1 Corinthians 11
James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1-34


This chapter begins properly at 1 Corinthians 11:2, and treats of disorderly conduct of the women in the church assemblies, and of the misuse of the Lord’s supper. “Head” is used in the sense of source of dominion because it is that which directs the body, and the man is the “head of the woman” because he is under authority to him, the reference being to married women and their husbands. “The head of Christ is God,” when Christ is considered in the mediatorial sense, and from the point of view of the God-man. Of course both men and women are equal in God’s sight when salvation and all the spiritual blessings in Christ are under consideration (Galatians 3:18), but human society could not exist without certain distinctions. It is evident that from this standpoint, the Christian women at Corinth went too far, and misinterpreting their newfound liberty in Christ, were overstepping bounds in an unbecoming way. Large principles when taken up by ardent and enthusiastic minds, without the modifications of experience, are almost sure to run into extravagance, and hence the spirit of law is by degree reduced to rules, and guarded by customs.

The offense of these women was praying and prophesying with uncovered heads, or rather unveiled faces, contrary to the custom of the times for both Jews and Gentiles, the head-covering being a symbol of the woman’s subordination to the man. It is difficult to say what is meant by the man dishonoring his head, since it is uncertain whether by his “head” is meant the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the same way we do not know whether the “head” which the woman “dishonoreth” is her own head, or her husband regarded as her head. We only know that it is the true glory of every creature to fulfill the law of its being (1 Corinthians 11:3-6).

The argument against this conduct on the women’s part follows in 1 Corinthians 11:4-7 : (1) the woman has present a visible superior in man created in God’s image. He as the highest earthly being represents God’s glory. Woman, as such, is not the representation of God’s glory on earth, but to all inferior beings represents man’s glory sharing his superiority over them (1 Corinthians 11:7); (2) woman was created second to man as to substance (1 Corinthians 11:8), and service (1 Corinthians 11:9); and (3) woman should consider the presence of the angels who are invisible spectators of Christian assemblies. This last is a mysterious subject, not merely that angels are present, but that women should exhibit modesty or submission in their presence. Dean Stanley comments on this passage that it may refer to evil angels and their unlawful intercourse with human flesh as spoken of in Genesis 6. Immodesty on the women’s part might give them unholy opportunity, for it is impossible to decide how much of our public morality and private purity is owing to the spirit which refuses to overstep the smallest bound of ordinary decorum.

The apostle balances the whole subject as between man and woman in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, and sums up so far as the latter is concerned by a couple of questions, the bearing of which is that the absence of a veil is uncomely (1 Corinthians 11:13-15). If however, they continue to be contentious in the matter despite his rebuke, he would have them know that their conduct is without precedent (1 Corinthians 11:16).


It is not a far cry from this to the disorder associated with the Lord’s supper, and which the apostle approached by a general statement (1 Corinthians 11:17-19). It should be said that the divisions here are not doctrinal so much as social cliques. They came together for a general meal prior to the Lord’s supper, and made it a sort of indoor picnic. The rich brought plenty to eat and drink while the poor had nothing. If this was what they desired to do it should be done in their own houses and not in the general assembly. The original institution of the rite is now referred to and its significance enlarged (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). A warning follows (1 Corinthians 11:27-34), in which “unworthy” is not to be understood as discouraging penitent sinners from partaking of this blessed feast, but to be taken in the sense of “an unworthy manner.” To be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” means to commit an offence against him, while “damnation,” (1 Corinthians 11:29), is to be taken in the sense of judgment as illustrated in 1 Corinthians 11:30-34. “Not discerning the Lord’s body,” means not appreciating the significance of his atonement, or the mystical relationship in which they as believers stand toward him their Head, and which the Lord’s supper so peculiarly makes manifest. Their erroneous practice in this particular had brought chastisement of a physical kind upon them; from which if they had “judged” themselves by putting away the sin, they would have escaped. Nevertheless, it was a mercy of God that they were thus chastened, which showed that they were His children, and not the people of the world, for there is a great distinction between chastisement and condemnation.


1. Where does this lesson begin, and what two things does it treat?

2. What does “head” mean, and what is the significance in each case of the “head of the woman” and the “head of Christ”?

3. Can you quote Robertson as to the application of large principles?

4. What was the particular offense of these women?

5. Give the three-fold argument against their conduct.

6. Define and describe the “divisions” referred to in the second case.

7. What does each of the following expressions mean: “unworthy,” “guilty of the body and blood”; “damnation”; “not discerning,” etc.?

8. What two things does Paul discriminate in this lesson?

James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

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