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1 Corinthians 11


13 The Corinthian Christians ought to have known that wives should cover their heads; even the non-believing Greeks knew that.

But remember: Paul’s teaching about covering one’s head applies only when one is praying and prophesying in a public worship service, not at other times (verses 4-5).

14 Throughout the Roman Empire in Paul’s time, men wore their hair shorter than women did. A man was despised if he let his hair grow as long as a woman’s.

Does Paul mean that men should never have long hair, no matter what generation they belong to or what country they live in? Some Christians think that Paul was only writing about his own time. But others think that Paul intends this teaching for all men of every generation; they say that a man’s hair should always be shorter than a woman’s hair.

It is possible for true Christians to have different understandings of Paul’s teaching here. Each Christian, with the help of the Holy Spirit, must study these verses and decide in his own mind what Paul’s meaning is. But we must not judge or condemn another believer who may have a different opinion from ours on these smaller matters. To dif fer with each other on small matters is all right; but to judge each other is not. Do not split the church by arguing over hair length!

15 Throughout history, women have usually worn their hair long. Paul says that the very nature of things (verse 14) teaches that this is suitable. A woman’s long hair is like a covering provided by God. Indeed, many people think that this verse teaches that a woman’s long hair is the only covering she ever needs (see verse 5 and comment).

16 The Corinthians should not become contentious over this matter; let them just accept what Paul says. Paul is not giving them some strange new teaching; he is giving them the same teaching he has given to all the other churches.

17-18 In verse 2, Paul praised the Corinthians; now he must correct them.

There were many divisions in the Corinthian church. Some of these divisions concerned which apostle to follow (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). Other divisions existed between the rich and the poor, between socially important believers and ordinary believers. When there are divisions like this, it is better not to meet at all! … your meetings do more harm than good, Paul tells the Corinthians.

19 Among any group of Christians there will always be different ideas and points of view on many matters. This is not wrong. However, when such dif ferences arise among Christians, it is essential that all sides act with love and humility toward each other. Only those demonstrating love and humility have God’s approval. Those who are proud and create strif e and division in the church do not have God’s approval. No harm comes from the humble expression of different ideas concerning smaller matters. Harm comes when believers judge each other and oppose each other over such matters.

20 In the Corinthian church, the LORD’S SUPPER was being celebrated together with an ordinary meal—just as Christ celebrated His last Passover meal with His disciples. Thus, when the Corinthian Christians met together for the Lord’s Supper, they didn’t eat and drink only the bread and wine, but they had a complete meal. But the Corinthians had forgotten the real meaning and purpose of the Lord’s Supper. They were meeting together to have a good time, to eat their fill, and to get drunk on wine! (verse 21). Under such circumstances it was impossible to truly celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

21  In the Corinthian church, each person who attended the Lord’s Supper brought with him his own food from home. The rich brought much food; the poor brought little. But the rich did not share their food with the poor; therefore, the poor of ten went hungry. The more important members of the church went right ahead and ate without waiting for anybody else. (The church members who were slaves or servants usually came late, because they first had to serve their own masters at home before coming to the Lord’s Supper.)

22  if the rich and important members of the church were going to act this way, says Paul, let them first eat their regular meal at home and then come to the Lord’s Supper. The way they were behaving dishonored and grieved Christ. Where was their respect for the church, which was Christ’s body? Where was their love for their poorer brothers? They may have called the Lord’s Supper a “love feast,” but the only love they were showing was for themselves.

23  Paul had received special instructions from the Lord concerning the Lord’s Supper. Certainly Paul learned about Jesus’ last supper from the twelve disciples. But Paul also must have received a direct revelation from Jesus concerning the Lord’s Supper and how it was to be observed in the churches (see Galatians 1:11-12).

The first Lord’s Supper took place on the night [Jesus] was betrayed. Seeing how much Jesus suffered for them, how can the Corinthian believers regard the Lord’s Supper as a time for having fun and getting drunk?

24  The Lord Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body” (see Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 10:16 and comments).

The Lord Jesus sacrificed His body for us, that through His death we might receive eternal life. We must never forget that tremendous fact. Indeed, one reason for celebrating the Lord’s Supper over and over is so that we might always keep fresh in our minds what Jesus did for us.

Jesus said: “… do this (eat this bread) in remembrance of me.” Just as ordinary bread (food) is necessary for our bodies, so spiritual “bread” is necessary for our spirits. Jesus is our spiritual bread (see John 6:51,53-54).

