1 - 9 Collection and Travelling Plans
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. 5 But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so 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 will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective [service] has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
V1. Paul concludes his letter with some practical instructions about a collection of money. It seems to be a side issue in which he still wants to say something that is not that important. However, that is not the case. What he says here you can actually feel in your wallet. It is said about the Dutchman that the last thing which is converted, is his wallet. Therefore the jokes that our southern neighbors (Belgians) make about the stinginess of the Dutchman are not totally unfounded. There are only a few people who do not bother about the ‘filthy lucre’. Everybody wants as much as he can have of it. The lotteries and other games of chance prove that the phenomenon is not the exclusive preserve of the Dutch population.
We also need very much the exhortation that the Corinthians received, to keep a collection for the poor believers. It is quite human to, when you yourself prosper, to forget the other. You possibly have just enough to get by. What do you have left for the other? Nevertheless, it is not a question of politeness to lay something aside for the other. Paul had already told the churches of Galatia the same thing and now he also points out to the Corinthians their responsibility. He wants to be sure that they will do what he says.
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, so two entire chapters, he gives more instructions about the collection of money for impoverished fellow believers. That makes clear how important this issue is to Paul. In those chapters you read amongst others that it pleases God to see you give freely, not as a reflection from a pressure.
V2. In our chapter he gives an instruction about how to lay money aside for poor believers in the most proper way. Of course there are many ways how you can let others have a part in your prosperity, but the way, concerned in this verse, is closely related to the first day of the week, that’s Sunday. That is nice. The first day of the week was especially the day that the believers gathered to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to listen to God’s Word (Acts 20:7). Isn’t this the automatic consequence of our connection in the Lord, which we experience during the meetings that we also show our connection in a practical way?
The Bible speaks about a “sacrifice of praise” that we can bring to God as the “fruit of lips”. The intention of that is that we tell God how grateful we are to Him that He has redeemed us. But directly attached to that, the Bible speaks about the sacrifices of “doing good and sharing” which pleases God (Heb 13:15-16). The collections are not a manner to take money out of people’s pocket, but they are a logical result of our gratitude to God.
After connecting the collections to the first day of the week, Paul passes on a practical suggestion: let them lay a certain amount aside weekly. That amount could be different every week. It was dependent on their prosperity. To people with a fixed income, it would have often been the same amount. They always had to consider: ‘How much can I lay aside this week?’
I hope that you are used to putting money in the collection bag regularly. Do you also consider regularly if you could change the amount? The suggestion that Paul made, had the benefit that quite a nice amount would have been collected when he arrived there. If the collection was only made at the moment he came, the benefits would surely not be that big. A single gift is often smaller than the sum of an amount that is saved.
V3-4. Paul intended to give the amount, collected like that, to brothers whom the church entrusted. These brothers would bring the gift of love to Jerusalem with an accompanying letter. He did not know yet whether he would go along with them. In that case they could have gone along with him. The brothers who were entrusted with this order, were not just random brothers. They were brothers who have proven their capabilities and commitment in their service for the Lord. The church at Corinth would want to recommend these brothers on the basis of their reliability. They had to be people who would not give in to the temptation to run off with the money.
In Acts 6 and 1 Timothy 3 you find some features of brothers to whom people could entrust such a service (Acts 6:3; 1Tim 3:8-13). Of course the characteristics described there, should glory each Christian. If that is already the case, then certainly it is, concerning those brothers, onto whose shoulders a task was placed to provide in the material needs of the believers. These characteristics are still valid as a condition to be able to serve in material matters. The fact that we can do digital payment transactions nowadays does not weaken the qualities of a person who is entrusted with such a service.
V5. So it was Paul’s intention to visit the believers at Corinth. He writes to them about which way he was considering to come. From Ephesus (the place from where he writes this letter), he would travel first through Macedonia. There he could pass through the cities of Philippi and Thessalonica, where he also would love to visit the believers there. Then he would come to Corinth.
V6-7. He wanted to stay quite a while with them, possibly the whole wintertime. When it was cold outside, he could then enjoy the warm love of the Corinthians. That would be a wonderful opportunity to teach them further about the issues on which they had questioned him. When he departed from there, they would be able to help him also. In fact he was counting on that. After all, that is the language of love. He had to correct them about a lot of things through his writings. Nevertheless he trusts that they would not dislike him because of that. A relationship will surely not cool off if you reprimand a person in love. As it has already been said, his visit would not be a short one.
He decides his plans with “if the Lord permits”. That shows that Paul considered the will of the Lord in everything. You surely can make plans; there is nothing wrong with that, but they, in the first place, should please the Lord. It is a normal thing for a Christian to submit his plans to the Lord in prayer, whether it concerns a vacation or a business trip or a service for the Lord.
