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Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible Poole's Annotations
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ mpc/ 1-corinthians-11.html. 1685.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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1 CORINTHAINS CHAPTER 11
1 Corinthians 11:3-16 Paul exhorteth the Corinthians to follow him, as he did Christ:
1. He praiseth them for observing the rules he had
2. And forbiddeth men to pray or prophesy with heads
covered, and women with heads uncovered; the
covering of the head being a token of subjection.
1 Corinthians 11:17-19 He blameth them for abuses in their religious assemblies, particularly for their divisions,
1 Corinthians 11:20-22 and profanation of the Lord’s supper.
1 Corinthians 11:23-34 He remindeth them of the first institution thereof, and showeth the danger of partaking of it unworthily.
Interpreters judge, that these words do properly belong to the foregoing chapter, in the last verse of which he had propounded his own example to them; but whether they be applied to that chapter or this, is not much material. They teach us, that the examples of the apostles are part of our rule; yet the modesty of the apostle is remarkable, who requires of his people no further to follow him than as he followed Christ: nor indeed ought any man to require more of those that are under his charge, than to follow him so far forth as he imitates the Lord Jesus Christ.
That ye remember me in all things; that you remember my doctrine, the precepts and instructions that I gave you;
and keep the ordinances: so we translate it; the Greek word is παραδοσεις. The word signifieth any thing that is doctrinally delivered, or taught men, whether it concerns faith or manners. It is thought, that in this text it doth not signify what the apostle had delivered to them with respect to faith, or their moral conversation, but with respect to matters of order, because such is the next instance which the apostle mentioneth, about praying or prophesying with the head covered, or uncovered; and undoubtedly any precepts of that nature from one guided by an infallible Spirit ought to be observed. The apostle doth not command them to keep any traditions, which others should to the end of the world deliver to them, he only praiseth them for keeping those which he had delivered. There is a great question between us and the papists, about the obligation that lieth upon Christians to observe unwritten traditions; that is, such rites and observances as they tell us were apostolical, and the traditions of the primitive church, though they can show us no Scripture for them; but no Christian disputes his obligation to keep apostolical traditions; only we are at a loss to know how to prove those traditions apostolical, of which we find nothing in the writings of the apostles: it is praiseworthy to keep apostolical traditions; but for others, or such as do not appear to us to be so, it is but a work of supererogation: where hath God required any such thing at people’s hands?
The abuse which the apostle is reflecting upon in this and the following verses, is women’s praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered, against which the apostle strongly argues. His argument seems to be this: That the woman in religious services ought to behave herself as a person in subjection to her husband, and accordingly to use such a gesture, as, according to the guise and custom of that country, testified such a subjection; to this purpose he tells us in this verse,
that the head of every man is Christ. Christ, considered as God according to his Divine nature, is the Head of all men and women too in the world; but the text seemeth rather to speak of Christ as Mediator: so the apostle tells us, Ephesians 5:23, he is
the Head of the church; and the New Testament often speaks of Christ in that notion, and of believers as his members: in this sense, by every man, we must understand no more than every Christian, every member of the church.
The head of the woman is the man; the man is called the head of the woman, because by God’s ordinance he is to rule over her, Genesis 3:16; he hath an excellency above the woman, and a power over her.
The head of Christ is God; and God is the Head of Christ, not in respect of his essence and Divine nature, but in respect of his office as Mediator; as the man is the head of the woman, not in respect of a different and more excellent essence and nature, (for they are both of the same nature), but in respect of office and place, as God hath set him over the woman. Nor indeed could those who deny the Divine nature of Christ, easily have brought a text more against their own assertion, than this, which rather proveth, that God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are equal in nature and essence, than different; for surely the head is not of a different, but the same nature and essence with the members. Nor doth Christ’s subjection to his Father at all argue an inequality, or difference from him in nature and essence, more than the subjection of subjects to a prince argue any such thing. The apostle then determines this to be the order which God hath set: God is the Head of Christ; Christ is the Head of his church, and every one that is a member of it; and man is the head of the woman, he to whom the woman ought to be subject. as the church is subject to Christ, and Christ is subject to his Father; and from hence he argues as follows.
