TEXT : 1 Corinthians 16: 1-22
TITLE: Ministry, Money and many other Matters
Date : 22/04/2012
Today, we conclude this series of expositions in 1 Corinthians which I began in February 2010, and which now comprises a total of 53 messages .
Chapter 16 concludes with a number of matters :
(i) Concerning collections of money for the poor church in Jerusalem (1-4)
(ii) Concerning Paul’s travel plans (5-9)
(iii) Concerning Timothy (10-11) and Apollos (v12)
(iv) Closing exhortations (13-18) and final greetings (19-23)
1. Concerning collections of money for the poor church in Jerusalem ( 1-4)
Paul is responding to yet another question from the church.  v.1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. After the stoning of Stephen a great persecution broke out against the church (Acts 8:1ff). The church was shunned and marginalized by the Jews. Social welfare for the Christian poor, widows and orphans seized to be; properties of Christians were confiscated. In addition a famine in Judea, prophesied by the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:28), caused great hardship. So, the church in Jerusalem was struggling, and Paul encouraged the churches in the Christian diaspora , in Asia minor, to do some serious, planned giving for this cause. Here is his advice on how they were to do it:
v.2 : On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. On Sunday , the first day of the week , the Christian Sabbath and day of worship , the members of the churches in Asia Minor were encouraged to put aside money for the church in Jerusalem. They are encouraged to store it up , each “as he may prosper “ proportional giving! ” And then? What is this collection for?
v.3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. The Corinthians were encouraged to select trustworthy people to deliver that money personally to Jerusalem. There will also be other men, representatives chosen by the other churches. Luke names some of them in Acts 20:4.
Commentary : What can we learn from this portion of Scripture?
· Christian compassion for the genuine poverty in other parts of the Christian church is an obligation. We at Eastside Baptist Church (apart from being sensitive to the real needs among us) must remain sensitive to this in a country in which there is gross economic disparity and where most of our churches represent the sub economic divide!
· Planned giving is better than spontaneous (emotional) appeals.
· The giving was to happen on Sundays, the day of worship. It was part of worship!
· After the money was collected and Paul had arrived, the church was encouraged to send trustworthy representatives with Paul. Why?
(i) for the sake of security, for they would carry a sizable amount of coins.
(ii) Accountability: Corruption was a part of the ancient church as it is today. Judas- like preachers were helping themselves to the money bags as is also common today.
(iii) the pleasure of delivering their gifts in person to the church at Jerusalem, while at the same time also being able to encourage the church in Jerusalem. Sending money or gifts impersonally is one thing. Delivering the money or gifts personally makes for double joy – like that joy which our people have just experienced when they took your gifts to our poorer brothers and sisters to the Baptist church in thje southern town of Lüderitz, Namibia.
2. Concerning his travel plans (5-9)
I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Remember that Paul is an apostle. He is not a pastor –teacher, settled permanently among God’s people. As an apostle He was an itinerant minister of the gospel. His main aim was to preach Christ in every city where He was not as yet known, with the purpose of planting churches among those received the gospel. In this instance however he is intending to re-visit churches that he had already planted in northern Greece i.e. in the province of Macedonia. Examples of these churches are Philippi and Thessalonica. From these northern parts he then hopes to come south, to Corinth for the winter. Verse 8 tells us that Paul is writing this letter from Ephesus where he tells us, “a wide door for effective work has opened to me.” He intended to stay there until Pentecost (50 days after Resurrection Sunday, and the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2). You can read all about that work in Acts 19. It is a glorious chapter, full of gospel power and triumph, but it is also a city full of demonic religions and resistance to the gospel. This is what he means by “…and there are many adversaries.” (v.9)
3. Concerning Timothy and Apollos (vv 10-12)
10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.
Timothy is Paul’s child in the faith ( 1 Tim 1:2 ; 2 Tim 1:2;2:1). He is a fellow traveler with Paul on his apostolic journeys ( 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1 1Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1). To him 2 letters (Pastoral epistles) are personally addressed. He became the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). He is mentioned 26 times in the NT. Paul would sometimes send Timothy to churches that he had planted. In this instance it appears that Paul had sent Timothy to Corinth, because of the tensions that had arisen between Paul and Corinthian members. You can read about this in 1 Corinthians 4:14-21. This church has had a real problem with Paul’s authority, and so it is no wonder that Paul says, “let no one despise him.”(v.11) What a formidable mission for a young man to deal with such a difficult church situation! Timothy needed Paul’s encouragement at times for this task ( 1 Tim 4:11-16 ; 2 Tim 1:3-14) . Every young pastor needs a Paul - a mentor.
