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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-corinthians-11.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 11:1
Followers of me; rather, imitators of me; follow herein my example, as I follow Christ's. What Christ's example was, in that he too "pleased not himself," he sets forth in Romans 15:1-3; and the general principle of self abnegation for the sake of others in Philippians 2:4-8. This verse ought to be included in ch. 10. It sums up the whole argument, and explains the long digression of ch. 9. As I also am of Christ. This limits the reference to his own example. I only ask you to imitate me in points in which I imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Rules and principles respecting the covering of the head by women in Church assemblies.
1 Corinthians 11:2
Now; rather, but, on the other hand. That ye remember me in all things, and keep, etc. This is probably a quotation from their letter. He thanks them for this kind message, but points out one particular in which their practice was not quite commendable. The ordinances. The word literally means traditions, but is here rightly applied to rules which he had delivered to them. The Vulgate has praecepta. The word is used in Matthew 15:2 of the rules and precedents laid down by the rabbis.
1 Corinthians 11:3
But I would have you know; rather, but I wish you to know. That the head of every man is Christ. St. Paul, as was customary with him, applies the loftiest principles to the solution of the humblest difficulties. Given a question as to what is right or wrong in a particular instance, he always aims at laying down some great eternal fact to which the duty or decision is ultimately referable, and deduces the required rule from that fact. The headship of Christ is stated in Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; and its application to the superiority of man is laid down also in Ephesians 5:23. The subordinate position of the woman is also stated in 1Ti 2:11, 1 Timothy 2:12; 1Pe 3:1, 1 Peter 3:5, 1 Peter 3:6, etc. This, however, is merely an ordinance of earthly application. In the spiritual realm "there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28). The head of the woman is the man. In Christ the distinctions of the sexes are done away. It was, perhaps, an abuse of this principle which had led the Corinthian women to assert themselves and their rights more prominently than decorum warranted. The head of Christ is God. That Christ is "inferior to the Father as touching his manhood," that his mediatorial kingdom involves (so far) a subordination of his coequal Godhead, has been already stated in 1 Corinthians 3:23, and is further found in 1 Corinthians 15:27, 1 Corinthians 15:28. This too is the meaning of John 14:28, "My Father is greater than I."
1 Corinthians 11:4
Prophesying; that is, preaching. Having his head covered. This was a Jewish custom. The Jewish worshipper in praying always covers his head with his tallith. The Jew (like Orientals generally) uncovered his feet because the place on which he stood was holy ground; but he covered his head by way of humility, even as the angels veil their faces with their wings. AEneas is said by Servius to have introduced this custom into Italy. On the other hand, the Greek custom was to pray with the head uncovered. St. Paul—as some discrepancy of custom seems to have arisen—decided in favour of the Greek custom, on the high ground that Christ, by his incarnation, became man, and therefore the Christian, who is" in Christ," may stand with unveiled head in the presence of his Father. Dishonoureth his head. He dishonoureth his own head, which is as it were a sharer in the glory of Christ, who is Head of the whole Church. "We pray," says Tertullian, "with bare beads because we blush not." The Christian, being no longer a slave, but a son (Galatians 4:7), may claim his part in the glory of the eternal Son. The head was covered in mourning (2 Samuel 15:30; Jeremiah 14:13), and the worship of the Christian is joyous.
1 Corinthians 11:5
Or prophesieth. Although St. Paul "thinks of one thing at a time," and is not here touching on the question whether women ought to teach in public, it appears from this expression that the rule which he lays down in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35, and 1 Timothy 2:12 was not meant to be absolute. See the case of Philip's daughters (Acts 21:9 and Acts 2:17). With her head uncovered. For a woman to do this in a public assembly was against the national custom of all ancient communities, and might lead to the gravest misconceptions. As a rule, modest women covered their heads with the peplum or with a veil when they worshipped or were in public. Christian women at Corinth must have caught something of the "inflation" which was characteristic of their Church before they could have acted with such reprehensible boldness as to adopt a custom identified with the character of immodest women. Dishonoureth her head. Calvin, with terse good sense, observes, "As the man honours his head by proclaiming his liberty, so the woman by acknowledging her subjection."
1 Corinthians 11:6
Let her also be shorn. Not a command, but, a sort of scornful inference, or reductio ad absurdum. If it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven. When a woman was tried by "the ordeal of the water of jealousy," her head was uncovered by the priest (Numbers 5:18). To be shorn or shaven was a sign of mourning (Deuteronomy 21:12), and was a disgrace inflicted on adulteresses.
1 Corinthians 11:7
He is the image and glory of God. Because he reflects and partakes in the glory of Christ, who is the effulgence of God and the impress of his substance (Genesis 1:27; Psalms 8:6; Hebrews 1:2). The woman is the glory of the man. As moonlight is to sunlight, or as the earthshine is to the moonshine. Man reflects God; woman, in her general nature in this earthly and temporal dispensation, reflects the glory of man.
1 Corinthians 11:8
But the woman of the man. An allusion to Genesis 2:21, Genesis 2:22.
1 Corinthians 11:9
But the woman for the man. As is expressly stated in Genesis 2:18.
1 Corinthians 11:10
To have power on her head. A great deal of irrelevant guesswork has been written on this verse. Under this head must be classed the idle attempts to twist the word exousia, power, or authority, into some other reading—an attempt which may be set aside, because it is not sanctioned by a single manuscript. We may also dismiss the futile efforts to make exousia have any other primary meaning than "authority." The context shows that the word has here a secondary sense, and implies some kind of covering. The verse, therefore, points the same lessons as Genesis 24:64, Genesis 24:65. This much may be regarded as certain, and this view is adopted by the steadfast good sense of our English translators, both in the Authorized and Revised Versions. The only question worth asking is why the word exousia had come at Corinth, or in the Corinthian Church, to be used for "a veil," or "covering." The simplest answer is that just as the word "kingdom" in Greek may be used for "a crown" (comp. regno as the name of the pope's tiara), so "authority" may mean "a sign of authority" (Revised Version), or "a covering, in sign that she is under the power of her husband". The margin of the Revised Version, "authority over her head," is a strange suggestion. Some have explained the word of her own true authority, which consists in accepting the rule of her husband; but it probably moans a sign of her husband's authority over her. Similarly the traveller Chardin says that in Persia the women wear a veil, in sign that they are "under subjection." If so, the best comment on the word may be found in the exquisite lines of Milton, which illustrate the passage in other ways also—
"She, as a vei1, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore…
As the vine curves her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received."
The fact that Callistratus twice uses exousia of "abundance of hair" is probably a mere coincidence, resembling the Irish expression "a power of hair." Nor can there be any allusion to the isolated fact that Samson's strength lay in his hair. The very brief comment of Luther sums up all the best of the many pages which have been written on the subject. He says that exousia means "the veil or covering, by which one may see that she is under her husband's authority" (Genesis 3:16). Because of the angels. In this clause also we must set aside, as idle waste of time, the attempts to alter the text, or to twist the plain words into impossible meanings. The word "angels" cannot mean "Church officials," or "holy men," or "prophets," or "delegates," or "'bridegroom's men," or anything but angels. Nor can the verse mean, as Bengel supposes, that women are to veil themselves because the angels do so (Isaiah 6:2), or because the angels approve of it. The only question is whether the allusion is to good or bad angels. In favour of the latter view is the universal tradition among the Jews that the angels fell by lust for mortal women, which was the Jewish way of interpreting Genesis 6:1, Genesis 6:2. This is the view of Tertullian ('De Virg. Vel.,' 7) in writing on this subject. A woman, in the opinion and traditions of Oriental Jews, is liable to injury from the shedim, if she appears in public unveiled; and these evil spirits are supposed to delight in the appearance of unveiled women. The objection to this view, that angeloi alone is never used of evil but always of good angels, is not perhaps decisive (see 1 Corinthians 6:3). The verse may, however, mean (in accordance with the Jewish belief of those days) that good angels, being under the possibility of falling from the same cause as their evil brethren, fly away at once from the presence of unveiled women. Thus Khadijah tested that the visitant of her husband Mohammed really was the angel Gabriel, because he disappeared the moment she unveiled her head. On the whole, however, the meaning seems to be, out of respect and reverence for the holy angels, who are always invisibly present in the Christian assemblies.. "Reverence the angels" is St. Chrysostom's remark.
1 Corinthians 11:11
Nevertheless. The verse is meant to correct any tendency on the part of men to domineer. Man and woman are "all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
"The two-celled heart, beating with one full stroke—Life."
1 Corinthians 11:12
By the woman; that is, "born of a woman" (Job 14:1). But all things of God. And all things also "through him and to him," made by him, and tending to him as their end (Rom 11:1-36 :56).
1 Corinthians 11:13
Is it comely, etc.? An appeal to the decision of their instinctive sense of propriety.
1 Corinthians 11:14
Doth not even nature itself teach you? "Nature" here has much the lame sense as "instinct."
"His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore."
(Milton, 'Paradise Lost,' 4:304.)
1 Corinthians 11:15
It is a glory to her. Because it is at once beautiful and natural; and as Bengel says, "Will should follow the guidance of nature."
1 Corinthians 11:16
But if any man seem to be contentious. St. Paul cuts the question short, as though impatient of any further discussion of a subject already settled by instinctive decorum and by the common sense of universal usage. "Seem to be contentious" is (like the Latin videtur) only a courteous way of saying "is contentious." If any of you wish to be disputatious and quarrelsome about this minor matter of ritual, I must content myself with saying that he must take his own course (for a similar use of the euphemistic "seem," see Philippians 3:4; Hebrews 4:1; James 1:26). We have no such custom. The emphatic "we" means the apostles and the leaders of the Church at Jerusalem and Antioch. Such custom. Not referring to "contentiousness," but to the women appearing with uncovered heads. Neither the Churches of God. If you Corinthians prefer these abnormal practices in spite of reason, common sense, and my arguments, you must stand alone in your innovations upon universal Christian practice. But catholic custom is against your "self opinionated particularism."
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Discreditable irregularities at the Eucharist and the agapae.
1 Corinthians 11:17
Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not; rather, as in the Revised Version, But in giving you this charge, I praise you not. A reference to the "I praise you" of 1 Corinthians 11:2. Ye come together. As he advances, his rebukes become more and more serious; for the present reproach does not affect a few, but the Church assembly in general.
1 Corinthians 11:18
First of all. The "second" rebuke is not clearly stated, but is no doubt meant to refer to the abuses in "speaking with the tongue." In the Church; rather, in congregation, or assembly. The reference is not to a particular building. The Lord's Supper was administered frequently (originally every day, Acts 2:46), and often in private houses. Divisions; schisms (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 1:12). Here, however, he is referring to cliques and quarrels at the love feasts. Partly! cannot think, he says, in a tone of kindness, that these reports are wholly false. There must be some ground for them, even if the facts have been exaggerated.
1 Corinthians 11:19
There must be also heresies among you. It results from the inevitable decrees of the Divine providence. "It is impossible but that offences will come" (Luke 17:11). Heresies. The word does not mean "erroneous opinions," but party factions. Originally the word only means "a choice," and is not used in a bad sense; but since the opinionativeness of men pushes "a choice" into a "party," and since it is the invariable tendency of a party to degenerate into a "faction," the word soon acquires a bad sense (see its use in Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5; Acts 24:5, Acts 24:14 : Acts 28:22; Galatians 5:20; Tit 3:10; 2 Peter 2:1; and Gieseler, 'Church Hist.,' 1:149). The mutually railing factions, which in their Church newspapers and elsewhere bandy about their false and rival charges of "heresy," are illustrating the virulence of the very sin which they are professing to denounce—the sin of factiousness. That they which are approved may be made manifest among you. Similarly St. John (1 John 2:19) speaks of the aberrations of false teachers as destined to prove that they did not belong to the true Church. Good is educed out of seeming evil (James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7). Approved; standing the test (dokimoi), the opposite of the "reprobate" (adokimoi) of 1 Corinthians 9:27.
1 Corinthians 11:20
Into one place. There were as yet no churches. The Lord's Supper was held in private houses. This is not; or perhaps, it is not possible. The Lord's Supper. The fact that there is no article in the Greek shows the early prevalence of this name for the Eucharist.
1 Corinthians 11:21
For in eating; rather, in your eating. Every one. All who have themselves contributed a share to the common meal. Taketh before other his own supper. It is as if they had come together only to eat, not to partake of a holy sacrament. The abuse rose from the connection of the Lord's Supper with the agapē, or love feast, a social gathering of Christian brothers, to which each, as in the Greek eranoi, or "club feasts," contributed his share. The abuse led to the separation of the agapē from the Holy Communion, and ultimately to the entire disuse of the former at religious gatherings. One is hungry. The poor man, who has been unable to contribute to the meal which was intended to be an exhibition of Christian love, looked on with grudging eyes and craving appetite, while the rich had more than enough. Is drunken. "St. Paul draws the picture in strong colours, and who can say that the reality was less strong?" (Meyer). Calvin says, "It is portentous that Satan should have accomplished so much in so short a time." But the remark was, perhaps, dictated by the wholly mistaken fancy that the Church of the apostolic days was exceptionally pure. On the contrary, many of the heathen converts were unable at once to break the spell of their old habits, and few modern Churches present a spectacle so deplorable as that which we here find in the apostolic Church of Corinth. It is quite obvious that Church discipline must have been almost in abeyance if such grave scandals could exist uncorrected and apparently unreproved.
1 Corinthians 11:22
To eat and to drink in. The object of the agapē was something higher than the mere gratification of appetite. Though not a sacrament, it was an accompaniment of the Lord's Supper, and was itself intended to be a symbolical and sacred meal. Despise ye the Church of God! The congregation of your fellow Christians. Shame; rather, disgrace, or put to shame. Them that have not. It would be natural to supply "houses." But the commentators found it difficult to suppose that any of the Corinthians had not "houses to eat and to drink in." Hence most commentators give to the phrase its classic sense, in which "those who have" means the rich, and "those who have not," the poor. They seem, however, to have forgotten that slaves at any rate could hardly be said to have "houses of their own," and it is certain that not a few of the Corinthian Christians were slaves. I praise you not. As in 1 Corinthians 11:17, this is an instance of what is called litotēs, a mild expression, suggesting a meaning much stronger than the words themselves. For. He is about to give his reason for thus strongly blaming their irregularities.
1 Corinthians 11:23
I have received; rather, I received. He thus refers the revelation to some special time, and this seems to point to the conclusion that he is not referring to any account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, which may have been given him by St. Peter or one of the twelve, but to some immediate revelation from Christ. The terms in which he describes the institution of the Eucharist resemble most nearly those of St. Luke, who may very probably have derived his information from St. Paul. This passage should be compared with Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20. Was betrayed; rather, was being betrayed.
1 Corinthians 11:24
When he had given thanks. The same word is used in St. Luke εὐχαριστήσας), and is the origin of the name Eucharist. St. Mark and perhaps St. Matthew have "having blessed it" (eulogesas). Hence the Eucharist is "this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." Take, eat. These words are omitted by all the best uncials, Which is broken for you. The word "broken" is of doubtful authenticity. Some manuscripts have "given," and one (D) a milder word for "broken," as though to avoid any contradiction of John 19:36, where, however, the word is "shall not be crushed." Since the participle is omitted altogether by א, A, B, C, there can be no doubt that it is a gloss, and accordingly the Revised Version reads, "which is for you." The "broken" is nevertheless involved in the "he brake it," which was a part of the ceremony as originally illustrated. The breaking of the bread ought not, therefore, to be abandoned, as in the case when "wafers" are used. This do. St. Luke also has this clause, which is not found in St. Matthew or St. Mark. The variations show that it was the main fact which was essential, not the exact words spoken. In remembrance of me. The words may also be rendered, for a memorial of me, or to bring me to your remembrance.
