1CORINTHIANS 11:1-34 (NIV – UK)
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
On covering the head in worship
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head.5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head – it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 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.
7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice – nor do the churches of God.
Correcting an abuse of the Lord’s Supper
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 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. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 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. 22 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!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 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.’ 25 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.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 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. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and ill, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 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.
33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 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 instructions.
Paul moves now to issues of public worship – how we worship when we come together as a church. After addressing issues surrounding the particular traditions Paul passed on to the church in Corinth concerning head coverings (v. 2), Paul focuses on the Lord’s Supper – or Communion, as we regularly refer to it.
Firstly, isn’t it wonderful that 2,000 years later we are still celebrating the Lord’s Supper today, just as they did in ancient Corinth. But Paul wants to address a very particular issue with the way the Lord’s Supper was being celebrated in Corinth. When the church in Corinth celebrated the Lord’s Supper, it was more like a supper – with plenty of food and wine. It sounds like what was happening, though, was that the more wealthy people were bringing their own food, eating and drinking plenty, and not sharing it with those who had none (v. 21). They were serving their own interests and just using it as an excuse for a good knees up, basically! But that’s not what the Lord’s Supper is for. No, when we share communion, we come together as the body of Christ to share in his blood and his body (v. 23-26). Paul stresses, therefore, that we should examine our motivations when we come to take communion – are we receiving the bread and wine in a worthy manner (v. 27)? Are our motivations right? Are we truly there to have fellowship with Jesus and one another? We must put aside all our own agendas.
Coming together to share the Lord’s Supper isn’t about tradition or routine, or even an excuse for a party! No, as Paul says: ‘When you gather to eat, you should all eat together’ (v. 33). Sharing the Lord’s Supper is about doing it together. Sharing unity in the blood and body of Jesus – who gave himself and shed his blood for us. What a joy to be able to share in that together!
Questions: How often do you think about unity with your church family when you share communion together?