Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Ephesians 5:31-33

In Ephesians 5:31-33 Paul wraps up his teaching to the Ephesian church (and us) on the topic of marriage. Paul quotes what God wrote way back in the Garden at the creation of marriage in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Relevant to marriage today, it shows that just as the first man and the first woman were one – she was taken from him, and then brought back to him – so it could be said of every married man today that he is joined to his wife. God does the joining. Husbands can resent it, they can resist it, they can ignore it, but it doesn’t change the fact. In marriage we become ONE.

Guzik explains Paul’s teaching to wives as he did to husbands. “Paul gave three reasons for a Christian wife’s submission to her husband. In addressing the Christian husbands, Paul also gave three reasons to love their wife:

i. First, they should love their wife this way because this is what love is. Paul indicates this in Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives.

ii. Second, they should love their wife this way because the relationship between husband and wife has a pattern: the relationship of Jesus and His church. Paul indicates this in Ephesians 5:25-29: Just as Christ also loved the church… So husbands ought to love their own wives… just as the Lord does the church.

iii. The third reason is found in Ephesians 5:28-32. The Christian husband must love his wife this way because you are one with her, just as Jesus is one with the church.”

There is a fundamental principle for promoting oneness in marriage: there must be a leaving (of former associations) and a cleaving (joining together as one). Often we think of the leaving as being from our parents, but it can be much more than that. We must get rid of anything that will prevent us from becoming one with our wife. Anything, and everything, that might get in the way. And while we often wrongly think that this passage in Genesis is about only a husband and wife, it also speaks about the relationship between Christ and the church. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Paul really taught on two things at once. He teaches about marriage, but he also teaches about God’s pattern for marriage – the relationship between Jesus and His people. We need to get rid of things that prevent us from truly being one with Jesus!

Paul continues anre reminds us of the basics of marriage. “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Everyone is included in Paul’s teaching around marriage. There are no passes or excuses. If Paul’s message in this great passage could be boiled down to two principles which must govern our thinking and our actions as married people, those two are:

  • Husbands: Understand that you and your wife are one, are a unity which means love
  • Wives: Understand that your unity has a head – your husband which means submission

Guzik points out that we often focus on the wrong things related to God’s plan for marriage:

  • “Wives are quick to embrace and understand the husband’s principle (love your wife), and they want that to be the governing principle of the marriage.
  • Husbands are quick to embrace and understand the wife’s principle (submit to your husband), and they want that to be the governing principle of the marriage.
  • But we must let our principle govern us. When you have a husband thinking, “I’m one with my wife, and I must think and act that way,” and a wife thinking, “My husband is the head of our oneness, and I need to respect and defer to him as the head,” then you will have a healthy, Biblical marriage.”

Ephesians 5:26-30

In Ephesians 5:26-30 Paul continues explaining the power of a husband loving his wife as Christ loves the church. This love is not sexual or sensual in nature but far deeper. It is to look like this according to Paul: “….that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” When Jesus gave Himself for the church on the cross, it also provided cleansing from every stain sin makes. Guzik explains “Obviously, a husband cannot spiritually cleanse his wife the same way Jesus cleanses the church. Yet a husband can take an active, caring interest in his wife’s spiritual health. As the priest of the home, he helps her keep “clean” before the Lord.”

He goes on to explain “This means that Jesus Himself shares His prospects, His future with His bride. A Christian husband should also share his prospects and future with his wife. Even as a wife will share in the husband’s future, so we will share in the glorious future of our Lord.” As husband and wife we become one flesh which means a sharing of all things together, as one. Part of a husband loving his wife the way Christ loved the church is to be honest and transparent in every way, leading well spiritually and making sure his wife and their family are being led in a way pleasing to the Lord. The husband should lead his family so they are holy and free from sin.

Paul goes on to tell husbands another thing they are charged to do. “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” The single word ‘as’ is important. Paul did not say, “So ought men to love their wives in the same way as they love their bodies.” That would be an improvement in many cases, but that is not the meaning. The meaning is, “So ought men to love their wives because they are their own bodies.” A man must love his wife as he would his body, as a part of himself. Lloyd Jones explains “The husband must realize that his wife is a part of himself. He will not feel this instinctively; he has to be taught it; and the Bible in all its parts teaches it. In other words, the husband must understand that he and his wife are not two: they are one.”

