Thursday, March 18, 2010

Christ As God's Wisdom: Women's Role In Worship, And How To Partake Of The Lord's Supper: 1 Corinthians 11

Theme: Christ is God's wisdom...

2. For answering questions (7-16)
      C. About worship (11:2-34)

While verse 1 seems to belong at the end of chapter 10, verses 2-16 deal with the place of women in worship, and 17-34 with a proper conduct at the Lord's Supper.

The place of women in worship (2-16). God's order of authority is "that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ" (3). The reason for woman being under authority is because "the woman is the glory of man" (7b), "man does not originate from woman, but woman from man" (8), and because "indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake" (9).

Although a woman is under authority in her role in life, she is equal to man in her position in Christ (11-12; Galatians 3:28). This type of relationship is illustrated in the person of Christ. Although He is equal to God in position (Philippians 2:6ff.), He always submits to the will of the Father in His role and practice (cf. Hebrews 10:7-9).
 
As a result of God's order of authority, women should cover their heads when praying or prophesying. There is some difference of interpretation as to whether women should pray or prophesy in church, whether she must wear a covering (other than that of long hair) when praying and prophesying, and whether this practice of head covering is merely a local custom of Paul's day, or a principle of submission throughout the ages.

With regard to whether women should pray and prophesy in church, some think this passage indicates they may, since it seems to refer to this practice in the Corinthian church, and since the instruction seems aimed mainly at a proper show of submission in the exercise of these functions. Further, verse 16 seems to refer to the instructions about women praying and prophesying as a practice of "the churches of God".

Others think women are not permitted to pray, prophesy, or speak in church, citing the reference in 1 Corinthians 14, where women are to remain "silent", and wait till they get home to ask questions of their husbands. Also cited is 1 Timothy 2:11-12, "Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet."  

Those who hold this view say either that praying or prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11 refers to that which would occur outside the public worship service, or that the reference to women praying and prophesying no more endorses that practice than the following mention of gluttony and divisions in the church endorses those practices. They say the emphasis is only on the fact that it's insubordinate for a woman to pray or prophesy with her head uncovered.

With regard to whether a woman must wear a head covering, or her long hair constitutes a covering, some believe the long hair is given, lit. "instead" of a covering, while others point that verse 15 uses a different word for covering than do verses 5-6. Under the latter view, the point is that as hair represents a proper covering in the natural realm, so a veil represents a proper covering in the religious. 

Finally, there is difference of interpretation as to whether this passage is merely a local custom in the time of Paul, or a principle of submission for all ages. Some say this instruction concerned only the local situation in Corinth, that it is entirely a cultural issue, and is not binding on people today. Others point that the entire Bible was written in the context of local, cultural situations, and that to dismiss this passage on that principle renders the entire Bible irrelevant. Those who hold this latter view also refer to the fact that Paul's reasons were based on God's chain of authority (3), His design in creation (7-9), and the presence of angels in the meeting (10), none of which are based on contemporary social customs.

It seems clear from this passage, that women are equal to men in their position in christ, but should voluntarily show submission in their role and function, just as Christ is equal but submissive to God the Father.

Proper conduct at the Lord's Supper (17-34). Apparently, there were divisions and gluttony at the Corinthian's gathering for the Lord's Supper. Some were eating all the food and getting drunk, while others were coming to the feast and leaving hungry. Paul reminded them that the Lord's Supper was for the purpose of remembering Christ's person, saving work, and future return (23-26).

Since partaking of this meal in an unworthy manner could result in God's discipline (including sickness or physical death--30-32) he warned them to examine themselves before eating it. Much has been made of examining one's self prior to the Lord's Supper, and what this may involve. The context of the chapter, however, seems to refer to the attitude of those who had been divisive, or gluttons toward those who had left the supper hungry. This is supported by the summary instruction (33-34), "So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you may not come to gather for judgment."

The purpose of the Lord's supper is to remember Christ's redemptive work on our behalf, and His future return. Examining ourselves before partaking of this meal is not a time when we are supposed to afflict ourselves with guilt over our sins, but when we are supposed to make sure we have the right attitude and conduct towards our christian brother.

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