By every man praying or prophesying, some (amongst whom the learned Beza) understand not only he that ministereth in prayer, or in opening and applying the Scriptures, whether from a previous meditation and study of them, or from the extraordinary revelation of the Holy Spirit, which they had in those primitive times; but also all those that were present at those actions. The reason they give is: Because the reason given by the apostle for his assertion, is such as is common to the people, as well as to him that ministereth; and the woman was forbidden to speak in the church, 1 Timothy 2:12. But our learned Bishop Hall assures us, he cannot agree with those of this mind. And indeed it is an unreasonable interpretation; for though those who join with others in prayer may be said to pray, yet those that hear one preaching or expounding Scripture, can in no propriety of speech be said to prophesy. Nor is any such usage of the term to be paralleled, neither are the reasons they bring cogent; for though the reason of the precept may concern the people as well as the minister, yet it doth not follow that the rule or precept must necessarily do so too. And although the woman be forbidden to teach in ordinary cases, yet it did not concern those who were immediately and extraordinarily inspired, according to the prophecy, Joel 2:28, applied, Acts 2:17.
Having his head covered; i.e. with a hat or cap, or such covering of the head as is in use in the country wherein he liveth. It is not to be understood of the natural covering of the head, which is our hair; nor yet of any other covering which is necessary for the preservation of life and health; but such a covering as he might spare, and is ornamental to him according to the fashion of the country.
Dishonoureth his head; either dishonoureth Christ who is his Head, and whom he ought to represent, and doth as it were make the church the head to Christ, which is subject to him, while by covering his head he declares a subjection in his ministration. Or he dishonoureth his own head, (so many interpret it), to wit, he betrayeth his superiority, lesseneth himself as to that power and dignity which God hath clothed him with, by using a posture which is a token of inferiority and subjection. Interpreters rightly agree, that this and the following verses are to be interpreted from the customs of countries; and all that can be concluded from this verse is, that it is the duty of men employed in Divine ministrations, to look to behave themselves as those who are to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, behaving themselves with a just authority and gravity that becometh his ambassadors, which decent gravity is to be judged from the common opinion and account of the country wherein they live. So as all which this text requires of Christian ministers, is authority and gravity, and what are external ludications of it. Our learned Dr. Lightfoot observeth, that the Jewish priests were wont in the worship of God to veil their heads; so that Christian ministers praying or prophesying with their heads covered, Judaized, which he judgeth the reason of the apostle’s assertion. The heathens also, both Romans and Grecians, were wont to minister in their sacred things with their heads covered. Some think this was the reason why the Christians used the contrary gesture; but the apostle’s arguing from the man’s headship, seemeth to import that the reason of this assertion of the apostle was, because in Corinth the uncovered head was a sign of authority. At this day the Mahometans (or Turks) speak to their superiors covered, and so are covered also in their religious performances. The custom with us in these western parts is quite otherwise; the uncovering of the head is a sign or token of subjection: hence ministers pray and preach with their heads uncovered, to denote their subjection to God and Christ: but yet this custom is not uniform, for in France the Reformed ministers preach with their heads covered; as they pray uncovered, to express their reverence and subjection to God, so they preach covered, as representing Christ, the great Teacher, from whom they derive, and whom they represent. Nothing in this is a further rule to Christians, than that it is the duty of ministers, in praying and preaching, to use postures and habits that are not naturally, nor according to the custom of the place where they live, uncomely and irreverent, and so looked upon. It is only the general observation of decency (which cannot by any be created, but ariseth either from nature, or custom, and prescription) which this text of the apostle maketh to be the duty of all Christians; though as to the Corinthians, he particularly required the man’s ministering in sacred things with his head uncovered, either to avoid the habit or posture used by Jews and pagans; or for the showing of his dignity and superiority over the woman, (whom we shall by and by find commanded to pray or prophesy covered), or that he represented Christ who was the Head of the church. The uncovering of the head being with them as much a sign of subjection, as it is with us of superiority and pre-eminence.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth: though the woman be forbidden to teach, and commanded to be in silence, 1 Timothy 2:12; yet that text must be understood of ordinary women, and in ordinary cases, not concerning such as prophesied from an extraordinary impulse or motion of the Spirit. We read of women prophetesses both in the Old and New Testament; such was Huldah in Josiah’s time, and Anna, of whom we read Luke 2:36; and we read that Philip
had four daughters that did prophesy, Acts 21:9.
