“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24).
1 Corinthians chapter sixteen represents the final stop on our journey through this important Biblical letter. One commentator provides us with a good summary of the various destinations we’ve visited on our tour throughout this challenging epistle and helps prepare us for what lies ahead…
“Corinthian arrogance is manifested in paradoxical ways. They are at once reluctant to judge serious wrongdoers within the congregation (ch. 5) and anxious to take Christians guilty of petty grievances before pagan courts (6:1-8). Some visit prostitutes (vv. 9-20), while others consider marital intercourse a sin (7:1-40). Some are so strong as to disdain idols as nothing, others so weak as to have scruples about eating meat once offered to idols (chs. 8-10).
They are zealous for some traditions and flaunt others; they celebrate the Lord’s Supper, but not really (ch. 11). They are infatuated with spiritual gifts, yet they have no understanding of their purpose (chs. 12-14). They deny the future resurrection of the dead while practicing baptism in behalf of the dead (ch. 15). Not surprisingly, Paul urges them to mend their ways before his next visit (ch. 16).” (1)
Here now in chapter sixteen, Paul the Apostle will conclude with a few practical directives along with a number of personal asides that we can separate into four distinct portions. The first and third of these sections each begin with a term that Paul has already used throughout this epistle: “Now concerning…” Just as we’ve seen previously, Paul’s use of this phraseology signals the fact that he is about to offer a response to a question that the Corinthians have asked of him.
The second portion of this letter will address Paul’s future itinerary. A look at the way that Paul qualifies these upcoming travel plans will provide us with some valuable tools that we can use in managing the daily activities of life. The fourth and final section of this chapter will consist of some personal greetings as well as an ominous and somewhat unexpected message: “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
In addition to the practical insights that are contained within this portion of Scripture, the diligent reader will also uncover some God-honoring strategies for daily living as well as a number of sound Biblical principles for financial giving here in 1 Corinthians chapter sixteen- and we’ll begin our look at those principles next.
(1) Lyons, George. “III. Attention To Problems (5:1-16:12)” In Asbury Bible Commentary. 1003. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1992.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
Our 21st century information age offers a greater platform for the solicitation of financial support than has ever existed before. How should we appraise such financial requests and adopt a true Biblical perspective in regard to giving? Well, the opening verses of 1 Corinthians chapter sixteen will help provide us with some insight into this important topic.
This portion of Scripture begins with a reference to “…the collection for the saints.” While this specific group of Christians will not be identified until the following verse, we already know from other portions of Scripture that the first-century church at Jerusalem was experiencing a great deal of financial difficulty during this period.
There are a number of clues scattered throughout the New Testament that may serve to explain why the church in Jerusalem had fallen into such financial distress. For instance, Acts 6:1-6 tells us that the members of the Jerusalem church were providing support for two separate groups of widows who had no other means of income. We also know that the people of that area were suffering under a severe famine as well (Acts 11:27-30).
Its also likely that many Christians in the Jerusalem area had been ostracized for their decision to follow Christ. In the tightly-knit communities of that era, such a decision could have easily resulted in a severe economic hardship. The Biblical book of Hebrews may also help to shed some light on this possibility…
“Remember how it was with you in the past. In those days, after God’s light had shone on you, you suffered many things, yet were not defeated by the struggle. You were at times publicly insulted and mistreated, and at other times you were ready to join those who were being treated in this way.
You shared the sufferings of prisoners, and when all your belongings were seized, you endured your loss gladly, because you knew that you still possessed something much better, which would last forever” (Hebrews 10:32-34 GNB).
Finally, the first-century Christians in Jerusalem followed an economic policy that may have led to some unanticipated effects. We’ll consider that policy and look at the potential ramifications that may have stemmed from it next.
“Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NLT).
The first-century Christians in Jerusalem followed an economic policy that was highly commendable but may have ultimately contributed to some unexpected consequences. You see, Acts 2:44-45 tells us about the way in which the first-century Christian community at Jerusalem functioned: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
So the Christians in Jerusalem held joint access to their community’s resources during this time. (1) Although this may seem to represent an admirable economic system in theory, the problem is that it does not take the unfortunate realities of sinful human nature into full account.
For instance, let’s consider the possibility that some individual members of the community may have become negligent in their contributions or had begun to abuse this system. In that instance, it wouldn’t have been long before the others would start to experience the negative economic effects.
This may serve to explain why Paul the Apostle had to issue some very explicit instructions in this regard to another first-century church…
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 NIV).
(1) While some have tried to associate this arrangement with a form of 20th century Communism, one key difference is that these Christians voluntarily chose to adopt this policy instead of being coerced by law into the surrender of their property.
