Have you ever been a part of a situation where someone thinks they’re in charge, only to realize that they clearly aren’t? That dynamic is similar to what is playing out in the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11. Here, Paul seems to be addressing two items that have no apparent relation – head coverings and the Lord’s Table. Yet, as we press into the text, we realize that both of these items are manifestations of God’s headship and authority over His church. Because God is our head, we allow God and His Word to drive and determine our worship of Him.
- We Worship Under the Headship of God: v.2-16
Starting with head coverings, Paul jumps into the matter by giving multiple examples of headship in verse 3. It should be noted that everyone mentioned here with the exception of God the Father finds themselves in a subordinate relationship…including Jesus! God is calling His people to something that is first modeled within the Trinity! But inasmuch as God gives us this, we see distortions of headship in verses 4-6. It may be hard for us to identify this on the surface, but as we press the cultural understanding, we see ways that the church is distorting God’s intention of headship. Then, in verses 7-16, Paul gives theological arguments for headship. There are 3 primary arguments that he makes here: An argument from creation, interdependency and nature.
How should we understand this? Well, for some, you may determine that you should wear a head covering in worship. Regardless of where you land on that, for all of us, this text is a strong reminder that God is the head and authority in our lives. Therefore, we are to embrace, not reject subordination to God. Finally, we see that this text encourages to celebrate, not flatten gender distinction. Distinction does not imply superiority or inferiority, it simply implies distinction.
- We Worship in Community Remembering Christ: v.17-34
In the second half of the chapter, Paul moves to the Lord’s Table, or what we often refer to as communion. Even a casual reading of this passage makes clear the dysfunction and division in the church as they would celebrate. What was meant to unify served to alienate and divide. Where the call should be to seek unity in our community, the Corinthians were doing just the opposite. The response is for us to remember Christ’s work collectively. In verses 23-26, Paul looks back to the finished work of Christ, but also ahead to the future work of Christ. Remembrance is a powerful and profound tool. God embedded remembrance into the Jewish people through feasts and festivals. In doing so, as the people would remember what God had done in the past, it would give them faith and trust as they look ahead. The communion table is meant to accomplish the same purpose. As we remember Christ’s finished work, we’re able to look ahead in faith and trust. Finally, Paul gives an exhortation to discern the body. In this call to discern, we’re reminded of the judgment that we deserve, but will be spared in and through the person of Jesus.
As you consider these two items, they may seem isolated from your normal routine or everyday life. Yet these two items are manifestations of a foundational dynamic for the church: namely God’s rule in our life and our willingness to be subordinate to Christ in all things. Is this true for you? Are you willing to come under His leadership? God help us that we would learn from the Corinthians and willingly, joyfully and enthusiastically come under the rule of our great God!