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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Corinthians 16

 

 

Verse 1

'Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do you.'

We may assume that the Corinthian Church had heard about ‘the collection’ Paul was bringing together for the poor saints in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3), possibly in Paul’s earlier letter, and wanted to make their contribution. This concern of churches for their worse off brethren was a common feature of the early church, and James, Peter, and John had encouraged Paul and Barnabas to remember the poor when they were visiting Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10; compare Acts 11:27-30).

We have no record elsewhere of the directions Paul gave to the Galatian churches (‘as I gave order to’), to which he refers here. These were probably the churches of southern Galatia, which included Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Paul had passed through this region as he moved toward Ephesus from which he wrote this epistle (Acts 18:23). He now repeated his directions to the Corinthians commending them to follow them as well (‘so also do you’).


Verses 1-4

The Final Question. The Collection On Behalf Of God’s Needy People (16:1-4).

Illustrating the previous verse Paul now brings them down to practicalities. They had asked concerning the collecting of money for those in need. Well, this was one work of the Lord now to hand, the collecting of relief funds for the needy in Jerusalem. So he gives practical advice on its fulfilment.


Verse 2-3

'On the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. And when I arrive, whoever you shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty to Jerusalem.’

'On the first day of the week.’ From the earliest days of the church Christians seem to have assembled on Sundays, ‘the first day of the week’, in order to worship, probably in commemoration of the Lord's resurrection. This was not an instruction of Christ, nor is it mentioned as required by the Apostles, but it quickly became customary (Acts 20:7). It was in contrast with the Jews who worshipped on the Sabbath (Saturday), and it may be that in the first stages it was precisely because it made it possible for Christian Jews to maintain their regular Jewish Sabbath worship, while also worshipping with the whole Christian church on the first day of the week, that it came about. It would be some time before, for many Jews, the clear distinction between being a Jew and being a Christian became patent, which was partly a result of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Many Jewish Christians still saw themselves as Jews, although as Jews who followed their Messiah, and they continued worshipping in the synagogues accordingly. Even Paul was willing to have offerings offered for him and to purify himself while in attendance at the Temple (Acts 21:26). And certainly many later did observe both days even among Gentiles. But the first day of the week is never called the Sabbath, and it was never as far as we know seen as a day of rest from labour.

Every week on that day each one was to lay aside a certain amount which was to be accumulated for the purposes of sending it to their needy brethren. It was to be assessed according to how each had prospered. In other words, they would give what they could afford, depending on what the week had brought. There is no suggestion of tithing and the point was that each would give as they were able. The sum so gathered would then be brought out when Paul came, and be committed to approved men for delivery to Jerusalem, where there was much poverty among Christians. It would be accompanied by letters from Paul, which would demonstrate his obedience to the Apostolic requirements, and would hopefully bring Jewish and Gentile Christians closer together. The personal presence of representatives of the donating churches would contribute towards that mutual understanding and love.

The church in Jerusalem, and probably later in Judea, suffered through persecution (Acts 8:1; Acts 11:19), which in many cases could affect their livelihoods, they certainly at times suffered through grievous famine (Acts 11:28-29), and it may well be that the synagogues began to withhold alms from the Jewish needy who were Christians, such as for example the many widows who became Christians (Acts 6:1). On top of this the love-inspired, well-meaning sharing out of all their goods and property so that none would be without food and clothing (Acts 4:34-35), would later have left the Jerusalem church economically in a poor state with nothing to fall back on.

We note Paul’s careful use of ‘approved men’. He wanted no one to be suspicious of the use to which the money was put. It is always wise to take precautions when dealing with church finances. Thereby many have been defiled.

‘Them will I send with letters.’ Letters of introduction were a common feature of the early church so that the churches who received them might be assured of the good standing and orthodoxy of the one who bore them (Acts 15:23; Romans 16:1; 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 compare Acts 9:2; Acts 22:5). They might also include news of treasured friends.


Verse 4

'And if it be meet for me to go also, they shall go with me.'

And he assured them that if the situation was right and it proved suitable, and agreeable to them, he might himself accompany them. But there is no suggestion that the money be entrusted to him. It would have been foolish for him to lay himself open to the possibility of false accusations. Paul was very much aware of the danger of money to a Christian minister.


Verse 5

'But I will come to you, when I shall have passed through Macedonia; for I pass through Macedonia.'

He wanted them to know that he longed to visit them, and assured them that once he had passed through Macedonia, something which it was his intention to do, he would come to them again.


Verses 5-12

Paul Promises That If At All Possible He Will Soon Visit Them But Meanwhile Asks Them To Give Timothy a True Christian Welcome, And Assures Them Too of Apollos’ Concern For Them (16:5-12).

Paul knew the importance for the faithful in the assembly at Corinth of knowing when they might expect to see Paul himself, or one of his colleagues, so he outlines something of their plans. It is not lack of will that prevents them coming, but the Lord’s business elsewhere. He is reminding us that it is important that we let people who are dependent on us be fully aware of where we are and what we are doing.


Verse 6-7

'But with you it may be that I will abide, or even winter, that you may set me forward on my journey wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now by the way, for I hope to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.'

Indeed his purpose was not only to visit them but also to stay with them for a time, and possibly even to spend the winter with them, that they might then set him on his way to wherever the Lord would direct him. That is why he was not suggesting a quick visit on the way to somewhere else. For if the Lord permitted, he wanted to stay with them for a goodly period.

Thus Paul wanted them to know of his desire to spend time with them, and that the calumnies of those who said that he no longer cared for them were untrue.

‘If the Lord permit.’ He was aware that he was a man under orders, and probably remembered the last time when he had had a sudden call to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:9). All his arrangements had to be subject to the Lord’s requirements. Thus he makes this necessary proviso (compare James 4:13-15).

In fact his plans suffered a change. At the time of writing it was his plan to head north from Ephesus and then spend some time in Macedonia. Macedonia was the Roman province north of Corinth where Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea were. Then he planned to travel south to Corinth. But Paul changed his plan and travelled directly from Ephesus to Corinth for a visit that was quite hurtful (2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2), after which he returned to Ephesus (compare 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; 2 Corinthians 7:12). Later he visited Macedonia and then Corinth again (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16). This change of plan might have resulted from news of how his letter had been received.

While Paul did spend a winter in Corinth, it was in fact the winter after the one when he had expected to be there, the winter of about 57-58 AD rather than about 56-57 AD (compare Acts 20:2-3; Romans 16:1; Romans 16:23), for he sensed the need to spend a goodly time in Corinth, and in view of the problems in the church that he has mentioned in this letter, and had had confirmed by his visit, we can understand why.


Verse 8-9

'But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost, for a great door and effectual is opened to me, and there are many adversaries.'

On the other hand things were going so well at Ephesus, in spite of the opposition there, that he felt that he must stay there until Pentecost. There was a huge opening there, and they were being very effective through the power of God. He wanted them to understand that his visit was being delayed for good reason. He was not his own master. Perhaps too there is the hint here to the Corinthians of how God is with him and working through him, proof of the evidence of His Apostleship.

‘Until Pentecost.’ The Jews celebrated Pentecost in late May or early June, so Paul probably wrote 1 Corinthians in the spring of the year (compare 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 15:20). The fact that he refers to Pentecost demonstrates that he expected the Corinthians to have some awareness of Jewish feasts, especially those connected with great past events for the church, such as Pentecost when the Holy Spirit so vividly revealed Himself to the early disciples, and through them to Jews of many nations who became Christians forming the first infant church (Acts 2).


Verse 10-11

'Now if Timothy come, see that he is with you without fear, for he works the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him. But set him forward on his journey in peace, that he may come to me. For I expect him with the brothers '

He is also aware of the probability that Timothy will shortly visit them, possibly on his way back from somewhere to Paul in Ephesus with some other brothers, or it may be that he himself has sent Timothy and that the ‘if’ signifies ‘whenever’ (as it can). Either way he commends Timothy to them (see Acts 19:22). If he is able to come there they are to treat him gently, remembering his youth and the understandable fears of a young man still only at the beginning of an important ministry, for he works the work of the Lord just as Paul does himself. Thus they are to welcome him, take due regard to what he has to say (they are not to despise him), and set him forward on his journey to Paul in peace. The ‘setting forward’ would include provision for his journey.

This sending of Timothy illustrates the fact that, while there were opposing views to Paul in the church, he did not see them as such that they would make things impossible for Timothy.


