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  • Paul is continuing his “dressing down” of the Corinthians for their failures to set an example as Christians. He is about to used customs of the time to make a point, and while these customs no longer apply to us as a society, they were the social “norm” at the time. It is important to remember that customs are not the point. The witness is the point.

    So if you need an earthly example to follow, follow me. Pray for me in all I do, so I can continue to serve our Lord as an example to you and others.

    Don't come together to feast in God's name as the pagans do for their false gods. When we share the Lord's supper it is not a meal but the communion of our spirits with God and one another.

    Be in subjection then, as we have been taught. For Christ is our master, and we are His servants, even as He served both us and the purposes of God.

    Observe customs out of respect for our ancestors and duty to God. They were God's servants before you, and they were beloved of God. So beloved that He chose to take mortal form to save all mankind.

    So men should remove their caps before praying, to show fealty before God, just as a woman should cover her head when she prays. If a woman is to pray in the place of a man, let her first shave her head, but if that would cause her shame, then let her be covered when she prays.

    Man was created first, and woman was created from man. So man is God's glory, and woman is the glory of man. Men should show respect to God, just as women should show respect to their husbands. But both are equal in the eyes of God.

    What we do outwardly, we do to conform to customs, not to please ourselves, but to avoid offending others without cause. We have no such customs in our faith, and those who say otherwise are being worldly and are unskilled in the faith.

    Because you are listening to men like this, I cannot praise you, but instead remind you to focus on what is important. Our faith is not based on worldly appearances, but on inner growth in the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

    I'm told when you gather in fellowship, you allow yourselves to be divided even then, and I tell you now I believe this. You have allowed heresies to be included with your faith, so you can cater to prominent people in your communities.

    The Lord's Supper is not to be like a feast of the pagans. It is not an occasion where some go hungry because they were late or poor, while others grow fat and drunk because they are favored and have status.

    Don't you have your own houses? If there is a feast, hold it there and not in the communion with non-believers who do not understand or care. I am ashamed for you that you would do this.

    I taught you that on the night our Lord was betrayed, He and his disciples were gathered for the passover feast, where after they had eaten, our Lord took the bread and blessed it and said “This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”.

    And then He took the cup of wine, after they had eaten the bread, and said, “This cup is the testament of my blood. Drink it in remembrance of me.”.

    So when you do this together, you do it to remember the sacrifice of our Lord for all mankind. Let every one of you closely examine your heart before you do this, for to do it and not remember our Lord condemns you in the eyes of God.

    You wonder why there is sickness among you, why you have no stamina in the faith, why so many of your members have died? To take the Lord's supper in vain is to condemn yourself before God. While we are not to judge others, we are to judge ourselves and our actions. When God ignoring what we know to be right, He punishes us to get our attention so we will not be condemned with non-believers.

    So when you come together to partake of this ritual, wait for all to be gathered. Eat your meals at home before you gather, and quiet your hearts and souls to remember our Lord and His sacrifice.

    There are many other problems, but I will set them in order when I come to see you in person.

    Customs, Rituals, and Consequences

    All us “old folks” will remember a television game show called “Truth or Consequences”, and while that show was just a game, you can use that phrase to exemplify what Paul is trying to say here.

    The Corinthians, as we have seen, have strayed far from the path Paul gave them and are trying to grow their numbers by conforming to the local religious ideas from the pagans. Most of the idol worshipers participated in long, drawn out ceremonies that involved feasts from the foods offered to the gods, along with orgies, bribes paid to priests for indulgences, and other pagan rituals. They did not involve a discipline of service, but rather indulged the baser instincts of man in order to appease the gods and satisfy the need for conformity in the social structure.

    But we, as Christians, are told to be “in the world, but not of it”. Our lives are to be lived in the image of Christ, in service to God and to others. We are not to regard others as more or less important, since God does not regard any man above the other.

    This is the most difficult human failing we have, and probably most prominently displayed by Americans who are “free” to worship as we choose. We join a church, regardless of the religion, and there always seems to be someone in the congregation who receives preferential treatment. Perhaps it is a choir director who claims a certain position on the dais, or a parishioner whose tithes merit his own reserved pew. Maybe it's the folks who have been coming to the same church for generations and only marginally accept “newcomers” who share different ideas about the faith.

    Paul is going to address the differences of the Spirit in the next chapter, but here he is addressing the treatment of others as a witness to faith.

    The Lord's Supper is not a ritual to be taken lightly, but a pronouncement of faith in the identity of Jesus Christ. If your heart is not right with the witness, you should not participate. For a non-believer to think this is a dining event is more than ridiculous. But for a believer to participate without a clear conscience can have dire consequences.

    Will the consequences come directly from God, like some thunderbolt hurled from the sky? Probably not. The consequences will more than likely come from the conviction of the Spirit in the form of the conscience. A guilty conscience leads to shame, and shame leads to sin.

    More to follow, stay tuned.

    I hope you are having a blessed and warm day.

    Fred
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