Study Notes for I Corinthians 16:1-14
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Paul ends his first letter to the Corinthians by making some direct requests of them. His first instruction explains how he wants them to support other believers in financial need. Both here and in other epistles Paul stresses the need to send money to the brothers in Jerusalem.
It's not clear exactly why the church in Jerusalem was so needy, but the book of Acts suggests a couple of reasons. One possible reason is that there may have been a famine that took out their food supply. (Acts 11:28)
Another possible reason for their need was persecution. We know Paul had been persecuting believers until his encounter with Christ, and others as well were opposing Christians and their faith. The date of this letter is c. 55, just 15 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. During this time Roman persecution of Jews was intensifying, and Jewish Christians were targets of both the orthodox Jews and the Romans.
Paul stresses that Christ-followers are called to support one another. We are all parts of the same body, and when one part suffers, we all suffer. God gives us the unique privilege of bearing each other's burdens.
Love and Accountability
One specific request Paul made was that the Corinthians welcome Timothy when he came. Timothy was a young man from the Roman province of Galatia. His father was a Greek, and his mother was a Jewish Christian. The biblical references to Timothy's parents suggest that his father was not a believer.
Timothy had become a believer and, despite his youth, was highly respected among the believers in the Galatian cities of Lystra and Iconium. Paul took Timothy with him as he continued his second missionary journey from Lystra on through Asia.
Paul's letters to Timothy imply that Timothy may have been timid. "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young," he said in one place. (1 Tim. 4:12) "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline," he later admonished. (2 Tim. 1:7)
This possible timidity may explain why Paul makes a point to ask the Corinthians to be sure Timothy "has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am." (v. 10)
Paul was a man of passion and intense loyalty. In spite of the exhortations that survive in his epistles, they are laced with references to the people he loves and with pleas to the believers to love and care for each other. When Paul met Jesus, his heart was changed. While he became a brilliant apologist for the gospel, he also became a man of love. The reason Paul could hold these early Christians accountable as he did was that he loved them.
Without love, accountability becomes bondage. Within a setting of love, however, accountability becomes a pathway of grace and growth.
Stand Firm in Love
Paul also has something to say about Apollos. "Now about our brother Apollos," he begins. The wording suggests that the Corinthians had written to him asking about Apollos.
Apollos' relationship with the Corinthians appears first in 1 Corinthians 1:12: "One of you says, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' "
One of the problems in the Corinthian church was their splitting into factions. People lined up behind the spiritual leaders they especially liked and made their loyalties points of division among themselves. Paul chastised them for these divisions.
Paul states that he "strongly urged [Apollos] to go to [them]," (v.12) but Apollos "was quite unwilling to go now." The texts suggests that Apollos was busy elsewhere, but it's also possible to infer that Apollos might have been reluctant to visit the Corinthians because he knew that many of them had used him as a rallying point for their arrogance and pride.
"Be on your guard;" Paul continues after discussing Apollos. "Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love."
Being born again does not negate being "on guard". Satan continues to try to deceive believers. We can be diverted from God's purposes by all sorts of ideas and pursuits which are good in themselves. But if our energy is being spent on missionary work which we think is important instead of on work that God places before us, we are doing our own will instead of his. We must continually submit our hearts and minds to Jesus, waiting in his rest for him to show us His work that he asks us to do. We must be "on guard" against the seduction of causes, spiritual elitism, and control. We must allow God, not our own desires, show us what to do.
"stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love."
The temptations and dangers we face when we become Christ-followers are almost never the things we expect. We're blind-sided by distractions, problems, and temptations that we don't always recognize as deceptions. Our only security is always to stay focused on Jesus. We must stand firm in our relationship with him and learn to live in his rest no matter what demands confront us. God asks us to live with courage and strength, confident in his victory and insight in us, trusting his love to protect and direct us.
Above all, we must do everything in love. Living in love is simply impossible unless we abandon ourselves to Jesus' love. Our call is not to generate loving behaviors or activities; our call is to allow Christ to love us and fill us. When the Holy Spirit fills us with the living presence of God, we are filled with Love. When we become filled with the actual presence of Love, we discover that our calling is not to love other people for our sakes or even for their sakes. God calls us to love each other for him. We don't have to agonize over our feelings or lack of feelings for people. We don't have to force ourselves to "be loving". When we allow God's love to change us, we then become able to stand before others, even the most unlovable, trusting God to love those people through us. It's no longer OUR job to love them; it's God's job. We simply allow God to inspire us with his insights and impulses, and we become ministers of his love to others.
Submit to Spiritual Families
Finally Paul admonishes the Corinthians to submit to those among them who are devoted "to the service of the saints". Stephanas was the first convert in the province of Achaia where Corinth was located. He and his entire household were active in serving the church at Corinth, and apparently they were not getting much respect from the Corinthians. Paul reminds them that those among them who are dedicated to service "deserve recognition." We are to "submit", to honor respect those among us who are dedicated to God and to the believers.
"God sets the lonely in families," David said in Psalm 68:6, "he leads forth the prisoners with singing."
As believers our families are those who love and serve Jesus with us. God grants us fellowship and nurture even when our own legal families cannot provide it. Paul reminds the believers in 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 that God wants us to honor and respect these families with which he gifts us.
Paul closes by sending greetings to the Corinthians from the churches in Asia. And then he says a most curious thing: "If anyone dos not love the Lord-a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!"
The curse to which Paul refers is based on God as a witness that a person does not live in love and does not know God and live in obedience to him. Such a person is an unbeliever.
Paul ends with love. Ultimately the only thing in the universe that matters is love-the Love that is God himself. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Ultimately everything we know will disappear-everything except our Savior, who is Love. Love sustains us as we struggle with our flesh and blood while our spirits open themselves to God. Love sustains us when we come face-to-face with problems we cannot solve. Love sustains us when we are persecuted for committing ourselves to Truth. Love sustains us when those we love distance themselves from us because we dared to leave the life we knew with them and embrace Christ. Love sustains us when life is so demanding we are fogged by fatigue, and Love gives us rest when we are tempted to be restless.
God calls us to live in his love. Jesus gave us his love by mending with his blood the rip of sin in the fabric of the universe. The Holy Spirit indwells us and fills us with the living presence of Love.
In Christ we walk in love; in Christ we are one with God!
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised October 7, 2000.