1 Corinthians 11:25
When he had supped (see Luke 22:27). 'The cup, like the cos haberachah, was given after the meal was ended. The new testament; rather, the new covenant. The Greek word diathēkē is indeed a "will," or "testament;" but in the LXX., on which the Greek of the apostles was formed, it always stands for berith, covenant. The Jews knew nothing of the practice of "making wills" till they learnt it from the Romans. The only passage of the New Testament (an expression derived from this very passage through the Vulgate) in which diathēkē means a "testament" is Hebrews 9:16, where the writer reverts for a moment only to this signification of the word to introduce a passing illustration. In my blood. The cup was a symbol of the blood of Christ, because the gospel covenant was ratified by the shedding of his blood. The Jews had an absolute horror, at once religious and physical, of tasting blood. This was the reason why the Synod of Jerusalem forbade even to the Gentiles the eating of "things strangled." If the apostles had not fully understood that our Lord was only using the ordinary language of Semitic imagery, and describing only a horror and repulsion.
1 Corinthians 11:26
Ye do show the Lord's death. The word literally means, ye announce, or proclaim, with reference to the repetition of the actual words used by our Lord. It will be seen that St. Paul does not lend the smallest, sanction to the unfathomable superstition" of a material transubstantiation. Till he come. Accordingly the antiquity and unbroken continuance of this holy rite is one of the many strong external evidences of the truth of the gospel history. The ἂν is omitted in the Greek, to indicate the certainty of Christ's coming. The same Greek idiom is hopefully and tenderly used in Galatians 4:19.
1 Corinthians 11:27
And drink this cup. This ought to be rendered, or drink this cup. It seems to be one of the extremely few instances in which the translators of our Authorized Version were led by bias into unfaithful rendering. They may have persuaded themselves that the apostle must have meant "and;" but their duty as translators was to translate what he said, not what they supposed him to have meant. What he meant was that it was possible to partake in a wrong spirit either of the bread or the cup. King James's translators thought that, by rendering the word or, they might seem to favour communion in one kind only. St. Paul's meaning was that a man might Lake either element of the sacrament unworthily. Unworthily. We are all "unworthy"—" unworthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Christ's table;" yet not one of us need eat or drink unworthily, that is, in a careless, irreverent, defiant spirit. Guilty of. He draws on himself the penalty due to "crucifying to himself the Son of God afresh," by "putting him to an open shame."
1 Corinthians 11:28
Let a man examine himself. The verb means "let him test his own feelings;" put them to the proof, to see whether they be sincere or not. He must "wash his hands in innocency," and so come to God's altar (see Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:23; 2 Corinthians 13:5). And so. Soberly, that is; seriously, humbly, and with due reverence.
1 Corinthians 11:29
Unworthily. The word is not genuine here, being repeated from 1 Corinthians 11:27; it is omitted by א, A, B, C. Eateth and drinketh damnation to himself; rather, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself There is reason to believe that the word "damnation" once had a much milder meaning in English than that which it now popularly bears. In King James's time it probably did not of necessity mean more than "an unfavourable verdict." Otherwise this would be the most unfortunate mistranslation in the whole Bible. It has probably kept thousands, as it kept Goethe, from Holy Communion. We see from verse 32 that this "judgment" had a purely merciful and disciplinary character. Not discerning; rather, if he discern not, the Lord's body, Any one who approach? the Lord's Supper in a spirit of levity or defiance, not discriminating between it and common food, draws on himself, by so eating and drinking, a judgment which is defined in the next verse.
1 Corinthians 11:30
Many are weak and sickly among you. St. Paul directly connects this general ill health with the abuse of the Lord's Supper. It is not impossible that the grave intemperance to which he alludes in 1 Corinthians 11:21 may have had its share in this result; but apart from this, there is an undoubted connection between sin and sickness in some, though not, of course, in all cases (John 5:14). Many. The word is different from the previous word for "many," and means a larger number—" not a few," "a considerable number." Sleep; i.e. are dying.
1 Corinthians 11:31, 1 Corinthians 11:32
For if we would judge ourselves, etc. These verses are very unfortunately mistranslated in our Authorized Version. They should be rendered (literally), For if we discerned (or, discriminated) ourselves, we should not be undergoing judgment (namely, of physical punishment); but, in being judged by the Lord (by these temporal sufferings), we are under training, that we may not be condemned with the world. The meaning is that "if we" (St. Paul here identities himself with the Corinthians) "were in the habit of self discernment—and in this self discrimination is involved a discrimination between spiritual and common things—we should nut be undergoing this sign of God's displeasure; but the fact that his judgments are abroad among us is intended to further our moral education, and to save us from being finally condemned with the world." Discernment (diakrisis), by saving us from eating unworthily (Psalms 32:5; 1 John 1:9), would have obviated the necessity for penal judgments (krima), but yet the krima is disciplinary (paideuometha, we are being trained as children), to save us from final doom (katakrima). Unworthy eating, then, so far from involving necessary or final "damnation," is mercifully visited by God with temporal chastisement, to help in the saving of our souls. "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord" (Psalms 94:12; Hebrews 12:5-12).
1 Corinthians 11:33
Wherefore. He now briefly sums up the practical remedies for these discreditable scenes. My brethren. Introduced, as often, into a stern passage to show that the writer is only actuated by the spirit of love. Tarry one for another. This would prevent the scrambling greediness which he has already condemned in 1 Corinthians 11:21.
1 Corinthians 11:34
And if any man hunger, let him eat at home. A reminder of the sacred character of the agapē as a symbol of Christian love and union. Unto condemnation; rather, judgment. In Greek, the same word (krima) is used which in 1 Corinthians 11:29 is so unhappily rendered "damnation." But even "condemnation" is too strong; for that is equivalent to katakrima. The rest; all minor details. It is not improbable that one of these details was the practical dissociation of the agapē from the Lord's Supper altogether. Certainly the custom of uniting the two seems to have disappeared by the close of the first century. When I come; rather, whenever. The Greek phrase (ὡς ἂν) implies uncertainty. The apostle's plans for visiting Corinth immediately had been materially disturbed by the unfavourable tidings as to the conditions of the Church.
1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Corinthians 11:2
Imitation and commendation.
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am or Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." In these words we have—
I. THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE CHARACTERS OF MOST MEN ARE FORMED. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." Men are imitative beings, and, from a law of their nature, those whom they most admire and with whom they most associate, they become like in spirit and in character. The request of Paul here, at first sight, seems somewhat arrogant: "Be ye followers of me." No man has a right to make such an unqualified claim on another. Hence Paul puts the limitation. "Even as I also am of Christ." The apostle undoubtedly refers to the preceding verses, m which he speaks of himself as not seeking his own pleasure or profit, but that of others. This Christ did. We are told that he "pleased not himself." He means to say, "Be like me in this respect, as I in this respect resemble Christ." Here is the principle that should regulate our imitation of men; imitate them just so far as they resemble Christ. Children should not imitate their parents, pupils should not imitate their teachers, congregations should not imitate their ministers, only so far as they resemble Christ.
II. A COMMENDATION OF MERIT WHICH MANY ARE RELUCTANT TO RENDER. "Now I raise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as delivered them to you." In some things, if not in all, some of the Corinthian Christians pleased Paul, did what he considered right—they remembered him, and practically attended to his directions. There was much in them with which he could find fault, and did find fault, but so far as they did the proper thing he praises them. To render generously credit where credit is due is the characteristic of a great soul, but one which others have not. I take it to be a duty to render credit where credit is due; but how seldom is this attended to I In domestic matters how it is neglected! A wife will go on loyally and lovingly attending to the wants and wishes of her husband, and perhaps not from one year to another does she receive from him one word of hearty commendation. So with servants and masters: the employer, when he has paid the stipulated stipend to the most useful of his employes, feels he has done his duty, and gives not a word of commendation. So with ministers and their congregations. How many ministers are there in every Church, who give the best fruits of their cultivated minds, and, by their sweating brain and agonizing prayers, produce discourses every week admirably suited to serve the highest interests of their congregations; and yet seldom receive one generous word of hearty commendation for all their toils] Miserable criticisms they will get in abundance, but nothing else. Verily, I believe that no social service is more important, and at the same time more neglected, than the yielding of a generous commendation to the truly commendable.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16
The man and the woman.
"But I would have you know," etc. Although there are some things in these verses that perhaps no one can rightly interpret, and that may have been written as personal opinion rather than as Divine inspiration, there are two or three points in relation to man and woman interesting and noteworthy.
I. THERE IS BETWEEN THEM A SUBORDINATION IN NATURAL RELATIONSHIP. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." The principle of subordination, it would seem, prevails throughout the spiritual universe; one rising above another in regular gradation up to God himself. God is over Christ, Christ is over man, man is over woman. "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." The ideal women and the ideal men are here, I presume, meant. It is because the man is supposed to have more brain and soul than the woman that he is the master; but in cases—and they are not few—where the woman is the greater, the greater in intellect, heart, and all moral nobleness, she, without her intention or even wish, will necessarily be the head. In the Marriage Service, the woman at the altar is called upon solemnly to vow to obey her husband. I confess I have often been struck at the incongruity of this, when I have seen a little-chested, small-brained man standing by the side of a woman with a majestic brow and a grand physique, when she is called upon to vow obedience to such a man.
II. THERE IS BETWEEN THEM AN INDEPENDENT OBLIGATION IN RELIGIOUS SERVICES. "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head," etc. It is here implied that both the man and the woman are to prophesy, teach, and pray; not one instead of the other, but each independently. However closely related the man and the wife may be, however dependent one is on the other, neither can perform the spiritual and religious obligations of the other. There is no sharing of duty here, no shifting of personal obligation; each must stand alone before God.
III. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM IN OUTWARD ASPECT. There are two points here concerning the difference.
1. A difference in the way in which they are to appear in public. The man is to appear with an uncovered head, the woman with a covered head. "If the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head." The woman's head is to be covered with her hair or a veil, or both. Who shall divine the meaning of the tenth verse?—"For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels." To me this is utterly incomprehensible. Probably there were at Corinth women who shaved off their hair in order to obliterate the distinction of sex: shameless women.
2. This difference is adventitious rather than natural. Is there any reason in nature why a man's head should be uncovered and a woman's covered; why one should wear long hair and the other short? No such thing seems reasonable; the uncivilized tribes know nothing of it. The reason can only be traced to custom. And is not custom second nature? "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" But original nature does not seem to teach us that, but custom and conventional propriety. Hence Paul says, "If any may seem to be contentious, we have no such custom;" by which he means, I understand, that, whoever may contend to the contrary, such a custom—as that woman should pray and preach with uncovered heads—was not known by Paul in other Churches, and that the Church at Corinth should not allow it.
1 Corinthians 11:17-22
Religious institutions: their abuse.
"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not," etc. Three practical truths may be fairly deduced from this paragraph.
I. THAT ATTENDANCE ON THE INSTITUTIONS OF RELIGION MAY PROVE PERNICIOUS RATHER TITAN BENEFICIAL. "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse." The apostle in this verse censures the Corinthians that they came together to the Lord's Supper, and were made "worse" rather than "better." Men cannot be made religious; an irresistible moral force is a contradiction in terms, an impossibility in fact. Hence it comes to pass that the highest redemptive forces on man often conduce to his ruin. The gospel proves in the case of all hearers either the "savour of life unto life, or of death unto death." Pharaoh's heart was hardened under the ministry of Moses, and the hearts of the men of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were hardened under the ministry of Christ.
II. THAT ASSEMBLING TOGETHER FOR RELIGIOUS PURPOSES DOES NOT NECESSARILY IMPLY UNITY OF SOUL. "For first of all, when ye come together in the Church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." The factious and schismatic spirit seems to have existed in the same Church and even at the Lord's table. It does not follow that, because people are brought together in the same religious assembly or Church, that they are united together in spirit. Two people may sit in the same pew, hear the same discourse, sing the same hymns, partake of the same bread and wine, and yet in soul be as remote from one another as the poles. No real spiritual unity can exist where there is not a supreme affection for the same being. Christ is the only uniting Centre of souls.
III. THAT THE VERY BEST INSTITUTIONS ON EARTH ARE OFTEN SADLY PERVERTED BY MEN. For many reasons the Lord's Supper may be regarded as one of the best ordinances. But see how it was now perverted. It was made the means of gluttony and drunkenness; men used it as a common feast. "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken." Are not men constantly perverting Divine institutions, Churches, Bibles, the Christian ministry, etc.?
1 Corinthians 11:23-34
The Lord's Supper.
"For I have received," etc. These verses give an account of what is called the Lord's Supper. This supper was instituted by Christ himself the night in which he was betrayed, while he was observing the Passover with his disciples. On that night he virtually directed the minds of men from all Jewish ritualism and centred them on himself. "Do this in remembrance of me." True religion now has to do with a Person, and that Person is Christ. In reading the words of the apostle here, there are four things which strike us with amazement.
I. THAT ANY SHOULD DOUBT THE GENUINENESS OF CHRISTIANITY. Here is an institution that was started the night previous to our Saviour's crucifixion, which was attended to by the Church at Jerusalem after the day of Pentecost, celebrated by various other apostolic Churches as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and which Paul says here he "received from the Lord." From the apostolic age down to this hour, through eighteen long centuries, it has been attended to by all the branches of the true Church. Since its origin hundreds of generations have passed away, many systems have risen and disappeared, nations have been organized, flourished, and broken up; but this ordinance continues; what for? To commemorate the great central fact of the gospel, viz. that Christ died. Is there any other fact in history sustained by evidence half so powerful as this?
II. THAT ANY SHOULD MISINTERPRET THE ORDINANCE. Here we are distinctly told that it is to "show the Lord's death." No language can more clearly show that it is purely commemorative. There are three abuses of this institution.
1. The gustatory. Some of the Corinthians thus used it. They introduced a love feast to immediately precede it, probably because a Jewish feast preceded its first celebration. This led to gluttony and other evils. The members of the Corinthian Church were converts from heathenism, and they had been accustomed in their heathen festivals to give way to gluttony and intemperance, Many of them, from the force of old habits, were tempted to use the Lord's Supper in this way.
2. The superstitious. There are some who believe that, after the words of consecration are pronounced by the priest over these elements, the elements become literally the "body and blood of the Lord." This is transubstantiation. Others who would not go thus far still superstitiously regard the ordinance as a mystic medium through which grace is poured into the soul of the recipient. Fearful abuse this!
3. The formalistic. There are those who partake of the bread and wine merely as a matter of form and ceremony. We evangelical Christians are not guilty of the first nor of the second, but we may be of the third. The text tells us it is to "show" or to teach; it is an educational ordinance.
III. THAT ANY SHOULD SAY THE INSTITUTION IS NOT PERMANENT IN ITS OBLIGATION. The apostle tells us distinctly that it was to "show the Lord's death till he come." When will that be? Not just yet. The human world seems to be only in its infancy, and Christianity only just beginning its work. The billows of a thousand ages may break on our shore before he comes. On to that distant point the obligation is binding. There are some professing Christians who think themselves too spiritual to observe such an ordinance. These very spiritual ones, to be consistent, should avoid all scientific studies, for science has to do with material forms; its principles are all embodied, are made palpable to the eye and ear. They should also avoid all Biblical studies, for Biblical truths are for the most part embodied in material facts and forms. Christ himself was "flesh and blood."
IV. THAT ANY ACQUAINTED WITH THE BIOGRAPHY OF CHRIST SHOULD NEGLECT IT. Consider:
1. That it is to commemorate the world's greatest Benefactor. It is to keep Christ in the memory of man. Here is a Benefactor that has:
(1) Served the world in the highest way. He has delivered it from sin and death.
(2) Served it by the most unparalleled sacrifice. He sacrificed his life to the work.
(3) Served it with the most disinterested love.
2. That it is enjoined by the world's greatest Benefactor. He himself has enjoined it: "Do this in remembrance of me."
HOMILIES BY C. LIMPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Apostolic injunctions with regard to Church services.
