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[a] = summary lessons
[b] = exegetical analysis
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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
1 Corinthians 11:17-0 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 48 secs



The subject has shifted slightly in chapter 11 where the issue is public worship. The first 16 verses in the chapter dealt with the issue of role distinctions between men and women and that even in worship there are certain distinctions that must be maintained in order to represent the fact that one understands the authority structure of the universe. And this authority structure is ultimately grounded in the person of God, the three persons of the Trinity and their relationship to one another.

1 Corinthians 11:17 NASB "But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse." Now there is a shift. We saw in verse 2 one of the few positive statements that Paul has in this epistle: "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." He has praised them for the fact that they have attempted to be consistent with his teaching, even though they were making some errors in relationship to the head coverings, etc., but they were attempting to be consistent with what he had taught, there was no indication of the factiousness that characterized this epistle. In verse 17 he changes the tone from one of praise to one of correction. In these verses he is going to have to correct them because there are many abuses in the Lord's table. They were coming together and using the Lord's table as an opportunity to express their carnality through both gluttony and drunkenness.

We need to focus on what is alluded to in the background for what Paul says in these first three verses, for verse 19 is one that makes a point that few people recognize in local churches. Paul says: "In giving this instruction." Actually, what we have is a present active participle from PARAGGELLO [paraggellw] which means to tell or declare, to pass on an announcement, to advance an order, to give a charge or a command. The anarthrous participle here is a an adverbial participle of manner which describes the way in which he is speaking. In giving this instruction we have to go to the main verb. He says, "I do not praise you, so it is a negative statement from the word EPAINO [e)peinw], present active indicative first person singular plus the negative o)u, meaning "I do not praise you." Then he explains the reason in the next clause, "because you come together not for the better but for the worse." The words "you come together" is the present middle indicative of a deponent verb SUNERCHOMAI [sunerxomai], a technical term for the assembly of believers together, and a local church meeting for the purpose of worship; worship through singing hymns and praises to God, and worship through the study of God's Word, the highest form of worship. So they come together and the context is clearly public assembly, public worship. Then Paul uses another negative plus a purpose clause—eis plus the accusative indicates a purpose clause: not for the purpose of doing something which is better but something which is worse. The word translated "better" is an adjective form of the Greek noun kreisson [kreisswn]which derives from kratos [kratoj], meaning strength, and it denotes power and activity and it is used as a comparative adjective for the basic noun agathos [a)gaqoj] which means good. The indication is: You are not coming together for the good of intrinsic value, for that which is better; you are not really there for doctrine, but for the worse, another comparative adverb means for the lesser reason or the worse reason. They weren't there for the purpose of studying doctrine.

They were there for all kinds of reasons and doctrine probably wasn't in the top five on their priority list. They were there for emotional reasons, excitement and stimulation, on a power trip, to find out who was with what group and were associated with the various cliques and factions within the congregation, and what we discover here is they enjoyed coming to the Lord's table because it gave them an opportunity to eat a lot of food. In the early church they would eat together prior to the Lord's table, and they called that a love feast. They were imitating the Passover meal where the Lord and His disciples had sat down and eaten the Passover meal and then the Lord had instituted the Lord's table in the midst of that. But they were coming together to see how much they could eat and to gorge themselves, and then to enjoy the communion wine to the extent that it made them drunk. So the motivation was not to worship the Lord, it was not a Christocentric worship, it was a self-centred worship. This indicates that not all churches have it together and have a unified congregation.


a) Whenever you see in a congregation people who are working behind the scenes in various cliques and factions and in secrecy you know that carnality is in operation. There are divisions, factions, schisms in this particular group and that is clear from Galatians 5:17-19, that part of the work of the flesh is division and discord in a local congregation.

b) When you see division and dissension in a local congregation then someone somewhere is operating on their own agenda and not the Lord's, which means that carnality is motivating people, not doctrine.

c) There is no place in the local church for the kind of power politics and manipulations that take place in the corporate world.

1 Corinthians 11:18 NASB "For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it." A correction in the translation: "For, first of all" – proton [prwton], meaning first – or "firstly." Then, "when you come together as a church." Here we have the present middle participle of sunerchomai [sunerxomai] indicating the public worship of the local church; "I hear that divisions"—schismata [sxismata], indicating that there are factions or cliques inside the local congregation, people with different agendas. This is not a schism in the sense that they are splitting and going off and starting new churches, it is a schism in the sense that they divide up and have all this internal politicking inside the local congregation. Whenever that happens it means that there is carnality lurking somewhere. When there is a group that is in power and they are in carnality and have rejected doctrine, then because they are operating on a human viewpoint agenda, what happens is that the people in the congregation who are spiritual and are walking according to truth and by means of the Spirit, those who are positive to doctrine, are put in a very uncomfortable position; because now they have a group that has the high ground which has basically declared war on them as the enemy, and they have to do what they don't normally do and should never occur in a church: fight for control of that local church. Most Christians who are positive and growing don't want to get mixed up with that. But once the wrong people get in power, or the people in power go carnal and are operating on the human viewpoint pattern, then those who are spiritual don't have any option but to fight back. They have to fight back in the correct way but they do have to fight back.

