1 Corinthians 11 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine, and we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's Word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible, verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
The Lord's people gathered together once again around the table of God's Word-- the living room, I like to call this-- just us with our Bibles open. I hope you brought one. If you didn't, the ushers are going to come by and-- no, I'm just kidding. If you didn't, a friend of yours may have one to use. Or I think we still have them in the chairs in front of you. Do we? Great. So if you didn't bring your own, you do need to get one eventually if you don't have one. We can help you with that over in Solomon's Porch.
But we are in the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 11. So let's make our way over there and get ready for that.
Welcome to the first day of the season of Lent. It is called, in higher churches, Ash Wednesday. When I was a kid-- if you would have seen me when I was a youngster, you would have seen ashes on my head because that is the ritual in the tradition I grew up with. We call this, as Roman Catholics, Ash Wednesday. We-- I mean, my parents-- would call it Ash Wednesday. Catholics call it Ash Wednesday. Baptists know it just as Wednesday.
But it is the first official day of the season of Lent. And the idea of the ashes is to put a mark of contrition or humility-- really of death and humility-- that would get you ready in anticipation for the Good Friday event and then Easter, the Resurrection.
But, one man esteems one day over all the rest of the week; another man esteems all the days the same. So that's entirely up to you. But welcome to the season of Lent, as the Lord prepares our heart to celebrate the grand celebration of the Resurrection.
Now, I will say this-- we're in chapter 11, and I'm going to teach through this chapter. But, I have-- maybe I have drug my feet a little bit, and yet I can't get out of it. It's here. It's in front of us.
This chapter is-- it's sort of like when you take courses in college, and there's always a portion of the course that's just, oh yeah, we have to get through it. But you don't look forward to it. It might be conjugations in a certain language course. It might be dealing with advanced participles in the Greek language. It could be dealing-- like, I loved in physics, I loved the electromagnetic spectrum, I loved when we went through that. But then there were other sections of physics that I just, yeah, I have to get through it to get the grade.
But, some of us understand that this chapter has some controversial material. It really wasn't controversial like it is today. There has been a modern-day push when it comes to gender issues that make it controversial. But when you're a Bible teacher, and you teach the whole counsel of God, you teach the whole counsel of God. You don't get to pick and choose and say, well I'll leave that chapter out. We're going through a series on 1 Corinthians, but forget that.
It happens to be part of the letter that Paul wrote. If you have read this chapter, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, buckle your seat belts because we're about to get into it.
Now as we begin, let's just lay the foundation. Men and women are equal before God. We are created in the image of God. It's not like man is in the image of God, and then woman came later on, and she is not. The Bible says "God created man in His image; in the image of God created He him; male and female He created them." So there was an equality in Genesis 1, all the way from the beginning.
Go all the way almost to the other end of the Bible, get to the book of Galatians, the third chapter. Paul the apostle declares "For there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; all of us are one in Christ."
However, when it comes to roles and authority, just like in every sphere of life, different people are assigned different roles. Now today, in our day and age, we are in an interesting culture when, if you feel you are a certain person, then you can be that person. That's brand new. There's no science involved in that. But if you identify a certain way, it's just what you are. And everybody just sort of has to nod and agree. But that never was an issue of controversy until now.
However, the Corinthian church, they were curious about certain roles of men and women. That was one of the issues they were struggling with. And I'll explain to you why. Because of the Corinthian culture, the Greek culture, as well as the Roman culture, even some of the Jewish culture, there were certain distinctions.
And so, there were beliefs and ideas that were prevalent in Corinth that caused Paul the apostle to make some of the remarks that he made and to set the record straight. And so he in this chapter will talk about very important things like wearing head coverings and not wearing head coverings, or issues like that-- clothing issues or hair-- having long hair or short hair-- issues that we don't really even think about these days. But it was an issue to them in those days.
Now, we might be tempted to just say, Skip just read through the chapter and get into the next chapter about spiritual gifts because really this is irrelevant to a modern society in our day and age. Certainly God doesn't care about clothes or hair, does He? Answer-- yes and no.
I found it interesting that Jesus said "the hairs of your head are numbered," that God would take the kind of meticulous care and notice of each individual that Jesus would say "even the hairs of your head are numbered." Now why is that fascinating? Because that number changes every day. Every time you put a brush through your hair, the number of changes. And with some it changes dramatically-- less and less, so it's easier for God to keep track of, you might say.
