In 2002, only 9% of adults said that
children they saw in public were respectful towards adults.
In 2004, about 35% of school teachers polled said that they
had given serious thought to abandoning their profession
because of “intolerable student behavior” [which involved
disrespect]. In 2005, 70% of people in another survey
said that people today are ruder than they were 20-30 years
ago (Larson/Elshof). Could our lack of respect for our
fellow man also carry over into our disrespect for God, our
Creator? A group which had become disrespectful toward
others and God were the members of the church at Corinth in
56 A.D. We saw last week in chapter 10 how Paul
encouraged these brethren to be an obedient church. In
chapter 11, Paul wants them to be a respectful church.
Our theme for today is: Keep respect in worship! Paul
shows us four areas where we are to be respectful.
First of all, respect God's order in relationships.
Let's look now at 1 Corinthians 11:2-3: "Now I praise you,
brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the
traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want
you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head
of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
Remember, now in chapter 7, Paul began answering some
questions that the Corinthian brethren had asked him.
The key way of knowing what topic Paul is addressing is the
phrase "Now concerning ..." So in chapters 7-10, Paul
has been addressing moral issues, but in chapter 11, he
changes gears and starts addressing some congregational
issues. The first issue in chapter 11 deals with the
wearing of a head covering during worship (verses 2-16), and
the second deals with how the members should conduct their
fellowship meals and the Lord's Supper (verses 17-34).
Before going into his remarks about the wearing of a head
covering, Paul lays down an important principle in verse 3.
One commentator states:
"The headship established by God should not be disregarded.
To overlook God's distinctive function for men and women is
disgraceful. This is true in any culture. ... Paul
wanted them to know the principle of headship. A
hierarchical structure exists in the universe. This
structure begins with God and moves downward to Christ who
is over man, who in turn is over woman (v. 3). This
doctrine of headship is foundational to the entire passage"
To be the head of someone means to be the authority over
(Oster). Now some you might feel very squeamish about
this principle. It goes against our modern ideas of
democracy, equality, and liberation. But there is
something important to remember here: "Headship is not
dictatorship. It is [also] about love, support, and
respect" (Stacy). Respect God's order in
relationships. Another preacher made this remark:
"Regardless of the particular application at Corinth, the
trans-cultural principle about male leadership and women’s
submission to men in the church must be taught and respected
in all times and places" (Owen). Notice that he called
this a "trans-cultural" principle. This means that
God's order in relationships was not just bound to the
Jewish culture nor to the Corinthian culture, but it is a
principle valid for all cultures in all times: God is the
authority over Christ, Christ is the authority over man, and
man is the authority over woman. How can we know that
this principle is one that is valid for all cultures?
It is because this principle goes all the way back to the
creation of relationships. When Paul makes reference
to Adam and Eve, the principle was established as something
God wanted to see universally put into practice. Many
cultures develop in Genesis 1-11 before the Jews ever come
on the scene in chapter 12. So, God's order in
relationships is valid for all cultures in all ages.
Look at verses 8-9: "For man is not from woman, but woman
from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman
for the man." So we see in Paul's argumentation about
proper head coverings that he appeals to God's order
established at creation. Notice another passage where
Paul does much the same thing. It's 1 Timothy 2:12-13:
"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over
a man, but to be in silence." Why does Paul take this
position that might sound odd to our modern ears.
Notice his explanation in the next verse: "For Adam was
formed first, then Eve." What is Paul doing
here? It is very clear that he is appealing once again
to the creation where God's order in relationships was
established. Paul does not want that order
disrespected during worship services. Respect God's
order in relationships. So, is this passage teaching
that American Christian women today must wear a hat in
church? No. This is because the context of the
command no longer applies to us today. Only those
women who were praying and prophesying in worship were
commanded to wear the head covering, and that praying and
prophesying are, in my opinion, the miraculous gifts given
by the Holy Spirit. Since the New Testament teaches
that the age of miracles has ceased, Paul's instruction here
would have no relevance for us today. One commentator
puts it this way: "This is one of those passages which have
a purely local and temporary significance ... which has
ceased to have any relevance for us ... [yet it has] a
very great importance, because Paul solves the problems by
principles which are eternal" (Barclay). So what
should we apply from this passage? Another commentator
gives this good response:
"Positively, we understand that the principle must just as
carefully be kept as in his day. That principle,
apparently, is that the [women] must conduct themselves in
such a way ... that their loyalty and subjection ... is
fully observed. In Paul's culture, that was show by
wearing a head covering; whatever it takes to show the same
thing in our culture should be observed as a matter of
obedience to this passage. The reason for this is that
Paul anchors his insistence on the covering ... in the
headship relationship which is a matter of Divinely
established creation order, and not in the shifting
conventions of culture" (Picirilli).
