1 Corinthians 11:1-34 Study Guide

LEADER’S STUDY GUIDE 3.21.2021

1 Corinthians 11

Opener

Our work in terms of Scripture is to become skilled at life; we spent last year on this topic of  wisdom. To do so, we need to understand God’s gift of the written Word to us. Paul told Timothy that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

The letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth is part of Scripture. It is written language that is “God-breathed,” a special word that means they are inspired by God in a way that normal human writings are not.

Have your group take some time and ponder Paul’s words to Timothy. As you do, keep in mind that this is a great description of a strategy for a life well-lived: 

  • Teaching: Here is the path to walk in life.
  • Rebuking: You are veering off (rumble strips).
  • Correcting: Here’s how you get back on.
  • Training: Here’s how you train to stay on the path.

Discuss: Share with the group how God’s Word has worked in your own life to transform you into the person God has called you to be. (Keep in mind how Scripture has taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained you.)

Chapter 11 In a Nutshell

Paul began a long discussion about worship in verses 1-16 by focusing first on the importance of men and women honoring Christ and each other in worship.[1] In verses 17-34 Paul admonished the Corinthians about another part of worship: the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians had turned this celebration inside out by using it as an opportunity to divide from and to abuse one another. The celebration that was supposed to unify the church actually brought disunity.[2]

As we move into chapter 11, keep in mind that in Paul’s letter to Corinth he was addressing a number of very specific and practical issues for their church, issues with larger principles for all churches. Here’s the bottom line in all of it: grow up in your faith; hold to truth (don’t chase emotions, passions, or culture’s shifting currents); live in love (don’t make life about you); be resolute on truth (you can’t outsmart God); be generous in love (don’t make life about you). If you live this way, you will maximize God’s glory, the good of others, and your own joy.

Discussion 1: Read Verses 1-16

Don’t get lost in the cultural differences. Remember Terry’s “cultural briefing.”

Some key terms/ideas:
Head:
For us this means “the one in charge.”
Man and woman:
  Can mean husbands and wives, or just men and women.  He can jump back and forth between the two sometimes.
Head coverings for women:
  We don’t know all the cultural norms of that specific location but Jewish women covered their heads and/or faces, as did Greeks, Persians, Turkish people…all of the geo-cultural areas of the Bible.
Head covering for men
: In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam…men covering their heads in worship has been common for many centuries.

  • How do we see women participating in services?
  • In what way were some women of the church flaunting their freedoms?
  • How were the men flaunting their freedoms?
  • How could what the men and women were doing have been dishonoring to God?
  • Terry summed up the passage like this: The point is…you are free to be a man and free to be a woman…in Christ. You are not under the bondage of the law, or even the bondage of false cultural ideas…now live free for the glory of God and the good of others. Use your freedom to bless others. So here’s the question for us today: How are we using your freedoms in Christ?

Discussion 2: Read Verses 17-34   

Here’s your culture briefing for this section

The church in the first century would often share a meal together as part of their worship. This would lead into or include the celebration of communion: bread and wine remembering the death of Christ for the salvation of the world. The church was diverse both ethnically (Jews and Gentiles) and economically. It was good that some were well-off because they were able to meet in their larger homes, which was a blessing to provide space for meetings. But it also meant that some could afford nice food and wine, while others could not. When they had their community meals, it wasn’t like a pot luck dinner where everyone showed up with whatever and shared it all. This was where if you didn’t bring a pot, you were out of luck. So this shared meal commemorating Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and intending to bind the church together actually became a time of self-indulgence and separation. Haves and have nots.

  • Notice that Paul has no praise for them. Why did he say this?
  • Essentially, Paul is telling them to “Grow up! Be mature people, be like Christ.” Again, this was about people acting like spiritual children, not living sacrificially but flaunting their selfishness and calling it freedom. Are there ways we do this today?
  • Do you see variations of a theme throughout this letter so far? What are they?

Application:

Believe: If you haven’t yet, settle the fact that the Bible is the time-tested, life-proven Word of God. It takes some effort but what good thing doesn’t take effort to correctly understand and apply it. But the benefits far outweigh the effort.

Value: Set a high value on a lifetime of learning and applying the truth to your life. Be a devoted “learner.” Nothing will impact your life more than relationship with God.

Do: A disciple is a word that meant (and means) learner, student, apprentice. We are called to be and make disciples, apprentices of Jesus.

This is only done well in community learning from each other and together. Worship, groups, one-to-one.

What does this have to do with “women wearing head covering or men with short hair?” It has to do with how we approach Scripture, like this chapter.

It’s not, “What is this nonsense about women and head coverings and male oppression?”

It’s, “God, where am I pushing for my own rights rather than seeking, from the freedom I have in you, to put the interests of others ahead of my own.”

If we let God instruct us from his Word, we will be positioned to become wise, more like Christ.

We are his apprentices in a lifetime of learning to be skilled at life.

 

[1] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 178). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 194). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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