In 1 Cor. 11.17-34 Paul continues to write to the church in Corinth regarding certain aspects of their gatherings as a church. In these verses Paul addresses the problems the church is having with the Lord’s Supper. In the first century meals were often a time for people to bolster their pride and position in society. The rich did not eat with the poor; the Jews did not eat with Gentiles. These cultural practices had carried over into the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian church. People in the church were gorging themselves on food and drink while the poor were being humiliated and receiving nothing. While we, thankfully, do not struggle with these extreme issues today, we do easily lose sight of the significance and importance of the Lord’s Supper because it is something we do so frequently. In 1 Cor. 11.17-34 Paul reminds us about the significance of the Lord’s Supper as we see the Supper’s attributes and our required attitude.
- The Supper’s Attributes (vv. 17-26)
- The Supper Unifies (vv. 17-19). Communion is meant to be a unifying act of the church (1 Cor. 10.17). The church in Corinth was using it to bolster divisions in their ranks. In the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of the fact that we are united with each other in the Lord. As we do this together in faith it also helps to solidify our fellowship as a church.
- The Supper Humbles (vv. 20-22). The Corinthians were using the Supper to act in prideful ways and humiliate the poor. The Supper is meant to humble us by leveling us all before the cross. We are all sinners in need of Jesus’ sacrifice.
- The Supper Reminds (vv. 23-25). Paul recounts Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper as something that is to be done in remembrance of Jesus’ work for us. We remember, not just his death in history, but the salvation that is freely given to us. The Supper is a sign of the new covenant which points us to the wonderful promises God has made to us in Jesus.
- The Supper Declares (vv. 26). Paul tells us that in taking the Lord’s Supper we declare Christ’s death. As we take communion together, we proclaim the glories of our salvation to each other, thus encouraging each other in the Gospel.
- The Supper Anticipates (v. 26). We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. The Lord’s Supper also helps us to look ahead to the great wedding supper of the Lamb that awaits all who trust in Jesus.
- Our Attitude (vv. 28-34). Paul ends this section by encouraging us to come to the Lord’s Supper with an attitude of self-examination. Some in the Corinthian church had even died because of this! Paul is not saying that if we sin during the week, and we take communion, then we might be judged. Paul is warning against taking part in communion in an unworthy manner. However, the unworthy manner Paul describes is a prideful and arrogant attitude. We are meant to come to communion as sinners who are mindful of our need for God’s grace in Christ. We are meant to come in poverty of spirit, not pride and arrogance.
May the Holy Spirit use this passage in the life of our church as we continue to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.
Here are the discussion questions and order of service from Sunday: 1 Cor. 11.17-34 Notes.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan
1 Cor. 11.1-16 can be a difficult passage. This is the start of a section in 1 Corinthians that will address various issues relating to the public worship of the church in Corinth. Paul wants to see the church united in their worship of the Lord. One way in which the church is called to be unified is by honoring the differences and order that God has put in place, while turning away from the sinful and divisive differences that we create. God has made people different. He has made them male and female, and later we will see that God has also given individuals different spiritual gifts in the church. In 1 Cor. 11.1-16 Paul addresses the issue of honoring God’s order in creation regarding men and women. As this passage raises a lot of questions, we followed an outline that asked and answered 4 questions about this text:
- What is the foundational principle? Paul makes his foundational principle very clear in v. 3. Paul tells us that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Paul makes a similar point in Ephesians 5 where he calls wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to sacrificially love their wives. All Christians are called to some form(s) of submission in this world as we honor God. Submission is not inferiority. Paul makes this clear by telling us that the head of Christ is God the Father. We are saved through the submission of Jesus to the will of His Father. Submission is Christ-like; not ugly and oppressive. Whatever else Paul says in this text, he wants to make it clear that the church is called to honor this order in creation.
- How is Corinth struggling with this principle? In vv. 4-6 and 13-15 Paul addresses the specific and cultural way in which the church in Corinth was struggling with honoring God’s order in creation. He says that men should not cover their heads when praying or prophesying in worship, and women should cover their heads when doing the same thing. We don’t know all the cultural background of these practices. But it is clear that women covering their heads was a widely recognized cultural symbol of a woman’s marriage. This was a cultural symbol, but still very important. Paul does not dismiss it just because it is cultural. In fact, he says disregard of this practice was shameful. Paul is not naive enough to think that every Christian should dress exactly the same in every place and time. Cultures will have different ways of expressing God’s order in creation regarding men and women. We should be careful not to immediately reject things like this. It can create division and chaos in the church as it did in Corinth. We are called, not to ignore God’s created distinctions between men and women, but to honor them.
- What qualifications does Paul make? In vv. 7-12 Paul makes 2 important qualifications to what he is saying. 1) He says that woman is the glory of man. Men should never use the teachings regarding biblical headship to objectify, demean, or dishonor their wives, or women in general. The wife is the glory of her husband and should be treated as such. It dishonors God’s created order when men demean women. 2) Paul reminds us that both men and women are dependent on each other. After all, every man came into this world by a woman! We need each other. God has set things up in this way to remind us that we depend on each other.