25 Jesus said: “This cup is the new COVENANT in my blood.” According to Mark 14:24, Jesus also said: “This is my blood of the covenant.” The meaning of these two sayings is the same (see Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 10:16 and comments).

By the word cup Paul means the contents of the cup. At Jesus’ last supper, He and His disciples drank wine. But Paul is not saying here that we must drink only wine at the Lord’s Supper. Many Christians drink some kind of fruit juice when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

The new covenant mentioned here is the promise given to men and women by God that if they will believe in His Son Jesus, He will forgive their sins and give them eternal life. Under the old covenant, God had given men His law; under the new covenant, He has given men His Son. Now, through His Son and through the Holy Spirit, God has written a new “law,” not on tablets of stone as the old covenant was, but on men’s hearts (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8-10 and comments).

Therefore, the blood of Jesus is the sign of this new covenant. For it is through His blood (that is, His sacrif icial death on the cross) that we receive salvation and eternal life.

As with the bread, Jesus took the cup and said: “… do this (drink this cup) in remembrance of me.35

26 When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we proclaim the Lord’s death; that is, we witness to all men that Christ died for our salvation and that He rose again. Let the whole world know what Christ has done; we are witnesses to it.

We must proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. That is, we must continue to observe the Lord’s Supper until Jesus comes to earth again. After He comes we won’t need to celebrate the Lord’s Supper any more, because from that time on we shall be celebrating it with Him in heaven (see Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25).

27 The Corinthians were celebrating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (verses 20-22). To celebrate the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner means to celebrate it without confessing one’s sins, without loving one’s brother, without humility. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in such an unworthy manner, we are sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. It is as if we were crucifying Christ all over again, breaking His body and shedding His blood anew.

28 Therefore, before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we must carefully examine ourselves to see if there is any unconfessed sin in our life. If there is, we must at once confess it and repent of it, and then ask forgiveness from God (see 1 John 1:9). Only then will it be all right to eat the bread and drink from the cup at the Lord’s Supper.

29 To eat and drink without recognizing the body of the Lord means to celebrate the Lord’s Supper without honoring Jesus’ body and without remembering His death. To eat and drink without recognizing the body of the Lord means to celebrate the Lord’s Supper without caring about Jesus’ suffering, His sacrif ice. The Corinthians celebrated the Lord’s Supper as if they were eating an ordinary meal. They celebrated the Supper, but they forgot the Lord!

If we celebrate the Lord’s Supper without recognizing, or caring, about Christ’s body, we will surely bring God’s judgment upon ourselves; that is, God will punish us for sinning against the body and blood of Christ (verse 27). That judgment, or punishment, is not the same as the last judgment of unbelievers; rather, it is “discipline” (verse 32) given by God to those who partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

30 At the time Paul wrote this letter, God had already begun to discipline (or punish) the Corinthian Christians for their unworthy behavior. God had made many of them weak and sick; He had even allowed some of them to “fall asleep,” that is, to die (see 1 Corinthians 5:5). What severe discipline the Corinthians needed! How severely will God have to discipline us?

31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment—that is, we would not come under God’s discipline. Here, to “judge ourselves” means to examine ourselves. Paul’s meaning in this verse, then, is this: if we examined ourselves, we would not need to be disciplined by God. When we examine ourselves, we can discover our sin, and repent of it. And when we truly repent, we will not need to bear God’s judgment or punishment for that sin. Because as soon as we have repented of a sin and asked for forgiveness, God will immediately forgive us (see 1 John 1:9 and comment). Then, after we have been forgiven, we can celebrate the Lord’s Supper freely and joyfully, and we shall receive, not judgment, but blessing.

32 When we are being judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined. When Paul says we are “being judged,” he is not talking about the last judgment that will come upon unbelievers. He is talking about the punishment or DISCIPLINE of believers. God disciplines us so that we will not be condemned with the world—that is, condemned with the world of unbelieving men at the last judgment. When we sin and do not immediately repent of it, God needs to discipline us (see Hebrews 12:5-7,10-11 and comment). Without God’s discipline, it is possible to fall away from Christ. It is through God’s discipline that we are kept on the right path; it is through His discipline that we are spared being condemned with unbelievers.

33-34 Having rebuked the Corinthian Christians for what they have done wrong (verses 20-22), Paul now tells them how they should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home. The Corinthians should not come to the Lord’s Supper to fill their stomachs but to worship the Lord!

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