This last chapter forms a fourth division of the book of I Corinthians, with its simple, practical instructions. The unity of the body of Christ is to be expressed in genuine practical care for the needs of each member of the body. At this time, a special need existed among "the poor saints . . . at Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26), evidently the result of a great famine (Acts 11:28-30). At the time this became known by the Corinthians, they "were forward" with desire to supply material help to their Jewish brethren (2 Corinthians 8:10); and here Paul shows the orderly way in which they should prepare for this. Each first day of the week they were all personally to lay aside a certain amount, not stipulated, but as a matter of exercise on the part of each individual, according to the measure in which God had prospered him. This is the wise and Scriptural order. The first day of the week is of course the day of Christ's resurrection, He Himself the firstfruits; and therefore it was the becoming day for thanksgiving for His perfect sacrifice and its blessed results, the day of suitable response to His own great gift of Himself. It is no legal claim, such as was the required tithe of the Old Testament; but if one under law could give a tenth, should this be difficult for one under grace? Nevertheless, each heart and conscience is left fully free before God, to do that which is the fruit of his own personal faith. The measure is seen in this verse, "as God hath prospered him"; and also in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." How consistent then that such a collection should be taken on occasion of the Lord's supper; for such giving is an expression of thankful worship toward the Lord. A gospel meeting would not be suitable for this, for this is an occasion of God's giving to mankind the gospel they desperately need: it is no time to give to God at all. Nor is it so at a prayer meeting, for this is for requesting from God; and to give at this time would be to give the impression we were paying for what we requested. And a ministry meeting is for the purpose of believers receiving from God, so this is similarly not an appropriate time for our giving. But giving is connected with thanksgiving and worship, as is seen in such Scriptures as Hebrews 13:15-16; and though what is given is for the relief of others, yet it is to be primarily given as to the Lord. And this being so, the receiver is to receive it as from the Lord.
Paul is diligent in urging that there should be no collections when he came; for it is faith toward God that should move such sacrifices, not the influence of Paul's presence. The world will use special men to influence others to give, but Paul refuses this.
The Corinthians were to decide what messengers they desired to carry this aid to Jerusalem, for there must be care to have this distribution fully honest and above suspicion on the part of any. 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 tells us that Titus and two other brethren were chosen for this, and Paul also to accompany them, as he suggests here in verse 4. Let us be reminded here that, though Paul would accept nothing for himself from the Corinthians, yet he would wholeheartedly show fellowship in their liberality toward the poor saints.
The fulfillment of verses 5 and 6 is found in Acts 20:1-3, so that evidently the three months he remained in Greece winter. From there he returned via Macedonia on the way Jerusalem. But of course the Second Epistle had also been written before the above was fulfilled. There could evidently have been therefore only a few months between the Epistles, the first likely in the spring, the latter in the fall. For he did not promise to come soon to Corinth, though when he did conic, he wanted to remain for a time. Meanwhile, he planned to remain at Ephesus till Pentecost. This date would likely be near the first of June.
For he speaks of a great door being opened to him, being effectual in the blessing of many souls. The history of this is seen in Acts 19:10-20, the Word of God mightily growing and prevailing. While Paul evidently remained in Ephesus, yet from there the Word went through all Asia minor (Acts 19:10), no doubt carried by others from Ephesus. Colosse and Laodicea were not too distant from Ephesus, yet the saints in those places had not seen Paul's face in the flesh (Colossians 1:2). Epaphras had brought him word of them.
He adds here, "And there are many adversaries," evidently a consideration that influenced him to remain, not by any means a cause of discouragement. Indeed, when apparently soon after this the great uproar against him was raised by Demetrius, Paul was willing to face the mob and speak to them, but was dissuaded both by his fellow-disciples and honourable officials in government (Acts 19:30-31), no doubt the wiser course; but the apostle's courage is admirable.
