Updated 4 Oct 2019
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1 Corinthians 11
Paul writes very boldly, urging believers to follow his example as he follows the example of Christ. Remember that most of the issues in 1 Corinthians are answers from Paul to questions from concerned believers, who are asking for his wisdom and guidance. Paul has been talking about many issues in this letter and he wants to demonstrate clear principles for a lifestyle that sets a good example to both believers and unbelievers.
God's Created Order
Paul shares that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man. This is God's created order. God made man first and then made woman for man. However, man is born of woman and there is nothing here suggesting that man is superior to woman or that woman is less loved than man. God had a reason for doing things this way and we must respect the created order that He has established.
Paul contends that if men dress or have behaviour patterns that confuse gender, this is disrespectful of God’s created order. Men need to be men and women to be women. So, the reference to hair demonstrates a key principle that a man's appearance should not create a diversion from the purpose for which God’s people have met. Equally, women should present themselves modestly and with humility. Note that the source of contention being dealt with is not a woman’s prayers or her prophesying; that is accepted. The issue is to do with respect and avoiding distraction in the house of God. Clearly, what is inappropriate in one culture may be acceptable in another and this needs to be recognised in applying this teaching.Marriage
In Ephesians 5, Paul teaches that, in marriage, the head of a woman is her husband, just as Christ is the head of the church. A wife's acceptance of this honours her husband and gives him dignity. The way that she behaves will pave a way for her husband to develop and grow but Paul also makes it clear that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church - unselfishly and sacrificially. In some cultures, a woman’s appearance could suggest that she is single and available. Therefore, as a married woman, she must think about her appearance carefully, to create the right impression.Prayer
Prayer is practised by many faiths and some clothing or covering can suggest heathen beliefs, so we need to be wise that we do not thoughtlessly offend. Paul refers to a code of practice in the churches so, from these teachings, we can be confident that there was an attempt to encourage believers in all the churches to have common standards and, especially, that we are seen to be different to the world.
Paul comments that church meetings in Corinth needed attention. He contends that their meetings were doing more harm than good, which was very sad. He also talks about division within the church. Whilst we may have differences about certain matters, division is not acceptable and it greatly spoils our testimony of Christ.
The Lord's Supper
This particular meeting comes in for some very strong criticism. The idea of having a meal and then breaking bread and sharing a cup was good but, sadly, selfishness and drunkenness had taken over and totally spoilt the purpose of the meeting. Paul reminds the believers of the real reasons for gathering. It is to remember that we are now in a new covenant with God, through the shed blood of Jesus. Jesus and his sacrifice are to be our focus, not our own self-indulgence.
Judgement had come in, so that some believers were weak, some were sick and some had even died. Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to be self-controlled and to respect one another, so that they can enjoy the benefits of Christ's death, rather than incur God’s wrath.
Paul urges all believers to examine their hearts and warns that careless disrespect of our Lord Jesus invites the judgement of God. We are called to make Jesus central and recognise that, one day, we will not need to take the bread and wine because Jesus will come again, in all of his power!
Points to Consider:
- Consider how your life appears to others. Can you say, ”Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”?
- Do we show respect for God's created order and does it truly affect the way that we live?
- How should Paul’s teaching about marriage be reflected in our marriages today?
- Are we careful to avoid a lifestyle that might suggest links to witchcraft or other beliefs?
- How can we ensure that our differences do not lead to division within the church?
- Are we getting the right balance of self-examination, mutual respect and reverence in our communion services?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 11
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