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2 Corinthians 11:7-12; The Offense of Cultural Sensitivity

11/01_2 Corinthians 11:7-12; The Offense of Cultural Sensitivity; Audio available at:

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

The Corinthians are enamored by false apostles selling a false gospel which cannot save, empowered by a different spirit, inviting them to follow another Jesus, a Jesus that promises power, prestige, position, but doesn’t require his followers to follow him by taking up their cross.

The false apostles attempted to undermine Paul’s authority in Corinth by pointing to his ‘contemptible speech’ (10:10). Paul answers maybe he doesn’t measure up to their standards of rhetorical style, but his substance is sound, by an open statement of the truth he has made the simple good news message of Christ crucified known to them.

Here in verses 7-12 he answers another objection;

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

Paul is being criticized for not accepting money from them. Imagine that! In collecting money for the saints in Jerusalem, they suspect him of stealing. But in refusing payment for serving them, they object that his teaching must not be worth anything, or he must not love them. They are attempting to put him in a lose-lose corner.

The Sin of Christ-Likeness

Paul answers with a question. Was it a sin for me to humble myself? Paul had already addressed these issues in 1 Corinthians 9. There he argued that it is the right of a minister of the gospel to make his living by preaching the gospel (1Cor.9:14). He had the right to receive financial support from them for his ministry to them, but he did not make use of that right.

Here he asks, was it sinful for me to humble myself and forego my right as a minister? He wanted to put no stumbling block in the way of the gospel (1Cor.9:12). The culture of Corinth estimated the worth of a teacher by how much they charged, which put the best teachers out of reach of the poor. And those who did support the teacher financially became patrons who expected the allegiance of the teacher in return. Paul would not sell out in this way and become obligated to a few wealthy patrons, and he refused to withhold the gospel from the poor. As he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19, while remaining ‘free from all, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more of them.’

Paul humbled himself by not making use of his right to financial support as a minister. He humbled himself in order to lift them up. He humbled himself so that he would be free to proclaim the gospel of God freely to all. He humbled himself so that in a city with no gospel presence, a church could be established in the grace of God. He was willing to go without, so that they could receive the gift of eternal life. He was willing to sacrifice, to suffer, to work with his own hands, so that the gospel would be seen as all of grace, a costly gift freely given to those who can’t earn it and don’t deserve it.

Paul humbled himself because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus, having all the rights of being himself fully God,

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

They criticized Paul for not receiving payment from them. He asks, did I commit a sin by humbling myself? Is it a sin to follow Jesus? Was it a sin for Jesus to humble himself in order to save us? Jesus came ‘not to be served but to serve’ (Mk.10:45). Paul once again brings them back to the central message of this letter; that authentic ministry is ministry that follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry. He clearly exposes the false teachers for calling evil good and good evil. Is Christ-likeness a sin?

Plundering Churches

Paul goes on to confront them with the harsh truth.

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If they didn’t know it before, he tells them now that he did accept support from other churches. In fact he calls it ‘plunder,’ stripping armor from the corpses of a defeated enemy. He uses graphic imagery to startle them with the costly realities of gospel ministry. Calvin saw this as ‘every thing that Paul took from the Churches that he had gained to Christ was, in a manner, the spoils of his victories, …what they contributed gratuitously was, in a manner, due by right of spiritual warfare.’ [Calvin, p.347]

Acts 18 tells us that he arrived alone in Corinth, and soon met Aquila and Priscilla, and worked with them in the menial trade of tentmaking to support himself while he preached each Sabbath, until his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia with support to free him to spend more time proclaiming Jesus.

He has already championed the churches of Macedonia who out of their extreme poverty overflowed in abundant single-hearted devotion and gave beyond their ability (2Cor.8:1-3) to the relief of the saints.

Now he lets them know that these impoverished and persecuted churches gave support to him while he was serving in the relatively affluent city of Corinth.

To one of these afflicted Macedonian churches, in the city of Philippi, he writes of their ‘partnership in the gospel from the first day until now’ (Phil.1:5). He writes:

Philippians 4:15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

This was a slap in the face to Corinth. Paul considered it less a risk to the gospel to plunder the poverty-stricken churches of Macedonia than to accept support from the affluent Corinthians.

Partnering to Pay the Gospel Forward

When Paul entered a new region, he refused support to prevent them thinking that they were paying a fee for the gospel. After a church was established, he allowed them to then partner with him in advancing the gospel on to the next area. In chapter 8 He is encouraging the Corinthians to participate in the relief of the poor Jerusalem saints, and it seems from 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 that he was willing for the Corinthians to partner with him in advancing the gospel to regions beyond them (cf. Rom.15:24, 28; 1Cor.16:5-6; 2Cor.1:15-16).

The Truth of Christ In Me

But he was insistent that he will not change his practice with them. He kept himself from being a burden to them, and he will continue to keep himself from ever burdening them.

