1 Corinthians 11

God’s Revelation Regarding The Woman’s Place In The Home And Society

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head”. 1 Corinthians 11:1-6

1 Corinthians 11:1 seems to end the discussion of 1 Corinthians 8-10 by Paul saying, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

It was Paul’s aim to bring glory, not shame, to the name of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Paul said, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8:13

He also said that “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”. 1 Corinthians 9:27

Paul, by divine inspiration, reveals the possibility of both strong and weak brother sinning. The objective of the section is achieved.

The word ‘praise’, ‘epaino’, ‘to praise, commend, applaud’. This Greek word is identified as an active verb in the present tense which indicates ongoing action. As long as the Corinthians would remember all of Paul’s actions, 1 Corinthians 11:1 and ‘hold fast the traditions’ he would praise, commend, and applaud them.

When we get to verse 17 of this chapter he will say, ‘But in giving you this charge, I praise you not.’ Paul could not praise, commend, or applaud the Corinthians because they were in sin.

The word ‘traditions’, ‘paradosis’, ‘what is delivered, the substance of the teaching or instruction’. That which was delivered, 1 Corinthians 11:23 / 1 Corinthians 15:3 is the revelation of God, the Gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 / 2 Timothy 1:13 / 1 John 1:3.

The word ‘but’ is in contrast to the praise, commending, and applauding that the apostle would like to give to the Corinthians yet he will not due to their error.

Apparently there were women who had the gift of prophecy and prayed regularly, 1 Corinthians 11:5. Another problem is therefore revealed among the Corinthians. Their women were exercising dominion over men, 1 Timothy 2:8ff.

Christ is the ‘head’, ‘Kephale’ of man, used metaphorically as anything supreme, chief, prominent; of persons, master, lord: of Christ, the lord of the husband, 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Christ as lord of the church, Ephesians 4:15 / Ephesians 5:23 / Colossians 2:19.

The man is head ‘Kephale’ of the woman. Therefore just as Christ is supreme, chief, or master of the Husband and church, even so the husband is likewise master, chief, or supreme to the woman.

The ‘veil’, ‘katakalupto’ means to cover up, having covered his head, having veiled oneself. Generally speaking, among the Greeks only slaves were covered, and the uncovered head was a sign of freedom. The Romans reversed this. The free man wore the pileus, the slave went bareheaded. The Romans were accustomed to pray while they were veiled.

The Jews had the same custom, and we should not forget that Paul was originally a Jew. This veiling expressed reverence, the proper feeling of unworthiness to appear before God with an open face. Maimonides say ‘Let not the wise men, nor the scholars of the wise men, pray unless they be covered.’ The Jewish covering was called the tallith.

The Greek custom was to pray with the head uncovered. Even today the Jews cover the head, as a gesture of respect to God, the head is covered during prayer, either with a hat or a skullcap, ‘kippah’. Pious Jews wear a head covering at all times, recognizing God’s constant presence.

Two eras of history important to this study

1. Nicene time period.

Included historical writings from men such as Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement. These men, in their historical writings, all referred to head covering by women as customs of their day. Their hypothesis was that since it was customary for the woman to wear the veil in public for a show of modesty and subjection, they ought to wear them in the assembly of the saints as well.

2. Post-Nicene era.

Included historical writings from Ambrose, Jerome, Chrysostom and Augustine. These Post Nicene writers record a change in the custom of the day of wearing the head covering to being a religious practice.

From these writings it is evident that the wearing of the veil by women began as a custom of the society they lived in and eventually made its way into the church.

However we do not find in scriptures direct commands, necessary inference nor apostolic examples binding the wearing of veils on women of their day and therefore neither do we find binding authority for this practice in the 21st century.

What we find is the apostle Paul stating that ‘if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God’. 1 Corinthians 11:16

Obviously both men and women were prophesying in Corinth. The stipulations were that the woman was not to do so with her head unveiled. Why was this? Because the veil was a symbol of subjection.

Paul had just mentioned God’s order i.e. Christ, man then woman in rank. If the woman was to not wear her veil she was not showing subjection according to the customs of the society in which she lived. This was a general subjection to men and not a woman’s subjection to her husband.

If we examine this passage in juxtaposition to 1 Corinthians 14:34 we find that Paul cannot be referring to their first day of the week assembly here.

Women were not permitted to speak in the assembly, they were and are required to keep silent and learn at home, 1 Timothy 2:12. If she were to go against this custom she was resisting the customs of their society and showing a defiant attitude towards the man.

It was as shameful as shaving her head shaved. Here is a prime example of the fact that this is a custom Paul is referring to. Nowhere in the Old Testament or New Testament do we find laws forbidding the shaving of a woman’s head yet Paul says it is shameful for her to do so. Why Paul? Because society views a woman with a shaved head as ‘odd or shameful.’ This principle is brought about in Isaiah 3:16-24.

Here is the logical conclusion regarding the veil. If the woman will not wear the veil she may as well shave her head. If she would not wear the covering then why not shave off all of her covering (hair included)?

This is an interesting concept in God’s word because it is an incident that illustrates God’s displeasure yet not a clear sin against His divine laws.

The head-covering

At this point, Paul points out that, whilst he is thankful that the Corinthians have, at least to some extent, followed his teaching, they have a relationship to Christ, which no-one could make for them, and which no-one can take from them. There exists a system of authority which involves Christ Himself, and each male and female believer.

