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Commentary on 1 Corinthians

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

This second part of the commentary on 1 Corinthians specifically deals with questions asked by the Corinthians when their leaders visited Paul. The Corinthians were concerned about many things. Especially of concern to the Corinthians, and dealt with here in 1 Corinthians, was the question of spiritual gifts, of tongues, prophecy, interpretation of tongues and so on, gifts which some of the Corinthians were misusing. So Paul wrote to the Corinthians in order to set them straight. For the second part of the commentary on 1 Corinthians see below.

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THE PENTATEUCH

GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---

NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH ---ZECHARIAH --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- REVELATION

--- THE GOSPELS

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8-16.

Entering Idolatrous Temples and Eating Food Offered to Idols (8.1-11.1)

Paul now deals with a question central to the heart of every converted Gentile. In Corinth as in other Gentile cities idolatry entered into every part of life. It affected every aspect of life. The question then was how were Christians to approach the problem?

The main example dealt with in this chapter is the eating of meat offered in sacrifice to a god, within a temple or sanctuary. Such sacrificial meals took place regularly, often by special invitation from associates, involving sacrifices to the gods, in which of course no Christian could directly partake, followed by the separating of the meat so that some was offered to the god, some was eaten by the people, and some was placed on the sacred table, made available to priests and possibly also to the people. One main question was, should Christians publicly partake of such meat within the Temple precincts, or even at all? One important lesson that stems from the discussion is that of doing or not doing things which, while possibly not wrong in themselves, cause others to stumble spiritually.

8.1a 'Now concerning things sacrificed to idols.'

Paul here indicates by 'now concerning' that he is dealing with the second main question raised by the Corinthians through their visiting party (compare 7.1), the question of things sacrificed to idols.

8.1b 'We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.'

It would seem that many Corinthian Christians were claiming that their superior knowledge as Christians meant that to them idols were nothing. Nor therefore was meat offered to them of any significance. Thus they could partake of it whenever, and wherever they liked, whether in Temples or at home, because they had 'knowledge'. They were in the know. They disregarded idols.

Paul accepts that such knowledge is common to Christians, but points out that greater than knowledge is love (13.11-13). He too knew that idols were nothing. But having such knowledge alone can make a man puffed up. What is more important is the approach of love, love to others who might not have that full knowledge. Love will make a man what he should be, and make him behave as he should. It is that which edifies him, feeds him and builds him up. We must view all things firstly from the viewpoint of love, of consideration for others and what effect our behaviour might have on them.

This applies to all knowledge of God. It is good to be strong in doctrine, or in 'spiritual knowledge', but not if we are not strong in love, love for God and love for our fellow-Christians. Being strong in love is the first essential and should begin before we become strong in doctrine. It is the distinctive feature that binds us all together. It is the evidence of what we are. 'He who does not love does not know God, for God is love' (1 John 4.8). Love is especially expressed in showing consideration to others (see chapter 13). It is the evidence that we are 'known of God'.

8.2-3 'If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows not yet as he ought to know, but if any man loves God, the same is known by him.'

This applies especially in our relationship to God. We may have a little knowledge in this respect, but it is nothing like what we ought to know. Whatever our knowledge of God it is small compared with the reality. Our views of God are tiny and dim compared with what He really is (13.11-12). So if we are puffed up about our knowledge of God we are foolish. Each of us has different grades of knowledge about God, but none of us knows God remotely fully. But if we truly love God then we can be sure that we are known by Him, chosen, accepted and blessed. So true love transcends knowledge and must be the first consideration (13.13). This applies to all that we know which if acted on causes problems for others. So knowing about God simply leaves us aware of how little we really know, but loving God, and revealing it in our behaviour towards others, indicates that God knows us, and what could be more wonderful than that?

8.4-6 'Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as there are gods many, and lords many, yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we to him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.'

Paul can agree with the Corinthians that no idol is really in the world in any meaningful way. They are nothing. And that there is no God but One. Many were called gods, both in the heavens and on earth. There were multitudes of them, both 'gods' and 'lords', the latter especially in the mystery religions. But they were nothing.

For there is only one God, the Father, and He is the source of all things. All is 'of Him'. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, Who also is the source of all things, all is 'through Him'. The very fact of including Jesus Christ in the argument demonstrates that Paul saw Him as truly God.

We note here that other 'gods' and 'lords' are equated. They are all at the same level. They are included in 'those called gods'. And in contrast is the one God Who is both God and Lord. Thus when he speaks of 'One God' and 'One Lord' he is equating Father and Son in one Godhood. There is one God and one Lord revealed in twoness of relationship, and yet One in being and essence. God the Father is the source of all things, and supplies it through His Son, the Lord, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1.1-3). There is but One God and One Lord, and the Father is both God and Lord, the latter made clear in the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ is both God and Lord. But the main point here is that they are the only God and Lord.

When speaking in the context of gods 'Lord' must signify the Old Testament name for God, Yahweh, the name above every name. That was always translated into Greek as 'Lord' (kurios) as here. And in Philippians 2.5-11 it is specifically applied to Jesus in that context. He has the name above every name. His name is 'Lord'. Thus the One God and Lord is here being contrasted, not with one another, but with the many 'gods and lords' and thus refers to the One God and Lord, Who incorporates the Father and Jesus Christ. They are the inter-communicating, inter-relational 'persona' within God. The Father reveals Himself in His Son.

To introduce the Lord Jesus Christ here as Lord when he is contrasting the One God with the many is to demonstrate His equal status in Godhood.

'And we to him -- and we through Him.' The first phrase stresses man's position as against God, as looking to Him and submissive and obedient to Him. The second stresses the redemptive factor, what we are now is through Him

8.7 'Howbeit there is not in all men that knowledge, but some, being used until now to the idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.'

But not all know fully within their hearts that this is so, that gods are nothing, and that there is but One God. Some still have a superstitious awareness of 'the gods' as though they were 'something' (just as many, even some Christians, have a belief in mascots, talismans and 'luck'). So when they eat of a thing sacrificed to an idol it produces in them superstitious ideas, for the idol has previously been their way of life. It had bound all that they did. Thus they feel when eating food sacrificed to such an idol that in some way they are participating in the god, that it is affecting their lives, that they are becoming involved again, and their consciences are smitten because they consider that they are honouring the god, which they know to be wrong. So by being encouraged by more knowledgeable brothers to partake of food offered to idols, and especially within the temple precincts (8.10), they feel compromised and defiled. (To say nothing of the witness before the world). And the result may well be a sinking back into idolatry.

The same can apply to us today. We should avoid all contact with the occult, with fortune-telling, with tarot cards, with seances, and so on, and in our multicultural societies with anything that savours of the worship of gods, because although they may seem nothing to us, those to whom they do mean something will misinterpret our involvement.

8.8 'But food will not commend us to God: neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better.'

So the strong should remember that the eating of food will never commend us to God, even eating it in defiance of idols. We are no better or worse for it. If we abstain from eating it we are equally commendable as if we eat it. But at the same time by eating it when it has been offered to idols we can be bringing others into great distress. Thus the conclusion should be that we should not eat of it, either within the temple precincts, or when we are informed that it has been offered to idols, lest it harm the weaker brother.

He elsewhere applies this same principle to all foods, whether those seen as unclean by Jews or that seen as defiled by Gentiles (Romans 14.1-4, 6, 14-15, 20-23).

8.9-12 'But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to the weak. For if a man sees you who have knowledge sitting at meat in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.'

We may ourselves be 'at liberty', be free from all superstition, free from all recognition of idols, but we should not thereby use our knowledge in such a way as to be a stumblingblock to the weak. We should ask ourselves, how will this affect others? In all things love must override everything else. For if we participate of idol meat in the Temple the weaker brother might see us, and knowing our spiritual position, and what he sees as our spiritual superiority, may himself feel that he can participate, his conscience satisfied because we have eaten, but it then result in his harm. For he may then consider himself as again involved in idols and be dragged down and defiled. He not having the strength to remain uninvolved.

So through our 'knowledge' the weaker brother, for whom Christ died, may perish (compare here Romans 14.15 which speaks of 'destroying him for whom Christ died'). Thus we, by sinning against our brother and weakening his conscience, will actually be sinning against Christ.

'May perish.' The thought here is that this is 'a brother for whom Christ died'. Note that it is not 'a brother who is in Christ'. As with the community of Israel of old where there were included in 'the people of God' those outwardly dedicated to the covenant, whether inwardly so or not, so that the community was composed of both the true people of God and those who were only so outwardly, so in the New Testament too the church from one aspect was seen as including all those who outwardly believed and had been baptised, and included those whose true faith made them in Christ, and those who were bordering on being so, and could be seen outwardly as 'brothers', but could slip back and perish because they were not yet fully 'saved'. They had responded to the Christian message, they were learning and entering into faith, but they had not yet received full faith. They had 'believed in Christ' rather than 'into Christ' (compare John 2.23-25 and often). Christ died for all, but not all finally came.

Others would, however, argue that the sin is against Christ (Acts 9.5; 22.8; 26.15) precisely because the brother is in Christ. They see the idea as rather being that he will slip back and perish physically (compare 11.30) or possibly be spiritually shipwrecked and left adrift. He will be 'destroyed' (Romans 14.15).

8.13 'Wherefore, if meat causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, in order that I do not cause my brother to stumble.'

Paul's conclusion is therefore that he himself would do nothing that might make another stumble. If his eating of meat would cause another to stumble he will never eat of it for evermore. He would do anything rather than make another stumble, for whatever reason. Thus should we also have concern for the weaknesses of the weak, pandering to them so that they may eventually become strong.

Paul Now Points Out That He Refuses To Use His Freedom In Any Way That Would Cause Young Christians To Be Led Astray. His Next Example Refers To His Not Receiving Gifts For His Ministry Among Them Which May Brand Him As Greedy, Mercenary or Merely A Paid Orator, and Thus Promote Difficulties and Tensions (9.1-18).

The last verse of the previous chapter leads on to this chapter in which Paul again refuses to use his freedom in such a way as to cause offence. This time it is with regard to his right to support. No doubt he had also been criticised about this. Once a person comes under criticism all kinds of things are dredged up so as to discredit the person being criticised. So he points out that he has a right to partake of such support, as have all the Apostles, but he refuses to use it because it might lead others to doubt him. First he asserts that he is free to do what he will in this regard, and then especially stresses his position as an Apostle, which gives him the right to support as expressed by Jesus, but then he declares that nevertheless he will not accept such support while working among them. He does not want to be seen as a chancer or as a paid professional orator.

9.1-2 'Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you, for the seal of my apostleship are you in the Lord.'

He begins by asserting his freedom. Support is something he has a right to and he would therefore be free to receive it if he wished. And the reason he has that right is because he is an Apostle, one sent forth and therefore dependent on such support (Matthew 10.9-15). But because he is wholly free he can choose what he will do, and he has the right to do either.

His evidence that he is an Apostle rests first on that he has seen 'Jesus our Lord'. He has seen Jesus, the One Who walked on earth as man, the resurrected Jesus, as now raised to Lordship. And the second that his Apostleship has been revealed by his success in establishing this new church. They are his work in the Lord. If they enjoy spiritual gifts let them remember who first brought the Spirit among them. They are the evidence, indeed the seal of his Apostleship. They are proof of his Apostolic power and authority, and therefore of his rights.

9.3-6 'My defence to those who examine me is this. "Have we no right to eat and to drink? Have we no right to lead about a wife who is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have we not a right to forbear working?'

The word 'defence' is fairly strong. There were clearly those who were putting him in a position where he felt he had to make his defence and justify himself, so he asserts his rights as an Apostle. He illustrates his argument from what other Apostles do. They eat and drink at other's expense as provided by the Lord. So then could he. He has the right to do so as well. They take their wives with them who also receive support, for they too are believers. So then could he. He has the right to. Indeed the same is true of the rest of the Apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas (Peter). They all enjoy support from the churches they visit. Do he and Barnabas not then have the same rights? Do they not have a right to 'live by faith' rather than working for a living? Are they the only ones to be excepted?

This point may arise as a result of the fact that some were claiming that he worked to support himself precisely because he was not a true Apostle and was not recognised as having the right. Not so, he replies. He and Barnabas had a right to receive support, but they did not claim it lest it be misinterpreted. It was their choice, not the choice or will of the churches.

It is clear that at his stage Paul is well aware of the ministries of the other Apostles and that of Jesus' brothers. He knows that all are active in the field. Many consider that here he is including the brothers of the Lord as permanent 'Apostles'. Certainly they had known the Lord in a unique way as an elder brother, so that being now converted they might well have been included in the number (James undoubtedly was). The matter is, however, disputed. But it is certainly clear that they were held in high esteem, almost on the level of Apostles if not actually so.

We in fact know little about the ministries of the other Apostles other than Cephas (Peter) and John, although fairly good tradition links Thomas with India. Otherwise most of what we 'know' is unreliable tradition, interesting but not necessarily true.

9.7 'What soldier ever serves paying his own costs? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and does not eat of the milk of the flock?'

This principle of having the right to be provided for in the light of his ministry can be evidenced from everyday life. Is a soldier expected to pay for his own keep? Of course not. Do not those who plant vineyards eat of their fruit? Of course. Do not those who feed flocks partake of the milk of the flock? Of course. Thus the soldier of Christ may expect to be fed, the worker in the vineyard to partake from the vines produced, the shepherd who raises a flock to participate of what the flock can provide. Those who serve expect to be provided for from what they serve. They have the right.

9.8-10 'Do I speak these things after the manner of men? Or does the law not also say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn. Is it for the oxen that God cares? Or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because he who ploughs ought to plough in hope, and he who threshes, in hope of partaking.'

But it is not only that he can illustrate this from everyday life, it is also declared in the Scriptures. It is not only man who confirms such a situation, but God. For in the Law of Moses it says, 'You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn' (Deuteronomy 25.4 and see 1 Timothy 5.18). Surely the principle from that is clear. It is not just applicable to oxen, it applies to all who labour. Thus it applies to the labourers in the Gospel. The one who ploughs spiritually should plough in hope of provision, as does the literal ploughman, the one who threshes spiritually should thresh in the hope of partaking. He raises up seed, he should be able to benefit from the seed.

'Is it for the oxen that God cares?' This question is not suggesting that God does not care for the oxen. Various laws in the Law (the books of Moses, the Pentateuch) indicate that He does care for dumb animals. His idea expressed here is, 'Is it only for the oxen that God cares?' What Paul means is, does He in what He has said onlycare for the oxen, or does His concern not reach to a wider field, even to human beings? Yes, assuredly so, for God cares even more for human beings than for oxen. Thus it is more necessary that they be provided for when they thresh the spiritual harvest.

9.11 'If we have sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your fleshly things?'

So the Scripture is here declaring that those who sow spiritual things should be able to reap from the 'fleshly' things that are possessed by those to whom they sow spiritual things, those who are blessed by the spiritual things. That should only be as expected.

Note the change to 'we'. This probably includes his fellow-workers who were with him in Corinth as verse 12 confirms.

9.12 'If others partake of this right over you, do we not yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.'

Indeed there are others whom they acknowledge do have the right to receive from them, and does not Paul then have an even better right as the one who originally brought them the message of salvation? And yet he and his fellow-workers do not claim that right. Rather he and his fellow-workers pay their own way totally, and bear all expenses, so that they might not be a hindrance to the Gospel of Christ by being open to the accusation of greed and lazy living and professionalism (see Acts 18.2-3). He will do anything and go without anything if it means that there is no hindrance to the Gospel as a result.

Paul was not averse to receiving support from those who would not misunderstand it. He reminds the Corinthians later that he was able to continue his ministry among them unhindered as a result of a gift from Macedonia (2 Corinthians 11.9). But he would never accept such support from Corinth because he knew how ultra-critical some of them were, always eager to seize any excuse to criticise him, and because he knew that their own greed made them sensitive to what they saw as 'greed' in others. Nevertheless he asserts his rights both in order to demonstrate that he is a true Apostle, and also because from them he wishes to bring home the lesson of being willing to do without one's rights for the sake of others.

9.13-14 'Do you not know that those who minister about sacred things eat of the things of the temple, and they who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so did the Lord ordain that those who proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel.'

The argument continues. God ordained that the priests and Levites should receive their portion from the Temple, and those who waited at the altar received their portions. Thus God provided both a system of their receiving portions of sacrifices and also of their receiving a proportion of the fruitfulness of Israel by tithes and offerings. Even so did the Lord ordain that those who proclaimed the Gospel should live by the Gospel.

'Even so did the Lord ordain.' The reference here is to Matthew 10.9-15 where Jesus taught His disciples that they must look to God to provide for them through the godly, those who were true to God. Among the Jews this was the recognised and established custom. By it they demonstrated their acceptance of the teacher. Note here that the Lord's very words are seen as parallel with the Scriptures as the word of God (Mark 7.13).

9.15 'But I have used none of these things, and I do not write these things that it may be so done in my case, for it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorifying void.'

But Paul himself has taken advantage of none of these things. Nor is he writing in order to do so. Indeed he would rather die than not to be able to say that he proclaims the Gospel freely and without charge. The last thing he wants is not to be able to glory in the successful preaching of the Gospel because by it he is seen as mercenary. He wants always to make it without hindrance (verse 12) and without charge.

9.16 'For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid on me. For woe is to me, if I preach not the gospel.'

But that is not to suggest that he has anything to glory of in doing so. He will not even glory in the fact that he preaches the Gospel. He will not take any credit for it. For he has nothing to glory of, in respect of himself, when he preaches the Gospel. He has no reason to feel proud or pleased with himself. Rather it is to him a divine necessity. If he did not preach the Gospel continually it would be a woe to him, something which would cause him grief and make him deserving of judgment, for it is his destiny, the very purpose for which he was born, and to which he was called (Acts 9.15), and he probably felt as Jeremiah did when he spoke of his message as being like a fire within him (Jeremiah 20.9 compare Amos 3.8). Thus he preached the Gospel because he had to, under divine command, and as a result of divine urgency within.

