Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 1 Corinthians Studies|
Chs. 10 & 11
Chapters 10 & 11
Introduction to Chapters 10-16:
On his second missionary journey (see “Establishing & Expanding” in this series) Paul had come to Corinth (see Acts 18:1 on) where he stayed for over a year and a half. There the church had been well established and he had obviously written to them once already (see 5:9,11) but we don't have that letter. Now, later on, part way through his third journey, while at Ephesus (see 16:8), several of the leaders from Corinth had come to him (see 16:17) with news and questions. In the first of these two sets of studies in 1 Corinthians, we saw Paul dealing with a number of problems and some questions from Corinth. In this second part we see further questions he was answering.
A letter to a somewhat disorderly church brings us much guidance on discipline and order in the life and expression of the local church. These chapters are largely practical in the way the church is to move in a supernatural dimension.
The Structure of these Studies
In line with what we have just said above, we have divided these studies into:
PART ONE : “Limits on Freedom”
In this first part we continue and complete Paul's teaching on keeping distinct from unrighteous practices and maintaining our freedom in a gracious way. Paul then goes on to explain limitations on our behaviour, especially in respect of orderly behaviour in meetings, especially the Lord's Supper.
Chapter: 1 Cor 10
Passage: 1 Cor 10:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. Who does Paul now refer to? v.1
2. What does he say happened to them? v.2
3. What does he say they did? v.3,4a
4. How does he say they did that? v.4b
5. Yet how did God feel about them? v.5
6. How are we to see these things? v.6
As we continue these studies on through 1 Corinthians we now see Paul bringing a warning to them. Previously he has majored on not claiming their rights of freedom but now he seems to feel he has to counter what may be a sense of false security. In what follows later in the letter it is clear that this was a church that knew the power of God moving in spiritual gifts and it may be that they had felt that because they had this power they were immune from failure and correction.
No so, implies Paul. He reminds them of what happened to Israel when they came out of Egypt. They were a) miraculously led by God who provided a cloud for them to follow by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21), and b) miraculously led through the Red Sea (Ex 14:21-), c) united with Moses (“baptised into” means that here), and d) as they travelled they had a sense of God's presence going with them. Rabbinic tradition said that the rock of Num 20:1-11 followed them and provided water for them, but Paul says it was Christ's presence that provided life for them. Nevertheless unbelief and disobedience occurred again and again and most of the generation who came out of Egypt died in the wilderness. The warning is clear. Divine supernatural blessing will not cover up sinful disobedience!
A. Find Out:
1. What specific thing does Paul warn against first? v.7
2. What is the next thing he warns against? v.8
3. What were the third & fourth things he warned against? v.9,10
4. Why were these things written down? v.11
5. So what warning comes to us? v.12
6. What should we remember? v.13
Paul has just warned against us setting our hearts on evil things, having just referred to the Israelites as an example. Now he takes Israel's time in the wilderness as a warning and spells it out in more detail. Israel had sinned in a number of ways and when they sinned the judgement of God came on them and people died. There had been idolatry, sexual immorality, rebellion, and grumbling, things which the church is still prone to.
Why? Because these are just ordinary, everyday temptations, things that we all have to resist. Those specific examples of Israel were no worse because it was Israel. We are still tempted by them today and they still can have the same consequences. Yet Paul is very positive about how we deal with them: they are just temptations and (implied) you don't have to give way to them because God won't let anything be put before you that you can't cope with and He will always provide a way for you to cope with it.
This passage is very powerful in the way it so clearly shows us basics of the Christian life: sin destroys, but sin is only a temptation given way to, and God will always provide a way to beat the temptation, so we don't have to sin and we don't have to be destroyed (Rom 6:2,18)
A. Find Out:
1. What is Paul now referring back to? v.14
2. What does he say we do at “Communion”? v.16
3. What does the one loaf say to us? v.17
4. What does he say about pagan sacrifices? v.20
5. So what does Paul conclude? v.21
6. What does he warn against? v.22
At this point we find Paul blending together three of the themes that he has been dealing with so far.
The first theme is that of Christian conscience, of participating in idol worship food. He compares it to eating the Lord's Supper and says that they are two completely opposing meals. One is in reference to God and the other in reference to the enemy. Look, he says, the food or the idol really mean nothing, they are merely outward signs of the reality behind them, so you don't need to get upset about them. Having said that, he continues, it is an association with the enemy, so don't have anything to do with it when you are aware that is what it is.
