Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 11

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

  1. Intro:
    1. We are are going to talk about head coverings. As we read it, does Paul ever mention what length for hair? Or, what is considered long hair or short? If there is a head covering mentioned, what size should it be? Is a postage stamp size big enough, or is Romulo’s hat the right size?
    2. Not difficult issues here, but they are delicate ones.
      1. During WWII when drifting into a harbor you would wait for the harbor pilot to take the ship’s wheel & weave you through the pathless waters leading to the dock,Why? Strategically hidden beneath the water's surface were highly charged mines that would explode if nudged by a ship’s hull. Only the harbor pilot knew where they were.
        1. In 1 Cor.11, these are not difficult issues here, but they are delicate ones.
    3. A topical issue that reflects a timeless principle! [local significance; culture of the day]
      1. Paul solves the problems by principles, which are eternal.
    4. Read Text. Title: “Headship, Hair & Hats!”
    5. (2) Two things that merit praise (before the negative things). They remembered Paul & appreciated him & the church was faithful in keeping the teachings/traditions that had been given them.
    6. Tradition = merely something handed on from one to another.
      1. The thing handed on may be bad as in Matt.15:2,3 Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? <-- this one.
      2. The thing handed on may be contrary to the will of God Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
      3. Or, it may be wholly good as here.
        1. So, context must be brought in to understand the meaning.
        2. Traditions of men must be avoided(usually); the Traditions of God must be observed.
    7. One of the biggest problems in the Corinthian church was disorder in the public meetings:
      1. Some of the women were assuming more freedom than they should have(11:1-16);
      2. There was disorder at the Lord’s Supper(11:17-34); and
      3. There was confusion in the use of the spiritual gifts(12-14).
        1. The church had been greatly enriched with spiritual gifts, but they were sadly lacking in spiritual graces. (WarrenWiersbe; Outlines of the NT)
      4. So, this next section of Corinthians deal w/the orderliness of Christian worship!
    8. Paul could have tried to solve these problems by issuing apostolic edicts, but instead he patiently explained with spiritual principles.
    9. Paul deals with the 1st of the 3 areas of confusion in their public worship.
      1. God’s order in the church is based on 3 fundamentals that Paul considered self-evident: Headship(3-7); Creation(8-12); Nature(13-16).
  2. HEADSHIP! (3-7)
    1. (3) Many love the middle of this verse(the head of woman is man!); others hate it; but we can’t understand it, unless we see it as a jewel in an exquisite setting of the other 2 relationships.
    2. Let’s look at the other 2 relationships: (note: equality & submission)
      1. [1] The head of Christ is God!
        1. Jn.10:30 I and My Father are one. Christ is equal to God in character & deity. They were one in cooperation, in service, & in ministry.
        2. Jn.14:28 My Father is greater than I. Here is the submission which He voluntarily took upon Himself when he humbled Himself & stooped to the death of the cross for us.
          1. So, Christ claimed equality with God, but offered submission to God!
      2. [2] The head of every man is Christ!
        1. Man shares with Christ life & communion, for God made man in His own image.
        2. There was to be complete cooperation, & at the same time a voluntary submission that the purpose of God might be fulfilled & that the Glory of God might be revealed.
      3. [3] So, the middle phrase, the head of woman is man, is to be exactly the same!
        1. She is equal to man. Gal.3:28 there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
        2. She is to be submissive to her husband. Gen.3:16 Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.
        3. One said, “When God made the woman He took her from the man, but not from his head in case that she would dominate him, nor from the feet in case he should trample upon her. God took her from the side, close to his a heart, that she might be his companion, his comfort, his love.”
    3. Note: this headship wasn’t just set up because of the fall, but was God’s intent pre-fall!
      1. Adam was created 1st, then Eve.
        1. The creation of Adam 1st is consistent with the OT pattern of Primogeniture (firstborn), the idea that firstborn in any generation in a human family has leadership in the family for that generation.
      2. Eve was created as a helper for Adam.
      3. Adam named Eve. (not vice-versa)
      4. God named the Human race Man (not woman; not something gender neutral) He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind (adom).