9.17-18 'For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward. But if not of my own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel.'

So he is bound to preach the Gospel. If he does it of his own will, as a free man, without receiving any payment for it, he has a reward. And that reward is that he can provide the Gospel without charge, not claiming his rights to support under the Gospel. On the other hand, if he does not do it of his own will (as he has just suggested), but as a slave, it is because the stewardship of the Gospel has been entrusted to him. But either way he is rewarded in that he can make the Gospel without charge, and thus not use to the full his right in the Gospel to claim maintenance.

Thus will all see that it is his very life, that he is genuine in what he is doing. They will see that he does not preach in order to earn a living, as did so many of the preachers, teachers and philosophers who went around teaching in order to do so. Rather they may know that he does it because it is his trust, his calling, his life work, a demand that God makes on him, for which he seeks nothing but the glory of God.

In Fact He Puts Everything Into His Work Of Winning Men For Christ (9.19-26)

9.19-21 'For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews. To them who are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law. To those who are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain those who are without law.'

For it is he who is the debtor (Romans 1.14). He is a debtor to all, a slave to all. He is a free man, indeed a Roman citizen, a man with great privileges, but he deliberately makes himself a slave and in bondage to all men. And he is ready to shape his life in any way necessary in order to gain as many as possible for Christ. That is all that matters to him. The fact that he is free from all because he earns his own way does not affect his dedication to his task. It rather accentuates it.

To the Jews he becomes as a Jew so as to win them for Christ. To those who are under the Law (here possibly widening the scope to include God-fearers who meticulously followed the Law, although not Jews) he becomes as under the Law, just as Jesus had done previously when He had observed all the tenets of the Pharisees, while not Himself being a Pharisee. Even though he is not actually under the Law, he will observe it scrupulously before them, and when he is with them. He will do anything not to put them off as long as it does not contradict the Gospel.

And to those not subject to the Law he becomes as one without law, as one who lives under the principles they live by, although he stresses that that does not mean that he becomes wild, or careless, or lawless. He is not without law to God. He recognises the inward law established by conscience (Romans 2.14-15). And he is under law to Christ. he acknowledges his responsibility to follow Christ's teachings and Christ's example. He would not, for example, eat things openly seen as sacrificed to idols in a pagan temple. He is still under God's general law as revealed by conscience, and under Christ's principles of life. But while remaining in line with Christ's teaching he abstains from involving himself while among them with those things that would put off those not under the law, the ritual teaching, the food laws, the washings, the laws on cleanness, and any other things that really only affect the Jews. And his purpose is so that he might gain those who are without the law for Christ.

The point here is about religious behaviour not moral behaviour. He does not mean that he will literally do anything, whether sinful or not, to win men. He means that he will not allow particular religious ordinances to get in the way of the acceptability of his message. If it will help he will perform them, if it will not help he will avoid them.

9.22-23 'To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it.'

'To the weak -.' This ties in with the subject of the previous chapter, the weak who can still be led astray by idols, but it also expands to all forms of weakness. Paul takes account of all men's weaknesses. He takes only into consideration what will enable the saving and strengthening of the weak, without a thought for his own desires. If they are weak he will be weak. He will recognise their prejudices (where it does not compromise the Gospel). Indeed he is totally committed to what is necessary in order to win the lost. He will become anything that is not ungodly if by it he can win some for Christ. So his own lifestyle enforces the fact that he does not consider his own will, but only what will be for the benefit of others, just as he has asked of the Corinthians in chapter 8.

He has become all things to all men, all that is that is best and necessary, all that will assist him in winning their confidence, that by all means he might save some. There is nothing that he will not do that is acceptable to God, in order to bring about their salvation (thus the 'all things' is consonant with that).

'And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it.' And he does it because he is not only a debtor to all men, he is a debtor to the Gospel and the One Who is the good news declared in it. What he does he does for the Gospel's sake so that he may partake in it along with all who do so. The Good News of Christ crucified and risen is his life and his destiny. It is his everything.

9.24 'Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Even so run; that you may attain.'

Then he applies his thoughts to the Corinthians. Like he does, they also should put every effort into the race. They should consider that many run in the race but only one receives the prize. So the point is that they should run their race in such a way as to be prizewinners. They should not be satisfied with anything less than being top man in this regard. They should earnestly desire to come first, and sacrifice anything to do so honestly.

This is not saying that spiritual prizes are limited so that only the best obtain one. God has prizes for all who earn them. It is looking at what the attitude of the athlete is. Determination to be the very best. And that should be the Christian's aim. To be the very best for God.

9.25 'And every man who takes part ('strives') in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.'

Furthermore let them recognise that all runners or others who strive in the games exercise self-control. They discipline themselves in preparation for the games. They discipline themselves while partaking. They keep themselves under control and put everything into achieving their goal. And if people will do that in order to obtain a corruptible crown, how much more should those who seek an incorruptible.

The idea of self-control ties in with the previous ideas of being willing to abstain from things for the sake of the Gospel, even though they are 'legitimate', things such as eating in the temples meat sacrificed to idols, to which he will come again shortly. Or the participation in the pleasures of life. He is not a killjoy, but nor will he let anything unnecessary hinder his fully serving Christ. Time taken up in pleasure is not available for spiritual activity.

'Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.' What was the reason that these athletes in the Isthmian games, held biannually near Corinth, went to such extents and sacrificed so greatly? It was to win a fading crown. For a while they would be widely popular, but then they would be replaced by others, and forgotten by all except possibly those in their own neighbourhood. They would become has-beens. How much more then should the Christian be willing to go to extremes in order to win a crown that will never fade, that will never be forgotten, that will shine as the stars for ever.

9.26 'I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so do I fight, as not beating the air, but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage, lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected ('rejected after testing').'

Indeed they should be like Paul who puts everything into his effort. Not running aimlessly and half-heartedly, but intent on obtaining the prize. Not fighting wildly and beating the air, but instead fighting with control and picking off his opponent. He fights carefully and thoughtfully. Indeed he also buffets his own body, in order, as it were, to make it controlled. He had no doubt seen boxers pummelling their own bodies in order to harden them. So does he use every means to bring his own body, and his spirit, under control and make it strong. He will do anything to ensure that, having taught others to do it, he himself does not lose out, and fail to achieve the prize.

Some see the thought behind his fear of being 'rejected' as that of being rejected from receiving 'the prize for being top man', not of being rejected altogether. And that would fit the immediate context. However, the verses that follow may be seen as suggesting that he is talking of being rejected altogether. But either way we should note that it is theoretical as far as he is concerned. He is not fearful that he will fail, he only recognises that in order not to fail he has to put in full effort. And so must all. There is nothing more dangerous than complacency.

Paul's point is that while it is true that God is at work within us to will and to do of His good pleasure, this should not make us complacent. We must co-operate. We should work out what He has worked in, 'with fear and trembling', that is with the greatest of care and effort. The fact that it is God Who enables us to walk and live the holy life, that Christ lives and walks within us (Galatians 2.20), should not produce slackness. Rather it should result in total self-control and effort as we allow Him to live His life through us. he cannot live His life through us unless we are responsive to His will.

'I myself should be rejected (adokimos).' The word adokimos means 'not standing the test, unfit, disqualified'. This raises the question in many minds as to whether someone who has become a true Christian can ever be lost. On the one hand are those who see it as referring it to merely being disqualified from being the prizewinner even though being a genuine participant. Aiming to win the single prize is what the passage is all about. On the other are those who would argue that it means finally rejected and lost.

Our view on that will depend on our views on the faithfulness of God, our views on what exactly He has promised, and on the nature of salvation itself. Those who believe that we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and have been personally foreknown ('related to beforehand') by God Himself (Romans 8.29; Ephesians 1.4) will have no doubt that He will accomplish His purpose. Such people will point to 1.8-9; Philippians 1.6; Jude 1.24, John 10.28-29 emphasising that the saving work is in the hands of an unfailing Saviour. How then can it fail? But it should be noted that in both contexts there is the confirmation that such people will be made Christlike. There is no thought of salvation without eventual transformation, wrought by Christ.

However, others turn to this verse and the 'warning passages' in Hebrews 6.4-8; 10.26-31. In these the emphasis is on man's failure to persevere. And they feel that it suggests that it is possible for a saved man to be finally lost (even though it is a contradiction in terms). The question then is, do these verses point to true believers who are finally lost through falling short and turning from Christ, or do they refer to those who, although they may have made a strong profession, have a faith which is not really saving faith?

This last distinction is constantly made in Scripture. Jesus in the parable of the sower spoke of those who sprang up quickly but, because there was no depth of earth, withered away because they were not good ground (see Mark 4.16-19 in contrast with verse 20). Hebrews 6 also distinguishes between good and bad ground. It is those who are bad ground who fall away. John in his Gospel speaks clearly of two types of faith, outward and inward, faith in signs and personal faith in Jesus (see John 2.24-25). The thought would seem to be that they fell away because their hearts were not good ground, they had not been properly prepared by God, it was not the work of the Spirit.

The suggestion then is clearly that the final test of whether the ground is good is that they have true faith which results in perseverance, not just because the person perseveres, but because the Saviour perseveres in them. They are His sheep, secure in His keeping (John 10.28-29). If they stray He seeks them until he finds them (Luke 15.4). That being so they cannot finally remain lost. He has made them good ground, and will keep them so.

How then can I know that my faith is saving faith? Simply by asking myself what my true aim is. Have I come to Him because I want to be truly saved, because I have become aware of my own sinfulness and that Christ crucified is my only hope? Is it because I really want to be changed, because I really want to become like Him, even though I know that I cannot do it myself? I may feel inadequate. I may sometimes be almost in despair. But am I looking to Him to do that gradual transforming work within me? Do I really seek His Lordship? Do I genuinely want to please Him? Then I am truly saved, and He will not let me go simply because I am weak. It is not the weak who need to fear but the complacent. If my aim is simply to get to Heaven without my life being too much disturbed then I need to rethink my position. Salvation is not a fire insurance. I may end up being 'rejected after testing'. I may turn out to be a pretence, a counterfeit, a forgery.

The Example Of The Israelites At The Exodus and In The Wilderness (10.1

The illustration is now given from the account of the Exodus and what followed of the fact that not all attain the prize. Outwardly they may appear to be the people of God, but they are soon revealed as not being so. All took part, as it were, in the contest, but not all received the prize. We should note that it is being used as an illustration. It is not a comment on the individual eternal destiny of each one in the wilderness. It is not saying that all were lost. The fact that God persevered with them shows that He had not deserted totally them. It is true that they did not attain the prize of Canaan, but many died in God's love.

10.1-4 'For I would not, brothers, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual food, and did all drink the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.'

'For' connects back to his previous words. He had described how he put every effort into success. Let them now look back and recall others, others who failed. Thus he reminds them of the great privileges enjoyed by Israel on their redemption from Egypt. Firstly they were separated off from Egypt by the cloud, which went behind them and positioned itself between them and the Egyptians (Exodus 14.19), and then by the sea which allowed them through and then destroyed the Egyptians, sealing the way to Egypt and cutting God's people off from Egypt for ever.

By this also they were baptised into the great Moses (compare 'were you baptised into the name of Paul' - 1.13), firstly under the cloud that represented the presence of God (Exodus 14.19-20) and then in passing through the sea to safety (Exodus 14.21-22). It was a full commitment to Moses, a turning away from the past to follow Moses. By this they had done with the past and put themselves totally in his hands, something later sealed in the covenant at Sinai. What greater name to be baptised into apart from Christ? Thus they had been separated off from the world and baptised with a spiritual baptism, just as the Corinthians now were.

Then they ate God-ordained, God-provided, spiritual food in the manna (Exodus 16) and drank similar spiritual drink from the rock (Exodus 17), just as the Corinthians now partook of the Lord's Table. Nothing was missing of the blessings of God. And that rock represented Christ. So in figure they drank of Him.

The 'spiritual rock that followed them' may refer to the fact that they drank of the rock at the beginning of the journey (Exodus 17.1-7), and then lo, at the end of their journey to Kadesh, there it was again (Numbers 20.2-13), thus encompassing the whole journey. That is why tradition later had it that the rock had accompanied them through the wilderness. Compare a similar idea in Psalm 78.15-16.

'For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.' But alternatively, and more likely, this may be saying that they not only drank of the rock in the wilderness but also of God's spiritual work done constantly among them by Him Who was their Rock and Who was constantly with them (Deuteronomy 32.4, 15, 18, 30) even though sometimes they forgot Him. It was He Who as their Rock followed them around. And the One Who followed them around and sought to sustain them was in fact Christ (the 'angel of Yahweh'). Thus we should look to no other.

The way this illustration is put would seem to suggest that some Corinthians were making a great to do about who had baptised them, and about the power and knowledge it gave them, and about the efficacy of partaking of the Lord's Table, possibly suggesting that it made them immune from all failure and able to ignore idols and partake openly of idol food in idol temples. They considered that they did not need to fear temptation. Thus they are reminded of the failure of Israel who symbolically had all the same benefits that they had, and failed. They must beware lest having their benefits they fail too.

Note the 'our fathers'. Paul sees the church as the true Israel who can look back to the promises.

10.5 'Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.'

The spiritual benefits of the Israelites proved to be of no efficacy to them when it came to the sins of idolatry and sexual misbehaviour, both prominent in idol temples. They failed, displeased God and were overthrown in the wilderness one by one as they died off (Numbers 14.16 LXX). Their participation in sacraments had not saved them. Let the Corinthians beware lest the same thing happen to them. Note the 'most of them' taken along with the earlier 'all'. There were only a few of all the adults who originally received the spiritual sacraments who actually survived the stay at Kadesh, e.g. Moses, Caleb and Joshua.

So among these who had experienced these things some were specifically destroyed. Others died one by one, day by day, in the wilderness, their bodies left there in the wilderness. But only the few survived to enter Canaan. We may possibly (and rightly) distinguish between those who were finally lost, those who were saved but did not receive the prize, and those whose triumph was final, but that is not Paul's emphasis here. He is concentrating on the thought of their failure to receive the prize they were aiming at. The point is that they just did not get there. (Aaron fell in the wilderness but we are not to gather from that that God had eternally rejected him. It was simply that he came short of receiving the fullness of blessing).

This is now followed by four or five examples of the way in which the majority had failed. Lusting after evil things; its resultant idolatry, having in mind the molten calf incident when the 'play' probably included sexual misbehaviour as well as false worship (Exodus 32.6); fornication (Numbers 25.1-9); testing God through unbelief (Numbers 21.4-9); murmuring (Numbers 11.1-15). All these sins were being reproduced among the Corinthians.

10.6 'Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.'

So these things were examples for us, given as a lesson so as to prevent us from doing the same, that is, preventing us from setting our minds on evil things, idolatry, fornication, trying God and murmuring. 'These things' (compare verse 11) looks ahead to the verses that follow, for what came earlier would not have been examples that prevented the desire for evil things in the Corinthians.

'We should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.' This may refer to the cry of the people for 'the flesh pots of Egypt' (Exodus 16.3 compare Numbers 11.4-6) and stresses the danger of looking back, and regretting the loss of the past. This was the precise nature of the problem that could arise from knowingly eating food sacrificed to idols, a regretting of the past and a looking back, but his use of 'we' shows that it went wider than that. All, (Paul included), had to be aware of the danger of human desires and longings, and a looking back to the things of the world (1 John 2.15-16).

10.7 'Nor be you idolaters, as were some of them. As it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.'

Reference here is to worship of the molten calf and its accompanying immoral rites (Exodus 32.6), again paralleling entering idol temples, and the danger of participation in their immoral behaviour. Note the stress on the fact that they ate in the presence of the idol which resulted in sin as a consequence. That is precisely what the danger was for the Corinthians.

Note also the change from 'we' (verse 6) to 'you' (verse 7) to 'us' (verse 8). Paul could not link himself to idolatry because he had never been involved with it. But he recognised his ever present, (although held under by his walking with the Spirit), propensity for sins of the flesh.

10.8 'Nor let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.'

Here the sin of sexual immorality is more clearly spelled out. If the reference is to Numbers 25.1-3 it also includes being influenced by idolatry, and eating in the presence of idols. But 'us' shows his consciousness that the sin is one he too might commit, so he does not emphasise the connection with idols directly. Sexual impropriety was highly prevalent in Corinthian society, as it is for many today. It was so easy to think, 'everyone does it, it is part of modern culture'. But Paul condemns it out of hand.

There would appear to have been a possible tradition that 23,000 died 'in one day', with the remainder dying soon after, making 24,000 in all (Numbers 25.9), or it may be that Paul is accentuating the severity of the punishment by stressing how quickly the large majority died, while not wishing to commit himself to all dying in one day.

The 24,000 may well have deliberately reflected twice twelve stressing the intensity of the punishment on the twelve tribes. Paul would recognise this. His 23,000 would then reflect the large majority, but not all, as dying in one day by a simple reduction by a fraction (a thousand). Numbers were regularly used in this kind of way in those days, to convey ideas rather than be exact. Note the mention of 'the day of the plague' in Numbers 25.18 which draws attention to the severity of the first day.

It is extremely unlikely that Paul got it wrong accidentally. He knew the Scriptures too well. That Paul clearly saw the 'one day' as significant in expressing the severity of the punishment comes out in the next verse where the imperfect suggests that in contrast the snake judgment occurred over a period of time, but he was clearly wary of saying that all without exception died in one day, thus he reduced the number lightly.

10.9 'Nor let us make trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished ('were perishing') by the snakes.'

