DIVERSITY OF GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT: 12:4-11

In our last essay we studied the conclusion of Paul’s criticism of the Corinthians’ misuse of the Lord’s Supper in 11:27-34. Then we noted in 12:1-3 that Paul wanted to correct the Corinthians’ abuse of gifts of the Spirit. As Paul continues, he gives this issue a great deal of space in the letter. The total section runs from 12:1 through 14:40. In verse three we saw Paul immediately establish that genuinely spiritually gifted persons always confess Jesus as Lord and mean it (v. 3).

I concluded the lesson by giving a list of nine general principles that we find in the New Testament regarding the gifts of the Spirit. They are important enough that I will quickly review them here. First, there is a difference between the gift (Acts 2:38) and the gifts of the Spirit. Second, there is a difference between the fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) and the gifts of the Spirit. Third, there is a difference between natural talents and supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Fourth, gifts of the Spirit are not earned (Eph. 4:7-8). Fifth, God decides who receives which supernatural gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4). Sixth, gifts of the Spirit are for every Christian (1 Cor. 12:7, 11). Seventh, gifts of the Spirit are quite diverse (1 Cor. 12:4-11). Eighth, gifts of the Spirit are for ministry and service (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:7). And ninth, our personal ministry and service are part of the larger ministry of the Church (2 Cor. 10:3-4).

All right, in this essay we are studying 1 Cor. 12:4-11 in which Paul stresses the tremendous diversity of gifts of the Spirit found in the body of Christ. In verses 4-6 Paul begins his discussion of the variety of spiritual gifts with a Trinitarian formula. There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, meaning the Holy Spirit. There are varieties of services (or ministries), but the same Lord, meaning the Lord Jesus. And there are varieties of activities (or workings), but the same God doing the working. Fee reminds us that this is the earliest clear Trinitarian expression in the New Testament. And Barrett suggests that it appears to be “artless and unconscious.” But I don’t see any reason why Paul couldn’t have consciously put it that way.

Verse seven tells us that each Christian is given “the manifestation of the Spirit.” Some scholars have tried to interpret “the manifestation of the Spirit” as something different from a gift of the Spirit, but the phrase is simply another name for gifts of the Spirit. When gifts of the Spirit are exercised, they are manifestations of the Spirit’s work in the Christians involved.

Notice that the purpose of the manifestation of the gifts in the congregation is “the common good.” In other words, the entire congregation profits from exercise of the gifts. Now we must remember that gifts of the Spirit often are manifested apart from worship services. But in the larger context of this section, Paul is concerned about their use in worship. And he will focus on that in chapters 13-14.

In verses 8-10 Paul provides a list of examples, which he meant to be illustrative, rather than exhaustive. Then at the end of the chapter, in 12:8-10 and 28, Paul offers a second list that names a few more gifts.

I believe that this subject of gifts of the Spirit is important enough for us to take the time to work through the list and attempt to come to an understanding of what each one means. You will notice that there are nine gifts in the verses 8-10 list. Some have grouped them into three categories.

Pentecostals have tended to group them as follows:
–Gifts of Illumination (wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits)
–Gifts of Action (faith, miracles, healings)
–Gifts of Communication (prophecy, tongues, discernment of tongues)

Another popular grouping is:
–Gifts of Instruction (wisdom, knowledge)
–Gifts of Power (faith, miracles, healings)
–Gifts of Inspired Utterance (prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, discernment of tongues)

Personally, I doubt very much if Paul had such categories in mind. But for some people they seem to be helpful. The first item on this list is a word (or utterance) of wisdom, which is a perceptive insight into an immediate situation. In other words, God reveals to a believer “wisdom” in that situation that the believer would not otherwise have. It probably would come in the form of a statement full of, or characterized by, wisdom; and others present would recognize it as such. A biblical example would be Stephen. As Stephen was ministering in power in Jerusalem, certain people from the synagogue of the Freedmen challenged him. But we are told in Acts 6:10 that “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.”

Next is a word (or utterance) of knowledge, which is different from a word of wisdom. A word of knowledge is a gift or revelation of specific information of which the recipient had no previous knowledge. This gift was demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus when he was with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. You will recall that he was gifted with considerable information about her personal life. For example he knew she had had five husbands, and that the man she was living with was not her husband.