Though the Corinthians deserved blame in some things, they were entitled to praise in that they had generally observed St. Paul's directions. Despite their departure from certain of his instructions, he could say, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ;" by which he recognized that they had discernment enough to see the Lord Jesus in his personal and official character, and a sufficient brotherly sympathy to imitate his example. His commendation is hearty: "Ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." With this preface, short but conciliatory, he takes up his first topic, viz. the headship of man in the natural and spiritual order, established by Providence and maintained by the Spirit in the Church. In his writings, natural facts are ever reappearing in new and diviner connections, as if they had undergone a silent and wonderful transfiguration, and had been glorified in light and beauty. Instinct had always acknowledged the subordination of woman to man, nor, indeed, is the instinct of sex conceivable in the absence of this element in its nature. But St. Paul is careful to lay his doctrinal foundation on the fact "that the head of every man is Christ," assured that the ultimate strength of all truth is in its spirituality. Be it a law, a principle, a motive, an end, "other foundation can no man lay." Critics may entertain widely different estimates of the man, may be as broadly separated as M. Renan and Dr. Farrar, and yet none can deny that St. Paul had this incomparable advantage, namely, a great centre, from which he saw all objects that engaged his attention. His method is fully brought out in the third verse: the head of the man is Christ; the head of the woman is the man; the head of Christ is God—a statement clear, compact, exhaustive. One moment he is dealing with the relationship between man and woman: Eden rises to his view, the sleeping Adam wakening to find Eve at his side, "the woman of the man," and "the glory of the man;" and the next moment he is contemplating the Trinity in its economic and immanent relations. Yet from this sublime height of Christ's exaltation at the right hand of the Father there is no break when he descends to discuss woman's behaviour in Church assemblies. The principle involved keeps him on ground far above dress and decorum as such, and, indeed, he will not touch the matter at all until he has set forth the dignity of its associations. Let us be careful, then, lest we err by supposing that St. Paul looked upon dress and decorum, in this instance, as simply conventionalities based on whims of taste and caprices of opinion. Conventionalities they were in a certain sense, but conventionalities to be respected and observed. In brief, they were customs that had a moral meaning. If a woman appeared in public unveiled, she was deemed immodest. To wear a veil was a sign of womanly delicacy, and hence, if she went to a public assembly without her veil, she acted shamelessly. To be consistent, argues St. Paul, "let her also be shorn," and so assume the mark of a disreputable woman. A woman acting in this way sets public opinion at defiance; and as public opinion in many things is public conscience, and as such the aggregated moral feeling of a community, no woman could do this thing and not shock all right sensibility. Besides, the veil is a sign of subordination and dependence. Refusing to use this covering of the head was a mark of insubordination and independence. A symbol it was, but to cast off the symbol was to repudiate the thing signified. This was not all. If uncomely, it was also unnatural; "for her hair is given her for a covering." The argument has one passage (1 Corinthians 11:10) which is confessedly difficult to understand, but this does not detract an iota from the general directness and force. St. Paul's purpose is unmistakable—to set forth the order of God's economy in the relative positions of man and woman to each other, and the entire unity of their relation to God in Christ. Man's authority is guarded against all excess, and woman's dependence is beautified by delicacy, retiringness, and trustful love. So high an estimate is put on her character and attitude, that even her personal appearance, as to attire and demeanour, is a matter of moment, involving the honour and happiness of her husband, and intimately blended with the conservatism of society and the influence of the Church. Nor is the apostle's manner of appeal to be overlooked. A great truth may be conveyed to the mind, while nevertheless the mode of its communication, left to haphazard impulse, or, forsooth, in downright contempt of the mind's laws, may work an amount of harm for which the truth itself is no compensation. Rest assured that so discerning a man as St. Paul, whose eye took its seeing from sensibility no less than from reason, would not violate manner when he was discussing the worth of manners. Rest assured, too, that he would seek a very firm basis for the logic of his judgment. That such was the fact, "Judge in yourselves" demonstrates. At the very moment that he distinctly recognizes public opinion as public conscience, and counsels deference to its dicta as divinely authoritative, he yet addresses human intuitions. "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." No other truth save this could have availed Elihu when he came to the perplexed Job and his well meaning but very mistaken friends, and, as a mediator, prepared the way to close the controversy. No other truth than the "spirit in man" and its "inspiration of the Almighty" can qualify any man to mediate where intellectual conflicts interblend with the moral and spiritual instincts. Inspiration in its highest form makes no war on inspiration in its lower form, since the inspiration that gives original truth, and that openness and sympathy which receive it, are both from God. St. Paul preached a gospel that commended itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God, and he acted in the same frame of mind when he treated of decorum and showed wherein manliness and womanliness consisted. Customs and habits vary; he goes back to the sense of custom and habit rermanent in the soul. He is not afraid of human instincts. Although he knows how they miss their way and sadly blunder in working out themselves through the mists and clouds of the intellect, yet trust them he will, nor can he suffer others to disparage their office. This inward consciousness the Holy Spirit acknowledges, and to it he brings light and warmth, in order that the intuitive judgment may be supplied with the conditions of its best activity. It is, indeed, a part of our fallen nature, but, notwithstanding that, it is a Divine remnant, and only awaits God's voice to utter its response. The dark lumps of coal when dug from the earth give no sign of the sunbeams hidden in them, but, on being ignited, they attest their origin. Therefore, argues the apostle, "judge in yourselves," since there is no knowledge of God unaccompanied by a knowledge of ourselves. Only let your judgment be in the Lord; for only in him can man and woman be seen in the perfection of their mutuality. After all, then, may we not say, in view of this argument no less than of all his methods of thinking, that St. Paul is peculiar among the apostles by his insight into the natural economy of the universe, the apostle of nature as well as of grace, because each was a portion of the same vast scheme of Providence? According to his view, the human race was in Christ from the beginning, and Adam's federal headship took its whole meaning from the pre-existence of Christ, as the Creator of man.—L.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Special consideration of the Lord's Supper; uses of self judgment.
And what is St. Paul's mood of mind now? "I declare unto you" (command you), and I praise you not, since I hear of "divisions" among you, and "I partly believe it." "Heresies [sects] must be among you," for in the present state of our nature there is no way to develop the good without the evil manifesting itself. The evil has its uses; the evil is not a cause but an occasion of good; the evil is overruled by the Holy Ghost and turned to the advantage of the Church; the evil does not change its character and become a good, but is instrumentally employed to, subserve other and very different purposes than itself contemplates. Thereby the genuine advocates of truth are made to appear, and truth itself is brought out in a more luminous aspect. The standpoint is that God is not only the Author of the institutions of the Church, but their Divine Guardian. The institutions are not left to themselves, nor are circumstances outside of them surrendered to their own operation, but God himself is in the workmanship of his hands, and presides over all external things, so that his providences are in behalf of a providence which has a supreme object and end. Now, the Lord's Supper is a holy sacrament, and St. Paul approaches the discussion of it in a very marked way. We understand him to claim a direct revelation from the Lord Jesus on this subject, and, by virtue thereof, to "declare," or command, as he states in the seventeenth verse. Truth is truth, whether mediately or immediately received. Yet we do know that there are circumstances under which truth affects us in a manner singularly personal. Only one such scene as that "near Damascus" is reported in the New Testament, and only one such unique individuality as that of St. Paul is recorded for our instruction. So that we are moving in the line of all the precedents of his career when we suppose that this account of the supper was communicated directly by the Lord Jesus to the apostle of the Gentiles. In a previous discussion (1 Corinthians 10:1-33.) he had referred to a specific aspect of the supper as a communion or participation. Beyond this the argument then in hand did not require him to go. Now, however, he is full and explicit as to details—the time when it was instituted, the circumstances, the manner of the Lord Jesus, the formula employed; so that nothing might escape observation, but the utmost depth and solemnity of impression be secured. "In remembrance of me" is the heart of the holy ordinance—the "remembrance" of the broken body and the shed blood—the penalty of the violated Law endured, satisfaction offered to the Lawgiver, the sense of justice met in the human heart, the love of God expressing itself as the grace of God, and the means therewith provided for the sense of God's grace to be awakened and developed in the human heart. Memory is the power in man this holy institution addresses. "In remembrance of me." Now, looking at memory in its position among the mental faculties, we may perchance get some light on the words just quoted. Memory is a very early and energetic activity of the mind. It begins our development and is the chief stimulant of progressive development. It is the spinal column of the faculties. Sensation, per caption, imagination, associative and suggestive functions, reasoning and conclusions reached, are all very intimately identified with its operations. Memory is the first of the intellectual powers to attain perfection, as judgment is the last, and this law of rapid maturity would seem to indicate, by its exceptional character, that memory sustains a very near relation to the growth of our moral nature. It is clear that the Lord Jesus adopted the method of storing facts in the minds of the twelve apostles, and leaving them in latency, the truths in these facts being reserved for subsequent realization. And it is equally certain that one of the chief offices of the Holy Ghost, as the Executive of the Father and the Son, was "to bring all things" to their "remembrance." Naturally, indeed, a past was formed in the memories of the twelve, but it was made a spiritual past by the Divine agency of the Spirit as a Remembrancer. Furthermore, the apostles were to be witnesses, or testifiers: "Ye also shall bear witness;" but the importance of the Spirit as a Remembrancer exhibits itself in this, that, out of the miscellaneous mass of facts deposited in the memories of the twelve, selection was to be made, for, according to the fourth Gospel, there were "many other things which Jesus did" that were not "written," while those "written" were such as were adapted to Christian faith. It seems, then, that memory was inspired by the Holy Ghost in accordance with the principle contained in the words, "These are written"—only these—"that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his Name." Aside, however, from the apostles, is there not a principle here which is recognized by the Spirit in all its gracious administrations? Memory is ordinarily the starting point in religious life when that life becomes positive and decided. It enters largely into conviction for sin and into repentance. Further back than recollection extends, impressions of God's goodness and the need of Christ for pardon and peace were made on the soul, and there they lay like old deposits in the strata of the globe, till the Holy Ghost uncovered them to our consciousness, God keeps for us his witness in this faithful register of the past. Without being Platonists on the subject of reminiscence, or accepting all that Wordsworth teaches in the grand 'Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Early Recollections of Childhood,' we may well believe that memory is the master organ through which grace is imparted to men. A simple hymn of Dr. Watts's or Mrs. Barbauld's learned in childhood; the little prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep;" and most of all, "Our Father which art in heaven," taught by a mother's lips; our first sight of death; our first walk in a graveyard;—come back to us in after years, and suddenly the hard grip of the world on our hearts is relaxed, and the "little child is set in the midst" of life's scenes, and we know that Jesus has set it there for our restoration to its long lost image. No wonder, then, that it should have pleased the Lord Jesus to make the Holy Supper an institution appealing to memory. There, in that upper room, a few hours on earth remaining to him, the past three years with his disciples were gathered in a few most solemn moments. The righteousness of his perfect life of obedience, all he had taught and done and suffered, had come into this final interview, and were going forward into his expiatory death. The motive and blessedness of the act in the celebration of the Eucharist are drawn from "In remembrance of me." Christ in all his fulness, Christ in his one personality as Son of God and Son of man, Christ in the entire compass of mediation, is in this "me." At the same time, the act shows forth the "Lord's death till he come," and accordingly is prospective. As a natural fact, memory is the great feeder of the imagination, and is ever exciting it to picture the future. Except for memory, the imagination could not exist, or, if existing, would be a very imperfect because torpid faculty. As a religious organ, the medium as we have seen of the Spirit, the memory stimulates the imagination and qualifies it to "show the Lord's death till he come." St. Paul mentions first the "remembrance" in connection with the broken body and again with the blood, and then comes the idea of showing, or proclaiming. Of course, the supper had to be a memorial before it could be an anticipation, but the order involves more than chronological sequence. It is an inner order of ideas, and it states, we think, with force and precision the relativity of these ideas. If this analysis be correct, then the determinative idea in the institution is its memorial character (remembrance), and by this idea we are to judge its nature and influence. Yet not alone by this abstractly viewed, since memory is supplemented by imagination and its vivid sense of futurity. From this point of view we understand why St. Paul should protest so strongly against the shocking abuse of the Lord's Supper among the Corinthians. With this feast, instituted and consecrated by Christ himself, its purpose being to bring him back into their midst and to enable them to realize his coming again, the two ideas being closely joined,—with this tender remembrance and expectation they had associated sensual pleasures, eating and drinking to excess, separating themselves into classes, despising the Church of God, and bringing condemnation upon themselves. What of Christ was in all this? Instead of memories of his sacrificial death, instead of their personal recollections of his providence and grace in their behalf, instead of touching and humbling recallings of how he had dealt with each of them, what utter forgetfulness, what a closing up of every avenue of the past opening into the present, and what a concentration in the animal gratifications of the hour! Instead of anticipation and joyous hope, looking to the Lord's coming, what blindness to all but the transient festivities of the carnal senses! On this account (therefore) "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." The reference is not to the weakness and sickliness that follow the violations of natural laws, nor is the sleep the falling asleep in Jesus, but a punishment sent from God and executed under the directive agency of providence. Just in proportion as a man realizes Christ in the past will he realize him in the future. Just in the degree that he loses him from the past of his own heart, in that same degree will he vacate the future of his glorious image. The present is all, and it is all of the senses. And when God arises to judgment, as in the case of the Corinthians, what a sudden intensity surcharges the present, the blessedness of the old yesterdays and the awaiting tomorrows all extinguished, and the immediate moments, once so fugitive and so eager to glorify themselves by larger additions, lingering now and lengthening in the keener consciousness of pain and remorseful anguish! "Judge yourselves," O Corinthians! Examine your hearts; return to your memories and expectations; go to the cross of Christ and learn the lesson of its self sacrifice; condemn and punish yourselves for the guilty past; and make this discipline of self a chastening for future well being. But let no true and humble soul be tortured by the thought of eating and drinking "unworthily," and thereby incurring "condemnation." Whoever comes to the Lord's Supper after a close self examination aided by the Spirit, and brings to it a meek and trustful mind; whoever repairs to it after he has communed with his memories of Christ's goodness to him,—will be a worthy participant in the sacred rite, and may surely expect the seal of God's approbation. A Christian child may understand the essential idea and spirit of the institution. And yet it has connections that transcend all thought, and the soul of every devout communicant welcomes the mysterious glory with which it is invested. Charles Wesley sings for every believer when he says—
"His presence makes the feast,
And now our bosoms feel
The glory not to be expressed,
The joy unspeakable."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 11:1
The personal feelings of the apostle come out in these Epistles to the Corinthians perhaps more than in any other of his writings. This may well have been because at Corinth his authority was questioned, and other teachers were by some exalted as his rivals or superiors. That he should resent such treatment from those who were under peculiar obligations to him we can well understand; and it is very natural that he should be led all the more boldly to vindicate his apostolic character and to assert his apostolic authority. There is self confidence of a just and warrantable kind in the admonition and challenge of this language: "Be ye imitators of me."
I. THE PRINCIPLE TO WHICH THE APOSTLE HERE APPEALS—IMITATION.
1. It is a principle natural to all mankind. Most conspicuous is it in the case of children and young people, and in the case of the uncivilized and untutored, who cannot easily acquire knowledge through symbols, but who learn arts with great facility through imitation.
2. Its range of operation is as extensive as the nature of man. We trace it in exercise in the bodily life, for multitudes of acts and of arts are acquired by those who carefully copy the proceedings of others. We trace it in the mental life: ways of thinking, of regarding life generally and one's fellow men in particular, moral judgments and habits,—all are owing largely to imitation.
3. It is of set purpose employed in all education; for the discipline and culture of the young is almost dependent upon the operation of this interesting and most powerful principle of human nature.
II. THE GREAT AND GENERAL USE WHICH CHRISTIANITY MAKES OF THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. In the Holy Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, men are summoned to be followers, imitators of God, in all his moral perfections. It is represented that the excellences which are supreme and glorious in him may inspire us with the desire and resolve to copy and to acquire them in our measure for ourselves.
2. Jesus Christ is set before us as the especial Object of our reverence, as the highest Model for us to study and to imitate. It is possible that, through our reverence for him as our Divine Saviour, we may lose sight of the fact that he is also our human Exemplar. We are summoned to grow up in all things unto him.
3. Yet this grace of imitation is to be ours, through our response to the love of Jesus and our participation in the Spirit of Jesus. It is not a mechanical, but a spiritual, intelligent, living process. We must love with the love of admiration, sympathy, congeniality, in order that we may be changed into the same image.
