I Corinthians Chapter 16
Paul has effectively dealt with the errors of the brethren in Corinth. He has concluded his words of admonition to these brethren with a detailed discussion on the resurrection of all mankind. Such words are designed to infuse hope and excitement in the saint. Chapter 16 adds no new area of Corinthian error. This final chapter very typically approaches the brethren with words of encouragement and gives the location and date of this epistle (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).
- The Collection for the Saints (16:1-4):
- “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do
- Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (16:1-2).
- Paul left Antioch of Pisidia during the year 53 AD and headed west to Galatia on what is referred to as the third tour of gospel preaching (Acts 18:23). He then traveled to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). Three months were spent reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue and making disciples (Acts 19:8). Paul spent two additional years “reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus” in Ephesus which would bring the date to 55 AD (Acts 19:9-10). At some point during Paul’s stay in Ephesus, he gained intelligence that the brethren in Jerusalem were in financial need. Paul began spreading the word of their needs first to the Galatian brethren (1 Corinthians 16:1), then to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:1ff), and finally to all Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:26-27).
- These verses illustrate to us how funds were collected in the NT church.
- A common treasury existed (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 5).
- The funds were collected on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). Though this is the first mention of a first day of the week collection we have no record of its beginning or its ending.
- Each was to give as he had “prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2) and “purposed” because “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Today, we continue to lay by in store as we have prospered on the first day of the week. The funds are moved to a common treasury and the work of the church is supported by these funds.
- “And when I arrive, whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem: and if it be meet for me to go also, they shall go with me” (16:3-4):
- The “bounty” would be the funds collected for the needy saints. These funds would be sent by the hands of those of the individual church that they were collected and hand delivered to the needy saints in Jerusalem. Here is an apostolic example of needy saints being helped by the church. Some of our institutional friends would have us collect funds from a multitude of churches, send the collection to one church and then that one church would distribute all funds to the needy and that not to the saints alone but the needy of the world (see study # 86; Institutionalism). One thing that must be noted is that the current distress in Judea was not limited to the saints of God but rather all were feeling the sting (see Romans 15:25-27).
- Paul is willing to accompany these brethren to Judea if the need arises.
- Paul’s intentions to go to Macedonia (16:5-12):
- “But I will come unto you, when I shall have passed through Macedonia; for I pass through
Macedonia; but with you it may be that I shall abide, or even winter, that ye may set me forward on my journey whithersoever I go. For I do not wish to see you now by the way; for I hope to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.” (16:5-6).
- Paul’s intentions were to come to Achaia and Macedonia to collect funds from the gentile churches for the needy saints in Judea.
- Around the year 57 to 58 AD (after three years in Ephesus), Paul traveled north to Troas and awaits the arrival of Titus (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). Not finding Titus, Paul traveled across the Aegean Sea and then to Philippi. It is very likely that Paul finds Titus here and then pens the second epistle to the Corinthian brethren (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:5-8) (~ 58 AD; only two years after the first letter; cf. 2 Corinthians 9:2).
- Heading southward through Macedonia, Paul eventually comes to Corinth and remains for three months (Acts 20:1-3). It is most probable that Paul pined the letter to the Romans at this time (cf. Romans 15:25; 16:1).
- It seems as Paul is not sure as to whether he would be accompanying the representatives of the gentile churches to Judea or not at the writing of this letter in Ephesus. His itinerary becomes clearer once arriving in Corinth at 58 to 59 AD. According to his writing to the Romans he knew then that he would be traveling back to Judea before seeing the Roman brethren (cf. Romans 15:22ff).
- Each church may have had their own representative to carry the collected relief back to Judea and Paul accompanied them on the trip (cf. Acts 20:4).
- “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (16:8-9).
- This verse gives us the current location of Paul as he writes 1 Corinthians and helps with dating the epistle. Paul had come to Ephesus on his third tour of preaching around 55 AD (cf. Acts 19:1ff).
- The Passover feast occurred on the 14th day of the first month (Leviticus 23:5). Between the Passover and Pentecost (50 days after Passover) was the Feast of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:6). The mention of Pentecost does not infer that Paul was keeping the Mosaic feast but rather it was used as a benchmark of time. The statement reveals how near Paul was to visiting the brethren in Corinth and was sure to be encouraging to some.
- A great door of opportunity to preach the gospel was Paul’s good hindrance from coming to the Corinthians sooner. A multitude of Asian brethren were obeying the gospel and Paul wanted to remain as long as necessary (Read Acts 19:10, 26 to get the picture).
- While Paul was preaching he ran into troubles (adversaries). Paul’s encounter with Demetrius over his preaching against idolatry is one such case of adversaries he dealt with while in Ephesus (Acts 19:23ff). There were times, while in Ephesus, that Paul feared for his life due to the intense persecution of adversaries (2 Corinthians 1:8). It may be that Paul refers to his being thrown to wild beast in Ephesus as Roman civil punishment (1 Corinthians 15:32).
- “Now if Timothy come, see that he be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do: Let no man therefore despise him. But set him forward on his journey in peace, that he may come unto me: for I expect him with the brethren” (16:10-11).
- Paul had sent Timothy ahead of him to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17). Erastus accompanied Timothy on this trip (Acts 19:22).
- At some point Titus had been sent to Corinth as well and brought back a report to Paul which prompted the second epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:5ff). At the introduction of 2 Corinthians (1:1) Timothy is apparently now with Paul in Macedonia (possibly Philippi). From these clues it seems likely that Timothy never made it to Corinth but Titus did.
- Paul commands that “if” Timothy make it that he “be with you without fear” and secondly no one is to “despise” him. The word “despise” (exoutheneo) is to “set at naught” ;“To make light of, set at nought, despise, contemn, treat with contempt and scorn, disregard; small account”. Why would Paul write such a command in relationship to Timothy? Paul’s writing to Timothy may give us a clue.
- Later, Paul would tell Timothy to “let no man despise thy youth” (1 Timothy 4:12).
- As we take our minds back to the beginnings of this epistle and the reason for its writing one may easily determine why Paul wrote this statement about Timothy.
- First, Timothy was obviously very young. Such youth would be reason for some not to give a serious ear to him. Secondly, the Corinthian brethren were guilty of many things and had false teachers among them. Paul knew that these brethren had the capacity to abuse the young man and thereby gives his commendation. Those of conviction would need to stand with this young man and not leave him to fight any doctrinal battles alone (see 1 Timothy 4:12).
- “But as touching Apollos the brother, I besought him much to come unto you with the brethren: and it was not at all his will to come now; but he will come when he shall have opportunity” (16:12).
- The phrase, “as touching” indicates that the Corinthians had made it known to Paul that they would like to have Apollos come back to Corinth to visit them (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1).
- Apollos had earlier been in Ephesus around 54 AD (Acts 18:24 – 19:1). Apollos may have been the one who hand delivered the letters from the Corinthians to Paul as mentioned 1 Corinthians 1:11 and 7:1.
- It is likely that Paul intended for Apollos and “the brethren” to hand deliver the first epistle to the Corinthians; however, Apollos was not willed to do so at that time (see 1 Corinthians 16:12). Who “the brethren” were that delivered the first epistle to the Corinthians is unknown. It is possible that “the brethren” included Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (see 1 Corinthians 16:17-18) as well as Titus (see 2 Corinthians 7:7-15).
- When Paul received and read the Corinthian letters, Paul would have urged Apollos to return to Corinth; however, he had further work to do elsewhere.
III. Final exhortations and salutations (16:13-24):
- “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (16:13).
- To “watch” (gregoreuo) is “to be awake”; “to be awake, to watch, to be watchful, attentive, vigilant, circumspect”. Paul had earlier told the Corinthians to “Awake to soberness righteously, and sin not…” (1 Corinthians 15:34). The Corinthians, as well as all Christians, should be aware of their surroundings. False teachers, factions, and false practices were making inroads into the body of Christ and thereby Paul tells them to “watch” (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:6). Christians today need to open their eyes to church problems rather than putting them out of sight and out of mind.
- Secondly, Paul admonishes them to “stand fast in the faith.” To “stand fast” (steko) is to “to stand”; “to make a stand. The exact word is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 where Paul said, “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours.” Rather than retreating in time of conflict, Paul admonishes the brethren to take a stand in the faith (gospel truths) (see also Colossians 2:5).
- Thirdly, Paul admonishes the brethren to “quit you like men.” This English phrase is represented by one word in the Greek (andrizomai). Andrizomai is “to make a man of; to come to manhood, behave like a man” . This is the only use of the Greek word in the Following the context of watching for enemies of truth, standing fast against them, and now the Christian is to take such a stand in a courageous manly way. The workers of error are not weak but persistent, boisterous, and at times they are in the majority. To stand against error takes a spirit of manliness (i.e., strength, conviction, resilience, and a willing spirit to defend truth with courage knowing that God is with you).