12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.
Here is an interesting situation! In Chapter 3:4ff there was an ‘Apollos party’ in the church. They loved Apollos, and would have far sooner have had him there than Paul. He was apparently an eloquent, dynamic speaker (Acts 18:25). Please note that Paul did not see himself in competition to Apollos. He was happy to send Apollos to them, but for some reason Apollos had declined to go, and might come another time.
4. Closing exhortations (13-18) and greetings ( 19-23)
Paul begins this section with five commands: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love. We can only comment very briefly on them:
a. Be watchful: Why? Because of what had already happened among them: Pride and self centeredness had crept in among them and was threatening to destroy their unity in Christ. The church must constantly watch out for these things!
b. Stand firm in the faith. i.e. in the gospel which you have received (15:1-11) which is Christ at the center of their faith. The temptation is always to substitute the gospel of Jesus with big names, our big spiritual gifts, our big events. The Corinthians were beginning to waver on gospel essentials. Some were beginning to doubt the doctrine of the resurrection.
c. Act like men. ( Gr. andrizesthe) i.e. “to be brave - act with courage.” Take up your cross , deny yourself. Follow Christ ! This is far harder than giving into oneself. Real men aren’t bullied or beaten into submission when truth is assaulted.
d. Be strong. This follows and amplifies what was said before. It takes manly courage to stand against the tide of ungodliness,and popular, man centered opinion. Christians need to be strong in the face of secular challenges and the fear of man that threatens to engulf them.
e. Let all that you do be done in love: 1 Corinthians 13 is the key!
15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men.
We finally meet some of the members: Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus were respected members and leaders of the church. They were among Paul’s first converts in Corinth(province Achaia). They appeared to be faithful to Paul’s teaching, and had stood with Paul in this crisis. Hence he admonished the church to subject and recognize these men and their authority.
Final greetings to them come from the churches in the greater area (Asia) and from two Christians who used to be members of the Corinthian church (Acts 18:2): 19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. He also sends a personal greeting: Paul dictated his letter. Now he signs off with his own hand. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.
If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!
Verse 22 expresses Paul’s deep affection for the church. He does not suffer fools and heretics and those that cause disturbance in the church lightly, and this may sound harsh , but understand, that it is His greater love for the health of the church that drives him to say this. However , he does close with a blessing: 23The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. These two words, grace and love sum up the Christian’s experience. The understanding of the Grace which we receive from God removes the basis for our arrogance. Grace makes us grateful to God, and indebted to Him and others. It is by knowing this grace that we can truly love.
1 Corinthians is an important epistle, for it shows us what can happen very easily and very quickly when a church loses her focus on Christ. Within 5 years of being founded, this church was in serious trouble. Doctrinally and experientially these people had begun to drift spiritually because they had failed to watch their life and doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16). There are other examples of such rapid spiritual declines in Scripture.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he writes: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” (Gal 1:6).
We also see this in Revelation 2 & 3. 5 of the 7 churches in Asia Minor had lost their focus and needed to receive a warning. They had lost their first love in Christ, and mercifully Christ speaks to them through his servant John, exhorting them to repent and return , otherwise the Lord of the church would remove His lampstand from among them (Rev 2:5). The church that loses the sense of the presence of God may go on a while, but only for a while! The church without God at the center is bound to destroy itself!
Backsliding happens faster than we think , and for this reason we can never be too easy and comfortable in this world. For this reason, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be “watchful, stand firm in the faith, and act like men and be strong.”
Backsliding (faithlessness , apostasy) is a sin warned against throughout the entire Bible, and the Lord God had used His servants the prophets at many times and in many ways to warn and rebuke Israel, and the church and individuals. This letter has been, I trust, a sincere warning to our church.
May everyone here be spared to hear the words with which Paul closes this epistle, “ If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed“ ( a reflection of what Jesus said in Matt 7:22,23), and may all here be the recipients of the grace and love of our Lord Jesus. Amen!