Any man in his right mind is going to take care of his own flesh, even if it is just in the sense of feeding and clothing and caring for his own body. He knows that if he doesn’t, he is going to suffer for it. In the same way, once we know the Biblical fact of this unity, if we are in our right minds we will nourish and cherish our wives because she is part of us. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Guzik explains “The principle of oneness also is dominant in the relationship between Jesus and His people.

  • There is oneness of life: We share the same vital resurrection life that resides in Jesus Himself.
  • There is oneness of service: We are privileged to be co-workers with our Lord.
  • There is oneness of feeling: Jesus feels a unique sympathy with us, and we feel a unique sympathy with Him.
  • There is oneness of mutual necessity: We cannot exist without Him and He cannot exist without us, in the sense that a redeemer is not a redeemer without any redeemed; a savior is not a savior without any saved
  • There is oneness of nature: The same genetic code links us with our Savior, and we are partakers of the divine nature
  • There is oneness of possession: We share in the riches of His glory both now and in the age to come
  • There is oneness of present condition: When our Savior is lifted high, so are His people with Him.
  • There is oneness of future destiny: We will be glorified with Him.”

Marriage is oneness between a husband and wife. We must work to make that the priority in our relationship with our spouse just as Jesus did with His church.

Ephesians 5:25b

In Ephesians 5:25b Paul describes what the agape love he has just told husbands to love their wives with really looks like. The standard and example gives an extremely high bar, we are to love our wives “….as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….”. The requirement for agape love can’t get any higher than that. Jesus is the bar we must work to achieve. Jesus’ attitude towards the church is a pattern for the Christian husband’s love to his wife. This shows that a loveless marriage doesn’t please God and does not fulfill His purpose. This is love given to the undeserving. This is love given first. This is love that may be rejected, but is still continually given. This is self-sacrificial, complete agape love.

Jesus teaches the depth of how much we should love our wives. He demonstrates that he loves the church with a special love. Jesus loves the entire world and died for all mankind; but just as a husband can have a general love for everyone, he must also have a special love for his bride. Spurgeon wrote “I ask you to notice what is not always the case with regard to the husband and the wife, that the Lord Jesus loves his church unselfishly; that is to say, he never loved her for what she has, but what she is; nay, I must go further than that, and say that he loved her, not so much for what she is, but what he makes her as the object of his love. He loves her not for what comes to him from her, or with her, but for what he is able to bestow upon her. His is the strongest love that ever was.”

If we consider Jesus’ love as a pattern, we could say that Jesus has a constant love for His people, an enduring love for His people, and a hearty love for His people. But it didn’t stop with just an amazing love for people. Jesus’ love translated into action which is also a pattern. It helps us define what agape love is all about: it is self-sacrificing love. How should a husband love his wife? As Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. What did that involve? The focus of Jesus was on the church. It was for the church that He did what He did, not for Himself. And His self-sacrifice meant giving Himself completely and totally for the church that He loved so much.

Guzik writes “this understanding of true agape love is especially important for husbands who see headship and submission with a worldly understanding instead of God’s design. Some husbands think that because God said they are the head of the home and their wife is obligated to submit to them, that they do not have to be humble, lay down their lives, and sacrifice for the benefit of their wife. They need to understand the difference in thinking between worldly headship and godly headship.

  • Worldly headship says, “I am your head, so you take your orders from me and must do whatever I want.”
  • Godly headship says, “I am your head, so I must care for you and serve you.”
  • Worldly submission says, “You must submit to me, so here are the things I want you to do for me.”
  • Godly submission says, “You must submit to me, because I am accountable before God for you. I must love you and serve you.”

This is not the height of romantic love as the world knows it. This isn’t love based on looks, image, the ability to be suave and cutting-edge cool. This is love expressed through sacrifice.”

