1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 16.
Concluding Admonitions. 1 Cor. 16, 1-24.
Regarding the collection for Jerusalem: V. 1. Now, concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. V. 2. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. V. 3. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. V. 4. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. That God is by no means indifferent to the manner in which the business end of a congregation's work is carried on is seen from this paragraph. While Paul was on his third missionary journey, he was busily engaged with the task of collecting money for the poor brethren at Jerusalem, as the references in his letters show, Gal. 2, 10; 2 Cor. 8 and 9; Rom. 15, 25. 26. It was the apostle's ambition to bring a rich thank-offering from the Christians of the heathen lands to the congregation at Jerusalem. And so he here reminds the Corinthians of this "collection" which was being made for the saints.80) On his journey of visitation through Southern Galatia, Acts 18, 23, a short time before, he had given orders to the congregations of that section, he had set the matter before them and secured their willing assent to the plan. And this same plan he wanted the Corinas his urgent words indicate.
The apostle's plan was: On every first of the week let each of you by himself lay up a definite sum (making a store of it), whatever he has been prospered in, in accordance with his income, so that the collection may not have to be made when I come. We have here the earliest mention of the Christian Sunday as an appropriate day for deeds of charity, though not the exclusive day for church services, and not set aside by divine appointment. Every one of the Christians was to take part in this work of charity, as the context shows, every one that had an income of his own in any form; the apostle did not confine his instructions to the adult men. There was no compulsion in any form, but the obligation was all the more emphatic for a willing offering. Each one should decide the amount for himself, as his heart told him that he could afford it; and the size of his gift should be measured by the blessing which God has given him in his work or business. In this way a Lord's treasure would accumulate in time, and the total amount should be paid over when Paul came. By assenting to this plan, the Corinthians would avoid the necessity of making collections upon Paul's arrival, since there might be difficulty about raising a large amount of money suddenly, aside from the fact that Paul preferred to devote his time to the matters of his teaching office. Note: Regular, systematic giving according to this plan of Paul has the sanction of the Lord Himself, and has been found to be the most effective method of raising funds for the Lord's work.
Paul's plan included also such care of the money collected as would remove all reason for suspicion. He wanted the congregation at Corinth to elect delegates from their midst, approved men, trusted brethren, and to furnish these men with the proper credentials. All that would be necessary for Paul to do, then, after his arrival, was to direct these men, to send them to Jerusalem, as the bearers of the alms, with the letter of recommendation. And his interest in this important matter did not stop there, but if it should appear to be worth while for him to journey along with them, he intended to do so. There is a hint here that Paul does not care to associate himself with a small and mean charity; the amount must be large enough to warrant his participating in the matter. This was not pride, but a just estimate of the Lord's business. Note: Since we are only stewards of God's gifts, it is necessary for us always to keep in mind that our contributions for any object named in the Bible must be in proportion to the prosperity which His goodness has granted us. Miserliness in the business of the Church and in true charity will react unfavorably upon the covetous person.
Paul's proposed visit to Corinth: V. 5. Now I will come unto you when I shall pass through Macedonia; for I do pass through Macedonia. V. 6. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. V. 7. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. V. 8. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. V. 9. For a great door, and effectual, is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. V. 10. Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. V. 11. Let no man, therefore, despise him; but conduct him forth in peace that he may come unto me; for I look for him with the brethren. V. 12. As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren; but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time. Paul's former plan seems to have been to go to Corinth first, and then to travel northward into Macedonia. He still had the intention of visiting them, but only after making a missionary journey through Macedonia, traveling over the entire region. As a matter of fact, this evangelistic tour, as Paul indicates, occupied a large part of the summer and the autumn, for he penetrated beyond Macedonia, into Illyria, Rom. 15, 19, which brought him to Corinth not much before the winter. If it was possible, if he could so arrange, Paul wanted to remain in Corinth the entire winter, remaining in the metropolis instead of touring the province, and expecting, in turn, to be accompanied by a delegation from them, that they may send him forward wheresoever he may go, probably, though not certainly, to Jerusalem. Note how carefully the apostle expresses himself with regard to his plans, since they were entirely in God's hands, and how tactfully he addresses the Corinthians, to retain their good will and not to appear domineering: For I would not see you now, merely in passing; he felt that a flying visit would not be acceptable. He rather hoped to stay some length of time with them if the Lord would permit. It is the language of a Christian that places everything into the hands of God at all times.
