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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
1 Corinthians 16

 

 

Verses 1-4

Collection for the Poor Saints at Jerusalem, 1-4.

The occasion of this “collection” was the “great dearth” which a Christian prophet who came from Jerusalem to Antioch predicted would come upon the Empire, and which came to pass in the reign of Claudius. It fell, as we know, with great severity upon Jerusalem; and the poor Christians there, who perhaps were now suffering from the warmth of their generosity in early Pentecostal days, would feel it keenly. In prospect of the coming calamity, the converts of the Gentile Church of Antioch at once determined to make a collection for their Jewish brethren at the headquarters of the faith, requesting Barnabas and Saul to deliver it to the elders at Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30). The great mind of our apostle, intent upon soothing the prejudices of his Jewish brethren against the uncircumcised Gentile converts, seems to have resolved on utilizing the idea of the Antioch Christians, by organizing a general collection from the other Gentile Churches for the relief of the poor Christians of Jerusalem; and the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians are so full of this subject as to shew that he must have thrown his heart into it. He appears to have broached the proposal first at Corinth, where it was taken up with great zeal (2 Corinthians 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:10). Encouraged by this, he laid the proposal next before “the Churches of Macedonia”—at Philippi, at Thessalonica, and smaller bodies of Christians scattered over that region (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:1-2),—then before “the Churches of Galatia” (1 Corinthians 16:1), with probably other bodies of Gentile converts. From the abrupt way in which the subject is here introduced for the first time, it seems plain that this was one of the topics on which the Corinthians had written to him for direction; and as his instructions are very explicit, and have an important bearing on Christian beneficence in general, we give it a distinct place as a supplementary Topic.

1 Corinthians 16:1. Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. The great object in view—over and above the temporal relief which this collection would give—being to soften the prejudices of the Jewish converts against their Gentile brethren, the practical mind of the apostle sought to plan some way of having it all conveyed to Jerusalem at the same time; a thing of some difficulty, from the distance of the churches from each other. The plan fixed on was first given, it appears, as an “order to the churches of Galatia,” and no plan better fitted for the purpose could have been devised.

1 Corinthians 16:2. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper (Gr, ‘whatever he may succeed in’), that no collections be made when I come. Note here (1) that it is not a weekly offering at their meetings for public worship, but that each one at his own home should lay by his own weekly contribution, to be handed in only at the last as one entire gift. The weekly offering at the church meetings was a subsequent modification of this, which soon became universal. (2) No definite sum is named as either of Divine appointment or even as expedient; but each one was to judge for himself what he ought to give “as he might prosper.” Had the tithe principle been recognised as obligatory, as some allege, could the apostle have so written? (3) The principle here laid down for the churches to act on—of a fund to be collected for some specific object, and to be made up of successive periodical accumulations—recommends itself at once to all Christians as full of wisdom. It is the principle, in fact, of ‘Systematic Beneficence,’ as it is now called. When urgent calls are made, the necessary funds might not be in hand; whereas when a fund has been gradually accumulating, even by very small periodical additions, it can be drawn upon, on an emergency, to an extent otherwise impracticable; and in then and thus giving it, one feels something of that satisfaction of which the apostle says, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). (4) This weekly contribution was to be reserved for “the Lord’s Day.” This renders it certain, by the way, that that day was already regarded by all Christians as a sacred day, and, as such, the proper day (as we find from Acts 20:7) for public worship. In this view, their laying by their weekly sum on that day would both stamp the contribution with a sacred character and hallow and stimulate the generous principle itself. And surely nothing could tend more to swell the receipts of the churches for all Christian and benevolent objects, as well as to stimulate and strengthen the principle of Christian giving, than just to have this practice of systematic beneficence carried into general effect, and especially if the mode adopted were that here “ordered”—of making the offering of each one to be weekly, and “on the first day of the week.”

1 Corinthians 16:3. And when I arrive, whomsoever ye shall approve by letters, them will I send to bring your bounty unto Jerusalem. The apostle, with a high-minded delicacy, leaves it to the Corinthians to make choice themselves of the bearers of their bounty to Jerusalem, and says he will give them “letters” to the proper authorities at Jerusalem, to be delivered along with their contributions. (Our Authorised Version, by inserting “your” before “letters,” makes the meaning to be that the Corinthians were to write letters to the apostle himself; therein wrongly following Calvin, Beza, etc.)

1 Corinthians 16:4. and if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me:—‘If this shall prove a fitting occasion for me to carry out my purpose to go again to Jerusalem (as intimated in Acts 19:21; Acts 20:3), I will take your delegates along with me.’ But as this was not yet definitely fixed, he now proceeds to tell them his present views as to his movements for the future.


Verse 5

Miscellaneous Matters, 5-18.

1 Corinthians 16:5. But I will come unto you, when I shall have passed through Macedonia; for I do pass through Macedonia—‘I am going to do so.’ (Those who wrote the subscription to this Epistle, misunderstanding these words, as if they meant, ‘I am now passing through Macedonia,’ say that it “was written from Philippi” (see Acts 16:12); whereas the eighth verse of this chapter makes it quite clear that it was written from Ephesus.) The apostle had given the Corinthians to expect two visits from him, one on his way to, the other on his return from, Macedonia (2 Corinthians 1:15-16). He now announces only one visit, and that on his return journey. For this change of plan he had been captiously charged with “lightness” (fickleness, insincerity, 2 Corinthians 1:17); whereas it was out of tenderness to them, after the severity with which he had ordered them to expel the incestuous member of their church, that he was induced to defer his visit till his return from Macedonia.


Verse 6

1 Corinthians 16:6. But with you it may be that I shall abide, or even winter—which he actually did, as we learn from Acts 20:2-3, where it is said, “We came into Greece (meaning Corinth, its capital, with which he had most to do), and there abode three months,” which were “winter” months. The summer months of that year he had spent in Macedonia, and he had to be at Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 20:16); but as the Ægean Sea was not favourable for navigation till spring, he spent the intervening winter at Corinth,—that ye may set me forward on my journey, or ‘accompany me a little way,’ as this favourite phraseology means (Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; Romans 15:24; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13; 3 John 1:6),—whithersoever I go—implying that his plans were not then definitely fixed.


Verse 7

1 Corinthians 16:7. For I do not wish to see you now by the way—as formerly intended (see on 1 Corinthians 16:5),—for I hope to tarry a while with you, if the Lord (the Lord Jesus, as appears) permit—that is, if when the time comes it appear that the way for it has been left open by Him who is “Head over all things to the Church.”


Verse 8

1 Corinthians 16:8. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. N.B.

The allusion here to Pentecost fixes the date of this Epistle, while that to Ephesus shews from whence it was written.


Verse 9

1 Corinthians 16:9. for a great door and effectual is opened(1) unto me, and there are many adversaries. He is eager to enter in on a wide and most hopeful field of missionary usefulness, nothing daunted by the resistance expected: compare 2 Corinthians 2:12, “When I came to Troas, to preach Christ’s gospel, a door was opened unto me of the Lord;” Colossians 4:3, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ;” 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Pray for us that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified;” Acts 14:27, “They rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Who the “adversaries” were in this case is minutely described in Acts 19 : there we find that in consequence of the great success of his work among the Jews at Corinth, the wrath of the unbelieving ones burst forth upon him, but that he foiled them by withdrawing from the synagogue and teaching in the school of Tyrannus, where his success was even greater. After that they made an impotent attempt to ascribe his success to a league with evil spirits—to their own confusion and the furtherance of the Gospel. No wonder then that the apostle says here, “a great door and effectual is opened unto me,” and we see here some of “many adversaries.” But the Gentile adversaries were at Ephesus even more formidable; when, encountering the “worshippers of the great goddess Diana,” he was like to be torn in pieces by the “beasts at Ephesus.”


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 16:10. Now if Timothy come, see that he be with you without fear. Probably it was his youth (1 Timothy 4:12), his delicate constitution (1 Timothy 5:23), and possibly a certain gentleness and softness of character thereby engendered—that dictated this kindly word, to encourage him should he come to Corinth. We learn from Acts 19:22 that Timothy and Erastus had been despatched to Macedonia; and Timothy, at least, had been instructed to go by Greece, so as to visit Corinth on his way (1 Corinthians 4:17). Here he speaks of Timothy’s reaching Corinth as uncertain, but in case he should do so, the apostle is anxious he should be well received,—for he worketh the work of the Lord (Jesus), as I also do. See a similar fine testimony to Timothy in Philippians 2:19-22.


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 16:11. let no man therefore despise him: but set him forward (at parting) on his journey in peace, that he may come unto me: for I expect him with the brethren—those brethren, probably, mentioned in next verse, besides Erastus. And he came accordingly; for we find him with the apostle when he wrote his Second Epistle (2 Corinthians 1:1).


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 16:12. But as touching Apollos our brother, I besought him much to come unto you with the brethren—probably a deputation of brethren (Titus and two others) sent to Corinth to complete its “collection” before the apostle’s arrival (2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:22). If so, he probably wished Apollos to take the lead in that deputation, and Titus may only have been fixed on when Apollos declined. In this case, the apostle’s wish that he should go, and the declinature of Apollos, were alike honourable to the high principle and brotherly affection of both, considering the jealousies which their names had respectively aroused at Corinth. Apollos consented, as we shall presently see, to go at a future time; but this time seemed inopportune.


Verse 13

1 Corinthians 16:13. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men—‘play the man,’ ‘be manly,’—be strong. In the Greek of the Old Testament we find these words more than once together (Psalms 27:14; Psalms 31:24).


Verse 14

1 Corinthians 16:14. Let all that ye do be done in love. While the four preceding things express the sterner features of Christian duty, this pours suavity into them, and, being itself “the bond of perfectness,” encircles and beautifies the whole character.


Verse 15

1 Corinthians 16:15. Now, I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia)—the earliest Achaean converts. In Romans 16:5 this, according to the received text, is said of Epænetus; but the reading there is wrong: it should there be “the first-fruits of Asia unto Christ,” that is, of Roman or Proconsular Asia. Achaia was the name of Southern Greece, whose capital, Corinth, is doubtless meant here, though the province only is named,—and that they have set themselves to minister to the saints—made it their special care (see Luke 8:3; Romans 12:7). The reference here is not to the “collection,” but to such services as were within their own sphere.


Verse 16

1 Corinthians 16:16. that ye also be in subjection unto such—in respectful deference unto them, as estimable servants of Christ,—and to every one that helpeth in the work, and laboureth. The same collocation of “work” and “labour” is found in 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Revelation 2:2.


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 16:17. And I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas—the same, no doubt, as in 1 Corinthians 16:15 and 1 Corinthians 1:15,—and Fortunatus(1) and Achaicus—of whom we only know that they were members of the Corinthian Church who had visited the apostle at Ephesus, and probably were the bearers of the Corinthian letter to him to which he refers in 1 Corinthians 7:1, and conveyed, probably, the present letter in reply to it,—for that what was lacking on your part they supplied—that is, ‘the lack of your own presence has been supplied by theirs as your deputies.’


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 16:18. For they refreshed my spirit and yours—as if the refreshing of his spirit by their visit was a refreshing of theirs who sent them, so thoroughly does he identify his feelings with theirs (see 2 Corinthians 7:3),—acknowledge ye therefore them that are such—recognise their worth, and make them suitable returns.


Verse 19

Conclusion, 19-24.

1 Corinthians 16:19. The churches of Asia salute you—Proconsular or Roman Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital. Seven of these churches are named in the book of Revelation. This Christian “salutation” was no unmeaning ceremony: it was the Hebrew “Peace be unto you” in its highest, warmest sense, which was first uttered in that new sense by our Lord Himself (Luke 24:36; John 20:21), and left by Himself as His legacy to His own in words which have carried it into myriads of receptive bosoms in every land, and will do, as long as there are such on earth—the words, we need not say, of John 14:27.

Aquila and Prisca(1) salute you much in the Lord (the Lord Jesus), with the church that is in their house. This lovely couple—driven from Rome by the persecuting edict of Claudius (Acts 18:2)—we find settled at Corinth, where they were joined by Paul, the two being of the same secular occupation. After a time they accompanied our apostle to Ephesus, and there settled, doing eminent service to the cause of Christ. For there it was that to Apollos they were privileged to open up such enlarged views of the Gospel, as, until then, he had had no opportunity of learning. On another occasion, when the apostle’s life at Ephesus was in imminent danger, they interposed for his rescue at the risk of their own lives, receiving for this the enduring record of his own and the Church’s warm gratitude (Romans 16:4). And here, again, we find them with a “church,” regularly assembling “in their house,” and sending to their former Corinthian brethren their warmest greetings. From this and similar references to churches regularly meeting in the private houses of their members, it is plain that up to this time—and probably for long after—the Christians met only in private houses; perhaps holding distinct meetings, according to the capacity of the “house.” No house would be choicer for such a purpose than that of Aquila, whose occupation required large premises. At these homely gatherings the progress of the Gospel and the state of several churches seem to have been reported—sometimes by written communications (as we learn from Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27), sometimes orally by persons who had received intelligence, or had themselves brought it (as appears from 3 John 1:3); and occasion would then be given for special thanksgiving and prayer. In this way the tie between Christians in different localities, and between those little communities themselves, would be drawn close, and be felt to be a blessed reality.


Verse 20

1 Corinthians 16:20. All the brethren salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss. This custom, which prevailed among the Jews, came doubtless from the East, where it still prevails as the mode of friendly recognition. Its adoption into the churches, as a symbol of a higher fellowship, would, in these circumstances, be almost instinctive, spontaneous, and immediate. In the present case the apostle probably meant that, on the reading of his Letter aloud in the assemblies, with the greetings expressed in it, they should in this way express their mutual affection (see Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). The practice thus came to have a fixed place in the church service—coming in usually after the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It continued in use for a long time; but as the Church spread westwards, encountering more staid ideas and less demonstrative habits, the practice would grow less frequent. As a matter of principle, it will ever be the wisdom of churches, in such matters, to study the state of society and local ideas and usages; for what in one place is regarded as but a common expression of good feeling would in another be thought to border on indelicacy.


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 16:21. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. This—“which was the token in every Epistle” of his (2 Thessalonians 3:17)—was his way of attesting the genuineness of the Letter. This, it appears, was far from superfluous; for we learn from 2 Thessalonians 2:2 that spurious Epistles were palmed off in his name, to enlist his authority for things which he condemned. It was his custom to employ an amanuensis, to whom he dictated his Epistles, merely adding a closing salutation with his own hand. The sole exception is the Epistle to the Galatians, which he tells us he wrote in large characters (as the word means) with his own hand (Galatians 6:11).


Verse 22

1 Corinthians 16:22. If any man loveth not the Lord(1)—that is, the Lord Jesus,—let him be Anathema—see on 1 Corinthians 12:3; also Galatians 1:8-9.

Maran atha. This is the Aramaean or Syriac expression for ‘Our Lord cometh;’ a solemn warning that the approaching Advent of the Lord would see that dreadful curse visited upon such. See Matthew 25:41, where this awful curse is first connected with “the Son of man coming in His glory” (Matthew 13:41-43). Why this was expressed in the form of a Syriac exclamation, it is impossible to tell; but since it must have been intelligible to the readers of this Epistle, it would seem to have sprung up first among the early converts of Palestine,—who used the vernacular tongue; from them to have become a household word of warm-hearted love to the Lord Jesus, one with another; and thence to have passed to the Gentile churches. It may be added, however, that the word here used for “love” is not that which expresses personal affection,(1) which we should naturally have expected, but that expressing distinctively the love of character—what is called the ‘love of complacency;’(2) as if he had said, ‘What I mean is, if any man hath not such love of Him who laid down His life for us that he would lay down his own life for Him, rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer for His name,’—And who says this? It is the man who once thought it his special mission to stamp out that execrated Name from the earth. Has he, then, merely transferred his fanatical rage from one direction into its opposite? The most prejudiced critic, as he observes the serenity with which this Epistle closes, can hardly see in this one verse an interjected burst of fanaticism. As a matter of psychology, burning love to any one deemed supremely worthy of it is apt to beget a feeling of wonder, of grief, and in some very supposable cases, even of indignation at the want of it in others. Certainly a feeling of hatred towards even his bitterest enemies will not be ascribed to him who penned the words of Romans 9:1-5 and Romans 10:1


Verse 23-24

Ver. 23. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Ver. 24. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. Some critics take this indicatively, “My love is with you all.” But this seems flat. That of our Authorised Version is much the more expressive, and the closing “Amen” seems to confirm this.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-corinthians-16.html. 1879-90.

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Saturday, June 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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