1 Corinthians, Week 6



Last week’s conversation was such an encouragement to me. 1 Corinthians is difficult and the ancient context of their squabbles and troubles can be confusing. But somehow (the Spirit?!) we are plowing through and seeing the truth of Jesus’ life-for-others in Paul’s instruction to the church.

I’m so grateful for the ways you ladies are participating in sharing how the Spirit of God is revealing Himself to you through His Word. YOU BLESS MY HEART.

Confession: I want to skip this chapter. The book isn’t getting easier, but we’ll keep trudging and see what we learn. :) Paul gives some structure and some freedom to the church over some interesting issues — frankly, this is a unique and confusing passage. Really intelligent scholars disagree about this chapter. So we’re going to read this chapter in the context of the whole: are they living like set-apart people? What are the cultural implications of the way they are living? Are they elevating the worship of God as revealed through Christ?


To read:
1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5:22-30, Acts 2:46-47

Some historical/cultural background:
Chapter 11:2-16 —- Issues in the worshiping community (attire)

This first part deals with the question of hair and head coverings for men AND women (as equal image-bearers of God, though distinct in role). The issue of hair and veiling is so foreign to us, but would have been a troublesome thing for the church at Corinth. I’ll share more in detail when we gather, but here is the gist: Some men were wearing head coverings or growing their hair out in a way that reflected the attire worn by pagans in idol worship…as an attempt to assimilate idolatrous culture. (This scandalized the church). Some women were eschewing the cultural practice of wearing their up or wearing a covering of some sort during worship, opting to literally let their hair down, signaling they were ‘available’ and attempting to move past cultural norms. (This scandalized the culture).

We’ll talk some more about God’s idea for gender roles, if conversation/time allows, because Paul’s direction for the Corinthians expression of freedom in worship was rooted in the “scandalous freedom” believing women (and men) had/have in worship. In a cultural that considered women ‘less-than’, Paul was acknowledging the full equality and interdependence of the sexes. (*fire emoji*)

The big idea here is that the form of a worship service must express the nature of Christ, and the behavior of the worshipers must exemplify His character and humility. “Paul’s purpose is not to cause the Corinthians to abandon their freedoms and liberties, but to direct them in the way they can best exercise their liberties to the glory of God in corporate worship”.


Chapter 11:17-34 — Discerning the Body (worship and humility)

The same private dining rooms that formerly were used for hosting pagan worship were now the space for Christian worship — including communion. The danger of combining/uniting pagan and Christian worship was very real in Corinth. In Corinth, a meal was an occasion for gaining or showing social status. The Lord’s supper, on the other hand, was designed to demonstrate something different — an upside-down social order, an alternate community of selfless celebration in remembrance of Jesus.

Contrary to Corinthian people who hosted lavish dinner parties to the exclusion of those in lower socioeconomic classes, Christ shows no favoritism in the invitation to sit at his table. Frequent celebrations of the Lord’s Supper can function as a powerful reminder of the content of our faith and the sacrificial love of our King. Thus the church and the sacrament of communion are meant to be “status neutral”.

The big idea here is that “Christian worship through communion and sharing of meals must happen in an atmosphere of humility and self-giving. Self-promoting pride desecrates Christ and brings devastation to his community.”

To pray:

Father, thank you that your design for community life and worship is both freedom and order. Give us eyes to discern your heart and purposes in your word, that we would be women who self-sacrificially attend to the needs of others, elevate Christ in our worship, and refuse any self-serving motive in our worship. Make us women who love as you do.