Again they tested the Lord by looking back and comparing their present state with the past (Numbers 21.4-9 compare Psalm 78.18), an ever present danger in times of trial. The result for them was God's judgment in the form of the poisonous snakes in the camp. Their past spiritual experiences did not save them. So neither Paul nor the Corinthians must put themselves in danger of looking back (compare 9.26). It could be even worse for them.

Note: Some MS have 'the Lord'. Some have 'Christ'. Some have 'God'. 'The Lord' is found for example in Aleph and B. P46, D, G have 'Christ', easily seen as interpretive of 'the Lord'. A has 'God', again interpretive. An original 'the Lord' easily explains both variances, the change being made for clarity. But the matter is not certain.

10.10 'Nor murmur you, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.'

The final example is of their dissatisfied murmurings. Examples of this accompanied by judgment are found in Numbers 11.1-3; 14.1-38; 16.41 but they 'murmured' on numerous occasions. The change to 'you' might seem to indicate that he has in mind their murmuring against him, as the people had against Moses, and this would favour Numbers 14.1-38 as being in mind, as would the connection of that passage with the people dying in the wilderness (compare verse 5 above). But the point is the same. The people murmured against Moses and against God and were severely punished and perished in the wilderness. In the nicest possibly way he indicates what happens to people who murmur against their God-given leaders.

'The Destroyer ('olothreutes).' Exodus 12.23 LXX speaks of 'the destroyer' ('olothreuon), and the destroying angel who utilised pestilence is described in 1 Chronicles 21.12, 15. In Jewish literature 'the Destroyer' is linked with the incident in Numbers 16. Thus the emphasis is on the fact that they were destroyed directly by God's instrument. God Himself was responsible for what happened.

10.11 'Now these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages are come.'

He stresses again that 'these things' (compare verse 6) happened 'by way of example' as an admonition to all who would follow. The imperfect, strictly 'were happening', stresses the continual nature of the happenings over time all through the wilderness period, just as would continue to happen among the Corinthians (11.30).

'On whom the end of the ages has come.' To the early church the coming of Christ had introduced the ends of the ages, 'the last days' (Acts 2.17); 'the end of the days' (Hebrews 1.2); 'the end of the times' (1 Peter 1.20); 'the end of all things is at hand' (1 Peter 4.7); 'the end of the ages' (Hebrews 9.26). And the fact that we live in such vital times, says Paul, stresses the importance of right living and obedience to God.

10.12 'For this reason let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.'

So from all this the general principle arises that we should beware of complacency. We may feel that we are of such stature spiritually that we cannot fall, even that we 'have knowledge' (8.1), have been baptised and partake of the covenant feast, the Lord's Supper, but that is no guarantee against falling. There is only one such guarantee, the faithfulness of God and constant watch, disciplined living, continuance in faithfulness and prayer (9.26-27). Arrogance and self-confidence is excluded. We are most likely to fail when our confidence is in ourselves. We must therefore be constantly watchful in our ways (see 16.13), working out our own salvation with greatest care, but recognising that it is God Who is at work within us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2.12-13) as Christ Himself lives in us and through us (Galatians 2.20).

10.13 'There has no temptation taken you but such as man can bear, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.'

Paul now intervenes in his catalogue of exhortation (10.1-9) with the assurance of divine aid. 'If these failed what hope is there for us?' some may ask. He does not want to make them too discouraged. His reply is to turn them, and us, to the faithfulness of God, as he did in 1.9. There He was faithful as the One Who would confirm us to the end. Here He is faithful as ensuring that we are not tempted above what we are able to cope with, and as the One Who will provide the way of escape from any temptations and tests that He does allow us to endure.

'There has no temptation taken you but such as man can bear (such as is of a human nature, common to man).' The stress here is on the fact that the temptations and tests that Israel endured, and that the Corinthians now endure, were of earthly origin. They were ones that come on them from outside, that 'took' them, and were such that men can face them with the confidence that they will overcome with God's help. Whether having in mind the temptations of Satan in the world, or the trials of the world, all men experience them. And with God's help they can be overcome.

Indeed for such temptations they can rest confidently in the faithfulness of God. In His watch as their keeper He will not allow temptations that they cannot overcome, and will ensure that they always have a way out, a way of escape.

Note that this is not a promise that we will not be tempted. That would not be good for us. It is rather the promise that, if we are His, God will sift temptations in accordance with our ability to deal with them, and that when we are being tempted we will be enabled to bear it, partly because we are confident of God's willingness to provide the way of escape, and partly because He will be with us in it and will indeed provide that way of escape. It does not mean that we will never fail. Peter was an example of one who was warned, and yet fell, but he found a way of escape for he fled to the mercy and forgiveness of God and was enabled to bear it (Luke 22.31-32).

So we need not despair, for God is with us in our temptations and through them, and can give us strength and wisdom to overcome, and provide forgiveness when necessary. Note how Paul is turning their thoughts from their own ability to deal with such things, to God's. Their pride must not be in themselves, and what they are, but in what God is.

10.14 'For this reason, my beloved, flee from idolatry.'

All temptation must be faced in the right way. The way of escape from idolatry is to flee from it. This is significant. It is saying that they are not to say, 'God can give us strength to fight the evil influence of idolatry if we participate in these feasts'. Rather they are to flee from them That is the only way to fight their influences. For if we put ourselves in the way of temptation ('for this reason') we cannot expect God's assistance in overcoming it.

Idolatry has its own subtle pull. Men who have been involved with idolatry may feel that they have rid themselves of its influence, but at weak moments, if they pander to it, it will work its way into their hearts and drag them down, for by it they are consorting with devils (verse 20). Thus avoidance is the best way to deal with it. Elsewhere Paul applies the same principle to youthful lusts. They are to be fought by hasty, strategic withdrawal and careful avoidance of places which might produce the temptation, not by 'facing up to the temptation and trying to resist it' (6.18; 1 Timothy 6.11; 2 Timothy 2.22). To watch films that are full of immorality so that we can prove that we can overcome our desires is a sure way to be defeated. But as always there are exceptions. Some may be called to go among such things that they may present Christ there. But those very exceptions prove the truth of the principle. For the vast majority such things should be avoided.

I knew a man in Christ who worked among the sins of Soho. He would sometimes take theological students with him, but always warning them never to visit the dens of vice alone. But one was sure that he was strong enough, and it was only because that man in Christ had friends who were concerned enough to contact him that he learned in time what was happening and was able to rescue that rather foolish young man from what would have destroyed his future. The word is true. Flee youthful desires.

This reminds us that in the main sins of the flesh are to be met by fleeing, sins of the mind by looking to the word of God and standing firm (16.13; Ephesians 6.10-18; 2 Timothy 2.15; Galatians 5.1), and the pride of life by humbling oneself, subjecting oneself to God and resisting the Devil (James 4.7). Each must be fought using the right weapons.

10.15 'I speak as to wise men. You judge what I say.'

He pleads now that they will think about the question. They put themselves forward as wise men, so let them use their intelligence and consider what is involved by comparing the situation with their own religious ceremonies. His argument will be that religious meals involve communion, a sharing with someone in something, a sharing in common, and that that sharing is in respect to that with which they have the meal, whether Christ, or the ancient altar, or demons. Indeed, he asks, how can they be the body of Christ and participate with demons in sharing a meal?

10.16-17 'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? Seeing that we, who are many, are one bread, one body, for we are all partake of the one bread.'

Let them consider. When they partake of the cup of blessing, the wine of the Lord's supper, does it not bring them into oneness with the blood of Christ? They drink of Him by faith (John 6.35). Is it not a sharing in His death? This 'cup of blessing' is based on the third of the four cups in the Passover meal. It is the cup which He described as symbolising the new covenant in His blood. By partaking of it in His presence at the Lord's Table they renew their oneness in the covenant and in His sacrifice for them. They represent themselves as crucified with Christ, and as partakers in His death and resurrection. It is a partaking in, a communion with, a participation in, a uniting with, what the blood of Christ shed for them symbolises and represents. They are revealing that they are spiritually one with Him, in His death and resurrection, and in His life.

When they break the bread and partake of it, does it not bring them into oneness with the body of Christ, into participation in that body of which they have become a member by being baptised into Christ (12.12-13)? The one bread represents Christ, Who is the Bread of Life (John 6.35). By eating of the broken bread they become one bread together, as the bread was one, and by partaking of that one bread, indicate that they are the one body, the body of Christ, which that one bread represents. Here we have the heart of why the church is the body of Christ, because they are united with Him in His body (see 12.12-27; 6.15; Romans 12.5; Ephesians 1.23; 5.29-30), the one body, partaking of the one bread (John 6.35). He is one body and they are one body in Him.

This idea is central to the New Testament concept of the body of Christ. It does not so much teach that He is the head and we are the body, but that He is the body, and that by uniting with Him in His body through faith we also become the one body with Him (Ephesians 2.15-16). Thus in 1 Corinthians 12 some members of the body include the eyes, ears and head because they are all part of His one body (verse 16, 21).

The thought is of spiritual oneness with Christ and with each other. All are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3.28). In spiritual oneness we have died with Christ. We have been broken with Him. But in His resurrection we are all made one together. All is put right. And that is what eating the bread symbolises.

We are not His body in a physical sense. Nor are we united with His body in a physical sense. Nor do we eat of His physical body. It is through what He has done in His body through the cross, that we are united with Him (Ephesians 2.14-16), and this is by faith. We are 'eating' what He is for us. We are united with what He did for us. It is as though we died and rose with Him. We are conjoined with Him.

(There is of course a way in which Christ is described as the Head, but that is not in contrast with the body, but in respect of His full Headship as Lord over all and over His church. It does not signify that He is not Himself the body with which they are united, for He is. The ancients did not see the body as just controlled by the head, but as controlled by the heart, liver, kidneys and bowels).

Note on the Body of Christ.

The idea of the body of Christ begins with teaching concerning the literal body of Christ. Thus when Jesus at the Last Supper took the bread and broke it and said, 'Take, eat. This is my body.' (Matthew 26.26). 'Take you, this is my body.' (Mark 14.22). 'This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me' (Luke 22.19). 'This is my body which is for you, do this in remembrance of me' (1 Corinthians 11.24), He was clearly pointing to His death on the cross in a physical body and equally pointing to the fact that they could nourish themselves from Him and His death. He was symbolising spiritual participation in the body of His flesh as the crucified One.

It is hardly necessary to point out that someone who was alive and well at the time could hardly have meant this to be taken literally. The bread could not be His body for He was still in His body. To claim that it was His body in a 'mystical' sense is to make such an idea meaningless. Such a 'mystical body' would not be His body in any meaningful sense of the term. It would not in fact be to declare a miracle but to argue a literal and factual impossibility, a contradiction. It would be to play with words. If we mean (rightly) that it was a symbol, a representation, then let us say that.

What Jesus in fact simply meant was that the bread was to be seen as representing His body symbolically, just as in the Passover, of which Jesus' words were a parallel, the leader took bread and said 'this is the bread of affliction which your fathers ate'. Such a person did not mean that it literally was that bread of affliction, but that it represented it, it symbolised it. What he actually meant was, 'this is to remind you of, and symbolises, and allows you to partake in, by inference, by thought transference, the bread of affliction'. Each time they ate they as it were entered into the experience of eating the bread of affliction. And in the same way each time we eat the bread at the Lord's Table we enter by inference and by thought transference into the experience of His crucifixion, confirming that we are united with Him in His death, and united with Him in His body.

Our being members (individual parts united in one) of the body of Christ Himself is likened to the union between a man and his wife in marriage (Ephesians 5.28-29) and in sexual relations (1 Corinthians 6.15). These relationships make a man and his wife 'one flesh' (Genesis 2.24), acting as one in all things with the wife being totally responsive to her husband. It is the closest possible spiritual union, and in the ideal the closest possible spiritual co-operation. Its closeness is expressed in 1 Corinthians 12.12. It is Christ Himself Who is immediately represented in terms of the church as members of His body. The body is Christ. So in 'the body of Christ', Jesus Christ and His people are conjoined as one.

End of note).

Being then made one with Him, and partaking in His death and resurrection, can they go as members of His body (taking Christ with them) to participate in meals in the presence of, and dedicated to, demons? Can they take Christ's body into heathen temples to participate in its functions? Can they so degrade Christ? And showing oneness in the covenant of Christ by drinking, can they not see that by partaking of the sacrifice to idols they are also showing covenant oneness with them by partaking? Do they really wish to compromise Christ and what He has accomplished?

10.18 'Behold Israel after the flesh, do not those who eat the sacrifices have communion with the altar?'

His second example is the oneness with the altar, and all that it meant, of those in physical Israel who ate of the sacrifices offered on that altar. This was important because it paralleled exactly the worship of idols in the offering of a sacrifice and then partaking of it. As they ate of the sacrifices they were one with the altar because that was where the sacrifice had been offered, and they were one with all who participated of the meal, and one in benefiting from the efficacy of the sacrifice. They as it were ate before God (compare Exodus 24.10-11), and were seen as under His sovereignty. His point here is that in the same way if you participate of the sacrificial meat in the temple you are, at least in the eyes of others, uniting yourself with the sacrificial offering which was made to the god from whose altar the meat came. Thus you are making yourself at one with the altar of whichever god is in mind, and therefore professing yourself as under his jurisdiction.

'Israel after the flesh.' That is, physical Israel. We have here another reminder that the church is the true spiritual Israel. To suggest that this refers directly to the worship of the molten calf is to read too much into the wording. Had Paul meant that he would have made it quite clear. Rather he is making a point from true ancient worship.

10.19-20 'What do I say then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? But I say, that the things which they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God. And I do not wish that you should be sharers in common with demons.'

He firmly insists that he is not by this saying that a thing sacrificed to an idol is anything special, or that an idol is anything special. What he is saying is that in fact idolatrous worship is not just harmless superstition, it is backed by demons, by evil spirits, and that whoever offer sacrifices to idols, whether Israel in its false worship of the molten calf, or Gentiles in the worship of idols, are thus unknowingly offering sacrifices to demons (compare Deuteronomy 32.17). They are not to be seen as worshipping God in any way. Their way is not just another way to God, it provides contact with the supernatural world of evil. So what Paul is encouraging them to avoid is to actually have things in common with 'the demons', that is, the whole world of demons.

10.21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons.'

That being so they only have to think about it. How can they at the same time drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons? How can they eat that which comes from the table of the Lord, and at the same time that which comes from the table of demons? The thought is abhorrent. For they would then be participating in the Lord while participating with those who are His worst enemies, with that which He hates. They would be consorting with Him and at the same time with all that is in opposition to Him. They would thereby be acting as doubleminded traitors.

10.22 'Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?'

By not fleeing from idolatry they are provoking the Lord to jealously (the symmetry of the passage connects the two statements). He thus compares the act of eating in pagan temples with lovers seeking to make their partner jealous by consorting with another. Is that what they are trying to do, make God jealous? Do they really think that they are so mighty that they can treat God in that way?

Or perhaps in the light of Deuteronomy 32.17 he is simply pointing out that they are deliberately rebelling by approaching false gods even while they pretend to worship the true God, and thus stirring God's 'jealousy', His concern that His people should only look to Him (Exodus 20.5). For In Deuteronomy 32.17 we read, 'they sacrificed to demons which were no God, to gods whom they knew not, whom your fathers did not fear' and this is followed by (verse 21), 'they have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked me to anger with their vanities, and I will move them to jealousy with those who are not a people, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.'

These foolish Corinthians, he suggests, are behaving just like those foolish Israelites of old (compare verses 5-10) and may therefore bring on themselves the same judgment, that God will show favour to others who are not His chosen and not to them who think they are. They are thus choosing their own way in defiance of God and thereby giving the impression that they think themselves stronger than Him. While what they are really doing is flaunting God.

10.23 'All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.'

Again he takes up their own challenge that 'all things are lawful to us' (compare 6.12). Quite right, he says, but they are not necessarily expedient, not necessarily for the best, not necessarily good. Such things may be lawful to them, but they edify neither them themselves nor those who see them in the act. Rather do they do them both harm. So what is of primary importance is not the assertion of liberty, true though it may be, but the concern to show love to one's fellow. Freedom is glorious, but misused freedom is in this case devilish.

Once again we have here an example of the danger of what seem to be sensible catch phrases, but which turn out not to be so, for they always have to be qualified in some way. Trite sayings misrepresent truth.

10.24 'Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbour's good.'

A much better catch phrase, suggests Paul, is, 'let no man seek his own but each his neighbour's'. In other words a man should not be always thinking of himself and his own freedom and his rights to this or that, but should be thinking of what is good for his neighbour (compare Romans 15.2). And this they were failing to do.

10.25-26 'Whatever is sold in the shambles (meat market), eat, asking no question for conscience' sake, for the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness.'

But having forbidden the eating of sacrificial meat in temples he now turns to the question of meat sold externally by temples to the meat markets, some of which might also have been sacrificed to idols. Must this then also be avoided in case it had been sacrificed to idols? Pious Jews were in fact expected to ask whether such meat had been sacrificed to idols, and if it had not to eat it. After Paul's previous words pious Christians might have felt that they should do the same. But Paul points out that for Christians whether Jew or non-Jew it is unnecessary. Meat itself does not become contaminated by religious use, it is known connection with such use that disqualifies it, because of the weaker consciences of others. Otherwise it can be eaten with alacrity.

The reference here is to meat bought in the meat market whose origin is unknown. In that case, he says, they may eat of it without asking questions, for being of unknown origin it is neither giving a false witness to others, nor is it in any way giving countenance to idols. For everything that is in the world is God's for Him to dispose of as He will and idols and demons cannot affect meat. It is only when there is a conscious connection with idol worship that such meat has to be avoided, simply because of the bad effect such eating may have on some people. So what he has previously said does not mean that they must question the origin of every piece of meat they come across. Let them express their loyalty to the Creator by eating of it secure in the knowledge that it is His provision, part of what He has given man in creation, and that none other supposed creators matter.