Notice verse 4. Paul states that, if a Christian man, were to appear in public worship, with his head covered he would be dishonouring his Head, that is Christ Himself, because he would be acknowledging that some visible person, some other person present, was his head and so he would be dishonouring Christ.

At the same time, he says, a Christian woman appearing without a covering on her head, would be saying that she did not recognize anyone present as her head and so, she would be dishonouring her head, the man as well as dishonouring herself.

The principle behind this teaching is that the Man does not wear a head covering, of any kind, because his Head, Jesus, is not visibly present. The Woman does wear a covering because her head, man is visibly Present.

In 1 Corinthians 11:4, Paul establishes the principle that a man praying and or prophesying, ‘forth-telling’, ‘preaching’ with his head covered, i.e., his physical head, dishonours Christ, who is his spiritual head.

For this reason, Paul states that a man must be bare headed when taking part in Public Worship. And, against this, no-one raises an objection, except the male Quakers, who keep on their hats during worship!

The position is completely reversed where the woman is concerned. Verse 5 can only be understood as teaching that a woman should have her head covered when she is in a service where prayer is offered.

What does the Bible say about the word uncovered?

Goodspeed Bareheaded New English Bible Bareheaded Schofield unconcealed head Concordant uncovered Weymouth uncovered Living N.T. Without a covering Good News with nothing on her head Knox Uncovered Van Hamelsveld Uncovered Dutch ontblooted Douai head not covered N.W. Translation head uncovered Philips Uncovered 20th century N.T bareheaded

Note: the New Testament plainly says ‘uncovered’.

Paul uses ‘head covering’ throughout this chapter. The word that he uses is ‘kata kalupto’ (to cover) and refers to something which conceals the hair, but not the face. The word for ‘veil’, ‘kalumma’ does not occur in the entire chapter, so this is not a discussion about veils!

Now Paul enforces this by using another example in verse 6. He shows the contrast between a law-abiding Christian woman and the woman who casts aside the covering. He points out that the only ones who cast aside the head covering were those who also had their hair cropped like a man.

They were the ‘women of the street’, the prostitutes who went about with the uncovered heads and cropped hair which proclaimed, not only their immorality and immodesty, but also their so-called liberty.

1 Corinthians 11:10 is another argument. According to the commonly held Jewish belief, whenever men came together to worship, angels were also present, and Paul refers to this in, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

He says that a woman who does not appear with ‘authority on her head’, that is, with the covering which proclaims that she acknowledges she is under authority, is disgraced even in the sight of the angels. Instead of being an example of obedience, she displays the contrasting Attitude of rebelliousness.

An appeal once again to God’s order of his creation. 1 Corinthians 11:7-16

“A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” 1 Corinthians 11:7-12

Though wearing a veil in public was a custom of propriety, the Lord took the matter seriously when it comes to the man. Here is what we know about the veil, head covering. The veil was an apparent symbol of subjection.

Secondly, to wear the veil brought honour to the woman and dishonour to the man, 1 Corinthians 11:4-5.

Thirdly, the man was not to be veiled because he is the image and glory of God. The woman was to be veiled because she is the glory of the man.

Man is both the image and glory of God. Genesis 1:26-27 states, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Man is the image of God by virtue of his spiritual nature, by the breath of God man became a living soul, the man endowed with free self-conscious personality possesses, in his spiritual as well as corporeal nature, a creaturely copy of the holiness and blessedness of the divine life.

Man is too the glory of God. As one who reflects the image of God, man has been given ‘dominion’ over all creation, Genesis 1:26. This authority over God’s creation is a reflection of God and his glory. Psalm 8:5-6 / Hebrews 2:6-8.

Within this creation of things subject to man’s dominion is the woman. She is termed the ‘help meet’ Genesis 2:18. After the fall of man in the garden, the Lord said to the woman, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

The woman is the glory of man as the man is the glory of God. This statement is examined closely in the next two verses. When therefore the woman wears the veil she publicly proclaims her compliance with God’s order of creation.

Paul continues to reason with the Corinthians regarding the veil. The woman is the glory of the man. The man has dominion over the woman.

Thirdly, Paul states that the woman is of the man and not the other way around. God created the man first and then He made the woman for the man and from man, Genesis 2:21ff.

Woman was made as a ‘help meet’ for the man. Again, God’s creative order indicates that it would be a shameful thing for a man to veil his head. The man who veils his head has not taken God’s order of creation seriously and likewise the woman who will not veil her head in subjection has not taken God’s order of creation seriously.

Notice that the veil is a “sign of authority on her head.”

The word ‘authority’, ‘exousia’ is power or authority to do a thing. Clearly the veil authorized the woman to pray and prophecy in public, yet never in the assembly of the saints, 1 Corinthians 14.

If the woman disregarded the custom of propriety she openly steps outside the area of God’s created order and is acting without authority. Paul uses angels as an example of those who do not keep their authorized places and the consequences thereof, Jude 6 / 2 Peter 2:4.

The word ‘without’, ‘choris’ means separate from, apart or aloof from, far from… independent of, without reckoning, not to mention, besides. Though the man ranks over the woman and each have their designated place assigned by God they are not independent of each other.

