23 July 2015
by Philip Layton


Instructions on worship and the Lord’s Supper

Click here to read 1 Corinthians 11

Discussion Questions

  • Is it possible that Paul is referring to his Judaic traditions rather than setting rules for Gentile churches (v 2)?

  • Paul allowed women to hold positions of authority in the Church (v 5). Discuss.

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Going Deeper From 'Words of Life'

Symbols are used by all religions in an attempt to simplify and explain complicated theology and deeply profound thoughts. In Old Testament days the temple was created as a symbol of the nearness of a God who might otherwise be seen as far-distant, unreachable and unknowable. The Sabbath, too, was essentially a symbol, encouraging the allocation of regular time to worship and rest.

That’s as good a thing today as then. But we need to beware of thinking that the Sabbath is the only day we need to worship, or a better day than any other. The truth is, every day is holy, just as every place is somewhere we can meet with God. There’s really no such thing as holy ground, although it can help to have a place that is particularly meaningful. Similarly, there are no holy days if that implies some days are not holy. Jesus said: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). The symbol is always the servant and must sometimes be regarded as adjustable or even optional.

It’s good to read the whole of 1 Corinthians chapter 11, but we must not feel that every detail of regulations from Paul’s day should be obeyed rigidly today. What is important is the principle the regulation embodies. For example, covering or baring your head in worship in Paul’s day was about respect. We don’t have the same rules about hats these days, but respect is still important. However, we should not be rigid about what is and what isn’t ‘respectful’. The ritualistic ‘high church’ mass and the raising of hands in joyous Pentecostal praise are equally valid as is silent meditation. Dancing in church can be either scandalously irreverent or a beautiful offering to the Lord, depending on circumstances and attitude.

And so it is with the Lord’s Supper, referred to here. It is full of symbols, but they are all servants – the ritual must never become the master. What is vitally important is a sense of the presence of the risen Lord. Some need no symbols to experience that. Other believers are helped by them. Both approaches are valid and it is a shame – indeed, a tragedy – when differences of opinion on this subject lead to division between believers.

Beverly Ivany

Tags: 1 Corinthians