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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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1 Corinthians 16

Barclay's Daily Study BibleDaily Study Bible

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Verses 1-24

Chapter 16

PRACTICAL PLANS ( 1 Corinthians 16:1-12 )

16:1-12 With regard to the collection for the people of Christ, do you too follow the instructions which I gave to the Churches of Galatia. Every first day of the week each of you must put by and save up whatever his prosperity demands, so that there may be no need to take collections when I arrive. Whenever I arrive, I will send whoever you approve by letter to take your gifts to Jerusalem. If it is fitting for me to go, too, they will travel with me. I will come to you after I have passed through Macedonia. Possibly I may stay with you, or I may even spend the winter with you so that you may speed me on my way wherever I go. I do not want to see you now in the passing, for I hope to stay some time with you, if the Lord permits it. I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a great and effective door stands open to me, although my opponents are many.

If Timothy comes, see that he may be able to stay with you without fear. He is doing God's work just as I, too, am doing it, so let no one look down on him. Speed him on his way with the blessing of peace that he may come to me, for I and the brothers are eagerly waiting for him. With regard to Apollos, the brother, I have strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers, but he was all against coming to you just now, but will come when the time is convenient.

There is nothing more typical of Paul than the abrupt change between 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-24. 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 has been walking in the loftiest realms of thought and theology, and discussing the life of the world to come. 1 Corinthians 16:1-24 deals with the most practical things in the most practical way and is concerned with the everyday life of this world and the administration of the Church. There is no reach of thought too high for Paul to scale and no practical detail of administration too small for him to remember. He was very far from being one of those visionaries, who are at home in the realms of theological speculation and quite lost in practical matters. There might be times when his head was in the clouds but his feet were always planted firmly on the solid earth.

He begins by dealing with the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. This was an undertaking very dear to Paul's heart. (compare Galatians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Romans 15:25; Acts 24:17). There was a certain brotherliness in the ancient world. In the Greek world there were associations called eranoi. If a person fell on evil days or was in sudden need, his friends would club together to raise an interest-free loan to help him. The synagogue had officials whose duty it was to collect from those who had and to share out to those who had not. Quite frequently Jews who had gone abroad and prospered sent their envoys to Jerusalem with contributions for the Temple and for the poor. Paul did not want the Christian Church to be behind the Jewish and the heathen world in generosity.

But to him this collection for the poor at Jerusalem meant more than that. (i) It was a way of demonstrating the unity of the Church. It was a way of teaching the scattered Christians that they were not members of a congregation only, but members of a Church, each part of which had obligations to the rest. The narrowly congregational outlook was far from the Pauline conception of the Church. (ii) It was a way of putting into effect the practical teaching of Christianity. By arranging this collection Paul was providing his converts with an opportunity of translating into action the teaching of Christ on the virtue of love.

It has been pointed out that, in different letters and speeches, Paul uses no fewer than nine different words to describe this collection.

(i) Here he calls it a logia ( G3048) ; the word means an extra collection. A logia was something which was the opposite of a tax which a man had to pay; it was an extra piece of giving. A man never satisfies his Christian duty by discharging the obligations which he can legally be compelled to fulfil. The question of Jesus was, "What more are you doing than others?" ( Matthew 5:47).

(ii) Sometimes he calls it a charis ( G5485) ( 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:4). As we have already seen, the characteristic of charis ( G5485) is that it describes a free gift freely given. The really lovely thing is not something extracted from a man, however large it be, but something given in the overflowing love of a man's heart, however small it be. We must note that Paul does not lay down a flat rate which each Corinthian Christian must give; he tells them that they must give as their prosperity demands. A man's heart must tell him what to give.

(iii) Sometimes he uses the word koinonia ( G2842) ( 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Romans 15:6). Koinonia means fellowship, and the essence of fellowship is sharing. Christian fellowship is based on the spirit which cannot hug to itself that which it has, but which regards all its possessions as things to be shared with others. Its dominating question is not, "What can I keep?" but, "What can I give""

(iv) Sometimes he uses the word diakonia ( G1248) ( 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Corinthians 9:12-13). Diakonia means practical Christian service. It is from its kindred word diakonos ( G1249) that we get our English word deacon. It may sometimes happen that the limitations of life prevent us from rendering personal service and it may often happen that our money can go where we cannot go.