Verse 12

'But as touching Apollos the brother, I besought him much to come to you with the brothers, and it was not at all his will to come now, but he will come when he shall have opportunity.'

Meanwhile he lets them know that he had urgently asked Apollos to visit them, but that it had not yet proved possible, although as soon as it was he would come. Whether Apollos’ reluctance was due to God’s call to another sphere, or whether it was due to the fact that he had a deeper awareness than Paul of the hardened attitude of many in the Corinthian church, we do not know. Perhaps he felt that if he went at that stage it would simply make the relationship between Paul and the church more difficult. But what Paul wants the Corinthians to know is that he and Apollos are at one and not rivals.


Verse 13-14

'Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.'

He pleads with them to be both men of strength and men of love. Strong against both what is within and without that would challenge their faith and their lives, and loving to all who are within. They are to keep alert and watchful against all spiritual dangers and in readiness for Christ’s coming (1 Corinthians 15:58), they are to stand firm, they are to behave as true men in the face of battle, they are to be strong.

‘Watch, (be alert, be vigilant).’ This word was regularly used by Jesus of what our attitude should be to His coming. It may specifically mean that here, while at the same time indicating the need to be vigilant about maintaining purity of doctrine and avoiding being led astray.

‘Stand fast in the faith.’ This is another exhortation which is constantly repeated elsewhere (compare 1 Corinthians 15:58 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-2). They are to stand firm against the Enemy, holding true to the faith, and themselves being strong in faith (compare Ephesians 6:10-18).

‘Quit you like men.’ They are to show by their behaviour that they are truly strong. Such an order as this might well be given before a battle, and Paul is aware of the battles that lie ahead for the churches. Even the weakest of them is to be like a mighty man in the face of troubles that might arise (see Romans 5:1-5).

‘Be strong.’ This reinforces the previous phrases. They are to be strong, strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10). In watching, in standing firm, and in battle they are to be strong with that inner strength that comes from Christ and that never yields against the Enemy and his forces. Psalms 31:24 may well be in mind here.

‘Let all that you do be done in love.' But lest any misinterpret his words he now stresses again the importance of Christian love. They are not to be hard with each other, but loving and tender. They are to show the love of chapter 13 towards each other.


Verses 13-24

Final Words (16:13-24).

Paul comes to the end of his letter with an exhortation. It has similarities to that in 1 Corinthians 15:58. This is then followed by a further exhortation to take note of their leaders and honour and obey them, and all who truly serve Christ, a commendation of them for sending these men to him to encourage him, and a greeting to them from the wider church, including people whom they knew. He then finishes with a word in his own handwriting, demonstrating that he has been using an emanuensis (a kind of secretary) to actually write the letter.


Verse 15-16

‘Now I beseech you, brethren (you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have set themselves to minister to the saints), that you also be in subjection to such, and to every one who helps in the work and labours.’

‘Brethren (brothers and sisters).’ His constant reference throughout the letter to the fact that they are his brothers, even when dealing with them most sternly, expresses his hope for them that they are truly in Christ, that they truly love the Lord (1 Corinthians 16:22). He does not easily write them off. He feels that all they now need is good leadership and guidance.

He commends to the Corinthians those who truly ‘help in the work’ and labour, those who already follow the injunction in 1 Corinthians 15:58, and especially draws attention to Stephanas, who had come to him with others, bringing the questions from them. The description is probably in deliberate contrast with those who are so spiritual that all they can do is speak in tongues excessively. Here is one who sets himself to minister, to work and to labour in Christ. We can almost certainly assume from Paul’s words that Stephanas was a prominent, trustworthy and reliable leader in the church.

So he especially commends to them Stephanas, who was one of his early converts and was, along with his household, the Lord’s firstfruits in Achaia, initial converts for whom thanks could be given to God, along with all who are like-minded. He has shown his quality by setting himself to minister to God’s people in Corinth, along with others of his household. Here at least was one sure place to which they could look for the truth and for guidance, a solid rock of truth.

‘Be in subjection to such.’ That is, with a willing subjection because of their worthiness. They may choose to whom they will be in subjection, therefore let them choose such worthy people as these (compare Ephesians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).


Verse 17-18

‘And I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, for that which was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Acknowledge you therefore those who are such.’

He wants them to know how much he has appreciated the coming of these three men as representatives of the whole Corinthian church. They had given him the spiritual encouragement and refreshment in spirit that was lacking because he had not been able to visit the Corinthians. It had assured him that, in spite of the problems, all was really well at heart.

‘They refreshed my spirit and (as well as) yours.’ This probably signifies, ‘these men were a constant refreshment to your spirits, and now they are to mine too.’ Compare 1 Corinthians 15:40 a where a similar construction is used.

‘Acknowledge you therefore those who are such.’ That is, they are to acknowledge those who are refreshers of their spirits. Those whose ministry produces genuine blessing are to be acknowledged and looked to. They are the true shepherds.


Verse 19-20

‘The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Prisca salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss.’

He then adds the salutations of the other churches, so that they might feel a oneness with them. All the churches were to see themselves as one. This includes especially the church in the house of Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla) for these two were well known to them (Acts 18:2). He wants them to know that their hearts are with them still (‘salute you much in the Lord’). ‘All the brethren’ probably signifies all Paul’s helpers, for the churches have already been mentioned.

Aquila and Priscilla were clearly wealthy enough to own a house large enough to act as a gathering place for Christians. Aquila, like Paul, was a tent-maker (Acts 18:2-3). The unusual placing of Priscilla first in Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3 may suggest that their earthly wealth and status came from her side, Luke correctly acknowledging her status in his description.

‘Salute one another with a holy kiss.’ While hearing the salutations of others they are to also salute each other in the conventional way, with a holy kiss (he may have in mind that there may have been kissing among them which was not really holy). Such a kiss was a recognised part of worship among the early church. Thus the reading of his letter is to be a cause of mutual salutation and awareness of the salutations of all the churches, a recognition of fellowship between all.

(It is regularly a problem to know when Paul is the innovator, and when he simply describes what was the custom in the churches, for his is often the first mention we have of what were later certainly customs within the church, as revealed for example in the Didache).


Verse 21

‘The salutation of me Paul with my own hand.’

He finishes with his own salutation. He has now taken the pen in his own hand and adds this postscript in his own writing. This both guaranteed the genuineness of the letter and assured them of his personal concern and love (compare Galatians 6:11-18).


Verse 22

‘If any man does not love the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha.’

But he is so moved by the situation in the Corinthian church that he adds as his own comment, ‘If any man does not love the Lord, let him be accursed, for behold the Lord is coming.’ In the end with all their spiritual manifestations the central test is whether they love the Lord. Is their trust in Him? Do they look to Him? Are they taken up with Him? Is it their concern to obey Him? If not they are still under the curse.

The use of the Aramaic ‘maranatha’ suggests that Paul is reminding them of a solemn early credal statement, which binds the Lord’s people to love Him, that would be recognised by all. It is thus not his personal curse, but one recognised by the whole church. He reminds them that on the one hand are those who are in Christ who love Him, on the other those who are anathema, devoted to destruction, when the Lord comes. Let them consider their ways.

‘Anathema.’ Compare Galatians 1:8-9 where any, whether man or angel, who preach another Gospel than the one Paul has defined is anathema. In LXX it often translates cherem, devoted to God and therefore to be destroyed. (See also 1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 9:3; and Acts 23:14, where it is a votive offering under which the man calls for a destructive curse on himself if he fails to keep his vow; for the use of the term).

‘Maranatha.’ An Aramaic term. The words in ancient scripts ran together so we may read as marana tha (‘our Lord, come’) or as maran atha (‘our Lord has come’). It became, or had become, part of early church worship as witnessed in the Didache where it is used in connection with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. But Paul’s use of it here must surely point forward to the time of coming blessing and judgment at Christ’s coming when all comes to an end (1 Corinthians 15:24). Note how he too connects ‘until He come’ with the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26).


Verse 23-24

‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.’

He finishes with his conventional greeting, praying that the unmerited favour of the Lord Jesus Christ might continue to be with them, and unusually adds an expression of his own love for them all in Christ Jesus. His hope and yearning is that they might all prove to be lovers of the Lord and so he directs his love towards all.

‘Amen.’ So be it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-corinthians-16.html. 2013.

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Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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