With her head uncovered: the uncovered head here (as before) must signify not covered with some artificial covering, such as our quoifs, hats, hoods, or veils, &c., or with her own hair, not hanging loose, but artificially used so as to be a covering.
Dishonoureth her head; dishonoureth either her husband, who is her political or economical head, for by that habit she behaveth herself as if she were not one in subjection, and seemeth to usurp an undue authority over the man; or her natural head, it being in those places accounted an immodest thing for a woman to appear in public uncovered. It is observed of Rebekah, when she met Isaac, Genesis 24:65; She took a veil, and covered herself. For that is even all one as if she were shaven; for, saith the apostle, yourselves would judge it an uncomely thing for a woman to be shaven; now to pray or to prophesy with the head uncovered, is all one. This last clause will incline us to think, that by the uncovered head in this verse, is not only to be understood uncovered with some other covering besides her hair, but with her hair dishevelled, hanging loose at its length, for else it is not all one to have the head uncovered with a hat, or hood, or quoif, and to be shaven; for the apostle afterward saith, 1 Corinthians 11:15, her hair is given to her for a covering or a veil: so that possibly that which the apostle here reflecteth upon, is women’s coming into the public assemblies with their hair hanging loosely down, and not decently wound up so as to make a covering for the head; which, we are told, was the practice of those beastly she-priests of Bacchus, who, like frantic persons, performed those pretendedly religious rites with their hair so hanging loose, and were called manades, because they behaved themselves more like mad persons than such as were in the actual use of their reason: something like which, it is most probable, some women in the Christian church at Corinth affected, against which the apostle here argueth.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: nature itself teacheth, that it is a shameful sight to see a woman revealing the mind and will of God, by an extraordinary pretended revelation, in so indecent a manner, as with her hair all hanging down; let her hair be either shaven off, or at least cut after the manner of men’s hair, if she will neither tie it up artificially, so as to make it a covering for her head, nor put on a veil to cover her: for though a woman prophesying from an extraordinary impulse, be not under the common law of women not speaking in the public assembly, but keeping silence; yet she is under the law of nature to do no such grave and solemn actions in such a rude manner, that from the light of nature, or the common account of all that live in that place, she should be judged to be irreverent and brutish in her religious action. From this text a question hath been started: Whether Christian women may lawfully go without any other covering upon their heads than their hair? I must confess, I see not how such a question can have any bottom in this text, where the apostle is not speaking of women’s ordinary habiting themselves, but only when they prayed and prophesied, and (if I mistake not) when they ministered in prayer and prophecy (as was said before). We now have no such prophetesses; so as I think that question about the lawfulness of women’s going without any other covering upon their heads than their hair, must be determined from other texts, not this, and is best determined from circumstances; for God having given to the woman her hair for a covering and an ornament, I cannot see how it should be simply unlawful; accidentally it may, from the circumstances of pride in her heart that so dresseth herself, or lust and wantonness in others’ hearts; or other circumstances of ill designs and intentions in the woman so dressing herself.
But if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered; if nature teacheth us that it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, it also teacheth us that it is a shame for her to be uncovered, either with her hair, or some artificial covering; which latter seemeth rather to be meant in this place, because divines think, that the face is that part of the head which the apostle here intendeth should be covered in their religious actions, which is not covered with the hair, but with a veil, &c.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head; covering the head being in those countries a token of subjection, a man ought to uphold the power, pre-eminence, and authority with which God hath invested him, and not to cover his head, further than it is naturally covered with hair.