(v) Once he uses the word hadrotes ( G100) , whose meaning is abundance ( 2 Corinthians 8:20). In that passage Paul speaks of the envoys of the Church who accompany him to guarantee that he does not misuse the abundance which is entrusted to him. Paul would never have desired an abundance for himself. He was content with what he could earn with the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow. But he was glad in heart when he had abundance to give away. It is a grim commentary on human nature that, when a man is dreaming of what he would do if he was a millionaire, he almost always begins by thinking what he would buy for himself, and seldom of what he would give away.

(vi) Sometimes he uses the word eulogia ( G2129) , which in this case means bounty ( 2 Corinthians 9:5). There is a kind of giving which is not a bounty. The gift is given as a bleak and unavoidable duty, given with a grudge and with no delight. All true giving is a bounty which we are supremely glad to give.

(vii) Sometimes he uses the word leitourgia ( G3009) ( 2 Corinthians 9:12). In classical Greek this is a word with a noble history. In the great days of Athens there were generous citizens who volunteered out of their own pockets to shoulder the expenses of some enterprise on which the city was engaged. It might be to defray the expenses of training the chorus for some new drama or some team to compete for the honour of the city in the games; it might be to pay for the outfitting and manning of a trireme or man-of-war in time of the city's peril. A leitourgia ( G3009) was originally a service of the state voluntarily accepted. Christian giving is something which should be volunteered. It should be accepted as a privilege to help in some way the household of God.

(viii) Once he speaks of this collection as eleemosune ( G1654) ( Acts 24:17). That is the Greek word for alms. So central was alms-giving to the Jewish idea of religion, that the Jew could use the same word for almsgiving and righteousness.

"Alms given to a father shall not be blotted out,

And it shall stand firm as a substitute for sin;

In the day of trouble it shall be remembered,

Obliterating thine iniquities as the heat the

hoar frost" (Ecc 14:15).

The Jew would have said, "How can a man show that he is a good man except by being generous?"

(ix) Lastly he uses the word prosphora ( G4376) ( Acts 24:17). The interesting thing is that prosphora is the word for an offering and a sacrifice. In the realest sense that which is given to a man in need is a sacrifice to God. The best of all sacrifices to him, after the sacrifice of the penitent heart, is kindness shown to one of his children in trouble.

At the end of this section Paul commends two of his helpers. The first is Timothy. Timothy had the disadvantage of being a young man. The situation in Corinth was difficult enough for the experienced Paul; it would be infinitely worse for Timothy. Paul's commendation is that they are to respect Timothy, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the work that he is doing. It is not the man who glorifies the work but the work which glorifies the man. There is no dignity like the dignity of a great task. The second is Apollos. Apollos emerges from this passage as a man of great wisdom. Right at the beginning of this letter we saw that there was a party in Corinth who, quite without the sanction of Apollos, had attached themselves to his name. Apollos knew that, and, no doubt, he wished to stay away from Corinth, lest that party try to annex him. He was wise enough to know that, when a Church is torn with party politics, there is a time when it is wiser and more far-sighted to stay away.

CLOSING WORDS AND GREETINGS ( 1 Corinthians 16:13-21 )

16:13-21 Be on the alert; stand fast in the faith; play the man; be strong. Let all your affairs be transacted in love.

Brothers I urge you--(you know the family of Stephanas was the first-fruits of God's harvest in Achaea and that they have laid themselves out to be of help to Christ's people)--that you too may be obedient to such men and to all who share in the common work of the gospel and who toil for it. I rejoice at the arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they filled up all the gaps in my news about you. They have refreshed my spirit and yours. Give full acknowledgment to such men.

The Churches of Asia send you their greetings. Aquila and Prisca send you many greetings in the Lord together with the Church that is in their house. All the brothers send their greetings. Greet each other with a holy kiss.

Here is my greeting written in the handwriting of me Paul. If anyone does not love the Lord let him be accursed. The Lord is at hand. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

This is an interesting passage because its very practical nature and its ordinariness shed a vivid light on the day to day life of the early Church.

Paul begins with a series of five imperatives. It may well be that all the first four have a military background and are like a commander's orders to his soldiers. "As a sentinel, be ever on the alert. When under attack, stand fast in the faith and yield not an inch. In time of battle, play a hero's part. Like a well-equipped and well-trained soldier, be strong to fight for your King." Then the metaphor changes. Whatever the Christian soldier be to those persons and things which threaten the Christian faith from the outside, to those within the Church he must be a comrade and a lover. In the Christian life there must be the courage which will never retreat and the love which will never fail.

