1 CORINTHIANS 11:2-34
2I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. 3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. 4Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, 5but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head - it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. 6For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. 7For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. 8Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. 10For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. 12For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? 14Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16But if anyone is disposed to be contentious - we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
17Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. 20When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper.21For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.
Both issues addressed here by the Apostle Paul center around propriety. The propriety in mixed-gender worship, especially in the context of praying and prophesying. Men and women need to be aware of what is proper and what is respectful when they gather together to worship. Women should cover their heads, while men should not cover their heads. In the culture of the day, such adherence or lack of adherence evidenced propriety or impropriety.
The second issue -- the proper conduct surrounding the Lord's Supper -- was also addressed. The background for the Corinthians' poor behavior was unsanctified Greco-Roman meals. The church in Corinth ate a deipnon (supper, 11:20, 21, 25) This was the regular evening meal in the Greco-Roman world. The two major courses of the banquet were the "supper" proper which was followed by the sumposion (symposium) which was a drinking party. These Greco-Roman meals were occasions of social stratification, drunkenness, and disorderliness.
The problem: the Corinthians ate their supper (which included the Lord's Supper) in a manner similar to a regular, pagan Greco-Roman meal. The rich would arrive first at the home of someone wealthy enough to host the supper; they wouldn't wait for everyone else (the poor) to arrive; the rich would have their fill of food and some would even start to drink before all had arrived; the poor would then find themselves with little to nothing to eat. The poor, then, went hungry while the rich were stuffed and some of them drunk.
Instead of transforming the Greco-Roman meal by the values of the Gospel, the Lord's Supper was transformed into a pagan Greco-Roman meal!
At root, the lack of deeper transformation of attitudes and behavior created all these problems that the Apostle Paul had to address. Lack of sanctification proved costly and hurtful.
It's always easier to remain as we are than to change. To change means giving up what one is used to and trying something new. Most of the time, we are asked to give up our prerogatives and privileges if we are the "rich" in our relative contexts. To consider what is proper, respectful, honorable, loving, or God-glorifying means to commit ourselves to a process of transformation. Unfortunately there is no Biblically valid alternative that does not entail change. Change -- or, repentance -- is what is called for."I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke 13:3).
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we want to change -- change for the better, change for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of God's glory. Help us to recognize the unsanctified ways that still remain in us. Help us to repent of attitudes and behavior that do not fit our identities as sons and daughters of the Living God. We confess that without you and the Holy Spirit, the change we seek is nearly impossible. So we ask you today and in the days ahead that the Spirit of God would work deep within to bring to our conscious attention where we have failed and to point us toward attitudes and behavior that would clothe us rightly in the culture of your Kingdom. In your name, amen.