'For the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness (what is in it).' This phrase from Psalm 24.1 was regularly used in grace at Jewish tables. Thus we may well see Paul as saying, 'having given thanks for it you may certainly eat of it if no reason is given why you should not'. For it is all part of God's provision.

10.27 'If one of those who do not believe bids you to a feast, and you are disposed to go. whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience' sake.'

The same principle applies when they are invited to go to a pagan friend's house or banquet. There is no reason not to go if they wish to. Nor do they have to start asking questions about the meat. If its source is unknown they do not have to ask about it. Their conscience need not be so bound. They can eat whatever is set before them, accepting it as from the Lord and His fullness, and giving thanks to Him.

So the principle that he is stressing is that it is not whether the meat has been sacrificed to idols that matters. That affects things neither one way or the other. What really matters is when it is publicly known that it is so. Then it does matter because of the testimony it gives, and the effect that it might have on those who are spiritually weak. It is all a matter of testimony and concern for the thoughts of the weaker brother, not of the meat itself.

10.28-29a 'But if any man say to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice in a temple (hierothyton)," do not eat, for his sake who revealed it, and for conscience sake. Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other's.'

Thus if someone deliberately draws their attention to the fact that the meat has been offered to idols in a temple, then they must immediately think of the effect that their eating will have on others, and abstain from eating. This not for the sake of their own conscience, but for the sake of the conscience of the other who clearly sees it as significant. It will then be a testimony that they have nothing to do with idols and idolatry, and will not sow error or doubts in the observer's mind. It should be noted that the very fact that the question is being asked should put them on the alert that their response does matter and will be judged.

10.29b-30 'For why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If I partake with thankfulness ('by grace'), why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?'

This may offend some who want to know why their freedom should be bound by someone else's conscience. Why, if they eat the meat with gratitude to God, or do so because they enjoy the grace of God revealed in their status before Him, should they be criticised for eating what they have given thanks for? Why should they judged in terms of what others think? If they are doing right from their own viewpoint, why should they be concerned with what others think?

Paul' reply would be, as he has already shown, that once again all their thought is of themselves and of what is for their own benefit, when what they should be thinking of is what effect it would have on others. They are lacking that consideration for others which is central to Christian love. (It is thus noteworthy that it is not only modern day men who demand their rights at any cost regardless of the effect on others).

10.31 'Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.'

Paul's reply is specific and clear. He points to the positive aspect, the need to do all to the glory of God. His reply is that they must ensure that, whatever they do, even in the eating of meat, they do it to the glory of God. It is not their own liberty and rights that they should be concerned about, but God's rights. Their thoughts should be on what pleases Him and what brings glory to Him. And what pleases Him involves consideration for the effect of the things they do on others. Surely they can see that no glory comes to God in doing something which actually causes harm to others of His people? That is the point, and the thing that has to be taken into account

10.32-33 'Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God, even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.'

For what should be their first concern is to give no occasion for tripping up or stumbling to anyone, whether Jew, or Gentile, or Christian. They are to be like Paul is, not seeking his own advantage or gain, but concerned to be rightfully pleasing and satisfactory to all men, living so as to present to them the best witness and the clearest testimony, so that they might profit, and, best of all, be saved (see 9.19-23).

Note the wide range of those who could be affected by the act of knowingly eating meat sacrificed in a temple to idols, each for different reasons, the Jew because the idea is abhorrent to all to which he has been brought up, the Gentile because he judges the eater as giving credence to idols, and the believer because it can raise doubts within him that can be harmful, and even destroy him.

11.1 'Be you imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.'

Paul is conscious that he has been laying great stress on his own example, so now he sets the record straight. They are to be imitators of him because he is an imitator of Christ. What he has been saying is precisely what Christ would recommend and do, and indeed did do (see especially Philippians 2.4-11). By this he brings them back again to 'Christ and Him the crucified One'. That is where it all began.

There may be a feeling in societies where food offered to idols is not a problem that much of what has been said in these chapters is not relevant to them. But if so they should quickly be disabused. For the basic lesson that lies behind Paul's words is of the importance of living our lives in such a way as not to cause unnecessary offence, in living them so as to be able to present the best possible case for the Gospel, and in order to prevent other Christians being harmed by our over liberality, in avoiding all contact with the occult and with superstition. He is not out to please men so that he will be hailed as a wonderful fellow, but so that he might remove any unnecessary obstacle in their coming to Christ.

So it is right that we have concern for a nation's customs, and where it will help in the spreading of the Gospel, be willing to conform to those customs. But once we face something in those customs which is offensive to the Gospel, or which suggests participation in other gods or other supernatural elements, or which causes doubts among fellow-Christians, or hinders our evangelism, then we must abstain from them for the sake of both ourselves and others.

Approach to Worship (11.2-14.40).

We now move on to a section which deals with the Christian approach to worship in the light of the particular problems of the Corinthian church. Chapter 11 covers the question of the covering or uncovering of the head in praying and prophesying, and its significance, followed by problems arising at the Christian love feasts and the Lord's Table, including the divisions caused by those problems. Note that it is all about problems arising from un-Christian behaviour and attitudes. Chapters 12-14 then go on to deal with the question of the church as one body with Christ, and with that of spiritual gifts for the edifying of that one body, and warns again against un-Christian behaviour and attitudes by misuse of the gifts. And embedded within the whole is the great chapter on Christian love (chapter 13) which should underlie all worship. All worship is to be founded on love, and what we do in worship should have in mind how it will affect others. Worship is never to be selfish. It is to be participating together for the good of all.

The Status of Men and Women in Ministry When Prophesying and Praying Is To Be Expressed In The Covering or Uncovering of the Head (11.2-16).

This question is of great importance in the church, because it deals with the matter of authority, and especially authority in ministry. It is usually misrepresented as though it somehow demeaned women. In fact it exalts women. But in spite of all attempts to modernise it and all attempts to tone down its message, its message does remain inviolable, once correctly interpreted.

It certainly declares that there is in the present order of things a grading in authority from God to Christ, from Christ to man and from man to woman. Yet this is not in order to degrade the woman, but in order to raise her to her rightful place as man's helpmeet in the things of the Spirit as well as in the things of the flesh. Woman is seen as not to be excluded from the whole. Just as God being the head of Christ does not demean Christ, it means that He operates at a lower level as a necessary part of God's plan of salvation, neither is it demeaning to a woman that man is her head. (It may, of course be unpalatable because she lacks Christ's humility).

Fallen men and women tend to look on this question of a covering wrongly. Fallen man tends to look on it as a sign that women are inferior and should be submissive, while they should rather see it as an indication of the important position which God has given to women in Christ. (They should also look on it as a reminder that each man should treat his wife as Christ treats the church (Ephesians 5.24-33) because of how important she is. As under his authority he should care for her and nurture her). Fallen women see it as an imposition. They see it as humiliating. They dare not tell God to move over, so they tell man to move over. They have lost the heart of a servant which is at the very centre of Christian behaviour. Rather than gladly pick up the towel which Christ offers them they insist that Christ should still carry it and use it. They do not want to be thought of as towel-bearers. But a woman should rather see the covering required here as a vizier's crown, declaring her important status before God, next only to the man. It is the proclamation of her important status to angels and to the world.

Rather, however, than do this modern woman spends much of her time arguing about her own status over against man and so overlooks Christ's command to be the servant of all (Mark 9.35; 10.34). In the Upper Room there was only One who was fitted to take the basin and wash the feet of the guests at the Last Supper for only He was qualified by not being concerned about His own status. The remainder were too big and important to serve. But Jesus said, 'I am among you as He Who serves'. He alone was therefore fit to serve. The woman who cavils at covering her head is simply demonstrating her total unfitness for the service of Christ.

Women in the modern day may be intensely annoyed at the suggestion that they should cover their heads when praying or prophesying in church (and cover them properly, not just with an eye catching hat). But apart from what has been said above they should bear two things in mind. Firstly that the idea is God appointed, and that while it might be annoying, perhaps we should recognise that God knows that it will finally be for the good of all. And secondly, that they should approach the question as a test of their true love for God. Love does not push itself forward, and puff itself up (13.4-5). Rather it submits to what God knows to be best. It is just possible that He knows more than we do, and that is that while there are exceptions to be accommodated (like Deborah (Judges 4-5) and Huldah the prophetess, who would both keep themselves covered) the overall authority of man is for the best, as long as man uses it in love and submission to God.

Paul actually had a high view of the woman's position, contrary to that held by many in his day. He recognised that at creation God had created the woman to share with man in the exercising of man's God-given authority on earth. He could declare us all one in Christ Jesus. And yet he recognised at the same time that womankind as a whole functions best when observing man's God-given headship.

His message here had also especial importance for women in those days because the whole of society would judge them in terms of it. One question that could always arise for women was, were they in danger of depicting themselves as loose or rebellious women, especially in lascivious Corinth, because of how they behaved when praying and prophesying? Would they thereby bring discredit on the name of Christ? He wanted the proper order of things to be maintained, and the world to see that it was so.

But that it goes further than that comes out in 1 Timothy 2.12. There the final authority, especially in authoriatative teaching, was to be with the man. This probably has to do with the fact that on the whole men are more steadily rational than women, while women are more intuitive. (Of course there are exceptions to be accommodated or be warned about). And also to do with the fact that the revelation of God when used authoritatively needs dealing with rationally rather than intuitively. Intuition goes beyond what is there and can therefore in such matters lead astray. It is indeed interesting to note what part women have played since then in the spreading the kind of heresy that goes beyond the rational.

However, it would be unreasonable not to recognise also that women on the missionfield have played a huge part in the spreading of the true Gospel, and the building up of the body of Christ, and the training of men to serve the churches. And yet to their credit for the most part, even while they were thrust into having authority, they recognised the importance of the principles outlined above. They believed God's word and lived in accordance with it. They acknowledged the headship of man because had God declared it.

It should perhaps be noted that there is no mention in the passage of being 'in the church'. That comes later. Thus this is not necessarily dealing primarily with the question of how a woman should dress in church. It is dealing with the question of how she should dress when ministering by praying and prophesying. For a woman to pray and prophesy (and thus lead worship), wherever it took place, without wearing a head covering, was to usurp man's authority as king and priest before God, and this was not to be allowed. On the other hand the covering was not to be seen as demeaning, for the same covering indicated the authority that she did have in these things as man's appointed helpmeet (verse 10).

(The question is not so much one of wearing something on the head, as of what it indicated to all. The point is that she should give an indication that she is man's helpmeet, not his lord, nor his slave. She should not express total independence and lack of submission to man's authority under God. The church has no place for unisex, or power-mad women's movements which seek to displace men, but it does have a place for woman's participation in the work of God, under Christ and under man. The world today will disagree. But then the world disagrees with Christ on many things. And in so far as the church does so it has ceased to be the church, for the church is united with Christ and cannot disagree with Him and remain the church).

The lack of reference to being in church does not necessarily deny that much praying and prophesying would take place within the church as a whole. But it recognises that often it would also take place in women's gatherings (Titus 2.3-4, compare Acts 16.13 where it was in the open air), or in the open air, or even in private worship in people's homes. The point we are making is that it is not a woman's presence in the church that is primarily in Paul's mind in this section, but that of her praying and prophesying, and that wherever it was engaged in.

In chapter 14 we will learn of the great emphasis that Paul lays on prophesying for the edification of God's people. Such ministry was especially important when there was no New Testament. It was a gift of the Spirit (12.28-29) through which the church could be ministered to (14.31), although it had to be accompanied by safeguards to ensure its soundness (12.3; 14.29). Here we learn that women prophesied as well as men, and thus it was necessary for the place of women in such ministry to be both safeguarded and controlled.

It may be that one problem for us as we consider the particular passage is that we are still not really aware of what the dress and other customs of the ancient world were. We have clues here and there, but in the end we have to interpret this passage without being exactly certain what the background of some of the illustrations is. Some commentaries give various examples, and come to differing conclusions, but none of the customs described can be said to be universally applicable. Our knowledge is limited. Thus we have to approach the matter cautiously. However, we need to recognise that possibly that is irrelevant and that Paul is expressing an eternal principle.

Another problem we have, of course, is that we tend to look at things from a modern viewpoint and we thus tend to make Paul say what we think he should have said.

11.2 'Now I praise you that you remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.'

Paul opens this section by giving them praise for remembering so much of what he has taught them and for holding fast the ideas that he had delivered to them. To that extent they held firmly to the truth, and to that extent he is satisfied, and he wants them to know it before he mentions something about which he is not so content. He wants to be conciliatory.

Paul was a wise man. He knew that to constantly belabour men and women without some praise could only lead to bitterness. It was necessary that they recognise that he saw the good in them as well as the bad. And so for a moment he relaxes and commends them. For not all were caught up in the things that he has condemned.

11.3 'But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.'

But he is dissatisfied about their attitude towards authority, and especially of that of the women towards the men who are over the church, and possibly at their actual behaviour when prophesying. They were failing to recognise God's order of things revealed at creation. He thus lays down regulations concerning women being 'covered'. As he will make clear this is not just a matter of religious custom. Their very failure is symptomatic of what is wrong in the Corinthian church, the lack of recognition of general authority.

He first establishes the doctrinal position. The Christ is the head of every man, the man is the head of the woman, and the head of Christ is God. The last phrase establishes the basis of what we are talking about. In creation there is a defined order. Over all is the triune God. 'The Christ' came from God, emptying Himself of His Godhood and of His equality within the Godhead (Philippians 2.5-7), and fulfilling the task of redemption allocated to Him as true Man. He made a voluntary submission, and gladly took a subsidiary role. Becoming Man it was as Man that He acknowledged God as His Head, both as 'over Him' and as the source from which He came, so that having accomplished His divine mission He might then return to God and submit all things to Him (15.24). Thus Christ voluntarily placed Himself in a position of submission. He Who was the Creator of the world, chose to place Himself in submission to the Godhead, so that the Godhead was the 'Head' of Christ in this regard. That is, God is the One Who is set over Christ in His manhood and mission, and Who is the source from which He came. And Christ deliberately humbled Himself to that end, acknowledging a head over Him in His role.

The mention of this relationship is important both in itself and because it defines the other relationships. Christ was in voluntary and joyous submission to God. He sought only to do what pleased Him. There was no thought of constraint or of being taken advantage of. God did not lord it over Christ. Christ did not resent His position in any way. He had voluntarily become man and a servant and He gladly walked the way of submission that He had chosen. It was submission to love, and in love, not to tyranny.

Then, secondly, Christ is the Head of every man. As appointed by God to His task He is in authority over all men as the King over the Kingly Rule of God, and is the source of their life. All therefore are in submission to Him, and owe all to Him. He is both their ruler and the source of their life, their Head, and as such is the One to whom they should respond in obedience. But He expressed that headship in washing their feet. His whole concern in every moment of His life was for the good of those who were in submission to Him. While He could simply have demanded all, He gave all.

Then, thirdly, we have man as the image of God over creation, and therefore over woman who was created for his benefit, assistance and blessing. Man is head of womankind and lord of creation. His wife should be in responsive submission to him as his 'right hand woman', as Christ was to God, set apart as his main helpmeet in his task, living in voluntary submission following the example of Christ. This is confirmed by the fact that at creation man was the source of her being and had authority over her. She came from his side and is his helpmeet and his first minister, to whom he looks for assistance in fulfilling his own responsibilities before God. The whole line downwards demonstrates that this was not in order to make him a tyrannical despot, for God is not the tyrannical despot of Christ, and Christ is not the tyrannical despot of man. So, in the same way, man is not to be the tyrannical despot of the woman. She contains his life. She produces life, producing both man and woman from her body. The relationship is to be one of love, consideration, co-operation and thoughtfulness. The man is to be concerned for the woman and seeking her highest good. Nevertheless respectful submission remains at the differing levels and was to be seen in the case of man and woman as established at creation.

The use of 'head' (kephale) to depict both lordship and life source was necessary in order to incorporate both ideas. No other word would have achieved the same. Compare Colossians 1.18.

So here we have depicted God's plan of salvation in its fullness beginning with God Who produced His deputy, the God-man Christ, the great Mediator, Who produced His deputy man and gave man his deputy, woman. These are over all creation and the grades of descent are clear.

11.4-6 'Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered (literally 'having a hanging down from the head'), dishonours his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonours her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn. But if it is a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled.'

This order of things, and the importance and status of the man and the woman in the scheme of things is now emphasised by reference to head coverings. The head covering now described is in some way symbolic of headship and authority, and this is confirmed in verse 7 where the lack of covering of the man relates to the fact that he stands on earth in the place of God. He is made in God's image, with no superior on earth. He has full authority. And this is expressed when he prophesies and prays in his uncovered head. When acting in Christ's Name the man removes his head covering in order to declare to mankind, and to angels, and even to Satan, that he is free and with full authority over all God's creation. He is submissive to none but his Head, to Christ.

It is arguable whether 'dishonours his head' refers to his own head or to Christ as his Head. But the principle behind it is the same. Any covering to his head when praying and prophesying publicly brings dishonour, because it suggest that he is inferior to what he is. Primarily it dishonours Christ because he is acting as Christ's representative in what he is doing, and if he was covered he would be demeaning Christ's authority and diminishing it in the eyes of men, secondarily it dishonours his own head because it depicts him as less than he is. As man he may be humbled in the scheme of things, under the authority of others, both men and women. But when among God's people and acting in Christ's Name he is still lord of creation.

