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Is the Lord’s Supper the first time Paul dealt with Church Issues?

Head Covering Objections
The Objection: Paul’s teaching on head covering (1 Cor 11:2-16) is not written as instructions for corporate worship. When Paul is done teaching on head covering, he starts speaking of the Lord’s Supper and he says “in the first place, when you come together as a church” (1 Cor 11:18). When he says “in the first place” that informs us that what he dealt with previously (head covering) was not a church issue.

If head covering is for today, in what type of setting should this symbol be practiced? We made the case here that because of the structure of 1 Corinthians 11 and because of how Paul sees prophecy functioning, that corporate worship meetings are in mind. Some argue that when Paul says “in the first place” (1 Cor 11:18), the word “first” indicates a new setting (the local church). Head covering therefore, shouldn’t be understood as a church issue since it was dealt with before he said that.

Let’s take a look at the verses in question together.

But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. (1 Cor 11:17-18)

Let me quickly clarify the context before we look at this verse more closely. Paul had just concluded his teaching on head covering, a topic which he had praised them for maintaining (1 Cor 11:2). In the above verse he now switches to issues that he cannot praise them for (1 Cor 11:17), the first being their abuse of the Lord’s Supper.

While it is possible to understand “in the first place” as referring to their coming “together as a church”. It is more likely that he is referring to the first issue that he could not praise them for. So it’s Paul speaking of the “first” abuse rather than the “first” time he’s dealing with an issue in this setting. See, if you were just told that when you gathered together as a church it’s “for the worse”, you’d want to know why. And Paul does just that. He says the first way their meetings are “for the worse” is their divisions during the Lord’s supper. The second reason comes immediately after when he says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts” (1 Cor 12:1).

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown in their popular commentary say it this way:

He does not follow up the expression, “in the first place,” by “in the second place.” But though not expressed, a second abuse was in his mind when he said, “In the first place,” namely, THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS, which also created disorder in their assemblies 1) Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown – Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:18 (Accessed on e-Sword)

Summary

So by saying “in the first place” Paul is telling them that this is the first of two ways that their church meetings are “for the worse”. It’s unlikely that this is the start of a new context since the contrasting statements, “I praise you” (1 Cor 11:2) and “I praise you not” (1 Cor 11:17) indicate he has the same context in mind.

References

1.
 Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown – Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:18 (Accessed on e-Sword)

Jeremy Gardiner

Jeremy is the founder of the Head Covering Movement and the author of Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is a husband to Amanda and father to four young children. Jeremy is also the founder and operator of Gospel eBooks, a popular website that provides alerts for free and discounted Christian e-books.

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  • Joyce

    Ummm – have never heard the ‘in the first place’ objection. This wouldn’t be why I don’t believe it’s just for ‘church’. Never heard this preached or taught. As already brought out – Paul does use the phrase – ‘come together’ in the Lord’s supper section tho… and there are other places in the NT where similar phrasing is used for a ‘church’ teaching. The angels parts? I don’t believe there’s any evidence that that is just for church – altho I’ve heard it explained that way by Protestant ministers. IMHO – the wording just isn’t there to reflect ‘for church only’ on this teaching – on various fronts. Praying, prophesying… these are broadly used in scripture in various settings. And prophesying I believe to be broader than many interpret it. But still – I appreciate this site and the integrity of it. I disagree on this point… but uphold you highly and trust that Jesus will guide each of us by His spirit!

    • Ashley

      I agree Joyce. When a woman is outside of church she is STILL the glory of the man, her long hair is STILL her glory, and she is STILL subject to the man, and the angels are STILL observing, so she should still be covered. She ought to cover as a “life practice” not just in the house of God for worship. Does not a woman prophesy to her children, or those others she may speak with about the Lord? Are we not to continue in prayer? Because of the instruction Paul gives about the role of women in the church service, it appears that they would be prophesying the least amount at church. I also APPRECIATE this site, and the many women that are beginning to become obedient to the light they have received on this matter. But this would be one area I would disagree. May God bless each one by the testimonies of this site.