      5. The serpent came to Eve 1st. (going for the role reversal maneuver tempting Eve to take the leadership role!)
      6. God spoke to Adam 1st, after the fall.
      7. Adam, not Eve, represented the Human race. (we’re counted sinful because of Adam’s sin)
    4. Today will husband’s take their rightful place of headship? Will wive’s give it up?
      1. Mark Driscoll makes an interesting observation: Rather than moving from boyhood to manhood we created a 3rd life stage in the middle called, adolescence. We are left with indefinite adolescence! We are left with a Peter Pan syndrome epidemic where some men want to remain boys forever!
    5. So, as Christ voluntarily submitted Himself to the Father, so the husband is to submit himself to Christ.
      1. As the woman is to be man’s companion, so she is to submit to an authority, which is exercised in love as expressed at the cross.
      2. Any man that cannot exercise authority like that(the cross), had better not get married; Any woman who cannot submit to authority like that, had better remain single.
      3. Remember, we are looking at Headship…not Dictatorship!
    6. (4) Dishonors his head - not the 12” above the neck, but Christ!
    7. (5) Dishonors her head - not the 12” above her neck, but her man!
      1. Slide#11 Women in Corinth who went through the streets unveiled, or with short hair, were the prostitutes.
        1. You’ve seen in many Eastern countries even today, women do not appear in public unveiled.
      2. In Jewish Law, a woman proved guilty of adultery had their hair cut off (Numb 5:11-31)
      3. Now, Women were showing up at church w/their heads uncovered.
      4. “For a Jewish woman to appear outside the house w/an uncovered head was shameful & her husband could divorce her.” (LKGNT/Midrash)
        1. This was a sign of disrespect to their husbands & would have been interpreted as an invitation to sin.
        2. She was in danger of being misjudged! (i.e. harlot)
        3. This would be like your wife taking off her wedding ring today! She makes herself vulnerable!
    8. (7) What about Jewish men wearing a Yarmulke(yammica), Kippah, prayer cap, in their synagogue?
      1. Didn’t come about till later, during Talmudic times(2nd cent). It acknowledges what is above (i.e. God).
      2. My friend Rabbi Joseph, attributes it back to when the priests were called to wear a turban on their head & on it “Holiness to the Lord”(Ex.28:36,37). As the Levites were to serve the people(not just the priests), so all should seek to serve/be like the people.
      3. Of course wearing or not wearing of a piece of cloth doesn’t change the heart.
    9. CREATION! (8-12)
      1. Paul lays out the creation order. [man created 1st, then woman from man]
      2. (10) Because of the angels – we are on display before the angels, they are watching us (1Cor4:9)
        1. 1 Cor.4:9 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
      3. Remember in Is.6:2, the angels cover their faces that stand before God, and it seems they want to look down & see a Christian woman worshipping God also in reverence!
  3. NATURE! (13-16)
    1. (14,15) Nature? 1st thought is, wait, a male lion has longer hair then the lioness! (that’s not the point)
      1. Nature gives the man short hair & the woman long hair(generally)...therefore nature herself teaches…
      2. Wearing long hair was contrary to the custom both of the Hebrews & the Greco-Romans.
        1. Exceptions were of necessity or perversity:
        2. Necessity: Nazarite vow - Long hair was a distinction, allowed their hair to grow. Was abnormal, so it stood out.
        3. Perversity: (women) Cut hair short or shaved, like the temple prostitutes.
        4. The Spartans favored shoulder-length hair for men, which they tied up for battle & no one thought them effeminate.
      3. Long hair was a woman’s glory because it gave visible expression to the differentiation of the sexes. This was Paul’s point in noting that long hair was given to her as a covering.
    2. If local custom does not dictate a head-covering, her long hair can be that covering.
    3. (16) Paul dealt with the immediate issue but also put his finger on the root of the problem, the Corinthian pursuit of self-interest which was unwilling to subordinate itself to the needs of others (10:24) or the glory of God (10:31).
      1. Throwing off the head covering was an act of insubordination which discredited God
        1. Many Bible students see that for today the principle of subordination (not the command to wear hats) is the key point in this passage. [not hat issues, but hair issues]
        2. It’s cross-dresser issues; its butchy girl issues; girly-man issues; transvestite; cross-dressers.
      2. Paul’s against unisex styles. We have enough confusion of sex roles today...don’t add to it.
      3. Paul never mentions hats (issue is hair, short hair, or no hair)
      4. Paul never mentions what length? What is considered long? What is short? What size covering?
      5. A few hair do’s that I know are biblically forbidden I just haven’t found yet...The Mullet, toupee, guys with corn roe!