“With regard to the collection for the saints, please follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia: On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NET).
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 4:17, Paul the Apostle spoke of his intent to send a fellow worker named Timothy to meet with the members of the Corinthian fellowship. Paul’s desired outcome from that meeting was expressed as follows: “(Timothy) will remind you of what I teach in all the churches wherever I go” (TLB). So Paul’s commitment to consistency was symbolized by the fact that he communicated the same message to the local assemblies in Galatia as he did to the Corinthian church with regard to these fundraising efforts.
A closer look at the original language of this passage can yield a number of helpful insights that we can use whenever we encounter similar opportunities to offer financial support to others today. First, one commentator offers the following observation concerning the word “collection” as found here in 1 Corinthians 16:1…
“The Greek word for collection is logia. It means, ‘an extra collection,’ one that is not compulsory. This was not a ‘tax’ upon the Christians of Corinth. They were free to give as their heart directed them. It is also possible that the sense of ‘an extra collection’ refers to the idea that this was a collect to receive gifts above their regular giving. Paul may be receiving a special offering for the poor of Jerusalem.” (1)
However, Paul’s use of the phrase “I have given orders…” (NKJV) regarding these fundraising efforts suggests that this was a directive and not an option for these churches. In fact, this language identifies an action that had been appointed, ordained, or prescribed for the church to follow. (2) While this idea of a “voluntary but compulsory” offering seems inconsistent, there is a way to understand this mandate that makes good sense.
You see, the Corinthians were at liberty to decide whether to participate in this collection. But notice that Paul specifically identified the recipients of this offering as “the saints” and not simply as “the poor.” This would serve to alert the Corinthians to the need that existed among the other members of God’s family. Having anticipated that the Corinthians would readily seek to assist their brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul assumed the responsibility to direct the manner in which their support would be collected and distributed. (3)
(1) David Guzik 1 Corinthians 16 – A Collection and a Conclusion © Copyright – Enduring Word https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-16/
(2) G1299 diatasso https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1299&t=KJV
(3) See also 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” However, the book of 2 Corinthians will go on to reveal that the actual act of collecting this contribution may have been more difficult than Paul anticipated.
“Now, concerning the collection of money which is for the saints, even as I gave orders to the local assemblies of Galatia, thus also as for you, you do the same. On every first day of the week let each one of you have the habit of putting aside at home whatever he may be prospered in, accumulating and keeping it in reserve, in order that when I may come, then there may not be any collections” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Wuest).
The principles for financial giving found here within 1 Corinthians 16:2 can help us make God-honoring decisions in regard to such offerings. They can also enable us to respond appropriately if and when we are confronted with the questionable fundraising tactics that are sometimes employed by those who seek to solicit our financial support. For example…
On the first day of every week. This implies that our financial offerings are priorities that should be addressed whenever God’s people assemble to worship Him at the beginning of the week.
each one of you. In other words, financial giving is a responsibility that extends to everyone, regardless of his or her status.
should set aside a sum of money. This tells us that charitable giving should be treated in the same way that we would treat any other budgetary item.
in keeping with his income. Note that financial giving is tied to the level of our income. It is not associated with the money we may have left after we have made other purchases nor does it imply that we obligated to give beyond a level that we can realistically afford. We are simply instructed to set aside an amount that corresponds with the financial blessings that God has extended to us.
so that when I come no collections will have to be made. This common-sense directive can help protect us from any issues that may arise from the act of making a financial commitment without sufficient forethought.
Keeping these basic principles in mind will help put us in the best position to provide regular, consistent support for our local church fellowships. They will also enable us to prayerfully assist in underwriting other ministries that are deserving of our support as well.
In addition, a person who observes these standards is less likely to fall prey to any number of dubious and/or manipulative fundraising techniques. Instead, a ministry that recognizes and supports these sound Biblical principles will encourage others to abide by them and shun the kind of fundraising tactics that reflect poorly upon Jesus and His church.
“On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 HCSB).
This concept of “giving in accordance with our income” can be illustrated by an episode from Jesus’ life that is found within the New Testament gospel of Mark. We’ll take a closer look at this incident over the next two studies for it provides us with some real-life insight into the principles found here within 1 Corinthians 16:2…
“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans” (Mark 12:41-42).
The temple in Jerusalem featured a public fund box that was available for anyone who wished to make a charitable contribution. The “mite” referenced here was a small copper coin that represented about 1/128 of an average workers daily wage. However, the relative value of these coins only represents half the story…
“So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:43-44).
A widow (young or old) could easily find herself in desperate financial straits in the New Testament era. A widow with no family to assist her and no prospects for remarriage was someone who was in real danger of living in poverty for the rest of her life. Thus, this incident tells us that Jesus takes note of the circumstances that influence our ability to give regardless of how small or insignificant such offerings may appear to be.