Wouldn't wearing her wedding band, dressing modestly, and
learning silently be signs of submission in our culture?
Respect God's order in relationships!
Next, respect your congregation's good customs. Notice
now what Paul writes in verse 16: "But if anyone seems to be
contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of
God." Listen to how some commentators view this
statement. One states: "In the face of such and
attitude, Paul points to universal Christian custom;
Christians have no other practice. ... [And] the addition
'nor do the churches of God' shows that what he has outlined
is the common practice throughout the church" (Morris).
Another adds: "He insists that universal practice among his
churches reinforces his appeal. The Corinthians are
obviously expected to follow his 'traditions' in this
respect as well" (Halloday). A third affirms: "If some
of the Corinthians readers are still at loggerheads [or in
disagreement] with Paul's position and instruction about
devotional head-coverings, they should know how out-of-step
they are with ... the rest of the churches" (Oster).
So, Paul was saying to the Corinthian brethren: "Look, don't
be contentious about my instructions. Just look around
and you will see that other congregations are practicing
what I have stated concerning head coverings." Now,
isn't there another principle here that's broader than just
the context of Corinth? Isn't Paul admonishing us to
respect the good customs that other congregation's, and
especially our own congregation, are practicing? Won't
this help to promote edification and peace in the local
church body? There was an interesting practice at a
congregation in Madrid. Whenever anyone wanted to
become a Christian, he or she would not be baptized during
the worship service. The service would close, and then
the candidate would be asked to explain why they wanted to
become a Christian before the others. After the
explanation, those listeners would ask a series of
questions: "How will this decision affect your family life?
How will you respond at school when your friends ridicule
you? What bad habits will have to be broken when you
become a disciple?" You see, the congregation here was
helping the person to count the cost of being a disciple.
They did not want to immerse someone who had not first
counted the cost. Doesn't that sound like a good
custom that maybe American churches should follow as well?
We have good customs here as well to help strengthen us as
Christians. Take full advantage of these without
complaining! Respect your congregation's good customs!
Keep respect in worship.
Next, respect all members' needs. Now let's read
verses 20-22: "Therefore when you come together in one
place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in
eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and
one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you
not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise
the church of God and shame those who have nothing?
What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this?
I do not praise you." Paul earlier praised the
Corinthian brethren for putting into practice what he had
already taught them. But here, we see that Paul is not
praising them. What's going on here? Let's hear
some commentary. One writer notes:
"The early Church had such a custom, a feast called the
Agape or Love Feast. To it all the Christians came,
bringing what they could, the resources were pooled, and
they sat down to a common meal. ... It was a way of
producing and nourishing real Christian fellowship. ... But
in Corinth, the art of sharing had gotten lost. .... The
result was that the meal at which the social differences
between members of the Church should have been obliterated
only succeeded in aggravating these same differences"
Another adds: "It is fully possible that the 'ordinary meal'
and the 'Lord's Supper' were fully intertwined, as was the
Jewish Passover celebration, where during the course of the
meal, the cup and the bread were singled out as having
special significance, and the participants took of these
accordingly. If this is the proper picture, it is
fully explicable that some members would be "drunken" by the
time the bread and the wine were singled out and observed"
(Halloday). One more affirms:
"However, at Corith, the rich who brought bountiful
provisions for such affairs were not sharing with the poor
who had been able to bring little or nothing. Some
were actually having a big feast and then returning home
before others arrived. Drunkenness and gluttony were
prevalent, in addition to the pitiless disregard of the poor
and needy. ... What [Paul] condemned was their intemperance,
disregard of the needs of others, and their shameless mixing
of the Lord's Supper with a common meal" (Coffman).