As we learned from the Macedonians in chapter 8, when one truly understands and receives God’s grace, giving is no longer a burden but a delight. Their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion, and they gave beyond their means, ‘begging us earnestly for the grace of taking part in the fellowship of the saints’ (2Cor.8:2-4).

Paul here takes an oath before God.

2 Corinthians 11:9 …So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.

This is an oath formula; Paul promised them he would enter into foolish boasting. Here he boasts that he has not and will not be a burden to them. He connects this boast of not being a burden to the truth of Christ in him. There may be more to this than a simple oath; ‘I swear by the truth of Christ.’ The truth of Christ is in Paul not merely in word, but also in deed. As he said back in chapter 8,

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Paul proclaimed the truth of Christ. But he also lived the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ lived in him. He lived among them ‘as poor, yet making many rich’ (2Cor.6:10)

He humbled himself ‘so that you might be exalted,’ preaching ‘God’s gospel to you free of charge’ (2Cor.11:7). This is not just a ministry tactic. This is Paul walking in the gospel, living out the gospel. His person, his method, his every decision was being shaped by the cross of Christ. The truth of Christ, quite literally, is in him.

Paul’s Love

Paul addresses their other accusation, that he refuses their money because he doesn’t love them. Financially investing in an individual creates a close bond, and they feel that Paul is holding them at arms length, not allowing them to get that close. From Paul’s perspective, receiving wages would oblige him to them and he would be relinquishing his freedom to offer the gospel free of charge to all.

2 Corinthians 11:11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

He doesn’t even answer this charge, but appeals to God. God knows! He has already answered it. He humbled himself to lift them up. He labored with his own hands to relieve them of the burden of providing for his needs. He plundered other churches to show them that the costly gift of grace truly comes without charge. All this was evidence of his love for them.

Paul is being offensive here, insistent on refusing their payment and plundering poor churches in order to serve them, humiliating them by making them the recipients of charity from poorer saints. But his goal is not to tear them down but to build them up. He humbles them in order to show them what grace really is, to teach them that they must be humble enough to receive something they can’t pay for and don’t deserve. Even in this offense toward them, he is preaching the gospel to them. He is showing them that he loves them enough to tear down their ‘lofty opinions of themselves that are raised up against the knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5,8). Paul offends them, but it is a loving offense.

Cutting the Ground from the False Apostles

Paul again affirms that he will not adjust his course of action with them. It seems that they were applying pressure to get him to cave and accept their payments. But he is resolute. Here in verse 12 he gives his reason.

2 Corinthians 11:12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

The pressure is coming ultimately from the false apostles. They want Paul to receive payment from the Corinthians so that they can claim to be no different than him. He refuses to take the bait. He is accusing them of peddling the word of God for money (2Cor.2:17). Paul here pulls the veil back from the false apostles. They are pressuring Paul to accept payment to justify their own money-grubbing. If Paul persists in refusing compensation, the false teachers will be unable to say that they operate on the same basis as he does, unless they are willing also to refuse payment, which is the whole reason they are there. His refusal is effectively cutting the ground out from under them.

Cultural Sensitivity

Paul is a culturally sensitive missionary. He is keenly aware of the cultural norms and nuances in the different places where he ministers. And he is aware of how the gospel will be perceived through these cultural lenses, so he is wisely strategic in the way he engages with the culture. But Paul will not adapt his message to suit the culture; in fact Paul is willing to offend the cultural sensibilities of the Corinthians for the sake of the gospel. When the truth of the gospel is at stake, he ‘would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting’ (1Cor.9:15).

He is willing to make a public scene and ‘oppose Peter to his face,’ because his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’ (Gal.2:11,14).

Paul is culturally sensitive, not so that he can slip in unnoticed and make no waves, but so that he can make the right waves, gospel waves that crash in the face of cultures of merit that say ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. He plants his feet firmly and demonstrates that the gospel cannot be bought. The gospel is a treasure that is infinitely costly, but God gives it freely to those who don’t deserve it, to those who will humble themselves to receive.

In a culture that treasures popularity and prosperity and pleasure, who says it is a sin to surrender your rights or lay down your life for others, Paul shows us what it means to follow Jesus, who bids us take up our cross, lose our life for his sake and the gospel’s, so we can truly find it (Mt.16:24-25).


Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

November 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians Introduction

10/01 2 Corinthians Introduction; Audio available at:

Lost Books

Turn with me to 4th Corinthians… You will find it in your Bibles as 2 Corinthians, but it was likely the fourth letter Paul wrote to this church. 1 Corinthians 5:9 refers back to a previous letter that the Corinthians had misunderstood, so that would make our 1 Corinthians Paul’s second letter. Then 2 Corinthians 2 and 7 refers back to a painful letter that grieved the Corinthians, making 2 Corinthians his fourth letter to this tumultuous church.