But, the fact that Jesus would make that statement, that God takes care and God takes notice of even the smallest little things. But, on the other hand, no, He doesn't care as much about the color of your hair, or the length of your hair, or the kind clothing, as long as it fits within certain parameters of modesty.
And I would say, God cares about those things when it comes to how those things cause you to relate to other people in your culture, so as to get the gospel out in your assembly of other worshippers, so as not to stumble anybody. Then those things matter. Otherwise, those things are irrelevant. But in this culture, some of those issues were more relevant than they are to us.
We're about to read about design-- God's design for male and female, God's designed order, the chain of command according to the created order, the divine design, the divine paradigm. So, even though verse 1 of chapter 11 really belongs to the previous paragraph that we covered last week-- that's why we ended with it-- I'm going to begin at verse 1.
I don't always agree with chapter divisions. I've told you this before. Chapter divisions and verses were not in the original manuscripts. They were added much later on. Sometimes, they did a good job in dividing them up. Sometimes, they did, in my opinion, a poor job. I think verse 1 is really verse 34 of chapter 10, and verse 1 should be verse 2. But nonetheless, it's already there. I can't change what has been long standing. So I begin at the beginning.
"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." Very famous verse of Paul the apostle. Paul, of course, has been speaking about the fact that he willingly gave up certain privileges that he had so that he might share the gospel to different people groups. And so he used himself as an example of showing love, so that, though I have the right to practice certain things, I withhold from that. And so he says, "Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ."
But I think this is a significant thing. And I think that as believers, we should at least strive or aim or shoot for being able to say that. Because too many of us like to say, "hey man, don't look at me. Man, don't follow me. I'm messed up like everybody else." But Paul didn't do that. He said, "actually, you can follow me. I am not perfect, but I'm going to show you what it means to live a life in Christ. Follow me. Imitate me. Do what I do."
"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Now I praise you, brethren." That's a new one for Paul, especially when writing to the Corinthians. Because he doesn't have a whole lot of words of praise for this church. So when he says, you know, I just really want to say, you guys are awesome in this regard, it's important that we know what that is.
He said, "I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you." We might knock traditions and say traditions, traditionalism-- I'm not into that. Paul just said, actually, since the idea of traditions here speaks of ordinances, precepts, principles, scriptural and doctrinal principles, he is commending the church for the fact that even though they were messed up in a lot of other areas, they didn't have real significant doctrinal problems. The only doctrinal problem that we can see that the church of Corinth had was regarding the resurrection. They were just ignorant about bodily resurrection. He corrects that in chapter 15.
But there's no polemic against false doctrine like he writes to so many of the other churches. So he praises them because they are remembering Paul. And the idea, I think, is that you remembered to consult me about these issues. Remember, they had written Paul a letter asking him several questions. That's how chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians began. He says "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me." Or, excuse me, that's chapter 7, "Concerning the things which you wrote to me." So, obviously, the next several chapters, from chapter 7 onward, are issues the Corinthians wondered about. And Paul says, I praise you for that. You're praiseworthy for that. I commend you that you had it within you to ask the questions, to get the right kind of answers, to keep the traditions or the precepts "just as I delivered them to you."
Now notice something about Paul. Paul gave them precepts-- principles. But he also gave them example, verse 1. "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ." He taught them principles, but then he also showed them practice. That's how he taught people-- principles and practice, principles and practice. Let me tell you about how to do it, and then let me show you how to do it. Somebody once said, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear a sermon any day." And so Paul preached sermons to them, but Paul also walked that walk before them.
He was with them, as you remember, 18 months-- about a year and a half, or right around a year and a half, in their midst, building up that church. But now, look at verse 3-- "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
Three times in that little verse a word is repeated. What is it? "Head." He's speaking about headship. He's speaking here about authority. He's Speaking about governance. He's speaking about created order, chain of command, divine design, divine paradigm. "The head of every man is Christ."
Christ is the head of the church, it says in Ephesians. And really, He's the head of every human being, whether they know it or not. He is the "prototokos," the firstborn of all creation, Paul said to the colossian church. "From Him all things were made that have been made," John, chapter 1, tells us. So He is the head of it all.
"The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, the head of Christ is God." Here is what he's not talking about. He is not talking about superiority or inferiority. He's not speaking about intelligence, or emotional intelligence, or intellect. He is not speaking about equality or inequality. He is not speaking about one's ability or inability.