Forasmuch as he is the image and glory, of God; because he hath a peculiar cause of glorying in God, as he to whom alone he is subject, and therefore ought by no habits or postures to show himself in subjection to others: or because God glorieth in him, as a most excellent piece of his workmanship: God is represented in man. Paul useth to call that one’s glory wherein he glorieth, 2 Corinthians 1:12,2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:20. So David ealleth God his glory; and Solomon tells us, Proverbs 17:6, that the glory of children are their fathers. So as the apostle here useth a double argument for the man’s not covering of his head:
1. Because the man is immediately subject to God, and therefore ought not by any habits, or civil rites, to show his natural subjection to men, that are not by nature his superiors (for we must not think, that the apostle by this argument forbiddeth subjection to natural, economical, or political superiors).
2. Because God glorieth in man.
But the woman is the glory of the man, created for the honour of the man, and for his help and assistance, and originally made out of man, so as man may glory of her, as Adam did of Eve, Genesis 2:23,
This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. The glory of God ought to be revealed and uncovered, manifested to all: the glory of the man ought to be hidden and concealed.
Here the apostle openeth or proveth what he had before said of the woman’s being the glory of the man; the woman was made of the man; the man was not made of a rib taken out of the woman, but the woman was made of a rib taken out of the man; we have the history, Genesis 2:21,Genesis 2:22; and from hence the apostle argueth her subjection to the man.
We have this expounded, Genesis 2:18, where God said: It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. God did not first create the woman, and then make man a meet help for her; but he first made the man, and then the woman, that she might be a meet help for him. Now it is a rule in reason: That whosoever or whatsoever is made for another person or thing, is less excellent than that person or thing for which the other is made.
For the man, signifies to serve and help the man.
By power on her head is here to be understood (as some think) a covering on her head, in sign that she is under the power of her husband: the thing signified is here put for the sign, as the sign is often put for the thing signified. Thus the ark, which is called, the ark of God’s strength, Psalms 132:8, is itself called his strength, 1 Chronicles 16:11. But others here by head do not understand the woman’s natural head, but her husband, or the man, who is the political head of the woman; and by having power on him, understand her exercising of her power in him, testifying it by covering her head; and think this text well expounded by 1 Timothy 2:12, where the apostle forbiddeth the woman to usurp authority over the man. He addeth another reason,
because of the angels. By angels here some understand God himself, who by the ministry of angels created man and woman in this order, and put this law upon the woman. Others understand those messengers which the man sent sometimes, by whom the woman was betrothed (but this was a custom only in use amongst the Jews). Others here by angels understand the ministers and officers of the church, who are sometimes in holy writ called angels. Others understand the evil angels, who watch to take advantage to tempt men from objects appearing beautiful to unchaste thoughts, &c. But the most and best interpreters understand here by angels, the good angels; for the apostle would hardly have spoken of devils under the notion of angels, especially speaking to deter persons from actions; and so it teaches us, that the good angels, who are ministering spirits for the good of God’s elect, at all times have a special minstration, or at least are more particularly present, in the assemblies of people for religious worship, observing the persons, carriage, and demeanour; the sense of which ought to awe all persons attending those services, from any indecent and unworthy behaviour.
Lest the man, upon the apostle’s discourse of his pre-eminence and dignity over the woman, should wax proud and insolent, and carry himself too imperiously, the apostle addeth this, that they both stand in need of each other’s help, so as neither of them could well be without the other, either as to matters that concern God, or that concern the world; the Lord so ordering and disposing it, that they should be mutual helps one to another. Or else the sense is, they are equal in the Lord as to a state of grace, in Christ there is neither male nor female: though there be a difference between a man and woman in other things, and the man hath the priority and superiority; yet when we come to consider them as to their spiritual state, and in their spiritual reference, there is no difference.