Another biblical example was the apostle Peter, when he made his famous confession of Christ at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus said to Peter on that occasion, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 16:17).

Ken Kinghorn defines the gift of faith as a gift “given to some Christians as a special ability to see the adequacy of God and to tap it for particular situations.” That is as good a definition as I have seen. It is important that we realize that this gift of the Spirit is not the faith that saves and sanctifies us. Rather it is an enablement to believe for something that God will do, even though the person has no idea how God will do it.

An outstanding biblical example of a person with this gift was Abraham. God enabled him to believe that God would provide an heir from he and his wife Sarah even though she was many years past menopause and could not bear children even in her youth. Another kind of example was George Mueller. God led him into a ministry with orphans. He had no money, but he believed for the support his orphans from day to day. And it always was there. Eventually he had, I believe, seven orphanages. He never asked anyone for money. He simply prayed, and God provided.

Gifts of healing enable the one gifted to function as an instrument of God’s healing grace in the lives of others. Notice the plural “gifts.” The plural may indicate either of two things. It may mean that various Christians are gifted to heal various specific diseases. Or it may mean that certain individuals are gifted to heal a variety of diseases.

God heals sick spirits, sick relationships, sick emotions, and sick bodies. But physical healing seems to get the most attention among Christians, though I believe it is at or near the bottom of God’s priority list. At any rate, divine physical healing is accomplished in four ways. Sometimes God heals instantly and directly by means of a miracle. Sometimes God heals gradually through natural processes. In our culture God frequently heals by means of a combination of medical science and natural processes. But God heals most frequently by means of the resurrection.

Physical illness must be understood in the context of God’s circumstantial, or permissive, will. That is, he does not intend or cause it; but he does permit it. A direct instantaneous healing, therefore, requires God to choose to act miraculously in that particular situation to produce a new situation that somehow better reflects his will at a level beyond the individual involved.

All right, this discussion of physical healing leads us to the next related gift, miracles. Paul evidently distinguished in his mind between healing miracles and other miraculous acts of God. The gift of miracles is given on special occasions to meet special needs, according to the good judgment of God. A powerful biblical example is the Exodus, when God delivered Israel out of Egypt by his mighty hand. Another is the ministry of Jesus, when many non-healing miracles of various kinds took place.

Today God still intervenes miraculously in the affairs of the Church, but only occasionally. God’s miracles certainly do not occur as often as some Christians want to believe. Jesus himself made a profound statement in respect to miracles when he said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Lk. 16:31).

We will continue our consideration of the gifts of the Spirit in our next essay.

CONCERNING THE LORD’S SUPPER CONTINUED: 11:27-34: AND CONCERNING SPIRITUAL GIFTS: 12:1-3

In our last essay we studied 1 Cor. 11:17-26, in which Paul raised a second problem with the Corinthians’ public worship; namely, their conduct when celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
In this essay we are we are going to conclude our study of Paul’s criticism of the Corinthians’ abuse of the Lord’s Supper and begin our study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 11:27-34 Paul issues a warning to the Corinthians.

In verses 11:27-28, Paul warns them about eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord’s Supper “unworthily.” If they do, they will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. What he meant by “unworthily” we saw back in verses 21-22. It was their showing no respect for the Sacrament by the humiliation of the poor and getting drunk of the rich.

Paul meant by being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord that their profaning of the Sacrament was equivalent to crucifying Christ again. Therefore in effect they were siding with those who killed Jesus rather than with those who benefit from his sacrifice. Unfortunately, many modern-day Christians have misinterpreted these verses to refer to personal unworthiness. They may have committed some sin; and as a result, they avoid participation in the Sacrament, because they fear that they might partake of it unworthily and be condemned. I saw this more often than I liked during my years as a pastor. But Paul was not condemning the Corinthians’ personal unworthiness. He was condemning their behavior at the table of the Lord.