So if you’ve ever heard of the lost books of the Bible, those are them. In the sovereign wisdom of God they were not preserved for us. God preserved his word exactly as he intended for us to benefit by it. If you hear people claiming that they have discovered some of the lost books of the bible, examine the evidence carefully. The ‘lost’ books that people often claim are not lost at all; rather they have been known throughout the history of Christianity and have been rejected by believers as false writings.

What we know as 2 Corinthians is a passionate letter, sometimes sarcastic, intimately personal and transparent, even raw. In it we see the heart of the apostle, and the depth of his love for a broken church. We get a glimpse into the emotional struggles of ministry, and how Paul handles conflict and tension in relationships. Most of all, we see ministry shaped by the cross; that the gospel message of Christ crucified shapes all authentic ministry.

History of the Church in Corinth

It will be helpful as we launch into a study of 2 Corinthians to sketch out a rough sequence of the history of this church and where this letter fits. On what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey, when Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), he had a vision in which God called him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). They preached and were imprisoned in the Macedonian city of Philippi, and then after being released, they preached and were persecuted in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul was brought alone to Athens to escape the riots and preached there while he waited for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. Listen to the birth of this church as Luke tells it in Acts 18:

Acts 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this. 18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. …

After over a year and a half in Corinth, Paul sailed for a brief stop in Ephesus, where he left Priscilla and Aquila, then on to the port of Caesarea. From there he visited the Jerusalem church, and then traveled back to his home church in Syrian Antioch. This ended his second missionary journey. Sometime after he left Ephesus, the eloquent Apollos came to Ephesus and was discipled briefly by Priscilla and Aquila before being sent with a letter of recommendation to the church in Corinth.

In the spring of the next year, Paul traveled by land north from Antioch through the regions of Galatia and into Asia, arriving at Ephesus and spending over 2 years there.

It was early during his first year in Ephesus that Paul received news of trouble in the church in Corinth, and wrote them the ‘previous letter,’ “not to associate with sexually immoral people” (1Cor.5:9).

Later, he received correspondence from the church in Corinth asking a number of questions, along with a report of more trouble in the church there, brought by Chloe’s people, possibly Sosthenes (1:1), Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus (16:17); he was also joined by Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22). At some point Apollos also returned to Ephesus with Paul (1Cor.16:12).

It was in response to their letter and the reports he was receiving that he wrote what we know as 1 Corinthians, and sent it with believers sailing to Corinth, possibly with Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, or maybe with Timothy or Titus. In 1 Corinthians, he addressed the issues of divisiveness and party spirit, immorality, idolatry, disorderly worship, and confusion over the resurrection.

Paul’s plan as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. 5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

But after Timothy arrived in Corinth and saw that the Corinthians did not respond well to Paul’s instructions, he sent word to Paul and Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1). After Paul returned to Ephesus, he was personally attacked and his authority rejected and undermined by the individual.

He apparently planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection (2Cor.1:15-16). Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his painful visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4)

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul sent this third painful letter with Titus, and he sent Timothy and Erastus ahead into Macedonia to prepare for the collection (Acts 19:21-22). After a riot in Ephesus, Paul traveled north through Asia to the port at Troas. He says

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul expected that Titus would sail from Corinth to Troas with news. Finding no sign of Titus, Paul traveled on to Macedonia, where he says:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. …

The painful letter had accomplished its desired response from the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 7:13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

It was in response to Titus’ report on Corinth that Paul together with Timothy wrote what we know as 2 Corinthians from Macedonia. He sent Titus ahead of him to deliver the letter, as he continued to minister in Macedonia and make his way down to Corinth.

Although Titus and the painful letter had accomplished much to mend the relationship between the Apostle and this church, there was still much work to be done, and 2 Corinthians attempts to move this work forward and prepare them for his visit. About a year later, Paul arrives in Corinth and stays with them for 3 months. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during his stay at Gaius’ house in Corinth (1Cor.1:14; Rom.16:23). From there, he had to return through Macedonia because of a plot (Acts 20:3), and eventually returned to Jerusalem with the gift, where he was taken into Roman custody and eventually to Rome. Paul’s outlook in Romans is that

Romans 15:18 …Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; …23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Apparently 2 Corinthians also accomplished its purpose.


Corinth was a city where social status was a big deal; eloquent wisdom was prized, and pursuit of prosperity and power was the main goal. We already saw in 1 Corinthians that Paul took a totally counter-cultural approach. He refused to come with lofty speech or wisdom, but determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. He came in weakness and fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:1-5). God had turned the ideas of status and honor upside down by choosing the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings, to shame the wise, powerful, noble, and strong, to eradicate boasting and pride (1Cor.1:26-31). Paul had offended them by working for his living with menial hands-on labor, refusing to take money from them (1Cor.9). He refused to put himself on a pedestal to be honored, rather identifying himself as a servant.