Respect all members' needs. Isn't the church the one
place where the barriers of race, economics, class, and
politics should be broken down? Shouldn't we be
focusing on other members' needs more than upon our own
while we are together? Shouldn't our potlucks, our
love feasts, be times where we are more concerned about how
others are doing and growing spiritually than about how much
food we can put on our plate and which dessert we're going
to eat? Someone gives us this good advice: "A life
without love in it is like a heap of ashes upon a deserted
hearth—with the fire dead, the laughter stilled, and the
light extinguished. ... God knows we need all the unselfish
love that can come to us. My motto is: 'I am going
your way, so let's travel hand in hand. Let's help
each other. We will not be here for very long, for
soon death will come ... Let's help one another while we
can" (Tebbetts)! Another encourages: "This then is
Christianity—to smash the barriers and get next to your
fellowman" (Faris). Another admonishes: "When
[members] wish to keep things to themselves and to their own
circle, they are not even beginning to be Christian.
The true Christian cannot bear to have too much while others
have too little; he finds his great privilege not in
jealously guarding his privileges, but in giving them away"
(Barclay). Paul admonishes in Romans 14:19: "Therefore
let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things
by which one may edify another." Respect all members'
needs. Keep respect in worship!
Next, respect Christ's memorial. Let's read now verses
27-29: "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup
of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body
and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself,
and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and
drink judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
Let's hear what some commentators say. One writes:
"... this meal is intended to be 'an acted sermon, an acted
proclamation of the death it commemorates.' ... [At
Corinth,] there was no remembrance, no proclamation, no
anticipation. Instead there was selfishness, rivalry,
and chaos. ... Our worship must also give appropriate
emphasis and serious purpose to the Lord's Supper. We
can no more turn it into a 'church picnic' today than they
did then, without reaping the same horrible consequences"
(Shelly). Another adds: "So then to eat and drink
unworthily is to do so with no sense of the greatness of the
thing we do [with no reverence and no sense of love for what
these symbols stand], and to do so while we are at variance
with the brother for whom Christ died [every member in whose
heart there is hatred, bitterness, and contempt against
another member, as he or she comes to the table, eats and
drinks unworthily]" (Barclay). A third observes:
"If any person shall partake of this solemn rite without
discernment of the event it memorializes, or without regard,
to the obligations imposed by it, or without ... the due
reverence and appreciation due such an ordinance—then such a
person becomes guilty of the body and blood of Jesus, the
meaning of this being that he, in a spiritual sense, has
become a crucifier of the Lord Himself. ... The point is
that no Christian should observe the Lord's Supper in any
casual or flippant manner, treating it as something
ordinary. ... Under Judaism, people remembered their sins;
in Christ, they remember their Redeemer who has forgiven
their sins" (Coffman).
Respect Christ's memorial. Here's an interesting idea
for our consideration: "For the Greek the breakfast was a
meal where all that was eaten was a little bread dipped in
wine; the midday meal was eaten anywhere, even on the street
or in a city square; the [supper] was the main meal of the
day, where people sat down with no sense of hurry and not
only satisfied their hunger but lingered long together.
The very word shows that the Christian meal ought to be a
meal where people linger long in each other's company"
(Barclay). Have we turned the Lord's Supper into the
Lord's Snack? As we partake of the Lord's Supper are
we looking backward to the cross, inward to our own lives
and conduct, outward to our relationships with other
members, and forward to Christ's coming again? There's
a moving story about how "Taps", the melody played a
military funerals, came into being: “Reportedly, it all
began in 1862 during the Civil War when Union Army Captain
Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in
Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side
of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain
Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely
wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or
Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life
and pulled the man to his camp. When the captain
finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually
a dead Confederate soldier. The captain lit a lantern
and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In
the dim light, he saw the face of his own son! The boy
had been studying music in the South when the war broke out.
Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the
Confederate Army. The following morning, heartbroken,
the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son
a full military burial. His request was only partially
granted. The captain had asked if he could have a
group of army band members play a funeral dirge. The
request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate.
But, out of respect for the father, they did say he could
have one musician play. The captain chose a bugler,
and he asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he
had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead
youth’s uniform. This wish was granted and this is how
'Taps' was born" (Sides). That's a moving story isn't
it? Does Jesus' agony and shame still move us?
"This do in remembrance of Me." Respect Christ's
memorial! Keep respect in worship!
Paul wanted the congregation at Corinth to be a respectful
church. Let's respect God's order, our congregation's
good customs, all members' needs, and Christ's memorial!
Let's keep respect in worship. Let's pray.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If
then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a
Master, where is my reverence?” (Malachi 1:6). It sounds
like the Jews had lost their respect for God. Have you
lost your respect for Him too? If so, you need to
confess that sin today! Don't put it off any longer!
Submit to His benevolent authority!