Sunday, June 6, 2010

1 Corinthians 11 - Culture and Conflict

by Becky

1 Corinthians 11


"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."

That paragraph is how the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians ends and this chapter begins. It puts this chapter in perspective. The church at Corinth had members from many different people and cultures which inevitably led to clashes.

Two issues of conduct within the church are dealt with here - problems that led to disagreements and division within the church.

The first had to do with women and authority, the second with how to take the Lord's Supper.


The first part of this chapter, dealing with women and head coverings, is tough. I've been pondering it and praying about it all week! I've read lots of commentaries on it, most of which disagree in various points. There are still some specifics that I do not understand (like v. 10). It seems to me, though, that there are things that are clear. I believe that in the church in Corinth some women were flaunting their freedom in Christ, so much so that friction resulted. The principle of authority has nothing to do with whether or not we are equal. Verse 3 says: "But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." Christ IS God, but obeys Him, just like my fingers right now are obeying my brain in order to type this. Also, this passage deals with the relationship between husband and wife, not women and men in the church. Someone else's husband is NOT my head. Paul also points out that just as woman come from man at the beginning, so men come from women (v 9) and we are all under God's authority! Whatever the "covering" was, it was a symbol of the relationship between the husband and wife.

So what about the covering? This is what all the commentators disagree about! I can only tell you what my personal conclusion is. Paul speaks here as if this is a very clear issue. He says things like, "Judge this for yourselves, is it proper for a woman to pray with her head uncovered?" and "Doesn't nature make this clear?" (my paraphrase) Neither of those questions clarifies anything for me, which leads me to think that the question of a covering was an issue of that culture, that time and place. If, in any given culture, something is a red flag for controversy, then we need to return to the principle of submission to God. I am not to flaunt my freedom in Christ. I am not to offend others. My conduct in any gathering of believers is to conform to the culture in that group, so long as it doesn't involve sin.

The second problem the chapter deals with is that of the Lord's table. At that time people gathered for a fellowship meal at the same time as they celebrated the Lord's Supper. What was happening, though? People were greedy and gluttonous, eating and drinking as much as they could, without consideration for others - a symptom of the divisions in the church. They were arrogant. They weren't using the sacrament in a sacramental way - in order to examine themselves.

Paul points out that this is the LORD's supper, not theirs. Eating it together is a reminder that we are one body, not individuals who just happen to be gathered together to get what we can from each other. Jesus gave His life for us. The Lord's Supper is an act that reminds us that we have given our lives to Him - that we are not our own but were bought with a price.


We are not loners. I do not exist to serve myself, but to serve the One who gave Himself for me.

Is there some way in which you are flaunting your freedom in Christ within the body of believers you gather with? Are you approaching the Lord's Table with the attitude of "what's in it for me"?

This chapter makes it clear that we are ALL under God's authority. We are here for His glory, not ours. Serving others gives Him glory.

So commit this verse to memory and think about it as you go about your activities: "... Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."


Help us to give you glory, LORD, in all that we do and say and think. Help us to love others as You love us.
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