hair signals a rebellion from it. Long hair is traditionally accepted as a female characteristic in western cultures."
When a culture become corrupt and perverted, so goes its intuitive expressions - women become as men and men become effeminate, subordinate to women. Such people no longer feel ashamed of what they should feel ashamed, but rather glory in what should be their shame. No surprise that Paul encountered contentions over this matter, just as he would have encountered them today. And there's no wonder what kind of people were the source of such contentions.

Nonetheless, remember that this regulation of women wearing head coverings when performing religious activities is optional to the Christian life. While Paul had established this as a custom in the churches - an application which reflects the principle of male headship, the kind of application which is really needed in the churches today to combat feminism within the Christian community - it is but an application. If Christians today can come up with a better application to reflect the principle of male headship in combatting the infiltration of feminism, let them feel free to do so. But the principle itself is not to be tinkered with.

More Harm Than Good?

1Cor 11:17-19 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.  In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.

In many cases Christians divide from one another in order for one to feel superior to the other. In fact for one to feel superior to another, it's generally necessary to divide. But often what they divide over is arbitrary.

Now here's something to consider, it is difficult to divide over things which are Biblically important. For what's important is also clear, and as such it's difficult to divide over matters which the scriptures clearly teach. Thus most divisions are over things the Bible is not so clear about or about which the Bible allows freedom. These get inflated to the status of essential doctrine and more so that those who cause divisions can feel even more superior upon taking a stand. This aspect of human nature often leads to significant heresies being infiltrated into Christian theology.

As such, Christians carrying out their religious activities might at times do more harm than good. What's important in ceremonial/institutional matters is not so much the ceremony or institutional matter itself, but whether you are doing more harm than good.

The Dignity of the Lord's Supper

1Cor 11:20-22 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

What seems implied here is that their celebration of the Lord's Supper is more than the traditional flake of bread and sip of grape juice/wine. Seems rather it was a meal. Dining together communicates fellowship, as Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Rev 3:20 But the rudeness with which it was being conducted in the Corinthian church communicated anything but fellowship.

One of the principles of the Law is to exercise fairness toward one's fellow man as regards  both to his substance and to his dignity. Therefore those who are well off must be careful not to humiliate those who have less, but to treat them with the dignity with which you would treat Christ. In his rebuke to the Christians who show prejudice to the less fortunate.

Consider how you might treat the less fortunate with dignity and perhaps consider when you had failed to do so.

Communion - An Ordinance, not a Sacrament

1Cor 11:23-26  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Paul did not base his gospel on the eye witness accounts of the other apostles, but rather based it upon the Lord's direct revelation to him personally, as he said in Galatians 1:11,12 "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." And who knows better of the Lord's Supper than the Lord? Elsewhere this event is recorded in Matt 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20

Contrary to the sacramental theology which dominated the first few centuries of post-Biblical Christianity, the Lord's supper is an ordinance and not a sacrament. There is nothing magical about the elements of the communion service. The eucharist, as some refer to the bread, and the wine/juice represent the Lord's body and blood symbolically. They are not some kind of magic potion as if the communion service were an occultic ritual. The communion service is a remembrance, a celebration of his death and what it means. The meaning is the spirit of worship. And the worshippers of God are to worship in spirit and in truth.  It is the spirit that matters, the flesh - the substance of the elements - counts for nothing. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking" Rom 14:17 The sacramentalists, like Catholicism for example, make it a matter of eating and drinking, and cut themselves off from fellowship with the broader Christian community in doing so.

A Manner Worthy of Communion

1Cor 11:27-30 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

Likewise it says in  Heb 10:28,29 "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" There are consequences to mixing sin with religious activities. Remember Acts chapter 5 in which God killed Ananias and his wife Sapphira simply for lying about how much money they gave to the church.

So when involved with religious activities examine your motives, whether you're there simply to fulfill the desires of your flesh or to worship God in spirit and in truth. Examine how you treat other Christians, with fairness or prejudice. Examine whether there is some willful sin in your life you have yet to repent of. Don't think that abstaining from communion will save you from the consequences. "It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them." Heb 13:9 If your in sin, repent.

Discipline Yourself

1Cor 11:31,32 "But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world."

Therefore discipline yourself or God will. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Heb 12:11 Paul disciplined himself saying, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1Cor 9:27 And he disciplined others, some severly like the Christian in Corinth involved in sexual immorality. "Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 1Cor 5:5  Jesus said, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." Rev 3:19

Eat at Home

1Cor 11:33-34  So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

This is an example of a regulation - an application which helps one keep to the principle of the law. Eating at home help to suppress sinful flesh from interferring with religious activities. Consider developing regulations in your own life or that of your family which avoids giving the flesh an opportunity to sin. Being too restrictive - too religious - can actually lead to sin. Ec 7:16  "Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?" Paul noted in his own life, "sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire." Rom 7:8

Waiting for each other helps to regulate the natural tempation to reckon some better than others. Develop regulations which encourage cooperation among Christians rather than competition, and those which preserve the dignity of the lowly.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 15,2020