God created the woman because he saw that “it was not good that man should be alone, but for man there was not found a help meet for him.” Genesis 2:18-20

Man needs the woman and the woman needs the man. Neither one may now exist without the other. This relationship exists “in the Lord,” that is, by the Lord’s will man needs the woman and the woman needs man.

Clearly Paul is pointing to a divine sovereign decision made by the Lord. That sovereign choice was that woman would be the glory of man and serve as his help meet, helper, assistant, or aid to perform all the work of the home.

Though woman originated from man, man now comes of a woman through birth. God was the one who began the whole process and thereby Paul said, “But all things are of God.”

In 1 Corinthians 11:7-12 he introduces another argument. He points out that this matter of woman being under subjection to the Man is not merely a question of what was fashionable, or the custom, at that time, but that it has its roots in nature itself for He says, ‘for the man was not make from woman..’, and we should not ignore this fact.

Notice that he says that the Man is the glory of God whilst woman is ‘the glory of Man’. No thought of inferiority here! 1 Corinthians 11:10 in the synagogue woman played no part. Even her presence did not count towards the required number of 10 persons who were necessary before a service could begin. All 10 must be male.

Therefore in the Synagogue a woman had no authority. BUT, in the Church, in Christ, Paul says, a woman has equal standing with the Man and the head covering was a symbol of that standing. Again, there is no suggestion of inferiority.

So Paul says a man reveals his acknowledgment of the authority of Christ, by leaving his head uncovered in the presence of his head, Jesus, which is invisibly present. Whilst the woman reveals her recognition of authority by wearing a covering in the presence of her visible head, the Man.

We must not misunderstand what Paul is saying, or call him a ‘male Chauvinist’, as some does! He means that when Man was created, he was created by God to Glorify Him as a demonstration of His greatness, and to reveal HIS goodness. There was nothing that God made, which is as wonderful as ‘man,’ this moral, intelligent, rational being.

The order of creation, 1 Corinthians 11:8-10. Woman was created for man 2 Corinthians 2:18-20, woman was the first transgressor 1 Timothy 2:14, woman to be subject to man Genesis 3:16. Authority ‘exousia’ invested in the man. God said ‘Let Us Make Man in Our Image after Our Likeness’.

Man was created ‘like God’, he was made a moral, intelligent, rational being, capable of thought, speech, and virtue. And, in that sense, Man’s creation was God’s most wonderful creative act revealing God’s glory. Of course, it is also true that woman is the glory of God, because he made her also, but in a less direct way, because God made her to be the helpmeet of man, his companion, his complement, not inferior to him, but providing him with companionship, fulfilling a different role.

And so, she is God’s glory because she is the glory of man, and without her man cannot accomplish anything. This is what is in Paul’s mind when he says in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 that man’s very existence depends on woman.

“Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-16

Again Paul uses the word “judge” as he did at 1 Corinthians 10:15 to mean consider or reason with me. That which the apostle ask all to consider is whether or not it is “seemly” for a “woman to pray unto God unveiled.”

The word ‘seemly’, ‘prepo’ means that which is seemly, fitness, propriety. Aside from God’s order, Paul asks whether or not it would be in compliance with propriety and decorum of their society for the woman to pray without the veil. The answer to the question is obvious, no.

To this point we find that the woman ought to wear a veil in public when praying or prophesying to illustrate subjection to the man because: God’s order in creation puts man above the woman. Propriety.


The word ‘nature’, ‘phusis’ is compared to propriety. Phusis is defined as the nature, natural qualities, powers, constitution, condition, of a person or thing, of the mind, one’s nature.

In the context, it is apparent that the word ‘nature’ has to do with God’s order in creation, i.e., man is the head of the wife and the wife is in subjection to the man. Man is the image and glory of God whereas woman is the glory of man. Man has authorized dominion.

If it is a dishonour for a man to wear a veil according to God’s order then it stands to reason that it is a dishonour for man to wear long hair covering his head. The clear distinction between male and female must be apparent.

The idea of nature or the natural order of things is found throughout the Bible. Paul had appealed to the natural order of things at Romans 1:26ff. See also Proverbs 16:31 and many others.

A woman’s long hair covers her head and is thereby a ‘glory to her’ in that she exemplifies her role in life with joy. Her ‘hair’ and ‘a covering’ are equivalent. If the hair serves as a covering why should she be offended in wearing the veil that serves the same purpose?

Often the question arises as to ‘how long’ or ‘how short’ must the hair be on a man and woman. There is no standard length (i.e., a man’s hair must be no longer than 2″ and a woman’s 8”) yet we know that the opposite of long is short.

To be ‘contentious’, ‘philoneikos’ is to be eager for strife. Clearly some in Corinth would not go along with the decorum of their day because they were fond of strife.

To these Paul states that the practice of woman wearing a veil is not binding, it is simply a ‘custom.’ The word custom here is ‘sunethei’ in the Greek and means habitual intercourse, acquaintance, society, intimacy… habit, custom, habituation.

The word custom is defined as a practice followed as a matter of course among a people. This exact word is used only one other place in the Bible, John 18:39. Reading John 18:39 in its context will leave the reader with no doubts whatsoever that this issue of wearing a veil was only a custom peculiar to this time period and not ours.

We must, therefore, reject the binding of some brethren on women to wear veils. Even if veils were a matter of propriety in our modern day and age Paul said, ‘If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.’

