In this chapter of Corinthians, Paul turns his attention from the question of food offered to idols to two different topics: the covering of head for a wife and the proper manner when partaking the Holy Communion. While these two new topics do not seem to be related, both pertain to order during church gatherings.
Did You Know...?
- “Wife” and “husband”: These two Greek words may also be translated “woman” and “man”
- “The covering of the head is an emblem found in sculptural representation in the late republic and under Augustus, where the palla is pulled up over the top of the head. This became an emblem for modesty and chastity.” [ref]
- “A wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head” (11:10): “Symbol” is not in the original. This sentence can be translated more accurately as “A wife ought to have authority on the head.”
- “The Lord’s supper” (11:20): This is the name commonly given to the sacrament of Holy Communion.
What does Paul commend the Corinthians for? What does he not commend them for?Hide Answer
Paul commends the Corinthians for their remembrance of him in everything and maintain the traditions delivered to them (v. 2). He does not commend them for the divisions among them when they come together as a church, particularly during the Lord’s supper (vv. 17–21).
What does being the head imply?Hide Answer
The Hebrew and Greek words for “head” are translated “chief” in certain contexts (e.g. Deut 1:13; Mt 21:42). Thus, the word can have a figurative meaning of being first or being of primary importance. The head, being the most prominent part of the body, naturally represents preeminence and honor.
What does it mean that the head of the wife is her husband?
Why does Paul mention that the head of Christ is God?Hide Answer
Paul exhorts believers to let that which is in Christ Jesus be in us as well. Christ is the prime example of humility. Even though He was in the form of God, He did not grasp equality with God but emptied and humbled Himself (Php 2:5–8). Christ’s submission to God is the model for the wife’s submission to her husband and for the husband’s submission to Christ.
Why should a wife cover her head when praying or prophesying?Hide Answer
1. A wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head (v. 5).
2. The wife was made from the husband and for the husband (vv. 8–9).
3. Nature teaches us that long hair is the glory of a wife (vv. 14–15).
Why should a husband not cover his head?Hide Answer
1. Every husband who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head (v. 4).
2. He is the image and glory of God (v. 7).
What lesson can husbands learn from the truth that they are the image and glory of God?Hide Answer
Husbands have a great responsibility of exhibiting God’s excellent qualities. Being the head of the wife does not mean that he should dominate her or control her. Rather, he should exemplify the justice and love of God as he lives with his wife and guides her as the spiritual leader of the family (cf.
1 Pet 3:7).
What is the point of verses 8 and 9?
How should a wife today “have authority on the head” [ref] (10)?Hide Answer
It was the norm in Roman society for women to cover their head for propriety. For a woman to uncover her head would be as shameful as cutting off her hair. Therefore, for a married woman to uncover her head while praying or prophesying in the church would be against the norm of the day and a blatant gesture of defiance. A woman ought to keep her head covered as she would elsewhere in public.
For wives today who do not live in a culture where women cover their heads, it is not necessary to deliberately cover their hair only during church worship, since that is not the norm. But we can still apply the principle of the Bible that the husband is the head of the wife. Not only should the wife submit to her husband in daily life, she ought to also recognize the place of her husband in the church and avoid dominating her husband when carrying out her ministry.
What does the phrase “because of the angels” mean (10)?Hide Answer
Paul does not provide an explanation of the phrase here. But we know from other parts of this epistle and of the New Testament that angels do take interest in the actions and the salvation of believers (cf. Mt 18:10;
1 Cor 4:9; 1 Tim 5:21; 1 Pet 1:12). Angels are ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). Hence, the submission of wives to their husbands according to God’s established order in creation serves as a noble example for the angels who likewise must carry out their ministry in submission.
How do verses 11 and 12 provide a new perspective for believers with respect to the relationship between a husband and a wife?Hide Answer
The word “nevertheless” that begins verse 11 suggests that what follows is a concession. The new perspective in these two verses pertains to life “in the Lord,” meaning that it applies to believers in Christ. In the Lord, the husband and the wife are interdependent, and they are both from God. In Christ both the husband and the wife belong to God and have equal spiritual status (cf. Gal 3:27–28). Furthermore, the husband and the wife are joined as one flesh in the eyes of God (cf. Gen 2:24). Therefore, the relationship between the husband and the wife is not that of greater or lesser, but that of unity and harmony.
What was the problem in the Corinthian church with regards to the Holy Communion?Hide Answer
When the Corinthian believers came together to partake of the Lord’s supper, each of them went ahead with his own meal. As a result, some were drunk while others were hungry. They have turned the sacrament into a feast of self-indulgence.
Why do you think Paul recalls the night when the Lord instituted the Holy Communion?Hide Answer
The Corinthians did not recognize that the Holy Communion is a participation in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus but treated it as an ordinary meal. By reminding them of the words of the Lord when He first instituted the sacrament, Paul wishes that the Corinthians discern the body of the Lord and understand the purpose of the sacrament whenever they partake of the Holy Communion.
Explain the purpose of partaking of the Holy Communion.Hide Answer
Paul states that as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup of the Communion, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (v. 26). The Lord Jesus told His disciples that the bread was His body, which was given for them and that the cup that was poured out for them was the new covenant in His blood. The disciples were to partake of the Communion in remembrance of the Lord (Lk 22:19–20). Through the Holy Communion we remember the death of our Lord Jesus on our behalf. The Communion service itself is also a declaration of the atonement the Lord Jesus has brought to us through His death.
How do we partake of the Holy Communion in a worthy manner?Hide Answer
We need to examine ourselves and see if our lives are worthy of the Lord’s calling. That is to say, the Holy Communion is an occasion for us to think about whether we live in a manner that pleases the Lord who has laid down His life and given us a new life. This is what verse 31 means by judging ourselves truly. At the same time, we are to discern the Lord’s body by recognizing the sanctity of the Communion and by partaking it with the utmost reverence (v. 29).
Why does failure to discern the body and blood of the Lord incur God’s judgment?