It is possible that in Paul's day it was recognised that a servant or slave had often to have his head covered before his master, depicting his inferior position, although there is no definite evidence for this. This would certainly explain why when they were praying and prophesying, and thus depicting their total freedom within creation, all men were to have their heads uncovered. It might also be seen as demonstrating to the church that in the church all men were equal and free, so that, while they were in the church there was neither slave nor free (Galatians 3.28). It would thus be a sign to all that before God they were lords of creation and free. They had no authority over them but Him. If that were the case then to cover his head when praying and prophesying, that is when acting very much as God's representative and lord of creation, would be to dishonour both his head as that of a free man before God (which statement would seem to confirm that in some way a head covering for a man was seen as degrading) and his headship as allocated to him by God. Once he went outside he might have to cover himself, he might have to be a slave, but while praying and prophesying, whether in the church, or indeed anywhere, he should depict himself as a free man.

But even if the custom suggested did not exist the tenor of the verse together with verse 7 suggests that the conclusion remains the same. 'Covering' the head was in some way seen as a denial of man's lordship over creation. It was therefore not to be considered when praying or prophesying, in which activities he was acting on God's behalf towards man, and man's behalf towards God, as God's free instrument in his new sphere set apart from the world within the Kingly Rule of God.

The Christian woman on the other hand wore the covering as a sign of proclamation that the man was the head, and she was his helpmeet. She was stressing that she did not herself make a claim to headship. She was the helper. And, says Paul if she did not wear the head covering when praying and prophesying she may just as well be shaved, something which would be seen as bringing grave dishonour on a woman, denoting her unfaithfulness or unworthiness. For it would declare her rebellion against her position in creation as established by God, and would also denote her sexual casualness (for all chaste women covered themselves in public). Outside the church women were men's property, and their sexual revelation of themselves was tightly controlled, in such a way that if they did not follow the regulations they were revealed as loose women. Their covering denoted inferiority. But inside the church women were men's helpmeets and their covering therefore declared their honoured position, acting alongside Christian man to bring the world to Christ.

It may well be that all this was partly based on the fact that all chaste women kept themselves modestly covered when they went out in public, so that what Paul is arguing is that they should behave in the same way in the church into which at any time strangers might come. But we must not see this as taking away from the main point of the covering which was to emphasise the woman's role as helpmeet when praying and prophesying rather than as principal. And this was to apply whether prophesying outside the church or in.

Today the full impact of this may not come over to us. But those who gathered in the early church came from many backgrounds and situations. Many of them were slaves. But once they met in the church they were for that period of time all free. If they were males their heads were uncovered. They left their slavery outside. Each was raised to his status of lord of creation. Each was as God meant him to be, and as he would one day be in heaven. Each was Adam restored to his full dignity. The woman on the other hand was his helpmeet. Each was an Eve restored to her full dignity as helpmeet to God's earthly representative. And her covering was the badge that declared her dignity. Not for her to be treated as second class or as a chattel. As they met in church the God of creation was there, His Christ was there as mediator between God and man, man was there with bard head as His appointed ruler of creation and mediator on behalf of the world, and woman was there covered as man's appointed companion and personal assistant, and assistant in his mediation.

We note here that praying and prophesying, the two basic elements of the Christian's responsibility, activity towards God and activity towards man, are seen as man's main function. In them he acts on behalf of God before creation, and in them he acts on behalf of creation towards God. He is both king and priest. Some consider that the praying and prophesying of the women may well have been in all-women assemblies or gatherings (because they are to keep silence in churches - 14.34), although others interpret it differently. We will consider this more on 14.34. But when praying and prophesying they act in an important, even though subordinate position to men. They too act towards God and towards men. Even in women's meetings they act as men's representatives towards women, and the head covering makes this clear. It is man who is God's prime representative. The same would apply if they prayed and prophesied in the general assembly.

There is nowhere a suggestion that this is limited to married women. Woman's role in creation is not dependent on marriage. Of course, many a woman on reading these words will be bristling. Anger will have risen up. For she has not yet learned the secret of godliness, that we are all here to serve. When Jesus took the towel at the Last Supper in order to wash His disciples' feet it was not the gesture of a proud man trying to make Himself look humble, it was the gesture of One Who delighted in being able to serve those whom He loved. He did not take a golden bowl while a crowd looked on and applauded. He demonstrated to His disciples what His future was going to be, a constant washing of men from sin, and of His disciples from the guilt of any failure. A constant stooping to help His own. That is what His superiority made Him, One Who could stoop. When a woman wears her covering in church she indicates that she wants to be like her Master, not exalting herself but taking the lower place, revealing herself as a joyous but humble servant, one who can stoop in His service.

There may also be in this a deliberate attempt to control the excesses of certain types of women prophetesses. It was so easy for freedom to become excess when people were aroused into an excited state, leading on to extravagant gestures in ecstasy, often without regard to chaste clothing, gestures that were undesirable. By wearing a covering, and acknowledging authority they would hopefully be prevented from doing the opposite with themselves and their clothing while in ecstasy. It would be a constant reminder of their need to be under the control both of the church eldership and of themselves. This would help to explain the extreme illustration that he gives. To remove the covering was to depict them as wayward. But again this must not take away from the essential idea of showing respectful submission. This did not just apply to women. It is not only women who have to 'submit'. Men in fact in various ways also have to show respectful submission to each other, to other men as well as to God. 'Submit yourself one to another in the fear of God' (Ephesians 5.21), that was God's cry to Christian man, and this meant each submitting to the other. The Christian life is a life of submission because the Christian follows a Master Who accomplished His purpose through submission.

11.7 'For a man indeed ought not to have his head veiled, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man.'

In the end Paul brings it all back to theology. The previous idea is amplified. The man ought to wear no head covering in his approach to God, and to man on God's behalf, because of what he is, God's image, God's glory on earth, established as such at creation. He is God's prime priest and king. The thought may be that he shares to some extent in the glory of God through his being the Temple of God, and indwelt by His Spirit, and that he also shares it because of the status the God gave him when He first created man. Thus to cover the head would be to mar that image and hide that glory, it would be to veil it, (as Moses did - Exodus 34.29-35) while God does not want His glory veiled. But it is all in order to bring glory to God, not to bring glory to the man. Paradoxically once a man begins to glory in himself, he loses his glory, for God withdraws from him. How can he glory in himself when in the presence of his Lord, and when representing the Lord? On the other hand the woman is the glory of the man, and shares the glory of the man. Her position is important but secondary, and has come to her through him. So while she shares his glory, and thus shares his privileged position, she must not try to take his place, she must not, by herself being uncovered, take away from before the world the fact that he has been appointed as lord of creation with the right to act in Christ's Name. Her glory is in a sense a borrowed one, she is his helpmeet, but nevertheless it is a glory given to her by God. But to reveal her hair, which is her glory (verse 15), would be to take glory to herself, when she should in church be revealing herself as helpmeet, so pointing to man in his position as lord of creation.

We must of course recognise that the terms are all used in a Christian sense. There is no idea here of people seeking glory for themselves. The situation is indeed the very opposite. Each is intent on bringing glory to the other. The man is bringing glory to God. The woman is bringing glory to the man in the eyes of all and thus to God. (Does someone ask, who is bringing glory to the woman? The answer is, she is most of all, by demonstrating that she is God's true servant, and God and man are as she shares the glory given to the man).

'The image and glory of God.' This might be seen as being a synonym of 'image and -- likeness' of God (Genesis 1.26) although there the emphasis, as here, is on image. The 'image' represents what God is like. Something of God is revealed to the world by man as he prophesies. He should not therefore be shown as in submission and under another authority. He is acting as God's representative. And God's authority is supreme, even as revealed by His appointed representative. But 'the glory' often has another meaning.

'The glory.' In the Old Testament the 'glory' of a man or king or nation was revealed in possessions, and even in armies. They were his/their glory (Genesis 31.1; Isaiah 8.7; 10.3, 16 contrast Isaiah 17.3-4 where the glory was at its lowest). It was their glory because it demonstrated what they were, what they possessed and ruled over and controlled, and what they could achieve. So man sums up both what God is and, as lord over creation, what He represents. Men are thus supremely God's 'glory', the main aspect of God's possessions, God's army on earth, what counts most in God's scheme of things. Man is the main instrument for the carrying out of His purposes. He is God's wealth. Men are God's battalions. This had especially become true in the coming of Jesus Christ, and in the establishment of God's new people led by the Apostles. Thus for such a man to be covered as he acts in the name of Christ would be to degrade God, and such a covering would indicate that the man too is degraded. In normal life he may be covered, but when acting in Christ's Name he must never be covered.

Even the lowest slave in his master's house church, acknowledging by his clothing his submission to his master, removes his head covering when he prays or prophesies. For then he acts, not in his master's name, but In Christ's Name as God's free representative.

'But the woman is the glory of the man.' The woman on the other hand is man's helpmeet from the time of creation onwards. She is his, and as his equal helpmeet is his main protagonist, his main glory in his service of God, that which he treasures above all. She is more treasured than anything that he owns. For she is there as his fellow-servant to aid his service for God, specially created so as to serve with him. She too may pray and prophesy, but always as acting in man's name as his second-in-command. She is subject to man. As in 1 Timothy 2.12 the idea is that the overall control should be with the male and that she should play a subsidiary, even though important, role.

We may liken her to the vizier acting in the name of the king. Such a person did not feel demeaned. They proudly wore their insignia depicting their position and authority, acknowledging that they acted in the king's name. And yet at the same time they acknowledged that they were in submission to him, for that was their role. So is it to be with the woman as she wears her covering. It is to be both an indication of her authority (verse 10) as acting as his representative, and of her submission to man as she acts alongside him, because of his appointed status. She acknowledges that he is the lord of creation, and she is his vizier.

Thus he and she together in Christ are over all creation. That includes unsaved man, as well as unsaved woman. But this is only because she is within God's plan. And this involves acknowledgement of saved man as her in Christ. Let her deny this and she sinks from her glorious position to the position of the lowest of all.

11.8-9 'For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man, for nor was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.'

This idea is then confirmed from what happened at creation. Who came first? The man came first and was first established in authority and as the source of humanity. The woman was then both created for the man as his helpmeet, and was created from the man as his companion. This is only seen as degrading if the man misuses his position or the woman fails to respond correctly. Among God's people the true position was once more to prevail, the man in loving lordship, the woman in loving response.

11.10 'For this reason ought the woman to have authority on her head, because of the angels.'

And that is why the woman must when prophesying and being open to the Spirit and thus entering the spiritual realm, wear the covering that both denotes her authority to act in this way, and the fact that as she does so, she does so acting as man's helpmeet and is thus submissive to him in the exercise of her authority.

Other commentators would, however, rather see the covering as primarily the sign that she is under man's authority, seeing 'authority' as signifying 'sign of authority', but the usual use of the word in this form is to indicate the authority of the person being described, thus it here declares the woman's authority.

'Having on authority' may thus be seen as signifying the wearing of the badge of her authority, with the recognition that she has that authority as man's appointed helpmeet, or as an indication that she is under authority, a sign of the fact that she is under the authority of man. Either way, and the one really assumes the other, this having authority on her head is 'because of the angels'. She is indicating to them her right to pray and prophesy because she is man's helpmeet, and that as his helpmeet she shares that authority.

So this may signify that the covering is to be seen as indicating to the angels that she is under the authority of the man as his helpmeet as she prays and prophesies, or that she receives her authority from her relationship with man in order to be able to do so. Either way it is not an indication of a downgrading of the woman, but of a lifting up of the woman in the eyes of the angels to her exalted position prior to the fall, a restoring of her privileges in Christ. This is why she can pray and prophesy as man's helpmeet. She is no longer fallen Eve, but Eve restored in her glory.

It is possible that it is also to be seen as indicating to the angels that as she actively enters the spiritual realm she is not open to angels or evil spirits for possession, that she as it were enters the spiritual realm with authority as under man's authority as God's spokesman, because she shares man's unique position. Thus she is not to be interfered with. It will be her protection. This with special reference to the angels who once coveted fallen women for themselves and possessed them (Genesis 6.1-2). It may suggest that the head covering is a reminder to any similarly minded angels that this woman belongs to man, is in submission through him to Christ as the Head, and is thus not available to be possessed, and that she enters the spiritual realm, not seeking to be possessed, but because she shares with man his authority over creation, with a right to minister as his representative on God's behalf. (Many women in other religions did very much open themselves to possession).

So her entry into that realm is not to be seen as an indication to the angels and spirits that she is available for possession and opening herself for possession, but rather, as indicated by her covering, that she comes as man's helpmeet and under the authority of him whose Head is Christ.

Thus the principle is laid down that 'to have authority on her head' is seen as emphasising both to men and to angels that she comes to serve God in praying and prophesying as man's representative in his function as God's spokesman. It indicates that she recognises that she is not a 'free spirit' but under respectful submission to man as God's prime representative. It is a sign of her own authority, but as a subsidiary authority, an authority given to her as man's helpmeet. It is because she is a junior partner to the man in God's enterprise that she is in this privileged position. Her covering is thus to be a reminder to the angelic realm, who were consulted at the time of the creation of both man and woman (Genesis 1.26-27), of God's purpose in creation, which she is now seeking to fulfil, of bringing all in subjection to Him. It is a badge of honour.

Alternatively 'because of the angels' may have reference to the fact that we should ever be aware that the angels observe our conduct (Luke 15.7, 10), especially when engaging in spiritual activity, and that the covering is to ensure that they will recognise the woman's renewed right to pray and prophesy in Christ as man's helpmeet, while at the same time ensuring angelic approval of the woman's sign of submission to authority, with the thought continually in mind that in the presence of angels women should remain discreetly dressed and submissive to man, while sharing his authority over creation.

This all indicates Paul's vivid awareness of the spiritual realm. The reason that he does not continually speak of angels is not because of lack of awareness but because he recognises that they have limited direct activity with regard to man. They watch, but they may not interfere. They remain within their bounds, unlike the angels who fell. When they act, they act invisibly without man's awareness under God's command (Hebrews 1.14). They serve God, not man. Nor are they to be called on by man. Yet nevertheless they are there at all times, watching over the purposes of God. And their presence is acknowledged by the woman's covering.

Another less likely possibility is that there may be a reference to the seraphim in Isaiah 6 who covered themselves with their wings before the presence of God, who would thus approve of women showing the same idea of submission in worship and obedience, but this is less likely as the seraphim were not strictly angels, and the idea in their case is that their eyes were fixed on God and yet could not bear the sight because of His glory. It was not directly related to their ministry.

Overall then the woman's attitude is probably to be seen either as gaining and maintaining the approval of 'the good angels' as they minister to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1.14) by testifying to her obedience to God, and/or as warning off the 'evil angels' and reminding them that she is under Another's authority as man's helpmeet, or as indicating to the angelic realm her important, but secondary, position in creation in accordance with God's purposes in creation, or possibly all of these, especially so where praying and prophesying results in magnified contact with the spiritual realm with its consequent dangers.

11.11-12 'Nevertheless, neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without the woman, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so is the man also by the woman; but all things are of God.'

Paul then immediately goes on to stress that mutual respect between man and woman must be maintained. What he has said does not mean that the man can misuse his position or alternately that woman can rebel from hers. When both are 'in the Lord' they will observe His decree as expressed at creation. In the Lord both man and woman need each other, and honour each other, and respect each other. They were meant for each other. And in the Lord both are equally necessary. Indeed the woman is 'of the man', that is he was her original source, the status source from which she came, and 'the man is by the woman', that is every man is born of a woman, she has been the natural source from which he came, and therefore the source in a secondary sense.. Thus they are interdependent. In the end both men and women are of God. Statuswise he is the source of both. From His creative work came both, and in His service both play an important part, as is witnessed by the fact that both pray and prophesy in due order.

11.13-15 'Judge you in yourselves. Is it seemly that a woman pray to God unveiled? Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a dishonour to him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her. For her hair is given her for a covering.'

Paul then seeks to confirm his argument with reference to the hair of both men and women. Even the length of their hair confirms that the one should be covered and the other not. Let them judge for themselves from nature. Does not nature naturally give a woman long hair? (Some Africans might disagree, but it is true in general). It is for them a natural covering and indication of their positions as helpmeets. Indeed do not women glory in their hair? But men do not glory in long hair (there are always exceptions to every generalisation, such as the Spartans). It is seen as a dishonour for it makes them seem effeminate. Men express themselves by trimming, or even shaving, their hair, women by letting it grow long. We may assume that this was certainly so among the Corinthians, and their neighbours. So does nature indicate that man should be uncovered and woman covered.

This is neither an instruction on how long the hair should be grown, nor stating that the hair is the covering Paul has been speaking about. It is rather drawing out significance from a natural illustration, suggesting that it is naturally intended to illustrate the situation between men and women. It should neither be analysed too deeply nor denied on the basis of exceptions. But there is certainly the suggestion there that nature intends to differentiate between men and women. Unisex is not pleasing to God. It is God's pleasure that men and women are clearly distinguished.

'If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her.' Paul finishes the section by indicating that a woman's hair is her glory. We have already seen that man is God's glory (verse 7), and woman is man's glory (verse 7), now the woman's hair is her glory, for it indicates her special place in the scheme of things as woman. It is her treasure and her status symbol. She is the life-giver (verse 12), and co-partner with man as lord of creation, in his service of his Creator. She is there to give him pleasure (as he is there to give her pleasure - 7.45). But she should not be flaunting her glory in church. In church all concentration should be on giving glory, not receiving it.

11.16 'But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the churches of God.'

Paul now anticipates contention. Let those who disagree recognise that in the churches of God there is no such custom as to allow a woman to pray to God uncovered (verse 13, the only probable antecedent). So having appealed to the word of God, and to nature, he now appeals to the example of him and his fellow-workers and to the example of the wider community, 'the churches', who all observe this principle.

When we come to modern worship the principle remains. Women are to be the helpers, even important helpers, but not the ones in overall authority. And this should be symbolised in some way by wearing a covering, not one that draws attention to the woman and brings glory to her, but one that brings glory to God. For it is to be made clear to the angels as well as to men that both observe and enjoy their rightful positions before God.

