1 Corinthians 16b
1 Corinthians 16:5-9… But I shall come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
There are at least four principles to be drawn from vv. 5-9. First, every ministry needs a vision – a well thought out plan bathed in prayer ready to be implemented. Paul was sold out to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also spent time visiting his converts so as to assess their progress. This is why he wanted to come back to Corinth after he traveled through Macedonia.
In v. 6 a second principle to observe is that of flexibility. Some get a vision for ministry but fail to plan for the inevitable problems and for the stark possibility that God might later lead in another direction. Paul says, “and perhaps I will stay with you…” This shows that though it was in his plan to stay in Corinth he was flexible and was allowing the possibility that God would lead him elsewhere. This had occurred before in his ministry when God had forbid him to go to Asia to preach the gospel (Acts 16:6). Being sensitive to God’s leading he went elsewhere.
A third principle is in vv. 7-8: commitment to excellence. Paul didn’t want to travel to Corinth and to just see his kindred “in passing.” He wanted some quality time there. After writing the letter he had written to them he didn’t want to just show up, say hello, and then depart. He likely recognized the fact that this church, one that he loved with his soul, would need him for a much longer period of time. After all, some of them had fallen into apostasy while others had been led astray into terrible sin. He didn’t want to leave this group with any unanswered questions or any confusion by just passing through. He wanted to be thorough in his time there. But before he could do that he had some loose ends to tie up in Ephesus – another place that was near and dear to his heart. Steeped in pagan idol worship the people of Ephesus had come a long way in their journey to the truth of Jesus Christ, and Paul needed to stay there until the time of Pentecost (observed 50 days after the Passover).
A fourth principle we can observe about ministry in general is found in v. 9: acceptance of adversity. Paul had discovered a new ministry opportunity that he wanted to deal with. He knew there would be adversity, but that didn’t stop him. He was always willing to die for sharing his faith through the teaching of God’s Word. The only thing that did stop him was death.
Food for Thought
In my own ministry as a pastor I started out with a plan to start a Bible-teaching church. That plan involved going to seminary for four years and recruiting a team of people to help me. Second, I had to allow for the possibility that God would lead me elsewhere – I had to remain flexible. God had originally (I thought) led me to be a counselor, but once I entered that profession He turned me elsewhere. Third, I resolved that if I were going to start a church that centered around the worship of God I would need to do everything thoroughly – to be committed to excellence. God is perfect, so ministries done in His name ought to be excellent – especially a church committed to teaching His inerrant Word. Finally, like Paul, I expected adversity. Starting a church is no small task, and there are many pitfalls. But I learned that going through the difficulties of ministry is what molds and makes enduring ministers. All four principles, if understood and implemented, will result in bringing glory to God – the very purpose of life itself.
1 Corinthians 16:10-12… Now if Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 Let no one therefore despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren. 12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.
The phrase in v. 10 seems to imply at least some doubt in Paul’s mind that his companion Timothy would come to Corinth. Travel in the ancient world, as in today’s, carried no guarantee of safe arrival, but the likely meaning Paul intends here is “whenever Timothy comes.” In Acts 19:22 Paul sent Timothy, one of his fellow evangelists, into Macedonia. He was to enter into Corinth right after that (1 Cor. 4:17) to remind the Corinthians of “my ways which are in Christ” and to possibly deliver Paul’s letter as well. Paul was concerned not only “if” Timothy got there safely but also of his safety once he got there. Hence, he tells the Corinthians to “make sure he has nothing to fear while he is with you.” No doubt Paul expected Timothy to receive some of the backlash meant for him, for the church there had strongly resisted Paul’s authority, and they might just mistreat Timothy on behalf of Paul. Add to that the fact that Timothy was somewhat of a timid character (1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:7), and one can see why Paul would write such.
The reason Paul wanted Timothy’s safety to be assured was that “he is carrying on the work of the Lord.” Paul was team player with many others who worked alongside of him in the ministry. Such people were to be welcomed and treated well because of their work for the Lord. No one was to “despise” him (“to ignore, hate, reject, make fun of”). As a minister of Jesus Christ Timothy was to be fully accepted and treated with dignity. Paul demanded it. He was to be sent on his way in peace so as to return to Paul along with the others Timothy was traveling with.
There is no indication in Scripture as to how Timothy’s visit turned out. What is known is that Paul abruptly changed his plans shortly after this and contrary to the plans he laid out, he paid a sudden and unexpected visit to the church in Corinth. Why he did so is unknown, but it’s likely that this occurred because Timothy’s return report caused him great alarm. Paul later sent Titus to Corinth instead of himself or Timothy. Titus must have been a man of unusual grace.
Now in v. 12 Paul shifts his attention from Timothy to Apollos, the capable Alexandrian pastor who followed in Paul’s footsteps as the second pastor in Corinth. Though Paul had “greatly encouraged” him to make a trip to Corinth Apollos had declined for unknown reasons. Even though Paul felt strongly about the need for Apollos to travel there he didn’t foist his will upon Apollos. He allowed Apollos to be led in his own way, thus showing that Paul wasn’t reigning over him. For whatever reason it was “not at all his desire to come now.” But he did have every intention of making his way there in his own time “when he has opportunity.” It’s important for God’s leaders to steer clear of micromanaging the ministries of other people. Just because the Lord lays it on the heart of one person doesn’t mean that He’s laid it on another’s.
Food for Thought
The Apostle Paul was a part of a team. He was always working with other men and women in his ministry. He was also quite sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives of his team members as is evident in his treatment of Apollos. Let this be a lesson to us today while we engage in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Working together with others is as essential as it is frustrating at times. Allow yourself to listen to God and to listen to those who do the same.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14… Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.
Verses 13-14 seem abrupt and out of place. But as Paul concludes his letter, and as in many of his epistles, his concluding exhortations reveal the heart of a man who just can’t bring himself to sign off without one more strong and urgent plea to remain upright and obedient.
First, he says, “Be on the alert.” Though “alert” can refer to being physically awake in the NT, here it’s about spiritual vigilance. Jesus used it in reference to watchful anticipation of his second coming (Matt. 24:42-43; 25:13). Peter used it in reference to knowing that the devil himself is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). And Paul uses the word in reference to a watchful conscious spirit that is privy to the spiritual warfare that surrounds believers (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; 1 Thes. 5:6). So in 1 Cor. 16:13 when Paul commands alertness he is reflecting back on all the pitfalls that the church had fallen into, and he strongly urges them to wake up spiritually and smell the coffee. Knowing the dangers that surrounded them by staying spiritually alert would prepare them for Christ’s second coming.
Second, the apostle says to “stand firm in the faith.” The tense of the verb “stand” is a present tense with a continuous action. Standing firm is one thing, but to stand firm “in the faith” continually is to know what you believe, why you believe it, and be ever believing it. His command is appropriate for that group of wishy-washy Corinthians who were so easily led astray by the worldly issues that confronted them. Paul tells them to be like a tree with roots that go deep so that nothing can uproot it. Being alert to the spiritual pitfalls that surround all Christians is the first and most important step to knowing how to “stand firm in the faith” without falling.
Third, Paul says to “act like men.” Though this phrase is only used once in the NT it is used six times in the Greek version of the Hebrew OT (Septuagint) in passages like Deut. 31:6-7, 23 and Joshua 1:6-7. In those passages Moses is commissioning Joshua, his successor as leader over Israel, to “be strong and very courageous.” So Paul’s meaning is the same: “Be strong and courageous… act like a man is supposed to act!” He follows it up with “Be strong” which clearly modifies what it means to “act like men.” Men are supposed to be strong, bold, and unmovable in their homes, in their churches, and in their moral lives. They were to be alert spiritually, be unshaken in their faith, and to be as strong as warriors. All of which equates to a perfectly balanced Christian life. They are simple and timeless instructions not to be taken lightly.
In v. 14 literally says, “All of you in love be!” The Greek word for love here refers to the selfless agape love. It’s the kind of love that acts as a verb, not a feeling. Without love, being “alert” wouldn’t amount to anything. It would produce a paranoid schizophrenic. Without love “standing firm in the faith” would be an oxymoron. Strong faith in something without love is possible, but one cannot stand strong in THE faith without love because faith in Christ means to be full of love. Without love to “act like men, be strong” would be nothing more than macho egoism. A real man loves, and his love for God is shown through spiritual awareness, strong faith, and a strength that draws others to him.
Food for Thought
People today are more interested in their perishable bodies than their eternal spirits. We spend more time exercising, eating, sleeping, and enjoying ourselves than we do just thinking about great moral character. In two verses Paul spells out what we are to strive for continually. Strive for these things, pray for these things, think about these things. We’re commanded to.
1 Corinthians 16:15-18… Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), 16 that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors. 17 And I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus; because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
In view of the fact that Timothy and an unknown number that would accompany him to Corinth would be arriving soon Paul encourages (urges) the Corinthians to subject themselves to the authority of these men. Though these men would be arriving soon with apostolic authority and words from God, Paul also reminds them of Stephanas – one of the first converts to Christianity in Achaia which was a Roman province including all of Greece. Paul had baptized this man’s entire household (1:16), and Stephanas went on to a life of devotion to the “ministry to the saints” (i.e., in service to Christians). He is called the “first-fruits” of Achaia, and this is a reference to the harvest the church in Corinth later reaped. The first fruits of any farmer was the fruit of the first seeds he had planted, and it was an indicator to him that he would eventually harvest many crops. In the case of Stephanas he was the first of many converts in Corinth.
In v. 17 Paul rejoices over the coming of three men from Corinth (Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaiacus) who were most likely spiritual leaders in Corinth. Their bond with Paul during his time as their pastor in Corinth is noteworthy because they “supplied what was lacking” in that their presence represented the Corinthian Christians. Because of the mature spirituality of these men Paul commanded the Corinthians to “acknowledge” them in the sense that he wanted anyone who did not know them to get to know them. Men of great Christian character are to be sought out by the church. Just their very presence “refreshed” Paul’s spirit in v. 18.
