Aug. 20. Christians Are Different from Unbelievers

II Cor. 6:1-18

As he continued his letter, Paul warned the Corinthians about their associates. He reminded them of the importance of constantly being prepared for the judgment. Since tomorrow may be too late, the present is the time that one needs to be prepared.

Paul reinforced his credentials and authority as an apostle before giving the main body of his warning. He was very careful to live in a way that no one would speak evil of the gospel.

There were others, including Timothy who were working with Paul. He opened their lives as an informational letter to the Corinthians by listing their hardships and successes. They were able to see the true character of Paul and his associates and the love that he had for them. Any barrier between them and him would be placed by the Corinthians and not by him. He asked them as his children in the faith to return their affection to him.

God had commanded many times in the Old Testament that His people, the Jews keep themselves from associating with the heathen nations. He did not allow the marriage between Jews and heathens.

As Paul continued his warning, he said, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” He showed the contrasts between Christians and unbelievers. Business associations with people of the world have led many of God’s people into darkness and to the worship of idols (money, pleasure, etc.).

I have seen great heartache and suffering in marriages between believers and unbelievers. So many times, Christians give in to the unbelievers and lose their faith. Their children become confused and refuse to accept the gospel.

Paul said that God wants His people to come out from among those who are of this world. God wants them to be His sons and daughters and for Him to be a Father to them.

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Aug. 19. Christians Are New Creatures

II Cor. 5:17-21

Paul stated that when one becomes a Christian, he becomes a new creation. He turns away from his old life of sin and has new aims. His new purpose is to live a new life in Christ. As a new Christian, he has been reconciled to God. He then desires to lead others to be reconciled.

Jesus chose the apostles to be ambassadors on His behalf and they received their messages directly from Him. As an apostle, Paul said that he was an ambassador for Christ. He prayed through Christ for man’s reconciliation to God.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christ committed no sin, but suffered and paid the price as though He had sinned. In His death, He took our punishment, but it is necessary for us to accept Him through obedience to receive that gift.

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Aug. 18. Eternal Reward Overshadows Temporary Persecutions

II Cor. 4:1-5:16

Paul briefly reflected upon his old life of persecuting the church and of his new ministry as an apostle through the mercy of God. He contrasted his open preaching of the true gospel with the deceitful means that his enemies were using to try to discredit his authority.

Satan had caused the unbelievers to continue to have the veil of blindness over their eyes. This prevented the light of the gospel of Christ from showing them the real condition of their souls. Paul had seen the light of the glory of Christ on the road to Damascus and it was that light that he was preaching.

The enemies of Paul had accused him of preaching himself. He stressed that the only self-preaching that he did was, “Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” The light of the gospel that he was preaching came from the same God that had spoken light into existence from darkness at the beginning of time. That gospel light now shines in the hearts of Christians.

Paul used another metaphor in addition to light to describe the gospel. He called it a treasure and this treasure is transported in earthen vessels—human bodies, which in turn preach it to those who are lost in sin.

These human bodies suffered many persecutions as they went about their ministry, but were only hindered and not stopped. They were dying as mortals—facing death as Christ did, but the message they preached was giving spiritual life to those who accepted it.

Paul quoted from one of the Psalms, “I believed and therefore I spoke.” He had such a strong faith in Christ, that the insults, beatings and threats of death only made him more determined to spread the gospel of Christ. Even if he died, he knew that the same God who had raised Christ from the dead would also raise him and all of those who followed his teachings.

As he wrote these things to the Corinthians, Paul stated that it was for their benefit that he had endured these persecutions. He reminded them that a person’s fleshly body is undergoing constant weakening and decay, but that the spiritual body is becoming stronger every day.

Paul said that even as unpleasant as persecutions are, they are only a light affliction compared to the eternal glory that is to be enjoyed by the faithful. These earthly trials and tribulations are only temporary, but the spiritual things that one does not even see are eternal.