Therefore Paul tells them to examine themselves before participating in the Sacrament. I was raised in a Presbyterian USA church, and we had Communion only once per quarter. And every time Communion was scheduled, there also was scheduled on the Thursday evening before Communion what was called a Preparatory Service. The purpose of the Preparatory Service was personal and corporate reflection to prepare the congregation for Communion. Was that service necessary? No, I do not believe it was. Was it helpful? Yes, I believe it was, because it caused the congregation to take the Sacrament seriously, which was precisely what the Corinthians were not doing.

The phrase in verse 29, “without discerning the body,” represents another interpretive challenge. It is important, because those who do not discern the body bring judgment on themselves. Scholars have suggested several different interpretations of this. One is that the Corinthians were failing to discern the food of the Lord’s Supper from the food of the regular meal. Most reject that view, because it doesn’t fit the context. Another interpretation is that they were failing to discern the Lord’s body as they ate the Eucharistic elements. That is they were not reflecting on what the elements meant. Still another view was that they were failing to discern that the word “body” meant Christ’s body, the Church. Barrett essentially takes the second position, because he believes that verse 29 is parallel to verse 27, and the reference is to the body and blood of the Lord. I believe he was correct.

Interestingly, in verse 30 Paul suggests that some of their physical diseases and weaknesses, and even some of their deaths have been a result of their abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Once again, those who have feared taking the Lord’s Supper because of possible sins have focused on this verse. But Paul was not saying that disease and death in general were the judgment of God. Rather he was saying that those who have abused the Eucharist by showing contempt for the Church of God and humiliating the poor have brought temporary judgments on the community in order to discipline it.

Paul wraps up the section with a brief summary in verses 33-34. As throughout the passage, Paul is vague. But in the total context, the command to “wait for one another” seems to mean that the host must not go ahead with a big meal for his rich friends as he had been doing. Rather he is to wait for (that is welcome) the poor on the same basis as the rich. Paul was not insisting that the rich provide sumptuous fare for the poor. He was insisting, instead, that those who can afford sumptuous meals are to eat them at home before coming to public worship. Then the poor and rich Christians will be on an equal footing in the public worship context. Verse 34 tells us that Paul had some other issues regarding the Corinthians’ practice of eating the Lord’s Supper, but he would wait until he came to Corinth to deal with them. In the meantime they must be “one body” to be a truly Christian fellowship. Thus the unworthy behavior must stop. The Lord’s Supper must be a memorial to Christ’s death, not an excuse for a party that discriminates against poor brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now then, we are ready to move to a consideration of the gifts of the Spirit. This is the subject of the next major section of the letter, 12:1-14:40. We only have space in this essay to do an introduction.

All right, the first thing Paul establishes in regard to spiritually gifted persons is that for them, Jesus is Lord. The genuinely Holy Spirit-filled person always confesses Jesus as Lord, and means it (v. 3).

The second thing Paul stresses is the tremendous diversity found in the body of Christ (vv. 12:4-11). There is only one body, as Paul will emphasize later in the chapter (12:12ff.). And there is only one God. But within that unity is great diversity. We will explore that diversity in future lessons, but this morning I want to introduce the subject with a list of nine general principles that we find in the New Testament regarding the gifts of the Spirit.

First, there is a difference between the gift (Acts 2:38) and the gifts of the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is the impartation of the Holy Spirit into us when we believe. The gifts of the Spirit are supernatural abilities that enable us to minister in Christ’s name.

Second, there is a difference between the fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) and the gifts of the Spirit. As you know the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control. As already mentioned, the gifts of the Spirit are supernatural abilities.

Third, there is a difference between natural talents and supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Sometimes it is very difficult to tell the difference. A person’s natural talent may be more impressive than any supernatural gift he or she may have.

Fourth, gifts of the Spirit are unearned (Eph. 4:7-8). If it were possible to earn them, they would not be gifts. They would be something earned.

Fifth, God decides who receives which gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4). A Christian does not choose which gift or gifts he or she wants as if picking out one’s dinner from a buffet table.

Sixth, gifts of the Spirit are for every Christian (1 Cor. 12:7, 11). It is true that the gifts of some Christians are not immediately obvious, and many of these Christians are not aware of what their gift is; but if they are sensitive to the indwelling Holy Spirit, they will discover it and begin to use it to serve the Lord.

