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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Corinthians 16

Verses 1-24

1 Corinthians 16:9

In Wesley's Journal for 1st February, 1736, written as he approached the shores of Georgia, the following entry appears: 'We spoke with a ship of Carolina; and Wednesday 4, came within soundings. About noon, the trees were visible from the masts, and in the afternoon from the main deck. In the evening lesson were these words: "A great door and effectual is opened ". O let no one shut it!'

References. XVI. 9. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 148; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 278.

1 Corinthians 16:10-46.16.11

This was the passage from which John Angell James preached at Carr's Lane Meeting, Birmingham, on the Sunday before R. W. Dale became his colleague (1853). Writing to Dale, Mr. James said: 'There is little ground for the fear mentioned in the text, but I have thought it not unreasonable to require for you a warm-hearted, confidential reception'.

1 Corinthians 16:11

'It is of the nature of wisdom,' says Maeterlinck, 'to despise nothing; indeed, in this world, there is perhaps only one thing truly contemptible, and that thing is contempt itself.'

True Manliness

1 Corinthians 16:13

Emerson says that the main enterprise of the world, both for splendour and extent, is the upbuilding of a man, and he is undoubtedly correct. The German philosopher Kant fully endorses the eloquent American's sentiments when he says to his students, 'Take humanity for an end' that is, perfect yourselves, in order to be the better able to perfect mankind. The true man is the man likest Jesus and nearest God. Let us now study a few of the world's Ideals of Manliness.

I. For years the Athletic man was the Ideal. Ancient Sparta paid special attention to the growth of strong, sinewy, muscular men. But such an ideal was too animalistic, for it ignored the solemn fact that man was vastly more than a body of clay. Man is more than body. Man was not made for pleasure, but pleasure for man.

II. For years the Ascetic man, or Anchorite, was the Ideal. We are quite ready to believe that these anchorites meant well. They hoped to escape from their sins by escaping from the world; but you cannot get away from your soul by crossing the Atlantic or plunging into the Saharan desert. Your soul is ever with you! Have nothing to do with the anchorite style of religion. As Sydney Smith quaintly says: 'Never wear a face that is a breach of the peace'. The anchorite ideal is a failure, condemned by the unanimous voice of history.

III. For years the Patriot was the Ideal man. True manhood meant absolute consecration to one's country. Patriotism we admire; but it has its perils. Like sectarianism it may narrow our horizon, and it may degenerate into clannishness, and of all narrownesses, that is certainly one of the worst.

IV. For years the Intellectual man was the popular Ideal. Plato, Socrates, Homer, and others were considered the pattern-men. The mere intellectualist is not a full man, but a fragment. The true man is intellect plus heart-power and conscience-power. Byron, and Burns, and Shelley were intellectual stars of rare brightness; but who will dare say that they were ideal men?

V. For years the Civic man was the Ideal. The Roman ideal was true citizenship. The State was everything and the individual nothing; and a system that crushes the individual can never produce the pattern-manhood. Citizenship, without moral principle at the root of it, is a hollow sham, and the subsequent decline and fall of Rome was the best evidence of the fact.

VI. For years the Judaic man was the Ideal. But the Jewish ideal was not the highest, for the Jews were too fond of drilling men into manhood. They paid too little attention to inwardness, and too much to circumcisions, and washings, and purifications. If you want to see the difference between the ideal Jew and the ideal Christian, just compare Mount Sinai with Mount Hattin, and the Decalogue with the Beatitudes.

VII. But we are proud to say that the Ideal man of today is the Christ's man, that is, the Christian. Diogenes could not find his man in Athens; but we have discovered our Man in this old book, and His name is Jesus! (1) Be magnanimous like Jesus. (2) Be courageous like Jesus. (3) Be sincere with Jesus. (4) Be pure like Jesus.

J. Ossian Davies, The Dayspring from on High, p. 145.

Spiritual Strength

1 Corinthians 16:13

We are conscious of our weakness, our need is strength, but how shall we attain to it? Elsewhere St. Paul, using the same military metaphors that we have seen here, tells his people how that strength is to be obtained. 'Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.' From the words of the Apostle two things are clear.

I. The Struggle with Evil. First he regards every man as engaged in a separate personal struggle with a real spiritual power of evil. It is not merely the evil that is inherent in his own nature. It is something more than that It is an organised host of wickedness. It is, in fact, all that we mean when we say in the Catechism, 'The devil and all his works'. I know, of course, that the devil is often made, in the expression of Bishop Butler, a subject of mirth and ridicule; but our Lord's language is utterly meaningless unless it signified that there is a real spiritual power of evil. He always seemed to find it hanging on the frontiers of His own life, tempting all along the way, especially in the hours of weakness and sorrow. May we not also appeal to the experience of spiritual people, of all those who have entered with all their power into the personal struggle against evil? Is it not a fact that the more earnestly they have engaged in it the more they have been sensible of struggle with a real spiritual power, force, kingdom, method of evil? Nay, may we not say of ourselves, is it not our own experience in the darkest hours of temptation, when the worst thoughts come, when the most awful strain is put upon us, do we then find it difficult to believe in the working of a personal power? Nothing can be more foolish than to underrate the power with which we are engaged, or may be engaged.

II. Sources of Spiritual Strength. And then, secondly, after insisting upon the reality of this power, this kingdom of evil or of darkness, St Paul insists upon every man's need of Divine strength. The Apostle would say, when he says here, 'Be strong,' as he says elsewhere, 'Be strong in the Lord'. Do not go unready, unprepared, unarmed, into the struggle against evil. Put on the whole armour of God, and remember that the putting on of the spiritual armour is not a matter for one or two occasions, however great they may be, in a lifetime; it has to be continued from the beginning to the end.

Let me remind you of a few of the means by which we seek to attain that spiritual grace, that Divine help, without which the spiritual combat will certainly be a failure.

(a) Prayer. First of all, there is the weapon of prayer. Here we have always before us the example of our Lord Himself. What is prayer? All of you know it is not a mere asking for something, above all it is a contact of spirit with spirit, of person with person; it is the contact with God Himself, putting ourselves in touch with Him. If you doubt prayer, or the power of prayer, just remember for a moment, again in this instance also, what the experiences of spiritual men have been, how they have found prayer to be this very power in their lives, how they have proved it, how they have lived by it.

(b) The devotional reading of the Scriptures. Or, again, there is the devotional use of the Holy Scriptures. This use of the Holy Scriptures is much more rare than it used to be, and the Bible is much less read than it used to be, even by good, church-going, religious people. No doubt there are reasons for this. One reason is the enormous multiplication of every form of literature, especially ephemeral literature. People who read four or five newspapers a day have no time obviously to read the New or the Old Testament. Partly it may be caused by what is supposed to be the unsettlement of the basis of Holy Scripture. Most people hear something, if they know little, about Higher Criticism, but we may be sure that whatever has happened to the Holy Scriptures nothing has happened to make their devotional value less than it used to be Questions of date or authorship do not really affect spiritual power. Experience shows still, as it used to show, that the Holy Scriptures can make men wise unto salvation.

(c) The Holy Communion. Or once more, there is the Supper of the Lord, or the Holy Communion. It ought not to be necessary now for one to say that the Holy Communion is not, what it used so often to be regarded as, a sort of mark or test of superiority. Believe me, it is not for strong men, but for weak men, for those who know and feel and realise their own weakness. Hesitate before you pass it by, before you let it go.

1 Corinthians 16:13

'In Italy,' says Emerson, Napoleon 'sought for men, and found none. "Good God," he said, "how rare men are! There are eighteen millions in Italy, and I have with difficulty found two Dandolo and Melzi."'

A depression possessed him which he could not shake off. What had he to show, after all, for these fifty odd years of life granted to him? He feared his religion had walked in silver slippers, and would so walk to the end. Could it then, in any true and vital sense, be reckoned religion at all? Gross sins had never exercised any attraction over him? What virtue was there, then, in being innocent of gross sin? But to those other sins sins of defective moral courage in speech and action, sins arising from over-fastidiousness had he not yielded freely? Was he not a spiritual valetudinarian? He feared so. Offered, in the Eternal Mercy, endless precious opportunities of service, he had been too weak, too timorous, too slothful, to lay hold on them.

Lucas Malet, in Sir Richard Calmady (bk. III. ch. IV.).

'One comes across human beings at times,' says Maxim Gorky, 'with complex characters, so that whatever name one applies to them seems a fitting one, only the one word "man" seems inapplicable to them.'

1 Corinthians 16:13

Charles Kingsley wrote these two words once in answer to a question, 'What is your favourite motto or proverb?' And, when Dean Stanley preached his funeral sermon in Westminster Abbey, from this text, he observed that 'There were three main lessons of his character and career which may be summed up in the three parts of the apostolic farewell, "Watch ye; quit you like men and be strong; stand fast in the faith,"' adding that 'amidst all the wavering inconstancy of our time, he called upon the men of his generation with a steadfastness and assured conviction that of itself steadied and reassured the minds of those for whom he spoke, "to stand fast in the faith".'

References. XVI. 13. J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 487. C. Neil, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 167. C. D. Bell, The Name Above Every Name, p. 111. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 363, and vol. xlvi. p. 66. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 210. W. J. Hills, Sermons and Addresses, p. 63. A. P. Stanley, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 184 D. Macleod, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 78. J. B. Brown, Aids to the Development of the Divine Life, No. iii. D. L. Moody, The Fulness of the Gospel, p. 72. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 270.

1 Corinthians 16:13-46.16.14

Coleridge concludes his first set of essays in the Friend with an appeal for moderation and forbearance in the prosecution of first reforms. 'A system of fundamental reform will scarcely be effected by massacres mechanised into revolution. We cannot therefore inculcate on the minds of each other too often or with too great earnestness the necessity of inculcating benevolent affections.... It is not enough that we have once swallowed these truths we must feed on them, as insects on a leaf, till the whole heart be coloured by their qualities, and show its food in even the minutest fibre.

'Finally, in the words of the Apostle!

'Watch you, stand fast in the principles of which ye have been convinced 1 Quit yourselves like men! Be strong! Yet let all things be done in the spirit of love.'

Reference. XVI. 13, 14. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Corinthians, p. 262.

1 Corinthians 16:14

Why does Paul add this word at this point? He has been exhorting the Corinthians to a manly, resolute religion: stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Why speak of love in this connection? Because love is the atmosphere of a robust faith. There is a spurious or inferior type of strength which has firm convictions but insists upon its own opinions or methods without paying sufficient regard to the feelings of other people. This masterful temper is often confounded with true strength of character, and Paul seeks to guard against this misconception. A firm grasp of principle is always apt to be uncharitable. Its temptation is to grow impatient of any defects in the belief or conduct of others, and a trifle hard in its moral judgments. Resolute natures often say and do the right thing, but it is in the wrong spirit Instead of edifying their fellows, they produce a feeling of irritation. They are difficult to work with. They want echoes, not colleagues, in the church. Their very tenacity of purpose develops an inconsiderateness which tends now and then to make trouble, instead of peace, in the community.

Paul suggests that forbearance and consideration, so far from being a mark of weakness, are an inseparable element of strength. A man who is strong in the faith, full of clear ideas and energy, ought to be strong in love, conciliatory, unselfish, forbearing.

James Moffatt.

1 Corinthians 16:15-46.16.16

I could not be content, unless I was found in the Exercise of my Gift, unto which also I was greatly animated, not only by the continual desires of the Godly, but also by that saying of Paul to the Corinthians, I beseech you, Brethren (ye know the household of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the Ministry of the Saints) that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboureth. By this text I was made to see that the Holy Ghost never intended that men who have Gifts and Abilities should bury them in the earth, but rather did command and stir up such to the Exercise of their Gift... This Scripture, in these days, did continually run in my mind, to encourage me and strengthen me in this my work for God.

Bunyan, Grace Abounding, pp. 269, 270.

1 Corinthians 16:17-46.16.18

Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?

Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?

Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road.

References. XVI. 17. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 99. XVI. 21. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 199; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 450. XVI. 21, 22. G. Campbell Morgan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 241. XVI. 21-24. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 205. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Corinthians, p. 258.

1 Corinthians 16:22

'If there be any among you,' Samuel Rutherford wrote to his former parishioners at Anwoth, 'that take liberty to sin because I am removed from amongst you, and forget that word of truth which ye heard, and turn the grace of God into wantonness, I here, under my hand, in the name of Christ my Lord, write to such persons all the plagues of God, and the curses that ever I preached in the pulpit of Anwoth, against the children of disobedience.'

References. XVI. 22. J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. i. p. 484. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 56. H. J. Windross, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 179.

Our Lord Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:23

The text is in the Epistle to the Romans; the text is in both the Epistles to the Corinthians; the text is in the Epistle to the Galatians, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, in the Epistle to the Philippians, in the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. It is in the brief note to Philemon; it is in the Epistles of Peter, and Jude could not write his little burning note without using it three times. The text is everywhere, in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth. What is it? It is short, but it is full as an acorn that holds all the oaks of Bashan in possibility.

The text is 'Our Lord Jesus Christ'. He was before all things; He is above all things; by Him all things consist, to Him they owe their cohesion and unity, their poetry and their purpose. It is the theme of every true ministry. He who has alighted upon this text need not turn a page, though he minister from jubilee to jubilee, and through all the coming, rising, falling, millenniums of time. He cannot be short of a subject; the preacher's subject is fixed; he is not dependent upon the journals of the day or upon the accident of the morning. His theme never changes; it is the all-comprehensive theme; there is nothing of monotony or sameness about it; these seven notes have in them the greatest oratorios yet to be written.

I. It will be profitable to fix upon the keyword, so far as our special appropriation of the name is concerned. That personal, domestic, love-word is 'our'

Lord Jesus Christ It is in the word 'our' that the pathos palpitates and cries; not Lord Jesus, not Lord Jesus with a grammatical article before it, but Lord Jesus with our in front of it our Saviour; though the world despise Him, He is ours. We are pledged men; we are not walking up and down amid a dozen Christs asking which we shall have, or shall we have any or none; we represent a vow, an oath; we carry about with us the brand, the stigma of the Lord Jesus. A wondrous little word is our.

(1) Our child; he is not beautiful according to formal notions of beauty, he is not so precocious as other children are, he is not brilliant, he is by no means so shapely as if he were a trained athlete: but he is our child. Our eyes are blind to any possible deficiency; our eyes cannot see what the eyes of cold criticism can perceive. The reason is that the child lives in the heart; he is our child; and the house would be no house without him. If that little child were not to come home to-night nobody under our roof could go to bed. Why, he is only one. True, but he is ours. He is only little, fragile, puny. Quite true, but he is ours.

(2) So we speak of our country. I do not believe in a narrow patriotism. I could not accept any patriotism that was inconsistent with philanthropy; and yet there is a sense in which the stones of our country, whatever it be, are more precious than the stones of any other country, though the stones of the other country be diamonds, and precious to the lapidary. It is an instinct, it is an inborn something, it is a mystery, but a mystery that is poetic, inspiring, comforting, ennobling. It is by the culture of such instincts that we become intellectually and morally rich and free.

(3) Where is there a man who does not say with natural pride 'our house'? It is not a big one; the garden, front and back, can hardly be called a garden; the rooms are not large, there are few pictures on the walls, but we keep the window open, and he who keeps his window open may some day pray, for it is a long distance that man can see through his open window, and he may see in the clouds, where the first tabernacle was built, Jerusalem, the city of the great King; it may come into his heart whilst he looks through the open window, to fall upon his knees and cry to the Invisible and the Almighty. Never obliterate or modify that word our, it is a personal pronoun that holds an entire grammar in itself.

II. And so, carrying the idea to its highest, widest application, we come upon 'our Lord Jesus Christ'. He may not be the Lord of some other man, but He is our Lord, we cannot dispute about Him. Who would bring his own wife into the market for a public opinion? he wants no public criticism upon his larger life, his true grand heart; he silences criticism. Alas! we sometimes invite it upon the Man of God. Where we should knock a man down if he said words like that about our wife, we permit the fool to expectorate his contempt upon the name that we hold dearest of all. Remember, whatever He may be to other people, He is our Lord Jesus, our Saviour, our hope, and to stand by whilst He is being traduced is treachery; in such a case silence is blasphemy.

III. He is our Lord Jesus in example, in doctrine, in sorrow, in joy. How did He bear His sorrow? even so must I bear mine, saith the Christian in every night-shadowed Gethsemane; I will listen to my Lord that I may know how to bear my sorrow; He delivered several sweet discourses upon grief and pain of heart, 1 will listen to Him, His voice is music; if I do not understand His words, I can kiss the lips that speak them: Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me: Fear not, little flock; peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. God help me, then! I will try to be a man. If the Lord Jesus spake such words, He did not speak them wastefully or idly, He spake them to a heart broken, helpless, hopeless; I do my Lord dishonour by letting His words lie outside the sanctuary of my heart; I will take them all in, and if I cannot sing my prayer, I will moan it

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VII. p. 156.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-corinthians-16.html. 1910.