1 Corinthians 11:2–34: Orderly Public Worship: Part 1

by May 18, 20200 comments

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In 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul transitions to a new subject that he will address through chapter 14: orderly public worship. As we have observed, Paul often uses the phrase “now concerning…” to introduce new subjects (1 Cor. 7:1, 25; 8:1). While Paul will introduce the subject of spiritual gifts in public worship with the phrase “now concerning…” (1 Cor. 12:1), he does not do so here in 1 Corinthians 11:2. This may possibly indicate that the Corinthians had not directly asked Paul’s opinion, but that Paul is instead addressing an issue he observes on his own.[1] Paul begins by commending the Corinthians for maintaining the “traditions” that he delivered to them (1 Cor. 11:2). In this, Paul acknowledges that the situation isn’t entirely bad, even though he does recognize a situation he needs to address in regard to the conduct and appearance of men and women in worship. In this regard, Paul teaches that it is glory for men to rule, and it is glory for women to reveal. Then, in the second half of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul critiques an area where the Corinthians are failing to uphold the traditions, in their observance of the Lord’s Supper. There, Paul teaches the absolute importance of the Lord’s Supper as he insists that Christ delivers himself to us in the Lord’s Supper.

[1] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, 429.

Discussion Questions

1. What does Paul teach about the headship of men (1 Cor. 11:3)? Why does the headship of men require them to exercise the open rule of Christ by leading in public worship? How does this relate to keeping their heads uncovered (1 Cor. 11:4)? What does Paul teach about the responsive role of women in worship (1 Cor. 11:5; cf. 1 Cor. 14:34–35)? How does this relate to keeping their heads covered (1 Cor. 1 Cor. 11:5–6)? How might we apply these doctrines to the details of our current culture?

2. What divisions exist between you and others in the church? Are these philosophical divisions, personality-driven divisions, or petty divisions? What personality rifts might create tensions that your church must navigate? Jesus tells us to leave corporate worship, if necessary, in order to reconcile with a brother before returning to worship (Matt. 5:24). With whom might you need to reconcile before attending corporate worship again? What practical steps can you take this week to heal those divisions?

3. What do you think about “tradition” (1 Cor. 11:2, 17)? Where have you seen tradition undercut the spirit of worship, by descending into traditionalism? Where have you seen tradition undercut the truth of worship, by establishing practices outside of what God commands in his word? What do we mean when we talk about the tradition of Christ’s being given over for us? How have you received that tradition? How are we passing that tradition on to the next generation?

4. What does it mean to eat the bread and drink the cup “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27)? What does it mean to “be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27)? What does it mean to “discern the body” (1 Cor. 11:29)? What does it mean to “judge ourselves” (1 Cor. 11:31–32)? What does it mean to “wait for one another” (1 Cor. 11:33)? In light of Paul’s exhortations, what is one change you might make in how you prepare for and receive the Lord’s Supper?