It's just that there is, in all realms of society, and all realms of reality, natural and supernatural-- headship-- authority and submission. Authority and submission. When it comes to the relationship men have with other men, there's authority and submission. There's government. There's police force. There's authority in every corporation. There are bosses who hire people to work for them. That's an authority structure. There's authority within families. There's the same kind of authority and submission between God and humanity, and even between God and God-- Christ and God the Father.
So let's just take that one. He says "the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." Jesus is God the Son. He is submitted to God the Father. Though they are co-equal and co-eternal-- that's the doctrine of the Trinity, they're co-equal, co-eternal-- the Son submits to the Father.
Paul the apostle said "Jesus, who being in very nature God, or in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal with God, made Himself of no reputation, humbled Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross." Jesus declared "I and my Father are one." So He is equal with God. He didn't feel like He had to grasp or tear the Father down from His position to make Himself equal. He was equal. He is equal with God. Jesus is God.
But, without authority and submission, there would have been no salvation. Without the submission of the Son to the will of the Father in going to the cross, in saying, "Lord, if it's possible; Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass me, pass for me. Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done." If He wouldn't have done that, there'd be no salvation.
If there's no submission on our part to Christ, there's no salvation. So there is always, in every realm of reality, natural and supernatural, there is authority and submission. There is headship and submission.
Though Jesus is God, though Jesus is equal with God, because He Himself is God, though distinct from the Father as a person, He is co-equal and co-eternal with God, with the Father. Yet, Jesus did make this statement-- "My Father is greater than I am." I don't know why that throws some people. Because it's a pretty easy statement. Jesus didn't say, My Father is better than I am. But my Father is greater than I am. That's this principle-- submission, authority. He's greater.
You have bosses. Some of you work for people who hired you to do a job. Some of you are bosses. But let's just say you work for a boss. You may be much smarter than your boss. Some of you are nodding, like, I am much smarter than my boss. That's why he hired me or she hired me. But your boss is still greater than you-- not better than you but greater than you.
If I encounter a police officer on the street who decides to write me up a friendly little notice of some kind, either a reminder or a fine, called a ticket, I submit to that because the officer is greater than I am. He's not better than I am. But he is greater than I am. You see the difference?
The President of the United States is not better than I am-- no political jokes. He's not better, but he is greater. He has a position. He has an office. Just like a husband in a marriage has an office, just like the Father has an office in the Godhead, and just like Christ has an office in all the world over every man. So it's that principle of submission and authority.
Interesting, in Genesis chapter 5, when it retells the creation of humanity-- well, I actually marked it because I just thought it was an interesting addendum to this. It says "This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them--" who is them? Adam "--male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind." That's the English translation. The Hebrew translation is "Adam." "He made them male and female and called them 'Adam' in the day they were created. Not the Adamses or the Addams Family-- "God called them 'Adam.'
So "I want you to know the head of every man," he's bringing this authority structure, "is Christ, the head of woman is man, the head of Christ is God." Now continuing that-- that's the general principle of authority and order-- "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered."
Now go back to verse 5. "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head." Now most people read that, and they think, OK, somehow if I put a covering over my head and I'm a dude, I'm dishonoring, like, my head. Like, I'm doing something bad to my head. No, it says the head of every man is whom? Christ. So if the head of every man is Christ, I think what he's referring to is this-- for a man in that culture during that time period were to cover his head when he prays, he's dishonoring his head-- Christ. So this begs a little bit of explanation.
It seems that Paul is referring to a practice that really didn't become a wholesale Jewish practice until about the third century AD. But there were already leanings toward it at this time. And that is, when men were to pray, they would pray-- today, if you go to see people in Israel, men pray with a tallit, a prayer shawl.
Men cover their head. Or they put a kippah on their head, and then they cover their head with a shawl, if they're an orthodox man when they pray. And the tallit, the prayer shawl, has something called tzitzit on the end of it. Those are the little fringe knots that remind them of the 613 commandments. So you got the tallit with the tzitzit and-- it sounds like a rap song almost, right? It's like I'm going to do something with that.
But that was never a Jewish practice until it became codified around the third century AD. As I said, there were already leanings toward that during this time, that people were saying, you need to cover your head when you pray to God. Well, Jewish men never did that, as I said, until this movement came into-- and that was a more of a Talmudic movement. There's no biblical directive for men to pray with their head covered anywhere in the Old Testament.