The second theme is that of Christian freedom, which has really just been covered by what we've just said. You can do it and not be bothered about the idol or the food but, frankly, it's just simply better that you don't do it!
The third theme was that original one of Christian unity. While he mentions the Lord's Supper he tells us that the one loaf reminds us that we are really all one. The low-key implication backs up what he has said before: there is no room for division here.
A. Find Out:
1. What overall principle does Paul reiterate? v.23
2. How does that go beyond yourself? v.24
3. How should one consider purchased food and why? v.25,26
4. How should one view eating with an unbeliever? v.27
5. What check may occur? v.28-30
6. So how does Paul summarise all this? v.31,32
This is very much a summary passage where Paul brings together the matters of a Christian's freedom and the problem the Corinthians had raised about eating meat offered to idols.
Whereas that particular problem is not one that affects us today, the principles being taught by Paul still do apply. First of all he is very positive. You can eat what you want. All food is provided by God, so receive it thankfully. Notice all food, Paul was not a vegetarian, and the Jews generally were not vegetarians. God has not put restrictions on the type of food we may eat. Having said that there is a possible restriction on the Christian's freedom, and that is to do with the conscience of another.
If a younger, weaker Christian has a problem with eating particular foods then we, the more mature, stronger Christian should have the grace not to upset them. If the younger, weaker Christian has a problem with drinking alcohol, then we the stronger, mature Christian should have the grace not to make that a stumbling block to them. This is particularly true in respect of alcohol where the other Christian, is one who has had a problem in the past with alcohol. Our freedom should not cause them to fall back into a bondage
A. Find Out:
1. What was the order Paul spoke about? v.3
2. So how did this affect praying? v.4,5
3. What logic does he apply next in respect of women? v.6
4. What does he then say about me? v.7
5. What does he say about men and women? v.8,9
6. How does he summarise it? v.10
Here is a passage that has caused much confusion over the years and we need to distinguish principle from practice. A principle was a rule based upon truth. A practice was something done to express something else. The key issue that Paul speaks about here is the order of authority.
The chain of authority that Paul spells out is God - Jesus - man - woman, and the lower is responsible to the higher. In the age in which we live this is contrary to world thinking, but God has decreed His chain of responsibility, His chain of authority. Paul bases his thinking on the creation story: man was formed first, then woman from man, with woman being created for man, not the other way round. We cannot escape that order, and it is for the blessing of both in relationship to God. Where that relationship is missing neither this order nor the reverse order will be a blessing.
It is from this that Paul talks about the practice that was common in Jewish and, subsequently, early church life. The woman covered her hair as a sign of the divine order, and the man didn't, for the same reason. However we express the reality of the principle is not important, it is the reality of it in us which is important.
SPECIAL NOTE : Head Covering & Authority
So much has our society moved from the divine principle that we need to make additional comment on the things Paul has been saying in 1 Cor 11.
In a day when feminism has so pressurised public opinion, many of us have been made to feel that the apostle Paul's teaching is chauvinistic and to be seen as a cultural abnormality. It is for this reason in the notes we have sought to distinguish between spiritual principles that he is working with, and cultural practice.
New Testament Teaching
Not only here but also in 1 Tim 2:11- and Eph 5:22-24 does the apostle Paul make these distinction between male and female roles. The apostle Peter in 1 Pet 3:1 also maintains the same distinction.
Cultural or Creation Origin?
Many would say that the thinking of these two men is cultural, was that which their society in their time believed. However when we examine the apostle Paul's teaching we see that he refers us back to the creation and the order that is there in Gen 2. It is on the basis of God's order of creating male and female that the New Testament teaching follows.
Abuse or Blessing
Male dominance (with oppressive, restrictive and hurtful attitudes) is not what the Bible teaches, for that is abuse. Male responsibility (the buck stops here!) and authority (the God given directive to initiate and decree, used only as God initiates and decrees ) is God's order for the blessing of both men and women.
At the end of the twentieth century we are going through a period where, in our lack of understanding of God's order, we have largely disregarded this teaching. Instead of reacting badly to the abuses we may have seen, we should instead seek the Lord for a fuller understanding so that we may, as men and women, move into a place of full blessing by God whereby we each live and serve in the fullness of the distinctives that God has given and decreed.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul say about men & women's independence? v.11
2. Why? v.12
3. What did he ask them? v.13
4. How did he justify that? v.14,15
5. What did he say it was? v.16
This is a continuation from yesterday's passage. The point that Paul was making was to do with order and authority. The man was the God-given authority. He was the one with whom the buck stops! That was just the way God had ordered it from the beginning. That was the spiritual principle that Paul was speaking about.