We should also observe that this poor widow generally followed the principles that are recorded for us here in 1 Corinthians 16:2. She had her money set aside, she brought it at the designated time of worship (1) and she gave according to her prosperity, as limited as it was. While we might contend that it would have been prudent for this widow to retain a portion of her offering, this voluntary contribution fulfilled another New Testament principle that we will later go on to read in 2 Corinthians 9:7…
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
(1) Which for her would have been from sundown on Friday evening to sundown on Saturday evening.
“On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV).
The real-life example of the poor widow’s offering found in Mark chapter twelve serves to illustrate an important concept that is contained here within 1 Corinthians 16:2: we should give in accordance with the blessings that God has provided for us.
This widow gave what she had and Jesus in turn, used her gift as an object lesson for His followers. Thus, her seemingly miniscule offering provided a lesson that has served to benefit untold multitudes of others to this very day. Her example also brings to mind a passage from 2 Corinthians 8:12: “If you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t” (TLB).
This portion of Scripture should also prompt us to assess the manner in which we are using the other resources that God has provided for us. For example, a look at the way in which we utilize the gifts, skills, talents, and abilities we possess will quickly reveal the things that represent our true priorities in life. Would these things reveal a pattern of faithfulness in utilizing the time and resources that God has entrusted to us?
Jesus once illustrated the eternal worth of these investments with the following piece of advice: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too” (Matthew 6:19-21 TLB).
Jesus also went on to tell us…
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?” (Luke 16: 10-12 NLT).
Remember that our offerings may appear to be relatively small in value but they can return great dividends when they are placed in the hands of the master Investor. If we are diligent to put something aside each week as we may prosper, we have an opportunity to support the work that God desires to do and thus secure an eternal dividend.
“On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT).
We can conclude our look at this portion of 1 Corinthians sixteen with one final observation. A person who faithfully employs the principles of financial giving found here within 1 Corinthians 16:2 is someone who will be provided with a greater opportunity to invest his or her resources for eternity, for as Jesus Himself once said…
“Everyone who uses what they have will get more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what they have will have everything taken away from them” (Matthew 25:29 ERV).
One source offers some additional insight on this passage…
“When we come to the New Testament, the issue is stewardship. Stewardship eclipses all these other standards, because stewardship is an acknowledgement that everything we possess already belongs to God.
As a steward of that which is His, the critical issue of stewardship is to be faithful in the way we manage His resources. The criterion for giving in the New Testament is ‘As God has prospered us.’ Paul will teach in his next letter to these Corinthians, that stewardship is not based on what we do not have, but on what we have.” (1)
This idea is sometimes expressed by way of some clever wordplay in saying that we ought to give God what is right and not what is left. In a similar sense, Paul the Apostle wanted the Corinthians to “do the right thing” in regard to this offering. This would enable Paul to spare them from the act of holding them accountable for joining the other regional churches in support of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
So to summarize, this passage (along with 2 Corinthians 8-9) provides us with some basic guidelines for New Testament giving…
- Everyone must participate.
- Financial giving should be seen as a regular budgetary item.
- Giving should take place according to a set schedule (i.e. on the first day of every week).
- We should each give in accordance with how God has prospered us.
- Giving should be done as a priority, voluntarily, and joyfully. (2)
Finally, the Old Testament book of Proverbs provides us with an important reminder in this regard: “It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself” (Proverbs 11:24 TLB).
(1) Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College International Booklet Nineteen Verse By Verse Study Of First Corinthians (Part 2) “Chapter Twenty-three Now Concerning the Collection (I Corinthians 16)” [pg 41]
(2) See Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, 1 Corinthians 16 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL06/VOL06A_16.html
“And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me” (1 Corinthians 16:3-4).
There were no modern-day banks or other financial institutions available to facilitate financial transfers in the New Testament era. Instead, all financial transactions involved the use of metal coinage. Coins offered the advantage of durability but as anyone who has ever collected coins in a jar can attest, a large number of coins can become quite heavy and difficult to move.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to read that Paul the Apostle sought to involve a number of representatives from the Corinthian church in transporting this financial gift to Jerusalem. It also helps to remember that the travel distance between Corinth and Jerusalem was well over 1000 miles (1600 km), a journey that would have involved both land and sea travel and taken weeks to complete.
But in addition to these manpower requirements, Paul the Apostle also recognized the need to ensure financial accountability by asking the Corinthians to select a group of individuals to represent them. For Paul, the money itself was only one factor to consider; another important factor involved the need to ensure that all the money was safely transported to its intended destination in a manner that was above suspicion.