This came from the idea that when Moses came down from the mountain and received the commandments, he put a veil over his face and covered his face. And so they said, just like Moses covered his face out of reverence for God honoring the glory of God, so men should cover their heads. So keep that in mind, right. You got that thought, that explanation?
Go forward to 2 Corinthians. Just flip a few pages. Just go right down the street until you come to 2 Corinthians, chapter 3. Now watch this-- verse 7-- "But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels.
For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech-- unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ."
So, there was already this movement starting where Jewish men would wear shawls on their head to cover their head because, according to Paul, it was a misunderstanding of Moses, who covered his head. What Paul is saying is, Moses didn't cover his head to honor God's glory. Moses covered his face because the glory that was evident in the shining face of Moses was fading away, and he didn't want people to see that fading away, departing.
So, if you pray with your head uncovered, you are dishonoring your head, Christ, because according to Paul, the veil is taken away in Christ. You don't need that tradition. You just come as you are, just the way God made you, as a man. You don't have to cover your head. If you do, he is saying, you are dishonoring your head. That's what I believe it's a reference to.
But, verse 5, in contrast to that, "every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head," her head, in this case, being her husband, "for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved." In those days-- OK. Good. In those days and in that culture, women, married women, good women, all would walk out of the house in public with some kind of head covering.
The only women that did not wear a veil or a head covering was typically a prostitute. During the Greco-Roman culture there were two things going on. You know that in Corinth there was a lot of prostitutes, because of the Temple of Aphrodite. I've told you that on a number of occasions-- the 1,000 priestesses on the Acropolis. They would come down not wearing a veil. But their hair would be out, their head would be uncovered because they're showing off the goods. The idea of covering is that, I am not exposed to anyone except my husband. That's the idea of a veil is that you cover things up.
It's very typical today, if you go to the Middle East, there's a modesty standard, that goes without saying. In fact, American tourists are told in certain places that men need to cover their knees, women need to cover their shoulders, in the very least. But in Islamic cultures, women cover their heads-- a hijab-- and then the religious also will cover their faces, as well-- a niqab to cover their face. And the idea is that, I am sheltering myself, and the only one I will expose myself to is my husband.
That same kind of culture existed 2000 years ago in these parts of the world. Now, I'm convinced if Paul was writing to a Western modern culture, he wouldn't have the same directives because the wearing a veil is not-- that made a statement back then, or not wearing a veil, that made a statement back then-- is not making the same statement today.
So verse 6, "if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn." So get this-- there was not only the idea of prostitutes not wearing veils, but there was, in Rome, in Roman culture, and in Greco-Roman society, already a feminist movement where women in that era-- and there was-- you can read the history books on this, how that even in Rome they all shut themselves-- the women shut themselves in the Colosseum in protest on one occasion against-- almost like a suffrage movement. But, women would cut their hair very short. And the statement is I am equal to a man. I don't have to wear a veil. And so in the 60s women would burn their bras; back in antiquity they would burn their veils or throw their veils away. And the idea was equality.
So Paul knows that this is a tendency in the culture, and there's confusion in the worship assembly. So he's trying to just sort make things easier for them when they get together.
So, verse 7-- "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man." Now he's speaking chronologically. God created Adam first and then used a portion of the side of Adam and created Eve and brought the woman to the man and says "I'm going to make a helper suitable for him." And that was Eve. "Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head--" and this is interesting-- "because of the angels."
Now what does he mean by that, "because of the angels"? He means one of three things, I believe. You can take your pick. I'll tell you which one I lean to.
Number one, some think he is referring to Genesis chapter 6, when it talks about a group that some scholars believe are angelic beings where it says "the sons of God looked and saw the daughters of men that they were fair." And there was a cohabitation between these angelic beings and human women. According to the rabbis, it was when these spirits saw the women's long hair, that's what tempted them. So, some believe that Paul is referencing that. That the angels fell-- "because of the angels." They didn't keep their authority structure and submission to God. They fell in Genesis chapter 6. That's one interpretation.
Interpretation number two is it's a reference to Isaiah chapter 6, where he gets a vision of God-- the glory of God-- and there's the angels worshiping before God. And it says "the angels had six wings-- with two they would cover their faces, with two they would cover their feet, and with two they would fly." So these angels cover themselves as an act of submission to God. Likewise, it should be that way among women in the church of Corinth.