1 Corinthians 11:16 is a positive, indisputable statement, as this quotation from Albert Barnes reveals, ‘If any man, any teacher or others, is disposed to be strenuous about this, or to make it a matter of difficulty; if he is disposed to call in question my reasoning and to dispute my premises and the considerations which I have advanced, and to maintain that it is still proper for women to appear unveiled in public, I would add that in Judea we have no such custom, neither does it prevail among any of the churches’

The Purpose of Coming Together as an Assembly

“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!” 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Again, the ‘charge’ has been delivered at 1 Corinthians 11:2. Paul could not praise, commend, or applaud the Corinthian brethren for the following reasons. The brethren assembled themselves together on the first day of the week for ‘the worse’ as opposed to ‘for the better.’

For the worse is represented in the factions that existed, 1 Corinthians 11:18, division between poor and rich, 1 Corinthians 11:21 and perversion of the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20ff. To gather for the better would to be an atmosphere of edification and glorification of God, Hebrews 10:22-25.

The ‘first of all’ begins the explanation of the Corinthians coming together for the worse of 1 Corinthians 11:17. The word church ‘ekklesia’ is here used as the first day of the week assembly during which the five acts of worship are conducted. Not all assemblies are the same.

Sometimes the brethren assembled during the week for Bible studies, Acts 19:9. As the brethren assembled together, there were ‘divisions’, ‘schisma’ that existed. Schisma is defined as division of opinion.

Notice that Paul had ‘heard’ this from other brethren, 1 Corinthians 7:1. Apparently so much talk was circulating about the church in Corinth that Paul didn’t know what to believe and what not to believe. He concludes saying, ‘and I partly believe it.’

Later Paul will give us instructions regarding the manner that we communicate about the state of others, 2 Corinthians 13:1. Such revealing of facts is solely out of love (care and concern) for souls.

The Greek word ‘dei’ for the English ‘must’ is used in 1 Timothy 3:2ff. Paul said the ‘bishop must be…’ giving all the qualifications. Dei is defined as needful, binding on one to do a thing.

That which is necessary is that factions occur among brethren. A ‘faction’, ‘hairesis’ is a taking, means for taking a place, a taking for oneself, a choosing, choice.

Within the body of Christ, those approved, ‘dokimos’ which means one who is of tried faith and integrity of God, in fellowship and those out of fellowship with God will be made manifest by their deeds and words.

The apostle John spoke of these saying, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they are all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19

Within the body of Christ there will always be those who do not follow the doctrine of Christ and those who want to form clicks looking down their nose at others as was occurring in Corinth. These collect together because they share the one mind as do the faithful children of God, Revelation 17:13.

Paul tells us to admonish these disorderly with longsuffering and patience, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, however, if they will not repent we must mark them and turn away from them, 2 Thessalonians 3:6 / 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

Here is an inference to what takes place in the first day of the week assembly, i.e.; the Lord’s Supper is taken. Paul states; however, that at this assembly, “it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper.”

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:26ff. This supper is to be partaken every first day of the week, Acts 20:7 because each week has a first day, Exodus 20:8.

Why was it not possible? “For in your eating each one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry, and another drunken.” The entire assembly had been perverted into some sort of feasting time. The picture painted of this church is truly ultra-liberal.

Brethren were bringing food and intoxicating wine and getting ‘drunk’, ‘methuo’. The word methuo is defined as to be drunken with wine.

It may be that the more affluent brethren had things to bring to the feast and eat whereas the poorer brethren had not and were therefore hungry. It is difficult to determine whether the Corinthians were physically drunk or drunk with pride over their welfare above others. Either case indicates a heart that is perverted.

Clearly we see here that it was not a function of the church or the assembly to eat and drink. The brethren were to eat and drink in their homes.

The assembly was for singing, Ephesians 5:19, praying, 1 Timothy 2:8, preaching, Acts 20:7ff, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, Matthew 26:26ff / Acts 20:7 / 1 Corinthians 11:23ff and giving as one has been prospered, 1 Corinthians 16:1ff.

To eat and drink at the assembly was to “despise the church of God and put them to shame that have not.” To ‘despise’, ‘kataphroneo’ is to think down upon, i.e., to look down upon, think slightly of… to regard slightly, despise… to be thought little of.

These liberal minded brethren took the church of God as a mere means of gathering people together for a party and thereby showed their disdain for the church that Jesus purchased with His blood.

Those who had little were belittled and shamed by the rich brethren in this party atmosphere. They brought their abundance of food early, ate it all before the poor arrived and refused to share, 1 Corinthians 11:33. This verse lends strong evidence to the metaphorical use of ‘drunken’. For this conduct Paul states, “I praise you not.”

1 Corinthians 11:17ff. Christ is in the midst of the church. On the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord himself says, in Matthew 18:20, ‘Where two or three are gathered together into my name, there am I in the midst’.

In the Upper Room, John 20:19, Jesus is Central to our worship, like the sacrificial Passover Lamb. Jesus is the Reason for our being present each Lord’s Day. Not once a month, not quarterly, not annually, as with the so-called ‘Witnesses’ but every first day of the week. And Jesus keeps His promise. If we come together in the right spirit and for the right purpose, if we gathered into His Name; He will be here and He will not come without blessing.