Since spiritual things are so glorious, Paul turned his attention to his desire to leave this life for eternal life with Christ. He referred to our earthly body as a house or tent in which the soul dwells while we live the physical life. One endures persecutions and the deterioration of this earthly body and yearns as a pupa in a cocoon for the new immortal body that God has prepared for the faithful. As the pupa leaves the cocoon with the body of a butterfly, man’s soul leaves the physical body and puts on an immortal body.

Another reason Paul desired an immortal body was that in the physical body, man is separated from the presence of Christ. He walks by faith and not by sight. When the Christian’s soul leaves the mortal body, it goes into the presence of our Lord and faith then becomes sight.

Paul said that his goal was to be pleasing to God in whatever state he was in. He made a most sobering declaration, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” ALL is an inclusive word! It means you and me! No one will be exempt or overlooked! BE PREPARED!

In view of the many blessings that come through obedience to God, Paul refused to be hindered by his enemies. He also knew of the dire consequences of failing to obey. These motivated him to convince the Corinthians of his sincerity as he presented the gospel to them.

Some of Paul’s enemies had questioned his sanity. He answered this charge by stating that if he was beside himself, it was to promote God and if in his right mind it was for the church. Whatever his mental condition was, he was focused on preaching the gospel and not on promoting himself.

Christ died so that all could have life. The apostle said that he was compelled to preach in order that the Corinthians and others could live.

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Aug. 17. Law of Moses Contrasted with Law of Christ

II Cor. 3:1-18

Since his enemies in Corinth had accused Paul of self-glorying, he used this as an additional opportunity to defend his credibility. They had put themselves forward by producing letters of introduction from various individuals and churches. He did not need letters to show that he was a true messenger of God. People could look at the Corinthian church and others and see the results of his labors without him having to produce letters of commendation.

In order to refute the teaching of these Judaizing teachers, Paul showed the contrasts between the old and new covenants. The old law had been written on stones, but the new law was written on the heart. There was no salvation, but death under the old law, but the new covenant of the Spirit gave life.

After being with God and receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses’ face shone so brightly that the people could not look upon him. This glory was so bright that Moses put a veil over his face so the people could then face him. Paul said that if that inferior law had that much glory, how much more glory the new covenant has. It is the difference between life and death. We are no longer under the Ten Commandment law.

This veil was lifted through the death of Christ. Just as a new federal or state constitution supersedes the old, so did the new covenant of Christ supersede the old Law of Moses. Good parts of the old law are sometimes kept—not because they were of the old law, but because they were included within the new law.

Paul used the veil as an allegory to show the inability of the Jews to visualize the truth of the new covenant. Even though Christ had lifted this veil of blindness, the Judaizing teachers still had it over their hearts when they refused to accept the new covenant. When a person truly seeks Christ, this veil is then removed.

There is still bondage of sin under Moses, but there is liberty from sin through Christ. Paul said that as one looks toward Christ, he becomes like a reflection of Him in a mirror. He indicated that this glory will continue to increase until the end of one’s life.

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Aug. 16. Instructions for Dealing with Penitent Sinner

II Cor. 2:1-17

If Paul had returned to Corinth too soon, they would have still been involved in the sins that he had condemned. He explained that their reunion would not be the happy occasion that he was now expecting. The sadness he felt when he wrote the first letter was now replaced with joy because of their repentance.

Paul had received word from Titus that the incestuous man whom he had condemned in his first letter had repented of this grievous sin. He urged the church to forgive and receive this man back into the fellowship because he had been punished enough. To continually isolate the man could discourage him and cause him to go back to his old life.

As Paul continued his letter, he reported how anxious he had been to meet Titus in Troas and how disappointed he was when they missed this meeting. Even though he had a great opportunity to preach at Troas, Paul was so concerned about the Corinthians, he departed and went into Macedonia.

Paul used an allegory of a triumphant king marching home with his captives to express his thanks for hearing of the repentance of the Corinthians. He was happy because of their triumph over this evil.

Preaching of the gospel was compared to the diffusion of the aroma of incense. The aroma became the aroma of death to those who rejected the gospel and the aroma of life to those who obeyed.

Paul stated that his preaching was not like those who “peddled” a false doctrine for personal gain, but that it was sincere as from God.