Interpretation number three, Paul could be just referring to the fact that when we worship angels are present. Angels join in. Angels observe. We know that they do observe, that they have a desire to look into the things of salvation. We interest them. The fact that God is so gracious to us is very interesting to angelic beings. It's like they study us.
So that when we worship, they're present. So it could be-- and I sort of lean to this interpretation being just the simplest-- that you might come to church and say that, I don't care about pleasing anybody else. At least you ought to care about the fact that angels are present, and they're scoping you out. You always have that audience.
So, "For this reason women ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels." So you take your pick as to which interpretation-- any of those three, or you might have another one I don't know about. But, whatever.
"Nevertheless, neither is man--" I like that he balances his balances it out. "Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord." We are interdependent. This is why I see a value in men's groups and a value in women's groups, but I really see a supreme value when men and women get together and share with one another in the same assembly. There is an interdependence.
"For," verse 12, "as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God." You understand what that is? The first woman came from man. Eve came from Adam. But that was a one of. After that, since then, every single man came from woman. We were born from our mothers. Men cannot bear children. I know, unfortunately, you get in trouble saying words like that today. I'll get letters. Oh, don't you know-- Yes, I do know.
So, verse 13-- "Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering."
Now here I do see an ancient thing that Paul is talking about, a local tradition in Greco-Roman culture that may not spill over into today, but this part does. This part does because whether it was a Greek culture, Roman culture, Jewish culture-- most every culture-- in most every culture, most men have shorter hair than women. Always has been. Today it's not a big issue. But I'm just saying in most cultures.
And here's why-- it's just part of nature. Women have fuller, thicker, longer hair. It grows more easily. There's three stages to hair growth-- growth, resting, and fallout. And men, because of the presence of testosterone, get to phase three much quicker and more regularly. Women, because of estrogen, lock into phase one longer, so they can grow hair. Men, after a while, it tends to just sort of level off. So, that's nature.
"Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it's a dishonor to him?" I remember back in the Jesus Movement, the hippie days, in California, when this became a huge issue. And pastors in our local area of Southern California used to really climb down on us and our pastor for allowing people like me to come to church with long hair. You know, I grew my hair, well, quite long back then.
And, what's interesting is that the one who was defending us was a bald man. That was Chuck Smith. So, it was just-- it was an interesting moment in church history. And he did defend us. Because when people would say, well the Bible says it's a sin for a man to have long hair, Chuck would say, the Bible didn't say it's a sin. It just says "nature says." It's a shame, not a sin, or a dishonor-- just by the nature of things. But then he would say this-- what is long? I mean, how do you define long hair? What would you say about George Washington, our first president, who had a ponytail? And it wasn't a wig he wore. It was his natural hair. Anyway.
Verse 16 kind of concludes it. More I could say, but-- "if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God." And some people do want to be contentious. They want to argue over this. And let them argue. But Paul is saying, "we don't have any such custom, nor do the churches of God." It's just not a big deal. It's an issue there in Corinth. It's an issue there in certain parts of the world and the churches that Paul started around the empire.
I am convinced if Paul we're writing to a modern Western culture, he wouldn't write these same kinds of issues because they're not the same kind of cultural mores or signals that were back in that day. "If anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God."
So all of that to say this-- we have no rules on how you should dress when you come to church, except you should be modest. And you should never dress to draw attention to yourself. And some people, some gals, will want to dress in a provocative way. And they seem to be saying, it's very important to me that you look at me. Check me out. Because they dress in a provocative way so as to direct attention to themselves.
So, when it comes to the issue of what clothes to wear or what kind of haircut to have, understand this-- the real issue is that your old nature needs a haircut. You know, "circumcise the foreskin of your heart," the Bible says. That's really the issue. The inward man more than the outward-- "man looks at the outward appearance; God looks at the heart."
"Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you." He did praise them earlier, but "in giving these instructions I do not praise you" because he's going to change subjects-- "since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church," when you gather in your assembly, when you come together for your Bible studies and your worship services, "I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it."
Now we know there were divisions. He said so in chapter 1 and 2. Chloe's household had told Paul that there were divisions in that local Corinthian church. Some were grouping themselves as followers of Paul, some Apollo, some Cephas, some just independent. I don't follow man, I follow Christ. Paul says, you're all carnal.