Ephesians 5:25a

In Ephesians 5:25a Paul turns the light upon husbands. What he defines as their role in God’s design for marriage safeguards what he has just told wives to do – to submit to their husbands. That never excuses husbands  to act as tyrants over their wives. God has given us not only the spirit of power – but also of love. Power, withing a Christian marriage is always done with love. Lloyd-Jones explains “It is not naked power, it is not the power of a dictator or a little tyrant, it is not the idea of a man who arrogates to himself certain rights, and tramples upon his wife’s feelings and so on, and sits in the home as a dictator… No husband is entitled to say that he is the head of the wife unless he loves his wife… So the reign of the husband is to be a reign and a rule of love; it is a leadership of love.”

So what does Paul tell husbands to do? Remember his guidance to wives was to submit. For husbands, his guidance is to LOVE. “Husbands, love your wives….” Paul used the ancient Greek word agape here for husbands in describing the love they need to have for their wives. The ancient Greeks had four different words we translate love. It is important to understand the difference between the words, and why the apostle Paul chose the Greek word agape here. Guzik explains them:

  1. Eros was one word for love. It described, as we might guess from the word itself, erotic love. It refers to love driven by desire.
  2. Storge was the second word for love. It refers to family love, the kind of love there is between a parent and child or between family members in general. It is love driven by blood.
  3. Philia is the third word for love. It speaks of a brotherly friendship and affection. It is the love of deep friendship and partnership. It might be described as the highest love of which man, without God’s help, is capable of. It is fondness, or love driven by common interests and affection.
  4. Agape is the fourth word for love. Eros, storge, and philia each speak about love that is felt. These describe “instinctive” love, love that comes spontaneously from the heart. Paul assumes that eros (desire) and phileo (fondness) are present. Christians should not act as if these things do not matter in the marriage relationship. They do matter. But Paul’s real point is to address a higher kind of love, agape love. Agape describes a different kind of love. It is a love more of decision than of the spontaneous heart. It is as much a matter of the mind as the heart, because it chooses to love the undeserving.”

Barclay further defines  “Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live.” Agape really doesn’t have much to do with feelings – it has to do with decisions. Agape love is a choice we make. It can be defined as a sacrificial, giving, absorbing, love. The word has little to do with emotion; it has much to do with self-denial for the sake of another.

  • It is a love that loves without changing.
  • It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment.
  • It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing.
  • It is love that loves even when it is rejected.
  • Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given. It gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.

It is important to note that Paul is not telling husbands to be kind or nice to their wives. That of course should go without saying and is definitely an outcome of agape love. And unfortunately, in many marriages that in itself would be a significant improvement if husbands would merely do that. But Paul’s directive to love our wives with agape love goes far further. What he really meant is, “Husbands, continually decide to practice self-denial for the sake of your wives.” So at first blush, the focus of God’s design for husbands to love your wife sounds pretty simple. But in fact, that agape love is anything but easy or simple and requires a husband to give up self and focus on loving the way our wives need to be loved. More on that in the next part of this verse.

Ephesians 5:24

In Ephesians 5:24 Paul continues explaining God’s design for marriage. One of the core elements of that design is the submission of a wife to her husband, just as the church submits to Christ. The term submission causes people to often react strongly in a negative way. But in Scripture, submission is a model that we need to understand and follow.

The principle of submission is presented in many different ways in the New Testament:

  • Jesus submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51).
  • Demons submitted to the disciples (Luke 10:17).
  • Citizens should submit to government authority (Romans 13:1 and 5, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13).
  • The universe will submit to Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22).
  • Unseen spiritual beings submit to Jesus (1 Peter 3:22).
  • Christians should submit to church leaders (1 Corinthians 16:15-16 and Hebrews 13:17).
  • Wives should submit to husbands (Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:5, Ephesians 5:22-24).
  • The church should submit to Jesus (Ephesians 5:24).
  • Servants should submit to masters (Titus 2:9 and 1 Peter 2:18).
  • Christians should submit to God (Hebrews 12:9 and James 4:7).

The consistent use of the idea of submission in the Scriptures illustrates basically a “one-way” submission according to how God has arranged the order of authority.