Seventh, gifts of the Spirit are quite diverse (1 Cor. 12:8-10). In future essays, we will be studying the various gifts of the Spirit that are mentioned in the New Testament. And the huge diversity of gifts will become apparent.

Eighth, gifts of the Spirit are for ministry and service (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:7). This is a very important truth. God doesn’t give us supernatural gifts for our benefit, but for the benefit of those around us.

And ninth, our personal ministry and service are part of the larger ministry of the Church (2 Cor. 10:3-4). We always are part of a larger work that in the end is God’s work. Some are so obviously gifted by God that they begin to think that they are really special in God’s sight. Therefore they start thinking too highly of themselves and their gifts. This mistake, which quickly can become sin, must be avoided, because it leads to a besmirching of the Lord Jesus instead of a glorifying of him.

CONCERNING THE LORD’S SUPPER: 11:17-34: PART I: 11:17-26

In our last essay we studied 11:2-16, which concerned the topic of men and women in worship. Having completed his criticism of men and women in worship in 11:2-16, Paul now turns in 1 Cor. 11:17-34 to a second problem with their public worship; namely, their conduct when celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

Notice the clause, “I do not commend you” in verse 17. You will remember that Paul began verse two of this chapter by commending the Corinthians, even though he was planning to correct their worship practices. But Paul begins this section on the Lord’s Supper by declaring that he will not commend them in regard to it.

So Paul definitely was unhappy with what was happening at Corinth when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. And he was unhappy enough to withdraw his commendation in respect to that issue. It seems important to me to note that Paul believed this problem was more serious than the problem of head coverings.

Paul’s first specific complaint, as seen in verse 19, regards the factionalism along economic and social class lines. You will recall that Paul condemned factionalism at Corinth earlier in the letter (1:10-4:12). Evidently one of the ways in which the factionalism was affecting the church was when they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The rich were gathering in a little clique, and were shutting out the poor in the process. This is new information. In the earlier part of the letter, Paul was condemning the factions, because they were based on who the group’s favorite apostle was: Paul, Apollos, or Cephas. But now we see that social discrimination also was taking place.

We can see several things in these verses. For example, the problem was taking place when the Corinthians assembled “in church” (v. 18). Both the NRSV and NIV translate it assembling “as a church.” Notice that Paul makes a stunning accusation. He declares that their worship services are doing more harm than good, literally it reads, “it is not for the better, but for the worse.”

You will remember from our study of earlier passages in this letter that cultic meals were a deeply ingrained part of worship in that culture. Those meals often were eaten at temples, which served as the restaurants of the day, as well as places of worship.

The Corinthian Christians still practiced eating meals as part of their worship, and the meals included the Lord’s Supper. We learned in chapter 10 that some of the Corinthians still thought it was acceptable to eat at the temples, because they knew that the gods to whom the offerings were made were not real gods. But Paul would have none of that, because he believed that demons were involved in those meals (10:14-22). So the Christians were to eat in their homes, not in the temples.

Now the only members of the fellowship whose homes would have been large enough to accommodate the church for worship would have been the rich members. And the homes of those rich members likely were the meeting places. Archaeologists have demonstrated that the typical home of the rich in that culture had a relatively small dining room, with space for about 12 guests maximum. When larger groups were entertained, the guests who could not fit into the dining room would have to eat in the atrium or courtyard, where another 30-50 could be accommodated.

I think we can see how this arrangement could foster the kind of practice Paul is condemning. The rich host, who would be paying for the meal, would invite his rich friends to eat with him in the dining room. The other members of the fellowship would have to eat out in the atrium.

Now there is insufficient evidence in the text to ascertain precisely what abuse was upsetting Paul so much; but it evidently had something to do with the customs of the day. It may be that the rich ate a sumptuous meal in the dining room, while the “poor” members were given meager fare in the atrium. Or perhaps the rich ate a fine meal without offering anything to the poor, who were assembling in the atrium for the Lord’s Supper.

This sort of abuse would explain why some participants in worship were hungry (v. 21), and why Paul suggests that regular meals be eaten at home before assembling for worship: “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in” (v. 22)? “If any one is hungry, let him eat at home” (v. 34.

Paul’s second complaint is even more difficult to deal with, because his comment is so vague. I am referring to his statement in verse 19, “Indeed there have to be factions among you for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.” The statement is difficult, because of Paul’s earlier denunciation of factions. Both Barrett and Fee suggest that Paul is referring to the end-time divisions that Jesus himself predicted would occur and would show who the true believers are. In other words, Paul is saying there must be factions, not in the sense that factions are good, but in the sense that they are inevitable. That is, the behaviors of the Corinthians in the various factions will reveal who the true believers are.

A third complaint by Paul is very serious. He declares that the Corinthians worship, which included a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, was not really a celebration of the Lord’s Supper (v. 20).

Verse 21 tells us why. Each one goes ahead with his own meal, while some go hungry and others get drunk. This idea of going ahead with their own meal is quite vague, but it apparently has something to do with the difference in food offered to the rich and the poor guests respectively. Some have suggested that each person brought their own meal to the service. But there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that people did that in their culture. Others have suggested that the rich ate before the poor arrived. But Paul clearly states that he is dealing with what happened when they met together.

The best view is that the rich host is discriminating among church members. He is serving a sumptuous meal in the dining room for his rich faction, and he is providing very little food for the poor out in the atrium. As a result, the poor are going hungry. In addition, some among the rich are getting drunk. Paul is extremely upset by all of this. And as we see in verse 22, he declares that the ultimate result is that the church is despised and the poor humiliated.

Now then, the next paragraph is Paul’s account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, by which Paul reminds the Corinthians of the Supper’s real purpose. Matthew and Mark also have accounts of the institution of the Sacrament, which show that it originated with Jesus (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-24). Their accounts differ in some respects from Paul’s, but not in any significant way.

Verses 23-26 make up a well known and understood paragraph. So we will discuss it briefly. I only wish to make a couple of comments. You will recall that Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Jewish Passover when he reinterpreted the bread they were eating and the third of four cups (the cup of blessing) to symbolize his own body and blood. In that way he was symbolizing his death.

The purpose of the sentence, “Do this in remembrance of me,” suggests a regular celebration of the Sacrament. But we must keep in mind that the Sacrament is not simply a remembrance of Jesus’ death. It also is a remembrance of the salvation that comes to us because of that death. In verse 26 Paul gives the real reason for celebrating the Sacrament. It is “to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” But the Corinthians have forgotten that. In Corinth the celebration of the Sacrament has become a time to “pig-out” and party for the rich and a time of humiliation for the poor.

CONCERNING MEN AND WOMEN IN WORSHIP: 11:2-16

In the last essay we studied 1 Cor. 10:23-11:1. In those verses, Paul took up the subject of meat sold in the marketplace, which was a completely different issue from eating meat at the pagan temples.

In this essay we are studying 11:2-16, which concerns the topic, men and women in worship. Paul has completed his arguments against participation in pagan worship, so he turns to some strong criticisms of the Christian worship practices in the Corinthian church. Once again the information about their worship likely was coming from their letter. But first, in verses 2-3, Paul praises them. It appears that he wants them to know up front that his feelings towards them are not all negative.

Notice in verse two that Paul praises them for two things. First, he praises them for remembering him “in everything,” whatever “everything” means. At the very least it means that they have shown respect for their memories of him, in spite of their attachment to Apollos or other preachers.

And second, he praises them for maintaining the “traditions” that he had delivered to them. Again it is not altogether clear what he means by “traditions.” But it likely refers to the basics of the Christian faith that he taught them. This praise was important, because Paul must now correct them at several points. And he doesn’t want to discourage them.

Paul is concerned about several matters relating to public worship, as we shall see as we move on from here through chapter 14. And the first, which we a studying this morning, has to do with public worship and head coverings.

Beginning at verse three Paul uses the word “head” metaphorically to deal with three relationships, namely, Christ and man, man and woman, and God and Christ. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult passage to interpret. Much debate has surrounded Paul’s use of the term “head” here. He obviously is setting forth a general principle about headship. But we must ask what Paul meant by that concept. There are two basic interpretations.

The first basic interpretation we might call the “traditional” one. It is that God intended the term “head” to mean an authority to whom one is subordinate. Therefore the basic meaning of the verse would be that Christ is subordinate to God; man is subordinate to Christ; and woman is subordinate to man.