So he's bringing this back up. But he's bringing it back up in the context of not just little groups that are following the teachings of particular apostles. But rather, when they gather together for their worship service, in particular the Lord's Supper, a special feast used 2000 years ago among churches called the agape feast, the love feast. Now an agape feast, the love feast, was like a potluck. People would bring their own food. And the idea is you bring food, and you share your food with other people. Not everybody was sharing their food with other people, as we will see.
So "I hear there's divisions among you." Division is the word "schismata." It's to rip or to tear, like a garment-- to fray a garment. And so he says "I partially believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
Therefore when you come together in one place, is it not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, one takes his own supper ahead of others; one is hungry, another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you."
OK. The love feast, the agape feast-- you bring your own food, you gather together, you have a meal. The love feast culminates in taking the elements of the Lord's Supper together. It was more than just a potluck, more than just a meal. It was the Lord's Supper, as well as eating.
For some people who were slaves, very poor, it was the only decent meal they got all week. So they were looking forward with anticipation to the day or the night the church gathers together for the agape feast and then take the Lord's Supper together.
The problem is, some of the richer folks were bringing their own picnic baskets with all sorts of goodies and their own flagons of wine. But they weren't sharing it with anybody. And so they were just consuming it on themselves. The poor people didn't have much of anything, if anything at all. And so they'd have to go away hungry while the rich who brought their own food who weren't sharing it with anyone, even though they had plenty, were gorging themselves. And some were bringing wine to the feast and getting drunk. Imagine people coming to church with a bottle and drinking it and then drinking way too much.
Paul says, I don't praise you for this. "Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise you." You are, in effect, despising the church instead of sharing with one another. "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you-- that the Lord Jesus on the same night that He was betrayed took bread; when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'" Now Paul is going through what the Lord Jesus did with His disciples the night that He was betrayed, going through what the meaning of taking the Lord's Supper together is, what it means, what we do, how important an event it is.
Different church groups have differing views of the meaning of communion, the Lord's Supper. A Roman Catholic view, the view that I grew up with, was a doctrine called "transubstantiation." It is the belief that there is a substantive change-- a substantial change-- in the elements themselves, so that the bread and the wine change substance from bread and wine into the literal body and literal blood of Jesus. Because the Catholic bishops say, Jesus said, this is My body. This is My blood. They take that very literally. And so they believe in transubstantiation-- that there is a change in the elements into the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ.
I do not hold to that view. I believe that borders on cannibalism. In fact, some of the early adversaries of the church misunderstood the meaning of the Lord's Supper and said that Christians were cannibals because of the Lord's Supper, because of this misunderstanding. So I do not believe in transubstantiation.
A second view, that is the Lutheran view, more Martin Luther, is consubstantiation. That is, the presence of Christ is, as they say, with, in, and under the communion elements, so that there is a real presence of the risen Christ with the elements that you take for communion. So it's a step down from transubstantiation. They don't really become that, but the presence of Christ is with that.
Then a step below that is what John Calvin believed in. And he believed that there is a spiritual presence or a spiritual union. So they sound-- they almost sound the same. But it's a little bit less than Luther believed.
Then there was another reformer called Ulrich Zwingli who was a Swiss reformer who believed what most Protestants today believe in. And that is, it's all emblematic. There's no presence of Christ or special embodiment of Christ in the elements. But rather, they're emblematic. They speak of, they point to, they are a living sermon that remind us of what Jesus did on the cross. Nothing less, but nothing more than that.
So with that as a background, we'll finish out this chapter. "I received from the Lord," verse 23, "that which I also delivered to you. Now I believe this should be the aim of every pastor, every preacher, every small group leader who prepares the Bible study, that we will have waited on the Lord. And the Lord teaches us, speaks to us, delivers things to us. We receive from the Lord as we wait on Him, and then we deliver to the people who listen to us what we ourselves have received from Him. That's a good model to take. Paul said, I did that.
"That the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He given thanks, He broke it said, 'Take eat; this is My body broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'" So, number one, when we take the Lord's Supper together, we are looking backwards. We're looking to the past. We take the elements to remember Him, to recall that Jesus died for us, shed His blood for us, then rose again. We are remembering that sacrifice. So we are looking to the past.
I've always found it interesting that Jesus never said, build a mausoleum for Me in the place where I raise from the dead. He never said, build a monument to where to Me where I preached the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee. He said, the only thing I want you to do to raise up as a memorial or as a remembrance is this meal. Take the bread. Take the wine. And when you do that, remember what I've done for you.
That's the key. That's the mausoleum. That's the remembrance. "This is my body broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." So we look to the past.
Number two, we look to the present. "In the same manner He took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'" So we look to the present-- "This is the cup."
I believe that our relationship with God should always be in the present tense, not just in the past tense. Too many people, too many Christians say, I remember what it was like, oh, those old days, oh, those good old days. I remember the intimacy I had with Christ and how wonderful-- well, what about now, dude? Are you walking with Him now? Is He speaking to you now? Are you close to His heart now?
If your relationship with God is only a past tense experience, it needs to be brought into the present tense. "This is the covenant." It is a present reality. Your Christian life should be-- and all of your experiences of the past should never be a hitching post-- only a guidepost. It's a reference point, but you go further and further and deeper and longer. So we look to the past. We look to the present.
Verse 26, we look to the future. We look ahead. "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." So when we take communion-- you see what Paul is doing. He's like, you guys got it all wrong. You are making this all about yourselves, when, let me tell you what the idea of the Lord's Supper is all about.
You look to the past, you look to the present, and you look to the future. Because when you take the Lord's Supper, you remember that Jesus said, when He took the elements with His disciples, He held up the wine, and He said, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine anymore until I drink it with you anew in My Father's kingdom." In essence, He's saying, I'm coming back. And so when we take the Lord's Supper, we remember Jesus came, but He's coming again. There's a future element to it.
Verse 27, "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
So number four, we look within-- we examine ourselves. We look within. We look to the past. We look to the present. We look to the future. We look within. We don't want to do it in an unworthy manner.
Some people get all hung up on this. They go, oh, I'm so unworthy to take communion. It doesn't say, are you worthy to take communion? It says, don't take communion in an unworthy way, in an unworthy manner. The issue isn't, are you worthy to be saved. None of us is worthy to be saved. Are you worthy to be in God's presence? None of us are. None of us is, none of us are? Anyway-- we're not. The idea is the manner in which you take it, the manner in which you take it-- "in an unworthy manner."
So we examine ourselves. And I always believe when you know that we're going to have the Lord's Supper-- we're going to have it in a couple of weeks-- whenever you know it's coming, if you know it's going to be on a Wednesday night or a weekend, before you come to church, it would be good to have a period of examination, self-examination. So you don't take it frivolously, or routinely, or religiously, or just traditionally-- you really think about what it means to you, what Jesus did for you. Are there areas of your life you need to bring and ask forgiveness for in confession about? And you do it in a way that is befitting the event itself, the remembrance itself. So we examine ourselves, verse 28.
Remember, it was Socrates who said "The unexamined life is not worth living." Well, the unexamined communion is not worth having. We want to examine our hearts, get our hearts right before the Lord, and go back to the cross as we do.
"For he who eats or drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." What does he mean by that? "For this reason," verse 30 "many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." That is a euphemism for "have died." Now this is interesting because Paul seems to indicate that people in the Corinthian church were getting sick and dying because they didn't properly evaluate and discern the meaning of the Lord's Supper, that they were doing it frivolously, selfishly, and getting drunk, et cetera. And that was causing physical discipline in the church via sickness and death.
Now that sounds odd to us. And maybe we should first of all say, thank you Jesus, that that hasn't happened to us, or at least not to our knowledge it has. But in the early church this was not unusual. Ananias and Sapphira were part of the early church. They were members of the early church, and I believe went to heaven when they died. But they died, nonetheless, in judgment for lying to Peter and lying to the Holy Spirit. And so they kicked the bucket. And they buried them that day outside, in the streets outside the city of Jerusalem. But it was physical, direct discipline that caused the end of their lives.
Also, 1 Corinthians chapter 5, there was a case of incest in the church. Remember what Paul said? "Deliver them to Satan." For the realm of Satan, the world-- "deliver them to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the Spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." You see, the reason for this kind of discipline was not condemnation, but it was protection-- purification of the church but also protection. So it's like they can't go further. So that they don't go any further in that kind of rebellion, God would spare that by taking their lives as an act of mercy so that they could go no further.