The Corinthians continued to struggle with these concepts that are really at the heart of the gospel. The gospel is a message of grace – being given something you don’t deserve.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus gave us what we didn’t earn. Jesus shows us that true greatness is not being served, but serving; humbly serving others for their good. The gospel is a message about a King who laid aside his royal robes and stooped down to serve in the filth and grime, in the lowest, most menial way.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul takes this very seriously; to seek honor is to abandon the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The Corinthians wanted an apostle that was powerful, eloquent, triumphant; but Paul’s ministry was characterized by suffering, affliction, shame, dishonor. He was weak, plain, poor, unimpressive. Instead of being served, he chose to serve others. Instead of accepting honor, he directed all honor to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.


Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.


Timeline (approximate):

AD 50-51 Paul’s first visit to Corinth (1.5+ years) (Acts 18)

AD 52-55 Paul in Ephesus (2+ years) (Acts 19)

52 Writes ‘previous letter’ (1Cor.5:9)

53 Writes 1 Corinthians (1Cor.16)

54 Second ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1)

54 Writes ‘painful letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4)

AD 55-56 Paul ministers in Troas and Macedonia (Acts 20:1; 2 Cor.7:5-7)

55 Writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia (2Cor.7-9)

AD 57 Paul’s 3rd visit to Corinth (3 months) (2Cor.13:1; Acts 20:2-3)

57 Writes Romans from Corinth (Rom.16)

2 Corinthians Outline:

1-7 Gospel ministry is ministry shaped by the gospel

8-9 God’s grace overflows in practical generosity

10-13 False apostles proclaim a false jesus, false spirit, false gospel

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:5a; Love is Not Rude

11/23 1 Corinthians 13:5a Love is Not Rude; Audio available at:

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are looking at love, God’s love, the love with which he loves us. We are looking at what love is, what love looks like, so we can know how to love one another. God’s love is long-tempered; it does not retaliate when wronged. His love is kind, doing good to the ungrateful and evil. His love is not displeased when good comes to someone else. His love is not bragging, claiming more than is true; and it is not puffed up, holding an inflated unsubstantiated view of self. Our love for others is to be a reflection of and a response to God’s love for us, an overflow of the fullness of being perfectly loved by a perfect God.

Definition of Rude

Next on Paul’s list is ‘Love is not rude, or love ‘doth not behave itself unseemly’ (KJV).

This particular verb ‘to act unbecomingly’ is used only two places in the New Testament, here and in 1 Corinthians 7:36.

1 Corinthians 7:36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly [v; G807 ἀσχημονέω aschemoneo] toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.

There it is translated ‘not behaving properly’. The Corinthians were thinking that it is more godly to live a celibate life than a married life. Responding to their questions, he affirms that sexual intimacy between husband and wife is not only good and right and beautiful, but is an obligation each owes to the other. For singles, if they have been supernaturally gifted by God for celibacy, that is good, but if not they should marry. In verse 36 he is addressing betrothed or engaged couples questioning whether it is more godly to stay single and not follow through with the marriage. Paul’s answer is that if they are so gifted, it is good to remain unmarried, but if their passions are strong and they need to be married, if they are acting unbecomingly or not behaving properly, they should marry. It seems in this context that the word primarily has sexual impropriety in mind. Sexual intimacy is appropriate only within the context of marriage, between husband and wife, so any expressions of sexual intimacy outside of the marriage covenant are improper. Notice, this directly addresses the justification many use today that ‘we love each other and we are planning on getting married some day, so it’s ok’. Paul is clear that before you say your vows and enter into the covenant of marriage, any sexual intimacy is improper. To claim love and then to act indecently or rudely is to contradict the very nature of love.

If we look at how this word group is used in the Old Testament, we see that it is often used to describe sexual impropriety. In Genesis 34,

Genesis 34:2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”

Understand, Shechem had very strong feelings for Dinah, he claimed to love her, and intended to marry her, willing to do anything for the right to marry her.

Genesis 34:7 The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done.

The rape of Dinah was an outrageous act of impropriety. And This word group is used over 30 times in the section of Leviticus dealing with God’s instructions on appropriate and inappropriate sexual relationships.

Leviticus 18:6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. [Also v.7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19; 20:11, 17,18,19,20,21 (32 x)]

In Deuteronomy 24 people used this word as grounds of divorce.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,

Because this word is used in more ways than sexual impropriety, this created a debate among the rabbis on what constituted legitimate grounds for divorce. Some believed that ‘some indecency’ was restricted to sexual immorality, while others extend it to anything that a wife did that the husband considered improper, even things as trivial as burning his toast.

This word group has a wide range of meaning in the Old Testament. Several times it is used to describe appropriate clothing to prevent indecent exposure. It is used of being shamed or publicly embarrassed. It is used in Deuteronomy 23 of the rudeness of, to bring it up to date, not flushing the toilet.

Deuteronomy 23:13 And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. 14 Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.