The early Christians recognised this, because the central act in their Worship was the breaking the bread and the drinking of the cup which spoke of his Body and His blood. This is the wonderful thing about the Lord’s Supper.

Were it not for the fact that Jesus came and died, we should not be Meeting together. We remember a Jesus who bore our sins. Who suffered the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God.

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

By divine revelation Paul received instructions regarding the Lord’s Supper and delivered these teachings to the disciples, Galatians 1:11-12. The very night that Judas would betray the Lord with a kiss, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, Matthew 26:26ff. The bread that Jesus took was unleavened, Exodus 12:15ff / Matthew 26:1 / Matthew 26:17.

A prayer was said to God by Jesus on behalf of the unleavened bread, He broke it, and then gave the reason for the disciples partaking of it.

Note that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper today we do not have Christ saying a prayer for us and neither do we have Christ actually breaking the bread for us. The bread was a representation of Christ body, not the literal body. The sacrificial body of Jesus was and is “for you,” Hebrews 10:1.

The body and blood of Jesus served as a perfect Passover lamb that would provide a way of God’s wrath to pass over a sinful people, 1 Corinthians 5:7. A memorial of remembrance is to take place each and every first day of the week.

The word ‘remembrance’, ‘anamnesis’ is a calling to mind, recollection. Brethren were to assemble each first day of the week and partake of the Lord’s Supper to recall what Jesus did on the cross.

The content of the cup is a representation of the new covenant in my (Jesus’) blood. The cup itself was not drank and neither does the cup itself equal the new covenant. As the cup represents the blood of Christ so the cup represents the new covenant.

After Jesus broke the bread and passed the loaf around, He passed the cup of wine around stating “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of Sins.” Matthew 26:28.

Blood was to be shed that the new covenant, Law of Christ, be made effective, Isaiah 2:3 / Jeremiah 31:31 / Hebrews 9:13-22. As the bread was not the literal body of Christ, even so the fruit of the vine was not the literal blood of Jesus.

These emblems were to be taken to “remember” what Christ did on the cross that the new covenant would be effective. “As often” would be every first day of the week until the Lord comes again or we die. To ‘proclaim’, ‘kataggello’ “the Lord’s death” is to make a “proclamation”. When the saint partakes of the Lord’s Supper, he makes a public proclamation of faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. This shall be done until we die or “till he come.”

We are drawn together because of our belief in his atoning work. And Because He said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me!’ Jesus wants us to remember Him, not as the World professes, every 25th of December, to remember His birth in Bethlehem but rather remember His death for our sins.

Paul says ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim The Lord’s Death, until he comes’. Notice that you proclaim, the Greek text says ‘you tell again’, His death, you repeat the story of His death.

But the World is not really interested in the death of Christ. It would Much rather think about his birth. It would prefer to look at a Cradle, rather than at a Cross! Because a birth is a far happier event.

There is joy and happiness when the birth of a child is announced but the sight of a Man dying on Cross is something quite different, because it remind us of the Sin, our sin which made His death necessary. And if there is one thing that we do not care to be reminded of, it is the fact that we are sinners!

Such a message is disturbing and makes us feel uncomfortable, but, as Christians, we meet here this morning to remember the One Who died for us. Our gratitude to the Lord for what He has done for us makes coming here today, not a burden, or a duty, but a privilege and a joy,

Any Christian, or professing Christian who finds it difficult to prepare himself to come and sit at the Lord’s Table in response to the Lord’s request, should take a good look at himself, because he is spiritually sick and in real danger of dying spiritually.

But for those who appreciate that the Death of Jesus created the church, the situation is different. They realize that they cannot live without this fellowship, and, they will say with the hymn writer, ‘Remember thee? Thy death, thy Pain, our hearts! Sad load to bear? Ah! Memory, leave no other name, than His recorded there’.

Abuses at the Lord’s Supper

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-32

Something was happening at Corinth which we could not imagine happening in the Church today and certainly we would not tolerate. The Lord’s Supper was being degraded to the level of a social party at which people were becoming intoxicated.

We might even go so far as to say that things were happening among the Corinthian Christians which no respectable Greek would have tolerated in his own home, and which Paul certainly found shocking, in spite of his statement in 1 Corinthians 11:1.

The guilds

In Greek cities there were guilds similar to the Trade-Guilds which were known in this country centuries ago, and which babe left us with Guild Halls in some of our major cities. Each guild, or society had its patron, one or other of the gods, just as the medieval guilds in this country had their Patron Saints.

Also common in those days was the practice of people joining themselves together in associations or societies in a social way, because the Greeks attached great importance to this kind of social life. These guilds and societies used to meet for a feast once a month, or each week, or if circumstances made it possible, even every day.

These occasions were similar to the fellowship meals held my modern congregations, and, indeed, the idea was good, because the act of eating together was intended to foster the spirit of brotherhood and friendship, and, what was very important, when the members met around the Table they met as equals, with equal privileges.

Obviously, this was commendable, because both rich and poor belonged to these Societies, and, when they met to hold a Feast, the members each contributed food to the common table, according to his ability.

The wealthy were able to bring much, whilst the poor contributed their little, and, as they pooled their resources in this way the poor were able to enjoy a good meal with the rest, without being made to feel they were accepting charity and without being embarrassed.