The Lord Jesus has said: “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). I think that you also have done certain things without submitting them to the Lord. You did it out of your own desire. It doesn’t matter whether you succeeded or failed; it is wrong to do anything without the Lord, anyhow. It is wonderfully comforting to know that the Lord is guiding your life and that you can consciously put your life in His hands. Therefore, submit your plans to Him and you will experience the blessing of it.
V8-9. On the other hand, a life with the Lord is not a smooth road. Paul has had that experience too. He wanted to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because the Lord had a great task for him there. That became apparent because of two things:
1. “A wide door for effective [service]” had opened to him. That means that the Lord had opened the hearts of a great number of people through the gospel in a mighty and impressive way.
2. A proof that the Lord was in action there, was also that there were “many adversaries”. There is nothing that can activate the devil more, than a work for the Lord. The more adversaries you meet in a work that you want to do for the Lord, the surer you can be that it is indeed a work of Him.
The devil is not bothered by the people who live for themselves. He doesn’t have to fear about that at all. Such people are doing what pleases him and he enjoys everything that is not done for the Lord’s sake.
If you love to be occupied for the Lord, you will often meet these two things:
1. The Lord opens a door for you. That means: you see possibilities to do a work for the Lord. He leads you to circumstances that you recognize as His guidance to do a work for Him.
2. You meet adversaries. Not only you recognize a work for the Lord, but the devil also recognizes that. Therefore he will make every effort to hinder you to do that. In his efforts he uses people, who, as adversaries of the gospel, try to prevent you to do your work for the Lord. Therefore, do not be discouraged, but be encouraged!
Now read 1 Corinthians 16:1-9 again.
Reflection: Are you saving money? What for/ for whom?
10 - 14 Timothy and Apollos
10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. 11 So let no one 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. 13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.
V10. I think that the Corinthian believers were rather difficult people; they were certainly not ‘tame lambs’ of the good Shepherd. Paul had already said that he was with them in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling (1Cor 2:3). He had every reason to do so, for he had to bring them a message that they would not take on trust. On the contrary, his word would evoke a lot of resistance. Now he admonishes the Corinthians to make sure that it will not happen to Timothy also.
In chapter 4 he has already informed them about the coming of Timothy and about the purpose of his mission (1Cor 4:17). That makes it clear that Timothy was thoroughly aware of that too, like Paul. He was intended to teach them the same doctrines that they had received from Paul, teachings that judge their arrogance. There was a reasonable chance for resistance again. Therefore he points out to them how they should receive him.
Timothy was doing the work of the Lord, just like Paul. It is possible that here “the the Lord’s work” doesn’t have the general meaning of the last verse from the previous chapter (1Cor 15:58). There we are told that we all ought to be occupied in the work of the Lord, while here it may be about a more specific work of the Lord. Timothy had, like Paul, a ministry among the believers, which took up all his attention. He was an exceptional young man, with whom Paul had a unique relationship. In some of his letters he calls Timothy the co-sender or he writes something about him. He even has written two separate letters to him. You find them in the Bible also.
Everything shows how much Paul appreciated him. If you have a friend with whom you share everything and who senses things like you do, you may have an idea about the relationship of these two servants.
In addition to that, Paul was the older person and Timothy the young man. It is a beneficial effect to see how two generations go together here, without any generation gap. It is also a beneficial effect when there are young people in a local church, who are developing positively in spiritual matters. Where youngsters are interested in the Bible there is also a good relationship with older believers, who also live a life that is guided by the Lord.
Timothy had come that far in his spiritual development that Paul could entrust him with an independent order. He could send him to a difficult church like Corinth. That is a proof of Paul’s confidence in Timothy. Here we find a lesson for the older believers to give the young believers the confidence they are worthy of. He knew that Timothy would not teach otherwise than he had taught. His work would not be interrupted by this young man, but, on the contrary, would be underlined.
V11. In fact Timothy was absolutely no spiritual muscleman, who went to the Corinthians with a great deal of boldness to serve them. You rather get the impression that he is a little shy and that he was rather in need of some encouragement and exhortation on a regular basis (2Tim 1:6-8). That could be a reason for the Corinthians to treat him with contempt. They were more impressed by fascinating lecturers. Then at least they had a reason to gawp with excitement at hearing a fascinating style of speech. The contents were not that important, if only the performance was impressive.
In our days people are still focused on the way a person performs. What he has to say is a side issue. Do not be deceived by that. It is important to judge everything you hear on the basis of God’s Word and not on the basis of how it is said. That is terribly deceptive.
This is certainly not how Timothy worked. The Corinthians were not to concentrate on his performance, but they were to listen to and obey the message he was passing on. They could express their acceptance of Timothy by receiving him, by obeying his teachings and subsequently by supporting him further in peace when he would return to the apostle.