One source provides us with three questions that can help ensure that we observe a similar degree of financial accountability today…
“If we want to be the best stewards possible of the money God has entrusted to us, we should ask at least three fundamental questions before giving the Lord’s money to an organization.
1. Who are the people asking for the funds? If you are not personally familiar with exactly what the organization does, get a list of references from that organization that can be verified through other well-known groups. Ask for a doctrinal statement to determine whether or not the ministry is communicating a message true to Scripture. Notice how people respond to the message. Are goals being accomplished and is the ministry bearing fruit?
2. For what purpose will the funds be used? Ask for a projected budget. At times you may want to specify exactly where your gift will be applied.
3. How are funds raised and managed? It’s wise to ask if a fund-raising group is involved and what percentage of the funds go to that group. If more than 25 percent of the resources are being used for fund-raising, be suspicious. A good indication of financial management is the debt-income ratio and changes in overhead expenses from year to year.” (1)
(1) Copyright © 1999 by Christian Financial Concepts. All rights reserved. https://www.crown.org/
“Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits” (1 Corinthians 16:5-7).
In Acts 18:1-11 we read how Paul the Apostle departed from the city of Athens and made his way to Corinth. During that time, Paul met up with a married couple named Priscilla and Aquila (both of whom will be named later in this chapter) and worked to establish the Corinthian church. Paul then stayed in Corinth for a number of years and later made his way to the town of Ephesus (Acts 19:1). It was during this latter period that Paul wrote the letter that we know today as 1 Corinthians.
Paul’s original intent was to return again to Corinth once he completed his tour through the region of Macedonia as we see in the passage quoted above. One source tells us how the weather and first-century travel conditions might serve to influence those travel plans…
“The easiest way to travel to Corinth from Ephesus was to cross over by boat from Troas in Asia Minor to Philippi in Macedonia, then to take the westward road and turn south into Greece (as in Paul’s second missionary journey in Acts; see Act_16:7-9). The seas were closed for travel in the winter; if Paul were in Corinth once the seas closed, he would stay there until they opened in the spring.” (1)
We’ll later learn from 2 Corinthians 1:15-16 that Paul had actually wanted to visit with the Corinthians twice; once on his way to Macedonia and again on his return trip. Unfortunately, we’ll later find that Paul had to change those plans and return to Corinth for a painful meeting…
“This is the third time I am coming to visit you (and as the Scriptures say, ‘The facts of every case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’). I have already warned those who had been sinning when I was there on my second visit. Now I again warn them and all others, just as I did before, that next time I will not spare them” (2 Corinthians 13:1-2).
That “in-between” visit must have been a difficult encounter but that is a subject for another time. For now, we’ll continue to focus upon Paul’s travel plans and his use of the term “if the Lord permits” next.
(1) Craig S. Keener The IVP Bible Background Commentary: [1Co_16:6]
“For I do not want to see you now in passing, since I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows” (1 Corinthians 16:7).
1 Corinthians 16:7 may seem to be a relatively inconspicuous verse in the midst of a letter that has dealt with such weighty topics as marital relationships (chapter seven), communion (chapter eleven), spiritual gifts (chapters twelve and fourteen), and the nature of love (chapter thirteen). However, there are some important principles contained within this passage that we would do well to uncover and observe.
First, this passage suggests that Paul the Apostle saw the value associated with planning ahead. In this instance, Paul’s short-term plans involved an extended visit with the Corinthians following his stay in Ephesus (verse eight) and a journey through the region of Macedonia (verse five). Other portions of Scripture tell us that Paul established a similar itinerary in regard to the church at Rome (Romans 15:22-25, Acts 19:21) in addition to some other future travel plans (Titus 3:12 and many portions of the book of Acts).
These verses tell us that Paul gave consideration to how his time might best be invested and planned his schedule accordingly. However, we should also note that Paul inserted an important qualifier as well: “…if the Lord permits” (AMP). While Paul assumed the responsibility to make good use of his time, he also recognized that his agenda was subject to the sovereign will of God.
This brings to mind a passage from the New Testament book of James…
“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:13-15 NLT).
So the fact that God exercises ultimate control over the agenda of our lives should not preclude us from prayerfully planning and executing a schedule that makes good use of the time and opportunities that are available to us. Nevertheless, Paul’s example reminds us that such plans should be made with God’s ultimate agenda in mind. It is extremely presumptuous to make plans for the future with little or no concern for God’s will and Paul made certain to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over his anticipated travel plans.
“But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)
“Pentecost” is a word that is associated with the fiftieth of something in order or quantity. In first-century Jewish society, the word Pentecost was generally identified with the feast that began on the fiftieth day following the annual Passover celebration. Pentecost traditionally memorialized the date when God’s Law was delivered to the nation of Israel and its observance was somewhat similar to the harvest or Thanksgiving holidays that some modern-day countries celebrate today.