- Where should our focus be? First, in v. 16 Paul tells us that our focus should be on peace in the church. Paul does not want sinful divisions amongst the body. When we come to worship the Lord we should come, not with the desire to draw attention to ourselves, but to serve one another, and honor the Lord. Second, Paul reminds us back in v. 3 that our focus should be on Christ. It is only by focusing on Jesus that men are reminded that their headship is a call to service and self-sacrifice. And it is only by focusing on Jesus that wives are reminded that their submission is a call to Christ-like humility. Focusing on Christ guards us from twisting these beautiful truths into something sinful.
May God use this text to equip us to worship Him together, men and women, as we honor our Creator! Here are the sermon questions and order of worship from Sunday’s bulletin: 1 Cor. 11.1-16 Notes.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan
Paul has been discussing the the broader issue of eating meat offered to idols since chapter 8 in 1 Corinthians. On Sunday we summarized a lot of what we have learned by looking at 1 Cor. 10.14-33 as a kind of map to help us navigate these issues. The issue of eating meat offered to idols was something in the early church that clearly had pagan or idolatrous roots. The meat people purchased and ate had often been used in pagan ceremonies. This meant there were certain practices that were off limits to Christians (such as joining in these meals to honor false gods). However, while meat offered to idols clearly had pagan roots, it was also used in other ways in society outside of its original pagan context (buying meat in the market, eating meat served to you by your hosts, etc.). As Christians we too have to think through many similar issues that have pagan roots, but are also at times used in a broader cultural context without any reference to those pagan roots (certain health and dietary practices, holidays, etc.). Here are the four considerations we should keep in mind when thinking through these situations as Christians:
- Beware Sin. In vv. 14-22 Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christians had no business joining in practices that overtly and clearly honored a false deity. Some Christians in Corinth seemed to think this was acceptable to do because false gods don’t really exist. Paul, however, makes it clear that all idolatrous worship is essentially demon worship. Christians should not join themselves to demons and should avoid practices done to overtly honor false gods.
- Avoid Unnecessary Objections. In vv. 25-27 Paul also makes it clear that while meat offered to idols had a pagan origin, the meat was also used in other ways in their culture. Paul tells the Corinthians that they should still buy meat in the market and eat what is put in front of them when invited to an unbeliever’s house, and should do so without raising objections. Paul says that context matters. Meat used in an idolatrous ceremony is vastly different from this same meat being used in the market or in hospitality. Christians do not have to feel like they need to investigate the pagan origins of everything when this context is not immediately obvious. Paul allows for freedom in these areas.
- Consider Others. In vv. 23-24, 28-29, and 32-33 Paul emphasizes the fact that we also need to consider others, not just ourselves. We should consider unbelievers and our witness to them as Christians. Paul says if an unbeliever offers you meat, and emphasizes the fact that it was offered to an idol, you should not eat it. In this case Paul wants to be careful not to reinforce the unchristian thinking the unbeliever may have. We also need to consider fellow-believers who may have consciences that differ from ours. We should be willing to limit our freedoms for the sake of others.
- Check Your Motives. In vv. 30-31 Paul reminds us that when we do exercise our freedoms, we should do so with the right motives. These motives are: gratitude and bringing glory to God. Sometimes we are tempted to exercise our freedoms with selfish or prideful motives, but Paul calls us to do so with worshipful hearts that seek to bring glory to God with our freedoms.
I pray that this text helps to guide us in thinking through these issues as Christians. May God grant you wisdom for His glory!
Here is the order of service from Sunday, and the discussion questions to help you apply this text throughout the week: 1 Cor. 10.14-33 Notes.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan
In 1 Corinthians 10.1-13 Paul cautions us against 2 dangers we commonly fall into when it comes to facing temptation. We examined these dangers together in Sunday’s sermon.
- The Danger of Pride. In v. 12 Paul cautions us to take heed lest we fall. In the verses leading up to this he recounts the long and sad history of Israel in the wilderness. Even though they had been delivered by God, fed by God, and led by God, they still turned to false idols, sexual immorality, testing the Lord, and grumbling against Him. This led to death amongst Israel, and most being forbidden from entering Promised Land. If Israel could fall into sin and temptation with all her blessings, so can we, if we do not stay vigilant. Paul warns us not to be prideful when it comes to temptation. We are not to think that we are so spiritually mature that we cannot be tempted.
- The Danger of Despair. In v. 13 Paul also cautions us to not fall into despair when we are tempted. All temptations we face are common to man, and the Lord limits our temptations, and always provides a way of escape. We may not always want the way of escape, but it is always there. We should never fall into despair when we are tempted by thinking there is no way of escape. Our faithful and sovereign God is always caring for, and watching over us.
May this text help us to stand against temptation with a humble confidence in our sovereignly faithful God!
Here are the discussion questions based on the sermon, and the order of service from Sunday: 1 Cor. 10.1-13 Notes.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan