Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 11.
Paul seems to have finished addressing the questions and matters that the Corinthians had written to him about and, here in chapter 11, he moved on to things he was concerned about within the church.
Generally speaking, Paul was concerned with how chaotic the worship services of the Corinthian church were. Starting here in 1 Corinthians 11 and continuing through 1 Corinthians 14, Paul instructed the Corinthians about aspects of their worship that were not glorifying to God. In today’s chapter, 1 Corinthians 11, Paul addressed two problem areas. They are (1) how women worship (vv. 1-16) and (2) how the entire church practiced the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-34).
When this chapter was written, it was customary for women in the Roman world, at least, to cover their heads as a symbol of submission to their husbands. But it was also becoming fashionable for women in that culture not to submit to their husbands and to show their lack of submission by not wearing a head covering. In verses 2-16, Paul rebuked some of the wives in Corinth who had stopped wearing head coverings. Although women were (and are) equal to the men in their importance to God and their position before God in Christ, on this earth God commands women who are married to live in submission to their husbands. Verse 3 explained that Christ, the Son of God, was in submission to God the Father. Although he is equal with the Father in every way, he functions in submission to the Father in everything. Likewise, wives should live in submission to their husbands. Shedding the symbol of that submission in the worship service was improper (vv. 13-16), so married women in the church should show their proper relationship to their husbands by covering their heads in the worship service. This was the first of two ways that the Corinthians needed to straighten up their worship services.
The second way in which they needed to bring order to their worship services is in their practice of the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-34). The Lord’s Supper was practiced as part of a full meal that the church shared together. The church met on Sunday, as we do, but unlike in our culture, Sunday was a typical work day so the church gathering happened at night. The wealthier members of their church could arrive earlier than the more common workers and slaves in their church family could. Apparently the Corinthians were not waiting for the whole church to be gathered before they started the meal and Lord’s Supper observance. Instead, people would arrive and start eating and drinking. By the time those who were poorer arrived, the food was gone and many people were drunk (vv. 20-21). Paul rebuked the Corinthians for this practice (v. 22), then instructed them again about how the Lord’s Supper began in the church (vv. 23-25). The Lord’s Supper is a sacred act of worship (v. 27) so it should be observed in a way that unifies the body (vv. 18-19, 22) and in a way that is reverent (vv. 27-34).
When we come together to worship on Sunday, do you prepare yourself well? I don’t mean getting your Sunday best together. I mean, do you think about your relationships and whether they are glorifying to God (vv. 2-16) and do you think about how to unify the body of Christ and show favor to the disfavored in this world (vv. 21-22)? Do you take time to examine yourself and your life and come before the Lord in a reverent, worshipful way (vv. 27-28)?