Here in 1 Corinthians chapter sixteen, it seems that Paul the Apostle utilized this holiday as a convenient way to mark his upcoming schedule. One source explains why Paul may have referenced this feast in regard to his travel plans…
“As you read some of the literature of that day, you discover that Pentecost, which comes 50 days after the Passover time, is the time when shipping resumed in the Aegean Sea. During the winter months it was impossible for these frail little boats to survive in the great storms that would sweep through the Mediterranean, but by Pentecost the weather had calmed and shipping would resume. Paul is simply taking that into account, and he is basing his plans on that fact. This in line with the normal circumstances of life.” (1)
Another consideration that served to influence Paul’s anticipated schedule was this: “In spite of the fact that there are many opponents, a big and productive opportunity has opened up for my mission here” (CEB). The New Testament book of Acts provides us with some further information regarding the ministry opportunity that Paul references here within this passage.
You see, Acts 19:8-10 tells us that Paul spoke for an extended period at local synagogue in Ephesus and later moved to a lecture hall where he continued teaching for an additional two years. The result was that “…all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Unfortunately, we’re later told that riotous opposition eventually arose against Paul in Ephesus (see Acts 19:23-41). This may help to explain Paul’s allusion to the numerous adversaries he encountered there.
Nevertheless as another commentator observes, “It says something about Paul’s perception of his ministry that the presence of opposition was a sign to him of the viability of his labor and reason for pressing on, not running away (cf. Act_19:30-31). Those who opposed him in Corinth (1Co_4:18-21) probably took note of this” (2)
(1) Ray C. Stedman, Giving and Living © 1979, 1995 by Ray Stedman Ministries https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/1-corinthians/giving-and-living
(2) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck Bible Knowledge Commentary [p.547]
“And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11)
As we move towards the end of this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul the Apostle will now go on to acknowledge a number of mutual friends and fellow ministers in Christ before closing with a forewarning, a benediction, and an expression of heartfelt love.
As mentioned earlier, the “Timothy” referenced within this passage is someone who perhaps is best known for the two New Testament letters that bear his name. Within those letters we find that Timothy was someone who had been acquainted with the Scriptures from his youth, undoubtedly through the efforts of his God-honoring mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 3:15).
Timothy is mentioned by name more than twenty times within the pages of the New Testament and he is identified there as a true son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2), a person of proven character (Philippians 2:22). and someone who was genuinely interested in the welfare of others (Philippians 2:19-20). In addition, Timothy personally accompanied Paul on a number of his missionary journeys and is also listed as a co-sender on many of his New Testament epistles.
However, it also appears that Timothy was someone who suffered from a number of physical infirmities as well as someone who relatively young and inexperienced (see 1 Timothy 4:12 and 1 Timothy 5:23). These insights may help to explain Paul’s cautionary message to the Corinthian church here in 1 Corinthians 16:10: “If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear from you, because he is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am” (HCSB).
Given what we’ve learned about the Corinthians over the course of this epistle, it should not be surprising to find that Paul warned them about the need to behave in an appropriate manner with respect to his young associate. Having been personally acquainted with the discourtesy, incivility, and disrespect displayed by some within their fellowship, this represented a not-so-subtle warning to the church to refrain from displaying the same attitude towards Timothy as they had towards him.
As one commentator succinctly observes, “That Timothy might have cause to fear while ministering in Corinth confirms, as this letter indicates, that working with the Corinthian church was no picnic.” (1)
(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck Bible Knowledge Commentary [p.547]
““Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time” (1 Corinthians 16:12).
We have seen a recurring phrase appear from time to time throughout this letter to the Corinthian church. That phrase is “Now concerning…” This terminology provides an easy way to identify the questions that Paul the Apostle had received from the church at Corinth as well as his responses to those questions. 1 Corinthians 16:12 marks the final occurrence of this phrase, this time in regard to a man named Apollos, a gifted teacher who was mentioned earlier within this epistle.
Judging from Paul’s response here in 1 Corinthians 16:12. it appears that he was asked if he might arrange for Apollos to return to Corinth to resume his ministry there. While others might have felt a sense of irritation at the fact that the Corinthians were seeking someone else to come and minister to them, we should note that Paul did not seem threatened or disturbed by the fact that they had inquired about a leader other than himself. On the contrary, it seems that Paul went to great lengths to facilitate their request.
This tells us that there was no sense of rivalry or competition between these individual ministers. In fact, Paul even refers to Apollos as “our brother,” a phrase that evokes the spirit of friendship, family, and unity that must have existed between them. This attitude is one that we would do well to emulate as we pursue those opportunities for ministry that may be available to us.
