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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

1 Corinthians 16

Introduction

Conclusion. Chap. 16.

IN this conclusion the apostle treats five subjects: (1) The collection for the poor of the Church of Jerusalem: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; (2) His approaching visit to Corinth: 1 Corinthians 16:5-9; (3) News of his delegates and of his fellow-workers: 1 Corinthians 16:10-12; (4) Particular exhortation and direction relative to the three deputies of the Church who are at present with him: 1 Corinthians 16:13-18; (5) Final salutations: 1 Corinthians 16:19-24.

Verses 1-4

Vv. 1-4. “Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the Churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he hath prospered, that the gatherings be not only when I come; 3. and when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. 4. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.”

When dividing among themselves the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world, the apostles had made an arrangement by which Paul and Barnabas should from time to time renew the help sent by the Church of Antioch in a particular case, in behalf of the poor Christians of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10; Act 11:27-30 ). It has been asked whether the indigence of these last did not arise from the community of goods which had prevailed in the Church for a time, after Pentecost. Augustine had already suggested this idea. Reuss speaks in this connection of imprudence, of squandering of fortunes, misunderstood charity. But it is impossible that sacrifices made for the time, to keep up common tables, and of which a few examples only are quoted in the Acts, could have had so considerable an influence on the monetary condition of the Christians of the capital. Edwards calls attention to the expression τοὺς πτωχοὺς τῶν ἁγίων , the poor among the saints ( Rom 15:26 ), which proves that the indigence did not extend to all. We must remember what appears clearly from the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistle of James, as well as from the term Ebionites ( poor) by which Christians of Jewish origin are designated: viz. that Christianity had gained the mass of its adherents from the poor population of Palestine. Now the Christians were hated by the great and rich of Jerusalem on whom they depended for their work. Nothing easier for them, consequently, than to reduce Christians to the last extremity. Moreover, believers must have been exposed by the Jewish authorities in Palestine to a thousand vexations and penalties from which the Churches of other countries were free. If we read carefully Jam 2:6 in connection with chap. 1 Corinthians 5:1-6, we shall have an idea of the painful situation of the Churches of Palestine, and particularly of that of Jerusalem, at this period. It closely resembled the position of Hindoo converts excluded from their caste, or that of Protestants, newly converted from Catholicism, in Spain or Italy, whom the animosity of the clergy, and their influence over the wealthy classes, often deprive of their means of subsistence. Finally, it must not be forgotten that we have here the imitation of a custom which prevailed among the Jews from the time that the people were scattered over the Gentile world. It appears from Josephus ( Antiq. 18.9. 1) and from Philo ( Leg. ad Caium, § 40) that, in all the cities where there was a Jewish colony, there was a treasury established in which every Israelite deposited the offerings which he destined for the temple and for the inhabitants of the capital. It was from Babylonia that the richest contributions came. Men of the noblest families were chosen to carry those collections to Jerusalem. It was therefore most natural for the Church to appropriate this usage in behalf of the mother Church of Christendom, all the more because such manifestations of Christian love were the finest testimony to the communion of saints, a close bond formed by the Spirit of God between the two great divisions of the primitive Church; comp. 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Romans 15:25-27.

The form περὶ δέ , as to what concerns, concerning, as well as the art. τῆς , the, introduce the subject as one already known to the Corinthians ( 2Co 9:2 ); and what is to be said immediately of the Churches of Galatia proves that the matter had long engaged attention. Besides, the passage Gal 2:10 shows that it was not the first time such a thing had been done.

The expression the saints, though frequently denoting all Christians (1 Corinthians 6:2; Rom 12:13 ), is certainly not used here by Paul without allusion to the peculiar dignity belonging to the members of the primitive Church of Jerusalem; comp. 2Co 8:4 ; 2 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 9:12. They possess, whatever Holsten may say in opposition to Hofmann, a special consecration; they are the natural branches of the good olive tree (Romans 11:16-17; Rom 11:24 ), whereas believers of the Gentiles are branches of the wild olive grafted among the former on the patriarchal stem. According to Ephesians 2:19, the Gentiles become by faith fellow-citizens of the saints, that is to say, of Christians of Jewish origin. It is from the Church of Jerusalem, St. Paul says ( Rom 15:27 ), that spiritual blessings have spread throughout the world. There is much delicacy on Paul's part in emphasizing this characteristic when speaking of an act which might have had something humiliating about it for those who were its objects. This almsgiving thus became the payment of a debt, or better still an act of homage, a sort of tithe offered by the Church of the Gentiles to the Levites of the human race.

