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Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 16

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

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Verse 1


(1) Now concerning the collection for the saints.—This chapter deals briefly with the following subjects:—

1 Corinthians 16:1-4. The collection for the poor at Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:5-9. The Apostle’s prospective arrangement, as to his journey.

1 Corinthians 16:10-18. Commendation of various individuals.

1 Corinthians 16:19-20. The salutation of the Church.

1 Corinthians 16:21-24. The salutation of Paul himself.

From the fact of a necessity existing for a collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem, it is clear that the community of goods (see Acts 2:44) which had at the beginning been established in that Church had not proved successful. Christianity was largely recruited from the lower classes, especially in Jerusalem (James 2:6), and a common fund would not long have flourished with so few contributors and such a multitude of sharers. Moreover, the many who were shut up in prison had perhaps by this time been released in abject poverty, and would naturally be the subject of anxious solicitation to one who was identical with “persecuting Saul,” who “had given his voice against them,” and against others now dead. (See Acts 26:10.) It is to be noticed that the Apostle does not speak of them as “the poor,” but as “saints.” That was the true ground of their claim upon their brethren.

As I have given order to the churches of Galatia.—Better, As I gave order to the churches of Galatia. The order was definitely given by the Apostle in person when visiting these churches (Acts 18:23). It does not occur in his Epistle to that Church. On this passage Bengel’s Note is worth quoting—“He proposes the Galatians as an example to the Corinthians, the Corinthians to the Macedonians, and the Corinthians and Macedonians to the Romans (2 Corinthians 9:2; Romans 15:26). Great is the power of examples.”

Verse 2

(2) Upon the first day of the week.—The Greek phrase (as given in the best MSS.) is literally, on one of the Sabbaths—that being, after a Hebrew idiom, equivalent to “the day next after the Sabbath.” Already the day of the week on which Christ had risen had become noted as a suitable day for distinctively Christian work and Christian worship. It does not yet seem to have been designated by the phrase by which it became subsequently universally known in Christendom—“the Lord’s Day;” that name occurs first in Revelation 1:10. This would be a convenient as well as a suitable day for each one to set aside, as he had proposed, something, storing it up until the Apostle’s arrival; for this was already the usual day for Christians assembling themselves together (Acts 20:7). I cannot think with Stanley and others that the Apostle means that each was to lay by “in his own house,” and not in some general treasury. The object of this direction is expressly stated to be that the money should all be ready in bulk-sum when the Apostle came, so that his time and that of the Christian community during his visit might not be occupied with this, but with more profitable matters, which result would not have been accomplished if the offering had then to be gathered from each Christian home.

As God hath prospered him.—Better, whatsoever he may be prospered in. These words do not imply that only in cases of exceptional prosperity was a man to contribute, but every man was to give out of whatever fruits he had from his labour.

Verse 3

(3) Whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters.—Better, whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send by letters to bring your gifts to Jerusalem. The Apostle had not made up his mind finally whether he would take the gift himself or send it by messengers, whom he would accredit with letters, to the Church at Jerusalem. He would probably be influenced by the amount collected, and by the urgency, or otherwise, of the needs of those at Jerusalem at the time. The Apostle was, in one sense, the humblest of men; but he valued highly the dignity of his apostolic office, and if but a very small sum were ready for the Church at Jerusalem, he would have felt it to be beneath the dignity of his office, though not of himself, to be the bearer of such an offering. The course finally adopted was that the Apostle went himself, and the selected brethren with him (Acts 21:15).

Verse 5

(5) For I do pass through Macedonia.—A misrepresentation of these words gives rise to the incorrect statement that this Epistle was written at Philippi, which is to be found in the subscription at the end of this chapter in our English Bible. The Apostle does not here refer to where he is at the moment of writing, but to his intention regarding his journey. He had intended to go first to Corinth (see 2 Corinthians 1:15-16), but he has altered that plan, and says that his intention now is to pass through Macedonia first, and then visit Corinth. Then he says, “For I do pass through Macedonia.” To this intention the Apostle adheres. (See Introduction.)