We should also notice that Paul did not attempt to use his apostolic authority to compel Apollos to fulfill this request. Nor does it appear that Apollos felt constrained to follow Paul’s wishes in this matter. Instead, it seems that Apollos had a clear sense of God’s direction and set his priorities accordingly. In a similar manner, Apollos’ example reminds us that we are ultimately responsible to fulfill God’s agenda for our lives when we encounter others (even those who are well-intentioned) who may urge us to pursue various courses of action.
This is not to say that we ought to disregard the counsel of God-honoring friends or leaders; however, we would be wise to prayerfully base our decisions upon God’s direction for our lives. (1) Just as Paul had a open door for ministry in the town of Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8-9), its possible that Apollos had a similar opportunity in his place of ministry as well- and Paul graciously accepted his decision to delay a return trip to Corinth.
(1) Also see a general discussion regarding this topic beginning here
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
In many competitive sporting events, an athlete is required to play both offense and defense- and 1 Corinthians 16:13 tells us that a similar concept exists spiritually as well.
For example, this passage instructs us to “Be on your guard; stand firm…” (NIV). We might associate this idea with our responsibility to play spiritual defense with those who seek to challenge the message of salvation in Christ- or in the words of 1 Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”
Next, we are encouraged to “Be courageous and strong” (GW). This phrase evokes the concept of spiritual offense and calls to mind something written earlier within this letter to the Corinthians: “Don’t you know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one wins the prize? So then, run to win!” (CJB).
One Biblical personality who exhibited these qualities was the Apostle Peter. While Peter’s mistakes and shortcomings are well documented, he was someone who ultimately demonstrated the characteristics mentioned here in verse thirteen.
For instance, Peter received the following information from Jesus just prior to His ascension…
“‘I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.’ He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, ‘Follow Me!'” (John 21:18-19, HCSB).
Just as Jesus predicted, a number of early church sources report that Peter was ultimately subjected to a martyr’s death in fulfilling Jesus’ command to “Follow Me!” Thus, Peter became a living embodiment of the mandate we find here in 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong” (NET).
While God’s calling on every individual life may be different, those who seek to follow Jesus will surely be asked to demonstrate the spiritual qualities of readiness, vigilance, bravery, and resolute determination in a world that is often hostile to Christ and His teachings.
For anyone who may feel as if he or she is lacking in these attributes, the solution is to prayerfully seek God’s empowerment to develop them. As we are reminded in the New Testament book of Philippians, “…it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
“Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14)
As mentioned earlier, 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen is a portion of Scripture that is dedicated entirely to the subject of love. A look at the original language of the New Testament reveals that the word that is used to identify the defining characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen is the same word that is also found here in 1 Corinthians chapter sixteen: agape.
While there are many different aspects of love, agape love is the kind of love that abides even when it is not reciprocated. You see, this particular type of love is one that find’s it’s origin in the will. Unlike other kinds of love, agape love is not rooted in an emotional feeling or personal characteristic. Instead, this type of love is associated with a conscious intent to love.
In other words, a person who demonstrates agape love is someone who does so because he or she desires to do so. In contrast to a relationship where one partner is willing to express “love” as long as it is returned, agape love is the kind of love that endures even if there is a lack of an emotional response.
This does not mean that we cannot be realistic about others nor does it mean that we are obligated to gullibly tolerate any sort of behavior in the name of love. However, it does mean that we must commit to doing everything with love regardless of how others may (or may not) respond.
Because of this, we should remember that genuine, agape love is never associated with an emotional feeling. Rather, agape love is willing to set aside a legitimate emotional need in favor of what is best for someone else. This is a reality that should guide, direct, and inform the choices and decisions we make in our relationships with others.
For instance, genuine love always seeks to determine what is best for everyone involved in a given situation and respond accordingly. While the circumstances may change from person to person, a loving response can often be identified by the following question: “What is in the best interest of the people who are involved in this situation from God’s perspective?”
Unfortunately, the right answer to that question may sometimes involve a number of difficult choices. In fact, a proper response to that question might even be perceived to be unloving by others who may be involved. Nevertheless, a person who is prayerfully motivated and inspired by God’s agape love for us is someone who can ultimately fulfill the mandate given to us here in 1 Corinthians 16:14.
“I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints— that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us.
I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men” (1 Corinthians 16:15-18).
Its often easy to forget the difficulties that were associated with long distance communication prior to the 19th century. For instance, a person who lived in the New Testament era would not have had the benefit of a television, a mobile phone, a radio, the internet, or any of the other forms of mass communication that we often take for granted today.