    4. Recap: Several reasons women must fulfill their proper role in the church:
      1. It shows honor to their husband.
      2. It honors Christ.
      3. It agrees w/the plan of creation itself.
      4. The angels watch our worship & know what we do.
      5. Nature itself givens the woman long hair & the man short hair (generally).
      6. This is the practice of all the churches.
    5. A woman or man not submitting to their headship is out of place & is always a hindrance to the work of God!
    6. Some practical tips:
      1. Your fashion & style are personal! – Nowhere in the scripture do you find how long or how short to wear, or cut the hair.
        1. No matter what style you adopt, He’s looking at your heart, not your appearance that matters.
      2. Slide#19,20 Your fashion & style should support your sexual identity! Deut.22:5 A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.
        1. Girls don’t dress like a floozy; Guys stay out of the women's section at Kohls.
      3. Your fashion & style should glorify God! – Your style should be consistent w/the image God wants for you.
        1. Like clean & modest. Is there anything you should change in your style or fashions?
        2. If you display God’s glory…you can be’ll never be out of style! :)
      4. Story: kid that came to memorial service with a black hoody with the words F*** O**.
        1. Usher: should I bounce him. Me: nope. [difference: non-beliver]
    7. Husbands, therefore, should aim for loving, considerate, thoughtful leadership in their families. Wives should aim for active, intelligent, joyful submission to their husbands’ authority. (w.g.)


Do you think its better to be a man or a women? Are you happy w/the gender God gave you or would you rather be a member of the opposite sex? Can you honestly say that you think members of the opposite sex are equally valuable in God’s sight? Are they valuable today in your sight?

Dream for a moment:

What would the church be like if husbands fulfilled their role as heads of their wives & families? What if men were strong, earthly men who were truly alive in Christ. Men who were at church not just to please their wives, to fulfill some religious tradition, but men who were there to rock their world. What could that church accomplish for the kingdom of God?

What would the church be like if wives fulfilled their role in a healthy submission to their husbands? What if women were strong, godly women who were truly alive in Christ. Women who were at church not just to please their husbands, but women who were there to rock their world. What could that church accomplish for the kingdom of God?

Verses 17-34

  1. Intro:
    1. Problem this week? - The Corinthian church was taking the Lords Supper in a disorderly & disrespectful manner.
      1. They saw the occasion as an opportunity for gluttony & drunkenness, rather than a reverent remembrance of the Lord, & enjoying His goodness! Which invited God’s discipline!
      2. Do we do communion different then the church you grew up in? What is different? What do you miss, or wish we did, or wish we didn’t do? Is there anything that we’re doing that might have brought God displeasure? Have you ever eaten of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner? Ever been disrespectful toward communion?
    2. Title: A Meal to Remember!
    3. Outline: Careless Communion! (17-22); Careful Communion! (23-34).
    1. (17) I do not praise you – Paul did in vs.2, but can’t here!
    2. Come together – 5 x’s. (17,18,20,33,34)
      1. Oh, so I guess you are to come together as a local church body! (Baam)
    3. They enjoyed “Love Feasts” or “Agape Feasts”.
      1. Actually, they would have a meal 1st, then communion.
        1. This is what Jesus did when He turned a regular meal into a communion meal with the Emmaus road disciples. “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”
      2. At home do you ever combine communion w/your supper?
        1. Let’s bring back the Love Feasts!
      3. Home studies, when was the last time you had communion for your guests?
    4. Paul was calling for them to honor one another in the church.
      1. Communion is a personal time, yet shouldn’t become so individual that it becomes selfish.
    5. Instead of coming together they were coming apart!
      1. Divisions (18) & factions (19)
      2. The Lords supper speaks of the unity that a family has, sitting at their table [comm-union]
    6. Supper – This was the main meal of the day. [The Greeks had 3 meals in the day]
      1. ακριτισμα [akritisma /akri·tis·ma] - Breakfast, bread dipped in wine.
      2. ἀριστάω [aristao /ar·is·tah·o] Picnic snack on the go.
