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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 16

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 1-12


The remainder of the body of this epistle deals with questions the Corinthians had put to Paul in a letter. Paul introduced each of these with the phrase peri de ("now concerning," 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:12), a phrase commonly used in antiquity. [Note: Keener, p. 62.]

"Rather than a friendly exchange, in which the new believers in Corinth are asking spiritual advice of their mentor in the Lord, their letter was probably a response to Paul’s Previous Letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9, in which they were taking exception to his position on point after point. In light of their own theology of spirit, with heavy emphasis on ’wisdom’ and ’knowledge,’ they have answered Paul with a kind of ’Why can’t we?’ attitude, in which they are looking for his response." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., pp. 266-67.]

Verse 1

It seems that the Corinthian Christians had heard about the collection (Gr. logeias, extra collection) Paul was getting together for the poor saints in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3) and wanted to make a contribution. James, Peter, and John had encouraged Paul and Barnabas to remember the poor when they were in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10; cf. Acts 11:27-30). There is no record of the directions Paul gave the Galatian churches, to which he referred here, in any of his other surviving epistles. The churches of Galatia evidently were those in southern Galatia including Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Paul had passed through this region as he moved toward Ephesus, from which he wrote this epistle (Acts 18:23).

Verses 1-4

1. Arrangements for the collection 16:1-4

Verses 1-12

G. The collection for the Jerusalem believers 16:1-12

I have chosen to include this section with the others that deal with questions the Corinthians had asked Paul rather than with Paul’s concluding comments because it begins "peri de" (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 16:12; cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4). Probably they had asked about the collection Paul was assembling in a letter or through messengers. This is the least confrontational section in this epistle, though we can detect tension here too. Problems over this collection emerge clearly in 2 Corinthians.

"Most ancient letters were brief, and a large number were business-related. Whereas most of Paul’s correspondence more closely resembles philosophers’ letters discoursing on moral topics, he is ready to address business as well." [Note: Keener, 1-2 Corinthians, p. 136.]

"This chapter may seem unrelated to our needs today, but actually it deals in a very helpful way with three areas of stewardship: money (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), opportunities (1 Corinthians 16:5-9), and people (1 Corinthians 16:10-24). These are probably the greatest resources the church has today, and they must not be wasted." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:621.]

Verse 2

From the earliest day of the church’s existence Christians assembled on Sundays to worship in commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. The Lord had not commanded this, but it quickly became customary. The unsaved Jews met on Saturdays.

"This is our earliest evidence respecting the early consecration of the first day of the week by the Apostolic Church. Apparently, the name ’Lord’s Day’ was not yet in use, and the first day of the week is never called ’the sabbath’ in Scripture." [Note: Robertson and Plummer, p. 384.]

Sunday would have been a natural occasion to put money aside for fellow believers since it was particularly on this day that Christians reviewed their responsibilities. Paul did not specify whether the individual Christian should keep the money in his possession or whether a church official should. The former alternative seems more probable in view of the apostle’s language. [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 813.] Note also that he did not say how much to set aside except that it was to be as the Lord had blessed them. The amount was totally up to the givers. Paul mentioned nothing specifically here about giving proportionately to one’s income. We saw earlier that both rich and poor made up this church (1 Corinthians 11:21). Paul’s counsel amounted to: Set aside a little regularly now so you will not need to make a major withdrawal from your funds later.

"The essential features of Christian giving are stated here: (1) the time of giving; (2) the regularity of giving; (3) the participants in giving; (4) the basis of giving; and (5) the manner of giving." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1250.]

Verse 3

Paul planned to send a representative from each of the contributing churches, or possibly groups of churches, to Jerusalem with the gift. The letters he spoke of may have been letters of introduction from himself since it appears that at this time he did not plan to make this trip himself. Such a procedure would guarantee that the money would arrive safely and that people would view the whole project as honest (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:21).

Verse 4

The apostle was open to the possibility of going to Jerusalem as part of the group if this seemed best. After he wrote this letter he decided to go (Romans 15:25-26) and indeed went (Acts 20:16; Acts 20:22; Acts 21:17; Acts 24:17).

These few verses along with 2 Corinthians 8-9 and statements in Philippians 4 provide guidelines for individual Christians and churches in giving. The principles Paul advocated were that saving up for giving should be regular and in response to the Lord’s provision materially. The believers should manage their gifts with integrity. Everything they did should not only be above reproach, but other people should perceive it as such.

Notice that Paul made no mention of tithing here or elsewhere. Tithing is a method of giving that God prescribed for the Israelites under the Mosaic Law. People practiced tithing as an act of worship commonly in the ancient Near East (cf. Genesis 28:22). [Note: See C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: Pentateuch, 1:207.] It was also a common tax. [Note: W. Robertson Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, pp. 245-51.] This is still true in some modern countries. For example, in England a part of every person’s taxes goes to maintain the Church of England. Some residents regard this part of their tax as their contribution to the church or their tithe. The Mosaic Law really required that the Israelites give back to God about one-third of their incomes. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law (Romans 10:4; et al.). It is therefore understandable that neither Jesus Christ nor the apostles commanded tithing. Some Christians believe that since Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20) and Jacob tithed (Genesis 28:22) tithing antedates the Mosaic Law and is therefore binding on Christians. Nevertheless a practice is not the same as a precept. Moreover the absence of any reference to tithing in the New Testament, plus the teaching of other guidelines strongly suggest that God wants us to follow a different method. The principles that should govern Christians in our giving appear throughout the New Testament but mainly in 1 Corinthians 16, 2 Corinthians 8, 9, and Philippians 4.

"No pressure, no gimmicks, no emotion. A need had to be met, and the Corinthians were capable of playing a role in it. In a day of highly visible campaigns for money on every side, there is something to be said for the more consistent, purposeful approach outlined here." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 817.]

"Many Christians today are more interested in competing with neighbors’ status symbols than in caring for the poor." [Note: Keener, 1-2 Corinthians, p. 139.]

Verse 5

At the time he wrote, Paul planned to head north from Ephesus and then east and to spend some time in Macedonia. Macedonia was the Roman province north of Corinth where Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea stood. He then planned to travel south to Corinth. Paul later changed this plan and traveled directly from Ephesus to Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2) and returned to Ephesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; 2 Corinthians 7:12). Later he visited Macedonia and then Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16). [Note: See Richard Batey, "Paul’s Interaction with the Corinthians," Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1985):139-43.]

Verses 5-12

2. The travel plans of Paul and his fellow apostles 16:5-12

As the preceding verse revealed, Paul’s plans were tentative to some extent. He wanted the Corinthians to know that he anticipated a return to Corinth and hopefully a stay of several months. Timothy and Apollos might return too.

Verses 6-7

Paul did spend the winter in Corinth, but it was the winter after the one when he expected to be there, the winter of 57-58 rather than 56-57 (cf. Acts 20:2-3; Romans 16:1; Romans 16:23). He sensed the need to spend a good long visit in Corinth, and in view of the problems in the church that he mentioned in this letter we can understand why.

Verse 8

The Jews celebrated Pentecost in late May or early June so Paul probably wrote 1 Corinthians in the spring of the year (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 15:20). It is not unusual that since he was a Jewish believer with the evangelization of Jews on his heart he would refer to important events in the Jewish calendar such as Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21). Perhaps the early Christians paid more attention to the significant events in the life of the church than many churches do today. Churches that observe "the Christian year" tend to make more of these observances. The feast of Pentecost, of course, also marked the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

Verse 9

Paul occasionally used the door as a metaphor for opportunity (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). He stayed in Ephesus three years to take advantage of his opportunities there. He did not regard adversaries there as an indication of a closed door or as a sign that God wanted him to move on to more comfortable ministry. He followed his own advice and remained immovable and abounding in the work of the Lord in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Verses 10-11

Timothy’s visit to Corinth from Ephesus was not very tentative. Paul had already sent him (and Erastus; Acts 19:22) or was about to send him when he penned this epistle (1 Corinthians 4:17). Evidently Timothy’s relative youth tended to make some people look down on him, and he tended to be fearful (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12). Paul advised the Corinthians, who judged by external appearances, to give him the respect he deserved for doing the Lord’s work as Paul did, not just for Timothy’s own sake.

It may have been Timothy’s report of conditions in Corinth when he returned to Ephesus that moved Paul to go directly to Corinth himself rather than waiting until he had visited Macedonia. Paul later referred to this visit as painful because while in Corinth he encountered strong opposition (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:1-8; 2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2).

Verse 12

This verse may contain Paul’s final response to the questions the Corinthians had asked him. It is the sixth instance of that key phrase peri de ("Now concerning"). Paul’s relations with eloquent Apollos were perfectly friendly, as this verse reveals (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12). We do not know why Apollos did not want to revisit Corinth with Timothy or whether he ever did visit that city again.

Verses 13-14

Paul urged his somewhat unstable readers to be watchful regarding danger from inside as well as outside the church (cf. Acts 20:29-30). Most of the problems in this church evidently arose from within the congregation as a result of pagan influences. "Be on the alert" sometimes occurs with anticipation of the Lord’s coming, so that event may have been in Paul’s mind as well (e.g., Matthew 24:42). His readers should also stand firm in their trust in God and their commitment to His Word and will (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). Rather than acting like immature children they should behave as mature men (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12). They should be strong in the Lord rather than weak in the faith (cf. Joshua 1:7-8). Above all, love should motivate and mark them (ch. 13). This was the greatest need of this church. These verses summarize what Paul expected of his readers in all that he wrote in this letter.

Verses 13-18

A. Final exhortations 16:13-18

Each section in this epistle concludes with some practical admonition. These verses constitute a summary exhortation for the whole letter.

Verses 13-24


The Apostle Paul concluded this epistle with a series of imperatives, exhortations, and news items.

Verses 15-16

The Corinthians had a special problem with submission to authority, as we have seen. Many in the church wanted to do their own thing. 1 Corinthians 16:16-18 would have encouraged them to appreciate some less flashy servants of the Lord.

