I Corinthians 11
by Mel Berglund
Introduction to Mel's writings:
The United Pentecostal Church is not perfect. Each local United Pentecostal congregation has it's own strengths and weaknesses. It is unreasonable to fault the entire United Pentecostal Church and its thousands of assemblies for mistakes that occur in a local gathering. It is improper and imprudent to ignore a series of complaints across our fellowship. Located at this web site are a group brothers and sisters who have been wounded in our midst. While you and I may not be the source of their hurt, we can we try to be a source of their healing. As mature believers in Christ, we adequately recognize that the church is not a showroom for faultless saints, but more often a hospital for the wounded in spirit. It is unfortunate when someone comes to our church with a genuine need, and ultimately leaves with unresolved problems and even deeper injury. I realize that the UPC is not for everyone. If someone finds that they can not embrace the doctrines of a "Oneness-Pentecostal-Holiness-Church", they should find a church that fits their beliefs. No organization can make everyone happy. Aside from that, we must admit when we have done wrong and hurt someone. The church must feel remorse and true repentance over offenses that we cause. In this spirit, I apologize for your hurt. I ask your forgiveness and pray that you will not loose faith in Jesus Christ because of His people. I do not apologize for the doctrines of the United Pentecostal Church, but rather for the way in which they may have been presented. The United Pentecostal Church strongly believes that it stands tall as a clarion of truth to the last generation. Doctrinal compromise is anathema within the ranks of the UPC, therefore patience, temperance and love must rule our spirit as the gospel is preached.
It will be noticed that many of the problems within our churches are the results of methodology used in local assemblies. (At this point I add that people are never a "problem" and should not be thought of as such. Problems are circumstances to be resolved, not people to be criticized.) Every organization has both good and bad qualities. The UPC is no exception. Problems that plague a church today may be gone next year. To deal with these local church issues, each local pastor has their own methods. In turn each district has due process for dealing with situations that spill out of the local assemblies. Some types of problems are reoccurring and appear on these web pages. The standards of the United Pentecostal seem to be a source of much of this conflict.
I have been involved with the UPC for over 30 years and I speak from the voice of experience. I personally know this church to be kind and loving in receiving me as a young man into its fellowship. I know this church as being forgiving of my failures. As a member of this church I believe in the message of the United Pentecostal Church.
I have prepared a series of Bible studies that I hope may help all of us to take a different look at some of our difficult issues, and in so doing, help us to find the grace to love one another. Up front I want to make it clear that I do not advocate:
I am opposed to legalism, but I feel that legalism is no worse than:
Therefore my advice to all who read these lessons is to:
In so doing we will never need a set of rules, for we will have become:
I welcome your comments.
Contention: (noun) debate, dispute, hostility
Paul's teaching on men's and women's hair comes to a culmination with an interesting verse found in I Corinthians 11:16:
KJV says "if any man" seem to be contentious, while the other versions translate this as "if anyone" wants to argue about this. The use in the KJV of the gender specific word: "man" impels us to ask the question: Is this possibly a gender issue?
In Strong's Concordance we see that the Greek term for "man" is not found in the original text, so the better rendering of the text must be: "if anyone".
KJV uses a phrase "we have no such custom" which appears to overrule all that Paul had just taught in the preceding 15 verses. The NIV and Living Bible give a different view to the phrase by translating these words to read: "we have no other practice" and "we never teach anything else than this". The use of the negative: "no" or "never" makes reference the object: "custom". This creates the phrase "We have no _____ custom". Into this blank the NIV fills in the word "other". However, the KJV translators chose to use the word "such". To suppose that because someone was "contentious", Paul would be willing to throw out a principle that he had just taught seems quite odd. This is especially true in light of what the Bible teaches about "contention", and what should be thrown out (see: Proverbs 22:10 at end of this study). The translation most suitable to the context is the NIV with the word "other". This shows the Apostle Paul defending what he had just taught, by saying: "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice".
Some have suggested that Paul is simply informing his readers of a local hair fashion popular in the city of Corinth during that time. This idea can be easily discarded by the fact that the Apostle addressed this epistle and it's contents to:
If this was just a local pagan hair style that Paul thought looked nice, why then would the Apostle chose to defend it with such lofty phrases as:
To teach that the Apostle is writing in the Bible to establish rules for the enforcement of local Greek hair trends is beyond rational thinking. This is shown by Paul warning the readers that failure to comply with this teaching would "bring shame to their head/Christ".
The term "ordinances" -KJV/"teachings" -NIV is used by Paul as he begins this section of the epistle. The Greek root used was "lahaqah" meaning: "a wish". In no other place in the KJV is this Greek word translated: "ordinance" . "Lahaqah" should not be confused with the term "ordinance" that was used by Paul in Ephesians 2:15 where he writes:
The word translated "ordinances" in the Ephesian epistle comes from the Greek word: "dogma" and not from the greek word "lahaqah". In Christ we are free from "dogma". Paul is not placing the church under a new "dogma" in I Cor. 11, but rather is making known to the "followers of Christ" something that has been "wished" for them. The one who is making this wish is not revealed, but if is not the Apostle Paul, then it is probably Christ himself.