III. THE SPECIAL APPLICATION PAUL MAKES OF THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. Religion permits us to study human models of excellence and to aim at conformity with such. Thus the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews sets before his readers illustrious examples of faith, as a practical and powerful principle governing and inspiring human nature and life. And here Paul requires of the Corinthians that they should be imitators of him. How many Christians in all ages have been fired with this noble ambition! And how wonderfully has it proved for the advantage of the Church and of the world that it has been so!
2. The limitation set to this principle: "Even as I also am of Christ." This was an acknowledgment of the Lord's supremacy; in copying Paul, the Corinthians were only to be copying Christ, as it were, at one remove.
3. The extent to which this imitation was designed to go. Surely they might, and we may, be imitators of the apostle, in his love to Christ, in his devotion to Christ's cause, in his affliction for Christ's people, in his obedience to Christ's laws, in his willingness to suffer for Christ's sake, in his wise forbearance with the infirmities of the brethren, and in his overflowing and very practical brotherly kindness and charity. In these respects it is not possible to follow Paul without at the same time following Christ.—T.
1 Corinthians 11:2
Apostolic authority and traditions.
In using language so imperious to all seeming as this is, St. Paul spake as an apostle, i.e. as one sent and commissioned by the Divine Head and Ruler of the Church. That he should use such language at all is very instructive and significant to all who read the Epistles and desire to receive them in the appropriate and intended spirit.
I. APOSTOLIC INDIVIDUALITY AND AUTHORITY ASSERTED, "That ye remember me." What an assumption is here of importance and peculiar authority! It was Paul's great concern that his converts should remember Christ: does he here set himself up as a rival of the Lord? By no means. But he claims to be the minister, the ambassador of Christ to the Churches, whose words are to be received as the words of one speaking by the Spirit of Christ. Readers of the New Testament are by such language reminded that the inspired writers, through their personal, intimate, official relation to Christ, have a claim upon the respectful attention and the cordial faith of those who profess to be Christ's.
II. THE OBSERVANCE OF INSPIRED TRADITIONS ENJOINED. In Christianity there is an element of law and an element of liberty; and these two elements are in harmony each with the other, the two being necessary in order to the completeness of the dispensation In some passages even of this Epistle stress is laid upon freedom; whilst in this verse stress is laid upon subjection. Traditions, communications, of a religious kind had been committed by the apostle to these Corinthians. What were these?
1. Traditions of doctrine. It was from Paul's lips that many of them had first heard the gospel; to him all were indebted for the systematic exposition of its glorious truths.
2. Traditions of precept and conduct. This letter is itself full of such; for Paul combined, in a remarkable and admirable manner, the functions of the teacher of truth and those of the ethical instructor.
3. Traditions of discipline. As soon as societies were formed, it became necessary to draw up and promulgate regulations for the internal government and ordering of such societies. They naturally looked to inspired apostles for directions how to proceed, and they did not look in vain. The context shows us how dependent the first Churches were upon apostolic guidance for the maintenance of their order and the administration of their offices and affairs.
III. SUBJECTION TO APOSTOLICAL DIRECTIONS COMMENDED. We gain here an insight into the very mixed character of the members of the primitive Churches. Much in their conduct is in this very Epistle censured with something like severity; yet praise is not withheld where praise is due. There is a kind of praise which is dangerous, which involves insincerity on the part of those who offer, and fosters pride on the part of those who receive it. Yet the general fault amongst men and amongst Christians is unduly to withhold praise. Such commendation as this of the apostle could not but encourage and stimulate to a cheerful and resolute obedience to the injunctions of apostolic and Divine authority.—T.
1 Corinthians 11:3
Before entering upon particular counsels with regard to the attire of the two sexes respectively in the Christian assemblies, St. Paul lays down a great general principle, from which, rather than from custom or from experience, he deduces the special duties devolving upon the members of Christ's Church. The case upon which he was consulted, and upon which he gave his advice, has lost all practical interest, and is to us merely an antiquarian curiosity; but the great principle propounded in connection with it holds good for all time.
I. THE APPOINTED SUBORDINATION OF WOMAN TO MAN. There is a sense in which there is equality between the sexes. In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. The gospel is intended for and is offered to both men and women. Both are equally dear to him who died for all. As in Jesus' earthly ministry he wrought cures and expelled demons for the relief of women, and as he chose certain women as his personal friends, and as he willingly accepted the affectionate and generous ministration of other women; so in the dispensation of the Spirit he numbers women amongst his people, and honours them by promoting them to his service. There is, so to speak, spiritual equality. But domestic and social equality is quite another thing. In the household and in the congregation there must be subjection and submission. "Order is Heaven's first law." "The head of the woman is the man." And this notwithstanding that many men are base and unworthy of their position and calling; notwithstanding that many women are not only pure, but noble and well fitted for command.
II. THE ARCHETYPE IN SPIRITUAL AND HEAVENLY RELATIONS TO WHICH THIS ORDER CONFORMS.
1. Man is not supreme, though invested with a limited authority. "The head of every man is Christ." He, the Son of man, has the primacy over this humanity. In wisdom and in righteousness, in power and in grace, the Lord Jesus is superior and supreme. The law is revealed in him and administered by him. Every man is morally bound to subjection and submission to the Divine Man. And he is Head over all things to his Church. This is the truth, the ideal, the purpose of eternal wisdom; though, alas! often misunderstood, or forgotten, or denied by men.
2. Even in the Godhead there is an official subordination of the Son to the Father; "the head of Christ is God." This language takes us into the region of heavenly things, of Divine mysteries. But it reveals to us the fact that the universe is one great hierarchy, of which not every member is mentioned here, only certain leading dominant notes being successively sounded in the celestial scale. Men may suppose that order and subordination in human society, civil and ecclesiastical, are merely expedients for peace and quietness. But it is not so; there is Divine archetype to which human relationships and affairs conform. Let there be nonconformity to this, and there is discord breaking in upon the harmonious minstrelsy of the spiritual universe. Let there be conformity, and the sweet concert proves that earth is in tune with heaven.—T.
1 Corinthians 11:7
Man the image and glory of God.
The Bible is the book of paradoxes; and, if it were not, it would not correspond with the facts of human nature and history. Nowhere do we find such an exposure of human sin and such denunciations of human guilt as in the Scriptures. And, on the other hand, nowhere do we meet with such majestic representations of man's grandeur and dignity. There is a depth in this simple but inspiring language which we cannot fathom; but we may remark some particulars in which it is verified by facts.
I. MAN IS GOD'S IMAGE AND GLORY IN HIS FORM AND FEATURES. This seems to be asserted in this passage. Why must not man's head be veiled when in the sacred assembly he draws near to the Father of spirits, the Lord of the universe? Because "he is the image and glory of God." This does not imply that the Divine Being possesses a body as man does. No such anthropomorphism is suggested in the text. But so far as matter can be moulded into a form which shadows forth the Divine majesty, it has been so fashioned in the construction of the human frame and features. High thoughts, noble impulses, pure desires, tender sympathy, these—the glory of humanity—are written upon the countenance of man.
II. IN HIS INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL ENDOWMENTS. This is probably what is meant by the declaration in Genesis that God made man in his own image. In his capacity to apprehend truth, in his recognition of moral excellence, in his power of will, man resembles his Maker. And there is no way by which we can arrive at a knowledge of God in his higher attributes other than by the aid of the nature with which he has endowed us, and which he has declared to be akin to his own.
III. IN HIS POSITION OF SUBORDINATE RULE OVER THE CREATION. The psalmist asserts that God crowned man with glory and honour, and set him over the works of his hands, putting all things under his control. Thus did the Lord of all delegate to his vicegerent an authority resembling his own.
IV. IN THE BROTHERHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST. The assumption of human nature by the eternal Word was only possible because man was originally made in the Divine image. It is wonderful to find language so similar used concerning man and concerning the Son of God, who is described as "the emanation from the Father's glory, and the very image of his substance." The Incarnation seems a necessity even to explain the nature of man; it casts a halo of glory and radiance around the human form, the human destiny. For the Incarnation was the condition, not only of a Divine manifestation, but of the redemption of humanity; and Christ's purpose was to bring many sons unto glory.
V. IN HIS FUTURE OF ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS. All things which show forth God's glory are passing and perishing. Man alone of all that is earthly is appointed for immortality. The mirror that reflects so bright a light shall never be broken; the glory which man receives from heaven and returns to heaven shall never fade.—T.
1 Corinthians 11:20
"The Lord's Supper."
The abuses and disorders which prevailed in the Corinthian Church served as an occasion for an apostolic exhibition and inculcation of a more excellent way. Incidentally, we are indebted to them for the account given by the apostle of the original institution, and for instructions as to the proper observance of the ordinance. The designation here applied to the distinctive observance of the Christian Church is one of beautiful simplicity, and suggests an exposition of the acknowledged nature and benefit of the ordinance.
I. THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD'S SURFER.
1. It is an ordinance of Christ, and its observance is consequently an act of obedience on the part of his people. It is not a service of man's device; the Lord himself has said, "Do this."
2. It is a tradition of apostolic times. Paul professed to have "received from the Lord that which he delivered." The sacrament was accordingly celebrated within a generation of Christ's own lifetime, and has been celebrated in unbroken continuity from that time to our own.
3. It was in the first century a regular observance of the Christian societies. This is apparent from the way in which it is mentioned in this Epistle; it is treated as something actually existing, although in some cases misunderstood and abused. And as Paul writes, "As oft as ye," etc., it is presumed that the observance took place regularly and frequently.
II. THE DOCTRINAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
1. It is a memorial of Christ, and especially of his death. He himself appointed that it should be observed "in remembrance of" himself and of his sufferings whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for his people.
2. It is a Eucharist, or service of thanksgiving. The Institutor of the ordinance "gave thanks," or "blessed," probably upon the suggestion of the cup of which the Jews partook during the Paschal meal. The sacrament is a reminder of all the benefits which we have received from God, and especially of the "unspeakable gift."
3. It is a symbol and means of spiritual nourishment. Spiritually, the communicants eat the body and drink the blood of their Saviour, partaking and feeding upon Christ by faith. The real presence of the Redeemer is experienced in the heart of the faithful recipient.
4. It is a bond of fellowship and brotherhood. Hence called a communion, or the communion, as the appointed means and manifestation of a true spiritual unity. The brethren of the family are seated at one table, they join in one meal or sacred feast, they eat of one loaf and drink of one cup.
III. THE SPIRITUAL PROFIT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
1. It is a divinely appointed means of increased and more vivid fellowship with the unseen Redeemer, who in this service draws near to those who draw near to him.
2. It is a profession of faith, attachment, and loyalty, the admitted and enjoined method of declaring aport which side we stand in the moral conflict which rages, under whose banner we have enlisted, and whom we purpose loyally to serve.
3. It is a testimony to the unbelieving world around. The death of Christ is proclaimed, not only to those within, but to those without. More effectively than by words, men are reminded that the grace of God and the salvation of Christ have come very nigh unto them.—T.
1 Corinthians 11:26
The Church's proclamation.
What so fitted to rebuke those who profaned the Supper of the Lord, what so fitted to arouse them to a sense of their high calling, as a solemn declaration like this? The noisy, greedy, quarrelsome gatherings which seem at Corinth to have been associated with the professed observance of one of the highest mysteries of the Christian faith, naturally awakened the indignation and the reproaches of the apostle. Recalling them to a sense of the dignity of their position as witnesses to God in an ignorant and sinful world, the apostle summons the Corinthian Christians so to eat the bread and drink the cup of the Eucharist as to declare to all the sacred tidings of a Redeemer's death.
I. THIS SACRAMENT IS A COMMEMORATION OF THE PAST. The Lord's death was an admitted fact; and if anything was needed to establish the historical fact, the existence of this ordinance was sufficient and more than sufficient for the purpose. But men may forget and lose sight of an event which they do not dream of denying. And it seemed good to Divine wisdom that the crucifixion and sacrifice of the Son of God should be held in everlasting memory by means of this simple but most significant observance. It was not simply as an historical fact that the death of Christ was to be recorded, but as a Christian doctrine. Christ's was a redeeming, atoning, reconciling death; and as such was cherished in everlasting memory by those who profited by it, who owed to it their eternal hopes.
II. THIS SACRAMENT IS A PROCLAMATION TO THE PRESENT. "Ye set forth, or proclaim, the Lord's death," says the apostle. And from his expression, "as often," it may be inferred that periodically and frequently the primitive Christians kept the feast, remembering and declaring that "Christ our Passover is slain for us." There is something very affecting and at the same time very inspiring in this representation. From generation to generation and from age to age the sacrament of the Lord's body and blood publishes salvation to mankind, telling of him who tasted death forevery man, and in his cross reconciled the world unto God. It is an aspect of the Holy Communion which should not be left out of sight, upon which great stress should be laid; for some, whom words may fail to reach, may have their hearts opened to the grace and love of Christ by witnessing the silent yet eloquent declaration concerning the Saviour which is presented when the members of Christ's Church partake of the symbols of their redemption.
III. THIS SACRAMENT IS A PREDICTION OF THE FUTURE. "Till he come!" Our Lord, in instituting the ordinance, had turned the gaze of his disciples towards the future, speaking of drinking wine new in the kingdom of God, And here the eye of faith is pointed on to the glory which shall be revealed when he who came to die shall come to judge, shall come to reign!
"And thus that dark betrayal night
With the last advent we unite
By one bright chain of loving rite,
Until he come!"
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Decency in public worship.
When we appear before God we should observe the greatest propriety. Externals should not be lost sight of, for they are significant. Often they are indicative of inward condition. The apostle had occasion to blame the women of Corinth for laying aside the veil—the mark of modesty and subjection—in public assemblies. On the ground of the abolition of distinction of sex in Christ, they claimed equality in every respect with men, and the right to appear and act as men did. Whilst women, they would be as men. Equality as believers they had a right to claim, but they forgot their "subjection in point of order, modesty, and seemliness." When women leave their proper sphere, it is never to rise, but to fall. Men women are failures. In the apostle's argument valuable truths are enunciated.
I. HE DEFINES MAN'S POSITION.
1. Man is the head of the woman. (1 Corinthians 11:3.) Woman is subordinate to man, is largely dependent upon him. He is her natural guide, defender, supporter. Authority lies with him, not with her. "I suffer not a woman to… usurp authority over the man… for Adam was first formed, then Eve" (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Timothy 2:13). Woman is the "weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). She is to be "in subjection" (1 Corinthians 14:34). This is after the Divine order, and any subversal of it is sure to lead to injurious results.
2. The head of man is Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3.) Man is not a monarch; he is subordinate to the God Man as his Head. Man can only act aright as head of the woman when he recognizes Christ as his Head. The apostle does not mean to intimate that Christ is not the Head of the woman as of the man. He is pointing out the order in the Divine economy, and "by the term 'head' he expresses the next immediate relation sustained." Man is subordinate to Christ; woman is subordinate, though not in the same sense, to man as well as to Christ. To further illustrate the Divine order, the apostle states that:
3. The head of Christ is God. That is, of Christ the God Man. There is nothing here which conflicts with the doctrine of the divinity of Christ or of the equality of the Son with the Father. Rather is there here additional evidence of the former, since the distinction between the position of man and woman obtains where there is identity of nature. Christ is here spoken of as he assumed "the form of a servant." Christ in his mediatorial capacity is lower than the Father (John 14:28).
4. Man is the Image and Glory of God. (1 Corinthians 11:7.) Man was made in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). How great is the dignity of human nature! But how that dignity is lost when God is blotted out of a man! How eagerly should fallen creatures seek recovery, that the blurred image may be restored to its original beauty, and the impaired glory made once more lustrous! Through the Son of man, the ideal Man—declared to be "the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person "—this may be effected. The apostle does not intend to convey that woman is not in many respects the image and glory of God, but that man is this first and directly, woman subsequently and indirectly." Man represents the authority of God; he is the ruler, the head.
II. HE DEFINES WOMAN'S POSITION.
1. She is subject to man as her head. She sprang from him (1 Corinthians 11:8). She was created for him (1 Corinthians 11:9). Still, there is mutual dependence: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man" (1 Corinthians 11:11). "In the Lord"—this is of Divine appointment. And man and woman constitute complete humanity—one supplying what the other lacks; and thus forming in Christ "the Bride," the Church redeemed by his blood. And further, although at first woman sprang from man, now the man is of the woman (1 Corinthians 11:12). But "all things are of God"—man and woman. Man has a real but qualified supremacy; so qualified as to save woman from any humiliation, and to allow her a position of peculiar dignity and beauty.