      3. δειπνέω [deipneo /dipe·neh·o] (used here) - Evening meal, people lingered & sat long & talked over it! [Like in Rev.3:20 Behold I stand...I will Dine with him...]
        1. So people sat down & with no sense of hurry. And sat down not only to satisfy hunger, but lingered long together! (leisurely dining)
    1. (msg) Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important.
    2. Bread & wine were 2 common items that were used at practically every meal, but Jesus gave them a wonderful new meaning.
      1. New meaning so that from now on they would serve as memorials of His death!
      2. Every detail of the Passover pointed to that great day of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
        1. Now, Jesus will redirect the details to Himself & to His deliverance of the world from sin.
    3. A PRIVILEGE! (23) It’s The Lords Table!
    4. 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.
      1. It is not the table of an assembly, a church, or a denomination.
    5. Christ is the host & we are invited to His table.
      1. Like Mephibosheth, who was lame in his feet & deserving of death, so we are spiritually lame & deserving of death. Yet King David invited him to eat bread at my table always & David said, he shall eat at my table like one of the king's sons (2Sam9)
    6. A MEMBER! (24) For you.
    7. Come together as a church (18)
      1. It is specifically for the family!
    8. A COMMAND! (24,25) Do this.
    9. New covenant?
      1. Old covenant(Sinai) was ratified w/the blood of animals sacrifices.
      2. New covenant was ratified by His blood.
      3. This blood did what the animal’s couldn’t…take away sin & not just cover over it!
    10. There were/are 4 cups at the Passover/Seder Feast:
      1. The 4 Cups symbolize the 4 distinct redemptions promised by God to the Hebrews as told in Ex.6:6-7 (1) I will take you out of Egypt (2) I will deliver you from Egyptian slavery (3) I will redeem you with a demonstration of my power (4) I will acquire you as a nation. [Jesus was celebrating the Passover when He instituted the Last Supper]
      2. The cup of Kiddush (sanctification/separation) [i.e. separation from all other common meals]
      3. The cup of Haggadah (explaining/proclaiming) [drink before meal]
      4. The cup of Thanksgiving (a prayer is said, “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.”) [drink after meal]
      5. The 4th cup – (drink after the conclusion of singing the Hallel) [Lk.22:18 I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes]
    11. A MEMORIAL! (24,25) Remembrance.
    12. It is not the real body & blood, for Jesus was in a human body when He took the bread & gave it as a symbol of His body.
      1. The Lords table is not a magical table or a superstitious table, but a testimonial table! [It’s not a “magical” experience but a “spiritual” one!]
    13. [Let’s talk about the 3 main communion views in the church]
      1. Transubstantiation (trans=across/change/transfer) A change of essence.
        1. ​​​​​​​Held by the Roman Catholic church. (via philosophy of Aristotle)
          1. Christ’s presence replaced the presence of bread/wine.
        2. Substance – the deepest essence of something.
        3. Accidents – outwardly perceivable qualities. (what we see, feel, smell, taste)
          1. Thus the idea is that the substance changes w/o the accidents changing. [still looks/smells/taste the same]
        4. Problem – Body & blood belong to the humanity of Jesus, not to His deity.
          1. Since the Mass is celebrated in diff parts of the world at the same time, how can the human nature of Jesus (body & blood) be at more than 1 place at a time?
          2. Plus, problem with John 6 misinterpretation (i.e. Last Supper not instituted yet)
      2. Consubstantiation – (con=with)
        1. Held by the Lutherans.
        2. Christ’s presence was added to the bread/wine.
          1. “Somehow he is present in, under, & through it.”
      3. Memorial View – (Do this in remembrance of me)
      4. Held by Zwingli(& us) - Memorial View.
        1. Remembrance = memorial. “To call back again into memory a vivid experience”(TDNT).
        2. It is a Necessary Memorial! – so we wouldn’t forget Him!
          1. Forget Him?…HOW? – Well, They went from the upper room to the garden, where they forgot him & fled from Him, just a little while after He said this.
