The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Applying 1 Corinthians 16: The Wrap Up

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This is a continuation of Applying 1 Corinthians 15.

Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem. And if it seems appropriate for me to go along, they can travel with me. (1 Cor. 16:1-4)

As various communities fall on particularly hard times, news of their plight is spread around and other churches try to pitch in to help. Paul knows that if he has the believers give a little each week, he’ll end up with a much larger offering. When Paul writes the letter of Romans, he is still in the process of collecting this offering for Jerusalem. When he mentions Southern Greece in the following passage, that’s where Corinth is.

I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Southern Greece have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially. (Rom. 15:24-27)

This is Paul’s heady interpretation of why believers are trying to help his fellow Jews. Paul naturally feels Israel is God’s gift to the world and he likes to talk as if we all owe our salvation to the Jews, which of course we do not. As a nation, Israel rejected Yahweh, she rejected Christ, and she rejected the Holy Spirit. People do not save people, God does. Paul encourages believers to view themselves as indebted to anyone who shares the Gospel with them, but this is because Paul is a glory hog who can’t stand to admit that it is the Holy Spirit who illuminates minds with truth, not bumbling mortals.

I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia, for I am planning to travel through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay awhile with you, possibly all winter, and then you can send me on my way to my next destination. This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me. In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me. (1 Cor. 16:5-9)

Pentecost occurred in May-June. Paul’s eventual visit to Corinth is probably what is being described in Acts 20:

Then Paul traveled down to Greece, where he stayed for three months. (Acts 20:2-3)

When Timothy comes, don’t intimidate him. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don’t let anyone treat him with contempt. Send him on his way with your blessing when he returns to me. I expect him to come with the other believers. (1 Cor. 16:10-11)

Poor Timothy. No doubt his theology was in pretty bad shape with the domineering Paul for a spiritual mentor.

Now about our brother Apollos—I urged him to visit you with the other believers, but he was not willing to go right now. He will see you later when he has the opportunity. (1 Cor. 16:12)

Apollos is another apostle whose name has come up quite a bit in this letter (see Chapter 3). He has some loyal fans in Corinth.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

You know that Stephanas and his household were the first of the harvest of believers in Greece, and they are spending their lives in service to God’s people. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to submit to them and others like them who serve with such devotion. I am very glad that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus have come here. They have been providing the help you weren’t here to give me. They have been a wonderful encouragement to me, as they have been to you. You must show your appreciation to all who serve so well. (1 Cor. 16:13-18)

You should always raise your guard when a leader as pompous as Paul starts telling you who you ought to submit to. The Holy Spirit doesn’t want you fawning over human beings, blindly believing what they say, or giving them the glory for your spiritual illumination. Wisdom comes from God alone. If Paul had spent less time praising people and more time sincerely seeking truth in his own heart, his letters wouldn’t have been so full of guff.

The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings. All the brothers and sisters here send greetings to you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. (1 Cor. 16:19-20)

Most Americans are not comfortable kissing strangers and friends as a way of saying hello. We reserve kissing as a means of expressing affection for close family members and romantic love for our spouses and dates. Today some churches actually divide over the sacred kiss issue. This is ridiculous. Paul’s cultural traditions are not something we should be trying to imitate. Paul wore a tunic—does that mean we should all start running around in nightgowns? Paul traveled by foot, horse, and ships. Does that mean we should stop driving cars? Let’s remember that the goal is to please our Makers, not imitate dead people.

HERE IS MY GREETING IN MY OWN HANDWRITING—PAUL. (1 Cor. 16:21)

Paul probably had someone else write this very long letter for him while he dictated it. He now writes this line in his own hand as proof that the contents are approved of by him.

If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be cursed. Maranatha. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Cor. 16:22-24)

Maranatha is an Aramaic phrase that could mean either “Our Lord, come!” or “Our Lord has come!” After hearing Paul bash on Christ in Chapter 15, his references to Christ sound a lot less reverent than they used to. Just who was Christ in Paul’s mind? We’ll never know, but we do know that we are very glad to finally reach the end of this ridiculous letter. If future editions of the Bible were to drop 1 Corinthians from the New Testament along with the epistles of Hebrews and James, we certainly wouldn’t miss them.

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