Verse 6

(6) And it may be that I will abide . . .—His former plan had involved but a brief visit to the Church at Corinth, but the arrangement which he now contemplated would permit of a longer stay, and so he adds, with affectionate emphasis, “that you may send me on my journey.” Whither he would go from Corinth he had not yet determined; and, indeed, it was subsequently determined for him by a conspiracy against him, which was fortunately discovered in time (Acts 20:3). He remained three mouths at Corinth, during winter, and, as that brought him to a time of year when a voyage would be safe, he resolved to sail into Syria. The conspiracy of the Jews caused this plan to be abandoned, and a different course, through Troas, &c., adopted. (See Acts 20:6; Acts 20:13; Acts 20:17.) The phrase “that ye may send me on” implies not merely that Corinth should be the starting-point of his journey to Jerusalem, but that he should set out on that journey with the good wishes and blessing of his Corinthian friends (as in Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5).

Verse 7

(7) For I will not see you now by the way.—Here again is a reference to his changed intention. (See 1 Corinthians 16:5.)

Verse 8

(8) But I will tarry at Ephesus.—In this and the following verse the Apostle returns to his immediate plans at Ephesus. It was probably now about Easter-time (see 1 Corinthians 16:7), and the hostility of enemies increases. (See Acts 19:9-23.) That must be subdued. A door has been opened wide for the effectual spread of the gospel (Acts 19:20). Of that the Apostle must avail himself. Therefore he will remain where he is until Pentecost. Duty to be done, and danger to be faced in the doing of it, were to such a man as St. Paul sufficient indications as to where he ought to be found.

Verse 10

(10) Now if Timotheus come . . .—Timothy and Erastus had been sent (see 1 Corinthians 4:17) by St. Paul to remind the Corinthians of his former teaching, and to rebuke and check those evils of which rumours had reached the ears of the Apostle. As, however, they would travel through Macedonia, delaying en route at the various churches to prepare them for the visit which St. Paul, according to his then intention, purposed paying them after he had been to Corinth, they possibly might not reach Corinth until after this Epistle, which would be carried thither by a more direct route. The Apostle was evidently anxious to know how Timothy would be received by the Corinthians. He was young in years. He was young also in the faith. He had probably a constitutionally weak and timid nature (see 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 1:4), and he was of course officially very subordinate to St. Paul. In a Church, therefore, some of whose members had gone so far as to question, if not actually to repudiate the authority even of the Apostle himself, and to depreciate him as compared with the elder Apostles, there was considerable danger for one like Timothy. By reminding the Corinthians of the work in which Timothy is engaged, and of its identity with his own work, the Apostle anticipates and protests against any insult being offered to Timothy, because of what a great English statesman once called, in reference to himself, “the atrocious crime of being a young man.”

Verse 11

(11) For I look for him with the brethren.—Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22) had been sent through Macedonia to Corinth some time before this Epistle was written, but when they had been despatched the full knowledge of the state of affairs at Corinth had not reached St. Paul. Now that he knows how very bad is the condition of the Corinthian Church, and what need it has of vigorous treatment, he sends not only his Epistle, but with it Titus and two other brethren. (See 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:22-23.) In energy and firmness of character Titus was a striking contrast to Timothy, while he equally shared the spirit and confidence of St. Paul. (See Introduction, and 2 Corinthians 7:8) He therefore was not only a bearer of this Epistle, but one fully competent and willing to deal energetically with the recalcitrant spirit of some sections of the Corinthian Church. The Apostle here expresses the hope that Timothy may join Titus and his party when they take their departure from Corinth.

Verse 12

(12) As touching our brother Apollos.—St. Paul, free from the smallest spark of personal jealousy, had wished that Apollos, whose name had been used as the designation of a faction in opposition to the Apostle himself, should go with this letter to Corinth. St. Paul had planted, Apollos had watered that Church, and in the absence of the planter, Apollos would have been the most likely and proper person to exercise authority there. The unselfish consideration of St. Paul is equalled by the thoughtful reluctance of Apollos, who fears that his presence might encourage the one faction, and perhaps embitter the other, and he declines, not considering it a “convenient” time to do so. In the thought of these teachers “convenient” meant the good of Christ’s Church, and not the ease or comfort of any individual man.

Verses 13-14

(13, 14) Watch ye, stand fast.—These words of stirring exhortation come in here somewhat abruptly. It is possible that they conclude the epistle so far—the Apostle intending to add immediately before sending it, the verses which follow, and which contain messages from, or commendations of their friends who were with him. Living in a profound consciousness of the uncertainty of life, St. Paul might wish not to have such references to friends with him added until the last moment along with his own autograph (see 1 Corinthians 16:21). The Apostle’s mind is full of the hope of beneficial results following from this letter and from the exertions of Titus; yet, after all, everything depends upon the Corinthians themselves. Chrysostom’s Note on these words brings out their meaning well. “Now in saying these things, he seems indeed to advise; but he is reprimanding them as indolent. Wherefore he saith, Watch, as though they slept; stand, as though they were rocking to and fro; quit you like men, as though they were playing the coward; let all your things be done with charity, as though they were in dissensions. And the first caution refers to the deceivers, viz., Watch, stand; the next to those who plot against us, quit you like men; the third to those who make parties and endeavour to distract, let all your things be done with charity, which thing is the bond of perfection, and the root and the fountain of all blessings.”

Verse 15

(15) The house of Stephanas.—The Apostle here reminds the Corinthians that the devotion of teachers, and all who serve in the gospel ministry, ought to be rewarded with a return of sympathy and devotion on the part of those whom they serve. There is in the original a characteristic play upon words here which can scarcely be rendered adequately in the English: “Ye know the house of Stephanas, that they have ordered themselves to the ministry of the saints, now I exhort you, order yourselves to be subject to them.” Stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:1-16), Fortunatus, and Achaicus had come from Corinth to Ephesus, probably with the letter from the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 8:1), and their presence had cheered the Apostle. They, “faithful amid the faithless,” had made up for the want of zeal and love on the part of so many of the Corinthians. The Corinthians might think that these men had told St. Paul much of the evil state of Corinth, and he, therefore, carefully commends them to their consideration as having refreshed, not only his spirit, but “theirs also.” They had come on behalf of the whole Church there, not enemies to bear tales, but well-wishing friends to obtain apostolic help and counsel for all. The Apostle did not send his reply back by the same messengers, but by Titus instead, as probably their return to Corinth would have stirred up a good deal of controversy and ill feeling as to what account they had given him verbally of the various parties and their conduct in Corinth.

Verse 19

(19) The churches of Asia salute you.—This and the following verse are occupied with the salutations from the churches throughout Asia; from the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla; and finally, from “all the brethren.” Aquila and Priscilla had been the Apostle’s friends at Corinth (Acts 18:1-3), and he now was with them at Ephesus. (See Romans 16:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:19.) Probably by “the church in their house” is meant a group of foreigners then resident in Ephesus, and accustomed to meet there for worship, as distinct from those who had been converted in Ephesus.

Verse 20

(20) An holy kiss.—The kiss was the ordinary form of affectionate greeting in the East. The Church adopted it; and when thus interchanged between those whose bond of friendship was not earthly, but spiritual, it was designated “the holy kiss.” (See Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:26.) The practice was given up in the Latin Church in the thirteenth century, but is still used in the Greek Church on certain great occasions, such as Easter Day.

Verse 21

(21) The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.—It was the Apostle’s habit to dictate his Epistles, but to add a few words at the end in his own handwriting. (See 2 Thessalonians 3:17.) The concluding verses here are accordingly St. Paul’s autograph. The earlier portions had been written by Sosthenes. (See 1 Corinthians 1:1.)

Verse 22

(22) If any man love not the Lord Jesus.—From all the argument and controversy which form the main portion of the Epistle, the Apostle with his own hand brings back the thoughts of the Corinthians to the true test of their Christianity. Do they love the Lord Jesus? The word here used for love signifies not merely affectionate regard, but personal devotion.

Let him be Anathema Maran-atha.—Better Let him be Anathema. Maranatha. There is no connection between these two words. Anathema signifies “accursed.” The absence of love to Christ is condemnation. The word Maranatha is a Syriac expression—“the Lord is at hand,” or “the Lord is come;” probably the former. The uncertainty of the moment when the Lord may come is the most solemn thought with which to remind them of the importance of being one with Christ. Stanley gives the following interesting Note:—“The name Maronite is sometimes explained by a tradition that the Jews in their expectation of the Messiah were constantly saying, Maran (Lord). To which the Christians answered, Maranatha (The Lord is come), why do you expect Him? Hence the name, ‘Maronite’ is applied to the Jews, especially Spanish Jews and Moors who confessed Maran, but not Maranatha.”

Verse 24

(24) My love be with you all.—Like a river which, after rushing, foaming over many a rock and through many a gorge, at last emerges into a broad calm amid sunlit meadows, so this Epistle, after chapters of trenchant logic and fervid rebuke, closes in peaceful words of tenderness and love.

[In reference to the erroneous subscription which follows this Epistle in our English version, see Notes on 1 Corinthians 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:8; 1 Corinthians 16:10.

For the date of this Epistle, see Introduction.]

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/1-corinthians-16.html. 1905.
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