To Paul in Ephesus there had come Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, and they had brought him first-hand information which filled in the gaps in his knowledge of what was happening at Corinth. His commendation of Stephanas is very interesting. Stephanas deserved respect because he had put himself at the service of the Church. In the early Church willing and spontaneous service was the beginning of official office. A man became a leader of the Church, not so much by man-made appointment, as by the fact that his life and work marked him out as one whom all men must respect. T. C. Edwards says, "In the Church many work, but few toil."

Verses 19 and 20,( 1 Corinthians 16:19-20), are a series of greetings. Greetings are sent from Aquila and Priscilla. These two people, man and wife, move across the background of Paul's letters and the Book of Acts. They were Jews, and, like Paul, were tent-makers. Originally they had been settled in Rome, but in A.D. 49 or 50 Claudius, the Roman Emperor, had issued a decree banishing all Jews from Rome. Aquila and Priscilla found their way to Corinth, and it was there that Paul first met them ( Acts 18:2). From Corinth they found their way to Ephesus, from which now Paul sends their greetings to their old associates in Corinth. From Romans 16:3 we find that they found their way back to Rome and settled there again. One of the interesting things about Aquila and Priscilla is that they show us how easy and natural travel was even at that time. They followed their trade from Palestine to Rome, from Rome to Corinth, from Corinth to Ephesus, and from Ephesus back to Rome.

There is one great thing about these two. In those early days there were no church buildings. It is, in fact, not until the third century that we hear about a church building at all. The little congregations met in private houses. If a house had a room big enough, it was there that the Christian fellowship met. Now wherever Aquila and Priscilla went, their home became a church. When they are in Rome, Paul sends greetings to them and to the church that is their house ( Romans 16:3-5). When he writes from Ephesus, he sends greetings from them and from the church that is in their house. Aquila and Priscilla were two of these wonderful people who make their homes centres of Christian light and love, who welcome many guests because Christ is always their unseen guest, who make their houses havens of rest and peace and friendship for the lonely and the tempted and the sad and the depressed. A great compliment Homer paid one of his characters was to say of him, "He dwelt in a house by the side of the road and he was the friend of wayfaring men." The Christian wayfarer ever found an inn of peace where Aquila and Priscilla lived. God grant to us to make our homes like that!

"Greet each other," writes Paul, "with a holy kiss." The kiss of peace was a lovely custom of the early Church. It may have been a Jewish custom which the early Church took over. It was apparently given at the end of the prayers and just before the congregation partook of the sacrament. It was the sign and symbol that they sat at the table of love joined together in perfect love. Cyril of Jerusalem writes of it, "Do not think that this kiss is like the kiss given to each other by mutual friends in the market place." It was not given promiscuously. Certainly in later times it was not given between men and women, but between man and man, and woman and woman. Sometimes it was given not on the lips but on the hand. It came to be called simply "The Peace." Surely never did a church need to be recalled to that lovely custom more than this Church at Corinth, so torn with strife and dissension.

Why did that lovely custom pass from the Church's life? First, it faded because, lovely though it was, it was obviously liable to abuse, and, still more, it was liable to misinterpretation by heathen slanders. Second, it faded because the Church became less and less of a fellowship. In the little house churches, where friend met with friend and all were closely bound together, it was the most natural thing in the world; but, when the house fellowship became a vast congregation and the little room became a great church, the intimacy went lost and the kiss of peace went lost with it. It may well be that with our vast congregations we have lost something, for the bigger and more scattered a congregation is the more difficult it is for it to be a fellowship, where people really know and really love each other. And yet a church which is a collection of strangers, or, at the best, of acquaintances, is not a true church in the deepest sense.

And so to the end. Paul sends his own autograph greeting on the last page of the letter which some secretary had taken down for him. He warns them against anyone who does not love Christ. And then he writes in Aramaic the phrase, "Maran atha ( G3134) ," which most probably means, "The Lord is at hand." 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 identified each other by it, in a language which the heathen could not understand.

Two last things Paul sends to the folk at Corinth--the grace of Christ and his own love. He might have had occasion to warn, to rebuke, to speak with righteous anger, but the last word is love.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)


1 Corinthians

F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (NCB; E)

J. Hering, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (translated by A. W. Heathcote and P. J. Allcock)

J. Moffatt, 1 Corinthians (MC; E)

A. Robertson and A. Plummer, 1 Corinthians (ICC; G)


ICC: International Critical Commentary

MC: Moffatt Commentary

NCB: New Century Bible

TC: Tyndale Commentary

E: English Text

G: Greek Text

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/1-corinthians-16.html. 1956-1959.
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