1 Corinthians 11 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 11)

Verse 2

[2] Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

I praise you — The greater part of you.

Verse 3

[3] But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

I would have you know — He does not seem to have given them any order before concerning this.

The head of every man — Particularly every believer.

Is Christ, and the head of Christ is God — Christ, as he is Mediator, acts in all things subordinately to his Father. But we can no more infer that they are not of the same divine nature, because God is said to be the head of Christ, than that man and woman are not of the same human nature, because the man is said to be the head of the woman.

Verse 4

[4] Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Every man praying or prophesying — Speaking by the immediate power of God.

With his head — And face.

Covered — Either with a veil or with long hair.

Dishonoureth his head — St. Paul seems to mean, As in these eastern nations veiling the head is a badge of subjection, so a man who prays or prophesies with a veil on his head, reflects a dishonour on Christ, whose representative he is.

Verse 5

[5] But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

But every woman — Who, under an immediate impulse of the Spirit, (for then only was a woman suffered to speak in the church,) prays or prophesies without a veil on her face, as it were disclaims subjection, and reflects dishonour on man, her head. For it is the same, in effect, as if she cut her hair short, and wore it in the distinguishing form of the men. In those ages, men wore their hair exceeding short, as appears from the ancient statues and pictures.

Verse 6

[6] For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

Therefore if a woman is not covered — If she will throw off the badge of subjection, let her appear with her hair cut like a man's. But if it be shameful far a woman to appear thus in public, especially in a religious assembly, let her, for the same reason, keep on her veil.

Verse 7

[7] For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

A man indeed ought not to veil his head, because he is the image of God - In the dominion he bears over the creation, representing the supreme dominion of God, which is his glory. But the woman is only matter of glory to the man, who has a becoming dominion over her. Therefore she ought not to appear, but with her head veiled, as a tacit acknowledgment of it.

Verse 8

[8] For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

The man is not — In the first production of nature.

Verse 10

[10] For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

For this cause also a woman ought to be veiled in the public assemblies, because of the angels - Who attend there, and before whom they should be careful not to do anything indecent or irregular.

Verse 11

[11] Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

Nevertheless in the Lord Jesus, there is neither male nor female - Neither is excluded; neither is preferred before the other in his kingdom.

Verse 12

[12] For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

And as the woman was at first taken out of the man, so also the man is now, in the ordinary course of nature, by the woman; but all things are of God - The man, the woman, and their dependence on each other.

Verse 13

[13] Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

Judge of yourselves — For what need of more arguments if so plain a case? Is it decent for a woman to pray to God - The Most High, with that bold and undaunted air which she must have, when, contrary to universal custom, she appears in public with her head uncovered?

Verse 14

[14] Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

For a man to have long hair, carefully adjusted, is such a mark of effeminacy as is a disgrace to him.

Verse 15

[15] But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Given her — Originally, before the arts of dress were in being.

Verse 16

[16] But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

We have no such custom here, nor any of the other churches of God - The several churches that were in the apostles' time had different customs in things that were not essential; and that under one and the same apostle, as circumstances, in different places, made it convenient. And in all things merely indifferent the custom of each place was of sufficient weight to determine prudent and peaceable men. Yet even this cannot overrule a scrupulous conscience, which really doubts whether the thing be indifferent or no. But those who are referred to here by the apostle were contentious, not conscientious, persons.

Verse 18

[18] For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

In the church — In the public assembly.

I hear there are schisms among you; and I partly believe it — That is, I believe it of some of you. It is plain that by schisms is not meant any separation from the church, but uncharitable divisions in it; for the Corinthians continued to be one church; and, notwithstanding all their strife and contention, there was no separation of any one party from the rest, with regard to external communion. And it is in the same sense that the word is used, 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 12:25; which are the only places in the New Testament, beside this, where church schisms are mentioned. Therefore, the indulging any temper contrary to this tender care of each other is the true scriptural schism. This is, therefore, a quite different thing from that orderly separation from corrupt churches which later ages have stigmatized as schisms; and have made a pretence for the vilest cruelties, oppressions, and murders, that have troubled the Christian world. Both heresies and schisms are here mentioned in very near the same sense; unless by schisms be meant, rather, those inward animosities which occasion heresies; that is, outward divisions or parties: so that whilst one said, "I am of Paul," another, "I am of Apollos," this implied both schism and heresy. So wonderfully have later ages distorted the words heresy and schism from their scriptural meaning. Heresy is not, in all the Bible, taken for "an error in fundamentals," or in anything else; nor schism, for any separation made from the outward communion of others. Therefore, both heresy and schism, in the modern sense of the words, are sins that the scripture knows nothing of; but were invented merely to deprive mankind of the benefit of private judgment, and liberty of conscience.

Verse 19

[19] For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

There must be heresies — Divisions.

Among you — In the ordinary course of things; and God permits them, that it may appear who among you are, and who are not, upright of heart.

Verse 20

[20] When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.

Therefore — That is, in consequence of those schisms.

It is not eating the Lord's supper — That solemn memorial of his death; but quite another thing.

Verse 21

[21] For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

For in eating what ye call the Lord's supper, instead of all partaking of one bread, each person brings his own supper, and eats it without staying for the rest. And hereby the poor, who cannot provide for themselves, have nothing; while the rich eat and drink to the full just as the heathens use to do at the feasts on their sacrifices.

Verse 22

[22] What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

Have ye not houses to eat and drink your common meals in? or do ye despise the church of God - Of which the poor are both the larger and the better part. Do ye act thus in designed contempt of them?

Verse 23

[23] For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

I received — By an immediate revelation.

Verse 24

[24] And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

This is my body, which is broken for you — That is, this broken bread is the sign of my body, which is even now to be pierced and wounded for your iniquities. Take then, and eat of, this bread, in an humble, thankful, obediential remembrance of my dying love; of the extremity of my sufferings on your behalf, of the blessings I have thereby procured for you, and of the obligations to love and duty which I have by all this laid upon you.

Verse 25

[25] After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

After supper — Therefore ye ought not to confound this with a common meal.

Do this in remembrance of me — The ancient sacrifices were in remembrance of sin: this sacrifice, once offered, is still represented in remembrance of the remission of sins.

Verse 26

[26] For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Ye show forth the Lord's death — Ye proclaim, as it were, and openly avow it to God, and to all the world.

Till he come — In glory.

Verse 27

[27] Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

Whosoever shall eat this bread unworthily — That is, in an unworthy, irreverent manner; without regarding either Him that appointed it, or the design of its appointment. Shall be guilty of profaning that which represents the body and blood of the Lord.

Verse 28

[28] But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

But let a man examine himself — Whether he know the nature and the design of the institution, and whether it be his own desire and purpose throughly to comply therewith.

Verse 29

[29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

For he that eateth and drinketh so unworthily as those Corinthians did, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself - Temporal judgments of various kinds, 1 Corinthians 11:30. Not distinguishing the sacred tokens of the Lord's body - From his common food.

Verse 30

[30] For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

For this cause — Which they had not observed.

Many sleep — In death.

Verse 31

[31] For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

If we would judge ourselves — As to our knowledge, and the design with which we approach the Lord's table.

We should not be thus judged — That is, punished by God.

Verse 32

[32] But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

When we are thus judged, it is with this merciful design, that we may not be finally condemned with the world.

Verse 33

[33] Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

The rest — The other circumstances relating to the Lord's supper.