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Dress and Conduct in the Church
Summary —Men in Church to Pray with Uncovered Heads. Women to Be Veiled. Disorderly Assemblies. The Abuse of Love Feasts. The Lord's Supper Profaned. The Lesson from Christ's Appointment of the Ordinance. Must Be Eaten with Solemn Reverence.
1, 2. Be ye followers of me, etc. This refers to verse 33 of the 10th chapter. Like him, they should not seek to “please themselves,” but to so act as to save others. 2. Now I praise you. This praise is preparatory to censure for disorderly conduct among them. Keep the ordinances. Those he had taught them while in Corinth. 107
3–8. For I would have you to know, etc. The order of rank is that Christ is the center, with the Father above and man below him; and in the family the man is first and the woman second. That is nature's order. 4. Every man praying or prophesying. The last word means speaking by inspiration. With his head covered. He dishonors his head by covering what God would have exposed. Some hold that the head dishonored is Christ. I agree rather with Meyer and Schaff, that it is his own. Heathen priests of Rome covered their heads. So do modern Jews. 5. Every one that prayeth, etc. With the customs and ideas which existed in the East in that age it would be an unseemly act, and would bring reproach. The veil was regarded as a badge of subordination, and if not worn would imply that the woman did not yield deference to her husband. Almost all women are still veiled in the presence of men in the East. All one as if she were shaven. For a woman's head to be shaven was usually a sign of shamelessness (See Meyer). The uncovered head in an assembly was also unbecoming. 6. For if the woman be not covered. If she defies decorum by an uncovered head, let her go further, and be shaven. 7. A man ought not to cover his head, etc. In this whole passage we must keep in mind the Eastern ideas of the relations of the sexes. Paul bases these rules of propriety on the account of their creation. The veil is a sign of subordination to others present. But man, the image and glory of God, has no created superior. The woman, the glory of the man, is subordinate to him, of which the veil is the symbol. 8. For the man is not of the woman. In the creative act man was first, and woman was made from man.
9–12. Neither was the man, etc. Woman was made for man because he needed a helpmeet. 10. For this cause ought a woman to have power, etc. She ought to have on her head the veil, the badge of submission to authority. Because of the angels. This clause has puzzled the critics. The idea probably is: “There should be no violation of decorum, such as a bareheaded woman in a public assembly would be, lest it offend the ministering angels which are always present, though unseen.” 11. Neither is the man without the woman, etc. Neither sex is independent of the other; each needs the other. In the Lord. The Lord recognizes their mutual dependence upon each other. 108 12. For as the woman is of the man, etc. As she was created for man so man is born of woman. There is an equipoise. These relations are all “of God.”
13–16. Is it comely that a woman should pray, etc.? That is, in the public assembly. Private prayer, or with her own sex or household, is not meant. It was very unbecoming in view of the customs of the East, nor would it generally be esteemed decorous in our times, and with our ideas, that she should appear with no covering on her head at all. 14. Doth not even nature itself, etc.? It is nature's arrangement that men should wear short hair, and a woman long. For a man to have long hair and a woman to be shorn are violations of nature's teachings. 16. But if a man seem to be contentious. If, in spite of nature's lessons, a man contentiously opposes, let him know that no such custom exists in the churches. Many suppose that custom refers to being contentious. I think, rather, that it refers to covering the head, etc. The lesson of this whole passage is that we must not defy existing social usages in such a way as to bring reproach on the church.
17–22. Now in this … I praise you not. That their church assemblies were not orderly. 18. When ye come together in the church. In a meeting of the church. There be divisions. He had spoken in chapters 1–3 of the divisions in the congregation. He now tells them that he had heard that these divisions were manifest at their church meetings. 19. There must needs be heresies. Heresies were false opinions which led to divisions. In the state of the human mind they were unavoidable, and would sift the church. 20. When ye come together, therefore. When they assembled these heresies and divisions were manifest. There was a Paulite group, an Apolloite group, and a Petrine group, who sat apart from each other. It is not to eat the Lord's supper. Coming in such a spirit they were in no fit mind to eat the Lord's supper. 21. For every one partaketh before others his own supper. It was customary in Corinth to eat a meal together as did Christ and his disciples the night of the Lord's supper. After this came the Lord's supper. At this meal each party in Corinth sat apart and ate when it was ready. The result was that some began before the others. One would be hungry, and another drunken. This last clause means that he had eaten and was satisfied. 22. What! Have you not houses to eat and drink in? The practice is rebuked. The place to eat their feasts was at home. Despise ye the church of God? By a selfish feast, where some ate luxuriously, and put to shame others, perhaps the poor, who had nothing. 109
23–26. For I have received of the Lord. While at Corinth he had told the church the solemn history of the institution of the supper, an account that he had received directly by inspiration from the Lord. Such a sacred event was utterly inconsistent with strife, revelry or disorder. The history is repeated to show this. 24. This is my body. Is this literal? “I am the true vine,” “These women are the two covenants” (Gal. 4:24), etc. are kindred expressions. The idea is: “This represents my body.” The eating of the bread is not to literally eat the Lord's flesh, but is done in remembrance. It is a token that reminds of his body. 25. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. The memorial design of the Lord's supper is reiterated. It is not a “sacrifice of the mass,” but a remembrance of Christ's sacrifice. 26. Ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come. The observance points to two great facts—the Lord's death, and to his second coming; one past, the other future. The observance is to continue “till he come.”
27–30. Shall eat … or drink … unworthily. In a light, disorderly way, or with an unholy frame of mind. Shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Profane the body and blood by profanely eating the sacred tokens of these. 28. Let a man examine himself, etc. To see whether he can eat in loving remembrance of the death of Christ. 29. Eateth … unworthily. With light, worldly thoughts, as though eating common food. That this is a sin is shown in verse 27. Here it is added, “he eateth and drinketh damnation;” that is, subjects himself to condemnation. Not discerning the Lord's body. Not distinguishing it, keeping in mind that these are memorials. 30. For this cause many are weak, etc. Some have held that this means that the improper observance of the supper has made many weak and sickly Christians, and some had even died spiritually. Others hold that physical judgments had been sent, and some sickened and others died. The last view is most generally held.
31–34. If we would judge ourselves. If we would sit in judgment on our spiritual condition, and correct ourselves, we would avert God's judgments. 32. We are chastened, etc. Judgments 110are used to chasten and to bring to repentance and reformation. Compare Heb. 12:5–8. 33. Wherefore, when ye come together to eat, etc. Let all wait, and let all eat and partake of the Lord's supper together. 34. If any man is hungry, let him eat at home. This feast is not in order to satisfy the cravings of the appetite.
The account given here of the institution of the Lord's supper is one of the four in the New Testament. 1 is of an eye witness; those of Mark and Luke were received by them from witnesses who were present; that of Paul was “received from the Lord.” Many regard it as the oldest written account of the event. 110
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