In those days, the dissemination of information was often limited to how far one could travel on a horse, a camel, a donkey or other such animal. Because of this, the most common form of long distance communication involved a letter or message carried by a traveler to a particular destination. This likely explains the Apostle Paul’s reference to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus here within this passage.
Although it is impossible to say with certainty, it seems likely that these men were responsible for delivering the various questions that Paul has answered throughout this letter. Its also possible that these men were tasked with the responsibility of bringing the letter we know today as 1 Corinthians back to the congregation at Corinth.
Paul was clearly heartened by the arrival of these men despite the numerous issues that existed within the Corinthian church. But judging from Paul’s comments here in verses 15-18, it appears that these men may have held church leadership positions but did not necessarily hold the respect of others within the congregation. If that was the case, then Paul surely held a great deal of empathy for them based on his own personal experience,
This may explain why Paul felt it necessary to add a few final pieces of instruction: “I urge you to submit yourselves to people like these and to everyone who works and toils with them… I want you to show appreciation for people like these” (CJB). Thus, these few words of recommendation from Paul the Apostle were surely as encouraging to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus as their arrival had been to Paul himself.
“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:19-20).
As we approach the final verses of this letter to the Corinthians, Paul the Apostle will close with a few personal greetings from the city of Ephesus, his then-current base of ministry. Unlike the lists of personal greetings from various friends and acquaintances that appear within some of Paul’s other New Testament epistles, 1 Corinthians chapter sixteen mentions only two such people by name- the husband and wife team of Aquila and Priscilla.
It appears that Paul was so close with this particular couple that many translations of this passage refer to Priscilla as “Prisca” an apparent reference to her nickname. As mentioned earlier, Aquila and Priscilla were well-known to the members of the congregation at Corinth so its easy to see why Paul made certain to include their regards.
So Paul extended greetings from this couple as well as the church that met within their home, a reference to a common form of corporate worship during that time. In the New Testament era, groups of Christians would often meet together for worship within a local residence. There might be any number of such house churches within a general area and together, they served to constitute “the church” within that location. One commentator expands on this form of assembly with some additional information…
“The early church had no buildings. They met in homes. This was because of
- lack of money.
- need for secrecy, since Christianity became an illegal religion in the Roman Empire at a very early time.
- the need for an appearance of legality since the early churches organized like Roman social societies.
The house church concept begins in Act_2:46; Act_5:4. It is continued and developed in Rom_16:5; Rom_16:23, Col_4:15; Phm_1:2.” (1)
Paul also offered greetings from “The churches of Asia” within this passage. This is not a reference to the continent of Asia as we recognize it today but to the Roman province of Asia, an area that roughly constituted the western portion of the modern-day country of Turkey. Seven churches from that geographic region are also represented within the second and third chapters of the Biblical book of Revelation.
Finally, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” a typical form of greeting from that era and one that is still commonly found among many Mediterranean cultures today.
(1) Dr. Bob Utley, 1 Corinthians 16 [16:19] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL06/VOL06A_16.html
“The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s” (1 Corinthians 16:21).
The salutation found here in 1 Corinthians 16:12 provides us with an opportunity to explore the means by which a first century author might correspond with his or her audience.
You see, many first-century letters were dictated to a secretary who was known as an amanuensis. An author who was working with an amanuensis typically had two options in preparing a letter. First, the author could instruct the writer to transcribe the message in Greek or Latin shorthand and then prepare a draft copy for the author’s approval. Or, the author might provide a basic framework of ideas and allow the amanuensis to draft the letter for final acceptance.
In this instance, a man named Sosthenes (who was mentioned at the beginning of this epistle) was the person who likely composed this letter on Paul the Apostle’s behalf. Paul then completed the transcript with a brief personal message in his own handwriting. This represented a standard practice for Paul and we can find a number of similar references in some of his other New Testament epistles…
“See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11).
“This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen” (Colossians 4:18).
“The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).
This custom not only added a personal touch to Paul’s letters but may have served another important purpose. You see, the practice of adding a personal, handwritten message at the end of a letter would help alleviate any suspicion among the Corinthians that they might have received a forgery. For instance, consider the following statement from Paul’s second letter to the church in the town of Thessalonica…
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
This suggests that some of the messages that were purported to have come from Paul during that time may have been lies or forgeries. If that was the case, then Paul’s custom of adding a handwritten salutation may have served a dual purpose: it not only served to personalize Paul’s message to each individual church but also served as a mark of legitimacy and authenticity as well.