The Corinthian Christians had taken over this practice, though they gave it another name. Among the Greeks, that meal was known as an Eranos whilst, in the early Church, it was called ‘ho Agape’, the Love Feast.

No doubt it began with the very best of intentions, no doubt also, the first Fellowship Meals, i.e., ‘Love Feasts’, were highly successful and promoted a wonderful spirit of brotherhood and closeness among the early Christians.

However, as so often happens in arrangements which are devised by human wisdom without a direct command from the scriptures to support them, it was probably not very long before the ‘Agape’ was being so greatly abused that it became a mockery to call it a ‘love-feast’, and was doing more harm than good.

The early Christians used to meet on the ‘First day of the week’ for this meal, and, in some places, they apparently celebrated it as a prelude to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. In other words, they had the ‘Agape’ meal first, and then stayed together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

If we could have asked them for their reason for doing it this way, they would probably have pointed to the fact that, in the Upper Room, Jesus and his disciples first had a meal together, the Jewish Passover meal, after which Jesus instituted the Christian celebration, the Lord’s Supper. But, things began to go sadly and tragically wrong.

The Fellowship Meal was being so greatly abused, that when it came to celebrating the Supper of the Lord, the memorial meal was turned it into a shameful mockery.

Paul mentions three things that had gone wrong

1. Some took food only for themselves which resulted in some eating and drinking to excess, whilst others remained hungry.

In other words, the idea of fellowship was lost, because they had separated themselves into groups, created a chasm between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, the rich with their own meals, eating to excess, whilst the poor were not being allowed to share and were being left hungry, and, no doubt, feeling excluded.

So, the event which was designed to stress unity and promote a sense of brotherhood in the church, was actually promoting and emphasizing class distinction.

2. Not only was each eating his own food, but, the inference is that the wealthy were beginning their own supper, without waiting for their brethren. Were they afraid of being asked to share it?

3. And, what must be regarded as the most shameful occurrence, some were drinking so heavily at their so-called ‘love feast’ that they were proceeding to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a drunken state.

Now, against this background it is not surprising that Paul tells the Corinthians, ‘I am not praising you! You do not come together for the better but for the worse.’ He says, ‘In the way in which you are behaving IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO EAT THE LORD’S SUPPER!’

Have you ever thought why we call it the Lord’s SUPPER when we celebrate it on Lord’s Day MORNING? Surely, morning is the time for Breakfast! But this is a SUPPER!

I might point put that some religious groups have taken this word supper, so literally, that they have insisted on an evening celebration of the feast.

But it is called a supper because the word suggests the main meal of the day and that is how the supper was regarded in that age. The main meal. The most important meal. The meal at which you were most likely to meet your friends and relatives in fellowship.

The Greeks knew nothing of the proverbial ‘English Breakfast’. Their breakfast was more like the frugal ‘Continental breakfast’ about which British holiday-makers overseas speak of with such disappointment.

They would ‘breakfast’ on just a piece of bread dipped in wine, and the mid-day meal was little better. It was more like office-workers sandwich-lunch, eaten in the street, or in a park, or anywhere that happened to be convenient. It was certainly not a formal meal, But the supper was something quite different.

People came together and they sat down intending to enjoy their fellowship at the Table, treating the occasion rather like the French or the Italians treat a main meal today. It was something to be lingered over, and not just for the food they ate but also for the fellowship they enjoyed.

You can see then, why the New Testament speaks of this simple meal as the Lord’s SUPPER. The destination not only stresses its importance, but also the fellowship.

Personally, I have been saddened when I have visit congregations where the actual supper is hurried through, sometimes with scarcely a word being spoken, so that the preacher may have more time for the sermon.

It is a sad fact that in some places they have developed this practice because they unthinkingly, perhaps, regard the preaching as the most important event in the service.

Obviously, I am not saying that we should deliberately, extend the time spent around the actual table. Indeed, we should avoid falling into the error of thinking that we should take to take up a long time talking at the table, or should find something to talk about.

This, also, can be distracting and detract from the beauty of the feast. We should never rush through the Feast, but proceed with reverence and respect, and allow it to take as much time as is necessary.

It is a fellowship and it is wonderful how, when Christians meet around the Table, race and colour and language and class are irrelevant and forgotten. This is as it ought to be. Any congregation that maintains the sort or class distinction that was seen at Corinth is not a true Church of the Lord Jesus.

A true church, is, after all, a body of men and women who are united to one another because they are individually united to Christ. But, as I have already said, at Corinth, more harm than good was being done, and Paul says, ‘If all you think about is having a good meal, then your congregational LOVE FEASTS should STOP! STAY AT HOME AND EAT’.

Of course, this was directed at the wealthy members, who were guilty of this abuse. They had establishments of their own, houses of their own, where they could conveniently have a meal, without embarrassing anyone. On the other hand, those -poorer brethren, probably from the slave-class, had no such convenient facilities available to them.

Paul then finds it necessary to repeat his teaching concerning the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:23, teaching which he has given to them earlier, no doubt during the 18 months during which he stayed with them in Corinth.

I say ‘repeat’, because he speaks of ‘that which I also delivered to you’. They have evidently forgotten what they have been taught so he reminds them.

Now, the verses which follow are significant for several reasons

l. This is the earliest New Testament account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

It was written before Matthew Mark or Luke, wrote the Gospel narratives which bear their names.