So when it comes to marriage, Paul tells us “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” The first thing that causes a reaction is the idea of submitting ‘in everything’. That’s a very broad and sweeping word. Are there exceptions? Yes, there are, and here are some as explained by Guzik:

  • When the husband asks or expects the wife to sin, she is free from her obligation to submit. This applies in a place of clearly Biblical sin – such as signing a fraudulent tax return. It also applies in matters of true Christian conscience. But we must be very careful to distinguish between true Christian conscience and mere opinion. Yet the wife does not have to submit to a request to commit sin.
  • When the husband is medically incapacitated or insane, she is free from her obligation to submit. A wife does not have to submit to the requests a husband makes when he is insane or medically incapacitated.
  • When the husband is physically abusive and endangers the safety of the wife or children, the wife is free from her obligation to submit. She does not have to submit to his violence.
  • When the husband breaks the marriage bond by adultery. Obviously, a wife does not have to submit to her husband’s adultery, and just accept it. The Bible says she has the right to “come out from under his rank” in such cases.

Lloyd-Jones further explains that “If the husband has been guilty of adultery, the wife is no longer bound to give him obedience in everything. She can divorce him, she is allowed to do so by the Scripture. She is entitled to do so because adultery breaks the unity, breaks the relationship. They are now separate and no longer one. He has broken the unity, he has gone out of it. So we must not interpret this Scripture as teaching that the wife is this irrevocably, inevitably bound to an adulterous husband for the rest of her life. She may choose to be – that is for her to decide. All I am saying is, that this Scripture does not command it.”

Paul protects this role of submission by a wife in how he addresses husbands in the next few verses. Submission is definitely part of God’s design for marriage, but it does not exist in a vacuum by itself. It is balanced and protected by God’s design for how a husband loves his wife which we’ll cover next.

Ephesians 5:23

In Ephesians 5:23 Paul continues to explain God’s design for marriage. He began by giving the design for wives to submit to their husband as unto the Lord. As Paul moves to the husband, he begins by explaining the reason for God’s design. He wants us to understand the principle behind submission of a wife to her husband. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” The first reason for a Christian wife’s submission to her husband is related to obedience ‘as to the Lord’. This means that the motive of her submission must be obedience and respect to Jesus, instead of obedience and respect to her husband.

Paul continues with the second reason for a wife’s submission. It is because the husband is the head of the wife in marriage. In its full sense, “head” gives the idea of headship and authority. It means to have the appropriate responsibility to lead and the matching accountability. It is right and appropriate to submit to someone who is our head. When you look at the Biblical idea of headship, the emphasis is on the fact that the man was created first and not the woman. So there is a priority by creation for man. The Scriptures also emphasize the fact that that woman was made out of the man, taken out of the man to show a connection to him, and that she was meant to be a help for man, a help for man that was fitting for him.

Lloyd-Jones explains “Notice that the Apostles lay great stress upon it. Man was created first. But not only that; man was also made the lord of creation. It was to man that this authority was given over the brute animal creation; it was man who was called upon to give them names. Here are indications that man was put into a position of leadership, lordship, and authority and power. He takes the decisions, he gives the rulings. That is the fundamental teaching with regard to this whole matter.” In the Garden of Eden, God created Adam first, and gave him responsibility over Eve. This happened before the fall and continued after. God gave different roles to husbands and wives in His design for marriage.

Paul goes on to give the third reason for a Christian wife’s submission to her husband. She should submit because the relationship of the husband and wife is a model of the union between Jesus and the Church. Guzik explains “This point is simple and clear. We have a model for the marriage relationship: the relationship between Jesus and the church. In that relationship, the headship of Jesus Christ is unquestioned. So also is the husband the head of the “team” that is the one-flesh relationship of husband and wife. Perhaps the Christian wife doesn’t want a “head” or a leader of the team between husband and wife. If that is the case, the wife does not understand a Biblical marriage, and will always work against it in one way or another. It is the same dynamic as a Christian saying he doesn’t want Jesus to be his “head.”

So in this passage Paul gives three reasons for a wife’s submission to her husband:

  • It is part of her obedience to Jesus (as to the Lord).
  • It is appropriate to the order of creation (the husband is the head of the wife).
  • It is appropriate because of the model of the relationship between Jesus and the Church (as also Christ is head of the church… as the church is subject to Christ).

Summarizing these two verses (E[h 5:22-23), the Christian wife has obligations in marriage:

  • Both husband and wife are called to die to self – submission is the way the wife does it.
  • Both husband and wife are called to sacrifice – submission is the way the wife does it.
  • Both husband and wife are called to see their marriage as a model of Jesus’ relationship with the church – submission is how the wife honors that model.
  • Both husband and wife are called to honor the order of creation – submission is the way the wife fulfills her place in that order.

We’ll tackle one more instruction to wives in the next verse before putting the light on the role of a husband.

Ephesians 5:22

In Ephesians 5:22 Paul begins to tackle a topic that by the world’s attitude today, is taboo and just plain old fashioned and irrelevant. Paul describes God’s design for marriage and the family. Marriage is God’s idea. He created it in the Garden of Eden at Creation. Sex is God’s idea too. But in both cases, God has a design for what works and gives clear guidance in how we should live to experience the blessing God intends. Paul begins by addressing the responsibility of wives in a marriage, not because they are the bigger problem or because they need special focus or attention. He starts with wives because it involves submission which he just addressed when describing what it looks like to live a Spirit filled life.

People bristle quickly when they hear Paul’s words here: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” But before you get all worked up about the idea of a woman submitting to their husband, take a breath and consider God’s design. First it is critical to understand the definition of submission. It does not mean that a wife is a doormat or slave to their husband. Submission does not mean inferiority. Submission does not mean silence.To submit is to be under the authority and protection of someone else. The truth of the matter is that by submitting to her husband, the responsibility for her protection and for the family becomes that of her husband. Submission transfers that from a wife to her husband.

Guzik explains “Submission means “sub-mission.” There is a mission for the Christian marriage, and that mission is obeying and glorifying God. The wife says, “I’m going to put myself under that mission. That mission is more important than my individual desires. I’m not putting myself below my husband, I’m putting myself below the mission God has for our marriage, for my life.” It means you recognize that there is an order of authority in God’s plan and design for marriage and the family, and that you are part of a unit, a team focused on doing exactly that. You as an individual are not more important that the working of the unit or the team.

To be clear, the Bible never commands a general submission of women unto men in society. This order is commanded only in the spheres of the home and in the church. Paul makes clear that this submission needs to be done ‘as to the Lord’. That does not define the extent of a wife’s submission or the limit of a wife’s submission. It defines the motive of a wife’s submission. Guzik explains “as to the Lord means…

  • A wife’s submission to her husband is part of her Christian life and obedience.
  • When a wife doesn’t obey this word to submit to your own husband, as to the Lord, she isn’t only falling short as a wife. She is falling short as a follower of Jesus Christ.
  • This is completely out of the realm of the wife’s nature or personality.
  • This has nothing to do with a husband’s intelligence, giftedness, or capability. It has to do with honoring the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • This has nothing to do with whether or not the husband is right on a particular issue. It has to do with Jesus being right.
  • This means that a woman should take great care in how she chooses her husband. Instead of looking for an attractive man, instead of looking for a wealthy man, instead of looking for a romantic man, a woman should first look for a man she can respect. G. Campbell Morgan recalls the story of the older Christian woman who had never married, and she explained, “I never met a man who could master me.” She had the right idea.
  • If you want to please Jesus, if you want to honor Him, then submit to your own husband as to the Lord.”

Lloyd-Jones explains it this way: “There can be no more compelling motive for any action than this; and every Christian wife who is concerned above everything else to please the Lord Jesus Christ, will find no difficulty in this paragraph; indeed it will be her greatest delight to do what the Apostle tells us here.” The world will never see marriage God’s way. That would be too limiting and contrary to the way society thinks in many cases. But God didn’t make a mistake, and His design didn’t cease to be right. We need to trust God’s plan and follow it. Next, we will see what God says for husbands… ..

1 Corinthians 11:26-29

In 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 Paul continues to teach on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. He reminds the church that this celebration is about Jesus, a new covenant, and nothing else. What is the new covenant all about?

  • It is about an inner transformation, that cleanses us from all sin: For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34)
  • It is about God’s Word and will in us: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • It is about a new, close, relationship with God: I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33)

So it is serious and we need to treat it as such. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Paul then goes on to tell us how to prepare for receiving the Lord’s Supper. Failure to prepare and partake in a worthy manner is like using profanity at Jesus. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Taking part in the Lord’s Supper means we recognize what we celebrate. It also means we deal with our sin and confess it. If a Christian is in sin, and stubbornly unrepentant, they are mocking what Jesus did on the cross to cleanse them from their sin. We must get right with God and confess and repent to come to the Table in a worthy way.