2. She is the glory of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:7.) Woman is not directly the glory of God; she does not directly represent God as the head of creation—she rather is man's representative, as man is God's. She is the glory of man directly, of God indirectly. Man is the sun, woman the moon (Genesis 37:9).
III. HIS CONCLUSIONS AS TO PROPRIETY OF DRESS IN PUBLIC WORSHIP.
1. That man should not have his head covered. The covering would indicate subjection, which, in relation to those joining with man in public worship, was not man's true condition. There he appeared as "the image and glory of God," representing the Divine headship, and to assume the badge of subjection would be to "dishonour his head." This may mean to dishonour his Own head by placing upon it something unsuitable, or to dishonour Christ, the Head of man, who has placed man in his position of honour. We should not usurp a higher position than God has appointed for us; we should not take a lower. Our best place is where God places us.
2. That woman should have her head covered. The veil was a recognition of subordination and an indication of modesty. To discard it was to claim man's position and thus to dishonour man, her head—or to dishonour her own head by depriving it of a mark of propriety and even of chastity. For by discarding the head covering a woman put herself in the class of the disreputable. It was but a carrying out of the principle involved for a woman to have her head shaved (1 Corinthians 11:5, 1 Corinthians 11:6), which was sometimes done in the case of those who had forfeited their honour, and became thus a brand of infamy. Thus a woman snatching at the position of man would descend far below her own. An apparent rise is sometimes a very real fail. The apostle enforces his argument by:
(1) An appeal to nature (1 Corinthians 11:14, 1 Corinthians 11:15). Paul evidently thinks that there is accord between the kingdom of nature and of grace. Both are from one hand and one mind, and conflicts between the two may be very apparent, but can never be real. Nature gives the man short hair and the woman long; here is a natural distinction which should be observed, and which indicates that woman specially needs the head covering. Or by nature the apostle may mean what obtains among men who are not instructed by revelation. Among many of the heathen the wearing of the hair long by men was ridiculed, but long hair for women was generally recognized as appropriate.
(2) The presence of angels in Christian assemblies (1 Corinthians 11:16). Earth looks on, but heaven also. Woman should have the symbol of power, of subjection to man, upon her head, because any usurpation of improper position or flaunting boldness would be offensive to these heavenly visitors.
(3) Apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 11:10). Where reasoning fails, authority must utter her voice. Paul always preferred to convince rather than to compel. But he possessed the right to determine when the contentious persevered in contention. The regulation was according to the mind of an inspired apostle, and was observed by Churches founded by himself or other like minded leaders. In estimating the teaching of the passage, we must discriminate between the necessary and the accidental. The principle is that women should be so attired as to indicate, or at all events so as not to conflict with, their rightful position. Amongst those to whom the apostle wrote, the veil was the symbol of modesty and subordination. Because women in Western Churches are not so attired, it does not follow that they are acting antagonistically to the apostle's precept, though it will be admitted by most that the preposterous headgear of many female worshippers, in our own land calls loudly for reform, and is frequently an outrage upon all propriety and a sarcasm upon womanly modesty. I do not understand that the apostle has here specially in view the praying and preaching of women in public assemblies—this he deals with further on in the Epistle (1 Corinthians 14:34, etc.); but he is now insisting upon what is appropriate in the attire of woman (and incidentally of man) on public occasions. His primary reference is to public worship, and surely when we come to "appear before God," we ought to be most specially anxious that everything about us shall be decent and in order. Whilst nothing that is outward can compensate for absence of the inward, that which is external is often an index of the internal, and has its influence upon the internal.—H.
1 Corinthians 11:17-22
Some hindrances to the right observance of the Lord's Supper.
Holy institutions may become unholy by perversion. That which is bestowed upon us as a peculiar blessing may prove a very real curse by misuse. The ordinance of the Lord's Supper is for our spiritual help and joy, but we may "come together not for the better, but for the worse." This was so with many of the Corinthians. They had conjoined to the Lord's Supper the love feast. To this feast each brought his provision, the rich bringing more, so as to supply the deficiencies of the poor. From this supply the bread and wine required for the Lord's Supper were taken. These feasts were the occasions at which the evils reprobated by the apostle occurred. The poor were despised and neglected, the congregation became divided into cliques, some communicants were hungry, and others had drunk to excess. The apostle insists that, under such circumstances, it was impossible to observe aright the sacred feast of the Lord's Supper. Note some hindrances to right observance thus suggested.
I. PRIDE. At the Lord's table all are equal. Conventional distinctions disappear. There is one Lord, and "all ye are brethren." Arrogance and conceit, always out of place and intolerable, are most strikingly so where all should be humbled and subdued. it is not for us to think there how excellent we are, but how vile, and to admire the amazing grace which rescued us from the dominion of sin. Instead of despising others there, we should rather despise ourselves for our sins which crucified Christ, and we should feel, like Paul, that we are "the chief of sinners." It is utterly impossible for a proud heart to rightly show forth the death of him who was meek and lowly. It is preposterous and absurd to attempt it.
II. SELFISHNESS. How can the selfish have communion with the infinitely unselfish One! If we have a self seeking, grasping, greedy spirit, what part can we have with him who "gave himself for us"? How alien to the spirit of Christ is the spirit of selfishness! If we sit with it at the table of the Lord, we sit there as Judas did.
III. ESTRANGEMENT. Christ calls us ever to union, and most specially and pathetically at his table, where we eat of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17). To cherish a spirit of disunion is to run directly counter to one of his commands at the moment when we profess to observe another. And the spectacle of estrangement at the Lord's Supper must be one of utmost offensiveness in the Divine sight, as it is one of greatest scandal in the eyes of men. If we seek to be one with Christ, we must also seek to be one with the brethren. He is the Head; we are the members of his body. How utterly incongruous to be disunited at that feast which specially sets forth our union with Christ and with one another!
IV. HATRED. This in some form generally accompanies division. But where is the place for hatred at the feast of dying love? God is love, Christ is love, and we are—hatred. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? What reason our Saviour had to hate us! "He was despised and rejected of men," crucified by men; and yet he loved men, and at his table his love is specially set forth. How can we there cherish our animosities, for which we have such little cause! "We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3:14). The Lord's Supper is a song of love; hatred at it is a terrible discord.
V. GLUTTONY. Some of the Corinthians loved their meat more than they loved their brethren. They ate greedily, not even tarrying for others to arrive. A singular carnality for so spiritual a season. Men with the manners and unrestrained appetites of beasts are scarcely fit for the table of Christ. Sensuality and spirituality are at opposite poles. These who abandon themselves to gratify the lower nature sacrifice the higher. "Man shall not live by bread alone."
VI. DRUNKENNESS. It seems scarcely credible that any should have drunk to the excess of intoxication at the love feast so intimately associated with the Eucharist; but it is to be feared that this was so. And there are degrees of intoxication, so that the danger of imitating the Corinthians in this matter may not be so remote from some as they imagine. There is a great deal of semi intoxication. And if this sin be not committed immediately before the Lord's table is approached, undue indulgence at all is surely a fatal hindrance to right observance. No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. And no drunkard, whilst he cleaves to his degrading habit, is entitled to a place at the Lord's table.
VII. IRREVERENCE. There must have been vast irreverence in the Corinthians rebuked by Paul, or such abuses could never have obtained amongst them. There may be as much irreverence in us, though we do not commit the same sins. Anyway, to approach the Lord's table irreverently is to instantly demonstrate our unfitness. There we should be filled with godly fear, and our hearts should be subdued to greatest devoutness and awe as we marvel over the justice of Jehovah, the amazing sacrifice of Christ, and the tender ministry of the Divine Spirit, whereby we who were once afar off are brought nigh.—H.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The sacred feast.
Paul's description is singularly beautiful. His information apparently came directly from Christ (Galatians 1:12). Additional importance attaches to the observance of the Lord's Supper, since an express revelation was made to the great apostle of the Gentiles. The supper was for the Gentile worm as well as the Jewish. Its institution was associated with the preaching of the gospel throughout the world.
I. ITS INSTITUTION. By the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:23).
1. Personally. Evidently important in his eyes. Specially precious to us because instituted personally by our Master. Appropriate; for he in his great redemptive work is set forth. Christ is "all in all" at his table. As Christ was present at the first celebration, he should be looked for at every celebration.
2. Under most affecting circumstances. "The same night in which he was betrayed;" whilst betrayal was proceeding—and this known to him.
(1) He thought of others rather than of himself. Might have been expected to think of his sufferings; he thought of our needs. He had sorrow, but no selfish sorrow. The unselfishness of Christ is here shown in unrivalled beauty.
(2) His love was not quenched by treachery. The betrayal by Judas did not dry up his fount of affection. When treachery was at its height, love was at its height also. When men are most anxious to injure us, we should be most anxious to do them good.
(3) His sacrifice was not arrested by hate. The multitude were hotly against him when he prepared to give himself for them. Outside the upper room and inside in the breast of Judas there was bitter hate, but Christ was not checked in his purpose for an instant. He resolved to go on and to fulfil all that had been foretold respecting him, and so he quietly and calmly instituted the supper which should in every after age testify to incomparable self sacrifice under all—adverse conditions. If we would be like Christ, hostility must not hinder sacrifice.
II. ITS MODE.
1. Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the bread and wine. We should not "say grace" but really "give thanks." Perhaps to teach us that our thanksgivings should ascend for what the bread and wine typify.
(1) Symbolic of Christ's body. Not actually his body, seeing that that was intact and before the eyes of the disciples. If Rome's teaching were true, the disciples would have required a very lengthy explanation to enable them to grasp the meaning. We have no such explanation recorded; we might have expected it in this place, if anywhere.
(2) Broken. Many see in this a symbol of the violent death of Christ. But the better rendering of 1 Corinthians 11:24 is, "This is my body which is for you." Breaking the bread was, I rather think, the mere adoption of a custom suited to the kind of bread used at that time in Palestine. We read, "A bone of him shall not be broken."
(3) Eaten. Indicating that we are to feed upon Christ spiritually, to appropriate, to assimilate, him.
3. Wine. Symbolic of Christ's blood shed for the remission of sins. Partaken of to indicate the application of the blood of Christ to our hearts and consciences. The blood must not only be shed, it must be applied.
III. ITS SIGNIFICANCE.
1. Remembrance of Christ. Of his dying love specially; and of his life, lordship, etc.
2. Communion with Christ and with each other. (See 1Co 10:16, 1 Corinthians 10:17.)
3. A feast. We feed upon Christ spiritually. As bread and wine support the body, so he supports the soul. There is a physical symbol and a spiritual reality. Joy should be one element in the observance; it is a feast, not a funeral.
4. A covenant. We enter into covenant with God for pardon, peace, service, and the covenant is ratified by the blood of Christ typified by wine: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." The Hebrews entered into covenant with God when the blood of the heifer was sprinkled upon them; they bound themselves to obedience, and God bound himself to bestow the promised blessings; so when we receive the cup, we commemorate the covenant which we have entered into with God through the shed blood of Christ and the covenant which he has entered into with us.
5. Proclamation of Christ's death. Christ's death is the great central fact shadowed forth. The cross is exalted. Not a new sacrifice offered, but the old yet ever new sacrifice of Calvary commemorated and shown forth.
6. A pledge of the Lord's second coming. "Till he come." He will come, and it is not for us to any, "My Lord delayeth his coming." He will come not too soon and not too late. "Till he come" we must be watching.
IV. ITS INCUMBENCY. "This do in remembrance of me." A dying command. Some believers have many excuses for not coming to the Lord's table; they do not find one here: "This do." Last requests of loved ones are held precious: should not the request of this loved One be also? In this command our welfare is consulted as in all Divine commands laid upon us. We lose much if we refrain from doing this in remembrance of our Master—much spiritual joy, enlightenment, strengthening, and not a little usefulness. The Lord's table is the Elim of Christians; we act foolishly if we fail to embrace opportunities of resting beneath its palm trees and drinking from its many wells of living water.—H.
1 Corinthians 11:24
The Lord's Supper is very specially a feast of remembrance. Is there in it a suggestion that we are very prone to forget Christ? This is, alas! our tendency, and here we are in strange contrast to our Lord. He needs nothing to keep us in his remembrance; he ever thinks of his people. In the institution of the Lord's Supper he thinks of our forgetfulness, of its perils, of its certain sorrows. He remembers that we are prone not to remember him. What should we remember concerning Christ?
I. HIS HOLY SPOTLESS LIFE. What a life that was! The greatest and best of human leaders have been marked by defects, but our Leader was "without blemish." In the lives of heroes there is always something which we should be glad to forget; but there is nothing in the life of Christ. Jealousy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness could find in him "no fault." Many great men have grown small, many holy men questionable in character, many honoured men dishonourable, under the ruthless criticism of modern times; but not Jesus of Nazareth. The fiercest light has been focussed upon his earthly course; the brains of sceptic and of scoffer have been racked in prolonged endeavour to discover the flaw; but it has not been discovered yet! The voices of all the centuries cry, "Without fault!" "Holy and undefiled!" "Separate from sinners!" Well may we remember that life.
II. HIS TEACHING. When compared with Christ, all the other teachers of the world seem to have nothing to teach upon matters of high moment. At best they guess, and often they guess folly. He teaches with the authority of knowledge; all other teachers seem hidden in the valley, imagining what the landscape may be. He alone has climbed the hill and beholds what he speaks about. We need to remember, more than we are accustomed to do, the utterances of the world's great Teacher. Seekers after knowledge should be careful lest after all they miss the richest mine of truth. Learned scoffings and atheistical ribaldries are naught but devil blinds to hide from our view the beautiful form of truth as it is in Christ. In him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). When God broke the dread silence upon the Mount of Transfiguration it was to exclaim, "This is my beloved Son: hear him." The Holy Ghost was promised as One who would "bring to remembrance" what Christ had declared. Through the Lord's Supper, as a means, the Divine Spirit works now for this end.
III. HIS MIRACLES. These speak eloquently of his power. Nature bows before her God. How weak the mightiest of the earth are compared with this mighty One! When the kingdom of Christ is about to be overwhelmed and shattered and generally annihilated by blatant wiseacre warriors, with their sceptical pea shooters and atheistical popguns, I laugh as I remember that it is the kingdom of Christ which is being assailed! We do well to bear in mind what Christ did when he was upon earth, and then to say quietly to ourselves, "The same yesterday, today, and forever." What he did, he can do; what he was, he is. His miracles illustrated his beneficence. They meant the supply of human need, the binding up of wounds, the restoration of the outcast, the arrest of sorrow, the wiping away of tears, the cheer of lonely hearts. We must remember his miracles; they show so truly what the Christ was. With all his omnipotence, how gentle and tender!
IV. HIS DEATH. This was the grand culmination of his life; it gave to him the great title of Saviour; to it the Lord's Supper specially points. We must remember him as the One who laid down his life for us, who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, who was wounded for our trangressions and bruised for our iniquities, who died the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God. The Lord's Supper leads us to Calvary—through the motley crowd, past the weeping Marys, beyond the penitent thief, to the central figure in the Judaean tragedy, and there we see salvation! "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalms 85:10). Remembrance of Christ's death will mean remembrance of our sinfulness. And when we remember that "he endured the cross, despising the shame," we may ask ourselves the suggestive question, "What would be our present condition and prospect if he had not done so?"
V. HIS RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION. The Lord's Supper was for the remembrance of Christ both after he had died and after he had risen from the dead. We must not forget the dying Christ; but neither must we forget the triumphing Christ. The resurrection of Christ is the counterpart of the cross; one is not without the other, The Lord died, but the Lord is risen indeed. He came to this world in abasement; he lived so, he died so, but he did not depart so. He rose from the dead, and ever liveth. We remember the dying Christ, but we remember also the living Christ, exalted at God's right hand, our Advocate, preparing our heavenly home, looking down upon us, present with us by his Spirit. We remember the reigning Christ, the One who has completed his glorious redemptive work, who has triumphed openly, and we remember him thus "till he come."