The word "church" is the Greek word ekklesia [e)kklhsia] which is a compound word made up of the preposition EK [e)k] which means out of or out from, and klesia [klhsia] from klhsij, meaning to call. If it is broken out etymologically it just means to call out. The word has a rich history and goes back to Attic Greek, at least to the fifth century BC where it was used to refer to the political assembly in Athens. When the assembly met all the citizens in Athens would come together and they would all vote. The word is also used in various passages in Scripture in that same way. In Acts 7:38 ekklesia is used with reference to the Jews in the Old Testament, referring to an assembly. It is used that same way in Matthew 18:17 where it should again be translated "assembly" because there was no church then, it was still future. In another passage where it is used of the official government assembly is found in Acts 19:32, 39.

The first of the technical meanings for ekklesia has to do with the church as the body of Christ, the universal body of Christ. Ephesians 1:22 NASB "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church." This tells us one thing: that Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority in the local church. Ephesians 3:10 NASB "so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly {places.}" So the church provides a testimony to the angels; not the local church but the church universal. [21] "to Him {be} the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." [5:23] "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church [universal body], He Himself {being} the Savior of the body." Colossians 1:18, 24 NASB "He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything….Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." So when we use the word "church" we have to distinguish between the universal church and the local church.

1 Corinthians 11:19 NASB "For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." This is an explanation as indicated by the first word in the Greek which is gar [gar], indicating an explanation of a principle: "there must also be"— dei [dei], present active indicative of an unusual verb and it means simply that something is necessary, it is mandatory. Most people think that divisions and factions and schisms are something that is bad. That is not what the Word of God says. The Word of God says it is necessary, mandatory; not in and of itself but because it serves a higher purpose. Every now and then there needs to be a little blood-letting in a local church to get rid of the people who are negative and who haven't understood the doctrine that is being taught. There are times in the history of the local church when they are going to go through a little in-fighting and this is necessary in order to reveal who is learning the Word and who isn't; "so that those who are approved" – the Greek word dokimazo [dokimazw] which has the idea of passing a test in order to reveal that which is positive. It is an evaluation. So there are these tests in the life of a congregation where there is going to be some division and some disagreement, and it is going to reveal who has been listening to doctrine, who is putting Christ first, and who has understood the message and put the message in priority and not the man.

The doctrine of church leadership

1)  There are two categories of church leadership. The first is the pastor-teacher and the second is the deacons. We have to distinguish between the gift of pastor-teacher and the office of pastor teacher. Some men have the gift but don't hold the office and therefore they have no authority in a local congregation; they do not have authority until they are promoted by God into that position. Deacons are church officers, they are not professionals, they are men in the local assembly who are deemed to be mature enough to handle the responsibilities for the local congregation.

2)  The pastor should be a man who is seminary or Bible college trained, or perhaps he has trained or apprenticed in a local church. But there has to be some sort of training, you don't get training just listening to a tape recorder. It is in classroom discipline that the study skills and the discipline to study is gained, how to exegete the Scriptures in the original languages, plus the study of systematic theology and church history. And there should be the acquisition of some basic skills in the administration and leadership of a local assembly. The pastor-teacher must always be recognized, though, as the under-shepherd of the chief shepherd who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

3)  The difficult thing with deacons is that they exercise responsibility in two directions. That means they have to be flexible and you have to have good men who understand something about leadership and initiative when the time comes. The pastor is the final authority in the local church in respect to doctrine. The pastor is under the authority of the deacons insofar as he is to follow the guidelines of the church constitution and bylaws and the doctrinal statement. Those documents exist in order to take care of problems. The leadership of the deacons extends over the pastor only when the pastor-teacher violates the church constitution or doctrinal statement or fails to maintain the standards of behaviour outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Once the pastor-teacher is no longer able to feed the sheep then the deacons need to take some form of action.

4)  There are certain times when a church is prone to divisiveness and they split. This occurs when there is weak or no leadership either from the pastor-teacher or from the deacons. Another time when a church is prone to divisiveness or a split is when there is false teaching, or during a transition, for example when a pastor resigns, retires or dies and the deacons take over and they make mistakes. Another time of danger in a church is when they have a new pastor-teacher because they still have some loyalty to the former pastor and they have trouble shifting their loyalty to the new pastor. Another is a time if unprecedented growth.