Monday, April 23, 2012

1 Corinthians 16:1-22 Ministry, Money and many other Matters


 

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. [1]  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? 

3 reasons
  
(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.  

CONCLUSION :

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 [2], 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!


[1] See also 7:1,25; 8:1;12:1
[2] Rev 2:5, 16,21-22; 3:3,19

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