2. In 1 Corinthians 11:24 we have the earliest account of the actual words of Jesus.

That is, this is the first record of anything that Jesus ever said. Notice how Paul attempts to impress these thoughtless and irreverent Corinthians, with the solemnity of the Supper.

1. He tells them that he received it from the Lord Himself, probably during that time of which he speaks in Galatians 1:11-12, ‘For I make known to you brethren as touching the Gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.’

2. It was in the night in which He was betrayed that He instituted it.

Paul might simply have said that it was before the Lord’s arrest that He instituted it. Or even, that it was before He was crucified. But no! He says ‘in the night in which He was betrayed’, and perhaps implies that, when Christians abuse or neglect the Lord’s Supper as the Corinthians were doing, they also are guilty of Betrayal.

Notice that 1 Corinthians 11:24 stresses that this is A Feast of Remembrance but 1 Corinthians 11:26 also points out that it is a Proclamation. Of Witness and Testimony. ‘You proclaim.’

He uses a word which literally means, according to Professor F. F. Bruce, ‘You tell again’: Or, ‘You show forth the Lord’s death’.

In fact, I heard him say that he believed that at the Lord’s Table, week by week, the early Christians retold the story of the Lord’s Death, burial and Resurrection.

It was a story that they never tired of telling! And they never became used to hearing it! Familiarity did not cheapen it, or rob it of its meaning for them. And because it was a Proclamation, they did not do what has sometimes been done in this country; they did not discourage non-Christians from being present to witness the feast.

It is true and there can be no doubt about it that the Lord’s Table is in the Lord’s House and is meant for those who are the Lord’s people, and that unless a man has given his heart to Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Supper can have no real meaning to him.

The result it that sometimes, in the British Isles, we have seen congregations discourage non-Christians from even attending the Lord’s Day morning service, perhaps fearing that these strangers might partake of the supper by mistake.

Well, the intention may be to protect the Table from those who have no proper place there but I think it is a well meant intention which is a mistake, because when Christians meet around this table and the story of his death and resurrection, and His Return is told again, it constitutes a most powerful proclamation of the Gospel.

One lady hymn writer wrote a hymn which says, ‘No gospel like this feast, Spread for thy church by Thee. No teacher nor evangelist, Preach the glad news so free’.

Those brethren in Corinth who turned the Lord’s Supper into a common meal served with drunken pride partook in an ‘unworthy manner’, ‘anaxios’. Anaxios is defined as unworthy, not deemed or held worthy of, worthless.

The brethren in Corinth treated the Lord’s Supper as though it were “worthless” by the manner in which they partook. Clearly they were not remembering the Lord’s blood and body sacrifice.

Such condition of heart makes one “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” The word ‘guilty’, ‘enochos’ is held in, i.e., liable to, subject to, liable to the penalty of death. Clearly Paul states that to partake of the Lord’s Supper in such a way is sinful, Romans 6:23.

One is spiritually dead while doing so. Christ died for the remission of the sins they were now committing and thereby they are guilty of the Lord’s body and blood. The context so far indicates a perversion of the Lord’s Supper by the Corinthians by treating it as a common meal served with intoxicating pride.

Secondly, such treatment of the serious nature of the LS deemed their efforts as “unworthy”, worthless. Such sinful worship to God is deemed worthless to the Lord, Isaiah 1:11ff.

Thirdly, their efforts are termed sinful and they were guilty before the Lord for such superficial manner in which they partook. Paul’s efforts are directed toward getting the Corinthians to see their error.

One who would partake of the Lord’s Supper is to ‘prove’ himself before he eats and drinks the emblems. To ‘prove’, ‘dokimazo’ is to assay or test metals, to see if they be pure, of persons, to put to the test, make trial of, scrutinize, then, to approve.

One who would partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner receives “judgment” upon himself because he is in sin. The word ‘judgment’, ‘krima’ is a sentence of condemnation. Without repentance, Paul’s audience was doomed.

Now Paul clearly states the issue of sin and manner of unworthiness on the part of the partaker. One who does not ‘discern’ the body and blood of Jesus partakes in an unworthy manner.

To ‘discern’, ‘diakrino’ is to separate one from another: to part combatants, to part and join different parties, to distinguish.

The brethren who would not make a clear distinction between the body and blood of Jesus and a common meal were guilty! When one partakes of the Lord’s Supper, he is to “remember” the body and blood of Jesus and not treat it as though he were taking a snack, they had their homes to do that in. Whether that remembrance is done with one or two cups matters not. What matters is the remembrance of the body and blood.

“For this cause” undoubtedly points back to the “judgment” of condemnation against the guilty one who partakes of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner by not making a distinction between the body and blood of Jesus and a common meal.

Paul states that the consequence of such action is that many brethren are “weak, sickly and not a few sleep.” By partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner the Corinthians portrayed themselves to be spiritually weak and sick the end result without prayer and repentance is spiritual death. Physical illness and death have no part in this verse.

Once again Paul admonishes the brethren to ‘discern’, ‘diakrino’ ourselves. 1 Corinthians 11:29 commanded a ‘diakrino’, make a distinction of the body and blood of Jesus and a common meal.

Here, Paul commands a distinction to be made of ourselves before partaking to avoid sin. Making the proper distinction of the body and blood of Jesus avoids the consequential condemnation of sin, to be ‘judged’, ‘krino’.