Paul was looking forward to see him back and he was very curious about everything he had experienced. By the way, Timothy would not come alone, but he would be accompanied by some brothers. It would be a wonderful occasion to exchange experiences and to praise the Lord for everything He had worked.
That is the beautiful thing about meeting other brothers and sisters. Especially during holidays, the meetings with believers, whom you would not have met otherwise, can be of great blessing. You hear from them how they live with the Lord and what the Lord has done in their life and you can tell them Who the Lord is to you and what He has done in your life.
V12. Another servant Paul mentions here is Apollos. Paul had also seen in Apollos wonderful characteristics with which he could serve others. You see here though, that Apollos was related differently towards Paul than Timothy was towards Paul. Timothy was somebody to whom Paul could give orders which were then executed by Timothy. Some more of such men you find in Titus 3 (Tit 3:12). When they visited a place, they did that in the name of Paul and they could therefore act with his authority.
In the case of Apollos it was different, as it becomes apparent by what you read here. Paul wanted very much that Apollos too would go to Corinth to serve the believers there. He really urged him to. Many times he used all his persuasive power to convince Apollos to go, but he did not succeed. Was that just a human reaction of Paul by acting like that? I do not think so. His love for the Corinthians sought every opportunity to serve them, even through the means of others.
Nevertheless, Apollos was of the opinion not to respond positively to Paul’s request. Not that he disregarded Paul’s request. He considered before the Lord whether he should go and came to the conclusion that he would go another time when he had the opportunity. Anyhow, he did not go immediately.
An important reason for him not to go directly could have been, on the contrary, his love for Paul, not to be played off against him. You may recall from chapter 9 that there were some people at Corinth, who doubted the apostleship of Paul. If Apollos decided to go, maybe the mistrusting people would conclude from that, that Paul himself did not dare to come. In Apollos you see a servant who receives a request from another servant to do something, who subsequently submitted the request before the Lord and then takes an independent decision.
That is also an important development in your spiritual growth. At the beginning other brothers will take you along in their work for the Lord. At least, I hope that there are such brothers in your environment through whom you get involved in a work of the Lord, so that you can build up experience. The more you grow spiritually, the more you will notice in your own relationship with the Lord that He is going to use you independently. You, in your turn and in due time, can offer to other persons the opportunity to build up spiritual experience in the work of the Lord.
V13. Timothy was on his way to the Corinthians. Apollos and Paul also planned to visit them once. Meanwhile they had to guard, which means that they had to keep their eyes wide open, to see where people were running the risk of wrong teachings. They had to cope with enemies who were attacking their faith, by standing firmly on the foundation of the faith as they had received from Paul and through the letter they now had received. They ought to be like men who did not fear the fight, but who were courageous. Weakness and slowness are not appropriate when we should hold onto what we have received from God in the Bible.
V14. To end up in being strong together they ought to love one another and there should be no envy. Love is the interdependence that gives the most power to beat each attack from the enemy.
Now read 1 Corinthians 16:10-14 again.
Reflection: Write down the differences between Paul, Timothy and Apollos. In what way could you compare yourself with each of them?
15 - 24 Final Exhortations and Greetings
15 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 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. 19 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, he is to be accursed. Maranatha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
V15. At the end of his letter Paul puts forward again some people of a household. That’s how he started his letter. In chapter 1 he makes clear that the reason of his writing was that he had heard certain things from persons who belonged to the household of Chloe (1Cor 1:11) and in that chapter he also mentions the household of Stephanas (1Cor 1:16). He had baptized that whole family. He now refers again to that family. He mentions this family as one that is fruitful in their ministry to other believers.
In the previous verses you met Paul, Timothy and Apollos, who fulfilled their tasks as individual servants. Here you find a brother, Stephanas, who serves the Lord with his whole family. To serve the Lord means to serve the brothers and sisters. That is well worth the effort. I am convinced that there is an urgent need of such families. The greater part of all miseries in the world and in the church is caused by failing family relationships. Fathers and mothers do not take their place that God has appointed in the family anymore. Children do not obey their parents anymore. Those are developments that are extremely damaging. Families like that of Stephanas, on the contrary, are really a beneficial effect for the society and the church.
This brother was the first in Achaia who had been converted, together with his family. There were abundant proofs that it was a real conversion. One of those proofs is their complaisance to fellow believers. Serving means taking the lowest place. By taking that place Stephanas and his household radiate something.
V16. Stephanas had no official appointment as an elder or anything like that. Neither did he claim such a function. But through his way of life Paul could exhort the Corinthians to be submissive to him. It is a good thing to submit to the believers who show with their household that they take the Word of God seriously. They have something to offer, which enriches your own life with the Lord.