VI. HIS MARVELLOUS LOVE. Shown in every incident and every instant of his course. In his coming; in his words, deeds, spirit; and pre-eminently in his sufferings and death. God is love; Christ is God; Christ is love.
VII. HIS PERSONALITY. Not only what he said and what he did, but what he was. All his acts and words of beneficence and love were only expressions of himself. They were but manifestations of what dwells in perpetual fulness in his heart. Remember him. "This do in remembrance of me." This is a dying request. Are we observing it? The dying request of him who "gave himself" for us.—H.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
Perils at the Lord's table.
A frequent question, "Who should come to the Lord's table?" Many have come who ought not to have come as they were; not a few have been deterred from coming who were quite suitable. Many have not pondered sufficiently the duty of observing the Lord's Supper; many have been alarmed by certain expressions contained in this passage.
I. GLANCE AT THE SCENE. It lies in gay, voluptuous, immoral Corinth. A city magnificent externally; abased and abandoned internally. A meeting of Christians in some private house, light amid darkness, truth surrounded by error, holiness in the centre of corruption. The gathering is for the love feast and the Supper of the Lord. A love feast, alas! in which love is largely absent; a Supper of the Lord in which the Lord is strangely dishonoured. The light is dimmed, the truth is alloyed with error, the holiness is defiled by guilt. There are divisions (1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 1:12); there are pride, selfishness, irreverence (1 Corinthians 11:21, 1 Corinthians 11:22); there is even drunkenness (1 Corinthians 11:21); yea, even further, the hideous head of immorality is raised in the midst of this little Christian society (1 Corinthians 5:1). This Epistle arrives from the founder of the Church—a letter smiting Corinthian transgression and transgressors hip and thigh. Picture the scene!
II. GLANCE AT CERTAIN WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS.
1. Damnation. This word has so terrified some that they have never been able to summon sufficient courage to obey the dying command of their Lord. They have supposed that an unworthy participation in the sacred feast would seal their doom and consign them to perdition without remedy. But the word does not justify such a view. Instead of "damnation," we should read, as in the Revised Version, "judgment." And 1 Corinthians 11:32 explains what "judgment" means: "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Judgment here means "chastisement," and note particularly that this chastisement is sent to prevent us from being condemned with unbelievers. What follows upon unworthy participation at the Lord's table, if we are believers, is not something to destroy us, but something to prevent us from being destroyed. If we will not benefit by the chastisement, if under it we harden our hearts like Israel of old, then we shall be cast away. The sin of unworthy participation is great, and the correction will be severe, but neither is what some sensitive natures have dreaded,
2. Unworthily. Note that the apostle speaks of the unworthiness of the act, not the unworthiness of the person. To say, "I am unworthy," is doubtless to speak the truth, but it is irrelevant. Unworthy persons may participate worthily. Nay, further, only those who feel that they are unworthy are in a right state to sit at the table. The self righteous are never "fit." The supper is for penitent sinners; for such as Paul, "the chief of sinners." But the act may be unworthy, and that from many causes. Anything that hinders us from "discerning the Lord's body" (1 Corinthians 11:29) will cause us to eat and drink unworthily. We have to recognize the bread and wine as emblems of that body, as set apart to show this forth, and therefore to be dealt with solemnly, thoughtfully, reverently. We must enter into the meaning of the feast, and through the outward reach the inward and spiritual. At the supper we do not halt at the emblems; we have fellowship with Christ, we remember him, we renew our vows, we profess to be his followers, we show forth his death "till he come." Now, many things may hinder us from doing this, and thus cause us to cat and drink unworthily; such as:
(1) Thoughtlessness, leading to irreverence.
(2) Ignorance of the meaning of the ordinance. This may be very culpable ignorance.
(3) Unconverted condition. Quite unfit for supper because have not received what it sets forth.
(4) Worldly spirit. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." We may be trying, and thus be charging Christ with falsehood, even as we approach his table.
(5) Unbrotherly feeling. That which separates us from believers is very likely to separate us from Christ.
(6) Immorality. If we hug sin, we cannot embrace the Saviour.
Such unworthy participation involves:
(1) Guilt. We become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, seeing that our sin is concentrated upon that observance which specially sets these forth.
(2) Punishment. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:30). Present chastisement, and, if this prove inefficacious, future and final punishment.
III. A REMEDY. This is not to see that "we are good," according to a very current expression and impression. In one sense we can never be "fit." It is to examine or prove ourselves by
(1) appeal to conscience,
(2) God's Word,
(3) God's Spirit.
And what we have to ascertain is whether we
(1) repent Of sin,
(2) believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and.
(3) are seeking to live in the fear and love of God.
If we are right upon these points, we need have no dread in approaching the Lord's table, but rather draw near in joy and confidence and in anticipation of large spiritual blessing.
IV. A WARNING. Remark that none are here told to absent themselves from the Lord's table. Not even the Corinthians most blamed, an apparent exception being the immoral person (1 Corinthians 5:1), and he was excluded only until he had shown repentance for his sin (2 Corinthians 2:7, 2 Corinthians 2:8). The reason is that to abstain from the Lord's Supper is to sin. We ought to be "fit," in the true sense of the expression. There is only one place which is right for us, and that is at the table. We may be wrong in coming; we must be wrong in staying away. To refrain is to condemn ourselves at once. "This do in remembrance of me" is one of the most sacred of commands. If we are bound to break it because of our carnal and lost state, we do but multiply transgression. We are not bound, for we may escape from the condition which unfits us, and then draw near with boldness and with hope. There is a false humility restraining many from coming to the Lord's Supper; it is a very false humility and a very deceptive humility—it is the adding of another sin. Away from Christ we are altogether wrong, and in escaping from one sin (coming to the table whilst unconverted) we only fall into another (disobeying the dying command of Christ). There is every obligation resting upon us to repent, believe, and live to God; then we are fitted to discharge the other obligation, "This do in remembrance of me." Failure in the one involves failure in the other, and our condemnation is increased. There is no right place for the unbeliever.—H.
1 Corinthians 11:31, 1 Corinthians 11:32
The chastisement of believers.
The apostle has been speaking of disorders at the Lord's table and of the Divine judgments which in Corinth had followed upon the profanation of the sacred feast. He now pursues the latter theme and discourses upon the afflictions which sometimes fall upon the people of God.
I. ITS INFLICTOR. We may well ask, "Where do our troubles come from?" The chastisement of his people comes from God. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). God is behind the sorrow. Reflect that:
1. He sees sufficient cause for the chastisement. This shows that there is sufficient cause, he never sends a trouble without a cause, and never without a sufficient cause. We may not see the cause, but he does.
2. He might destroy instead of chastising. There is mercy in the visitation: had there been wrath only, there had been destruction, not chastisement.
3. He may destroy. If chastisement does not bear fruit unto repentance, we shall be cut off as was Israel of old. Here is a solemn warning against resisting and resenting Divine chastisement. If we stiffen our neck and harden our heart, we shall be broken with a "rod of iron." We are in the hands of the Omnipotent; let us beware of folly and impiety.
4. Chastisement is a message from God. We should listen, We should learn what the Lord our God has to say to us. We shall find in the chastisement a command; it is for us to obey that command. We shall discover in it a promise; it is for us to embrace it.
II. ITS CAUSE. Always sin in some form or other. Sin is the only possible cause. God does not afflict us "willingly" or for his "pleasure," but for our profit. We fall into sin and he whips us out. So when a believer transgresses he cuts a rod for his own back. Is it God who chastises us? More truly, we chastise ourselves. Our sin puts the rod into God's hand. We cry out when we have hurt ourselves if we cry out when we are under the chastisement of God.
III. ITS BENEVOLENCE. It is sent in love. It is a good gift, not an evil one. God has not changed in sending it; he is still love. Here the special object of Divine chastisement is beautifully conveyed: "That we should not be condemned with the world." Many think that their afflictions will destroy them; the afflictions are sent that they may not be destroyed. We feel that we shall sink under our troubles, but they are sent that we may not sink. We cry out "Poison!" but it is "medicine," sent to keep us from being poisoned. God troubles his people now, that he may not trouble them hereafter. He smites them gently now, that he may not smite them then with the arm of destruction. They stand near the precipice and the rod falls upon them to drive them back. In heaven, perhaps, we shall bless God more for our earthly chastisements than for our earthly joys. Chastisement is sour to take, but sweet when taken. It is a nut hard and rough of shell, but goodly in kernel. It is the love of God transfigured into darkness by the black shadow of our sin.
IV. HOW WE MAY AVOID THE NECESSITY OF IT. "If we would judge [or, 'discern'] ourselves, we should not be judged." If we dealt with ourselves, there would be no need for God to deal with us. If we would avoid the chastisement, we must avoid the sin. If the cause be destroyed, we need not fear the effect. If the Corinthians had examined themselves, they would have avoided the irregularities of which they became guilty. They were careless, unwatchful, and so they fell, and when they fell they opened the door of chastisement. We may keep that door shut if we "walk with God," as Enoch did. The only way to escape the rod is to escape the necessity of it, and that is to escape the sin.—H.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Corinthians 11:3
The headship of Christ.
"The head of every man is Christ." It may be of the man as distinct from the woman that the apostle here speaks, but the truth asserted is one in which all human beings, without regard to sexual or any other distinctions, are alike interested. The relation in which we each and all stand to Christ, or rather in which Christ stands to us, is one that surmounts and absorbs into itself every other relationship. As the vault of heaven surrounds the world, and the atmosphere in which it floats envelops everything that lives and moves and has its being in it; so does the authority of Christ embrace all that belongs to the existence of every one of us, and from it we can never escape. The supremacy here indicated has certain distinct phases.
I. EVERY MAN SEES HIS OWN HUMAN NATURE PERFECTED IN CHRIST. Manhood is perfectly represented in him. He is the Crown and Flower of our humanity; its realized ideal, the Man—the complete, consummate, faultless man—"Christ Jesus." Not a development from the old stock, but anew beginning, the Head of the "new creation." The ideal of humanity, defaced and destroyed by the Fall, was restored again in the Incarnation. "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:47). Adam was formed in the image of God—a sinless, symmetrical, perfect man. But he lost the glory of his first estate, and became the father of a degenerate humanity that could never of itself rise again to the original level, however long the stream of its succeeding generations might roll on. Christ, the God Man, in the fulness of time, appears—true, perfect manhood linked in mysterious union with Deity, the "Firstborn among many brethren;" "Partaker with the children of flesh and blood," that he may "lead many sons to glory." We must look to him, then, if we would know what the possibilities of our nature are, what we ourselves may and ought to be. It is curious to note how different, as regards physical form and feature, are the artistic conceptions one meets with of the person of Jesus; what various degrees of serene majesty and tender sorrow they express. Some of them, perhaps, exaggerate the element of tenderness at the expense of that of power. They none of them, it may be, answer to our own ideal. And we conclude that it is vain to think of representing upon canvas the mingled splendours—the heavenly lights and earthly shadows—of that wondrous face in which
"The God shone gracious through the Man."
But we are scarcely in danger of error in any honest and intelligent moral conception of Christ. The glorious Original appears too plainly and luminously before us. "Behold the Man!"—the consummate type of all human excellence. Do we really admire and adore him? Do we admire everything that we see in him; every separate lineament and expression of his countenance? Would we have all men, specially those with whom we have most to do, to be like him? Is it our desire to be ourselves fashioned at every point exactly after such a Model? This is involved in a true recognition of the headship of Christ over ourselves and every man.
II. THE SPRING OF THE HIGHER LIFE FOR EVERY MAN IS CHRIST. However we may deal with the subtle questions suggested here respecting the original constitution and prerogatives of man's nature, one thing is plain—that nature now has no self recovering power of life in it. It has in it rather the seeds of decay and death. "In Adam all die." The second Adam, the Lord from heaven, is a "quickening Spirit." In him the power of death is overmastered. Through him God pours into our being the stream of a new and nobler life, a life in which every part of it, both physical and spiritual, shall have its share (John 5:21; John 6:47-50; John 11:25, Joh 11:26; 1 John 5:11, 1 John 5:12). The Fountainhead of a blessed, glorious immortality forevery man is he. Looking abroad over a languishing, dying world, he says, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." And there is not a human being on the face of the whole earth who is not personally interested in this Divine revelation of the Life eternal.
III. THE SUPREME LAW FOR, EVERY MAN IS CHRIST. We are all necessarily under law. It is not a question as between law and no law that has to be decided. The question is—What shall be the law that we voluntarily recognize? What shall be the nature of the governing force to which we yield ourselves? Shall it be true, righteous, beneficent, Divine? or shall it be false, usurping, fatal, Satanic? There is no middle course. God would have us make our own free, unfettered choice. Our whole daily life is actually a choice of servitude, and it is emphatically our own. The true servitude is the service of Christ. All holy law is summed up in his authority. He is the proper, rightful Lord of every human soul. He demands the unreserved allegiance of every man. His claims are sovereign, absolute, universal. They admit of no qualification, and from them there is no escape. As well think by the caprice of your own will to render your body superior to the laws of matter, to defeat the force of gravitation, to escape from your own shadow, as think to shake off the obligation of obedience to Christ when once you have heard his voice, and he has laid his royal hand upon you.
IV. THE REST AND HOME OF EVERY MAN'S SOUL IS IN CHRIST.
"Oh, where shall rest be found,
Rest for the weary soul?"
We scheme and toil to surround ourselves with earthly satisfactions, but the secret of a happy home on earth is that the spirit shall have found its true place of safety and repose. And Christ only can lead us to this. O blessed Lord Jesus, thou Friend and Brother and Saviour of every man, bring us into living fellowship with thyself!
"Here would we end our quest;
Alone are found in thee
The life of perfect love, the rest
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
"The Lord's Supper."
St. Paul had not been an eyewitness of the sacred incident that he here relates. Nor had he gained his knowledge of it by the report of others. He had "received it of the Lord." At what time and in what way this took place we know not, We may, perhaps, best attribute it to that remarkable transition period immediately after his conversion, the "three years" that he spent in Arabia and Damascus before he went up to Jerusalem and began his apostolic ministry (Galatians 1:17, Galatians 1:18). We can well believe that it was during that time of lonely, silent contemplation that the grand verities of the gospel message were divinely unveiled to him; and this may have been among the things that he then "received of the Lord." The simplicity of the way in which he describes the institution of this sacred rite is in perfect harmony with the simplicity of the gospel record. One can only wonder how it can have been possible for such an incident to be turned, as it has been, into a weapon of sacerdotal pretence and spiritual oppression. The too prevalent neglect of the observance has, no doubt, to a great extent been the natural and inevitable result of this abuse. The false or exaggerated use of anything always provokes to the opposite extreme. We may urge its claims on the Christian conscience and heart by looking at it in three different aspects—as a memorial, as a symbol, and as a means of spiritual edification.
I. A MEMORIAL. "This do in remembrance of me." "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come." Christ's own words set it forth as an act of personal remembrance, Paul's as a time long witness to the great sacrifice. Taking the two together, it appears as a memorial of "Christ and him crucified"—of himself in all the truth and meaning of his earthly manifestation, of his death as the issue in which the fulness of that meaning was gathered up and consummated. We may regard this memorial in its relation both to those who observe it and to those who observe it not; as a method of keeping the fact of Christ's self surrender vividly before the minds of those who believe in him and love him, and as a testimony that appeals with silent eloquence to a thoughtless, careless world. In this respect it resembles other Scripture memorials (Genesis 22:14; Genesis 28:18, Genesis 28:19; Exodus 12:24-27; Joshua 4:20-24; 1 Samuel 7:12). And when we think how easily things the most important fade away from our memories while trifles linger there, and sacred impressions are obliterated by meaner influences, we may well recognize with devout thankfulness the wisdom and love which ordained such a mode of perpetuating the remembrance of the most momentous of all events in human history, while, in spite of all its perversions, the simple fact of the continuance of such a sacred usage of the Church is a proof that it rests on a Divine foundation.
II. A SYMBOL. It represents visibly that which in the nature of things is invisible. Not merely is bread a fitting emblem of the Saviour's body and wine of his blood, and the breaking of the one and the pouring out of the other of the manner of his death; but the service itself symbolizes the personal union of the soul with him, the method alike of its origin and its support. It bears witness, as in a figure, to the deeper reality of the life of faith. It sets forth, in the form of a significant deed, what our Lord set forth in the form of metaphoric words when he said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man," etc. (John 6:53-58). And in both cases "it is the Spirit which quickeneth." Mysticism has thrown its false halo, its bewitching glamour, around these Divine words; and the sacred ordinance that would otherwise have made its simple appeal to the insight of the Christian understanding and the tenderness of the Christian heart has become mere food for superstition. But there is no Scripture warrant whatever for this. From the gross materialism of the Romish "Mass" to the subtler refinement of thought that regards the Lord's spiritual presence as being in some mystic sense inherent in the bread and wine, speaking of the sacrament being "administered," as though it had some occult virtue in it, a kind of spiritual medicament conferred by priestly hands, and "taken" by the faithful for their souls' healing,—all these shades of opinion alike substitute a physical mystery for a spiritual truth, and engender a superstitious faith that fixes its attention on the material emblems and something that is supposed to be true of them; rather than the intelligent faith that discerns the unseen Saviour through them, very much as we look through our window upon the golden glory of the setting sun without thinking of the transparent medium through which we behold it.
III. A MEANS OF SPIRITUAL EDIFICATION. Here lies the Divine reason of the memorial and the symbol. It is more than a "transparent medium" through which the soul may gaze upon the crucified Christ; it is a channel of spiritual influence by means of which the soul's fellowship with him may be deepened and strengthened. It accomplishes this end, not by any magic power that it may wield over us, but by virtue simply of the influence it is naturally fitted to exert on mind and conscience and heart, and by the grace of that good Spirit whose office it is to testify of Christ. We may be fully alive to the dangers that lurk in the use of all symbolic religious rites, the danger especially of attributing to the sign an efficacy that lies only in that which is signified. And we may see in this the reason why the rites of Christianity are so few. But what Christian heart can be insensible to the high spiritual value of an observance such as this? Moreover, the obligation is plain. "Do this," says our dying Lord, "in remembrance of me." May not such an appeal be expected to draw forth a ready response from any soul that has ever "tasted that he is gracious"? Its being the behest of love rather than the stern requirement of law, makes it doubly imperative, while the simplicity of the deed it enjoins makes it doubly efficacious as a bond of affection and a vehicle of moral power. We all know what a charm there is in even the most trivial memento of those whom we have loved and lost, especially if it be some object with which the personal memory is most closely associated by familiar daily use, some little thing that tender hands we can no longer grasp and a loving voice that is now forever still have bequeathed to us. With what a glow of grateful affection will the sight of it sometimes suffuse our hearts! How near does it bring the departed to us again! How closely does it draw us into sympathy and fellowship with their personal life! And shall not this be expected to be pre-eminently true of these simple memorials of our loving, suffering, dying Lord? The realization of this, however, must always depend on something in ourselves. The influence we receive from the outward observance will depend on what we are prepared to receive, i.e. on what we bring to it in the conditions of our own inward thought and feeling. It will never of itself create right feeling. Come to it with a worldly spirit, with a divided heart—cold, careless, carnal, frivolous, prayerless, or in any way out of harmony with the Divine realities it represents—and you can expect to find no uplifting and inspiring power in it. You are not likely to "discern the Lord's body." Christ is never further from us than when we desecrate sacred scenes and services by our discordant mental and moral conditions. But come with your soul yearning after him, and he will unveil to you his glory and fill you with the joy of his love. "Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup."—W.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Corinthians 11:2
We do well to boast of our freedom in Christ. It is a sign of the elevation of our religion above others that it does not need to drill its votaries by a constant discipline of prescribed rites, ceremonial shows, and verbal repetitious. It loves simplicity and spontaneousness, and the life which it fosters needs not to be guarded and hedged by minute regulations, but is developed in a chartered holy liberty. At the same time, Christianity has concrete forms, and the Church received at the beginning ordinances, or directions, to keep. The Apostle Paul had delivered these to the Church at Corinth.
1. They were different from the ordinances of the old covenant. The rites and statutes connected with animal sacrifice, distinctions of meats, regulations about dress and divers washings, were suited to the time in which they were instituted, and served to impress on the Hebrew mind great thoughts of God, of sin, and of righteousness, and to impregnate life in the house and labour in the field with religious suggestions. But with Jesus Christ a new era came. The restrictions and rites of the ceremonial law, ceasing to be necessary, lost their obligation. Moral inculcations, whether through Moses or through subsequent prophets, of course remained, and were enlarged and emphasized by the Master and his apostles. But the Church, after some struggle and sharp controversy, discerned and asserted her freedom from the sacerdotal and ceremonial ordinances by which the house of Israel had been bound.
2. They were not the traditions of Jewish rabbinism. Our Lord spoke strongly against the bondage into which the Jews of his time had been brought by "traditions of men," which had no Divine sanction, but had acquired, under the rabbinic and Pharisaic regime, a fictitious authority. Such traditionalism tended to weaken the honour due to the authentic Law, and its continuance was entirely opposed to the doctrine of Christ,
3. They must not be confounded with the traditions of later Christian origin. A tradition which cannot be traced to Christ or his apostles, and which is without support in the New Testament, cannot claim any countenance from this text. Alas! how Christians have become the servants of men and of prescribed usage! As the Jews have overlaid and burdened their religion with a huge mass of Talmudic and Kabbalistie traditions, so have the Greek and Latin Churches all but ruined their Christianity by admitting ecclesiastical tradition to a place alongside of Holy Writ in the rule of faith.
II. POSITIVELY. The traditions which the Corinthians were exhorted to keep were the instructions which the apostle, under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ, had himself delivered to the saints; and they had authority, not by coming down from remote antiquity and passing through many hands, but by coming directly from one whom the Lord had fitted and appointed to found Churches, and to set their affairs in order according to his mind and will. The directions specially referred to here had regard to the fellowship of believers and the worship rendered in the assembly of God. He had taught that the assembly was the true temple, wherein the Holy Spirit dwelt, and this temple was to be full of praise. The believers were to come together, not so much to pray for salvation, as to worship God their Saviour, and give thanks for the remission of sins and the hope of glory, Then the teaching about the Lord's Supper came in, for it is the centre and crowning act of Christian worship; and this had been ordained at Corinth by St. Paul. "I received of the Lord that which also I delivered [ordained] to you." So the apostle, while commanding the adherence of the Corinthians to his directions, took the opportunity to give more explicit instruction, and correct some abuses which had already crept into the Church.
1. The separation of the sexes, which sacerdotalism desires, was to be ignored in this service. Alike during the time of praying and prophesying, and during the Eucharistic Supper, men and women were to mingle together, because in Jesus Christ "there is neither male nor female." And yet a distinction between the sexes, in the interest of purity and modesty, was to be duly marked.
2. The precious feast of unity and love ought not to be marred by party spirit or by selfishness and excess. Irreverence and greediness might appear at feasts in the precincts of the heathen temples; but in the holy temple of God his redeemed should have discernment of the Lord s body, and a grave fraternal remembrance of him. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."—F.
1 Corinthians 11:18, 1 Corinthians 11:19
Words of evil omen.
In a good English dictionary, the term "schismatic" is thus explained: "One who separates from a Church from difference of opinion." The Bible makes no reference to an individual schismatic; nor does it apply the word "schism" to separation from the Church. "Heresy" is defined in the dictionary as "the taking and holding of an opinion contrary to the usual belief, especially in theology." Such, no doubt, is according to ecclesiastical usage; but the Scripture means by a "heresy" a sect or faction, not apart from but within the Church: "Heresies [factions] among you."
I. A SCHISM IS A RENT IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH, marring the enjoyment and expression of its essential unity. If a piece of undressed cloth were put to an old garment, a schism would occur. Not that the garment would fall into two parts, but that it would show an unseemly rent. A division of opinion among the people who heard our Saviour is called a schism; and the same word is used to denote the discord in the crowd when St. Paul appeared before the council at Jerusalem. The only Church of all those to which St. Paul wrote, which had schisms within it of such seriousness as to give him anxiety and call for animadversion, was the Church at Corinth; but by these he did not mean the action of parties breaking off from the primitive Church in that city, and forming rival Churches or separate denominations. They were parties in the Church dissenting or differing from one another. This will appear the more clearly if we mark the remedies which the apostle prescribed, viz.:
1. To speak the same thing, and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment. To speak the same thing was to exalt the one great Name of the Lord Jesus, and not to take party names, saying, "I am of Paul; I am of Apollos." And to be perfectly joined in the same mind—the mind of Christ, and the same judgment—the judgment of his Spirit, while it never precluded activity of investigation and discussion, certainly implied that the normal condition of the Church should be one of concord, and not one of countless variations and opposing views.
2. To keep the Lord's Supper as the apostle instructed them. The Corinthians were charged not to partake of the sacred supper as of a common meal, lest they should "come together to judgment." They were to keep the feast with reverence, and with discernment of the Lord's body. They were also to show brotherly kindness, not as partisans, but as brethren, coining together and waiting for one another at the festival of love.
3. To bear in mind the doctrine of the mystical body, and, as members therein, to have the same care one for another. To have schisms or alienations would be to separate limbs that had need of each other, and so to vex and impede the whole body of Christ. At the present day, wherever parties are formed in a particular Church with hostile feelings and a desire to weaken one another, there is schism, in the New Testament sense of the word. And wherever, within the Church general, or communion of saints, there is an elevation of party names, and a setting up of party or denominational communions, making the Lord's Supper "their own supper," there is schism.
II. A HERESY IS AN AGGRAVATED FORM OF A SCHISM, AND DENOTES A SEPARATIST PARTY OR A SECT. We read of "the heresy of the Sadducees" (Acts 5:17), and "the heresy of the Pharisees" (Acts 15:5). The Christians were charged with forming a new heresy or sect—"the heresy of the Nazarenes." It was in this sense, and not at all in the sense of heterodoxy, that St. Paul admitted that he worshipped the God of his fathers, "after the manner which they called heresy." The Jews at Rome, agreeing to bear the apostle on the faith or' the Nazarenes, remarked, "As concerning this heresy, we know that it is everywhere spoken against." Thus the term undoubtedly denoted a faction, not a mode of thought or form of doctrine, true or false; but in the Church it to from the beginning an unfavourable meaning. A heresy was a faction which carried out a schism to actual separation, and was animated in doing so by a proud, unruly spirit. Accordingly, heresies are classed with variances, strifes, and seditions, among "the works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:20). "A man that is a heretic," therefore, means, not an errorist, but a separatist. We do, indeed, read in 2 Peter 2:1 of "heresies of doctrine;" but the reference is to the conduct of introducers of strange doctrine as forming a separate party. "Many shall follow their pernicious ways." We have seen that direction was given for the prevention of schism. It was also given for the correction and removal of heretics. Titus was instructed to admonish a heretic once and again. If admonition failed, Titus was to reject or shun him as a mischief maker among brethren. We live in a time of great confusion. Church unity is misunderstood; Church liberty is abused; and Church discipline is relaxed—is, in some quarters, almost obsolete. Let every one look to his own spirit and conduct. As a Christian, you are a Churchman. Never join a sect or faction. Never lift the mere banner of a party. Belong to the Church of God, which was born of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. For actual instruction and united worship, you must be in some one particular part of that Church; abide in that which is in your judgment the best constituted and administered; but never take your chamber for the whole house, or any particular Church for the Church universal. Bear a brotherly heart and countenance towards all who love the Lord, that, so far as your influence extends, there may be no schism in the body, Deplore the existence of splits and divisions as an evil; yet remember that it evolves some good—"that they who are approved may be made manifest among you." Oh to be approved of him who knows what spirit we are of, and to be manifested as no heretics, but faithful members of Christ and loving children of God!—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 11:1
The limitation set on the following of good men.
"Of me, even as I also am of Christ." The apostle calls to the same personal following, without the qualification, in 1 Corinthians 4:16. This first verse of 1 Corinthians 11:1-34. should be the closing verse of 1 Corinthians 10:1-33., as it really completes the exhortation which is there given. "The apostle refers to his own example, but only to, lead his readers up to Christ as the great example of One who 'pleased not himself' (Romans 15:8), His own example is valuable inasmuch as it is the example of one who is striving to conform to the image of his Lord." Recall David's very striking expression in Psalms 16:2, Psalms 16:8, "My goodness extendeth not to thee [O God]; only to the saints that are in the earth," We consider—
I. THE IMPULSE OF SAINTLY EXAMPLES; or, expressed in simple terms, of recognized goodness in our fellow men. Distinguish between the life missions of talented men and of good men. The "talented" may seem to be out of our range, the "good" never are. The weakest, poorest, humblest among us may be "good." God has taken care to provide the saintly ones in every age. He sets somme such in every sphere of life. We all know of men and women better than ourselves who act on and inspire us. They exert these influences; they persuade us that
(1) goodness is beautiful;
(2) that goodness is attainable.
Then it is the bounden duty of all men and women who fear God and love the Lord Jesus Christ to culture personal character, become saintly, and gain the power to witness for Christ by a holy example.
II. THE IMPERFECTION OF ALL SAINTLY EXAMPLES. None of them are perfect and complete. It is human to err. All the saintly ones fall short of the full standard of humanity as shown to us in Christ. This point is suggestive of abundant illustration taken:
1. From Scripture. There is only one man mentioned in Scripture who even seems to have been perfect. It is Enoch; and we cannot be sure concerning him, seeing that the records of his life are gathered up into only one or two brief sentences. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, etc., are all frail, fallible men, whose very sides of goodness and strength are at times exaggerated so as to become evil.
2. From experience and observation. We know that those who seem to us most heroic and saintly are deeply sensible of their own failings and shortcomings, and we cannot have to do with them long before finding occasion for the exercise of our charity in relation to their conduct. Even the Apostle Paul could not permit us to make himself our standard. He knew too well what hastiness of temper sometimes overcame him, and how greatly he had to struggle with the body of sin. We can be followers of no man, if he stands alone. We can only follow a fellow man as he may be in some point a reflection of and suggestion of Christ, the manifested God. Consequently only Christ can be our absolute Exempler. We can be followers of him; we may put the whole force of our natures into following him; we may let no fellow man stand before him. Show that the enemies of Christ could have easily gained their end if they could have found a stain upon his moral character, a word spoken or a thing done which the conscience of mankind could distinctly recognize as unworthy of ideal manhood. None such have ever been found during the nearly nineteen centuries of Christianity. The things usually made into moral charges are abundantly capable of explanations that redound to Christ's honour, or belong to the mystery of his Divine birth and mission. But, while we admit that no man can be to us a full exempler, we may recognize that good men do catch measures of the goodness of the Christ whom they serve, and are examples for us so far as they are Christ like. It is possible for us to go a little further even than this, and admit a certain special and peculiar power upon us exerted by purely human examples, which, by reason of their very frailty, tone and temper and shadow for us, and in adaptation to our weakness, the over splendour of the Christly and Divine. It is most practically helpful to us that we may be followers of such a brother man as St. Paul, so far as he follows Christ and reflects the full Christliness with a human tempering suited to our feeble sight. Then it follows that what St. Paul thus is to us we may be to others.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:2
The Christly traditions.
"Keep the ordinances," or, as given in the margin, "the traditions." St. Paul had given in his ministry "ordinances" of three kinds.
1. Regulations for the government of the Church.
2. Statements concerning doctrine.
3. Statements concerning historical facts.
Illustrate the use and misuse of the term "traditions." Show that the traditions of Christ, in the sense of the records preserved, in memory or in writing, of his life, ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection, are the basis on which the Church is built. Christianity is not a revealed religious system, as Mosaism was. It is the revelation, in an individual man, of that divinely human life which was God's thought when God made man in his image, but which man spoiled by the assertion of his rights of self will, and consequent separation of the Divine from the human. All Christian doctrine rests on the ideal humanity which Christ exhibited. All Christian duty is the effort to reach and express that ideal. So Christianity is strictly an historical religion; and yet the historical is only the body which manifests to us, and sets in relation with us, and permanently preserves for us, the spiritual and the mystical. Then we ought to be anxious about the adequate remembrance of and knowledge of the traditions of Christ. Show how these are attacked and defended.
