SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- This chapter specifically addresses cultural issues that the Corinthians were facing. The first section discusses women covering their heads during worship. This may seem odd, however, this was a typical Middle Eastern practice at the time, and is still seen in Islamic culture today. Although there are different views on the subject, keep the following in mind. If you recall, we learned that Corinth worshipped the goddess of love, Venus, and had a temple of 1,000 prostitutes in her honor. And Haley's Bible Handbook tells us: “It was customary in Greek and Near Eastern cities for women to cover their heads in public -- except women of immoral character. Within recent memory, Corinth had been full of temple prostitutes. Some of the Christian women, taking advantage of their newfound liberty in Christ, decided to lay aside their head coverings in church meetings, which horrified the more modest types. Paul tells these women not to defy public opinions as to what is considered proper in society at large." Essentially, these women weren't doing anything wrong by taking off their head covering. Unfortunately, though, they could be mistaken for a prostitute. As Paul has said so many times, everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.
- The second section of this chapter is referring to the Lord's supper, also known as communion. Communion is remembering Jesus and His sacrifice by eating a piece of bread and a cup of juice (Luke 22:19-20). Communion was also culturally different than today. For the Corinthians, it was a literal supper. Unfortunately this became more of an opportunity for people to stuff themselves (even if some others didn't get a chance to eat at all) and get drunk. Paul had some harsh words for them and instructed them not to approach communion so lightly. Instead, they should examine themselves before taking part. Paul also tells them that God might discipline Christians because of their sin, but He does it to lead them out of their sin.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- These cultural lessons are just another example that we should be careful how we live. Yes, we have freedom in Christ, but we should never do anything that would hurt others or God.
- We should examine ourselves before we take communion. In communion, we thank Jesus for dying for our sins, and we should acknowledge our sins before we take it. We should also have other regular times of self-examination.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Do you ever stop and think about how your actions affect others? It can be easy to be cynical and say, "I have a right to...." That's the American way. But God's way is different. God says, "You have the right, but is it worth it? Is it constructive? Is it helpful? Or is it just selfish?" Take a moment to examine yourself. Are there any ways you might be sinning against God, or hurting other people through your example? If so, confess it to God and thank Jesus for dying for those sins.