Perhaps in the letter of the Corinthians to Paul a question had been put to him as to the steps to be taken for the success of this business. To his high speculative and dialectic powers the apostle united an eminently practical mind. The plan which he advised the Churches of Galatia to follow, and which the Corinthians are now called to imitate, is no other than that which he points out in 1 Corinthians 16:2. The κατά is distributive: every first day; the cardinal numeral μία , one, used instead of the ordinal first, is a Hebraism; comp. Mark 16:2; Mark 16:9. The terms σάββατον (sometimes σάββας ) and σάββατα gradually took the meaning of week; comp. Luke 18:12; for weeks are measured by Sabbaths. It seems probable from this passage, as from Acts 20:7, that the day which followed the Sabbath, and which was the day of the resurrection of Jesus, was early distinguished from the other days of the week and substituted for the Sabbath as the ordinary day for religious worship; comp. Revelation 1:10. The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles calls it, as the Apocalypse does, the Lord's day, omitting even the word ἡμέρα , which already makes κυριακή an entirely technical term (see Edwards). Our passage presents one of the first indications of the special religious consecration of this first day of the week.

Each one; even the least wealthy, even slaves; however little it may be.

The words: by him, denote an act done by each in his own house, and not, as some have thought, a gift bestowed in church and known to the giver only.

The expression θησαυρίζων , storing up a treasure, is very beautiful; while expressing the same thought as τιθέναι παῤ ἑαυτῷ , to set aside, it brings out the encouraging aspect of this method; such successive deposits, little as they may be, gradually become a respectable sum, a treasure. But the apostle would not have this measure to become a burden such as might oppress the hearts of the givers ( 2Co 9:7 ). Hence he adds: as he hath prospered. The verb εὐοδοῦν , to guide happily in a journey, signifies in the Middle: to make a journey happily oneself; and hence: to prosper in one's business. The plan in question therefore is the setting apart regularly of a certain proportion of the weekly gain.

The object of this measure is that the sums may be ready when Paul comes, and that there may be nothing to do except to lift them, which will be done quickly and easily, and will give an ampler sum than if the gift were all bestowed at one time.

Vv. 3. Paul has no thought of taking charge of the sum collected himself. He is the ambassador of Christ to the Church, and not a deputy between different Churches. In the passage 2Co 8:23 he speaks of apostles, that is, delegates, of the Churches to one another. It is such delegates that the Corinthians will name to represent them to the Church of Jerusalem, and to offer it this testimony of their love; οὓς δοκιμάσητε : “ Those whom you (yourselves) shall count worthy (of this mission).” Several commentators (Calvin, Beza, etc.) connect the regimen by letters with the verb δοκιμάσητε : “Whom ye shall approve by letters.” It was the Church of Corinth, according to them, which was to furnish its delegates with letters of introduction to the Church of Jerusalem. But does δοκιμάζειν admit of such a meaning? The verb bears rather on the choice than on the envoy. Here it would be necessary to give it the meaning, not only of declaring worthy, but of recommending as worthy. It is therefore better to connect the regimen by letters, as the ancient Greek commentators and many moderns do, with the verb πέμψω , I shall send. It is Paul who will introduce them to the Church of Jerusalem, which is much more natural, for he only stands in relation to it. The plural ἐπιστολῶν might designate several letters; but it is more natural to understand here only one, whether we take ἐπιστολῶν as a plural of category, or give the singular meaning to the plural substantive, as the Latin litterae so often has. This letter would no doubt be addressed to James as head of the council of elders at Jerusalem ( Act 21:18 ). Meyer justly observes that the δἰ ἐπιστολῶν is placed first in contrast to the other possible case: that of Paul going and introducing them himself ( 1Co 16:4 ).

Vv. 4. He is not yet certain that he will go to Jerusalem; but if the collection is large enough, that will determine him to go personally to Palestine, and he will join those who may be charged with presenting it. But in this case Paul is careful not to say: “I will go with them.” Conscious as he is of his apostolic dignity, he is well aware that he will be the principal personage of the deputation; and therefore he says: They will go with me.

In taking all these measures, Paul's object was not merely to respect the autonomy of the Churches; he wished also to secure himself against the odious suspicions which prevailed at Corinth in the minds of adversaries who were utterly unscrupulous as to the means they used to blacken his character and undermine his authority; comp. 2 Corinthians 12:16-18.