The second basic interpretation is that “head” means source, in the sense of origin. From whom does one come? In this interpretation the meaning would be: Christ has come from God; man has come from Christ; and woman has come from man.

Under either interpretation, the clause, “the head of Christ is God,” refers to Christ as incarnate. That is to say, the traditional view states that Jesus became subordinate to God when he became incarnate as a man. And the source view says that Christ originated from God when he became incarnate as a man.

The clause, “the head of every man is Christ,” has two aspects under the source view. Christ is the source of man in the sense of physical creation (John 1:3). And Christ is the source of man in the sense that he is the source of his new Christian life.

The other clause literally reads, “the head of a woman is the man.” I remind you that the two basic views are that man has authority over woman, or that man is the source of woman. The meaning of the authority view is self-explanatory. According to the source view, man is the source of woman, because Eve was created from Adam’s side. This is supported by verses eight and 12.

I agree with Barrett and Fee that the best interpretation of “head” is source rather than authority. The source interpretation seems more plausible to me in light of verses 8-9 and 11. In those verses Paul definitely speaks about woman’s creation from the man. Therefore I do not believe that this scripture supports the traditional view. If one chooses to take the traditional view, it seems to me that it is important to establish that subordination of women to men does not imply inequality or inferiority any more than Jesus’ subordination to the Father implies inequality or inferiority.

In 11:4-16 Paul discusses men and women in worship, with a particular emphasis on head coverings. We also get some more details on the “headship” issue?

Before we move ahead with this paragraph, I want us to discus the word “veil” and its verb form. In our culture veils are not common anymore, but occasionally we see references to wedding veils, which frequently cover the face. The veils to which Paul refers would have been the typical Jewish veil that covered the hair and upper body, but not the face. If a Jewish woman went out without a veil, she would be transgressing Jewish custom.

Another thing we must take note of is the fact that Paul definitely is dealing here with public worship. One could pray in private, but prophesying only took place in worship services. Therefore Paul is disturbed by the Corinthians’ actions during community worship. Apparently in Paul’s view, some of them were expressing their freedom in Christ in an inappropriate way by flouting the traditions about head coverings.

Notice that Paul begins with the men. They must be bare-headed when they worship, because if a man wears a head covering during worship he “disgraces his head.” Of course this raises the question of how to interpret “head.” Is he disgracing his literal head, or his metaphoric “head”? If it is his literal head, he is covering the fact that he is the “image and reflection of God,” as seen in verse seven. If he is disgracing his metaphoric head, then he is disgracing Christ. Fee believes that Paul may have had both of these in mind. And that is possible. However, notice that Paul says nothing specific to indicate that the men actually were disgracing their “head” in this way, though some of them may have been doing it.

In verses 5-6 Paul turns to the women. The rest of the paragraph makes it clear that some of them have been disgracing their metaphorical “head” by praying and prophesying during worship with their physical heads uncovered. And the woman’s metaphorical “head” was the man, which some interpret as her husband. In any case, Paul is saying that according to prevailing custom, the women who were doing this were bringing shame on the men, or on their husbands. Indeed Paul declares it equivalent to a woman’s having her hair cut off or shaved, both of which would bring terrible shame on her. All of this was a matter of custom, but Paul believes that this whole matter goes beyond custom. If you look ahead to verse 14, he declares that nature teaches the same thing. But notice that he never says it is a command of God. Barrett summarizes verses 4-5 quite well by saying, “Man disgraces his head by wearing a veil, woman disgraces hers by not wearing one.”

When we ask how this scripture should be applied today, it is difficult to use it to demand that women wear head coverings in church services. There has been a strong tradition in Roman Catholicism for women to wear veils on their heads while at worship. And a few devout Protestant women have done it. For many years it was customary for women to wear hats to church, and that practice may have had roots in this scripture, though most church people would not have realized it. Moreover Paul’s concerns here are so strongly tied to the cultural norms of his day that most scholars would agree that the teaching is not the will of God for all time. In other words, it cannot simply be brought into a twenty-first century culture from Paul’s first-century culture.