The man hath a priority to the woman, being first created, and a superiority over her upon that account, she being made for him, not he for her, this is indeed the man’s advantage; but on the other side, since the creation of the first man, all men are by the woman, who conceives them in her womb, suckles them at her breasts, is concerned in their education while children, and dandled upon her knees; the man therefore hath no reason to despise and too much to trample upon the woman: and all these things are of God, by the wise ordering and disposing of God; so as neither hath the man, by reason of his prerogative, in being first created, and the end for which the woman was created, any cause to insult and triumph over the woman; neither hath the woman any cause, by reason of her prerogative, that the man is by her, any cause to triumph over the man; but both of them ought to look upon themselves as having their prerogatives from God, and in the use of them to behave themselves according to the will of God, behaving themselves in their respective stations as it is the will of God they should behave themselves, the woman being subject to the man, and testifying such subjection by all the signs of it, and the man carrying himself towards the woman as he who is the image and glory of God.
No man is truly and thoroughly convinced of an error, till he be convicted by his own conscience. It is therefore very usual in holy writ for God, by his sacred penmen, to make appeals unto men’s own consciences, and put them to judge within themselves, to examine a thing by their own reason, and according to the dictates of that to give sentence for or against themselves. The thing as to which he would have them judge within themselves, and accordingly pronounce sentence, was, whether it were a decent thing for women to pray to God with their hair all hanging loose about their shoulders, or without any veil, or covering for their head and face.
He tells them, that they could not judge this as a thing comely, for nature itself taught them, that it is a shame for a man to wear long hair. By
nature here some understand the law of nature, according to which it would have an intrinsic evil in it, which it is plain it hath not; for then neither must the Nazarites have used it, (as they did), neither would it be lawful for the sake of men’s health or life. Others understand by nature the law of nations; but neither is this true, for in many nations men wear hair at the utmost length. Others understand common sense, or the light and judgment of that natural reason which since the fall is left in man; but this must be the same in all men, and we know that all men do not judge this shameful. Others therefore by nature here understand a common custom, which (as they say) maketh as it were a second nature; so the term is taken, Romans 11:24; but it cannot so signify here; for there neither is, nor ever was, such a universal custom in any place, that none in it wore long hair. Others by nature here understand natural inclination; but neither can this be the sense, for there is in some men, as well as in women, a natural propension and inclination to wear their hair at excessive lengths. Others here by nature understand the difference of the sex, as they take this word to be used, Romans 1:26; the distinction of the sexes teacheth us this: and this seemath to be the most probable sense of this text. The apostle arguing, that as the male and female sex are artificially distinguished by garments, and it was the will of God they should be so, so they should also be distinguished by the wearing of their hair; and it was no less shame for a man to wear his hair like a woman, than to wear garments like a woman.
But, he saith, if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her. Long hair is comely for the woman, and accounted to her for a beauty or ornament, for God hath
given her her hair for a covering. There have been books written about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of men’s wearing long hair, and the due or undue lengths of men’s hair, the substance of which were too much to transcribe here. That which in these verses seemeth to be commended to us, as the will of God in this matter, is:
1. That men and women should so order their hair, as by it to preserve the distinction of sexes.
2. That men should not wear their hair after the manner of women, either dishevelled, or curled, and tricked up about their heads, which speaks too much of an unmanly and effeminate temper, much more was what became not Christians. And if this be forbidden men, as to the use of their own hair, they stand concerned to consider whether it be lawful for them thus to wear and adorn themselves with the hair of other men and women.
If any man seem to be contentious; if any man hath a mind to quarrel out of a love to show his wit in discoursing what may be said on the other side, or out of a desire to hold up a party, and contradict us.
We have no such custom, of women’s praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered, or men’s praying or prophesying with their heads covered; or we have no such custom of contending for these little frivolous things;
neither any of the churches of God; and good Christians, in their practices, ought, in things of this nature, to have an eye and regard to the custom of their own church, and also of other Christian churches. Thus the apostle closeth this discourse, and proceedeth in the next verses to tax other abuses which were crept into this famous church.
Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not; I come now to another thing of greater consequence, as to which I must much blame you; I am so far from being able to commend or approve of what you do, that I must for it smartly reflect upon you.
That ye come together not for the better, but for the worse; that when you meet in your church assemblies, for the performance of your religious duties, to pray, preach, hear, or receive the holy sacrament, you so meet and behave yourselves, as your meeting tends to the increase of your sin, rather than to the increase of your grace, and the promoting the work of God in yourselves and the souls of others.
In the church, here, must signify the religious assembly; for at this time there were no temples built for Christians, but they met in private houses, as the iniquity of those times would bear: yet others think the place is here meant where the church was wont to meet, and say, that the Christians had a certain stated place, though in a private house, where they used to meet. But it is not very probable that they should, in the midst of heathens, be so quiet and secure as to meet either constantly, or ordinarily, in any one certain and stated place, so denominated. What schisms, or divisions, the apostle meaneth, he expoundeth in the following verses; either they quarrelled about meats, or drinks, or their order in sitting down, or the time when they should begin, or did not stay till they were all met.
There must be; it is not simply and absolutely necessary that there should be such divisions amongst you, (they are caused from the free acts of men’s corrupt wills), but yet these things do not fall out by chance, but through the providence of God, who hath so immutably ordered and decreed, to suffer Satan to show his malice, and men to discover the lusts and corruptions of their own hearts.
Heresies: though heresy be a term that, by ecclesiastical usage, is restrained to signify perverse opinions in matter of doctrine, as to which men are stubborn and tenacious; yet it is manifest, that the word is not natively so to be restrained, neither can it reasonably be here so interpreted, but signifies the same thing with schisms and divisions before mentioned: for though (as will appear from 1 Corinthians 15:1-58) there were corrupt opinions amongst them in matters of doctrine, yet it is unreasonable to understand the apostle here, as speaking with reference to them, these words being brought as a reason why he was inclined to believe that there were such schisms or divisions amongst them, because there must be heresies.
That they which are approved may be made manifest among you: God hath his wise end in suffering breaches and divisions, that such as are true and sincere Christians, opposing themselves to such violations of charity, might appear to you to be true and sincere, and to have the love of God dwelling, working, and prevailing in them.
The Greek words do not necessarily signify into one place, they may as well be translated, for the same thing, and possibly that were the better translation of them in this place; divisions appearing the worse amongst persons that met as one and the same body, and for one and the same grave action, and that such an action as declared them one body, and laid upon them the highest obligation to brotherly love imaginable.
This is not to eat the Lord’s supper: some words must be here supplied to complete the sense.
This is not to eat; that is, as you do it is indeed not to do it; to eat the Lord’s supper in an unlawful manner, is not to eat it. It is called the Lord’s supper, either because he ordained and instituted it, or because it was instituted for the remembrance of his death, 1 Corinthians 11:26; Luke 22:19. Some think that the sacrament of the Lord’s supper is here meant, and so one would think, by comparing what is here with 1 Corinthians 11:23,1 Corinthians 11:24. Others say, that the love feast is here intended, which ordinarily preceded the Lord’s supper; the reason they give is, because the abuses here mentioned, viz. not staying one for another till the whole church were met, one eating plentifully, another sparingly, some being hungry while others had ate and drank enough, could not be at the Lord’s supper, where the minister beginneth not till the whole church be assembled, and where there is no such liberal eating and drinking. To this purpose we are told, that by an ancient custom in Greece (within which Corinth was) the rich men offered some things to their idols, (which after that action the poor had for their relief), and made feasts in the idol’s temples, of which all had a liberty to eat. That the Christians imitated this practice of theirs, and the rich amongst them upon the Lord’s days made feasts, at which both poor and rich Christians might be, and the poor carried away what was left. But this church growing corrupt every way, and having got teachers to their humours, they at these feasts neglected the poor, inviting only the rich to them, and also exceeding in their provision for their rich guests. These feasts were called feasts of love, or love feasts, either because:
1. Love to God was that which (pretendedly at least) caused them.
2. Or because they were representations of our Lord’s last supper, in which he first ate the paschal lamb, then instituted what we call the Lord’s supper; or because they immediately preceded or followed the administration of the Lord’s supper, from whence the love feast, being immediately before or after it, had also the same name. But if we allow this, we must make the love feasts also Christ’s institution, and instituted in remembrance of him, neither of which can be proved. The meaning must be: You cannot rightly communicate at the Lord’s table, when immediately before or after that table, at your love feast, you are guilty of such disorderly actions. In the mean time, only what Christ instituted for remembrance of his death is what the apostle calls the Lord’s supper.