The question which Paul here leaves in suspense, we find answered affirmatively, Romans 15:25: “Now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints,” and Acts 20:1-6, where we find him at Corinth surrounded by deputies from all the Churches of Macedonia and Achaia, who are preparing to start with him for Jerusalem.

Verses 5-7

Vv. 5-7. “Now I will come unto you when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia; 6. and I will abide with you as long as I can, or even winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. 7. For I will not see you now by the way, for I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.”

It follows from this passage that Paul must have communicated to the Corinthians, either in the letter mentioned chap. 1 Corinthians 5:9, or verbally by Timothy, another plan, according to which he reckoned on proceeding first from Ephesus to Corinth, merely taking the latter city by the way to go thence to Macedonia; then to return to Corinth to make a prolonged stay. This plan he now finds himself obliged to modify; he will proceed first to Macedonia, and thence to Corinth. The present διέρχομαι , I pass through, is the present of idea: “My plan is to pass...” From this word, misunderstood, has arisen the error which is mentioned in the critical annotation placed at the end of the Epistle.

Verses 5-9

His approaching visit to Corinth. 1 Corinthians 16:5-9 .

Paul had just alluded to his approaching stay at Corinth ( 1Co 16:3 ). He now dwells on the subject, to give some explanations about it to his readers.

Verse 6

Vv. 6. But if his presence among them should be thus somewhat retarded, it will probably be the more prolonged. To this agreeable thought he adds a second, which, if they love him, ought also to gladden them: that they will thus have the task of providing for the new journey, whatever it may be, which will follow his stay. The expression whithersoever I go refers to the uncertainty which he still feels as to whether he will start for Jerusalem or for the West.

The verb προπέμπειν signifies: to send on in company while providing for all the wants of the journey. At the time when Paul wrote it was the Passover of the year 57 he proposed to remain a few weeks more at Ephesus, till Pentecost ( 1Co 16:8 and chap. 1Co 5:7-8 ). He thus reckoned on passing the following summer in Macedonia, and thence proceeding about autumn to Corinth, there to pass the winter of 57-58. It is commonly held that this plan was carried out. I do not think so. It seems to me, as to others, that the complications which arose immediately after this letter between the apostle and the Church of Corinth led in the course of things to much graver changes than is usually supposed. In any case, it seems to me impossible to connect with the simple change of plan here indicated the justification of his loyalty which the apostle is obliged to give in the first chapter of the Second Epistle ( 1Co 16:15-18 ). The change there referred to is evidently one of far greater importance; comp. 2 Corinthians 2:1-4.

The οὗ is often used for οἷ in the later Greek.

Verse 7

Vv. 7. The apostle explains to the Corinthians in this verse what leads him now to modify his original plan. Certain things are actually passing in their Church, especially between him and them, which are too grave to admit of his merely glancing at them, as would be inevitable in the case of a short stay; he would rather not touch them until he was allowed to treat them thoroughly. We must not, as Meyer does, put the emphasis on ὑμᾶς , you, contrasting the Corinthians with the Macedonians. Neither is there ground for contrasting the ἄρτι , now, with a previous sojourn also very short. The apostle simply means, that as things are at present between them and him, time is needed to make everything clear, and that consequently he defers his future visit until he shall be able to prolong it as much as necessary. Reuss and others are therefore wrong in taking this passage to prove a second stay of the apostle at Corinth anterior to this letter.

Verses 8-9

Vv. 8, 9. “But I will tarry at Ephesus till Pentecost; 9. for a great door and effectual is open unto me, and there are many adversaries.”

It is commonly thought this was the date when the tumult excited by Demetrius the goldsmith occurred ( Act 19:23 seq.), and that this circumstance abridged the time which St. Paul wished to spend at Ephesus. This supposition seems to me unfounded; it is incompatible with the notice in Acts 20:31, where Paul speaks of the three years he passed at Ephesus; for he arrived at Ephesus about the end of the year 54, and at the Passover of 57 he had not passed more than two years and a few months in the city.

The figure of a door denotes opportunities for preaching the gospel. The epithet great indicates that the occasions are numerous, and the epithet effectual, in which the figure is sacrificed to the idea, relates to the power exerted by the gospel in the midst of those populations. The last words are sometimes understood in a restrictive sense: “ though there are many adversaries.” But Paul rather finds in the fact a new motive for prolonging his stay. As he is under obligation to those who are disposed to listen to him, he also feels it a duty to confront those who oppose him.