Moving on to verses 7-16, we see Paul making several theological arguments to nail down his case. First, verse seven elaborates on verses 4-6 by declaring that man “is the image and glory (NRSV ‘reflection’) of God” and that “woman is the glory of man.” This is so, because God is man’s metaphoric “head,” and man is woman’s metaphoric “head.”

Second, in verse eight Paul points to the fact that woman was made from man rather than the other way around. Of course this is a reference to Gen. 2:22, when God made woman from the rib, or side, of Adam. This also supports the interpretation of “head” as source. Man was the source of woman just as God was the source of man.

Third, in verse nine he reminds us that man was not created for the sake of the woman, but the reverse was he case. This explains why woman is the glory of man. She was created for his sake. She provided him with a suitable helper (Gen. 2:20b) and mate.

Then, fourth, in verse 10 Paul continues, “For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” This verse raises three issues. I will lay out all three, and then we will discuss them. One is his use of the phrase, “For this reason.” Paul could have been referring to what he had just said. However he also could have been referring to what he was about to say. Or he could have had both in mind. In any case, I believe the important information is the new information, “because of the angels.”

Two, Paul’s bringing of angels into the picture makes an already difficult passage even more difficult. Barrett reminds us that in the culture of the day angels were thought of as “guardians of the created order,” and they were thought of as being present at worship services. By not wearing a symbol of God’s authority on their heads, the women could be offending the angels.

Finally three, Paul uses the word “authority” instead of veil, or head covering. Again I believe Barrett has as good a handle on this as any. He suggests that for women to pray and prophesy in church services, they need the authority of God to do so. The head covering symbolizes a covering for the glory of man (her metaphoric “head”) so that she can receive authority from God to glorify him. The head covering symbolizes that God-given authority.

A fifth theological argument is seen in verses 11-12. Man and woman are totally interdependent. She comes from him; he comes through her. But they both come from God and are dependent on him.

Verses 13-15 repeat the ideas already covered in earlier verses, so we will move on to verse 16. In verse 16 we see that Paul believed he had said enough. Notice that he does not conclude with a command forbidding women to pray and prophesy in church. He is not against that. It appears that he just wants the Corinthians to know that if their women were going to do it, they must do it under God’s authority. And interestingly, he also wants them to know that there was no custom in any of the other churches for doing it.

CONCERNING MARKETPLACE MEAT: 10:23-11:3

In our last essay we studied 1 Cor. 10:1-22. In that chapter Paul returned to the subject of eating at the pagan temples. In this essay we are studying 1 Cor. 10:23-11:3. There are two sections involved here, but we will only deal with two verses of the second section. In the first section, 10:23-11:1, Paul takes up the subject of marketplace meat. As we are going to see, this is a completely different issue from eating at the pagan temples. In the second section, 11:2-16, Paul deals with the matter of gender in public worship. But we shall only go as far as 11:3.

Paul has finished his argument against eating meals at the pagan temples. Now he takes up a different issue from the Corinthians’ letter, namely, the issue of eating meat that was sold in the marketplace. He begins in verse 23 by quoting from their letter, almost word for word, the same sentence he quoted in 6:12: “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” Here he adds, “All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”

In 6:12 and following Paul was honing in on sexual immorality in the church and its effects on the individual. Here he is dealing with the eating of marketplace meat and its effects on the community. But the principle in both cases is the same. Christians must think first about others rather than about their own freedom and rights.

In verses 25-26 Paul speaks regarding the use of such meat in one’s home. And his advice is to buy and eat it with a good conscience. Not all the meat available in the markets had been sacrificed to an idol. But most of it had. However, Paul was unconcerned about where the marketplace meat came from. Purchasing and eating that meat did not involve fellowship with demons, as did eating it as part of a pagan ritual at a pagan temple. Notice in verse 26 that Paul supports his argument scripturally with a quotation from Ps. 24:1.

In verses 27-29a Paul shifts the situation to the home of an unbeliever, who has invited the Christian for a meal. His advice in that situation is to eat whatever is served without questioning the source of the meat. However, notice that he goes on to say that if someone informs the Christian that the food had been sacrificed to an idol, he must not eat it in order to protect the conscience of the one who informed him.

