Beginning in chapter 10, you’ll notice that most of the chapters are a series of (sometimes) unrelated proverbs. They each have their own genius, and it is in their simplicity.
The proverbs attributed to Solomon go from chapters 10 through 29. Chapter 30 is attributed to Agur, son of Jakeh. This is the only mention of Agur in Scripture, so his identity is a mystery. Some have argued that it’s a pen-name for Solomon. That’s possible, but there’s not a lot of evidence to bolster that claim. But you will notice that it reads more like chapters 1-9 than 10-29. It’s poetic, but there is a clear train of thought that is absent from much of the intervening proverbs.
The identify of King Lemuel is another mystery. His name means “devoted to God”. It is noteworthy that he is also credited with the so-called “Proverbs 31 woman”, but his mother is the teacher, not Lemuel. She is calling her son to live a godly and upright life, forgoing loose women and drunkenness. A godly, virtuous man defends the poor and needy.
That section flows naturally into the passage on describing a righteous and virtuous woman. A godly woman is not a weak, ineffectual debutante but a woman who takes responsibility. Any woman who raises a family, works inside or outside the home, and tries to do some good in this world knows that there aren’t enough hours in the day. But a virtuous woman knows that she is responsible for what she is able to do. She does not think she can be successful by charm or physical beauty, but only by fearing the Lord above all (31:30).
1 Corinthians 10-14
Paul is warning us against presumption. By showing how Israel serves as an example for us, Paul tells us that we must not expect a great salvation if we deny the grace of God.
He does make an astounding statement that Christ was present in the Old Testament as the Rock who Moses struck for water. This may not be considered a Christophany, or an appearance of the second person of the Trinity before the incarnation. God continually, miraculously, supplied water for the Israelites in the wilderness. Paul may be speaking typologically, or showing how a person, event, or place set the stage for the incarnate Christ. In this case, God continued to provide life-giving water for the wandering Israelites. God continues to provide his life-giving Spirit to the Corinthians.
Like the Israelites, the Corinthians were testing God’s patience and presuming upon his mercy. The main problem for the Corinthian church was sexual immorality. If they continue in their obstinacy, they can expect the same treatment the Israelites faced. There is a great level of continuity between between the people of God. In all seasons, we must flee idolatry.
Paul reminds us that as we participate in the Lord’s supper, we should see that we cannot also participate in idolatry. He will have more to say on this later. Too often, we get comfortable trying to live in two kingdoms. The fact is that Christ has saved us and brought us into the kingdom of light, so we have no further fellowship with darkness. We must actively sort this out in our lives. Where do we continue to participate in idolatry, or the kingdom of darkness? What of this world continues to have a stronghold on us?
But there is this middle-ground. Not everything that we enjoy in this world is idolatry. Paul uses the example of meat sacrificed to idols. Christians should have no objection to eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols, because they’ve sacrificed to something that isn’t real. However, the Christian must consider the message your enjoyment of certain things sends. If a friend offers you meat and makes it extremely clear that it was sacrificed as an offering to a pagan god, you should not eat it so your friend does not think what he believes and what you believe are essentially the same.
What does this look like today, when people don’t sacrifice to idols in temples here in America? Ask yourself this question: what are the things your friends might ask you to do with them that would tarnish your witness to the holiness of God? Whatever you do should be to the glory of God.
When Paul addresses the issue of head-coverings and the roles of men and women in the church, he roots everything in the order of creation. What Paul is addressing for the next few passages is abuse and disorder in the church’s worship. How the church orders her worship is of the utmost importance, because it will serve as the boundaries for the rest of the church’s life. Paul wants the Corinthians to imitate him, and he’s glad they’re doing so in terms of what he’s taught them in previous situations.
Key to understanding this passage is that “head” in Greek culture was not the normal metaphor for authority but for source or origin. Also, the word that some translations translate as “husband” more often means “man” by as much as three-to-one, same with “wife” and “woman”. With those two things in mind, we can see that Paul is solely focused on church order based on creation order. The source of every (regenerate) man is Christ. The source of every woman is the man, via Eve being formed from Adam. The source of the incarnate Christ (the only begotten Son) is God the Father.
We must say that Paul’s analogy is foreign to us. There was some kind of immorality or dishonor going on that he doesn’t specifically reference, only by analogy. Whatever it is that Paul does not mention, it had to do with dishonoring the delineation between the genders. For the man to honor his head, or his source, he should not cover his physical head when he prays and prophecies. It was common for Jewish men to wear a prayer shawl during times of gathered prayer, so it seems likely that Paul is advocating yet another distinguishing mark between old and new. It is not necessary to keep the Jewish traditions around prayer in the new covenant. Much like with circumcision, if you are going to do it and call yourself a Christian, just go ahead and emasculate yourself. Otherwise, recognize that it does not mean anything in the new covenant.
For the woman to honor her head, or her source, she should in fact cover her physical head, because it resembles the natural beauty of a woman’s hair. A head covering for a woman is a symbol of the creation order, of having authority over her in her husband, which in turn is a living parable to the watching world.
Chapter 11:10 is not the first time that Paul has mentioned angels in this book. Back in 6:3, Paul reminds the Corinthians that on the last day, they will take part in the judgment of the angels. Not only will believers judge the world, but we’ll even judge heavenly beings. And since we’ll take part in God’s divine judgment, we should therefore not have secular agencies judge us (6:1-2). Now in 11:10, Paul is saying that we currently have an impact on the angelic realm. The way they see us behave in worship sets an example for them in their worship.
In keeping with order in worship, Paul insists that they revisit what they do in the Lord’s supper. Many are coming in to feast themselves, while others are going without. Tradition used to include a full meal at every Lord’s supper, not the more simple elements we use today. The wealthy in the church gorged themselves while the poor in the church barely got by. Paul says that this does not reflect the beauty and truth of what this ordinance means.
When you gather together for the Lord’s supper, judge yourselves. If you use the ordinances to satisfy yourselves, you are not rightly practicing the ordinance; you are practicing them in “an worthy manner” (11:27). Recognize how your behavior in worship affects not only the angels, but most especially, those in the body of Christ with you.
Spiritual gifts are also an important piece of worship, then and today. There were abuses in modesty, abuses in the ordinances, and there were abuses in the gifts. Paul’s main point is that the gifts are numerous, but they all come from the same Spirit. So then, don’t hold your gift as something that makes you better than your brothers and sisters. They receive their gifts from the same Spirit as you.
Of course, there is the issue of speaking in tongues, which is a controversial topic today. Before the Pentecostal movement of the early 1900s, there was widespread acceptance that the sign-gifts, the gifts that marked an apostle, had gone away with the apostles (2 Cor. 12:12). It’s reasonable to assume that Paul writes about the signs that mark out an apostle to a church that might expect to see those gifts. Paul even says that not everyone is an apostle (1 Cor. 12:29), so not everyone can expect these gifts.
Paul’s point could be summarized as “church unity”. Don’t distract yourselves by fighting over which gift is better or who has what gift. Every gift is intended for building up, not tearing down. The “better way” (12:31-13:13) Paul speaks of is love. Regardless of your part in the body, love is your actual duty, and your gift is only the vehicle for loving others.
Paul goes on to argue that prophecy is the point of all the gifts, as opposed to tongues specifically. Prophecy is not always receiving something new; just as often, prophecy and preaching different names for the same thing. Paul insists that the word of God remain central in the church. Speaking in tongues, or different languages, is a distraction if no one understands it. The Corinthians must be able to interpret the words if they are to have any value at all. There is no value in speaking in tongues if it does not build up or edify the other believers who are present.
If we are so eager to use our gifts, then we must use them to love others and build them up (14:12). “Let all things be done for building up” (14:26). He brings it back to church order. If anyone is going to have a part of the worship service to prophecy/preach, then let it only be two or three people. Don’t use worship of the one, true God as an excuse to show off or to get ruffled up into an ecstatic frenzy. Like with the Lord’s supper, remember why you’re there. And if anyone has a problem with Paul’s orders, don’t forget that he is one of those apostles who performed the signs of an apostle while he was there (14:37). His final word on matter is this: “But all things should be done decently and in order” (14:40).