Verses 10-12

Timothy's visit to Corinth.

Apollos. 1 Corinthians 16:10-12

The thought of his approaching stay at Corinth leads him to speak of that of Timothy, which is to precede and prepare for his own, comp. 1 Corinthians 4:17; then from this fellow-labourer he passes to another, Apollos, who is at the moment with him at Ephesus.

Vv. 10, 11. “If Timothy come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also. 11. Let no man therefore despise him; and conduct him forth in peace, that he may return unto me; for I look for him with the brethren.”

These lines betray a certain uneasiness in regard to Timothy's stay at Corinth. This young servant of Christ was timid ( 2Ti 1:6-7 ), and probably not highly cultivated; and he might easily feel himself ill at ease among those Corinthians, some of whom did not respect Paul himself. We know from Act 19:22 that Paul had sent him with Erastus from Ephesus into Macedonia, and that he was to go thence to Corinth. But as his time was limited ( 1Co 16:11 ), Paul was not sure whether he could reach the city. Hence the expression: If he come, which is not equivalent to: “When ( ὅταν ) he comes to you.” As to the eulogium on Timothy comp. Philippians 2:19-21, and as to the recommendation not to despise him, 1 Timothy 4:12. His youth also, compared with the gravity of his task, might bring on him disrespectful demonstrations from certain Corinthians. The regimen in peace might be connected with the verb come: “That he may come back with the pleasant feeling of a mission happily accomplished.” But the inversion is somewhat harsh, and the regimen better suits the verb προπέμψατε : “Send him forward in such a way that he shall depart in peace with you all.” The following words seem thus to become somewhat redundant. But they are explained by the sequel: I look for him, which gives them this meaning: “That he may be able to return to me without delay, after concluding his mission.” The words: with the brethren, are frequently taken as referring to Timothy's travelling companions, Erastus for example, who had started with him from Ephesus ( Act 19:22 ); so Meyer, Reuss, Holsten. But why this utterly insignificant detail? Edwards understands by them the brethren who carried our Epistle from Ephesus to Corinth. That would be more intelligible. But, as the regimen with the brethren bears on the verb ἐκδέχομαι , I look for, is it not more natural to refer it to the three deputies from Corinth, who were at that time with Paul at Ephesus ( 1Co 16:15-18 ), and who with him were awaiting Timothy's return before setting out for Corinth? The report which he brought might give occasion for new instructions or even for a new letter from the apostle; hence the propriety of those three brethren awaiting his arrival.

Vv. 12. “As touching the 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 find the time convenient.”

The form περὶ δέ , as touching, might lead us to suppose that the matter here referred to had already been spoken of; that a request even had already been forwarded from Corinth on this subject. In consequence of the situation of parties in this Church, the apostle felt bound to make it clearly understood that it was not he who put any obstacle in the way of Apollos' return to Corinth. The πάντως , absolutely, signifies: “notwithstanding all I could say and do.” Meyer and others think that the refusal of Apollos was simply occasioned by his present evangelistic engagements, and they explain the εὐκαιρεῖν in the sense of: “when he shall have time,” or, as Oltramare translates: “as soon as he can.” But it seems to me that the expression used by the apostle is too emphatic to admit of so weakened a signification. The words: “But his will was absolutely not...,” prove that there was, not an inability, but a determined will on the subject. Evidently Apollos was disgusted at the part which he had been made to fill at Corinth, as the rival of St. Paul. Hence it is obvious how innocent he himself was of those dissensions which had formed the subject of the first four chapters.

The words: with the brethren, refer again to the three deputies from Corinth ( 1Co 16:17 ); Apollos would have required to join them on their return to Greece. If so, they were not, as has been thought, the bearers of our letter (see the subscription in the T. R.). For it was intended to reach Corinth before Timothy's arrival ( 1Co 16:10-11 and 1Co 4:17 seq.), and the deputies were not to leave Ephesus until after Timothy's return to Paul.

There follow some general and particular exhortations.

Verses 13-14

Vv. 13, 14. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. 14. Let all your things be done in charity.”