"For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. When we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat," still talking of the Lord's Supper, "wait for one another." Don't dig into the roast beef and eat it all.
When I was a kid, and we had four boys-- I'm the youngest boy-- when it was dinnertime, my mom would put dinner on the table. And I would sometimes watch my older brother or brothers like grab almost all of the chicken or beef. And there's like a little leg left for me. So, you know, dinnertime for some of us was like survival of the fittest. And they were fittest because they were bigger than I was.
That was happening in the church. Paul said, you've got to wait for each other, got to show deference. Don't pig out. You won't find that in the translation-- pig out. Wait for each other. "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come."
So, when we take the Lord's Supper, we look to the past-- remembrance; we look to the present, we have a present day covenant relationship; we look to the future-- Jesus is coming again; we look inwardly-- we look within ourselves, we examine our hearts; and now we look around, and we consider our brother or consider our sister. We wait for them. We show love to them. It's a family meal.
1 John 4-- "If God so loved us, we should love one another."
I'm glad chapter 11 is over! It's there. I covered it. I don't shy away from covering any text or Scripture or tackling any topic, but there are just certain ones that it's like, OK-- next-- let's go on to the next. And the next is awfully exciting because it's another issue they asked Paul the apostle about. That is the use of spiritual gifts within the assembly.
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I don't want you to be ignorant," he said. So he lays out in chapters 12-- a little bit in 13 to balance it out, but-- 12, 13, and 14, the issue of spiritual gifts in the assembly. And we will see the use and the abuse of spiritual gifts within the church of Corinth. And you will be amazed at how not much has changed since the days of Corinth when it comes to how churches still use or abuse spiritual gifts. So, we get into some pretty interesting and exciting and very applicational important territory.
Father, we want to thank You for Your love, Your love as displayed here on the pages of Scripture. And here we see Paul the apostle who loved them enough to address these issues that they were struggling with, dealing with, that he covered their local customs. But he said at the end of it, we don't want to be contentious. We don't have rigid customs in the churches of God that we should do things according to our culture and our custom so as to love and not to offend.
But we should always do so to honor the authority structure that You have put in place. Not that people are better than we are, but in some cases they have a greater position than we do, and we must honor that and show that we have a love for You by demonstrating a love and honor submissively to them. Lord, show us that submission is a pathway to liberty and freedom and joy, and that just as we are to be submissive to Jesus Christ as our head, our Lord, in the same way Jesus was to You, Father which caused salvation for us, in the same way we are to You, Lord, that brought salvation to our souls when we said Yes to Jesus.
But also in human relationships, there is an authority structure, and it's been set out since creation. And it shouldn't be tampered with, because it doesn't bring freedom, it brings bondage. Lord, we understand that there are cultural tides that flow against this, that this chapter is probably the most politically incorrect chapter in this book. But it's still in the book. It's in Your book. And so we want to take the broad, overreaching, overarching principles that this chapter has and learn to live in those parameters of love and authority and submission. Because Lord, we want to honor one another, and we want to honor and glorify You, ultimately.
I pray, Lord, if anyone here has not been living in submission to Your rulership over their lives, that that would change. Some have been fighting You, running from You being their own Master, their own King. And they're empty because of it. Lord, I pray that here now, before we close, and in this last song, we would surrender to You.
Maybe you're here tonight and you've never asked Jesus to be your Lord, your Savior, your Master. Maybe for you it's just been religion or doctrine, but that one-on-one relationship has been missing. If you want real rest, real joy, real purpose, I urge you, I encourage you right now, decide to make a change.
A change is precisely what it is called in Scripture. It's called repentance-- a change of mind, a change of direction. Decide here and now you're going to change your direction, your future.
How do you do that? You say yes to Him. He's calling you. He's always calling you. Jesus said, I'm standing at the door and knocking-- the door of your heart-- and I'm knocking. If you'll open the door, I will come in and have fellowship with you and you with Me.
Respond to Him by saying yes to Him. And if you've never done that, do it now. You could do it in the quietness of your heart.
Just say, Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. Forgive me, I turn my life over to Jesus, I believe in Him. I believe He died for me. I believe He rose again. I believe He's coming again. I give You my life, or I rededicate my life to You. I leave my sin behind. I repent of it. I turn to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Give me the power. I don't have it on my own. Give me Your power to live a life that pleases You. In Jesus's name.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us from this teaching in our series Expound.