1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
The subject dealt with in this passage is the appropriate conduct and dress of the women in Christian assemblies. That, however, was but a matter of present and passing interest, one standing related to the customs and sentiments of a particular age. Our concern is not with the details of apostolic advice, but with the principles upon which St. Paul deals with a particular case. "Every circumstance which could in the least degree cause the principles of Christianity to be perverted or misunderstood by the heathen world was of vital importance in those early days of the Church, and hence we find the apostle, who most fearlessly taught the principles of Christian liberty, condemning most earnestly every application of those principles which might be detrimental to the best interests of the Christian faith. To feel bound to assert your liberty in every detail of social and political life is to cease to be free - the very liberty becomes a bondage" (Shore). "It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Galatians 3:28) gave occasion. Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head" (De Wette). St. Paul gives advice which bears upon the maintenance of due order in the Christian assemblies. Taking this as the subject illustrated, we observe the following points: -
I. ORDER MUST BE BASED ON FIRST PRINCIPLES. Here on the designed relationship of man and woman. The new law of the equality of the sexes must be dealt with in a manner consistent with the earlier principle of the natural dependence of the woman on man. "Observe how the apostle falls back on nature. In nothing is the difference greater between fanaticism and Christianity than in their treatment of natural instincts and affections. Fanaticism defies nature. Christianity refines it and respects it. Christianity does not denaturalize, but only sanctifies and refines according to the laws of nature" (F. W. Robertson).
II. ORDER MUST BE ARRANGED BY CHRISTIAN PRUDENCE, which acts by persuasion rather than by force, avoids any over magnifying of little differences, and makes due allowance for individual peculiarities. Prudence can recognize that the preservation of peace and charity is of greater importance than the securing of order, and order may wait on charity.
III. ORDER MUST BE ADAPTED TO EXISTING CUSTOMS. No stiff forms can be allowed in Christian assemblies. Social and national customs and sentiments have to be duly considered. Illustrate from the necessary differences of administering the ordinance of baptism in different countries, or from the diversities of Church order in heathen lands that receive the gospel. There can be unity of principle with variety of detail.
IV. ORDER MUST BE ACCEPTED BY EVERY MEMBER LOYALLY, This is the condition of working together in every kind of human association. A man's individuality may properly find expression in the discussion of what shall be done; but he must sink his individuality in order to help in carrying out the order that is decided on.
V. ORDER BEARS DIRECTLY UPON SPIRITUAL PROFIT. It injures to have the Church's attention diverted to forward women. Order relieves the minds of the worshippers, so that full attention may be directed to spiritual things. In quietness, in rest of mind and heart, the soul finds the time to enjoy and to grow. Distracted by the material, due attention cannot be given to the spiritual. Illustrate from the anxiety with which harmony, beauty, and order were sought and preserved in the older Jewish ritual. Amid all those formalities worshipping souls could be still, and in the stillness find God. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.