Paul frankly tells the Corinthians why he does not start on his proposed journey at once: But I will tarry, stay on, in Ephesus until Pentecost. At the time when he wrote this letter, it may have been near Easter. He felt that he must remain in Asia for a matter of some two months: For a door is opened to me, great and effectual, and many adversaries there are. The Lord had opened a great door to the Gospel, the Lord had made many hearts willing to listen to the great truths of salvation; and this wide open door promised much, the influence of the Gospel was spreading. Incidentally, however, there were many enemies. Acts 19, as the tumult soon after showed, which made the most earnest application on the part of the apostle necessary. And as a faithful shepherd he would not desert his post at the time of danger, when his presence was most urgently needed.
The apostle adds a few words, at this point, with regard to Timothy and Apollos. As he, upon another occasion, admonished his young helper not to permit any one to despise his youth, 1 Tim. 4, 12, so he here warns the congregation not to think lightly of Timothy on account of his youth. Timothy and Erastus were sent on a mission to Macedonia, or they may have been bearers of this letter, Acts 19. 21. 22. Upon his arrival, therefore, the Corinthians should see to it that Timothy might be with them without fear, that he could attend to the work of his calling among them without the depression caused by supercilious treatment on the part of the congregation. For, as Paul says, he was working the work of the Lord, he was engaged in carrying forward the ministry of the Gospel as was the apostle himself. No one, then, should set him at naught, pretending to say that he did not possess full authority from God to do the work of an evangelist. They should rather, after he has performed the work entrusted to him, send him forward in peace, dismiss him peacefully, without annoyance, with kindly affection. They should remember that Paul was waiting for Timothy and the brethren that were with him, expecting their return to Ephesus before he left there. As for Apollos, who had labored in Corinth with such signal success, Paul had urged him most earnestly to make the journey to Corinth with the brethren; he had had no reluctance about seeing him go, but had perfect confidence in him. Apollos, however, who at that time must have been in Ephesus, would not be persuaded; it was altogether contrary to his will that he should come now. But his intention was to come as soon as there was a good opportunity. With the situation in Corinth such as it was, he may not have felt much like becoming involved in the difficulties, or other circumstances or engagements were holding him back.
A concluding exhortation: V. 13. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. V. 14. Let all your things be done with charity. V. 15. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) v. 16. that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboreth. V. 17. I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus; for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. V. 18. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours; therefore acknowledge ye them that are such. According to his custom, the apostle here gives the gist of all his admonitions in a few brief sentences. The unusual and abundant gifts of grace which the Lord had given to the congregation at Corinth had produced a carnal and dangerous sleepiness in their midst. Hence the call: Watch, stand firm in the faith, prove yourselves men, be strong, manfully, mightily active. Watchfulness is necessary, lest they yield once more to the sins which Paul has reproved in his letter to them, to the attack of treacherous foes, both from without and from within. This watchfulness goes hand in hand with steadfastness in faith, a faith not dependent upon man's wisdom, but upon God's power. This faith was a gift of God's grace, and, as such, must be held with all firmness. It brought about, in turn, a courageous, manly attitude, and a summoning up of strength to resist the might of every foe. It is the same admonition which we find Eph. 6, 10-17. On the other hand, however, it behooved the Corinthians to remember that all their doings should be carried on in love. All divisions and strife must be abandoned where the real spirit of Christ lives, where the spirit of unselfish service has the undisputed mastery.