Does St. Paul mean, as Hofmann thinks, that the Corinthians should do among themselves what they would have Apollos to come and do among them? No such reference seems to me to be indicated. The apostle is preparing to close; comp. 2 Corinthians 12:11. The terms are taken from the position of an army ready for battle. And first there must be watching, putting itself on guard against surprises by the enemy. The Corinthians were sunk in carnal security, and exposed to all the seductions which arise from it. They were above all prone to the abuse of Christian liberty; comp. 1Co 6:12 seq., 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, etc.

Then, to stand firm in the faith; to strengthen themselves in their spiritual position to hold their ground against the enemy. The point in question is undoubtedly faith in the atonement by the cross of Christ (chap. 1), and faith in the resurrection with all its moral consequences (chap. 15). The Christian who holds to his faith is like a soldier who does not leave the ranks, however sorely pressed by the enemy; it is the opposite of what is called in Greek λειποταξία .

To act like men and to be strong are two phrases which refer to the right mode of fighting; the former to courage, energy the subjective disposition; the latter to real force due to Divine aid the objective state. The ἀνδρίζεσθαι is opposed to cowardice, effeminacy; the κραταιοῦσθαι to the weakness which may sometimes accompany courage. The Corinthians lacked energy when they accepted invitations to idolatrous feasts; compare Paul's conduct, 1 Corinthians 9:27. They were wanting in spiritual power when they did nothing in the case of the incestuous person (chap. 5). But energy and power should be directed by charity. Here we have to think of the divisions (chaps. 1-4) and of the vain and egotistical use of spiritual gifts (chaps. 12-14); comp. chap. 13.

There follows a more special recommendation in regard to the respect and deference due to the devoted members of the Church who give themselves to its service.

Verses 15-16

Vv. 15, 16. “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. 16. That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.”

The most natural construction is not to make 1Co 16:16 the object of παρακαλῶ : “I exhort you to submit yourselves,” but to take this verb in the absolute sense: “I have an exhortation to address to you.” The ἵνα of 1Co 16:16 will specify the contents of this exhortation. In the interval there is indicated the motive which justifies this request: Ye know...For the ὅτι , that, comp. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5. Stephanas and his house had been, according to 1 Corinthians 1:16, baptized by Paul himself; which seems to prove that their conversion took place before the arrival of Silas and Timothy at Corinth; the fact agrees with the title “ first-fruits of Achaia,” which is given them here.

On this ground alone they are worthy of respect; but they possess another: namely, the earnestness with which they have devoted themselves to the service of the Church. There is nothing here to indicate an ecclesiastical office strictly so called. The phrase: τάσσειν ἑαυτόν , frequent in classic Greek, rather denotes a voluntary consecration. The reference doubtless is to their readiness to care for the poor and the sick and the afflicted; to charge themselves with the business of the Church, deputations, journeys, paying for them personally ( ἑαυτούς , themselves), as the delegates at present with the apostle had done. Hofmann thought that the ministry of the saints here denoted the collection for the Church of Jerusalem ( 1Co 16:1-4 ); comp. Romans 15:31; 2 Corinthians 9:12. But the context does not lead to this special sense.

Vv. 16. This respectful deference ought to be extended to every one who voluntarily makes himself like those of whom Paul has just spoken; their fellow-labourer by working for the good of the Church. There is an evident correspondence between the two verbs ὑποτάσσεσθαι and ἔταξαν of 1 Corinthians 16:15. The σύν , with, in συνεργοῦντι , who acts with, cannot signify: acting with God, or with Paul, or with the Corinthians, but only: with them that are such, τοῖς τοιούτοις . The term κοπιᾶν , to labour, relates to the varied works in the kingdom of God, and contains the accessory idea of painful labour; comp. Galatians 4:11; Romans 16:6. It is plain from this exhortation that the Corinthians were naturally prone to be lacking in submission and respect to those whom their age, experience, and services naturally pointed out for the veneration of the flock. The same defect appears from the letter which Clement of Rome was called forty years later to address to this Church.

Verses 17-18

Vv. 17, 18. “I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied, 18. for they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.” Paul here extends to the two other members of the deputation what he had just said of the first. Fortunatus is probably the same person who was afterwards the bearer of the letter of Clement of Rome (c. 65). Achaicus is unknown. As slaves often bore the name of the country of their birth, Edwards thinks that this last was one of Chloe's slaves ( 1Co 1:11 ). Weizsäcker supposes that both were slaves of Stephanas himself. The second supposition is at least more probable than the first. The expression: ὑστέρημα ὑμῶν , literally: your shortcoming, denotes the blank felt by Paul from the absence of the Corinthians, and the impossibility of communicating directly with them. The three deputies have filled this void, because it seemed to him as if in these three men he had the whole Church; comp. Philippians 2:30. The γάρ , for, 1 Corinthians 16:18, shows that this verse should explain the preceding expression. They have dissipated the uneasiness which filled the apostle's heart in regard to the Corinthians. By telling him of the love of the Church, and perhaps showing him many things in a less distressing light than he supposed, they have given him real comfort; they have consoled him, not merely in his human sensibilities this would require ψυχή , soul, but even in his inmost being, his πνεῦμα , spirit, the organ of his relations to God.