(Note. In this sphere as in many others man continually reveals his rebellion against God. On the one hand women are kept under harsh subjection in certain parts of the world, and the veil is a sign of her subjection, (although somewhat hypocritically portrayed otherwise when trying to justify it). That is not the idea here. On the other the veil is as it were thrown off and woman reveals, with man's approval, her total disregard of decency and chasteness by the way she dresses and behaves, or alternately her total disregard for God's order by trying to usurp man's place. Paul describes the happy medium as laid down at creation, a woman with freedom to serve God while still maintaining a true relationship with man. A woman who is chaste, accepting her role given to her from the time of creation, fulfilling her role as his true helpmeet, complementary to man, and working with him both as his equal and yet in respectful submission because it was for that that she was made. This is something only truly possibly under the Kingly Rule of God where the man also remembers his own responsibility in the partnership, loving his wife and womankind as Christ loves His church, His people.

And this brings out another aspect of the matter. We live in a sex ridden society. Women dress scantily and do up their hair in order to attract men. Men encourage it because they like to lust after women. But in church it is not to be so. There the woman should be bringing glory to the man and to God. The man should be bringing glory to God. The woman who trips into church with her latest hairstyle on display, and in her ostentatious or suggestive clothes is dishonouring God. She is reversing the scale of things. She is attracting worship to herself. To be fair to women they usually have no idea of the feelings they arouse in man. They do not realise that they are making true worship difficult for men and arousing thoughts that they should not have while seeking to worship God. They think men feel the same way as they do. But Paul knew. And God knows. And so He told women to keep themselves covered up in church).

Perhaps it may help to put the whole position in diagrammatic form:

The Forces of Good.

---God -----------------------Christ-------------------Redeemed Man ------------Redeemed Woman

--The head of Christ -----The head of man -----the head of woman ------- glory on her head

Universal Salvation(US)--- Author of US. -------mediator of US.------------assistant mediator of US.

The Forces of Evil.

--Satan -------------------Lost Mankind -----------Lost Womankind
--usurper of creation -- Satan's helpmeet ------ Man's chattel in rebellion.

Man is the glory and the image of God, the woman is the glory of man, the woman's glory is her hair. Redeemed man's status revealed in praying and prophesying uncovered and nurturing and caring for redeemed woman. Redeemed woman's status revealed in praying and prophesying covered, and in working in harmony with man.

Criticisms and Instructions With Regard to The Lord's Supper in Church Worship (11.17-33).

But Paul's dissatisfaction goes beyond just the covering of the hair and lack of restraint while praying and prophesying. He is also concerned for their general behaviour and lack of restraint when the churches gather together.

11.17 'But in giving you this charge, I do not praise you, that you come together not for the better but for the worse.'

Having deliberately praised them in verse 2 he now points out that he cannot praise them with regard to their attitude towards each other in Christian gatherings. For they come together, not for the better, but for the worse. They lose rather than gain by their presence at worship because of their behaviour and attitudes. Instead of gathering as one in true Christian love, with concern for each others edification, they are gathering for dissension and to display individuality and selfishness, both in the way they behave towards each other (11.18-34) and in the ways in which they worship (14.1-40). It is a sad day when a church is informed that its meetings are not for the better but for the worse, especially when it is by such a man as Paul.

11.18 'For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear (present - 'am hearing continually') that divisions exist (present infinitive - therefore 'are constantly coming up') among you, and I partly believe it.'

The first thing that disturbs him is that there are divisions among them which keep rearing their heads, and these divisions do not appear to be the doctrinal ones of the earlier chapters but divisions resulting from social status that take place when they 'come together' as the church of Christ. (The 'first of all' is not specifically followed by a 'secondly', but the assumption is that what follows chapter 11 may be seen as the 'secondly'. Thus secondly might be seen as the divisions caused by the use of spiritual gifts).

'I hear --- and I partly believe it.' He has been informed of the situation by witnesses, and yet it is so incomprehensible that he is loth to believe that it can be true. Yet the strength of the witness is such that he finds himself having to believe it, although unwillingly. He hopes that he will be proved wrong. Certainly he hopes that it will not be as bad as has been suggested.

'When you come together in the church.' The early Christians did not meet in a church building, but in any convenient place, especially in larger cities in the large houses and courtyards of wealthier members. 'In the church' therefore means 'in the gathering of believers' wherever they met. 'When you come together' is also referred to in verses 18 and 20. The stress acts as background to the fact that in 'coming together' they actually accentuate their divisions. They come together to reveal their total disunity and lack of concern for each other.

11.19 'For there must be ('it is necessary for there to be') also factions among you, that those who are approved ('have stood the test') may be made manifest among you.'

He now gives a further reason why he 'partly believes it', and that is the necessity of it. This necessity arises either because he knows them well and views the Corinthians as being such that it is inevitable, or possibly because he knew that Jesus Himself had forecast that there would be factions and divisions, even within households, because of His name (Matthew 10.34-37; 24.9-13). And the divine result of these would be that those who were truly His would by them be revealed.

So while on the one hand he finds it difficult to believe that the church of Jesus Christ could behave in this way ('I partly believe it'), on the other he is sadly aware that this is not only possible but is forecast as something that is eventually coming. Thus he senses, knowing their propensities, that it may well be that the Corinthians are already caught up in it. There is a guarded warning here for them. Let them beware lest these factions demonstrate that they are not really of the truth.

11.20-21 'When therefore you assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord's supper, for in your eating each one takes before the other his own supper. And one is hungry, and another is drunken.'

In those days Christians regularly 'assembled together' to pray, hear the reading of the Scriptures, and the Testimony of Jesus (the traditions about the life of Jesus) and to hear letters received from such as Paul. They probably also sang psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5.19; Mark14.26). And, as we gather later, during these gatherings prophesying would also take place for the building up of the whole church.

And just as it was common in many religions of the day for worshippers to gather for a sacred meal, so it would seem that Christians had embraced the idea which had become a kind of love feast which was intended to express their love and unity (see Acts 2.42, 46; 20.7, 11 and compare Jude 1.12). This would apparently often take place while they were assembled. And during this feast, or after it, (we have no details), they would partake of the Lord's Supper.

'The Lord's Supper' was the name given to the partaking of the bread and wine in accordance with the example given by Jesus at the final Passover. It was 'the Lord's' because it was seen as belonging to the Lord, so that He presided over it, and because it was in His honour. Those who gathered at it came to meet with Him and partake spiritually of Him.

And the cause of his distress was their behaviour when they assembled together to eat such a meal, a meal during which they would partake of the Lord's Supper. For this latter, which was intended to be an expression of their total unity, had seemingly become impossible in any meaningful sense because instead of eating the earlier meal as a common meal together, different sections apparently took their own food, and ate apart in separate groups, the wealthier having sumptuous meals while others had little, and did it with scant regard that many had not yet arrived. What was worse some actually went hungry because they could bring no food and drink, or arrived too late, while others had so much that they even went to excess and became drunk, accentuating the awfulness of the situation (and many more would be 'merry').

There was thus a total lack of love and a sense of oneness. The whole thing, rather than being an expression of total unity and sharing in common, had become something emphasising total disunity and even lack of what was fit in God's presence. It had become a travesty of what the love feast, and especially the Lord's Supper, were supposed to be about. In observing these many of God's own people were left distressed, feeling left out and unwanted, while others partook while drunk or merry and in no state to worship. Godliness was forfeit. To pass around the bread and wine in such conditions was an insult to Christ.

'It is not possible to eat the Lord's supper.' In other words what they are participating in is not the Lord's Supper, whatever name they like to give it, because it is denying all that the Lord's Supper stands for. By it they are revealing disunity, lack of love and consideration, contempt for others, and even a contempt for God by appearing before Him drunk. It was a complete travesty.

We do not know the exact details that lay behind this complaint, and possibly it is as well, for it can then be applied to many situations. It is possible that the wealthy householders in whose house and courtyard the church assembled, invited those of equal status to themselves to partake of a separate meal in their dining hall (which would be too small to hold everyone), leaving others to see to themselves in the courtyard when they arrived, either leaving them to bring their own food or providing inferior food, but insufficient to satisfy all. In that case it is even possible that some of the lesser food itself was given out with discrimination, the better quality being designated by the householder for the slightly lower level of free men and important bondslaves, and a much lower quality, and even almost nothing, being made available for the lowest classes. And there would also be those who, through unavoidable circumstances, could only arrive late, for whom there would be nothing left. Such discrimination at secular feasts was certainly known and practised, but at a supposed feast of unity Paul saw it as disgraceful. Where was their oneness in Christ?

Or it may be that different groups each brought their own food and were unwilling to share it, preferring to stay with their own kind and in their own groups. Or it may include the fact that that some did not want to share what others brought because they despised it. But whatever the reasons it was destroying the oneness of their coming together. They were being split into factions, with different groups eating separately, and others going hungry, with no sense of oneness, and that at the table of the Lord.

It was clear that at this supposed assembly of themselves unity and oneness was not a consideration. It just did not exist. How then could they celebrate the Lord's Supper in such circumstances? For that was to be the one place where all were intended to be revealed as equal, where rich and poor were to be seen to be on the same level, where all races were to be seen as united as one, where they should have all things in common, and where they were intended to express their full equality in Christ, declaring that they were one bread and one body. Thus their gatherings had become a total travesty of what the Lord's table was supposed to be about.

All this went along with their party spirit (1.12), their arrogant view of themselves (4.8, 10, 19), their attitude to gross sin (5.2), their greed and covetousness (6.1-8), their selfishness and disregard for others in their use of their knowledge (8.11), and as we shall see later in the use of their spiritual gifts (14). They may have been 'sanctified in Christ' (1.2), but they were giving little indication of it.

11.22 'What, do you not have houses to eat and to drink in? Or do you despise the church of God, and put those to shame who have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I praise you not.'

Could they not see that this open show of separation and disunity was the very opposite of what Jesus had declared when He said, 'by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another' (John 13.35). Would it not then be better that they ate at home, and held their feasts and their big meals with their friends there? Let them have their social gatherings at home, and be fully satisfied there, so that when they came to the church they could partake in a simple common meal together, in which all could join on equal terms, and feel equally at home, and during which they could celebrate the Lord's Supper in such a way that the unity of the church was revealed. Indeed, he asks, do they so despise the church, the very people of God, many of whom are of the poorer classes (1.28), that they put those who have little to shame by their behaviour? He is at a loss what to say to them. There is no way that he can praise them. He considers that their whole attitude is frankly appalling.

We note that Paul does not suggest that the remedy is that they all pool their food. The whole set up and the loose behaviour that it produces is not conducive to worship. And he does recognise also that outside the church there are social distinctions and customs which people feel bound by, and that thereby different sections of society do eat different types of foods. Indeed rich food provided to those used to meagre diets might not be helpful in both the short and the long term, causing first upset stomachs and then later disgruntlement and dissatisfaction and covetousness. And this would not be good for anyone. The Kingly Rule of God is not about what food we eat (Romans 14.17). Such distinctions may exist, and may even be necessary in their place. But the point is that they must not be introduced into the gathering of Christians to the detriment of some. At the Lord's Supper all must be equal and be able to partake equally.

In order to bring this home he then stresses what the Lord's Supper is all about.

11.23-24 'For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." '

This should be read in the light of 10.16-17 where the uniting influence of the bread is stressed and where it is seen as representing the oneness of the body of Christ. Note there the stress on the fact that all concentration is to be on the breaking and giving of the bread as a united people, a concentration which must have been lacking in the way the Corinthians were behaving, sitting apart from each other with no sense of oneness, and in some cases quite merry. Their minds should have been set on the Lord, and the one bread being broken, and the one body of Christ that it represented, and the giving of thanks, and the solemn remembrance of what it all represented in terms of the broken body of the Lord Jesus, dying to make them one in Him. But they were not.

It is often suggested that the church is the body of Christ on earth, but that is not the real idea or significance of the church as 'the body'. What it represents is that we are united with Him as it were in His body in Heaven. We are raised and seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2.6). We are one with Him in His death and resurrection. There is a spiritual union. Thus it is from Heaven, and as one with Him, that we operate as His body. We must not separate Christ from His body (even as its head) we must recognise the essential unity of Christ with His body and His body with Him, so that both operate as one.

'For I received of the Lord.' Some would see this as an assertion that Paul had had a direct revelation from the Lord about this. Others would see it as meaning that he received it from the Lord through the Apostles. The latter point out that tradition was often described as 'received', marking its genuine authority, having passed through a number of hands. It would then be 'delivered'. (These words were regularly used by the Jews of receiving and passing on authoritative tradition). A third alternative is that he is in fact citing the form of words used at a typical service, 'I received of the Lord' being the words of the original citer of the words. Different ones see different emphases but the important fact is that he is stressing that however it came this was something directly from the Lord, which was therefore most holy, and therefore a firm requirement of His which could not be argued about. It was something that as Christians they were committed to.

'That which also I delivered to you.' He had solemnly delivered it to them exactly as he had received it. The responsibility for it had therefore passed on to them. It had come to them authoritatively from an authoritative source, and he exhorts them to reconsider it.

'That the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread.' He wants them to recognise the supreme importance of this event. It was the very night in which their Lord Jesus Himself was betrayed that He did it, stressing its significance. How crucial it therefore was. There may be a hint here that they should consider whether they too were now betraying Him by their behaviour.

It is an open question whether the betrayal in mind here is that by Judas, the disciple who proved to be false, and therefore acts as an especial warning to erring disciples, or that by the Jewish leaders who betrayed Him to Rome, brother betraying brother. Either way it was applicable to this situation.

'Took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." ' They should note how, in that solemn time, He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, offering it as something by which He, and what He was about to do at the cross, would be remembered. This was done as a reminder that all who ate of that bread were those who had been made one in Christ and had received all the benefits of what He had done for them ('which is for you'). And as broken bread it was a reminder of His death for them, and what He had suffered for them. But the brokenness also indicated that each one might receive individually the benefit of His death.

'This is my body.' As always when interpreting a phrase we should see it in its context. The context of these words was originally the Passover where bread was taken and blessed with the words, 'this is the bread of affliction which your fathers ate when they came out of Egypt'. In the latter case each generation of Israelites 'entered in' to the deliverance in spirit. They did not actually believe that the bread was transformed into the same bread, but that it acted as a memorial which meant that through it they could identify themselves spiritually with the deliverance which reached down to all true Israelites through time. As they partook they recognised that they too were the redeemed of God and could express their gratitude by being faithful to the covenant, recognising that they were united within that covenant, and looking forward to future deliverance that the prophets had promised.

In the same way Jesus was not saying that the bread actually was His body. He was still in His body. No religious manipulation or miracle could make something which was not His body into His body when He was in fact still in His body. But through the bread He was representing what was about to happen to His body, it would be broken, and through the bread and their partaking of it He was stressing that by coming to Him and believing on Him (John 6.35) they could partake of Him as the Bread of life. While they were partaking of the memorial they too could again enter into His experience on the cross. Having died with Him and risen with Him (Galatians 2.20; Ephesians 2.4-6), they could recognise their need to die daily with Him and rise in newness of life (Romans 6.11; compare Galatians 2.20), being one people together, united in Him and in His covenant.

But how could their thoughts be solemnly attuned to these great words, and their huge significance, and be concentrated on their participation in Him and His cross and resurrection in unity with all who were His, when at the very time of eating they were revealing both their lack of concern for each other, and their lack of oneness by being in separate groups, and by many of them also being in a merry state so that they could not approach the matter seriously and appropriately? This was especially so as the Supper was intended to be emphasising the unity of the body in Him. It was impossible.

'Do this in remembrance of me.' This was to be more than just seeing it as a mere memorial. The remembrance was in order to make them active participators in what had happened. As they partook they should themselves feel that they were participating with Him in His cross and resurrection. They should sense themselves as once again dying with Him and rising with Him. They should once more enjoy all the blessings that came to them through that experience by participating in Him by faith (John 6.35; Romans 6.11; Galatians 2.20; Ephesians 3.16-19) and continually committing themselves to a life of sacrificial obedience (Romans 12.1-2).

With regard to the differing wording from Matthew, Mark and Luke we should note that different churches may well have used different forms of words, with the central core remaining the same (as it does in each version - see note below), which would help to explain the slight differences between them all, although this latter may equally result from the emphasis each writer is seeking to present as he translates from the Aramaic. Paul is certainly using the words to emphasise what he is saying here. No doubt in fact a number of factors played a part in the differences (see note below).

11.25 'In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

Paul here stresses that the cup also is a similar memorial. As they partake of the wine they are entering into the experience of His cross (as it were 'drinking His blood' - John 6.53). and recognising that through it they have been sealed as participators in the new covenant which itself was sealed by that blood shedding. They had thus, through His death, became one people in Christ within the covenant of His blood.

And as they drank of that special cup of wine set aside it was to be a reminder of that new covenant (treaty, contract, between an overlord and his subjects or a superior and his inferiors) into which they had entered. And what is that new covenant? It is the new covenant with God whereby through Christ's sacrifice of Himself they become His new people, and come within the orbit of His forgiveness, and of His acceptance, and of His 'setting of them apart' (sanctifying them) totally to Him, just as the old people of Israel had been set part as His holy people at Sinai. From the moment of entering that covenant they were to be totally His, acceptable in His presence and totally one with each other. How then could they then celebrate it when they were so conspicuously not showing love towards one another?

'This cup is the new covenant in my blood.' Matthew and Mark have 'this is my blood of the covenant.' The latter exactly parallels 'this is my body' and also connects with Exodus 24.8, where God's covenant with His people at Sinai (Exodus 20) is sealed with 'the blood of the covenant'. In Exodus, however, the blood is the blood of animals, but here Jesus stresses that it represents His own blood. Thus He is referring to a covenant, a new one, sealed with His own blood, which is what Luke and Paul make clear in their paraphrase.