The Corinthian Christians would have a good opportunity to exercise the proper brotherly love, according to the exhortation of Paul, in the case of the household and family of Stephanas, whom he calls the first-fruits of the province of Achaia. There were earlier individual converts in the province, Acts 17, 34, but this family as such was the first to be received into the Christian Church by Baptism, thus becoming the nucleus of a subsequent Christian congregation. 81) The apostle gives them the testimony that they all, the entire household, set themselves for ministering to the saints, were always ready to give their ability and their time in the interest of any service of the brethren. In return for such services, which the Corinthians had enjoyed, the apostle wants to see them willing to submit themselves to such as these, since they were probably holding offices in the congregation, Heb. 13, 17, and to every one that shares in the work and labors. This admonition does not establish a hierarchy, but merely "enjoins spontaneous submission to the direction of those that are able and disposed to lead in good works." The gift of proper, tactful service ought to be recognized by every congregation, and the brethren and sisters that possess it ought to be honored accordingly.
As for the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, it had given great joy to the apostle. At the present time they were in Ephesus as delegates of the Corinthian congregation, and Paul was very glad of the fact. When they would return to Corinth, the brethren would surely show them that respect in love which was due them. These men were probably the principal, if not the only bearers of the present letter to the Corinthians. Paul rejoiced at their presence, because his lack of them (the Corinthians) these men had filled up. Here is another evidence of Paul's delicate tact; for his words imply that the believers of Corinth, were they only present, would cheer him by their love and kindness; this being impossible at present, their delegates were representing them also in this respect, filling the place of their congregation in a very acceptable manner. And in doing so, they were giving recreation both to Paul's spirit and to that of the brethren whom they represented; for such is the restful effect of friendly converse and sympathy: it cheers the receiver and reacts upon the giver. Therefore the Corinthians will surely acknowledge such men as these, not only to regard them according to their abilities, but also to treat them with due affection and respect — a fine example for Christian congregations at all times.
Final greetings: V. 19. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. V. 20. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. V. 21. The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand. V. 22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. V. 23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! V. 24. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. In closing his letter, Paul sends greetings, first of all, from the congregations in Asia, the Roman province on the Aegean Sea. Although he had not personally visited all the congregations that had been founded in the province and in the district of which Ephesus was the distributing center, Rev. 1, 11, he was in touch with them all and knew their feeling toward the brethren in Greece. Aquila and Priscilla, who were at that time living in Ephesus, where they had labored very faithfully, were again, as in Corinth, acting as hosts to a house congregation. Cp. Acts 18; Rom. 16,4. Many and hearty greetings this worthy pair sent to the congregation at Corinth through the apostle, not only on account of their personal friendship with many of the Corinthian Christians, but because of their eager interest for the welfare and growth of the Lord's work, as the addition "in the Lord" tends to show. In the third place, all the brethren of Ephesus sent greetings to Corinth in a body, not merely the small house congregation just mentioned. As a sign of the proper acceptance of these salutations, Paul urges the Corinthian Christians to greet one another with a sacred kiss, with the kiss that is holy, the men saluting the men and the women the women. This custom of the sacred kiss was retained, during the celebration of the Holy Communion, for a number of centuries.
Up to this point Paul has dictated the letter. But now he personally takes the pen and authenticates the letter with his autograph signature, 2 Thess. 3, 17. And he adds a double motto and his greeting proper: If any one does not love our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. Lord, come! or, The Lord is coming. Not only he that hates the Lord Jesus, but also he that has no real love for the Savior in his heart, but offers a pretense, a spurious love instead, is cursed and condemned. "Those who bow the knee to Him with a feigned heart are themselves anathema," under the curse. On the other hand, the eager cry: Lord, come! or: The Lord cometh, was a favorite prayer, like a sigh for quick deliverance, in the early Church. Cp. Phil. 4, 5; Rev. 1,7; 3,11; 22,20. It was both a watchword and a password among the early Christians, always ringing through their soul and expressed with ever-increasing fervor.
The personal wish of the apostle to the Corinthians is that the grace, the forgiveness of sins, the full divine favor of the Lord Jesus Christ, may be with them, and that his love, equal in intensity toward them all, may be with them. His was the love which he had praised in his holy psalm, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, chap. 13, 7. It was this love which caused Paul to desire that all divisions and schisms would be put aside and a perfect unity in Christ Jesus be secured.
Summary. The apostle recommends to the Corinthian congregation the plan of regular and systematic giving for the collection for the poor, discusses his plan of visiting them in the near future, includes all he has said in an admonition to watchfulness and love, and sends greetings and personal wishes.