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Aug. 15. Paul’s Second Letter to Church at Corinth

II Cor. 1:1-24

Paul had left Ephesus with a heavy heart because of the persecution that was beginning against the church there and of his concern for the Corinthian church. He had hoped to meet Titus at Troas with encouraging news from Corinth, but he had not arrived when Paul got there. They then journeyed on to Macedonia where he did meet Titus.

After receiving a good report from Titus about Corinth, Paul along with Timothy began his letter to the Corinthian church. Since some of the Jews did not accept Paul as an apostle, he began by stating that he was indeed an apostle by God’s will or authority.

With his recent encounter with Demetrius and the worshippers of Diana fresh on his mind, Paul related how he had suffered for the Corinthians. He had been comforted by the fact that they had endured their own persecutions. Those who suffer are better equipped to comfort others who suffer and Christ will comfort all.

Paul reported the hardships that he had suffered at Ephesus and how God had delivered him from certain death at the hands of the Ephesians. He thanked the Corinthians for their prayers on his behalf, which also had helped to save him.

Original plans had been for Paul to go to Corinth on his way to Macedonia and to return through Corinth on his way to Judea. Since these plans had changed, some of the troublemakers at Corinth had continued to question his integrity as an apostle and his willingness to face them.

Paul assured the Corinthians that these changes were not through his own wisdom, but that his actions had been directed by God. They needed the additional time before his visit to make the corrections that he had called for in his first letter.

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Aug. 14. Ephesian Stay Concluded

Acts 19:11-20:2

Paul’s mission while in Ephesus continued to be productive. God used Paul’s ability to perform miracles to convince many of the people of his authority as an apostle and teacher from God. As in every society, there were the skeptics who did not accept him. Some of these were Jewish exorcists who had convinced the people through trickery that they possessed special magical abilities.

One group of these nonbelievers was the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest. After Paul had performed miracles in the name of Jesus, they also attempted, in the name of Jesus, to exorcise an evil spirit from a man, but the spirit stated, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” The man attacked them and they fled out of the house naked and wounded.

Many of the believers at Ephesus had continued to practice magic after becoming Christians. When word of this escapade had reached them, they confessed this sin and showed their repentance by bringing their instruction books to be burned. Others brought their books to be burned also. “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”

Paul began to make plans to go to Macedonia and Achaia on his way to Jerusalem and then on to Rome. He had sent Timothy to Corinth earlier, but for some reason, it seems that he had not made it that far. Timothy was now back in Ephesus and Paul sent him again along with Erastus, the treasurer of Corinth to go ahead of him to Corinth. It is very likely that Paul sent the letter (I Corinthians) by them to the church at Corinth while he remained at Ephesus.

Diana was a much-worshipped Ephesian goddess. She was so revered that a magnificent temple had been erected in her honor and silversmiths made small shrines of her for people to worship.

The preaching of Paul during the past two years had converted many of these idol worshippers and had reduced the demand for the small idols.

Demetrius, a prominent silversmith called a meeting of other silversmiths and explained their economic peril. He pointed out to them and to the other people assembled how Paul had endangered their livelihoods. In order to incite the crowd, Demetrius stated that even the temple of Diana was in danger of being despised.

The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was four hundred twenty-five feet long and one hundred twenty feet wide. One hundred twenty white marble columns sixty feet high supported the marble roof. The interior was decorated with elaborate paintings and sculptures and contained an image that they believed had been dropped from heaven by Jupiter.

Demetrius was successful in inciting a large uproar among the people. Some were shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Others were shouting different other things. Most of the crowd didn’t even know why they were there. Paul and his associates were in danger of being lynched.

Finally, after about two hours of disorder, the town clerk was able to bring order. He stated that they had courts and lawful assemblies to settle their problems. After warning them that they could be in trouble with Rome because of this uproar, he dismissed everyone.

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Aug. 13. Concluding Statements to the Corinthians

I Cor. 16:1-24

Paul turned his attention next to the question regarding the collection for the poor saints (Jewish Christians) in Jerusalem. One of the goals of Paul’s travels was to collect a contribution from the Gentile churches to aid the church in Jerusalem. The church at Antioch had started this aid several years earlier.

Since the first day of the week was the day Christians worshipped, Paul instructed the Corinthians to use this period as a time to contribute of their means for distribution to the Jerusalem church. Notice the significance of the first day of the week. Jesus was raised from the dead; appeared to His apostles; the church was established and the disciples met to break bread (eat the Lord’s Supper) on the first day of the week.

It was suggested by Paul that someone other than himself should be responsible for delivering the contribution, but if his going was necessary, they could go with him.

Paul informed the Corinthians of his plans to visit with them. He would see them after passing through Macedonia from Ephesus. His plans also called for him to stay in Ephesus until after Pentecost and it was possible that he would spend the winter at Corinth with them.

Timothy and Erastus had been sent by Paul to minister to the Macedonians and other churches along the way and Timothy was to go on to Corinth. He instructed them to respect him, even though a young man because he was doing the work of the Lord.

The final question from the Corinthians was regarding Apollos. He had gone from Ephesus to Corinth before Paul had arrived in Ephesus. Possibly because of the factions in Corinth, he had left and returned to Ephesus. Paul informed them that Apollos was not ready to return, but would go back to them at a convenient time.

As Paul began to end his epistle, he gave a brief summary of the problems that he had addressed with the Corinthians. He instructed them to, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”

The churches of Asia and also Aquila and Priscilla sent greetings to the Corinthians. This couple had been of great assistance to Paul during the eighteen months that he was in Corinth. They had followed him to Ephesus during his second missionary journey.

After having dictated the letter to a secretary, Paul added a salutation in his own writing. This authenticated his letter. He also added a statement expressing his love and care for the Corinthians as he called for the grace of Christ to be with them.

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Aug. 12. Grain of Seed Used to Explain Resurrection

I Cor. 15:35-58

After reaffirming the resurrection, Paul turned his attention to explaining how this resurrection would take place and what type of new body man would possess. He used an analogy from plant life. When a grain of wheat or any other seed is planted, it is resurrected as a new body, entirely different from that which was planted.

There are different kinds of bodies—plants, animals, birds, insects and humans. Various heavenly bodies also have differing characteristics.

Paul explained that man would have a new spiritual body. He did not describe its form or shape but that it will be different from the physical body that man now occupies. He did point out some of the differences between the two bodies.

The earthly body is sown as a corruptible, dishonorable and weakly natural body. It will be raised as an incorruptible, glorified and powerful spiritual body.

Paul described the contrasts between Christ and Adam. Adam, who came first, was a living being made of dust. All of mankind has lived in the image of Adam. Christ, who was second or last is a life-giving spirit from heaven. After the resurrection, all will live in the image of the heavenly Man. There will be no flesh and blood in heaven.

As he had explained to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul briefly described the resurrection. He said that not all will die before the end of time, but all will be changed from the corruptible fleshly body to the incorruptible spiritual body. Then death will be “swallowed up in victory.”

In view of the blessings of the resurrection, Paul instructed the Corinthians to “be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

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Aug. 11. Review of the Gospel

I Cor. 15:1-34

The next area of response that Paul made to the Corinthians was a review of the gospel. Some of them had doubts as to the reality of the resurrection. In order to rebuild and strengthen their faith, he started at the very foundation of Christianity.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that he had presented the gospel to them just as he had received it—directly from Christ by divine revelation. Jesus had left heaven and had come to earth to live among men and to die for their sins. After dying, He was buried and rose from the dead on the third day according to the prophecies of the Scriptures. He stated that they must continue in that gospel.

The facts of the gospel were borne out by witnesses—the Old Testament prophecies, various individuals, the apostles, five hundred others and last of all, Paul had seen the risen Christ. He stated that he was unworthy to be an apostle because he had persecuted the church. By the grace of God, he was serving in that position and he was working more abundantly than the other apostles because of his feelings of guilt.

Paul turned to logic to further explain the necessity for the Corinthians to accept the resurrection of Christ. He stated that he had preached Christ as risen from the dead. However, if there is no resurrection, He did not rise from the dead, which made Paul’s preaching and their faith empty.

Furthermore, if Christ had not been resurrected, the Corinthians and everyone else who had trusted and obeyed the gospel would still be in their sins. Paul and the other apostles and preachers would be suffering needless persecutions for a lost cause.

If there is no resurrection, man could live like animals and enjoy the present because after death they would cease to exist. They were wasting their time and effort on an imposter.

Paul affirmed that Christ had indeed risen from the dead. Because of the sin of Adam, all men die, but through the resurrection of Christ, all men will be resurrected to life and death will be destroyed.

The Corinthians were instructed to avoid those who would corrupt the truth. Such companionship would cause them to be confused and follow their false doctrine.

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Aug. 10. Worship Must be Decent and Orderly

I Cor. 14:1-40

After declaring the superiority of love, Paul turned again to the importance of the church’s spiritual gifts. The gift of prophecy gave Christians the ability to preach and teach God’s word to others. Speaking in tongues gave them the ability to be understood by people of different languages.

Paul explained that it was more important to be able to teach than to speak in tongues because teaching could edify more people. He further pointed out that a person speaking in tongues only edified himself if no one but God could understand what he said. However, he wished that all could speak in foreign tongues if the need should arise, but at that time prophesying or teaching was more important.

In order to prevent Christians from misusing their gift of tongues, Paul pointed out that it was useless to speak in an unknown tongue if no one could understand what was said. Even musical instruments cannot be understood if they are not played according to the plan or notes of the music.

Paul reasoned that one’s worship in prayer and song must be with the spirit and with the understanding. This cannot be done if the others present cannot understand the words being said. They will not be edified or built up. This also applies to highly educated speakers using words that their hearers do not understand.

Another example of the confusion caused by speaking an unknown language is found when a visitor hears unintelligible words. He may regard the worship service as bedlam. If he had heard teaching in his own tongue, he might have been convicted of his sins and been converted.

Paul gave instructions for women to refrain from leadership roles in the public worship. However, if only women were present, it was necessary for women to direct that worship. There are occasions in which a woman may be involved in teaching men in private settings.

If anyone still doubted Paul’s authority, he reminded them that all things that he had written were commandments from the Lord.

Paul concluded his remarks on prophecy and tongues by stating that even though prophecy was a greater gift, if necessary, tongues still had a place in the worship. Worship must be conducted in a decent and orderly manner, for God is not the author of confusion but of peace.

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Aug. 9. Importance of Love

I Cor. 13:1-13

The various spiritual gifts were important to the early church, but they were nothing without love. Love is the most wonderful of all emotions and attributes. Paul said that it was more excellent than their spiritual gifts.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…”

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Paul stated that if he spoke in tongues of men and angels, had the gift of prophecy, could understand all mysteries and knowledge, had faith to move mountains and even gave all of his goods to feed the poor and sacrificed his body, it would mean nothing if he did not have love.

Love is rich. Paul listed many of its qualities as he described this richness. The life and death of Christ were great examples of the love that he urged upon the Corinthians. Their divisions and strife were contrary to this love.

The various spiritual gifts that the Corinthians so highly valued were only temporary. Love is eternal! They were to aid and strengthen the church during its early years. After the church reached maturity and the written Word was available, there was no need for these gifts.

Paul compared the maturity of the church with the maturity of a child. As the church was maturing, it needed spiritual gifts as a child needs toys, school and other childish things. At maturity, these gifts were discontinued in the same way that the child puts away those things of his childhood.

Even in maturity, the church does not see the true image of truth and perfection, but only a blurred reflection as one who looks into a dim mirror. Christians understand the glory of heaven in the same way that a child understands the things of this world—very dimly. I remember as a small child looking into the sky and wondering how a person could get into such a small airplane. At the end of time when Christ returns, all things will be revealed face to face.

Paul stated that faith (one’s obedient belief in Christ); hope (one’s expectation of things to come) and love (God’s affection for man and man’s affection for God) will remain as long as the earth stands.

Love is the greatest of these three because love will remain into eternity while faith and hope will be replaced by the reality of sight at the end of time. Faith and hope are human and love is of God. They cannot exist and work without love for it is the basis of faith and hope.

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Aug. 8. Spiritual Gifts/Abilities Explained by Paul

I Cor. 12:1-31

As Jesus gave His farewell message to the apostles the night before His death, He promised them that He would send them a Helper (Holy Spirit) to guide them as they preached His gospel.

In order to strengthen and give credibility to the early church, God and Christ through the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to deliver various spiritual gifts to the new Christians. The Corinthians had a problem dealing with these gifts because of ignorance, pride and envy. Some were boastful because they thought that their gifts were greater than others. Those with lesser abilities were envious of the ones with greater abilities.

The Corinthians had been converted from idolatry. They had looked for different blessings from each god that they had worshipped. Paul reminded them that there is only one God and that all spiritual gifts came from the same source, His Spirit.

To correct the misunderstandings of the Corinthians, Paul began by comparing the church of Christ with the human body. As the body has many members with different functions, the church also has many members from varying social and economic backgrounds with different duties to perform as one body.

A Christian with the ability to prophesy or to teach was no greater than one who could speak an unknown tongue (language). Neither could the foot say that since it was not a hand, it was not a part of the body. All parts of the body and works of the church are important.

When one injures a hand, the whole body reacts to that pain. If the church functions as it should, all members will suffer pain if one member suffers or if one member is honored, all members will rejoice in that honor.

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Aug. 7. Conduct While Observing Lord’s Supper

I Cor. 11:17-34

Paul turned his attention next to the conduct of the Corinthians during the Lord’s Supper. Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper with His apostles the night before His death as a memorial to Himself.

Another consequence of the divisions of the Corinthian church Paul mentioned at the beginning of his letter was a total breakdown of the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Instead of love, union and communion with one another in Christ, they were eating their own food separately. Some were overeating and overdrinking while others had nothing because they had nothing to bring. They were eating a common meal instead of observing what Jesus had instituted as a solemn remembrance of His death.

Paul did not condemn eating fellowship meals in the church building. We do not know the types of facilities they used for worship services at that time. Their problem was with defiling the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord had instructed Paul in the proper procedure for the Lord’s Supper. He reminded the Corinthians that as they ate of the (unleavened) bread and drank the cup (fruit of the vine), they were proclaiming the Lord’s death “’till He comes.”

Paul further instructed the Corinthians to examine themselves (not others) and to eat the Supper in a worthy manner (remembering Christ’s death as the purpose). Anyone not properly observing the Lord’s Supper was sinning and needed to bring his thoughts and actions within the proper mode of worship.

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Aug. 6. Head Covering or Not During Worship

I Cor. 11:1-16

Another of the concerns of the Corinthians addressed by Paul dealt with the covering of one’s head during the worship. There were Romans, Jews and Greeks present in that church and they had different customs and ideas of proper headwear in the worship assemblies. He stated four illustrations showing how men and women are to show their humility and submission. There are differing opinions regarding this command. Following are comments gleaned from various commentaries on the subject.

First, Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christ is the head of man; man is the head of woman; God is the head of Christ. He stated that a man must keep his head uncovered and according to the customs of that time, the woman must keep her head covered to express her submission to the man. With an uncovered head, a woman could be mistaken for one of the temple prostitutes. A man with his head covered showed feminine characteristics and was disgraceful.

Second, the uncovered head of the man showed superiority created by God in that the woman was created from man and not the man created from woman. Even then, both man and woman must be submissive to Christ and to God. As being submissive to Christ does not dishonor the man, neither does being in subjection to the man dishonor the woman.

Third, it was natural that men should have short hair and the women to let their hair stay long.

Fourth, it had been the custom in the churches in other cities for men to worship with uncovered heads and women to have covered heads. In the Western culture in which we live, there is no custom requiring women to show submission by wearing a covering over their heads.

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