Now, again, we must distinguish between principle and practice. The principle was the God-established rule. The practice was the man-ordained cultural way that that principle was shown. For that time and in that part of the world the accepted practice was for women to have long hair and men short hair. In a society where the God-given roles are quite clear and distinct, it seems that that is very often how it is. It seems that in a society where those roles are blurred hair lengths become much the same between the sexes (simply an observation!).
The key issue is not so much the hair length (or who wears trousers and who skirts), but a recognition of the differing God-given roles to man and woman and the way they operate in the church context. Again (simply an observation) it seems that in revival situations, the role distinctions become clear and distinct again. It seems (observation again!) that it is only in times of low spiritual health that the gender roles become blurred. Ponder on these things.
A. Find Out:
1. What does he say about their meetings? v.17
2. What has he heard? v.18
3. What meeting had he particularly in mind? v.20
4. What had been happening then? v.21
5. Where did he say they should do those things? v.22a
6. What were they doing to some? v.22b
We now come to another of Paul's serious rebukes. Previously he has been giving advice and counsel. Now he deals with a serious issue that involved their coming together, particularly to take communion together.
His first complaint was that they were coming together in a divided manner. It seems as if there was a snobbery that divided people. Verse 19 is more like a cynical comment than a statement of truth. We say this in the light of what follows. When they came together and they were eating and drinking to remember the Lord, they did it in a chaotic and uncaring fashion. Some of them just pushed on with it without caring for their poorer brothers and ate lots, leaving the poorer ones among them to have little. Some of them were even getting drunk on the wine. Paul is incensed about this. This is just despising what the whole thing is about, and not caring for others round about you. Look, says Paul, if you are hungry or thirsty, you've got homes to go where you can satisfy your hunger, that's not what communion is about. It's about remembering the Lord's death for us and for acknowledging the wonder of the body that we make up. The way they were going about it did neither of those two things.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul remind us happened? v.23-25
2. What do we do when we take communion? v.26
3. What do we do if we take it casually? v.27,29
4. What should we do to avoid that happening? v.28,31
5. What had actually happened? v.30,32
6. So what counsel did Paul give them? v.33,34
“Breaking of bread”, “Communion”, “the “Lord's Supper” or “the Eucharist”, whatever the language we use, the meaning is the same. It is, as Paul says, a time when we remember that the Lord Jesus did. He, at the Last Supper, symbolically acted out something that portrayed the deep meaning of what he was about to do. He was about to give his body as a sacrifice, that it would be broken, and as a result of his death on the Cross, he would save many who would form a new body (12:27). His blood that would be shed would be like the blood of an Old Testament sacrifice under the old covenant, but would initiate a new covenant with God whereby we could be forgiven and cleansed of our sins. At Communion we proclaim these truths afresh.
Now, in the Corinthian church, the taking of bread and wine had been done in a casual, even greedy manner, which Paul has already spoken against. Don't you realise what you are doing, says Paul, and why some of you are sick and dying? This is serious stuff! You are deriding the work of Christ and ignoring the body he has now produced, and God is judging you in discipline to bring you to your senses. Wake up, check yourselves out when you take it, realise what you are doing, be concerned for one another!
In this first group of 8 studies we have seen :
Remember at the beginning of this letter and running throughout it, is Paul's concern over the divisions on the Corinthian church. In chapters 8 and 9 he had starting speaking about the freedom we have as Christians. In chapter 10 he continues that but he is saying, bear in mind weaker Christians whose consciences may not be as strong as yours. Care for them, this will bring a unity. Then there were women who, in Jewish fashion, were a group separate from the men but were now exercising a new-found freedom that brought disharmony. Finally there were those who were using the Lord's Supper as an opportunity for gluttony. A number of issues all relating to disharmony which when dealt with would promote unity.
1. As Christians we have a great freedom.
2. That freedom should not take us into sin.
3. That freedom should be curtailed for the sake of weaker Christians.
4. That freedom should not bring disharmony in meetings.
Thank the Lord for the part of the church you are in. Pray for individuals in it. Pray for unity in all the church does.
PART 2 : "Correct Behaviour in Meetings"
In this next Part, Paul follows the idea of unity on but takes up the question of the use of spiritual gifts in the meeting. Obviously there had been some disorder, and he seeks to correct that in these chapters.