'Do this -- in remembrance of me.' And central to that new covenant was Jesus Himself. Above all they were to remember Him. It was In Him that they became participators in the new covenant. It was through Him that they obtained their acceptability with God. All thoughts were thus to be concentrated on Him, a remembering that meant accepting their part with Him in His death and resurrection.

Paul alone applies these words about remembrance to the cup, but there is no reason why we should not see the Lord as having said them as an after-comment on what we read in Matthew, Mark and Luke. They were indeed necessary for He would want to emphasise the epoch making change that He was introducing.

We often overlook, in our familiarity with this ordinance, what an earth-shattering claim Jesus was making. He was informing all who would hear that He had displaced the Passover, that great feast which had been celebrated for over a thousand years. He was saying that men should no longer look back to the great deliverance wrought in Egypt, because a greater deliverance was now here in Him. He was declaring that that old deliverance was to be put aside. Rather they should from now on look to the even greater deliverance wrought through His cross, where, as the true Passover lamb, He was sacrificed for us (5.7), leading us out of the world and into the Kingly Rule of God. The old covenant was replaced by a new one sealed in His blood. The old ways were gone, the new had come. Thus its importance was something that He would stress while He was introducing it and would then emphasise again. By the time the Gospels were written the emphasis would be unnecessary, for the feast was already established permanently, and the writers did not feel it necessary to mention 'do this in remembrance of Me', but it very much suits Paul's purpose to mention it.

'As often as you drink.' We do not know whether this signifies whenever they drank wine (which in the circumstances of the poorer ones might not be so often, although cheap wine was certainly available), or whenever they drank wine set aside by the elders of the assembly for the purpose in a special celebration. The latter seems more probable as Paul will now stress that the Supper should be a special event. How often the Supper was in fact celebrated in the early days we do not know.

11.26 'For as often as you eat this bread, and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till he come.'

And in their participation of Him in this way they should also recognise that they were proclaiming His death, in which they were participating, something they would continue to do until His coming again. This feast would go on and on being celebrated and would never cease until His return at His second coming. Through it they would continue to proclaim the Lord's death, and all that it signified, until that coming again. Thus the Lord's Supper was to be both a looking back to His death and resurrection (a proclaiming of His death and a recognition that we have been crucified and raised with Him - Galatians 2.20; Ephesians 2.6), a present participation in His death (reckoning ourselves daily as having died with Him and having risen again - Romans 6.11), and a looking forward to the final fruits of His death and resurrection when He would come in glory to be revealed as Lord of all (chapter 15). And it was an expression of His total oneness together with His people.

'You proclaim the Lord's death till he come.' Some see this as signifying that the proclaiming is not in the act of the meal, but a proclaiming that takes place while the meal is going on. But both are surely part of each other. The meal certainly proclaims His death, and no doubt verbal proclamation also took place. But it does emphasise that central to both is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and Him the crucified One (1.17-18; 2.2). It may be that some of the Corinthians were seeing other symbols from the meal than that of Jesus Christ in His death for them, possibly in terms of a magical reception of divine power and enlightenment. So Paul again emphasises the centrality of 'the word of the cross' (1.18).

11.27 'Wherefore whoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.'

This being so what a great sin it is that men participate in the Lord's Supper in anything but the most genuine way, and without the most serious of thoughts. Especially that they participate in a spirit of disunity. By doing so they are trifling with the cross, are guilty of His death because they treat it lightly, and are as it were crucifying Him afresh to no purpose (compare Hebrews 10.29; 6.6). And this is precisely what the Corinthians were in danger of doing, for they were openly negating one aspect of what He had come to do, the uniting in one in full equality of all who are His. And many of them were also approaching Him in a casual spirit.

'In an unworthy manner.' In context this means casually, both in casualness of spirit (being merry) and in sinful disharmony and with sinful discrimination (being in disunity), without regard for what the Lord's Supper represents. This does not refer to our not sufficiently appreciating what we are participating in, for none of us ever do that, nor does it refer to our not being in a state of total worthiness, for we never are although we should seek to be. Our total worthiness is rather in Christ. So it rather means not approaching participation in a totally casual way, which includes in this case overt disunity and lack of brotherly love, with the result that participation has become a meaningless exercise, trivialised and lost in other excesses.

11.28 'But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.'

So the warning comes that each one should test and prove himself, presumably by self-examination, by a coming to the blood of Christ for cleansing (1 John 1.7), and then by a deliberate act of unity in coming together as one with the whole church, before he partakes of the Lord's Supper. He is to examine his heart and ensure that there is nothing in his life which is at present displeasing to God. Then, once his heart is right, his conscience is clear, and he is at one with his brothers, he may eat of the bread and drink of the cup, in solemn reaffirmation of his faith and position in Christ.

11.29-30 'For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he discern not the body. For this reason many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep.'

For all who come eating and drinking of the Lord's Supper, who do not discern in it His body, and His dying for them, and through it His uniting of them all in His body as one, drink judgment on themselves. Indeed that is why there is sickness among them, and quite a few have died ('sleep' is the Christian synonym for death). This would suggest something unusual which had happened, above the norm, which Paul saw as the chastening of God, for it was not seemingly a judgment that affected their eternal future. It had openly happened, and all were aware of it. It was not theoretical. And it was to be seen as a chastening of the whole church.

'If he discern not the body.' In chapter 10 stress was laid on the fact that the bread was the representation of the body, and that that included both the body of the Lord Jesus and the body composed of His people as united with Himself. The bread represented His physical body, but it also represented His people made one with Him. Both have to be discerned as one for they are inseparable (Ephesians 2.15-16). Thus as we come to the Lord's Supper we must discern the Lord's body, that is, we must recognise that it proclaims His death for us and that we come as participators in His death and resurrection, and we must equally discern that we are all therefore one body in Christ sharing with Him in His death and resurrection.

11.31-32 'But if we discerned ourselves, we should not be judged (krino). But when we are judged (krino), we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned (katakrino) with the world.'

These things (the sickliness and the deaths) arise, he points out, because they are not discerning about their own state, they do not recognise themselves as not behaving like the true body of Christ (they do not discern the body). They arise from God's chastening of them as a result of His judgment on them, which, had they been spiritually discerning they would have avoided. Yet nevertheless they can console themselves in this, that His chastening is in order to prevent the necessity of His final judgment (katakrino) on them, the final judgment that is coming on the whole world. Let them take heed to His chastening, therefore, and repent.

So three ideas are prominent. The first is the need for us to discern 'ourselves' (doubly stressed), that is by self-examination and coming to the light of the Lord to examine ourselves and seek His forgiveness and renewal (compare 1 John 1.7-10). The second is that should we fail to discern ourselves God will do it for us and enter into judgment with us and chasten us. And the third is that, while He deals with us as His own by chastening, even severe chastening, the world outside awaits final severer judgment.

11.33 'Wherefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait one for another. If any man is hungry, let him eat at home, that your coming together be not to judgment. And the rest will I set in order whenever I come.'

So his ultimate conclusion is that they should not hold sumptuous feasts when they gather to celebrate the Lord's Supper. Rather, if they are hungry (desirous of large meals), they should have such at home, so that they will not by their behaviour reveal their greed and lack of oneness in the assembly. Then when they do come together prior to the Supper, they should eat only what all can eat so that they can eat together in unity. And let them wait until all are assembled and thus celebrate their love feast and the Lord's Supper rightly and with decorum. Let them demonstrate that they are one in Spirit and have all things in common. This would seem to confirm the idea that one of the problems was that some would have their sumptuous meals before all had arrived, leaving those who came late, because of their duties and the difficulty they had in getting away (who would probably mainly be the neediest), with little or nothing to eat, and simply left to survey the scraps of the large meals eaten by their 'brothers', and possibly even left to partake in a secondary Lord's Supper, the others having already participated.

'And the rest will I set in order whenever I come.' We do not know what this 'rest' consisted of but he clearly felt that it was not so important that he needed to deal with it in his letter.

Note on the Different Versions of the Passover Meal.

We shall first consider the breaking of the bread passages, putting in capitals the words which are exactly the same.

Matthew 26.26 'And as they were eating, Jesus TOOK BREAD, and blessed, and BROKE IT, and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; THIS IS MY BODY.'

Mark 14.22 'And as they were eating, he TOOK BREAD, and when he had blessed, he BROKE IT, and gave to them, and said, Take you, THIS IS MY BODY.'

Luke 22.19 'And he TOOK BREAD, and when he had given thanks, he BROKE IT, and gave to them, saying, THIS IS MY BODY which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.'

11.23-24 'For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed TOOK BREAD, and when he had given thanks, he BROKE IT, and said, "THIS IS MY BODY, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." '

Common to all is that HE TOOK BREAD, BROKE IT AND SAID, 'THIS IS MY BODY', stressing the essential unity of the passages. Matthew adds to Jesus' words, 'Take you, eat', Mark adds 'Take you'. Luke and Paul omit this but it is clearly implied. Luke adds, 'Which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me,' and Paul adds, 'which is for you, Do this in remembrance of me'. Paul's 'which is for you' parallels Matthew's 'take, eat' and especially Mark's 'take you'. Luke's 'given for you' simply amplifies the idea. Thus the basic idea is the same in all, with small differences of presentation in order to bring out particular points. The additional words, 'Do this in remembrance of me' are really required to explain the perpetuation of the feast in the early church. Thus even if we had not been told about it we would have had to assume it. Indeed, while 'This is my body' would certainly be impressive standing alone, it requires extra words for it to make sense to the hearers. It is possibly the writers and ministers, not the original speaker, who wish it to stand in its starkness, knowing that the readers/recipients would know its deeper significance. What His exact words in Aramaic were can only be postulated. The Greek in each case gives the true meaning.

Slightly more complicated are the words about the cup.

Matthew 26.27-28 'And he took a CUP, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink you all of it, for THIS IS MY BLOOD of THE COVENANT, which is poured out for many to remission of sins.'

Mark 14.23-24 'And he took a CUP, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them, and they all drank of it, and he said to them, THIS IS MY BLOOD of THE COVENANT, which is poured out for many.'

Luke 22.20 And the CUP in like manner after supper, saying, THIS cup IS THE new COVENANT in MY BLOOD, even that which is poured out for you.'

11.25 'In the same way also the CUP, after supper, saying, "THIS cup IS THE new COVENANT in MY BLOOD. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

In each Jesus takes a cup and says, 'This is the covenant in my blood', or the more stark equivalent in Hebrew form, 'This is my blood of the covenant'. The former is interpretive of the latter. Luke and Paul add that it is a 'new' covenant, for they would want their Gentile readers to know that it was not the old Jewish covenant renewed. But all were aware that it was a new covenant, partly in accordance with God's promise in Jeremiah 31.31, and partly because it was 'in His blood' and looked to the cross, and Jesus' very words and actions demanded it even if He did not say it. Matthew, Mark and Luke all agree that He said, 'which is poured out for ---'. Mark simply adds, 'for many', Luke adds. 'for you' and Matthew adds 'for many to remission of sins'. Paul omits this but adds, 'Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me', which is actually required to be said by Jesus (or something like it) to establish the permanence of it as a symbol. As Mark's 'for many' probably has Isaiah 53,11, 12 in mind it has the same significance as Matthew's longer phrase 'for many to remission of sins'. 'Luke's 'you' simply personalises it, recognising that the 'you' is by then being spoken to the whole church who are the 'many' for whom Christ died. Thus the essential meaning is again the same. As with the bread the importance of doing it in remembrance must at some time have been said by Jesus for the Apostles to take up the feast and perpetuate it as they did. The slight overall differences emphasise the point each is seeking to bring out as they translate or paraphrase from the Aramaic, without altering the basic sense.

End of note.

Spiritual Gifts For The Well-being of Christ and His Body (12.1-14.33).

Paul now begins his reply to their question about spiritual gifts ('concerning spiritual things') and immediately gives an initial warning that such gifts can easily be perverted by the subtlety of evil spiritual forces. It is in the nature of spiritual gifts that they will be imitated and distorted by such evil forces with ill intent, for they are ever out to deceive, and will seek to mimic spiritual gifts (12.1-3). Today it may be in a more refined way, but it is still ever a possibility. That is why 'prophets' must subject themselves to the judgment of others so gifted (14.29).

This is then followed by a brief description of the gifts (12.4-11) and the stress that each is necessary for the well-being of the body of Christ. The seemingly least important members of the church with the least of the gifts is as essential as the most important (12.12-26). And the stress is on their benefit to the whole body. We should note here that there is no contrast between body and head. Here he is speaking of Christ's own body into which His people have been incorporated through inundation by the Holy Spirit into His body. The people are both head and body, made one with Christ in His body as in 10.16-17. The body is Christ and His people (12.12-13).

When Paul mentions Christ's Headship in Corinthians it is describing His authoritative position and has no direct connection with the idea of His body (11.3). He finishes the chapter here by outlining different ministries and gifts, and stresses that each should be desirous of playing a full part, consonant with their gifts, in the church, as members with Christ of the whole body of Christ (12.27-31).

So all have their part to play through the Spirit in nourishing Christ's body. He then stresses the way in which these gifts should be used. They are to be used in love and concern for every member of Christ's body, lovingly, gently, humbly, unselfishly, and thoughtfully (13.1-10), for no gift or act of service has any value unless used in love. Indeed our knowledge is restricted and dimly perceived, something we should recognise in all humility, but love is possible in fullest measure (13.11-13 compare 8.1-3). There is no limit to Christian love.

This is then further followed by advice and warnings with respect to the utilisation of spiritual gifts during church gatherings (14.1-33), stressing the importance of gifts that can benefit all, and warning against enthusiastic overuse. They must not be allowed to crowd out the essentials of Christian worship, the word, exposition, prayer and worship in song.

A Warning That Spiritual Gifts Can Be Imitated By Evil Forces (12.1-3)

12.1-3 'Now concerning spiritual things ('what is spiritual'), brothers, I would not have you ignorant. You know that when you were Gentiles you were led away to those dumb idols, however you might be led. Wherefore I make known to you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is anathema". And no man can say, "Jesus is Lord", but in the Holy Spirit.'

'Now concerning spiritual things (or 'affairs' or 'gifts' or 'persons'), brothers, I would not have you ignorant.' This is a response to a further query from the Corinthians to Paul about 'what is spiritual'. ('Spiritual' has no noun, it therefore has to be read in, thus the variety). Some of the Corinthians were clearly proud of what they saw as their spiritual knowledge and the manifestation of their spirituality through charismata ('gifts of grace', compare 1.7). They saw themselves as especially 'in the know' and especially spiritual, and nowhere more than in their use of 'unknown tongues', which they seem to have thought of as the language of angels. And it would seem that some constantly spoke in tongues loudly during church worship, with the result that it had become of concern to the elders. So Paul has to set the gifts in their rightful place, and to stress above all the need for unity and a right approach to their use.

The word 'spiritual' (pneumatikon) can be either masculine or neuter. It is used earlier in the letter to describe spiritual men (2.15; 3.1) and also spiritual things (2.13). See also 14.1 where gifts of grace are in mind as is evident from the fact that prophecy is specifically in mind, followed by the mention of tongues. Here the context seems to favour seeing it as meaning 'what is spiritual (or 'of the Spirit')', although the term might have become a technical one for the gifts.

Thus he begins with a stern warning of the danger that what are seen as spiritual gifts, and their expression, can be hijacked by spiritual forces of evil, even leading to the proclamation of false teaching. He reminds them that before they became Christians they were led by such evil forces in their idolatrous, occult world, where they had probably also seen, and even themselves partaken in, manifestations of tongues and prophecy connected with idols. And he reminds them that it is still possible for such false leading to take place. When getting involved in the spiritual world man needs to be especially careful for there are deceptive forces at work. The only way of avoiding being deceived is submission to the Lordship of Jesus in all we do.

'Those dumb idols.' Unlike God these idols do not speak, they have no wisdom or knowledge to give. They provide no revelation. They are not gods. They are but pieces of wood, or metal. On the other hand their followers made up for it by ecstatic utterances, and in speaking in strange tongues and in spirit possession, especially in the mystery religions, all evidence of the activities of evil spirits (10.20). And it was often demonstrably 'out of control' of the speaker. That these are not to be seen as parallel to the charismata in the Christian church comes out, however, in that the true charismata are subject to those who use them. If it is of the Lord they are not carried along in uncontrollable ecstasy but are under the control of the user. The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets (14.28, 32). But this is not necessarily always externally distinguishable.

So they must for example measure any 'spirit' of a prophet against the body of Apostolic teaching. If for example the spirit says, 'Jesus is anathema' then it is clearly a false spirit. If however it says 'Jesus is Lord', signifying His full status in the Godhead (8.6), or reveals Jesus as Lord by the tenor of its message, then it is of God, for no evil spirit will willingly testify to His Godhood. But these two clear cut extremes may well be just that. They are probably also intended to indicate that there are other levels in between in which they can be falsely or truly led. But they can be tested by the impression that they give about Jesus. They must beware of being possessed by just any spirit, and must rather ensure that they are yielded to the Holy Spirit.

To put someone or something under 'anathema' was to cast it out, to reject it, to allocate it as God-rejected, and to bring God's stamp of disapproval on it. It was then under the curse and fitted for destruction. The thought being reflected by the false spirit here is therefore probably that the human Jesus will be so rejected by the spirit, who will magnify 'the Christ', as a semi-divine figure, who will then shine through, having left the human body in which it had dwelt. In other words it is a rejection of the true humanity of Christ. This may not be an actual example that has occurred in the church, possibly rather referring to well known examples among worshippers in mystery religions who were known to prophesy in this way.

While we must not read in here a full blown Gnosticism, some Corinthians clearly did believe that their spirits had full contact with the spiritual world, giving them special status, and did believe that eventually they would leave their bodies which would simply be left in the grave to rot, either because the body was tainted, and therefore cursed, or at the least because it was unimportant and not fit for the spiritual realm (15.12).