In chapter 4:17 Paul had spoken of sending Timothy to Corinth: now he urges that they should not in any way intimidate the young man. For though he was of an evidently timid nature, Paul is not hesitant to commend him as a true servant of God, whose work for the Lord Paul would gladly link with his own work. The self-confidence of the Corinthians would no doubt tend to belittle one who did not show that same self-confidence. Some in Corinth had so acted toward Paul himself, and fleshliness would likely take even more advantage of the younger man. And not only are they not to despise him, but to show the positive consideration of conducting him forth in peace. Acts 19:22 gives the history of Paul's sending Timothy (and Erastus) to Macedonia, evidently on their way to Corinth. It was not intended to be a long visit, for Paul looked for him to meet him afterward.
Apollos, on the other hand, though Paul had greatly desired him to go with these brethren to Corinth, was not at all prepared to go at this time. The language seems to indicate that Apollos had an important reason for this, though it is not stated. Did he consider that since some in Corinth were saying, "I am of Apollos" that therefore it was wiser for him to remain away just now in case any would be engaged in this sectarian favouritism? At least, the verse shows that Paul had no slightest jealousy of Apollos, and it may very likely imply that Apollos wanted no suggestion of rivalry to exist among God's servants in the minds of the Corinthians. Yet he would be evidently willing to come when the time was convenient. Also the verse indicates that Paul would not use apostolic authority to require Apollos to go: the apostle leaves that to the exercise of Apollos as before God.
The condition at Corinth required each exhortation of verse 13, and who today is not in such need also? "Watch ye": for laxity and love of ease finds us too frequently unprepared to meet the subtle attacks of the enemy. "Stand fast in the faith": for that firmness of decision to stand upon the clear principles of the truth of God, may all too easily give place to compromise and retreat. "Quit you like men": for man was originally made in the image of God, and therefore put in the place of representing God in a hostile world: let us not lightly esteem such dignity and honor. "Be strong": for whatever our natural weakness, strength is certainly available in Christ, and it is the only strength that can overcome the pride, fleshliness, and Satanic deception that was raising its ugly head at Corinth, and is no less active today.
But verse 14 is most necessary to give godly balance in all these things. Love is to be the ever-present motivating principle and influence in everything.
Now "the house of Stephanas" is spoken of as having "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." They were not appointed to such ministry by any man or by the assembly. But their work commended them. In general, the saints should submit themselves to such leaders, those who voluntarily, as led of God, do the work of God. Of course, in cases of abuse of leadership, it is a different matter. Diotrephes, who loved to have the pre-eminence, was not to be followed (3 John 1:9-11).
The three brethren mentioned in verse 17 had evidently come from Corinth to visit Paul; and though the Corinthian assembly had not itself caused spiritual joy and refreshment to the heart of Paul, these brethren did supply this. For it is manifestly not temporal needs they had supplied: it was his spirit they had refreshed. Moreover, they had provided this refreshing ministry at Corinth also, which was a reason for their being recognized in godly subjection and receiving of the truth.
Now the apostle conveys to them the greetings of the assemblies in Asia Minor, particularly naming Aquila and Priscilla, and the assembly in their house - no doubt at Ephesus (Acts 19:18-26). Note here that however great the work at Ephesus, the assembly met in a house. Of course, the saints might have gathered in more than one location, as was true at Rome (Romans 16:1-27). And Paul encourages the affections of the saints toward each other, by greeting "with an holy kiss," an expression of the unity that should not be lacking. The signature of his own hand is emphasized, for so important a message must not be questioned as to its authenticity.
While verse 23 gives the usual lovely benediction of "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" toward them, yet the previous verse solemnly shows that such grace does not extend to one who "loves not our Lord Jesus Christ." Rather than blessing, he is assured only of being accursed (anathema) at the coming of the Lord (maran-atha). And last of all, Paul assures them of his own love in Christ Jesus. For the many reproofs of the book are not apart from genuine love for them, but indeed rather are moved by such love.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter