Did you know Paul wrote that taking part in the Lord's Supper incorrectly could result in 'weakness, frailty' or an early death? Amazing but true.
Consider that if water baptism is done 'wrong' someone may choke on the water a little, but they will be fine. If the laying on of hands is placed on an incorrect part of one's body embarrassment and correction could be the result, but they could recover their mistake.
But Paul told the Corinthians that because some of them did not have their hearts right when receiving the Lord's Supper: "...some are weak and sickly among you, and some have died early." Wow. This is serious!
The culture of Corinth vs the culture of the Kingdom of God
Paul wrote his letter to the Romans from Corinth, which is proven in Romans 16:22-23: "I, Tertius, who wrote this letter greet you, and (Justus) Gaius my host greets you, Erastus the Treasurer of the city greets you, and Quartus, a brother."
In a 1929 archaeological dig, an engraved stone was uncovered in Corinth mentioning Erastus as Treasurer of Corinth. That proved Paul's letter to the Romans was written from Corinth.
This is important to us and our discussion of the Lord's Supper, because of the people mentioned in Corinth. They reflect part of the cultural and racial diversity in the body of Christ there. Acts 18:7-8 tells us the body of Christ included Jews, Greeks, and Romans, all gathering together in the home of Justus Gaius at the start.
The name 'Tertius' is the Roman numeral 3,
...and the name 'Quartus' is the Roman numeral 4. Tertius received dictation from Paul, which is why he wrote: "I Tertius, who wrote this letter greet you..." Only a few letters did Paul write personally*. The rest as far as we know, he dictated in whole or in part. *Galatians 6:11, Philemon 1:19; then Colossians 4:18, the salutation only, II Thessalonians 3:17 same.
When making a person a slave to the Empire, Romans took away the person's name and gave them a number, tattooing it on their forehead or wrist. Thus slaves 3 (Tertius) and 4 (Quartus) worked with Paul, as well as the Treasurer of Corinth, then a city of roughly 200,000 people. Slaves were peoples Rome conquered, so 3 and 4 were not Romans, but from other nations, other races.
The body of Christ has long been multi-racial and multi-cultural, getting along fine with each other. An example is Acts 13:1 in Antioch of Syria 5 prophets and teachers are named: Barnabas (Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean), Simon from Niger (ethnic Nigeria), Lucius of Cyrene (modern Libya in North Africa), Manean (Israel), and Saul of Tarsus (Syria).
It is no surprise then that slaves 3 & 4 are working with Paul and the Treasurer of the large city of Corinth. All are equal in Christ...amazing grace. But all was not well in Corinth. While Tertius, Quartus and Erastus may have had no issues with each other socio-economically or racially, others in Corinth did.
Prejudice in the church
In I Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul deals with a group of people who don't want to eat a meal nor the Lord's Supper with the others. They chose to meet separately for their meal, even to the point of drunkenness, before joining them, if at all.
Corinth was a sea port, thus a melting pot of ships and crews, owners and merchants of all walks of life. The motto of the city was 'Knowledge and liberty' which meant 'anything goes'. When some of these people became born again through faith in Christ, they all began meeting in the Roman Justus', home*. But that doesn't mean they were all instantly set free from their prejudices and bias. *Acts 18:7-8
Something else to know about Corinth
Greek women had great freedom, Roman women had varying degrees of freedoms, and Jewish women were separated from their husbands in the gatherings ('synagogue' is Hebrew for 'gathering').
The oral law (tradition/commentary) made them be quiet during meetings though nothing was said in the Mosaic law about wives being quiet in meetings - in part because of that, the degree of separation varied widely around the Roman Empire.
Greek wives often didn't wear veils. Roman wives usually did, a light 'see through' veil. Jewish wives as far as we know from history, usually wore a veil, but customs varied by region of the Roman Empire.
The ancient wedding ring
Veils were the custom to signify a woman was married. Veils were in their day what a wedding ring is in ours. The wives were finding their freedom in Christ and removing their veils when they entered a home for a (church) meeting. They were among friends and family in Christ, and they would remove them in their own home, so why not in someone else's home among family in Christ? That makes sense theologically, but not for the local customs.
Imagine going to someone's home today and removing your wedding ring as you enter the door. A wife could argue she is free in Christ to do so - and she would be right. But it would be dishonoring to her husband and to the Lord.
Everyone would wonder why you are dishonoring yourself, your husband, all in attendance, socially and culturally?Why dishonor the holiness of marriage by flaunting your freedom in Christ, thus dishonoring the One who binds your marriage together by the Holy Spirit?
And as Paul brought up, even the angels in charge of their family were dishonored by the flaunting of their freedom. He told them they may be free in Christ, but balance that by honoring your marriage and family by putting the veils on. He asked them 2x to look at the local custom and tradition, telling them to put the veils on accordingly.
(There used to be some in what was called 'hyper-grace' who said there was no sin, no accountability, for they were free in Christ. They didn't realize freedom in Christ is provided to empower us to holy lives, not to excuse sinful or improper behavior. As Jude v4 says, the ungodly turn the grace of God into an excuse for sensuality which denies and dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ.)
Now that the stage is set. The Corinthians were a racially and socially diverse group of people who all had different religious backgrounds before coming to the Lord. Next week we will get into the consequences to being a prejudiced person when receiving the Lord's Supper. Until then, blessings,
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