Food for Thought
Verses 15-18 do not contain deep theological truths, but they reveal the traits of one who understands basic theology – one who understands who God truly is and what He requires from those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. First, per Christ’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), we can observe the phenomena of evangelism. Stephanas is mentioned in v. 15 because he was a convert to Christianity via Paul’s ministry. Paul had many fruits for his evangelistic labors.
Second, Stephanas’ subsequent devotion to the living believers specifically shows us that service to Christ’s followers must be a priority for Christians. Too often ministering to Christians is considered secondary to converting the lost. But Christ’s Great Commission was about converting unbelievers with the gospel then teaching them to obey. True evangelism doesn’t stop with conversion but also helps to progress others onto maturity.
Third, in v. 16, it should be noted that submission to Christian leaders is mandatory. These are the ones who help with the labors of the church and the people of the church. Since their service to God is service to the saints, the saints being served are to submit to that authority.
Fourth, in vv. 17-18, we can observe the importance of fellowship with other believers. Paul’s spirit was lifted following the visit from the three men from Corinth, and who can’t relate to that? Paul’s tone throughout the letter shows how unnerved he was over what he had heard was happening in Corinth, so the companionship of his brothers was therapeutic for him. Now because of the fact that all believers will endure difficult and depressing times it should be noted here from Scripture that “acknowledging” such people helps the downhearted to be lifted.
1 Corinthians 16:19-24… The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 The greeting is in my own hand-- Paul. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
As Paul closes his letter to the church in Corinth he sends warm greetings from the churches in Asia where he was at his writing – specifically Ephesus. The like-minded churches in that area were as concerned about the problems in Corinth as Paul was, but they continued to be united by one Savior – Jesus Christ. Paul specifically mentions Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla) who had also sent their greetings. This husband and wife team originally met Paul when he first came to Corinth. They themselves were there because the Roman Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) had cast them out of Rome as he had done to all Jews (Acts 18:2). Claudius believed that the Jewish Christians were the cause of the riots in Rome as they preached Christ, so he cast them all out. Hence, Aquila and Prisca ended up in Corinth. They opened their home to Paul, and they subsequently traveled with him to Ephesus after he left. Now as he writes the Corinthian church they send their greetings for they were no strangers to the Corinthians. Their “hearty” greeting came with the members of the church “in their house.” In other words, they had started another church in their new home in Ephesus. There is a spirit of unity in their greeting and an implied spirit of hospitality that should be indicative of all orthodox Christian churches.
In v. 20 Paul says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” The form of greeting in the first century church was a kiss – a “holy” kiss. There is only two references in Scripture to romantic kissing (Prov. 7:13; Song of Solomon 4:11), and all the other references to the “kiss” are in relation to a greeting. In modern society this expression comes in the form of a firm handshake or a hug. It’s important to note, however, that Paul’s request is in the form of an imperative verb. Though styles of greetings have changed from the first century to the present day, the spirit of greeting others is actually commanded. And why not? Believers are all united in God’s love. Warm hearty greetings toward fellow believers is to Christianity what apples are to fruit.
In v. 21 Paul shows that though the letter itself had been written by a scribe, he does sign the greeting in his own handwriting so as to authenticate the letter. While signing the letter he takes the opportunity to close it with a stern warning concerning those who don’t love the Lord – the hypocrites and pretenders: they were “accursed” – devoted to destruction. John warned that they were not even to be greeted. To do so was to participate in their evil deeds (2 John 1:11). The phrase that follows is simply “Maranatha!” and it can mean either “Our Lord, come!” or “Our Lord has come.” The second rendering fits the context because it refutes those who don’t love the Lord in v. 22. Paul basically says, “Cursed is anyone who doesn’t love the Lord; our Lord has come!” In other words, why would anyone not love the resurrected Christ? He died for you! But because the Lord Jesus had come, died, and was resurrected Paul closes with a blessing as he calls upon the grace of God along with his own love for them to fall upon them. His love was eternally with them because he served an eternal God. “Amen” (i.e., “so let it be!).
Food for Thought
The body of Christ is supposed to be one of brotherly love where mutual affection exists between all members. Even in the midst of being angry and disappointed with the Corinthians Paul told them he loved them. It’s okay to be mad at someone today, but love them anyway.
I) The Lord’s Work the Lord’s Way (5-12)
A) Vision (5)
B) Flexibility (6)
C) Excellence (7-8)
D) Dealing w/opposition (9)
E) Working w/a team (10-11)
F) No micromanaging (12)
II) Principles for Powerful Living (13-14)
A) Be alert
B) Stand firm
C) Grow up
D) Get strong
E) Give love
III) Nine Marks of Love in the Fellowship (15-24)
A) Evangelism (15a)
B) Service to each other (15b)
C) Submission (16)
D) Camaraderie (17-18a)
E) Respect for faithful workers (18b)
F) Hospitality (19-20a)
G) Affection (20b)
H) Rejecting scoffers (22-23)
I) Wishing grace upon believers (24)