That’s simply gross or offensive. It’s indecent, it’s rude. His reason for not being gross or indecent is that the Lord walks among you.

This word is a compound word that is made up of a neutral root word and a negative prefix. We could liken it to the word ‘form’. A negative prefix gives it a negative meaning ‘malformed’ or ‘deformed’. If we put a positive prefix on it, we could form a word like ‘well-formed’. We can get a clearer picture of the meaning by looking at all the different forms of the word.

In 1 Corinthians 7, dealing with issues of marriage and singleness, he uses the positive form of this word:

1 Corinthians 7:35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order [adj; G2158 εὐσχήμων euschemon] and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Paul’s intent is to promote both decency or propriety and undivided devotion to the Lord. Earlier in this chapter, he uses the root word, translated ‘form’, which points to the external condition.

1 Corinthians 7:29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form [n; G4976 σχῆμα schema] of this world is passing away.

The fact that the external form of this world, good or bad, is passing away should cause us to hold loosely to the things of this world.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the chapter immediately preceding the love chapter, Paul uses the different forms of this word in his metaphor of the body as a picture of the church. His picture is that each of us individually are body parts, organs and limbs.

1 Corinthians 12:22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor , and our unpresentable [adj; G809 ἀσχήμων aschemon] parts are treated with greater modesty, [n; G2157 εὐσχημοσύνη euschemosune], 24 which our more presentable [adj; G2158 εὐσχήμων euschemon] parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

‘Unpresentable’ is the negative adjectival form; ‘greater modesty’ is the positive noun form; ‘more presentable’ is the positive adjective. Some parts of the body are unpresentable or indecent. They are not meant to be exposed. They need to be clothed and covered. This has to do specifically with outward form and appearance. Those parts of the body are necessary and their function is valuable to the health and well-being of the body. But it does not mean that those parts should be exposed to the public eye. They are shielded, protected, clothed.

Paul closes this section at the end of chapter 14 with this admonition:

1 Corinthians 14:40 But all things should be done decently [adv; G2156 εὐσχημόνως euschemonos] and in order.

All things in the church, among the believers must be done decently, with good propriety, with appropriateness, with proper sensitivity to social norms.

The Corinthians Were Rude

When we look at the conduct of the Corinthians, we see what this ought not to look like in the church of God. Some in the church in Corinth were engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, conduct that would even offend pagans, and rather than being ashamed of it, they were proud. Some were visiting prostitutes. Married couples were depriving one another of their conjugal rights. Engaged couples were acting inappropriately. The Corinthians were shaming and defrauding one another in court rather than being wronged, rather than going privately to their brothers and working out their differences. In the context of a fellowship meal, each went ahead with his own meal, not waiting for the others. Women were disregarding discretion and propriety in the gatherings of the church. The Corinthians were rich, acting like kings while the apostles were ‘hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted and homeless’ (4:11). They were brashly involving themselves in pagan feasts, not concerned that their participation in idolatry is unfaithfulness to the one true God. In their rude impropriety, they demonstrated a lack of genuine love for God or one another, and they damaged their reputation and hindered the advance of the gospel in their community. Love is not indecent.

God is Not Rude

God, who is love, is not rude. To better understand what love is, we look to the God who is love, and to the clearest expression of the invisible God, Jesus Christ his Son.

Never in any circumstance did Jesus act indecently. He always did what was appropriate. We can learn what is appropriate by looking to him. We have the threefold testimony at the end of his life from Pilate that ‘I find no fault in him’ (Jn.18:38; 19:4,6). Even when the religious leaders sought false testimony against him, they could find none (Mt.26:59-60).

Jesus was never offensive, but he did offend. He did violate social norms on occasion, for instance, when he allowed a woman of the street to interrupt a dinner party and wash his feet with her tears (Lk.7:36-50). He offended and violated the social norms when he told a story in which a Samaritan was the hero (Lk.10:25-37). He even told a story portraying the Father as entirely undignified (Lk.15:11-32). To the son who had spit in his face, demanded his inheritance, wished his father dead, wasted everything with prostitutes, and then returned home broken and desperate, the father gathered up his skirts, bared his legs and ran to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and clothed him in his own best robe. This was an entirely undignified way for a respectable man to conduct himself. And this is how Jesus portrayed his Father!

To our modern sensibilities, we look at him making a whip of cords and driving both people and animals out of the temple courts to be an almost inexcusable act of inappropriate irrational violence (Jn.2:13-17). We think it rude to publicly call the scribes and pharisees ‘hypocrites, blind guides, serpents, brood of vipers, murderers, full of greed, self-indulgence, uncleanness, hypocrisy and lawlessness, a child of hell (Lk.23). We view this as rude and improper. But we need to let Jesus correct our view of what is proper and improper. When we violate social norms, it is typically out of a selfish disregard for others. ‘I don’t care what you think; I have the right to dress this way or act this way or live this way’. Jesus violated social norms, not out of a selfish disregard for others, but out of a deep care and love for others, seeking their best. He confronted sin in others, because he genuinely desires all to come to repentance, and repentance requires an awareness of sin.

To the adulteress who was dragged out from the very act, he extended forgiveness and forced justice to wait. It is appropriate for a just judge to punish sinners. But he extended mercy to guilty sinners, taking their shame on himself. He was humiliated, stripped bare, nailed to a wooden beam, and put on display for all to see. He was shamed, exposed, treated indecently. He was treated indecently for us. God is the one who clothed the nakedness of his people even after they rebelled against him. Jesus took our shame and clothes us in his own perfect righteousness.

The Follower of Jesus Must Not Be Rude

We love because he first loved us. We are not improper or needlessly offensive to others, because he conquered our shame and set us free to love others without rudeness or impropriety. Love is not improper. It is proper.

Paul encourages the Thessalonians in their love in 1 Thessalonians 4.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly [adv; G2156 εὐσχημόνως euschemonos] before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Propriety or decency has much to do with how others perceive us. It is outward. We are told here to ‘walk properly before outsiders’. I thought Christianity was more about the heart and not about outward appearances, after all, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Yes, but Jesus said, “you will recognize them by their fruits” (Mt.7:20) and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt.12:34). A genuine inward transformation will produce visible results. A caterpillar can no longer disguise himself as a caterpillar once he has gone through metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

Paul admonishes the Romans:

Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly [adv; G2156 εὐσχημόνως euschemonos] as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

We must be who we are. If we have believed in Christ and been transformed by Christ, if in Christ you are a new creation then the old is passed away and the new has come (2Cor.5:17). We must no longer act as if we had not been transformed. Good propriety is a visible daytime type of walk. There are things propriety is not. It is not orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarreling, jealousy, gratifying the desires of the flesh. These things are contrary to decency, and contrary to love.

Our culture is rude. We have turned crassness into a virtue. Our humor is rude. Our heroes are crude. Our entertainment industry can’t turn out a movie or even a cartoon without injecting some rude humor or inappropriate undertones. Children treat their parents with rudeness. Parents speak rudely to their children. We dishonor any kind of authority. Paul points us to the way of love in Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

We love as Christ loved us. Some things are incompatible with that kind of love. Biting witty comebacks, foolish talk, filthiness, immorality, impurity, covetousness are out of place among those who follow Jesus. In place of all that, our hearts are to overflow with thanksgiving to him for how he has loved us and gave himself up for us. Love is not rude.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

November 23, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Shame or honor

07/13 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Shame or Honor; Audio available at:


1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

2 Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε. 3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. 4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ· 5 πᾶσα δὲ γυνὴ προσευχομένη ἢ προφητεύουσα ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτῆς, ἓν γάρ ἐστιν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ τῇ ἐξυρημένῃ. 6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω· εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω. 7 ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων· ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν. 8 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνὴρ ἐκ γυναικός, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ ἐξ ἀνδρός· 9 καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐκτίσθη ἀνὴρ διὰ τὴν γυναῖκα, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα. 10 διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. 11 πλὴν οὔτε γυνὴ χωρὶς ἀνδρὸς οὔτε ἀνὴρ χωρὶς γυναικὸς ἐν κυρίῳ· 12 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρός, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ διὰ τῆς γυναικός· τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. 13 ἐν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς κρίνατε· πρέπον ἐστὶν γυναῖκα ἀκατακάλυπτον τῷ θεῷ προσεύχεσθαι; 14 οὐδὲ ἡ φύσις αὐτὴ διδάσκει ὑμᾶς ὅτι ἀνὴρ μὲν ἐὰν κομᾷ, ἀτιμία αὐτῷ ἐστιν, 15 γυνὴ δὲ ἐὰν κομᾷ, δόξα αὐτῇ ἐστιν; ὅτι ἡ κόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται. 16 εἰ δέ τις δοκεῖ φιλόνεικος εἶναι, ἡμεῖς τοιαύτην συνήθειαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, οὐδὲ αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ θεοῦ.


1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been called by many the most difficult passage to interpret in all of the Bible. There are about as many different opinions on how it should be understood as there have been commentaries written. There is much debate about what was actually going on in the church in Corinth that Paul was writing to correct, on who specifically is being addressed, on what some of the key words and phrases even mean, on what the cultural and historical background really was, on how this all fits with other verses in 1 Corinthians and in the rest of the New Testament, and maybe most important, on how (or even if) we should apply it to life today. Several people have seen this passage coming in the text and asked me how I plan to handle it, including my own mom. This may be one of the texts Peter was referring to when he said of Paul’s writings:

2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

So I think the best thing for us to do is avoid it and go on to the next passage. Skip forward to 11:17 and we will pick up there today. Passing over verses 2-16, we move on to 1 Corinthians 11 verse 17…


That was a test. We will study this passage, as difficult as it is, because I believe with all my heart that:

2 Timothy 3:15 … the sacred writings, …are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is profitable. The central issues of Christianity are unmistakably clear. Salvation is through faith in Christ Jesus alone. The good news that salvation comes to us by God’s undeserved grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone rings clear and loud throughout all of Scripture. Other issues, secondary issues, may be more obscure, but I believe they are still breathed out by God and profitable, so it is worth our while to carefully work through this passage. Some of the details we will have to hold loosely, as we simply can’t know for certain. I’m sure the original readers of this passage understood exactly what Paul intended to communicate. I wonder if some new discovery will shed light on the things that we find puzzling. But if we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, I believe there will be much here that is encouraging, edifying, and applicable even to us today.

So, by God’s grace and with his help, we will do our best to understand the text before us, to seek to learn what God would teach us through it eager to obey him, and to extend patience and grace to one another when we just see things a different way.


1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.


The Big Picture

It is essential that we see this passage as a connected section of the letter it is part of. To extract it out of its context and beat each other over the head with it would be to violate some of the very truths it is intended to convey.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing divisions in the church. The believers are quarreling, they are boasting, they are wise in their own eyes, they think they are spiritual, they are puffed up in favor of one against another. So Paul takes them back to the basic message of the gospel, the simple message of the cross, the foolish message of Christ crucified. He reminds them that everything; life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption; everything is a gift from God. So if a believer boasts, his boast must only be in the Lord (1:30-31).

We have seen that chapters 8-10 form one unit dealing with idolatry. Now we will see that chapters 8-14 form a unit that deals with the central theme of worship. 8-10 deal with avoiding the false worship of idols, 11:2-16 deals with the way men and women ought to worship together in the church, 11:17-34 addresses the way rich and poor ought to worship together in the church, and chapters 12-14 deal with the role of the Holy Spirit and how spiritual gifts ought to be used in the worship of the church.

As we see the theme of worship throughout these chapters, we can also see some basic principles woven through these chapters. Paul begins in chapter 8 with the Christian principle of love, love for God and love that builds others up. He warns against self-centeredness that harms others by insisting on our own rights. As he sums up in 10:31-33, everything is to be done for the eternal good of others, so that God is glorified and others are benefited. 11:17-34 confronts their lack of love in the Lord’s supper, where they shamed the poor and honored the rich. Chapter 12 addresses their lack of love in the exercise of spiritual gifts, priding themselves in the more spectacular gifts, and shaming others as unnecessary parts of the body. He encourages them to have the same care for one another. In chapter 13, he invites them to rise to a more excellent way, the way of self sacrificial love. In chapter 14, he teaches that the way of love is for the good of others and the glory of God, and our gifts must be used so that believers are built up, unbelievers are saved, and God is honored. It is into this context of loving God and loving others, of glorifying God and seeking the good of others that Paul speaks to the issue of men and women in the church, how they can bring shame or glory to God, and how they can shame or honor one another.


Seeing the structure of the passage will be helpful. David Garland in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (BECNT p.511) has detailed the chiastic pattern (or X shaped pattern), like a mirror with a central assertion and the parts on either side reflecting each other. We can start in the center and work out:


A. Commendation for maintaining traditions handed on by Paul; basic assertion that everyone has a head (11:2-3)

B. Shame about coverings for men and women (11:4-5)

C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered; theological impropriety for a man to be covered (11:6-7)

D. Theological explanation from the creation account (11:8-9)

E. Central assertion: for this reason a woman ought

to have authority over her head (11:10)

‘D. Theological caveat from procreation (11:11-12)

‘C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered (11:13)

‘B. Shame (and glory): lessons from nature about coverings for men

and women (11:14-15)

‘A. Admonition to conform to Paul’s customs and those of the churches of God (11:16)


The only imperative in the text (other than his exhortation to ‘judge for yourselves’ in 11:13) is found in 11:6 ‘let her cover her head’. What is at stake in this passage is honor or dishonor; shame or glory. And this finds expression in covering or uncovering the head. This is a cultural custom that is foreign to us. David Garland describes the cultural issue this way: “The head covering ‘is …worn in public to mark her off as a private person intent on guarding her purity, and so maintaining the honour of her husband and her father.’ …It communicates to others in public that the woman is demure, chaste, and modest, and that she intends to stay that way. …no male wanted his wife or a female in his charge to appear in public in a way that hints, intentionally or unintentionally, that the opposite might be true.” (BECNT, p.509-510).


Paul starts off by praising the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

In verse 17, he will say ‘I do not commend you.; But here, he praises them for remembering him and holding on to his teachings. The ‘traditions’ would have been the teaching he delivered when he first came to Corinth to proclaim the gospel and plant the church. We now have his teaching expanded and clarified in the New Testament letters. He may have taught them something like what he wrote in Galatians 3.