In ending this section of his letter , Paul uses the term "custom" -KJV/"practice" -NIV to make clear the "one-accord-ness" among the followers of Christ with respect to this issue. The Greek word is "sunetheia" (sun-etheia) "mutual habit". This indicates that the "wish" expressed in these verses was a "practice" not only of Paul's, but a "mutual habit" among all of the churches.
In looking at the historical account of Paul's visit to Corinth, we find that his hair played an interesting roll during his stay there as recorded in Acts 18:18:
Paul stayed in Corinth "a good while" -KJV. As he departed Corinth , he entered into the neighboring city of Cenchrea where he proceeded to shave his head. The past tense used in the phrase "for he had a vow" indicates that the vow ended with the shaving of his head. This indicates that the Apostle had been keeping a vow while in Corinth. The shaving of the head was a Jewish custom (temporary Nazarite vow) that was sometimes made to express gratitude for God's deliverance. This practice was occasionally followed by Jewish Christians who were zealous of keeping the law as seen in this account from the church in Jerusalem:
While Paul, a Jewish convert to Christianity, would see nothing wrong with making a Nazarite vow, he would not want this practice to be brought into the church. Paul probably did not cut his hair (because of the Nazarite vow) during the "good while" that he dwelt in Corinth. This would have given the impression to the Gentile Christians in Corinth that Paul approved of longer, uncut hair on a man. While the Greek Christians at Corinth would not have understood the meaning of the Nazarite vow, they possibly would want to copy Paul's hair style. A vow typically lasted up to a year, so his hair could have been a bit shaggy about the edges. The Nazarite vow was strictly Jewish, and Paul would not want it to become a part of the Gentile church.
Later by writing to these Corinthian Christians, he sought to clear up this misunderstanding about hair. He "wishes" that the church would follow the "mutual habit" that comes from "following Christ" rather than the long hair that came from following a "Nazarite vow". Several notable figures in scripture had taken Nazarite vows. Samson and John the Baptist are the most notable among the keepers of this vow. Missing from that group would be Jesus Christ. Scripture makes it clear in Matthew 11:18 that Jesus was not a Nazarite where He says: "John came neither eating nor drinking,...The Son of Man came eating and drinking". Jesus said this in reference to the Nazarite vow that also forbade eating grapes or drinking any type of wine. Jesus was not a Nazarite, nor did He have long hair. Paul uses Jesus as the example of a short haired man when he writes: "Be ye followers (follow my example) of me even as I am also (following the example) of Christ" - I Cor. 11:1.
Paul, in making the statement: "Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ" seems to be putting himself on a pedestal. However, a closer examination of this verse will show that his intended message may be quite the opposite. By living under a Nazarite vow in Corinth, Paul had been following an Old Testament law. In making such a vow, he did not have Jesus Christ as his example. Jesus not only was never a Nazarite, our Lord teaches against the taking of such a vow as shown in Matt 5:36 "Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black". (KJV)
It appears that the Corinthian believers had imitated the Apostle in the the outward practice that he had inadvertantly set during his stay with them. (Remember how the Beatles affected the hair style of an entire generation?) In an effort to correct this situation Paul points to Jesus, a better example than he had been. He requests: "Follow me when I follow Christ" -paraphrased. The word "follow" is from the Greek "memetes; root: mimeomai" meaning: "imitate". This word is found in our modern term: "mimeograph". Paul is correcting his past error by encouraging the saints in Corinth to: "Seek to imitate me (only) as I am projecting the image of Christ". The Apostle Paul had not followed Christ's example in his vow by letting his hair grow. Now he seeks to set the record straight by claiming to be worthy of imitation only in that which is based upon the pattern set by Jesus. If a "Nazarite hair style" had been spawned among his loyal followers in Corinth, Paul wrote this sentence to set the record straight as to his hair length now.
Paul also writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 "For ye, brethren, became followers (memetes: imitators) of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus:" (KJV) There was a "one-accord-ness" or "similarity" among the all the believers in the early church that Paul encouraged. In respect to Paul possibly having given the wrong impression with his vow while living in Corinth: The early church and Apostles were not above error in regards to the keeping of the law. One time Peter made a similar mistake with respect to Jewish diet and Gentile believers.
In ending this section of his epistle, Paul addresses the fact that some believers might become "contentious" over this "wish" for a "mutual habit" that was "practiced" among the "followers of Christ". The ones who would likely argue against Paul's teaching would be the zealous Jewish converts. They wanted to be under the law. In the 1960s it was the hippies who argued with this particular teaching of Paul's. They did not want to be under any authority or law. In those two groups we see the two extremes of the "law-keepers" and the "law-less" both at opposition with the teachings of the Bible. In this verse, the KJV and NIV both use the term "contentious" while the Living Bible uses the word "argue". The Greek term is "philoneikos" (philo-neikos) and it means: "fond of strife".
Ample scripture is at hand from the book of Proverbs, "the book of wisdom", to shed some light upon the type of personality that is "fond of strife" and "wants to argue". (All KJV)
A Christian with this personality trait has a more serious problem than the length of their hair. While hair length may not be a matter of salvation, the contentious soul is in danger.
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August 23, 1997
Posted March 18, 1998
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