      • Joyce

        Ashley – I think we could be great friends in ‘real’ life :)

      • John D.

        I don’t understand why God would want a woman to wear a piece of cloth on her head all her waking hours. I wouldn’t want to see a head covering on my wife all the time like that. I would want to see her in her natural beauty, without something hiding it from me. The difference of course, being when we were in church.

        If you’re going to argue that a woman must cover her hair all the time, then you must also argue a man must never cover his head. No more baseball caps, no more hats for winter, etc, because he must always “continue in prayer”.

        24/7 gets into a legalistic mindset that I think takes this instruction too far. 1 Cor 11 is about corporate worship, therefore the heard coverings are limited to corporate worship only. Anything more is legalism.

        • Marlan B

          I appreciate all the good comments here. It does us good to wrestle with God once in awhile.
          Pro 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
          I agree John; I don;t understand it all either. That is why we need to lean on the word of God and have a good understanding of what HE wants.
          I personally don’t see that Paul is talking about covering JUST in church. Is that the ONLY time we worship the Lord? Beside that there is verse 15 which states :” her hair is given her for a covering.” … not AS a covering.
          Seeing your wife in her “natural beauty” is great for you; and it IS for you. But when we come before the Lord ( in prayer, in song, in word, in deed) we are to cover our glory that His might be seen. 1Co 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. If my wife is covered (most of the time) then scripture is satisfied because my glory is covered and my wife’s glory is covered too.
          My women (wife and daughter) don’t cover when sleeping or bathing or even sometimes when working around the house but they need to be ready… 1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
          If someone walks up to our women on the street and asks about their faith; if they should say anything about the Lord; it might be prophesying and therefore they better have their head covered.
          It is pretty easy for you and I to remove our ball caps when we go to or talk about the Lord, and we should but I think it is MORE important for a woman to be covered most of the time because the word says 1Co 11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
          There is a power given to the woman by the wearing of the head covering. One of the powers I’ve experienced is when I walk down the street with my women, people ask about our faith because they see the covering. It sets them apart and therefore sets me apart from the world, and God wants us to be different than the world. The kingdom can be seen by the obedience of its people.
          Legalism? Well I’m not sure what that means exactly but I know that God has rules, because we serve a righteous, Holy God ! “1Pe 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” Kind of hard to do that if we don’t follow the rules. Have a blessed day.

          • Joyce

            thanks for this.

          • John D.

            “but they need to be ready”
            Sure, I can agree with that.

            “It is pretty easy for you and I to remove our ball caps”
            Likewise, it is pretty easy for a woman to cover her head.

            Wearing a head covering all the time is unnecessary at best and legalism at worst. Legalism is man taking the word and twisting it into oppressive religion. So when someone says “she ought to”, when the Bible really doesn’t say that, I feel that’s being legalistic.

            If you want to wear one all the time as a “life practice”, then that is your choice and good for you. But don’t say others “ought to” when the Bible clearly says only while praying and prophesying. There’s room there for people to make their own decisions.

            Most Christians already have a hard time with this doctrine. So we need to be careful not to teach our own “requirements” that make it even more difficult for them to accept.

          • Amy Unruh

            I must disagree with this. Legalism refers to the doctrine of believing that salvation comes through good works. It also refers to judging conduct by adherence to strict laws. The Pharisees did this by holding people to both God-made laws and man-made laws. However, head covering is not in the law. Therefore, unless someone goes around saying that you must wear a head covering or you won’t be saved, it simply is not legalism.

          • John D.

            Not even at worst can it be legalism? Ok sure, what would you call telling people they “ought to” do something when it’s not founded in the Bible?

            I agree with GotQuestions.org’s page on legalism:
            “Many legalistic believers today make the error of demanding unqualified adherence to their own biblical interpretations and even to their own traditions.”
            I like their use of Colossians 2:20-23 as well.
            http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-Christian-legalism.html

          • John, here’s our answer to the question “Is headcovering legalistic?”
            http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/is-headcovering-legalistic

            We agree that legalism can be defined as commanding things that the Bible does not.