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

He may have taught them something like what he will say in 2 Corinthians 3.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face… 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

In Christ Jesus there is no male or female. When one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. We all with unveiled faces are beholding the glory of the Lord. So throw off your head covering! We are free in Christ! There are no more gender distinctions!

Cultural Shame

Paul says ‘but’. But I want you to understand. You do not yet have the full picture.

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

There are gender distinctions. There are differences in roles. There are legitimate authority structures in place. Even within the triune God. God, Christ, man, woman. This is huge, what he says here is foundational, and I want to come back to it next week to give it the time it deserves.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head,

The word ‘head’ is used with a double meaning. By inappropriately covering or uncovering the head, he or she brings shame on his or her own head, where ‘head’ stands for the person. By acting inappropriately you shame yourself. But ‘head’ also refers back to verse 3, where it says the head of man is Christ and the head of woman is man. There is evidence that at the time, men offering sacrifices to their pagan gods would perform the rituals with their heads covered. For a man to worship the true God with his head covered would bring shame to Christ, his head. There is a clear and essential difference between men and women. The very thing that is shameful for man is essential for woman. For a woman to worship uncovered in that culture would bring great shame on her husband or her father. It would be as shocking as if she showed up with a shaved head.

…since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.

It is a shame on herself and on her husband or father to be shaven. Paul argues that being uncovered is just as shameful, so ‘let her cover her head’.

An Issue of Glory

Paul gives here the theological reason why a man ought not to cover his head, but the woman ought to cover her head.

7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Paul goes back to the order of creation in Genesis to defend this principle. Both man and woman were made in the image of God. But Eve was made by God from the side of Adam. She was to be his helper, a companion who corresponds to him, one who completes him. She was made from him and for him. And she is his glory. She is truly his better half.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

She has the potential to bring shame or great glory to her husband. But in worship, the glory of God alone is to shine unrivaled, so it is inappropriate for woman, who is the glory of man, to be uncovered. All glory must go to God.

10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Literally this verse reads ‘on account of this the woman ought to have authority on [or over] her head’. It could be that authority stands for the symbol of authority, the head covering demonstrates that she is under authority, or it could mean that she has authority over her own head, that she has her head under control. She exercises control over her physical head so as not to expose herself or her head to indignity.

Puzzling is the cryptic phrase ‘because of the angels’. Angels who are also under authority, who keep their proper place, angels who cover their faces with one pair wings and their feet with another pair of wings in the presence of God, angels who are unseen guests wherever believers gather to worship, angels who are eager to learn about the salvation we enjoy? We don’t know exactly why the angels are mentioned here.


11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Paul is careful to balance the equation. Woman is from man and for man in creation, but subsequent to creation, every man has been born of woman and dependent on woman. In the Lord woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. Different genders, distinct roles, but equal value, dignity, and worth. In Christ, there is neither male nor female; every individual must come to God through Jesus. All things are from God. Everyone is dependent on God. God is sovereign over man and woman. God is preeminent.

Paul now invites them to apply their own innate sense of what is proper to the situation.

13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

He has argued from the relationship between God and Christ, from the created order, from what brings honor and shame, and now he argues from their own culturally conditioned sense of what is appropriate, what is shameful, what brings honor. It is natural for men to appear masculine and women to appear feminine. It would be shameful for a woman to pray uncovered.

He concludes with a warning against an argumentative spirit, and an appeal to the common practice of all the churches.

16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.


So what do we do with this? We want to obey God and his word. Does this mean all the men need to cut their hair short and all the women need to grow their hair long and wear a head covering? Some churches do that. I think that would be the easy way around dealing with the real issue. As my mother so wisely said many years ago as my own church was wrestling with some of these issues ‘any problem that can be solved with a pair of scissors is not a very serious problem’. I could have my head shaved in half an hour and it wouldn’t change the state of my heart one little bit.

Where is my heart? What do I most want? Do I want to bring glory to God above all else, to bring honor to God and build up my brothers and sisters? Do I desperately want the lost to hear and believe the gospel and be saved? Or do I insist on my rights, my comfort, my convenience, my preference, my own benefit, even if it dishonors God and shames the people around me? Do I love God and love others and seek to build them up, or do I love self and seek to build myself up?

If my heart is right, if I truly love the glory of God in the gospel more than my own good, then what Paul is saying here is that externals are not irrelevant. Some seemingly trivial superficial things do matter. Is there something in my appearance, in my demeanor, in my attitude, in the way I carry myself, in the way I relate to others, that brings shame to Christ or to his followers, is there anything in me that hinders people from listening to the gospel? Then get rid of it! Cut it off and throw it away! Is there anything, even little things that I could do that would bring glory to God and build up his people? Are there ways I can identify with lost people so that I can bring them the gospel? Am I not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, that they may be saved? Am I doing everything, whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, to the glory of God?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

July 13, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment