Chapter 11 has plenty in it that people like to argue about. Is it true that men should NOT have been wearing head-coverings while praying and prophesying in church services, while women were required to cover their heads while doing the same things? Yes, that appears to have been the case in ancient Corinth. Head-coverings had a purpose. They pointed to God’s created order.
Later in the chapter, Paul discussed the Lord’s Supper. He was very strict about how the church should understand the meal. Condemnation – even illness and death – would come to those who took the bread and the cup in an unworthy manner. Some of these things already had taken place in the church in ancient Corinth. Some already had grown weak and ill, and some had died. The manner in which a person took the bread and the cup had a purpose. It pointed to reality of Christ’s saving work – and to the reality of the church.
These two things – head-coverings and the Lord’s Supper – were important markers in the life of the church. They pointed to spiritual realities that we ought not to forget. Authority exists in God’s creation – from the Father to the Son to men to women. And Christ really did die on the cross to institute a new covenant with God’s people, and the church is his new body, and Jesus’ return is coming.
The traditions Paul delivered to the church pointed to these unchanging realities. As we gather as a church, we engage in traditions that point to something beyond the here and now. We affirm those things.
Men and women have been created by God. They are not the same, but they are complementary. They exist and operate within God’s created order in the universe. And how they live their lives ought to point to God.
The bread and the cup came to us from Christ – his body and blood. They remind us of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. And they remind us of his body on earth today – the church. As we eat and drink, we examine our own lives, and we recognize our part in the church.
We never ought blindly to go through the motions as Christians. How we live, simple things we take up in life, can say things that go far beyond those simple things.
Maybe one of the key points we can take from 1 Corinthians 11 is this: We stand for something as we live out our lives as Christians. We affirm God’s created order, and we affirm the saving work of Jesus Christ. We might call it creation and redemption.
I wonder if sometimes we try to stand for something else when we gather – something worldly and temporary. It is worth thinking about.