And it is not only he whom they have thus comforted; but also the Corinthians themselves. By adding to: my spirit, the words: and yours, the apostle transports himself to the time when the deputies, returned to Corinth, will give account to the congregation of their conferences with Paul, and when the Church also in turn will find in this communication that spiritual tranquillizing which it needs. Now such services should be acknowledged, for it is not every one who could refresh a Paul and a Church of Corinth. Hence the exhortation which closes this paragraph: “Acknowledge the work of such men, and what is due to them.” What exquisite delicacy is stamped on every line!

Verses 19-20

Vv. 19, 20. “The Churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church that is in their house. 20. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.”

Asia denotes the province of that name, proconsular Asia which embraced the whole south-west region of Asia Minor and even Phrygia. The apostle no doubt frequently saw at Ephesus representatives of the numerous Churches founded in those parts; or he even visited them himself; comp. Acts 20:25. He might thus have been really charged by them with these salutations. It may be assumed that among them were those of Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea.

The special salutation of Aquila and Priscilla is easily explained if we bear in mind that they had previously been settled with Paul at Corinth, and that they had assisted in founding the two Churches of Corinth and Ephesus. The Church assembled in their house undoubtedly comprehended not only their own family and workmen, but also all those Christians of Ephesus who had their central place of worship in this house. The κατά is distributive, and indicates that there were other houses at Ephesus where the Christians who dwelt in other quarters of the city met together. There must thus have been various places of assembling in the great cities such as Ephesus, Corinth, or Rome. There is no certain example of the existence of special buildings devoted to Christian worship within the territory of the Roman Empire before the third century (Edwards).

The third salutation is addressed by all the brethren, members of the Church of Ephesus. One feels in reading such salutations, that the history of nations is coming to an end, and that of a new nation of a wholly different kind is beginning.

This manifestation of love, on the part of the other Churches, should rekindle brotherly love among all the members of the Church which is its object; and this fire of charity which glows in their hearts should show itself outwardly in the brotherly kiss, according to the usage received among the first Christians. In the time of Justin this rite was celebrated between prayer and the Holy Supper. It is said that the president of the assembly kissed the nearest brother, and so in order, while the women on their side did the same. In this case we have to imagine the ceremony taking place at the moment when the congregation finished the reading of this letter. It is a commission, as it were, which the apostle gives them one to another.

Verses 19-24

Salutations. 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 .

First, those of the Churches of Asia; then the special salutations of Aquila, and of the portion of the Church which assembles under his roof; thereafter those of the whole Church; finally, that of Paul.

Verses 21-22

Vv. 21, 22. “The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand. 22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema! Maranatha.”

Paul, according to ancient custom, dictated his letters; but we see from 2Th 3:17 that he added the salutation and signature with his own hand, no doubt to guarantee their authenticity. This precaution was even then necessary, as is proved by the case to which he alludes, 2 Thessalonians 2:2.

But in such a salutation there is implicitly contained a benediction; and here the apostle feels himself suddenly arrested. Can he really bless all the readers of his letter? Are there not some among them whom he is rather obliged to curse? He had more than once stigmatized the want of love as the radical cause of the disorders and vices which stained this Church (1 Corinthians 8:1-3, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and chap. 13). Now all lack of love to the brethren betrays lack of love to the Lord Himself. More than that, he had once ( 1Co 12:3 ) been obliged to refer to persons who said: Jesus accursed! and that while pretending to be organs of the Spirit of God. A burden weighs on his heart as he utters the prayer which should close his letter, and by a sudden impulse of the Spirit he gives vent to the feeling of indignation which fills him at the thought of such Christians: “If there is one among you who...” As every hearer listened to this εἰ τίς , if any man, he was called to ask himself, like the apostles at the Holy Table: “Is it I?” The more so because the conjunction εἰ implies the reality of the case. The term φιλεῖν , to cherish, has a shade of greater tenderness and more of a certain familiarity in it than ἀγαπᾷν , to love, which rather implies a feeling of veneration. It is an affection of a personal, cordial nature, which the apostle requires, that of friend for friend. The negative οὐ denotes more than the simple absence of affection; it includes the idea of the feeling opposed to love, positive antipathy. In the Alex., the object is τὸν κύριον , the Lord; the other two families, with the Itala and the Peschito, add the name Jesus Christ, and it must be confessed that the term φιλεῖν naturally calls for the name of the person who is to be the object of such an attachment. We have so often found the Alex. documents faulty, through the negligence of the copyist or otherwise, that we do not hesitate here again to give the preference to the received reading. Tertullian simply read ᾿Ιησοῦν , Jesus.