“If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Unlike the word for love (agape) that appears in “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13, the original language of 1 Corinthians 16:22 utilizes a form of a different word for love: phileo. This word means to approve of, to like, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend. (1) One commentator offers an explanation that may help to account for the difference in these word choices…
“It is interesting that Paul uses the Greek word philei, ‘affection, friendship’ here instead of agape for love. Phileo is the word Jesus used to challenge Peter’s profession of love for his Master (Joh_21:15 ff.). It is the word to denote a love involving personal, emotional affection. Paul is challenging the reality of love professed but not expressed.
Christianity is not merely a series of philosophies or doctrines to be taught and learned—it is a Person to know and love. If anyone knowing Christ, has not developed an affection for him, something is seriously wrong in his life. He is, in fact, on his way to being ‘damned.’ This was the damnation of the Pharisees. They professed a love for God but did not have it (cf. Joh_5:42; Joh_8:39-47).” (2)
The next portion of this verse follows with an ominous expression of condemnation (or anathema) for those who do not possess such love and affection for Jesus: “…let him be accursed.” While this may seem to be unnecessarily harsh at first glance, we should remember that such a failure is a violation of the first and greatest commandment…
“Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.‘ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:29-30).
This reality should provide us with a different perspective on this passage from 1 Corinthians 16. If Jesus does not occupy the highest position of love and affection in someone’s life, then he or she must substitute something (or someone) else as their ultimate object of affection.
The Scriptures refer to this as “idolatry” and anything that usurps the position of love and affection that rightfully belongs to Christ alone is something that might be fittingly described as an idol. This is what ultimately brings condemnation upon “…anyone who doesn’t love the Lord” (CEB).
(1) G5368 phileo Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5368
(2) The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In First Corinthians (College Press) Paul T. Butler. [p. 389] Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/FirstCorinthians/131Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt
“Let anyone who has no love for the Lord be accursed. Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
In many Biblical translations, 1 Corinthians 16:22 ends with the word Maranatha. This term (sometimes expressed as marana tha) has two slightly different meanings that depend on whether it is translated as a single word or as two individual words. In the first instance, we can associate the word “maranatha” with the phrase, “the Lord has come.”
When used in this sense, maranatha communicates the idea that God’s Savior has arrived in the incarnation of Christ. We can look to an event that took place shortly after Jesus’ birth to illustrate this idea…
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation'” (Luke 2:25-30).
On the other hand, “marana tha” refers to Jesus’ second advent in the sense that “the Lord is coming.” This idea was expressed by Jesus Himself in some of His final recorded words: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12, see also Revelation 3:11, 16:15, 22:7, and 22:20).
In both instances, these phrases communicated an underlying desire for the Lord to come and establish justice, right the wrongs that exist within the world, and institute His lawful and benevolent oversight. It also served as a general incentive for God-honoring living as illustrated within the New Testament epistle of James…
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9).
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24).
Just as 1 Corinthians 1:4 opened with the Apostle Paul’s expression of God’s grace, so now this epistle closes in much the same manner. And even though Paul challenged the members of the Corinthian fellowship with a number of corrective teachings within this letter, he still made certain to leave them with an assurance of his love for them.
One commentator summarizes the lessons offered throughout this lengthy epistle, lessons that have benefited untold numbers of congregations and individual believers down through the centuries…
“So closes the immortal letter of the apostle Paul to the church of God at Corinth. It analyzes most of the problems that plague the saints. Times and cultures may differ through the centuries, but human nature never does. Problems that plague the saints remain essentially the same; causes of the problems and manifestations of the problems remain practically the same.
And, because this apostolic letter, sanctioned by the Holy Spirit, is the revealed word of God as to the source and implementation of principles which will resolve the problems, it is forever relevant. It is imperative that today’s church regularly study this epistle in its entirety. Christians must read this letter; preachers must feed their congregations through expository sermons from this book; congregations must put into practice the divine directions, because I Corinthians is a book in the imperative mood.” (1)
While we may never be faced with the need to act upon some of the issues contained within this letter, we can still learn from the approach that Paul employed with the Corinthian believers. You see, Paul addressed the issues that plagued the Corinthian church in an honest and forthright manner.
Whether the subject involved divisions within the church, immoral behavior, misuse of spiritual gifts, or any of the other problems that existed within the congregation, Paul did not shy away from them; instead, he stepped up to confront them. In like manner, we can also move forward in addressing the various issues of life when we prayerfully commit to confronting them in the strength that God provides.
So what was the response to the letter that we know today as 1 Corinthians? Well, it appears that there were many within the Corinthian church who acted upon Paul’s counsel but it also seems that there were some who did not. This unfortunate reality prompted a deeply personal response from Paul that we will go on to examine in our look at the book of 2 Corinthians.
(2) The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In First Corinthians (College Press) Paul T. Butler. [p. 391] Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/FirstCorinthians/131Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt