In 1 Corinthians 16, the last chapter of this second longest of Paul’s surviving letters, Paul ties up some ends, deals with a few business issues to do with a charitable collection he was taking up for the saints in Jerusalem, and gives a few closing exhortations.
This passage has been used to support the weekly Sunday morning collection, but, however you might feel about our customary habits of giving in the western church, such a use of this passage is insupportable. The money saved was, first of all, not to be collected until Paul was ready to take it to Jerusalem, and second, there is no mention of any of this money being used to support church expenses such as pastors or buildings. This was a special free-will offering, not a regular collection of a tithe to support church programs
We know from this and from secular historians that Jerusalem was suffering a famine. The practicing Jews would have assistance from collections abroad from expatriate Jews, but the Christian Jews were not included in these disbursements. Paul’s collection was for them, to alleviate their immediate physical needs. Paul wisely announces that Corinthian representatives would accompany him (or go on their own) to Jerusalem to witness the proper disposition of the offerings they had sent.
Paul had planned to visit Corinth soon, but as we see by reading 2 Corinthians, those plans fell through. There was some bad blood there. Even Paul had problems with his house churches. How much more should we expect these dramatic blow-ups from time to time? Paul didn’t quit, though, and neither should we.
It’s interesting that Paul feels a door is open for effective ministry despite the opposition. Many of us would be tempted to think that the door to ministry had closed if we ran into the kind of opposition Paul typically faced–that is, people scourging him, throwing him into prison, running him out of town–that sort of thing. Ouch!
Paul has a soft spot for Timothy, and apparently Timothy was not as bold and assertive as Paul. Also, he was very young. At any rate, Paul feels the need to warn the Corinthians to treat his disciple respectfully.
Despite the apparent preferences some of the people had for Apollos over Paul, Paul shows no jealously. He feels it necessary to tell the Corinthians that he had urged Apollos to visit them and Apollos had other things he needed to do. Is he avoiding accusation that he’s trying to keep his co-worker off “his turf?”
The thing that stands out for me here is the word, “alert.” I think that many times the Spirit is telling us things we need to know, but we’re preoccupied with other, perhaps more urgent things and we don’t hear Him. Later, when we’re suffering for our inattention, we realize that we heard that warning in the back of our mind but didn’t pay attention to it.
Nothing is any good without love. (See chapter 13)
Achaia was the name of the province in which Corinth was situated. The household of Stephanas were among the first in the region to follow Jesus, and were also among the more mature as evidenced by their devotion to service and also by Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to submit to them.
Submission here is not a mindless obedience, but rather a willingness to be persuaded–a certain respect and deference to those who have shown themselves wise and worthy. This and other passages from Paul’s letters do seem to point to the presence of leadership in the churches–not the sort of leadership appointed upon the attainment of a seminary degree, but rather the sort of leadership that naturally happens in the course of a group coming together. Christian leadership serves, rather than demanding service, and it leads only, as opposed to taking over the whole operation and performing all functions of public ministry.
Paul goes on to praise Corinthian brothers: Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, who are with him, and urges the Corinthians to appreciate such encouraging and good-hearted people.
Churches in the NT typically met in homes.
Affection appropriate to the culture was important to Paul. Healthy families hug, kiss, and show affection to one another. Paul sees the church as a family.
Paul customarily closed letters in his own handwriting. He would have need of a scribe by this time in his life, as he was doubtless growing “hard of reading” as nearly all of us do at some point in our 40′s. This personal closing was written in large letters, and was his forgery preventative. Not much good in today’s world, but in that time, it is doubtful that many people would have had sufficient access to Paul’s handwriting to create a forgery good enough to trick those who knew his hand.
If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him? Hmm. I wonder what would happen if some Christian leader made the mistake of saying something like that on the airwaves today? Paul was pretty hard core.
Maranatha means “Our Lord, Come!” I agree 1000%.
Grace, again, refers to the work of God in the human heart, without which we can neither begin nor continue in our journey of redemption. Paul adds, last of all, his own expressed love for the Corinthians. A fitting close to a beautifully written letter.
And my wishes of grace and peace to you also