As to the word ἀνάθεμα , an offering devoted to destruction, see on 1 Corinthians 12:3. It is evident that the term cannot here, any more than elsewhere, denote ecclesiastical excommunication. The word Maranatha belongs to the Aramaic language spoken in Palestine at that period. It is usually regarded as compounded of the two words Mar, Lord, with the suffix an, our, and atha, the perfect of the verb to come: and hence the meaning: “Our Lord has come.” The perfect has come may, in this case, be regarded as referring to the first coming of the Messiah; so Chrysostom and others. But it is impossible to establish a suitable relation between this first coming and the punishment of unfaithful Christians. Or has come may be taken as a prophetic perfect: “The Lord is present, ready to visit with a curse the man who, while professing to believe in Him, does not love Him.” This is the sense taken by Meyer, Beet, etc.; comp. Philippians 4:5: “The Lord is at hand.” Edwards regards it at the same time as an echo of those discourses in tongues which celebrated in enthusiastic tones the near coming of Christ. But the use of the verb in the perfect to denote a future event, outside of prophecy strictly so called, is far from natural. How can we avoid recalling here the similar saying which closes the book of the Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus!” and asking if such is not the meaning of the word Maranatha? Bickel has proved that the word can perfectly well be resolved into Marana, our Lord, and tha (the imperative of atha, in Western Aramaic), come! This formula would thus be exactly the same as that of which we have the Greek translation in the Apocalypse. It is perfectly in place here: the apostle appeals to the coming of Him who will purify His Church. But why reproduce this formula in Aramaic in a Greek Epistle addressed to Greeks? The term has been taken as a mysterious watchword common among Christians; or it has been thought that Paul wished thereby to give more solemnity to his threat. Finally, Hofmann thinks that when they heard this Aramaic expression, St. Paul's Palestinian adversaries must immediately have understood that it was addressed to them. To these suppositions, all equally improbable, I may be allowed to add another which will perhaps have no more success than its predecessors. To the signature written with his own hand, did not Paul add the impression of the seal which he was in the habit of using? And did not this seal bear this prayer as a device in the Aramaic tongue: “Come, Lord Jesus!” In the copies of the letter, since the seal could not be reproduced, the copyists at least preserved the device.

It is remarkable that, in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, this word Maranatha is used at the end of the Liturgy of the Holy Supper (c. 10), and immediately after the words: “If any man is not holy, let him repent!” Then follows: “ Maranatha, amen! ” But it is impossible to draw any inference from this passage for any of the interpretations which we have indicated.

The apostle cannot take leave of the Church under the impression of a threatening; the following verses are connected with the salutations of 1 Corinthians 16:21.

Verses 23-24

Vv. 23, 24. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you! 24. My love is with you all in Christ Jesus.”

Paul appeals to that invisible power of grace which alone can render effectual the prayers contained in the ἀσπασμός of 1 Corinthians 16:21. We must evidently understand in 1Co 16:23 ἤτω or ἔστω , may it be, and in 1 Corinthians 16:24 ἐστί , is.

In no other Epistle does the apostle, after desiring the grace of the Lord for the Church, again bring in his own person. But with him there is no stereotyped form. The form is always the immediate creation of the feeling or thought. He had addressed the Christians of Corinth in rebukes and warnings of such severity that he feels the need of assuring them once more, at the close, of his love, and his love for them all. Whatever they may have been toward him, he remains their apostle, not the apostle of some only, as of those who say: “I am of Paul,” but of all.

The last word: in Christ Jesus, reminds them once more who He is whose love has enkindled his toward them, and ought constantly to revive theirs.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/1-corinthians-16.html.