There was at this time in most of the Christian church a Jewish party, viz. such as were converted from Judaism to Christianity, and had a tang of the old cask, being too tenacious of some Jewish rites. These looked upon the Lord’s supper as an appurtenance to the passover, immediately after which we know that Christ at first instituted his supper. As therefore Christ did eat the paschal supper before the Lord’s supper; so they, in imitation of him, though they forbore the paschal lamb, yet would have a supper of their own to precede the Lord’s supper, and having provided it at home, would bring it to the place where the church was to meet; and their poor brethren contributing nothing to the charge of that supper, they would not stay for them, but took this their own supper: so it came to pass, that the poorer Christians were hungry, had none or very little share in their feast, while others, the richer part of the church, had too much; for I take our translation of this word, μεθυει, to be very hard and uncharitable. Hard, because the word doth not necessarily so signify, only drinking beyond what is strictly necessary, and our translators themselves, John 2:10, render it well drunk. Uncharitable, because it certainly must be very uncharitably presumed of this church of Corinth, that they should suffer persons, at that time actually drunk, to come to the Lord’s table.
What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Hence evidently appears, that these love feasts were kept in the place where the assembly met for the public worship of God; for the apostle would have them (if they would continue them) kept in their private houses: and he doth not only blame the abuses of these feasts, but the feasts themselves as kept in the place where the church met, or as having in them any pretence to any thing of religion: meet they might, friendly to eat and to drink, but their private houses were the fittest places for that.
Or despise ye the church of God? Or do you despise the place (as some think) where the church of God meeteth, or the people met in that place, by carrying yourselves so disorderly in such a grave assembly; or the poorer part of the church, who, though poorer, are a part of the church, redeemed by the blood of Christ? The next words would incline us to think that the sense; for it followeth,
and shame them that have not, that is, that have not estates to contribute to such feasts, and so are forced to go away without any due refreshment.
About these love feasts preceding the Lord’s supper, I have received nothing from the Lord, you have taken the practice up from the Jews or heathens: I do not know that it is unlawful for you civilly to feast, and eat and drink in your private houses; but to come to make such feasts immediately before you religiously eat and drink at the Lord’s table, I have received no order from the Lord for any such practice. I have told you what I received from the Lord, which is no more than:
That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: see this in the evangelists, Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; where all these words are opened. Some think that Paul received this from the Lord by immediate revelation (as it is thought Moses received the history we have in Genesis and part of Exodus, which relates to a time before he was born, or arrived at man’s estate). Others think that he received it from St. Luke’s writings (for the words are quoted according to his Gospel). Others think he received it from some other of the apostles. Certain it is, that he did receive it from the Lord; how, is uncertain.
These words we also met with, Luke 22:19,Luke 22:20, and in the other evangelists’ narration of the institution of the supper. See Poole on "Luke 22:19". See Poole on "Luke 22:20".
From hence it appears, that the bread and wine is not (as papists say) transubstantiated, or turned into the very substance of the flesh and blood of Christ, when the communicants eat it and drink it. It is still the same bread and cup it was. The end of the institution is but to commemorate Christ’s death; and upon that account the waiting upon God in this ordinance, will be a standing duty incumbent upon Christians, until Christ shall come to judgment. Some think, show ye, is a better translation of the verb, than (as we translate it)
ye do show; wherefore so behave yourselves at this ordinance, as those who know what they have to do in it, that is, to show forth the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Divines agree, that the unworthiness here spoken of, respecteth not the person of the receiver so much as the manner of the receiving; in which sense, a person that is worthy may receive this ordinance
unworthily: it is variously expounded, without due religion and reverence, without faith and love, without proposing a right end in the action, under the guilt of any known sin not repented of, &c.
Shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; shall incur the guilt of the profanation of this sacred institution; for an abuse offered to a sign, reacheth to that of which it is a sign; as the abuse of a king’s seal, or picture, is justly accounted an abuse of the king himself, whose seal and picture it is. Some carry it higher; he shall be punished, as if he had crucified Christ, the profanation of Christ’s ordinance reflecting upon Christ himself.
He is to examine himself about his knowledge, whether he rightly understands what Christ is, what the nature of the sacrament is, what he doth in that sacred action; about his faith, love, repentance, new obedience, whether he be such a one as God hath prepared that holy table for; it is the children’s bread, and not for dogs; a table Christ hath spread for his friends, not for his enemies.
And so let him eat, &c.; having so examined himself, not otherwise. Whence it appears, that neither children in age or understanding, nor persons not in the use of their reason, nor unbelievers, nor persons under the guilt of sins not repented of, have any right to the Lord’s supper: accordingly was the practice of all the primitive churches, and all rightly reformed churches. Whether they ought, if they will presume to come, to be kept away by the officers of the church, and how, and by whom? Whether good Christians may communicate with such at the holy table? And after what previous duty performed? Are questions that belong not to this text.
He that eateth and drinketh unworthily; in the sense before mentioned, either having no remote right or no present right to partake in that ordinance, being an unbeliever, or a resolved unholy or ignorant person; or irreverently and irreligiously. He
eateth and drinketh κριμα, damnation, or judgment, it is no matter which we translate it; for if he brings God’s judgments upon him in this life, they will end in eternal damnation, without a timely repentance; but it is
to himself, not to him that is at the same table with him, unless he hath been guilty of some neglect of his duty to him.
Not discerning the Lord’s body; and his guilt lieth here, that he doth not discern and distinguish between ordinary and common bread, and that bread which is the representation of the Lord’s body, but useth the one as carelessly, and with as little preparation and regard to what he doth, as he uses the other.
You, it may be, are not aware of it, but look upon other causes why so many amongst you are sick, and weak, and die immaturely; but I, as the apostle of Jesus Christ, (and so know the mind and will of God), assure you, that this your irreverent and irreligious profanation of this holy ordinance, is one great cause of so many among you being sick, and weak, and dying in unripe age. Some think that the word
sleep argues that they were godly, penitent Christians that so died, (for the death of wicked men is hardly called sleeping any where in holy writ), to let us know, that even good people, who yet may be saved, may bring judgments in this life upon themselves, as by the profanation of God’s name in other ordinances, so more especially by their profanation of it in this ordinance of the supper.
This word judge in Scripture signifies all parts of judgment, examining, accusing, condemning, &c.: here it signifies accusing ourselves, condemning ourselves; discriminating ourselves, by the renewings of faith and repentance, from unbelievers, impenitent and profane persons: if we would thus judge ourselves, God would not accuse or condemn us.
Lest they be terrified at what he had said, and look upon their afflictions as indications of God’s displeasure against them to that degree, that he would not look any more upon them as his children; he tells them, that when God’s people are afflicted with the evils of this life, sickness, &c., God doth not deal with them so much as a Judge, as a Father, who chasteneth the child whom he loveth, and scourgeth whom he receiveth, Hebrews 12:6-8; and doth it for a good end, to prevent the eternal condemnation of the soul with the impenitent sinners of the world, giving us our hell in this life, that we may escape it in the life to come.
The apostle concludes this discourse with an exhortation to them, for the time to come to take heed of these irreligious and irreverent behaviours, with relation to the Lord’s supper; that they should not take the sacrament before the whole church were met together, the rich should stay for the poor, and not receive it in parties, but as one body eat that one bread.
And if any one hungered, they should not make the place where they met together for the solemn worship of God, a place for eating and drinking at feasts, but eat at home; lest, by these disorderly and irreverent actions, they incurred the displeasure of God, and brought down the judgment of God upon themselves. Lastly, he minds them, that if there were any other things of this nature, which he had not spoken to, he did design suddenly to come to them, and then he would set them in order, by giving them rules about them.