That does not only apply to families, but we must submit to all who are fully devoted to the Lord. You learn from their lives and it leads you closer to the Lord. This being submissive is something that is hardly tolerated in our time. The general opinion is we should all be assertive; to adopt a ‘slavish’ behavior is not appropriate and doesn’t go hand in hand with the rights you have. However, submissiveness has nothing to do with buttering people up. It is an attitude of respect towards another and the compliance of the other person’s rights. It is the attitude that the Lord Jesus had during His life on earth towards His God and Father and towards His earthly parents as well (Lk 2:51).
V17. Stephanas was a man whom Paul loved dearly. Together with two others he traveled to Paul. That made Paul very happy. Are you also that happy when brothers approach you to share things from the Lord with you?
Paul needed such visits, especially since he was not exactly treated most gratefully by the Corinthians – they gave him small thanks. He had made great efforts for them, but they appeared not to be grateful. Of course a servant should not bother about thank yous or admiration. A real servant should be able to sense that his teachings have had an effect on the believers.
When a person has accepted a ministry, it should result in a hearty relationship between the servants and the believers, but that was not the case with the Corinthians. But now there came some brothers from Corinth who did accept and honor his ministry. It was not because of Paul, but because he preached Christ. When Christ is the object of the service and hearts are being opened for that, there will always be fellowship. It appeared that these brothers had their hearts in the right place. They compensated the omission of the Corinthians.
V18. They cheered up Paul’s spirit. Paul might have been worrying a lot about how he had to deal further with the believers at Corinth. It could have almost depressed him. You can imagine that if you saw your own life-work get stuck like that. Then those brothers came. That was very encouraging. And if the Corinthians were honest, they had to admit that these three brothers who refreshed Paul like that, had also refreshed them often with their ministry. They had to deal carefully with such brothers, because they were of great value. I hope that you also know such brothers and that you acknowledge them as well, which means that you also listen to them.
V19. Then we find the salutations. Some names are being mentioned, but firstly the churches in Asia. In those days the local churches were closely related to each other. They knew each other and kept in touch with one another. Passing on greetings is a proof of interconnectedness. In this way local churches can experience, also in the time of confusion wherein we live today, their interconnectedness. It is something very simple and yet very beautiful and valuable.
Aquila and Prisca are the only ones who are called by their names, together with the church that was gathering in their house. In the first verses of Acts 18 you can read that Paul got acquainted to this married couple at Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). This married couple loved the Lord very much. Paul names them several times in his letters. You should explore what is actually written about them. Here it is mentioned that they opened their house for the brothers and sisters, to God’s glory. Because they had lived for a couple of years in Corinth, they must have built up a relationship with the believers there, which they still felt.
V20. Furthermore Paul passes on the greetings of “all the brethren”. Through faith there is a connection between all who know Him and love Him.
In a way, passing on greetings at a distance can be easier than to greet believers with whom you deal with on a regular basis. By knowing the weaknesses and bad habits of the latter very well, it may be quite difficult sometimes to greet such a brother or sister heartily. Therefore the appeal is to greet one another with a holy kiss. It is not necessarily to greet one another by the means of a kiss, but it is more about the sincerity of the greeting. It should not be a hypocritical greeting.
V21. Finally we have the salutations of Paul, written by his own hand. He normally did not write his letters by his own hand, but there were a few exceptions. Most of the times he dictated his letters and another person wrote them down, which he then closed with a sort of signature by writing his greetings by his own hand. You can verify that at the end of several letters. There is a possibility that Paul had an eye disease, which disabled him to write by himself, or made it difficult for him to write (Gal 4:14-15).
V22. Then he still has a serious and penetrating word for “anyone” who “does not love the Lord”. Would there possibly be some people among the Corinthians who did not love the Lord? Could there be people among us who do not love the Lord? The love for the Lord can be shown only in one way and that is from the love a person has for what He has said. In John 14 two wonderful statements are written (Jn 14:21,23).
The Corinthians could have shown their love for the Lord by obeying what Paul had written in this letter. That goes for us as well, regarding the whole Bible. It is not about our failures in that, but about really be willing to do what the Lord says, out of love for Him, whatever it may cost. He who doesn’t have that desire, is accursed.
“Maranatha!” That means: ‘The Lord is coming’ or: ‘Lord, come!’ It refers to the coming of the Lord. He who loves the Lord, is looking forward to Him. For him who does not love the Lord, His coming is a judgment.
V23. Until that moment Paul wishes them “the grace of the Lord Jesus”. If we often feel weak there is fortunately still that grace that helps us to be persistent.
V24. Finally he expresses his love to them, which he has for “all in Christ Jesus”. Love has urged him to write this letter. It was love for his Lord and love for His own. Only through love are we able to serve one another and to bring each other closer to the Lord and to glorify Him as local churches.
Now read 1 Corinthians 16:15-24 again.
Reflection: Do you love the Lord?