          • John D.

            Thanks for posting that. Point #2 in that article is exactly how I was using “legalism” in this conversation.

            Just for the record, my position is that covering full time is 100% your choice and is neither right nor wrong, but simply how you’re convicted at this time. I chalk it up to the same thing as one’s conviction about drinking alcohol (in moderation, of course).

          • Amy Unruh

            If it’s truly not from the Bible and is commanded based on the Bible, I’d call it misguided. I think that throwing around the word “legalism” when it is simply not warranted is the reason there are so many accusations of legalism today. It really should fit, based on the actual definition of the word.

  • therocknb100 .

    Clearly it is meant for the the public worship, public prayer, public prophesying. At no time is it ever indicated that it is for any other reason than when the body of Christ comes together. The covering whether it is the hair or an actual garment is not nearly as important as where your heart is in terms of the order things. God, man, woman. This affects the angels in ways we do not understand but I think since the rebellion and fall of lucifer that the angels witnessed with their own ‘eyes’ I can see why they would want to see submission to the order of things in the body of Christ during public meetings

  • Sara June Thompson

    There is a difference between anyone, a man or woman, standing up in church to give a prophetic word from God with the whole congregation listening, and anything that we say to another in private life that may be “prophetic” in nature. Likewise there is a difference between a publically led prayer, where one person, a man or woman leads, and others bow their heads and agree in prayer, perhaps ending with an “amen”! That is different from the “prayer without ceasing” that all Christians are to follow. I believe the admonition for women to cover (and men to remove their hats) applies to the public, not the private. It can be a valuable spiritual discipline for a woman to choose to cover more frequently than that if she feels led by the Lord. But I don’t think that is what Paul is talking about in these verses.

    • Sara June Thompson

      We could take as an example, men removing their head coverings for prayer, as has continued on in our culture for longer than women covering. Men removed their hats upon entering a church, or at a time of formal prayer outside a church. But they did not remove them each time they might silently call out to God any time of the day.

  • Christine Glover

    This post is a response to something I said in a different thread. First of all, let me point out that nowhere did I suggest, imply or state that the second half of 1 Corinthians 11 is the ‘first place’ Paul is addressing the church. The fact that he moves on from head covering to ‘when ye come together as a church’, to discuss the breaking of bread, implies/indicates that what went before is for times more than in church/meetings, but not that ALL that goes before, in the entire epistle, refers to a time when a female believer is not in church! THis is clearly not the case; but there is no reason to assume that because he addresses the whole congregation when they are meeting together in, say, chapter 7, that he is also doing so here in chapter 11. He speaks of praying and prophesying with a covered head, then goes on the speak of ‘when ye come together as a church’, you are behaving badly at the celebration of the Lord’s supper. The clear indication is that the verses/subject that precedes the reference to coming together, refers to more than just the meeting; whereas that which follows, refers to the church meeting.

    Secondly, it has to be taken in context with the ‘praying and prophesying’. It cannot be isolated. Paul says that women are to be covered when they pray or prophesy. In the first place, do women only pray in the church? Clearly, no. Therefore should they also be covered at other times when they pray? Clearly, yes. In the second place, do women ‘prophesy’ in church? Clealy, no – for Paul later in this same epistle states that women are to be silent in the church. One cannot prophesy and be silent at the same time!! Therefore, if women are prophesying (as did Philip’s daughters in Acts), it follows that they are not doing so in the church and therefore they need to be covered when they do prophesy – in a contaxt that is other than in church.

    • Hey Christine, just a couple clarifications.

      Please don’t feel that this article was directed at you. I used to believe that head covering shouldn’t be limited to church as well and this was one of the arguments for covering outside of church that I found most compelling. When I did believe so, I wrote a 3 page paper defending that very position. Later when I changed positions I wrote responses to my own arguments which was for my unpublished book on head covering. So this answer was taken from my book that I wrote 4-5 years ago, not written on the fly to combat your objections.

      Would you mind clarifying one statement? You said “but not that ALL that goes before, in the entire epistle”. I’m not exactly sure what this is referring to. We see 11:2 as the start of a new section and when we talked about what comes before we’re speaking of 11:2-16 (head covering), not the entire epistle.

      • Christine Glover

        I wasnt taking it personally – sometimes it is hard to convey tone of voice in writing!

        To clarify what I meant as requested: 1 Cor 11 v 18 says ‘when ye come together as a church’ – that does not mean that nothing in the previous ten chapters of 1 Corinthians relates to people not being in church. However, the juxtaposition of the first half of the chapter with the second half, separated by these words, suggests that immediately before the words does not refer to in church only, but that what comes after them, does.

        Thanks for replying and also for writing the original post here. However, what I am really saying is that although you might want to separate the arguments for wearing a covering to the individual points, I dont believe that is possible. If this was the only argument, then yes, maybe there is room for differences of opinion. But the section has to be taken as a whole – and to me, the verse mentioning praying and prophesying carries more weight in the argument regarding whether a woman should be covered outside church than does the implication from coming together as a church in the following section (and it can only be implied/inferred from this point).

        I dont feel I am saying this as clearly as I would like – hopefully, it is understandable!

      • Christian Filbrun

        From the original post: So by saying “in the first place” Paul is telling them that this is the first of two ways that their church meetings are “for the worse”. It’s unlikely that this is the start of a new context since the contrasting statements, “I praise you” (1 Cor 11:2) and “I praise you not” (1 Cor 11:17) indicate he has the same context in mind.
        Jeremy, maybe it’s just me, but this seems like a pretty shaky premise, especially if we considering what seems to be a very possible textual shift from general practice to worship services in “but when you come together.” Could you perhaps expand on this a bit more? Thanks.

      • Joyce

        sounds a bit like someone I know very well who once believed headcovering was for today – and defended it with writings and papers and in discussion. Now he/she believes – ‘nope – Paul was just telling the Corinthian Christians to be sensitive to their culture.’ And is quite adamant about it. Why the change? My observation of their life suggests strongly that they wanted to be more inclusive… make it ‘easier’ for others to be Christians. But they would argue it was the study of scripture and the Spirit that changed them. Wouldn’t it help to take scripture at face value sometimes? ‘like a child’? (‘Except we become as little children’….) Sorta like using science to defend creation – because the bible teaches creation and we’re Christians and we take the bible at its Word…. rather than trusting in science or ‘proof’ mechanisms first… and then when something doesn’t line up – we change our belief a bit about creation. (and I’m sure there’s much that doesn’t sit well w/ the educated mind on this type of argument… but simple just works at times. i.e. – ‘God said it – I need to do it. If there are details that I’m overlooking – I trust He’ll work them out w/ me.’)

        • @WithPropriety:disqus, if a person says they are convinced by Scripture let’s take them at their word rather than assuming an ulterior motive. Biblical love “believes all things” (1 Cor 13:7) and I think it’s very important to take Christians at their word. I understand that to you the “everywhere” view seems very plain and straightforward but it does not appear that way to everyone. When I held to the position that you do, I felt no pressure to change and I never felt awkward/embarrassed about my view. I changed because I felt like the exegetical case was stronger for the view I now hold.

          “Like a child” should be a model of our faith in God, but I think if it’s quoted to promote an anti-intellectual handling of the Scriptures I’d have to disagree. We’re to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15 KJV)

          • Joyce

            Not disagreeing w/ any of this Jeremy – except of course we’ve come out at slightly different places w/ our study. Point taken… There remains a truth. Let us everyone ask the Spirit to guide into all Truth. None of us are void of flesh – and everyday it’s a battle to separate it from Truth.

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