Stephanus and his family were Paul’s first converts in Achaia, the province in which Corinth stood (1 Corinthians 1:16). They had given themselves unselfishly to serving the Corinthians. They were probably loyal to Paul and may have been the source from which the apostle received some of his information about conditions in this church. Paul urged that his readers appreciate Stephanus and his family for their ministry and not ignore them but submit humbly to them. They should treat others such as them with similar honor. Service, not status, should be the basis for honor in the church.

Verses 17-18

Stephanus had recently visited Paul in Ephesus with the two other Corinthian brothers the apostle named. They may have carried the questions Paul answered in this letter as well as information about conditions in the church. Travelers carried all mail except government business in the ancient biblical world. [Note: Keener, 1-2 Corinthians, p. 140.] These people had all ministered refreshingly to Paul, as they typically did in Corinth. Paul wanted the Corinthians to be sure to recognize them too.

Verse 19

Several churches in the Roman province of Asia had come into existence while Paul used its capital city, Ephesus, as his base of operations (Acts 19:10). References to "Asia" in the New Testament consistently refer to the Roman province of Asia, which lay in the west and southwest of the geographical region of Asia Minor.

The names of Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla) usually occur in reverse order in the New Testament. Evidently their friends, of which Paul was one, felt free to use both orders. This suggests that they served the Lord as a harmonious team with individual strengths and talents. They had lived in Corinth after leaving Rome (Acts 18:2), and it apparently was there that Paul first met them. They had left Corinth for Ephesus with Paul and settled in that city (Acts 18:18-21). Their house became a meeting place for the church (cf. Romans 16:5). Church buildings were unknown until the third century. [Note: Barclay, The Letter . . ., p. 187]

Verses 19-24

B. Final greetings and benediction 16:19-24

"The letter now concludes with a series of standard (for Paul) greetings (1 Corinthians 16:19-22) and the grace-benediction (1 Corinthians 16:23). But Paul cannot quite give up the urgency of the letter, so he interrupts these two rather constant elements of his conclusions with one final word of warning to those who have been causing him grief, this time in the form of an extraordinary curse formula (1 Corinthians 16:22). The apparent harshness of this warning is matched by the equally unusual addition of a final word of affirmation of his love for them (1 Corinthians 16:24), found only here in his extant letters. Thus even to the end the unique concerns that have forged this letter find their expression." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 834.]

Verse 20

The holy kiss, holy because saints (1 Corinthians 1:2) exchanged it, was a common practice among believers, and it still is today in some parts of the world.

"The holy kiss (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:25 [sic, 26]; 1 Peter 5:14) was primarily a symbolic expression of the love, forgiveness, and unity which should exist among Christians. As such, it became associated with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper as a prelude to its observance (cf. Justin Apology 1. 65. 2). It was a mark of the familial bond which united believers. There is no indication that it was restricted to one’s own sex in the New Testament era (cf. Luke 7:37; Luke 7:45). The suggestion to separate the sexes for the exchange of the kiss arose in the late second century due to concern about criticism from non-Christians and the danger of erotic abuse (cf. Athenagorus Supplication 32; Clement of Alexandria Pedagogue 3. 81. 2-4)." [Note: Lowery, "1 Corinthians," p. 548.]

Verse 21

Paul customarily dictated his letters, and a secretary wrote them down (cf. Romans 16:22). However, he usually added a word of greeting at the end in his own hand that authenticated his epistles as coming from him (cf. Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). All of what follows is probably what he added.

Verse 22

Normally Paul used the Greek word agape for love (except in Titus 3:15). Here he used phileo. Consequently this may have been a saying believers used in the congregational worship of the churches. "Maranatha" (NASB) is an Aramaic expression meaning "Our Lord, come." Probably Paul did not translate it into Greek because believers commonly spoke it in Aramaic in the services of the early church (cf. Revelation 22:20). Since it was Aramaic it probably originated in Palestine where people spoke that language. They exported it to the Greek-speaking congregations that retained its form.

"It is strange to meet with an Aramaic phrase in a Greek letter to a Greek Church. The explanation is that that phrase had become a watchword and a password. It summed up the vital hope of the early Church, and Christians whispered it to each other, identified each other by it, in a language which the heathen could not understand." [Note: Barclay, The Letter . . ., p. 188.]

"It would appear, then, that the fixed usage of the term ’Maranatha’ by the early Christians was a witness to their strong belief in the imminent return of Christ. If they knew that Christ could not return at any moment because of other events or a time period that had to transpire first [i.e., the Tribulation], why did they petition Him in a way that implied that He could come at any moment?" [Note: Showers, p. 131. Cf. Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 17, 20.]

Verses 23-24

Paul concluded this strong but loving epistle with a prayerful benediction of God’s grace. Note that this letter also began, "Grace to you" (1 Corinthians 1:3).

"Grace is the beginning and the end of the Chrstian [sic] gospel; it is the single word that most fully expresses what God has done and will do for his people in Christ Jesus." [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 839.]

Paul also added assurance of his own love for all the believers in Corinth, not just those who supported him.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-corinthians-16.html. 2012.
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