August 13, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 11)

Submitted by Ahmi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 11:1-2

  • What is the role of human examples in a Christian’s efforts to follow the example of Christ?  What kind of Christian relationships does this picture of discipleship envision?

Their role is to live it out in concrete ways so that others can see how to apply Christ’s example in everyday context. It is to show how relevant Christ’s ways are in all aspects of our decision-making, and not render it only to the lofty areas. When we’re not careful, it’s easy for us to agree to the teachings of the Bible but not live it out in practical, relevant, everyday decisions and habits. In order for the rhetoric to match the practice, we need to have human examples who have followed the example of Christ.

This kind of discipleship envisions a very close relationship where they know each other’s traditions, habits, and ways, and know the reasons for these traditions. They would not be a relationship where they just follow superficial actions or form mindlessly, without understanding the values and reasons for the tradition. The point of remembering and maintaining good traditions is to carry on their value, rather than just the actions. They would need to know what the value of Apostle Paul and others’ ways were, as they imitated him.  Apostle Paul was not looking for people merely to do what he did – the reason he goes at length to explain the reasons behind his instructions proves how important it was for them to understand, embrace and carry on the values that are important to maintain the integrity and oneness of the church.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16

  • As odd as this issue can seem, women who did not cover their hair during their times of gathering became an issue significant enough to warrant Apostle Paul’s strong instruction.  What are the principles involved? What might have been the arguments for a permissive attitude toward this?  What are the limits of personal choice and liberty in the church, and how do we reason through such potentially thorny issues?

The principles involved were: everything is lawful but not everything is helpful, that we have to do what helps the body of Christ, what helps one another engage in faithful worship rather than insist on our own rights. It was about being considerate toward others. It was about what we should do as free people with our freedom in Christ–which is to be a servant of all, deny ourselves for the sake of others, so that we do not become a stumbling block to anyone from knowing Jesus.

Some of the arguments for permissive attitude toward this might have been: “They are free and saved, and it does not matter whether our head is covered or not, and we do not need to conform to the traditions of the world.” Or “God knows and so it does not matter what others think.” Or, “It’s a loving thing to do for each person and it’s about grace anyway.”

The limits of personal choice and liberty in the church is a fine balance at times, because whatever we choose to do after being saved will not take away our salvation or add to it. So then, decisions about what choices to make and about stances that are important enough to address the entire church about as a whole, have to be made based on what actions will advance the gospel and whether we will help others build up their faith.

In the case of the Corinthian church, it was clear that the issue was whether their ways were stumbling others and taking away from proper worship. In light of that, the rights that they had of whether to cover or uncover their heads would have been minor and inconsequential.

  • Reflect on the spirit Apostle Paul commends here of the yielding of rights for the sake of not unnecessarily causing negative reactions in others within the church. What “rights” or ‘freedom” do I insist on that can potentially threaten the unity of the church?

I think there are a lot of “rights” or “freedom” that we can insist on that can potentially cause division and distraction within the church. In any community, our behavior and habits matter to one another. There is room for individual strengths that contribute to the body of Christ, but the ultimate end we have to consider as the driving force of our decisions should be whether it’s helpful for building up one another’s faith and oneness in Christ.

Submitted by Hank X. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 11:1-2

  • What is the role of human examples in a Christian’s efforts to follow the example of Christ?  What kind of Christian relationships does this picture of discipleship envision?

The role of human examples in a Christian’s efforts to follow the example of Christ is that these examples help to give a real and practical picture of what following the example of Christ is like. These examples are the demonstration of what Christian living is like, how to apply God’s word to our day-to-day life. In fact, the impact of such examples cannot be underestimated. They themselves in some way directly or indirectly set up a standard for those around them, especially those who look to them for guidance and inspiration. Apostle Paul himself set up a standard not only for the early day Christians but also for all of us. From him we see a clear picture of imitating Christ is like: zeal for the gospel, going place to place to plant the seeds; being a servant of all to win as many as possible; laboring hard for all the churches and at the same time speaking the truth in love to them—his deep sense of love and connection to them and his godly jealousy for them; persevering in suffering, both physical and emotional, inflicted to him by both non-Jews as well as Jews, non-Christians as well as Christians; and his joy and hope despite of all these, his boasting in his weakness and the grace of God. His example became a standard many Christians including us tried and are trying to imitate, as we see a clear picture of what genuine discipleship means in him.

As Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ, the kind of Christian relationships this picture of discipleship envisions is relationships that spur one another on and encouraging one another through one another’s striving to imitate Christ. As interconnected as we are as the body of Christ, one person’s devotion to God could have a rippling effect on those around him. It shows them that yes, God is real and God’s power is real, and God’s word can indeed be lived out in real life, and that encourages others to try to do the same. Therefore, we all have a role and a responsibility towards one another. How we live our Christian lives and how much we are imitating Christ matters to many others. For those who are in leadership positions, such role and responsibility is even greater as they have more influence over others and more people look up to them.

