1 Corinthians is first and foremost a letter Paul wrote to a particular group of people living in a particular cultural setting. Read last year's DIG DEEPER post for help on determining when Paul's instruction should be applied to the universal church, and when it was just meant for Corinthians living 2,000 years ago.
v2-16 - Paul's been responding to particular questions the Corinthians had sent him these last few chapters, and this opening passage appears to be another of those responses. Although the particulars of this passage no longer apply to our culture, the principle that there must be good order in our worship services certainly remains. Here's how John Calvin summarizes this passage, "the one rule to be observed here is decorum. If that is secured, Paul requires nothing farther."
Paul praises the Corinthians for holding on to the teachings they've received.
The propriety of head coverings in church and appropriate hair lengths are issues that have gone by the wayside in our culture. Since this is really the only spot we read about this issue in the Bible, we can safely conclude this is a particular response to a particular question the Corinthians asked, and not a norm for all time.
Yet another enduring principle in this otherwise inapplicable passage is the concept of the complementary roles men and women have with one another. Here Paul describes the relationship in a way that's very contrary to our current culture: men and women certainly are equal in God's eyes, but yet men have been given a role of headship. Since this headship principle is something that is referred to often in both the Old and New Testaments, we must continue to seek to implement it in our homes and churches no matter how counter-cultural it is.
v17-33 - Paul responds to the Corinthians' abuses of the Lord's Supper.
First he outlines the problems:
They did not resolve divisions amongst themselves before coming to the Table;
They had turned it into a social dinner in which the rich people had plenty, and even got drunk, while the poor went hungry.
Verses 23-26 outline the proper way to take part in the Supper, and these words ought to sound familiar to you since it's the formulary we still use.