1. They are the walls that keep the city.
2. They are the body which manifests the life.
3. They are the material through which alone the spiritual can be apprehended.
Notice and duly impress two points.
(1) The fourfold care with which the Christly traditions have been preserved for us.
(2) The elaborate and precise way in which the apostolic teachings support the traditions.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Laws of order in Christian assemblies.
The subject dealt with in this passage is the appropriate conduct and dress of the women in Christian assemblies. That, however, was but a matter of present and passing interest, one standing related to the customs and sentiments of a particular age. Our concern is not with the details of apostolic advice, but with the principles upon which St. Paul deals with a particular case. "Every circumstance which could in the least degree cause the principles of Christianity to be perverted or misunderstood by the heathen world was of vital importance in those early days of the Church, and hence we find the apostle, who most fearlessly taught the principles of Christian liberty, condemning most earnestly every application of those principles which might be detrimental to the best interests of the Christian faith. To feel bound to assert your liberty in every detail of social and political life is to cease to be free—the very liberty becomes a bondage" (Shore). "It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Galatians 3:28) gave occasion. Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head" (De Wette). St. Paul gives advice which bears upon the maintenance of due order in the Christian assemblies. Taking this as the subject illustrated, we observe the following points:—
I. ORDER MUST BE BASED ON FIRST PRINCIPLES. Here on the designed relationship of man and woman. The new law of the equality of the sexes must be dealt with in a manner consistent with the earlier principle of the natural dependence of the woman on man. "Observe how the apostle falls back on nature. In nothing is the difference greater between fanaticism and Christianity than in their treatment of natural instincts and affections. Fanaticism defies nature. Christianity refines it and respects it. Christianity does not denaturalize, but only sanctifies and refines according to the laws of nature" (F. W. Robertson).
II. ORDER MUST BE ARRANGED BY CHRISTIAN PRUDENCE, which acts by persuasion rather than by force, avoids any over magnifying of little differences, and makes due allowance for individual peculiarities. Prudence can recognize that the preservation of peace and charity is of greater importance than the securing of order, and order may wait on charity.
III. ORDER MUST BE ADAPTED TO EXISTING CUSTOMS. No stiff forms can be allowed in Christian assemblies. Social and national customs and sentiments have to be duly considered. Illustrate from the necessary differences of administering the ordinance of baptism in different countries, or from the diversities of Church order in heathen lands that receive the gospel. There can be unity of principle with variety of detail.
IV. ORDER MUST BE ACCEPTED BY EVERY MEMBER LOYALLY, This is the condition of working together in every kind of human association. A man's individuality may properly find expression in the discussion of what shall be done; but he must sink his individuality in order to help in carrying out the order that is decided on.
V. ORDER BEARS DIRECTLY UPON SPIRITUAL PROFIT. It injures to have the Church's attention diverted to forward women. Order relieves the minds of the worshippers, so that full attention may be directed to spiritual things. In quietness, in rest of mind and heart, the soul finds the time to enjoy and to grow. Distracted by the material, due attention cannot be given to the spiritual. Illustrate from the anxiety with which harmony, beauty, and order were sought and preserved in the older Jewish ritual. Amid all those formalities worshipping souls could be still, and in the stillness find God.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:17-19
Sectarian feeling within the Church.
"There be divisions among you." "There must be also heresies [sects] among you." Distinguish between the divisions which lead to the formation of separate sects, and the sectarian feeling which may disturb the harmony and the work of a particular Church. The apostle refers not to sects dividing the Church into parts, but to parties and party feeling within an individual Church. Such party feeling tells most injuriously on spiritual profit and progress. "St. Paul must be understood as saying that, not only will there be dissension and divisions among Christians, but that some of them will go their own way in spite of the instructions both in doctrine and practice delivered to them by Christ's apostles." We may illustrate the sources from which sectarian feeling within the Church is likely to arise.
I. SECTARIANISM FROM SOCIAL CLASSIFICATION. Christianity assumes the absolute equality of all men before God. But so far as Christianity is an organization, it is bound to recognize and make due account of class distinctions. These become a constant source of difficulty, the ground and occasion of much offence.
II. SECTARIANISM FROM FAMILY DISPUTES. Within the same class there arise jealousies, misunderstandings, and heart burnings. The Church is too often made the sphere for the expression of such ill feeling.
III. SECTARIANISM FROM PERSONAL DISPOSITION. Such as that of Diotrephes, "who loved to have the pre-eminence." Suspicious, masterful, or conceited men are the most fruitful sources of Church dispute and division. The evil man in Church life is the man who "looks only on his own things, not on the things of others."
IV. SECTARIANISM FROM INTELLECTUAL DIFFERENCES. Such should never occur, because the true unity of a Church is its common life in Christ, and not its common opinion about Christ. The life must be always the same, and so it can be a basis of union. Opinions must differ according to variety of capacity and education. Impress that, if the causes of sectarianism cannot be wholly removed, their influence may be overruled by the culture of high Christian life and sentiment.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:23
St. Paul's claim to direct revelation
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you." "The whole structure of the passage seems to imply that what follows had been received by St. Paul directly from Christ, and that he is not appealing to a well known tradition." "The method of communication (whether in a trance, or state of ecstasy, or any other supernatural manner) does not appear to cause either doubt or difficulty to those to whom the apostle conveyed the information thus miraculously bestowed on him." Illustrate St. Paul's distinct claim to apostleship on the ground of a direct call and revelation from the Lord Jesus. If St. Paul had a distinct revelation on the matter of the Lord's Supper, we must regard it as a divinely instituted ordinance or sacrament. The verses following our text become for us an authentic explanation, given by the risen Christ, concerning his sacrament. We fix attention on the proofs that St. Paul had received a direct Divine revelation. Three points may be dealt with in illustration.
I. THE BEGINNING OF HIS CHRISTIAN LIFE WAS A REVELATION. See the remarkable vision and communication on his approaching Damascus.
II. THERE WERE TIMES DURING HIS LIFE OF DIRECT REVELATION. As at Troas; on the journey to Jerusalem; when in prison; during the storm and shipwreck; and as narrated in 2 Corinthians 12:1-21.
III. HE RECOGNIZED HIS KNOWLEDGE OF THE FACTS OF CHRIST'S LIFE AS DIRECTLY COMMUNICATED. He had no personal acquaintance with Christ; he was not dependent on the narratives of apostles and disciples, save in part. Christ told him his story by vision and revelation. And St. Paul goes even further, and declares that the gospel which he preached, the views of truth and duty which were characteristic of him, he received from no man; all came by direct revelation of the Lord. A special interest, therefore, attaches to the Pauline teachings.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:20
The Lord's Supper a showing forth.
Considering how much has been made of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper by the Christian Church it is remarkable that the passage connected with this text should be the only apostolic teaching we have respecting its observance. We have in the Gospels the records of the incident from which it takes its origin, but though we should have expected St. Peter or St. John to give us complete counsels for its observance, neither of them refers to it. St. Paul alone deals with it, and it is a singular thing that he makes no allusion to it when writing to Timothy and Titus, and seeking to fit them, and others through them, for their pastoral work. It even seems that, but for the accident of an abuse creeping into the Corinthian Church, we should have been left entirely without apostolic precedent or instruction concerning it. Our text, and the verses connected with it, contain hints of the way in which the Lord's Supper was then observed; indications of the kind of abuses likely to creep in; and teachings concerning those great principles which were to regulate its management. We can clearly see that it was then a meal, not a service; a feast, not a fast; a communion, not an administration; a means of remembrance, and not a mystical presence. Our Lord kept the ordinary Passover meal, and into one of the customary incidents of it he put a new and spiritual significance. Now, see what actually occurred in the early Church. Those having a common faith naturally sought fellowship together. The Eastern idea of fellowship is partaking of the same food together. In this way grew up the agapae, or love feasts, and these seem to have been observed in all the Churches that were founded. These agapae could easily be connected in thought with our Lord's last meal with his disciples, and on the closing part of them a special significance was probably made to rest. When Christianity touched Western life, the old Eastern agapae naturally dropped away. Feeding together is not so familiar a sign of fellowship in the West as in the East. So in the West a part of the meal was retained and became a sacrament, a service, and a mystery. St. Paul helps us to understand the special significance put into a part of the meal. It was a showing forth; but we ask—
I. A SHOWING FORTH OF WHAT?
1. Of a fact of history: the "Lord's death." Remember that St. Paul usually goes on to the Resurrection, as revealing the significance of the death. The Lord's death is shown forth in
(1) the substance of the sacrament—bread, which is crushed in the mill before it can become food; wine, which is trodden in the wine press before it can become drink;
(2) the form of the food in the sacrament—it is broken, and poured out. Impress the importance of keeping up the remembrance of this fact,
(a) as affirming the actual historical character of the Gospel records;
(b) as keeping for the death of Christ its central place in Christian doctrine;
(c) as renewing, on men's souls, the special moral influence of Christ, the life persuasion, the "constraining" of his cross.
2. Of a fact of faith: "Till he come." That is "shown forth" in keeping up the observance, and in the manifest fact that he is now sensibly absent. We declare that the only president of the feast is Christ, as spiritually present. The importance of showing forth this fact is seen in its
(1) testifying to the resurrection and present life of Christ;
(2) in its affirming the foundation of the Church to be faith, not doctrine, or knowledge, or experience; and
(3) in its renewing the Church's great hope, and witnessing to the reality and value of things unseen, future, and eternal.
II. A SHOWING FORTH TO WHOM?
1. To God; as assuring him that we value his great Gift.
2. To ourselves; as quickening our own feeling, remembrance, and spiritual life;
3. To our fellow Christians; as bidding them rejoice with us in the common salvation which we all share.
4. To the world; as testifying that the despised "spiritual" is nevertheless the "true" and the "eternal." In conclusion, show the value of symbolic helps in religious life, and the claim that rests on us to show forth Christ's death, if we have faith in him and the hope of his coming again.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:27
The special thought here is the evil of looking at the Lord's Supper as if it were a mere eating and drinking time. It is a symbolic time; it is a spiritually feasting time. It is a time when the wants and demands of the body are to be put wholly aside. It is a. soul time. He eats unworthily who stays with any bodily partaking of mere emblems, and fails to fill his soul with living bread—with him who is the "Bread of life." The following points are so simple and suggestive that they only need statement:—We eat, at the sacrament, unworthily;
1. When we eat without suitable remembrance. "The Son of man knew our nature far too well (to trust us without such. helps). He knew that the remembrance of his sacrifice would fade without perpetual repetition, and without an appeal to the senses; therefore by touch, by taste, by sight, we are reminded in the sacrament that Christianity is not a thing of mere feeling, but a real historical actuality. It sets forth Jesus Christ evidently crucified among us" (Robertson).
2. When we eat without spiritual insight, and so fail to recognize the holy mystery of the symbols.
3. When we eat without devout feeling duly nourished by preparatory seasons of quietness, meditation, communion, and prayer.
4. When we eat without thankful love cherished for him who gave his very life for us.
5. When we eat without holy resolves, to which gratitude ought to urge us. Impress the penalty of the unworthy eating.
(1) It is as if a man were really scorning Christ and putting him to shame.
(2) It is a piece of deception, for participation presupposes spiritual relations. The man who eats "unworthily" is guilty, that is, he is amenable to punishment; and spiritual punishments, though they may creep up very slowly and come on very silently, are fearful punishments: they are the hardened heart that cannot feel, the deluded mind that can perish in self deceptions.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 11:28
Moral fitness for communion.
Explain the Scottish custom of "fencing the tables" at sacramental seasons, that is, of guarding the tables from the approach of unworthy persons. There has grown up round the expression, "Let a man examine himself," a kind of self searching, as a Christian duty, which could hardly have been in the thought of the apostle. It has come to be considered the right thing that, at stated seasons, the Christian should subject his whole inner life, his thoughts, his views of truth, his frames of mind, and his varied feelings, to examination; testing them by the most familiar and admired models of Christian experience. Many of us know what it is to attempt this painful and difficult work, and perhaps we know also the heavy porosities which follow the attempt; the oppressed moods into which our souls get, the killing outright of all Christian joy, the morbid pleasure found in dwelling on the evil phases of our experience, and, above all, the subtle self trust which it engenders, until we awake to find that we have been led away from simple, childlike reliance on Christ to an attempted confidence in our own frames and feelings and experiences. St. Paul distinctly enjoins the duty of examining one's self, but if we take his counsel in connection with the circumstances and doings of those to whom his counsel was given, we shall see what was the sphere of self examination to which he referred. The evils which the apostle deals with are plainly the relics of the old heathen life gaining strength again, such strength as to imperil this most solemn Christian ordinance. There were class rivalries, one pressing before another; the rich were making ostentatious display; the poor were grasping at the best food; self indulgence, gluttony, were so manifest that few could realize the special religious significance of the closing part of the feast, the common sharing of the bread and wine of memorial. St. Paul, having this in mind, urges that a man must examine into his morals, his habits, his conduct, his relationships, and his duties, and gain a moral fitness for partaking of the bread and of the wine of memorial. We consider—
I. THE MORAL LIFE THAT IS IN HARMONY WITH HOLY COMMUNION. One important element of the Christian spirit is sensitiveness to the tone, the character, the genius, of Christianity. We ought not to have to ask," What is consistent?" We should feel what is becoming, what is worthy of our vocation. The cultured, spiritually minded Christian, who is "transformed by the renewing of his mind," finds himself resisting all wrong, disliking all that is unlovely, shrinking from everything that is untrue, and gathering round him all that is kind and lovely and of good report. His life he seeks to set sounding through all its notes in full harmony with the keynote of the gospel. But we should see that our moral life is to be tested by Christianity when that religion is at its highest point of expression, and that we find in the Eucharistic feast. We must test ourselves by the ideal which we imagine as realized at the Lord's table. Then we say:
1. That there must be a very clearly cut and marked separation from the larger social evils of our time.
2. There must be a firm stand in relation to the questionable things of our time, the things that seem to lie on the borderland between good and evil.
3. There is further required a wise ordering of family relationships, and an efficient restraining of personal habits. Our communion times, when the holy quiet is around us, when the fever and the bustle of life are stilled, and our glorious, pure, white Lord comes so near to us, bring out to view the stains of secret fault.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SECURING THE HARMONY BETWEEN THE MORAL LIFE AND CHRISTIANITY IS THROWN UPON THE CHRISTIAN HIMSELF. The question of supreme importance to us is this, "Will we let the Christ spirit that is in us nobly shape our whole life and relationship? Will we so fill everything with the new life that men shall find the Christ image glowing everywhere from us? Will we be thoroughly in earnest to live the holy life?" The old idea was, win the soul for Christ, and let the body go—the helpless body of sin and death. The truer idea is that we are to win our bodies for Christ, our whole life spheres for Christ. And the burden lies on us. God will win no man's body or life sphere for him. He will win them with him. God will help every man who sets himself manfully to the work. The sanctification of a believer is no accident and no miracle. The law concerning it is most plain: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you to will and do of his good pleasure." The responsibility lies on us of "putting off the old man with his deeds," and the responsibility lies on us of "putting on the new man." The goodness and graces of the Christian life are to be won; they are not mere gifts. Gentleness of speech and manner, lowly mindedness, meekness of self denial, tender consideration for others, glistening purity of thought and heart, strong faith, glowing love, and ardent hope; the inexpressible loveliness of those who have caught the spirit of Christ; the charming bloom—richer far than lies on ripened fruit—that lies on the word and work of the sanctified;—all these are to be won. We must want them, set ourselves in the way of them, wrestle and pray for them, put ourselves into closest relations with Christ so that they may be wrought in us by his Spirit. And communion times bring all these claims so prominently before us. Brotherhood, holiness, forgiveness, charity, mean then so much; and our attainments seem so few, so small, in the light of the ideal Christian life. Let a man examine himself; find his evil and put it away; find what is lacking, and seek to gain it, and so attain the moral fitness for sharing in the Holy Communion.—R.T.