To be judged is to not discern ourselves and thereby partaking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy fashion. Such a state of condemnation leads us to “chastening of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”

The word ‘chastening’, ‘paideuo’ is to bring up or rear a child, to train, teach, educate, to correct, discipline, to chastise, punish.

The statement means that the Lord either educates the sinner through the process or the sinner is punished in some manner through the process.

It seems to me that when we sin, the word of God points out to us our sin by our own study or by means of a caring brother and thereby we are “educated.”

We are moved to repent through this knowledge and thereby spared the “condemnation of the world.” 1 John 2:15-17. I see no discipline or punishment in this context.

Where does the word of God say that we are punished or disciplined with each occurrence of our sin? We are not punished or disciplined now but will be without education, confession and repentance, Hebrews 4:11-12.

“So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.” 1 Corinthians 11:33-34

In light of the thought that I can be condemned by my not discerning the body and blood of Jesus and turning the Lord’s Supper into a common meal Paul admonishes all to wait for each other.

Earlier they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper as though it were a common meal and not waiting upon each other to partake. Paul now admonishes the assembly to come together for the purpose of partaking the Lord’s Supper properly discerning the body and blood of Jesus.

Does this mean that the saints can only serve the Lord’s Supper one time on Sunday (at a time when we have all waited for all else to be present? Clearly the waiting has to do with the wealthy purposely assembling at times unknown to the poor and having their great feast because they felt higher than the poor saints.

This does not address the issue of time nor frequency of the Lord’s Supper. Time and frequency served is thereby a liberty of the Christian. The general command to partake is given and we are left at liberty as to what time of day to do so on the first day of the week.

We can conclude by inference that the Corinthian brethren had a place of assembly away from the home. The home was the place for common meals. Brethren were admonished to not partake of common meals at the assembly!

There is purpose in this verse. A purpose for the first day of the week assembly was spiritual not social. To turn the assembly into a social or recreational atmosphere is to fall under the condemnation of sin.

Apparently there were other errors associated with the Corinthian’s partaking of the Lord’s Supper because Paul said “when I come I will give further directions.” What these other errors are we are not told.

Summary of 1 Corinthians 11

1 Corinthians 11:1 ends the discussion of 1 Corinthians 6-10 regarding liberties and matters of expedience. Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Paul’s aim was always to bring glory, not shame, to the name of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31. Paul said, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8:13.

If the Corinthians and all Christians today would follow the example of Paul we would save our soul and the souls of others.

The apostle now moves to another issue in the church at Corinth, i.e., the role of women in society and the Lord’s Supper. An established fact in the Word of God is man and woman’s standing in the eyes of God.

The man has been designated ‘head’, superior or supreme of God’s creation, 1 Corinthians 11:3 / 1 Corinthians 11:8-9. Any woman who rejects God’s order in His creation is to understand the shame involved, 1 Corinthians 11:5-6.

A woman could have a gift from the Holy Spirit as did a man; however, she was not at liberty to express her gift publicly in such a manner that would indicate her liberation from man and God’s design for her. Both male and female cannot exist without each other, and each part must respect their authorized roles in society, 1 Corinthians 11:11.

Apparently some of the Corinthian Christian women had lost sight of their role and were liberating themselves from God’s order. It is possible that the stronger Christian women may have believed that they were at liberty to boldly display their gift. Paul reveals God’s mind on the matter.

A custom of this Roman-Greco society was to wear a veil to indicate subjection. Paul recommended that the Christian women wear this veil for propriety’s sake and thereby indicate their submission to men when prophesying and praying. One must understand that the wearing of veils by women was a simple custom of their day, 1 Corinthians 11:16 / John 18:39.

Propriety in our society today does not demand a veil to be worn indicating subjection. This being true, women nonetheless are commanded to illustrate God’s divine role of subjection in His creation. The woman must value the distinction she has from the man that comes from her hair.

The man, too, must recognize God’s distinction between male and female. A man who would want to appear as a woman is an abomination to God, and likewise a woman wanting to appear as a man is an abomination to God.

Moses said, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” Deuteronomy 22:5

Though customs change, the Word of God does not regarding the woman’s subjection to the man because of God’s order, 1 Corinthians 11:8-9.

Another problem discussed in 1 Corinthians 11 was that factious parties had formed, 1 Corinthians 11:18. A separation of the brethren occurred in the first day of the week assembly. One set of brethren came early, ate food, and drank in pride for the Lord’s Supper. Another set of brethren came later and had nothing.

The Corinthian brethren were ultraliberal in their worship to Jehovah God. Paul set out to refocus their minds regarding the seriousness of partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

When one partakes of the Lord’s Supper, he is “remembering,” 1 Corinthians 11:24 and “discerning” the body and blood of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:29.

One who partakes the Lord’s Supper without remembering and discerning the Lord’s body and blood does so in an “unworthy” manner, 1 Corinthians 11:27 and is guilty of “despising the church of God,” 1 Corinthians 11:22. Such a state of spiritual sickness leads to spiritual death, 1 Corinthians 11:30.

The remedy is repentance through study and understanding of the word of God, “chasten”, 1 Corinthians 11:32.

Paul concluded the chapter by reiterating that the nature of the assembly is spiritual and not social, 1 Corinthians 11:34.

Go To 1 Corinthians 12



"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

John 3:16