- Fourthly, Paul encourages the Corinthians to be “strong.” Let fears of the workers of Satan flee the Christian. Each Christian is to be filled with strength for the battle at hand. The picture is almost complete. The Christian is to be armed to the teeth with the gospel message being driven forward by hope of eternal salvation. 1 Corinthians 16:13). The victory belongs to those who put their trust in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57-58; 1 John 4:4; 5:4).
- “Let all that you do be done in love” (16:14). Love completes our picture of Christian duty and responsibility in the face of sin in the church. The aforementioned battle of faction and disunity in the church can only be battled correctly if love is the motivation. Just as Paul demanded love to be the motivation behind spiritual gifts even so he now explains that love must be the motive for every act of defending truth. We are to care for the physical and spiritual well being of brethren because we love their souls and for no other reason (1 John 3:16; 4:10-17). Now we find that even in battle against the ungodly influences of faction, disunity, and sin in general the Christian’s every move is to be motivated by love. If there be any other motivation such as envy, strife, or jealousy it is not the work nor battle of the Lord’s.
- “Now I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have set themselves to minister unto the saints), that ye also be in subjection unto such, and to every one that helpeth in the work and laboreth” (16:15-16).
- Stephanas was mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:16 as having been baptized by Paul. Stephanas and his house were the “firstfruits of Achaia.” Like as Jesus is the firstfruits of all mankind who will be resurrected to die no more even so Stephanas and his house were the first to obey the gospel in this area (i.e., Achaia).
- Stephanas and his house had “set themselves to minister unto the saints.” To “set” (tasso) is “to draw up in order of battle, to form, array, marshal, both of troops and ships… to be appointed to a service”; “To devote, to a pursuit” . This self appointment of devotion indicates the willingness and zeal on the part of Stephanas and his house to pursue souls in the great battle with Satan by preaching the gospel. Stephanas’ work would be “unto the saints” (i.e., edifying and building them up to withstand Satan and his tools of worldliness)
- Those who so devote themselves to preaching the gospel are to be “submitted” to just as the wife is subject to the husband (Ephesians 5:22); all are subject to civil government (Romans 13:1), the servant is to the master (Titus 2:9), and all Christians to each other (Ephesians 5:21).
Such submission is in the area of helping the work and the worker in any way that is needed that the gospel message may be delivered to the lost, saints edified, and that effective warfare may be waged against false teachers and their sympathizers.
- “And I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours: acknowledge ye therefore them that are such” (16:17-18).
- Apparently as Paul is in Ephesus these three men come to Paul bringing him news of Corinth. It appears that these three men, along with Titus and possibly Apollos, comprise “the brethren“
Paul speaks of at 1 Corinthians 16:12 (i.e., those who brought the two letters from Corinth to Paul – one from the house of Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11) and the letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:1.
- The “refreshment” that Paul received of these three could not have been in the activities of the church as a whole since there were many active errors. There are, as I see it, three things that may have refreshed Paul’s soul in relationship to the Corinthians. First, Paul was refreshed by simply hearing from the brethren he so loved even though there were troubles. Secondly, not all the Corinthian brethren were caught up in all these troubles. Many would have been doing all they could do to unite the brethren in truth. Thirdly, Paul may have been refreshed by the fact that the Corinthians were obviously concerned about their spiritual direction. Such concern was poured out in the two letters Paul received and thereby there was hope for all.
- “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Prisca salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand” (16:19-21).
- Note that Paul was not repulsed by the Corinthians even though many were in sin. He was confident that their love of God, His truths, and promises of eternity would outweigh their love of this world.
- Here is a passage that helps us understand the relationship between churches in the NT. Churches were locally organized and autonomous; however, they had fellowship and communicated together in truth.
- The word “churches” of Asia is a plural noun (i.e., more than one church – seven churches of Asia revealed in the book of Revelation). Paul had established an active relationship with a multitude of churches in Asia (cf. Acts 19:26). If these churches were to “salute” the church in Corinth there must have been communication between each other (i.e., a knowledge of each other). The word “salute” (aspazomai) means “to welcome kindly bid welcome, greet”. NT churches were not isolationist but rather they communicated with each other in truth.
- Here is fellowship defined in the realm of the erring. Other churches were allowed by Paul to ‘greet’ or “salute” the brethren in Corinth even though they were guilty of a multitude of sins (cf. Skeletal Outline of I Corinthians in the Introduction of this study).
- No such greeting may be extended toward those who continue in said sins (cf. 2 John 9-11).
Apparently the fornicator of 1 Corinthians 5 was in a different situation than the brethren as a whole at Corinth. Though brethren were defrauding one another in the civil courts (1 Corinthians 6:7), lacking love (1 Corinthians 12-13), teaching false doctrines on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12) and a multitude of other sins they were apparently viewed in a different light than the un-repenting fornicator of 1 Corinthians 5. If this is not so, how could Paul extend a “salutation” (1 Corinthians 16:21) along with “all the brethren” (1 Corinthians 16:20) to an un-repenting church? What was different than the sin of I Corinthians 5 and the others mentioned in this book? The difference must have been in their accepting the sinner as a whole congregation with tolerance rather than exposing his sins (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:2). Secondly, it may be said that 1 Corinthians 5 would apply to every sinner mentioned in 1 Corinthians if there were no repentance. I would conclude then that the fifth chapter serves as a benchmark chapter against all those who would persist in their sins without repentance and prayer for forgiveness. They must not be ignored due to the fact that there souls are in jeopardy.
- Paul would not contradict the teachings of another apostle in this area (cf. 2 John 9-11).
The two are clearly saying the same thing. Patience and longsuffering (i.e., teaching of truth) must be applied to the erring before one is delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5). We must conclude then that Paul was sending salutations to the brethren as a whole. They had transgressed in many areas; however, with proper teaching and attitude toward truth, they would exercise the discipline against the fornicator of 1 Corinthians 5 and root out all the other errors mentioned in this epistle if the need arise.
- Included in those who saluted the Corinthian brethren was Aquila and Priscilla of Ephesus. Paul first met these two faithful Christians in Corinth (Acts 18:1ff).
- Paul then commands that the brethren “Salute one another with a holy kiss.” The apostle Paul would later write to the Roman brethren saying, “Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). Again, the word “salute” means to greet, welcome, or wish well. The context of the chapter indicates that this is not a general act of affection to those of the world but rather a symbol that illustrates one’s standing with God and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The Christian could not possibly greet, welcome into their fellowship, or wish one well who was lost in sin. If God does not receive one how can we (1 John 1:5-7)? The way in which brethren greeted each other in the early church was with a literal kiss (cf. Acts 20:36-38). Paul terms it a “holy kiss” because it was distinguished from a kiss one might give as a display of affection toward a mate or one’s own children.
- “If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha” (16:22).
- Interestingly Paul does not use the Greek word agape but phileo here. The Greek word phileo means “to love, regard with affection… to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome a guest”.
- Paul makes a clear statement regarding the one who has no affection toward Jesus Christ. Such a one is cursed to eternal damnation unless he changes. The “holy kiss” of mutual brotherly affection and fellowship could not be extended to such a one because he or she does not share in that common affection for God.
- “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (16:23-24).
- Paul would that the Corinthians experience the grace of God through their obedience (cf. Romans 5:1-4).
- The love of Paul was the love of souls no matter where their residence may be (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28).
Synopsis of I Corinthians 16
Paul gives instructions regarding a collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Secondly he gives his projected itinerary. Paul’s desire is to apparently supervise the final collection and send this money, with local church representatives, to Jerusalem and then head toward Rome (1 Corinthians 16:6). The reading of Romans 15:25-27, which was written approximately one year latter than 1 Corinthians, indicates that Paul would have to go back to Jerusalem with the collected funds.
The encouragement is primarily found at 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 where Paul states, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all that ye do be done in love.” This five fold admonition summarizes the position Paul advocates in the faithful Christians at Corinth in light of all the current problems. These brethren are commanded to “watch” or be attentive to the errors around them and not to be deceived or misled by any (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33). Secondly, they are to “stand fast” or take a stand against the error around them rather than being tolerant or even taking part in it (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1ff). Thirdly, Paul admonishes the brethren to be manly, i.e., courageous in this stand against error (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3). Fourthly, the faithful Corinthians are to be “strong.” The faithful Corinthians were to let the sword of God’s word be wielded in strength (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14-17). Lastly, Paul commands that all these efforts against error must be conducted with a spirit of “love.” Love takes into consideration the betterment of man’s physical and spiritual well being (cf. 1 John 3:16, 17; 4:10-17). When those who are in error see your genuine concern for their soul it may be that they will at least try to study with you about your differences. Paul concludes the letter with admonitions of fellowship and greetings. One cannot help but note the tender affection that the early saints had for each other as we read this final chapter. The churches of Jesus Christ in this first century obviously communicated with each other. They knew of each other’s troubles (1 Corinthians 16:1ff) and their faithfulness or lack thereof (1 Corinthians 16:19). This communication was not universal organization; yet, a union together in truth. All faithful saints are united in truth and organized locally. For this cause Paul could say, “ALL the brethren salute (greet) you. Salute one another with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:20).