  • Who are some “imitators” of Christ around me that I can imitate?

What drew me to this church was indeed the imitation of Christ that I saw in so many of the older brothers and sisters, especially the older leaders. Their conviction of and devotion to God’s word, their unconditional acceptance of me, their genuine interest in my life, their concrete, sacrificial care for me. As years progressed and I have been in this church longer, I got more insight into the kind of zeal, faithfulness and steadfastness they have as well as the suffering they had to go through in order to win people to Christ and build up God’s church.

As a witness to these examples, I have come to appreciate the preciousness of the gospel much more as I see the power of the gospel being demonstrated right in front of my very eyes. It makes me understand more what it means “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” It is indeed a treasure—a treasure that no other can compare! Along with this appreciation comes a sense of duty and responsibility to imitate them so that I myself can become an imitator of Christ, in order that this treasure, this gospel can continue to be heard, seen, experienced, appreciated and passed down. I see my role now more clearly as an ambassador for Christ; I am standing at a very special place in history, and I am indeed standing on holy ground. Witnessing and holding the gospel now in my hand is no casual matter; the weight and the privilege of it are now upon me. And my prayer is that through all my struggles, that I may be a faithful steward of the gospel in my continual effort to be an imitator of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16

  • As odd as this issue can seem, women who did not cover their hair during their times of gathering became an issue significant enough to warrant Apostle Paul’s strong instruction.  What are the principles involved? What might have been the arguments for a permissive attitude toward this?  What are the limits of personal choice and liberty in the church, and how do we reason through such potentially thorny issues?

The principles involved here are what Apostle Paul already talked about in the earlier parts of this letter, that no one should let their personal choices cause other fellow believers to stumble and thus cause division in the church. Some may argue that restricts personal freedom and liberty, that it is such a small issue that why should the church care. Yet for Christians who are members of one body, church unity takes precedence over our personal freedom and liberty, and anything that could cause divisions is no small issue. We are called to build up God’s church, and that’s the overarching goal of our lives. If we are serious about it, then our personal choices and liberty shall submit to it. After all, self-limitation for the sake of loving God and loving others is a Christian virtue and what we are called to do, as Christ himself limited himself in the form of a man, of a helpless, sacrificial Lamb of God for the sake of saving us. If we insist on our personal rights at the cost of raising doubts in other believers and causing divisions in the body, we are not only being self-centered and selfish, but actually doing damage to God’s body and hindering kingdom work. And that’s the reason why Apostle Paul was addressing this issue in length and in repetition.

  • Reflect on the spirit Apostle Paul commends here of the yielding of rights for the sake of not unnecessarily causing negative reactions in others within the church. What “rights” or ‘freedom” do I insist on that can potentially threaten the unity of the church?

This spirit of the yielding of rights for the sake of not unnecessarily causing negative reactions in others within the church is a spirit that we all should strive to have. It’s ultimately a spirit of other-centeredness and Christ-centeredness, a spirit that says I am willing to sacrifice in order that God’s church may be built up and God’s kingdom may advance. It’s one way of bearing the cross and offering up our sacrifice to God.

If I justify my selfish choices as my “rights” and “freedom”, what comes with that will be isolation and relational coldness with other members of this body. It is a horrible thing to imagine what kind of discouragement my selfish choices will have on the people who think I am their CO-LABORERS, not to mention the kind of bad example I will set before younger brothers and sisters and stumble them—I will be allowing my own desires to water down the gospel, and becoming a potentially broken link in this relay race. I probably could never even see the whole picture of the kind of division in the unity of the church I cause with my “rights” and “freedom.”  May this image cause me to fear and help me to be ever vigilant to keep yielding my own personal liberty for the sake of the unity of the church, so that I could continue to be a positive force in our whole church contending as one man.

Personal Prayer

Father, I thank you for saving me and calling me and placing me in this body of Christ. I know how privileged I am in being a member of this church that you have specially anointed. You have set before me a cloud of witnesses, imitators of Christ living out a radical commitment to your gospel. You have let me witness all these and you have placed in my conscience the duty and responsibility to be an imitator of them and an imitator of Christ to pass on this precious gospel, which is the power of God. Help me to struggle with all your energy towards this goal, help me to be faithful till the end, even through all the ups and downs. And for the sake of this gospel, help me to be sensitive towards the unity of the body of Christ, and help me to yield my personal rights to the rights and the demands of the gospel. Not my will, but yours be done, and may your kingdom come. Give me grace to follow, and help me to fulfill my vow. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Joseph Y. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 11:1-2

  • What is the role of human examples in a Christian’s efforts to follow the example of Christ?  What kind of Christian relationships does this picture of discipleship envision?

In our effort to follow the example of Christ, human examples of those who are further along in the Christian walk are to be the concrete examples that we can look at and imitate in order to imitate Christ.

One image of what this picture of discipleship looks like is the imagery of parent and child.  When I think about Joshua, my three-year old son, some of the ways that he learns is through imitating my wife and me.  For example, he sees that I water the plants in our backyard, so he wants to water the plants also and when I fill his bottle with water, he goes about watering the plants the same way that he had seen me do it.  Another imagery of that this picture of discipleship brings up is between a Shaolin kungfu master and his disciples.  They live together in the Shaolin temple and his disciples learn to imitate the master in order to learn kung fu.  Both of these relationships conjure up a form of relationship that is close between the imitator and the one being imitated.  It envisions a picture where there is sharing of lives together so that patterns can emerge that the disciple can imitate.  Without close-knit lives, there cannot be imitation.

  • Who are some “imitators” of Christ around me that I can imitate?

Some “imitators” of Christ around me that I can imitate are the various leaders that I have and had in my life.  I have been able to see many of my leaders live with many responsibilities and try to apply the Word of God in their lives.  I can imitate my leaders who over the years have given their time to listen to me and in the same way I can imitate them to listen to those who come to me.  I can imitate my leaders who have been generous with their time and money for the sake of serving the gospel.

In addition to my leaders, I have the privilege of having peers who are faithfully serving God.  I can imitate one brother for his persistence and loyalty in friendship.  This is something that I admire about him and something which I can try to imitate.  I can imitate another brother who would always prioritize loving God over all other endeavors in his life, even if this led to more suffering in his life.  And I can go on and on of people in my life who are “imitators” of Christ that I can imitate.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16

  • As odd as this issue can seem, women who did not cover their hair during their times of gathering became an issue significant enough to warrant Apostle Paul’s strong instruction.  What are the principles involved? What might have been the arguments for a permissive attitude toward this?  What are the limits of personal choice and liberty in the church, and how do we reason through such potentially thorny issues?

The principles involved here have to do with an individual’s freedoms and rights versus church unity, proper representation of Christ and the proper attitude towards worship and authority.  By not covering the hair, it leads to divisiveness in the church between those who are contending for this right and freedom and those who find it to be offensive and shameful.  It also misrepresents the gospel by associating the practice of Christian prophecy with pagan worship since uncovered hair was associated with the cult practices of Dionysisu, Cybele and Isis.  Furthermore, it disrespects authority by going against the proper hierarchy that Christ has set in the church.  And ultimately, this rebellious attitude that demands one’s individual freedoms over the collective good, impacts the worshipper’s attitude toward proper worship to God.

The arguments for a permissive attitude toward this would have been very similar to the arguments used for food associated with idols.  One argument would be that it is not something that is explicitly prohibited in the Scriptures.  Another argument would be that in Christ, since they have knowledge that idols are nothing and there is no God but one that this issue of a women’s hair covering should not be a big issue and that one should be able to exercise one’s freedom that is given in Christ.  Another argument could be that the people who are prohibiting this are being too stuffy and they should loosen up.

Based upon this passage, the limits of personal choice and liberty in the church have to do with issues that deal with church unity, proper worship and conveying the correct message of the gospel.  Personal choices and liberties that negatively impact church unity, such as causing divisions, should lead to limiting of one’s personal choices and liberties.  Anything that disrupts other’s ability to properly worship God because the personal choice or liberties is causing distraction should also be limited.  And anything that confuses the correct conveying of the message of the gospel should also lead to curtailing one’s personal choices and liberties. All of these have to do with being mindful of others and limiting our personal choices and liberties for the sake of others.  We can reason through these potentially thorny issues in the same way that Apostle Paul did through examples in Scripture and even examples in everyday life, such as in our workplace, though one will need to be careful that this is consistent with Scripture.  It is also through thinking about the various principles that are involved and weighing personal choice and liberty with the other principles around proper attitude in worship, church unity and the consideration of others.

  • Reflect on the spirit Apostle Paul commends here of the yielding of rights for the sake of not unnecessarily causing negative reactions in others within the church. What “rights” or ‘freedom” do I insist on that can potentially threaten the unity of the church?

The spirit Apostle Paul commends here is a humble spirit of considering others better than oneself so that one yields one’s rights for the sake of others and not unnecessarily causing negative reactions in others within the church.


referencing commentaries by:

Bruce B. Barton, et al., 1 Corinthians, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 680.

Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997) 184-86.

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