Several places in 1 Corinthians angels are mentioned, notably in chapter 11 – “for the sake of the angels.” Gordon Fee emphasized that the angels were spiritual beings without gender, and that the confusion of the Corinthians was that they thought of themselves as being in this angelic ungendered state while still on earth.
This was behind the instructions in 1 Cor. 7 for people to carry on with life in the condition in which they found themselves when they became believers. Paul was explaining that the physical life was good and given by God.
While Fee was very frank about the fact that there was much about 1 Cor. 11 that he did not see as being clear or unambiguous, he made certain inferences. First, he maintains at all times that equality and mutuality are the basis of the male-female relationship in 1 Cor., based on chapter 7. Next, he notes that Paul establishes the good of the physical relationship and the good of celibacy.
So, going into chap. 11, men and women are equal and not necessarily married. That is the groundwork for understanding the chapter. And why the angels in verse 10? Because the angels are ungendered. However, the Christians at Corinth are to behave in a way that does not ignore the reality and the goodness of the two genders; they must demonstrate their recognition of the male-female distinction. Therefore, Fee favours the translation “angels” and not “messengers” in verse 10.
It is vital at this point for me to say that Fee and most egalitarians, as far as I know, believe in the complementarity of the sexes, but do not hold to a hierarchical view. They believe in mutuality and faithfulness (1 Cor. 7) as the fundamental basis for intimacy rather than authority and submission. They also believe in the wholeness of the single life, the completeness of the individual in Christ.
This lays a foundation for understanding the different main areas of teaching in 1 Corinthians, the teaching regarding marriage and the family, the unity of the body of Christ, and the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit. Fee admits that there are many things that we have not been told explicitly and it is best to simply accept that we are not going to uncover intentionality where there is none.
I want to thank Doug Chaplin for responding to my post on baptism. He brings up many interesting points. At this point we really don’t know whether pools were present or not in the houses mentioned in Acts – see Doug’s post and Peter’s comments. However, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Fee did not articulate any position regarding the necessity of baptism by immersion. On the contrary he put forth his view that the references to baptism in the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12 was metaphor to teach about the unity of the body of Christ.
In fact, it is the unity of Christians into one body in the Spirit that is Fee’s major emphasis. The only reason I have not spent more time on this is that it impinges more on hermeneutics than translation. I can only recommend Fee’s books for his overall teaching.