          2. Kind of like we forget Him each & every time we sin!
            1. Yet, He’ll never forget you, child of God! – He has your photo in His wallet! – He has your picture on his refrigerator! – He has your portrait on his mantle! - And, you are tattooed on His hands (Is.49:16)
      5. Jesus shattered the Passover tradition with the words, Take, eat; this is My body!
        1. Yes, this Bread represented the life of Christ!
          1. He was given that body in Bethlehem (house of bread).
          2. In His life, he said, I am the bread of life! (a sinless life He led in that body)
          3. He bore our sins, in that body.
          4. He triumphed from the grave bringing that body back to life.
          5. He now lives in that glorified body at the right hand of the Father. - Take, eat; this is My body!
    14. Do this, & this do – Not: quote this, think this, feel this; but do this!
      1. Look, touch, & taste His death so we’ll really remember!
      2. Here Jesus pulls in more of our senses so we’d retain it better!
        1. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood & righteousness; I would not trust the sweetest frame, but only lean on Jesus name!”
    16. A BACKWARD LOOK! (26a) You proclaim the Lord’s death.
    17. It serves as a backward look to the cross (26a) Proclaim the Lord’s death.
      1. Proclamation = To preach! - Making a solemn announcement by word of mouth.
    18. A INWARD LOOK! (28) Examine himself.
    19. It serves as an inward look to the conscience (28) Examine himself.
    20. A self-examination - Examine yourself & not one another!
      1. Have you ever been guilty of saying, “How can they be taking communion?”
    21. Leave no stone unturned!
      1. Though we do not come to the table perfectly, we do need to come honestly!
    22. And so let him eat – God doesn’t erect a barrier around the Lord’s table to keep us from it, but a warning that would drive us to the Lord in confession, in repentance, & a melted heart.
    23. The devil would love to keep you from this table!
      1. Examine yourself & do not stay away, but come, eat, & drink when you do come!
    24. A FORWARD LOOK! (26b) Till He comes.
    25. It serves as a forward look to the crown (26b) Till He comes.
    26. Till – it is a temporary table!(no communion supper in heaven) So…
      1. ​​​​​​​It serves as a backward look to the cross.
      2. It serves as an inward look to the conscience.
      3. It serves as a forward look to the crown.
    27. A WARNING! (27) Will be guilty.
    28. Unworthy – Paul never tells us we must be “worthy” to eat at the Lord’s table (cuz no one would be able to partake).
      1. Though we are unworthy, we can, partake in a worthy manner…How?
        1. Have a Mind that understands the supper
        2. Have a Soul free from sin
        3. Have a Heartfilled w/love for Christ & his people
        4. Have a Will in obedience to His Word!
    29. A CHASTISEMENT! (29-32) Chastened by the Lord.
      1. Note: many (30) – Here is a sickness because of sin…even death for some! – This was the Divine chastening for not doing self-judgment (31).
      2. The principles pretty clear, if we don’t judge ourselves, God will have to judge for us.
      3. Ok, really, that’s pretty serious...weak, sick, or DEAD!
        1. ​​​​​​​Dan & I were talking, God left us with only 1 reoccurring sacrament/Baptism is needed only once
      4. Todays judgement? Maybe our flippancy towards communion. Maybe its sterility.
        1. I would love to start a new tradition, maybe start out quarterly. If the Lords Supper always came after a sit down leisurely meal then...How about we meet in the gym, tables set up, & have a huge pot luck, just sit & talk & fellowship, & then at the end, we take bread from off the table, & a cup, & enjoy this kind of communion together.
    30. A REMINDER! (33,34) Wait for one another…eat at home.
      1. Story – 1st communion I did in Haiti. I broke a loaf of bread in half & passed the 2. The 1st guy that it was passed to took the whole thing!
    31. Paul speaks to Christian love that puts others ahead of ourselves.
      1. When Leonardo da Vinci was 43 years old, the Duke Ludovinco of Milan asked him to paint the dramatic scene of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples: Working slowly and giving meticulous care to details, he spent 3 years on the assignment. He grouped the disciples into threes, two groups on either side of the central figure of Christ. Christ’s arms are outstretched. In his right hand, He holds a cup, painted beautifully with marvelous realism. When the masterpiece was finished, the artist said to a friend, “Observe it and give me your opinion of it!” “It’s wonderful!” exclaimed the friend. “The cup is so real I cannot divert my eyes from it!” Immediately Leonardo took a brush and drew it across the sparkling cup! He exclaimed as he did so: “Nothing shall detract from the figure of Christ!”
        1. ​​​​​​​A Meal to Remember...A Messiah to Remember!
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Bell's Commentary". 2017.