Paul warns the Corinthian Christians to treat the Lord’s Supper with reverence, and to practice it in a spirit of self-examination. However, this is not written with the thought of excluding ourselves from the table, but of preparing us to receive with the right heart. “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” It is just given so we take the proper steps to prepare, which begins with looking into our own heart to see what sins we need to confess and what relationships we need to mend. Guzik wrote “ We can never really make ourselves “worthy” of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

He did it because of His great love, not because some of us were so worthy. As we take the bread and cup, we should not stare at the floor or struggle to achieve some sort of spiritual feeling. We should simply open our heart to Jesus and recognize His presence with us – in fact, in us!” If we will discipline ourselves and approach the Lord’s Supper in the right manner, the Lord will not need to chastise us with His hand of correction. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” God is serious about this ordinance of communion and will discipline us if we fail to take it seriously.

1 Corinthians 11:22-25

In 1 Corinthians 11:22-25 Paul continues to call out the Corinthian church about their behavior in the Lord’s house around the Lord’s supper. Paul’s message is both strong and plain – “If you want to eat or drink selfishly, do it at home!” Using repetition, Paul makes it clear: ‘I do not commend you’ is repeated three times in this brief section. The apostle is not happy with the Corinthian Christians at this point. “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”

Paul then shifts to telling them what the Lord’s Supper is to be like. Paul didn’t just make this up, he received it from the Lord. It came to him from the Lord either personally or through the other apostles. “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In conducting a communion service, Paul puts the emphasis on remembering Jesus, on what He said about the meaning of His own death for us. The bread represents His broken body.

Guzik writes ‘We remember the Last Supper was actually a Passover meal, when Jesus, together with the disciples, according to Biblical commands and Jewish traditions, celebrated the remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt to the Promised Land, beginning in the book of Exodus. The breaking of bread and the drinking of wine were important parts of the Passover celebration. Jesus took these important pictures and reminders of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and added to them the meanings connected with His own death on the cross for us.’ This has historical significance as well as meaning for us as we partake of it.

Paul then moves on to the cup which represents Christ’s blood. “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” In receiving the cup, we are called to remember the blood of Jesus and the new covenant. The Passover meal featured several cups of wine, each with a different title. The cup Jesus referred to was known as the cup of redemption, and Jesus added to the idea of redemption from slavery in Egypt the idea that His blood confirmed a new covenant that changed our relationship with God.

1 Corinthians 11:16-21

In 1 Corinthians 11:16-21 Paul continues to instruct the Corinthian church.  He begins by telling them to not be contentious and argumentative over the things of God. It is not acceptable to create chaos in the church. “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” Paul is going to give them guidance on how they should act and worship together. The Corinthian church as been dysfunctional and destructive in how they have interacted as a body. Paul calls them out, and then gives instruction on what ot change. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.”

A large part of the problem with the gatherings of the Corinthian Christians was that there were divisions among them, something Paul had heard and could believe, knowing the history and the character of the Corinthian Christians. “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.” People weren’t getting along – imagine that. What possibly could people find to disagree over? How about dozens of little things that don’t matter, but when put in the middle of a church, can cause people to pick sides and create divisions. But Paul asks ‘is that bad’?

Seems like a silly question right – factions have to be bad. “And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” But Paul makes the point that without them, it would be impossible to tell who truly is a Christ Follower. We usually think of factions and divisions among Christians as nothing but a problem. But Paul reveals a purpose God has in allowing factions: that those who are approved may be recognized among you. God allows factions so that, over time, those who really belong to God would become evident. They truly can be important.

Paul refers to the early church custom of combining a potluck and the Lord’s Supper. Because Jesus so often ate with His disciples, it made sense to the early church that eating together went together with celebrating the Lord’s Supper. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” But the problem was how the Corinthian church acted at those meals. They in fact acted very selfishly and put themselves ahead of all others. It wasn’t a Christlike environment at all. “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.” So Paul says it isn’t at all the Lord’s supper.

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