On the other hand someone might have seen some encouragement for this idea when mistakenly distorting such teaching as Galatians 3.10-13 where Paul speaks of Jesus as being under the curse of the law because He 'hung on the tree'. A Gentile who failed to understand the background to Paul's argument might gain the wrong impression from such teaching, especially in the light of their background, thinking that the human Jesus was being cursed so that the Christ spirit might go free (although we have no actual evidence for such being established as a doctrine until later in the first century). He may have, in attempting to prophesy, stated such a fact to the shocked horror of the whole church. Thus it may be that Paul is warning specifically against such false interpretations in terms of an example they all knew about, and is pointing out, as they would all be well aware, that the Holy Spirit could never possibly be the cause of such things being said. So the evil spirits are seen to be capable of denying both the true humanity (compare 1 John 4.2-3) and the full divinity of Jesus Christ.

Alternately Paul may have been selecting the worst possible scenario so as to establish the case. It would be obvious to all that anyone who spoke like that in prophecy could only be inspired by a deceiving spirit. On the other hand his argument might then to some extent lose its force which would be far better served by an example known to all. If that be accepted there is nothing at all unlikely in the thought that a vindictive or wildly misled attendant at a gathering of the church, caught up in the excitement of the meeting, might have spoken thus in 'prophecy'. The danger always of opening the opportunity of prophesying to all is that it will be misused by someone who is enthusiastic but mistaken. The Jews certainly thought of Jesus as accursed, precisely because He had died on a cross, which was one of their great stumblingblocks (1.23), and the idea may well have circulated in Corinth. We can imagine the shock if the church was going along with a prophecy which seemed sound, only to hear these dreadful words. It would have been a lesson indeed of the need to 'judge' prophets.

'Jesus is Lord.' This is the opposite position, that the human Jesus is also Lord of all. Compare here Philippians 2.9-11 where the fullness of what His Lordship involves is brought out. He is the One Who has the name above every name, the name of Yahweh, He is the One before Whom every knee in both Heaven and earth and the underworld will bow (see Isaiah 45.23), He is the One Whom every tongue will confess as 'Lord' (compare Romans 10.9; Acts 2.36; 16.31). And this will bring great glory to God the Father.

This statement is central to Christian belief. It is by declaring that Jesus is Lord that we declare our faith (Romans 10.9). It is an essential part of being saved. Thus all true prophecy must by its very nature reveal Jesus as Lord. It is the essence of true prophecy. For God's purpose is that in the end the whole of creation will declare that 'Jesus Christ is Lord' (Philippians 2.11). This is not simply a mechanical test, it is the whole basis on which all prophecy must be judged by others (14.29). It lies at the root of all truth.

There is here, then, a clear warning that spiritual gifts can be imitated, and that they are no necessary proof of spirituality, and that even some of the supposed charismata may in fact not be genuine. We must all beware when opening ourselves to the Spirit that we do not open ourselves to the sway of false spirits, or even false ideas, or our own false inner consciousness. The positive aspect is the emphasis on the fact that when such spiritual gifts are of God they exalt the Lord Jesus in the fullness of what He is. Here is a crucial test of what is a true gift. And here also is a test of true spirituality, a genuine recognition of Jesus as Lord, and a genuine desire to exalt Him. As with so much we must consider the motive.

12.4-6 'Now there are diversities of gifts (charismata), but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all.'

Paul then goes on the point out that there are in fact diversities of spiritual gifts (charismata - 'gifts of grace'), all given and inspired by the same Spirit, differing ministries in the church, all performed and empowered under the same Lord, many types of workings in creation (or in all the churches, or in all Christians), but all energised through the One God, Who works everything ('all things') everywhere (or 'in everyone'). Thus there is one Spirit, one Lord and one God Who is/are responsible for true spiritual gifts, for true spiritual ministry and for all that goes on either in Christians or everywhere. Note that the stress is on oneness, thus stressing also the oneness in triunity of the Spirit, the Lord and God Whose activity unites the people of God as one.

(We use the verb 'is/are' advisedly. Our problem when speaking of the triune God is that we have no human language with which to adequately describe Him. In the Old Testament the word for 'God' was plural with a singular verb emphasising this dilemma. There is nothing on earth that remotely parallels God. God is One and yet revealed in plurality. 'Is' emphasises the unity, 'are' emphasises the plurality. Neither is adequate to express the full truth about God).

Not all have the same gifts. And yet, as he is at pains to stress, if they are genuine they come from the one Spirit. Diverse gifts do not indicate disunity and disharmony, for each is necessary in the fulfilling of the church's service and ministry This stress on unity is continued by emphasising that service within the church is through the one Lord, and that the bringing about of 'all things' in all (giving overall coverage of anything that takes place through the church, or indeed in creation) are the working of the one God. So, as with the Lord's Supper earlier, there is a stress both on the Godward side, and here the oneness of God is revealed in triunity, and on the oneness of all believers because all are in union with Christ's body, and all that they have comes from the one God. Note on the Godward side, the emphasis on the triunity of God; one Spirit, one Lord, one God (compare 8.6).

All ministries in the church are administered and empowered by the same Lord. This is not to separate the functions but to combine the activities of the Godhead in provision for His people. Ministries and gifts are seen as part of one whole in verses 28-20, the provision of both Spirit and Lord.

And it is God Who works everything everywhere/in everyone. This could mean everything in all the churches worldwide, or everything in creation. In context possibly it is the former that is intended. All that is true that occurs in the churches is of God's working. But we would not exclude the other.

12.7 'But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal.'

From considering the mighty power of the triune God in His working on behalf of His people, Paul now comes down to the individual believer. The mightiest Being imaginable resources every believer as He chooses. Thus there is no room for jealousy or boasting. Each one is in some way given the manifestation of the Spirit that all may profit. This may mean that each one who is given a manifestation of the Spirit is given it for the benefit of the whole church. Or it may signify that each member of the church can be sure that they will have some gift from God through His Spirit with which they can serve in the church and make the truth known in one way or another, so that all may profit. Both are in fact true, especially if we take the gifts in their wider sense as revealed elsewhere. And all are necessary to the wellbeing of Christ's body (Ephesians 4.15-16). None can do without the other.

'Is given.' The passive verb regularly indicates that the source is God. Thus the source of the Spirit's genuine gifts is God, and the manifestation of the Spirit at work is God's gift to His own.

12.8-10 'For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit, to another faith, in the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit, and to another workings of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another discernings of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.'

His emphasis that all is from God through one Spirit continues, repeated here four times. The gifts are many but the Source and Administrator of them is one. Dogmatism on what exactly each gift consists of is ruled out, for they are not defined or exhaustive. But they are clearly gifts which cover the whole aspect of a church's need for a teaching ministry, and they are being spoken of against what Paul has previously written. From the use of these gifts the church can receive from those so gifted true spiritual wisdom, and true spiritual knowledge, can manifest faith, which will be evidenced by all and strengthens the whole church, and see that faith in action in wonderful ways, experience healings and miracles, receive prophetic guidance, have those who can discern the true Spirit from false ones, speak with 'tongues' in private prayer and experience the interpretation of tongues so necessary if the gift of tongues is ever to be used in the church. All is there that is necessary for a full orbed ministry.

Various ways of looking at these differing gifts have been suggested, but whatever interpretation we put on them must take into account that they are gifts whose purpose is to continually edify the whole church. Thus to limit them to very unusual situations is probably to misunderstand them. And we must consider them in the light of what Paul has previously written. The first two are describing the enlightening of God's people, bringing to them 'wisdom' and 'knowledge'. These remind us of the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians where 'wisdom' (1.25, 30; 2.6, 7) and 'knowing' (2.11, 12, 14-15, 16) are prominent, in contrast with false wisdom (1.17-2.9), and false knowledge. There wisdom is finally found in those who come to know the One Who is the wisdom of God (1.25) and the wisdom from God (1.30). It is a wisdom not of this world, a mystery, a hidden wisdom now revealed (2.6-7). The message concerning Christ the crucified one was called 'the word of the cross'. In the same way the 'word of wisdom' must surely relate to the same idea. It is in contrast to 'wisdom of word' (sophia logou) and 'persuasive words of wisdom' (sophias logois - 2.4), and like Paul's 'word' (1.18) here demonstrates the activity of the Spirit. The 'word of wisdom' (logos sophias) indicates divine illumination in understanding about Him Who is the wisdom from God (1.30), and in having power from the Spirit in proclaiming the message revealing the fullness of Jesus Christ as the wisdom of God (1.24), causing the light to shine in men's hearts as they come to know Him as He is, so that all may have true wisdom.

The 'word of knowledge' would seem to be in contrast to the claim of some of the Corinthians to 'knowledge' (see 8.1, 10). Their knowledge was something that they boasted in and which led them into actions which could harm the body of Christ. But this 'word of knowledge' is surely therefore referring to the divinely given ability to know and to impart the true knowledge so that the church may be enriched and men may know the deep things of God (2.11, 12, 14). Compare 1.5 where Paul speaks of them as being 'enriched in all utterance and all knowledge'. This is not speaking just of any preaching, but of inspired preaching in which the Spirit is the inspirer of the preacher so that he goes beyond his normal abilities revealing knowledge opened up to him by the Spirit (2.11-16). A man may win an award as preacher of the year without knowing anything of the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge. But he cannot be a true preacher of the Gospel without experiencing both.

'Faith.' Many combine as a threesome 'faith', 'gifts of healings' and 'workings of miracles', and see 'faith' as describing an especially deep faith which can make things happen, like the faith of Elijah (James 5.17-18). That that is part of it we do not doubt. But James sees that as a faith similar to that resident also in the elders of the church (5.15), and he would probably have added in all Christians. Thus there is good cause for suggesting that 'faith' here is that faith which stands not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (2.5). It is the Spirit's gift given to all true Christians, first of all founding them in faith, and then resulting in their exercising that faith in fulfilling the purposes of God in both small ways and great, including the proverbial moving of mountains (13.2).

This would then tie 'faith' in with the previous two gifts as indicating that the response of faith to the first two gifts is also a gift of the Spirit, resulting in a God-sustained life of faith, and the blessings which come from the exercise of such faith. All Christians exercise Spirit-inspired faith, God's gift to His own, some more than others, and such faith builds up the church and brings honour to God. We must not underestimate the divine wonder of true responsive faith even in its basic form.

Jesus in His teaching constantly spoke of faith as something that could be exercised in differing degrees by all (Mark 9.23) and does not differentiate one faith from another in essence, only in degree. Faith in Him should result in the ability to exercise faith in all circumstances. Indeed the moving of mountains only requires faith the size of a grain of mustard seed! (Matthew 17.20; compare Luke 17.6). Although such faith could be built up by prayer (Mark 9.29).

It should be noted in this regard that 'faith' in verse 9 is preceded by 'etero ('to another') rather than the 'allo ('to another') which precedes the other gifts, which suggests that it is to be seen as distinctive, even among the gifts. This may be intended to divide the gifts into two, which are specific witnesses to Christ, and seven, beginning with faith, which are manifestations of faith. Two is the number of witness and seven the number of divine perfection. (Unlike today, in those days such use of numbers was not something to be subtly utilised, but a very part of the way people thought. Rather than being mathematical they were descriptive). Thus 'faith' may be including all that follows (and all gifts) as contained within them all (compare Isaiah 11.2 where 'of the Lord' is then expanded in the other six gifts).

The whole point of these gifts is that they will be manifested regularly in the church. It would therefore be wrong interpretation to make them so special that they are hardly ever experienced, and all true faith was certainly seen as the gift of God.

Indeed we might from this see a progression. The coming of the word of wisdom enlightening them in Christ, the word of knowledge increasing their understanding of Christ to greater depth, which then results in the strong and well-founded faith that comes from God that can face all assaults of the enemy, and can 'move mountains', and is followed up by divine manifestations in healings and miracles, and inspired proclamation of truth, all resulting from faith.

However that may be the next gifts are of the 'gifts of healings' and 'workings of miracles' which stand together as manifestations of divine power. The early church expected to experience such things among them continually as God confirmed His word with signs following. It is the general lack of these in the New Testament sense in the centuries that followed that gives support to the suggestion that not all the gifts were permanent for all time. They are given as and when He wills. But nevertheless they do spasmodically appear.

The word for 'miracles' is 'powers', which is often used of healing miracles (Matthew 7.22; 11.20, 21, 23; 13.54; 14.2; Mark 5.30; 6.2; 9.39; Acts 19.11). Thus the two gifts, as general gifts of the Spirit, may simply reflect different kinds of healings including the exorcism of evil spirits, although exceptionally other kinds of miracles such as nature miracles might be included.

The final grouping is divided into two twosomes, prophecy along with the necessary discernment of spirits so that the prophets can be tested, and tongues along with the interpretation of tongues so that the tongues can be meaningful to the hearers. Some would see prophecy as limited to the recognised 'prophets' approved by the church (12.29), others would see it as a more general gift experienced more widely among members of the congregation. In either case it is a speaking forth under divine utterance, which is fully under the control of the speaker (14.32). The general impression from what follows in 12-14, and especially from the exhortation to the Corinthians that they should seek the gift of prophecy, is that it is a gift given as the Spirit wills to 'ordinary' members of the church (14.1, 31, 39), although not necessarily permanently. It is not necessarily always a once for all gift and may well have been exercised more frequently by some (the recognised prophets) than by others. We can compare here the example of those who 'prophesied' around the time of the births of John the Baptiser and Jesus (Luke 1.46-55, 68-79; 2.29-32, 38).

Prophecy is here an inspired forthtelling and exhortation (see Acts 15.32) rather than a foretelling, although the latter did occur at times among the recognised prophets. It would, however, seem that this was only rarely. Agabus appears to be the recognised exception (Acts 11.28; 21.10-11). We can also consider John in Revelation. The gift was to be exercised with restraint (by two or three) and tested by other prophets, a reminder that such inspiration did not necessarily guarantee truth (14.29; 1 Thessalonians 5.20-21, compare verses 1-3 above). Its purpose was that all may learn and be strengthened (14.31). The fact that both men and women would 'prophesy' in abundance was declared by Joel, and confirmed by Peter (Joel 2.28; Acts 2.17). But Acts gives us no examples of a special type of prophetic forthtelling of a type which would be common in meetings of Christians which was distinctive from the preaching of those who went forth in the Spirit, reminding us that 'prophecy' is probably to be seen as including true Spirit-inspired, divinely wrought, preaching.

This is not simply to equate prophecy with preaching, for the latter would better come under the heading of 'teaching', which of course should also be Spirit inspired (verse 28). Such an equation would be totally misleading. It is a manifestation of the Spirit's working, and certainly all preaching is not that. But nor can we simply suggest that there have been no prophetic speakers through the centuries, simply because the form in which they spoke did not conform to our way of seeing it. In mind is rather the forth-telling of truth, by men truly inspired by the Spirit for the purpose, in any form chosen by the Holy Spirit. And the spirit of the prophets was subject to the prophets. And others who hear must judge.

'Discernment of spirits' probably has mainly in mind the discernment as to whether prophecies were of the Spirit or were the work of deceiving spirits (14.29; 1 Thessalonians 5.20-21). But it may have included awareness of spiritual deceit generally as in Acts 5.1-10, and discernment in general of other charismata, including tongues. 1 John 4.1 also tells us that we must test/prove the spirits of the prophets (their own inward spirits) as to whether it is the Spirit speaking through them, or a deceiving spirit. There the test is as to whether 'Jesus Christ' is come in the flesh. That is, do they accept that the Christ and the human Jesus, Who came in the flesh as a human being, are one. Do they accept the true humanity of the Christ?

'Tongues' was an expression of worship in unknown tongues, and these were different and varied. Again its manifestation was controllable, and was to be controlled (14.27). But Paul saw them as speaking words when they did so (14.19) and so clearly thought of them as languages. The only description of their content is in terms of giving thanks to God (14.16-17). Paul restricted speaking in tongues specifically to not more than two or at the most three in one meeting (14.27), and then only when interpreted, and this was in meetings which could last for several hours. This was to curb their excessive use. He also rejected their public use in meetings unless they were interpreted. When an interpreter was present it could act as a means of ministry, and it was on interpreted tongues that the limit was placed. He gave no approval to public use of uninterpreted tongues. If no interpreter was known to be present they should not be used. Such manifestations were also known among worshippers in other religions, as indeed was a kind of prophecy, and it was therefore necessary to be careful on both accounts.

It is not the same as the tongues in Acts 2 which were in languages recognisable to the hearers and for a specific purpose, which included that they would be understood by the hearers. Paul is quite clear on the fact that the tongues mentioned here are unintelligible to people, whether they are real languages or not. There is no thought that it will be otherwise. 13.1 might indicate that he sees the language as heavenly, but there the idea might rather be connected with what the Corinthians thought. He specifically indicates that all do not speak with tongues (12.30) any more than all heal. On the other hand it is not to be totally forbidden in public use (14.39), as long as it is interpreted (14.27). It will come out later that one of his aims will be to prevent an apparent overabundance in the use of tongues in public worship in Corinth, while at the same time not denying its usefulness in public worship, when interpreted, and in private worship.

The interpretation of tongues is a gift of being able to interpret the meaning of unknown tongues spoken publicly (this stresses the fact that the tongues are expected to be unknown tongues). Without such an interpreter present, tongues were not to be so used. He is not necessarily a translator but an interpreter of meaning.

But that this is not intended to be an exhaustive or definitive list of all gifts comes out in that in this whole section of the letter Paul constantly lists gifts, and each time the lists differ. See 12.28-30; 13.1-3, 8; 14.6, 26. (Compare also Romans 12.4-8; Ephesians 4.11) So to these gifts listed here we could add: