Sunday, April 25, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:25-26

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. (KJV)

Then: The second section of the communion is to remember the New Testament (Hayes, p. 123) while drinking from the cup. Henry organizes his discussion into four sections: the materials, the sacamental actions, remembrance and declaration of Christ's death, and its designation as a frequent, perpetual ordinance. The Corinthians needed all these reminders in order to return their thoughts to Christ and away from wanton fellowship.

Now: In a short exposition about communion, Owen Strachan focuses on the aspect of confession during the sacrament. Having a dedicated time for gathered believers to feel close to God, confess their belief in him and proclaim his act of sacrifice is the central expression of loving Christ. Strachan's point is that evangelistic churches miss out on the sense of sacredness encompassed in quiet order of liturgical churches. Yet, no matter the environment, Christ abides in the hearts of all through the act. Communion confession and participation is ultimately a heart experience.

Extra Source: First Corinthians by Richard B. Hayes (John Knox Press, 1997) on line at on the Whole Bible Acts to Revelation Vol VI by Matthew Henry online at
The Strange and Other Worldly Rite of Communion by Owen Strachan, online at

1 Corinthians 11:23-24

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: 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. (KJV)

Then: What the Corinthians needed was a reorientation as to the tradition of taking communion (Dunn and Rogeson, p. 1339). Remember. Remember the Lord. Remember that the Lord was betrayed by a follower. Remember his body, the body of Christ which was broken and which is now the church. Remember with each bite of bread. Remember.

Now: The words of these verses are often read aloud before and during communion. Believers are called to think again about Christ and his love. They also remember that what the Lord did was planned from the beginning. All humanity can be forgiven because of the Lord's endurance and faithfulness. His act within the tradition of the Passover supper also reminds believers of the history of the Lord's faithfulness. Communion is a quiet moment of reflection and a joyous hope.

Extra source: Eerdmans commentary on the Bible by James D. G. Dunn, John William Rogerson on line at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:20-22

When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 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. (KJV)

Then: Early congregations did not have a specified building for meeting. People gathered in the homes of those with the largest houses. Baker (p. 168) describes these villa-style homes with one large room, a triclinium, for nine to ten people to eat while reclining on couches while another room without a table, an atrium, could accomodate thirty or forty people to eat while standing or possibly sitting. Laborers and slaves arriving late would find that all the food was gone, already eaten by the rich, leisurely, early arrivals who had been "grazing" (Magness, class notes, 10-17-09). Obviously, some even became drunk. Henry calls their actions corrupt. By being inconsiderate to the poor, caring only for their own food lusts, and indulging in a desire to drink, they disdained communion between themselves and Christ, let alone communion between themselves and other believers.

Now: For the most part, manner and mode of communion is settled as an event limited to the Lord and a single believer. Rarely does it involve a sense of group worship. A whole meal is not involved - probably a major result of Paul's teaching here. Community meals do occur as potlucks where the Lord is included only while grace is being asked. That part is no longer a problem. However, to the extent that the act of communion involves personal attitudes towards fellow believers, problems can prevail. When rich evaluate the poor as unworthy associates, when laborers disdain the value and decisions of CEO's, when classmates exclude unpopular students according to intellect, clothing, or behavior - fellow believer's all, then the Lord's death is devalued. Spiritual growth requires the setting aside of personal likes and dislikes. Those saved have a new task - that of looking to the lost, to draw them in, and to promote changes in attitudes, behaviors, and wisdom. Communion is the act of relating to other believers and Christ at the same time.

Extra source: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary 1 Corinthians (William Baker), 2 Corinthians (Ralph Martin & Carl Toney), ed. by Philip Comfort. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, c2006.
Commentary on the Whole Bible Acts to Revelation Vol VI by Matthew Henry online at

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you (KJV)

Then: Before, when Paul first began to talk about women and men's appearances during a worship service, he took time for praise (11:2). Not now. Here he launches into disapproval. The church is supposed to meet for encouragement and spiritual growth of its members. The problems in Corinth distort the purpose. Paul knows heresies exist in the minds of members because there are so many contentious groups. Interestingly, Paul's discussion of divisions makes verse 16, which already referred to contentions, a hinge for moving into his next concern about communion. The door is open and he barges in. Baker (p. 168) says their actions undermined the purposes of meeting together and made belief in Christ seem trivial.

Now: The same thing happens in today's church's no matter the issue, but if concern centers on communion and practices of observing it, then the issue is just as pivotal to the growth and spiritual life of believers. Today's church profits from the many years in which the church sorted through the myriad of controversies surrounding the Lord's Supper. Those issues are mostly settled.

Extra source: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary 1 Corinthians (William Baker), 2 Corinthians (Ralph Martin & Carl Toney), ed. by Philip Comfort. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, c2006.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Summary - 1 Corinthians 11:17-30

Passage is often used as basis for communion meditations. It is the second time Paul addresses the topic of communion in this letter. His comments from 10:14-22 addressed inner motivations. This section moves into that again, but from a different problem.

1 Corinthians 11:16

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God (KJV)

Then: Odd placement for this verse. It doesn't seem to relate to what came before, unless Paul is reacting to complaints received about women's dress - which he considered contentious - and is piqued about having to discuss the whole thing in the first place. (I'm rather tired of the topic myself.) Some believe Paul purposefully changed the pattern of covered heads in temple worship to being uncovered in Christian worship. Perhaps some men were objecting to that. Baker (p. 165) supports an understanding that other churches followed Paul's teachings about covered and uncovered heads. Corinthian men should too.

Now: Would that contention were never a part of any church in the Lord's kingdom. Would that peace only reigned even when differences of opinion pop up. Would that contention never led to church splits, but all things were resolved based on the teachings of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the desire and the actuality differ.

Extra source: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary 1 Corinthians (William Baker), 2 Corinthians (Ralph Martin & Carl Toney), ed. by Philip Comfort. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, c2006.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:13-15

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. KJV

Then: Paul adds one more comparison to justify women wearing head coverings and not men. He talks about the prevalent custom of women wearing their hair long and men wearing it short. Social customs always invoke acceptance in conformity or shame of rejection. Customs do change, but the comparison worked for the Corinthians and their culture.

Now: Styles change so the comparison doesn't apply now - unless specific believers want it to apply. Baker (p. 158) states that the translated word "nature" is actually the word "obvious" in Greek. Western churches often include worshipers with men whose hair is longer than some of the women's. Contrarily, pictorial, archaeologic evidence shows most Corinthian women without head coverings. Some commentators believe the lack signified women who were "loose." In addition Sikh men wear turbans because from birth to death they never cut their hair. Various commentators try to sort out these conflicts for contemporary readers. The unsatisfactory conclusion is that we lack enough information to know what Paul meant.

Baker (p. 161) points out that Paul intermittently addresses both men and women. His approach empahsizes an overall concern that gender distinction be evident, different yet equal, in any worship service. I found no discussions about man being the glory of Christ, woman being the glory of man, and hair being the glory of women - the last being confusing in its triviality. What remains true is that underlying thoughts about social conventions reflects the personal motives of the individuals. Someone with a Mohawk style or another with a Yul Brenner cut or another with bleached hair sends out signals as to who the person is and what he or she believes. Today's evangelists work through these variations to bring newcomers to Christ.

As important as personal appearance and worship activities in the church are, they are subsumed to the necessity of balancing the problems of criticisms based on appearance and Christ's search for the lost. Standards of dress and honoring the Lord are almost lacking in western culture. To some degree they reflect morals; to some degree they reflect a worship of media divas or sports heroes. I think it takes the work of the Holy Spirit working in his own ways and time to convict individuals about their fashion choices honoring or dishonoring the Lord.

One more caveat needs added to the understanding of women's wear in the church. Women need to apply Paul's overriding principle of 10:32 - "Give none offense." No matter what is believed about authority coming from Christ or being denied by men, the worship environment in which the spiritual growth and maintenance of believers is more important than an individual's particular right to use gifts and talents in the service. Refusal to comply can only be justified at the point of male authority requiring a woman to do something which is specifically prohibited by the Lord.*

Extra Source: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary 1 Corinthians (William Baker), 2 Corinthians (Ralph Martin & Carl Toney), ed. by Philip Comfort. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, c2006.
*The story of a mother advising her daughter to comply with husbandly authority and take the leading role in Deep Throat, a pornographic movie, still apalls me. Adding tragedy to outrage, shame caused the woman to later commit suicide. Women need wisdom.

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