The next question is who informed him? It could have been the host, who already has been identified as a non-Christian. Or it could have been another guest, who may have been a non-Christian or a weak Christian. Since it is doubtful that the issue would matter to a non-Christian, it is likely that the informant would be a Christian with a weak conscience. We already have seen in chapter eight, verses 7-13, that a strong Christian must be governed by the conscience of a weaker brother.

Now then, verses 29b-30 raise a very sticky interpretive problem. We have just seen that Paul insisted in chapter eight, and here in verses 27-29a, that one should not eat meat sacrificed to idols when a Christian with a weak conscience is present. And the reason was to preserve the conscience of the weaker brother. So we have to ask why he would say what he says in verses 29b-30. In those verses, Paul seems to be arguing that his liberty is more important than the conscience of the weaker brother. Fee lists five different ways that various scholars have dealt with it. We are not going to plow through those various views. Usually, when one sees so many possible explanations, it means that there is no good explanation available.

In verses 10:31-11:1 Paul provides a kind of summary with a series of commands. First, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. Second, give offense to no one: not Jews, not Greeks (meaning non-Jews), and not the church. And third, “be imitators of me.” And the behaviors he wants them to imitate are given. He tries to please everyone in everything he does. He does not seek his own advantage, but seeks the advantage of the many. And his particular interest as an evangelist is to save as many people as possible.

The next section of the epistle, 11:2-16, concerns the topic, Men and Women in Worship. Now that Paul has completed his arguments against participation in pagan worship, he turns to strong criticisms of the Christian worship practices in the Corinthian church. Once again the information likely is coming from their letter. But first he praises them. It appears that he wants them to know up front that his feelings towards them are not all negative.

Notice in 11:2 that Paul praises them for two things. First, he praises them for remembering him “in everything,” whatever that means. At the very least it means that they have shown respect for their memories of him, in spite of their attachment to Apollos or other preachers.

And second, he praises them for maintaining the “traditions” that he had delivered to them. Again it is not altogether clear what he means by “traditions.” But it likely refers to the basics of the Christian faith that he preached to them. He praises them, because they have respected and maintained what he taught them, even though he must now correct them at several points.

Then beginning at verse three Paul uses the word “head” metaphorically to deal with three relationships, namely, Christ and man, man and woman, and God and Christ. Paul is concerned about several matters relating to public worship, as we shall see as we move on from here through chapter 14. And the first has to do with public worship and head coverings. Thus we have the beginning of Paul’s first corrective of Corinthian worship.

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult passage to interpret. Much debate has surrounded Paul’s use of the term “head” here. He obviously is setting forth a general principle about headship. But we must ask what Paul meant by that concept. There are two basic interpretations.

The first basic interpretation we might call the “traditional” one. It is that God intended the term “head” to mean an authority to whom one is subordinate. Therefore the basic meaning of the verse would be Christ is subordinate to God; man is subordinate to Christ; and woman is subordinate to man.

The second basic interpretation is that “head” means source, in the sense of origin. From whom does one come? In this interpretation the meaning would be: Christ has come from God; man has come from Christ; and the woman has come from man.

Under either interpretation, the clause, “the head of Christ is God,” refers to Christ as incarnate. That is to say, the traditional view states that Jesus is subordinate to God because he became a man. And the source view says that Christ came from (originated from) God when he became a man.

The clause, “the head of every man is Christ,” has two interpretations under the source view. First, Christ can be the source of man in the sense of his being the agent of physical creation (John 1:3). Or second, Christ can be the source of man in the sense that he is the source of his new Christian life. Both of those statements are true. The question is which of them did Paul mean?

The other clause literally reads, “the head of a woman is the man.” I remind you that the two basic views are that man has authority over woman, or that man is the source of woman. The meaning of the authority view is self-explanatory. According to the source view, man is the source of woman, because Eve was created from Adam’s side. This is supported by verses eight and 12.

I agree with Barrett and Fee that the best interpretation of “head” is source rather than authority. The source interpretation seems more plausible to me in light of verses 8-9 and 11. In those verses Paul definitely speaks about woman’s creation from the man. If one chooses to take the traditional view, it seems to me that it is important to establish that subordination of women to men does not imply inequality or inferiority any more than Jesus’ subordination to the Father implies inequality or inferiority.