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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

1 Corinthians 16

 

 

Verse 1

1 COR. 16

Paul abruptly left off speaking of the glorious resurrection and plunged into practical matters, giving instruction with regard to the projected contribution for the poor in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-8), recommending their acceptance of Timothy, and writing a five-point summary of the whole epistle (1 Corinthians 16:9-13). He concluded with various greetings (1 Corinthians 16:14-20), and his personal salutation and signature (1 Corinthians 16:21-24).

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. (1 Corinthians 16:1)

The proposed beneficiaries of this collection were the poor Christians in Jerusalem; and Paul had busied himself extensively in the advocacy and promotion of this gathering of funds for their relief. A number of very important considerations are suggested by this.

The reasons behind Paul's engagement in the fund-raising were as follows: (a) It had been strongly recommended at the so-called council in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10). (b) It was drastically necessary from a humanitarian viewpoint. The persecutions that arose around the martyrdom of Stephen had left many in a state of dire need. As Adam Clarke said, "The enmity of their countrymen to the gospel of Christ led them to treat those who professed it with cruelty, and spoil them of their goods."[1] Furthermore, the excessive generosity of many during the days of that so-called communism (Acts 2:45) had brought practically the whole church to a state of destitution. Communism, even of the benevolent and non-violent kind practiced in the primitive church, has never been capable of producing anything except poverty, as attested this very day by the economic conditions of the whole Communist world. (c) As Lipscomb noted, "There was also Paul's effort to soften the prejudices of the Jewish Christians against their Gentile brethren."[2] (d) It was a way of demonstrating the unity of the Church. As Barclay put it, "It was a way of teaching the scattered Christians that they were not (merely) members of a congregation, but members of the church."[3] (e) It was a way of stressing giving as a vital doctrine of Christianity. (f) It was an implementation of the principle that Christians are saved to serve. (g) It was a way of strengthening the givers in the faith of Christ.

One reason for that collection, as alleged by some, is not valid. Farrar said, "It was the only way the Gentile churches could show their gratitude to the mother church!"[4] It was not Jerusalem, however, but Antioch, which was, in a sense, the mother church of the Gentile congregations; and in the light of Paul's statement that the real "mother" church is "the Jerusalem which is above" (Galatians 4:26), it is apparent that the Mother Church virus which has plagued humanity had not been any particular motivation of Paul's collection.

There could be another thing in the stress of this operation. as revealed in the New Testament, and that is the need for ministers of the very highest rank (Paul was an apostle) to engage at times in fund raising, a thing many of the so-called elite are stubbornly prone not to do!

The churches of Galatia ... Paul's similar admonition to the Galatians is not found in the New Testament book of that name: and therefore it had been conveyed "either by messenger, or by a letter not preserved."[5] Any thoughtful student must allow that Paul's known letters must be only a fraction of all that he wrote, but, nevertheless, a fraction preserved to us by the infallible power of the Holy Spirit. The Galatian churches here mentioned were "those of Pisidia, Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra (Acts 13:14; 14:13)"[6]

[1] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1831), Vol. VI, p. 296.

[2] David Lipscomb, Commentary on First Corinthians (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1935), p. 248.

[3] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia:. Westminster Press, 1954), p. 181.

[4] F. W. Farrar, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 19, p. 549.

[5] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 921.

[6] Ibid.


Verse 2

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.

Upon the first day of the week ... The astounding remark by Farrar that "This verse can hardly imply any religious observance of the Sunday"[7] is to be rejected. That is exactly what it does imply. Macknight translated this clause, "On the first day of every week";[8] Grosheide declared the meaning to be "On every Sunday";[9] and Hodge said it means, "The collection was to be made every Lord's day."[10] Pliny's letter to Trajan bears testimony to the fact that the Christians of his day (prior to his death in 113 A.D.) were accustomed to meet on "an appointed day";[11] and here that appointed day is somewhat inadvertently identified by the apostle Paul as every Sunday.

There is no fact connected with Christianity any more certain than the apostolic custom of worship services every Lord's day. Beginning with the very day of our Lord's resurrection, and continuing upon successive Sundays thereafter (John 20:18,24,26), worship was observed by the apostles. A careful study of Acts 20:6,7; Acts 21:4 and Acts 28:14 discloses not merely that the worship and observance of the Lord's supper took place on Sundays, but also that the Lord's supper was never observed by the apostolic church on any other day. See my Commentary on Luke, p. 517. Added to that testimony is the undeniable meaning of the verse before us.

Let each one of you lay by him in store ... It is generally admitted that every Christian was to participate in the giving, but "by him" has given the commentators a lot of trouble. Thus Johnson thought it was "a reference to the home-giving was to be private giving."[12] The word "home" is not in the Greek text, nor is such an idea to be found there. As Lipscomb and many others have noted, "The idea that the storing was to be at home is incompatible with the idea that `no collections be made when I come.'"[13] "The words do not mean "to lay by at home," but "to lay by himself.""[14] This indicates that the amount of giving was to be determined by the man HIMSELF, not by any tax or suggestion from others. The word rendered "in store" means "putting in the treasury ... the common treasury, not every man's own house."[15]

As one studies some of the so-called modern translations of this place, it is clear that they are not translations in any sense, but human commentary substituted for the word of God. Even the RSV is seriously at fault in handling this passage. As Wallace said, "They changed Paul's words from `lay by him in store' to `put something aside and save'; but in 1952 they revised their own rendition to `store up'"[16]

For its hermeneutical value, the following list of Greek words translated "giving" or its equivalent are compiled from William Barclay:

[@Logeia] (1 Corinthians 16:1) means "a special collection" (Churches which do not like special appeals, take note).

[@Charis] (1 Corinthians 16:3) means bounty or "free gift freely given."

[@Koinonia] (2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13; Romans 15:6) means "fellowship."

[@Diakonia] (2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1,12,13) means practical Christian service." Our word "deacon" is related to it.

[@Hadrotes] (2 Corinthians 8:20) means "abundance."

[@Eulogia] (2 Corinthians 9:5) means "bounty" in the sense of what is given joyfully

[@Leitourgia] (2 Corinthians 9:12) means giving of money or services voluntarily, especially some large gift.

[@Eleemosune] (Acts 24:17) is the Greek word for "alms." Our word "eleemosynary" as applied to charitable institutions comes from this.

[@Prosfora] (Acts 24:17) means "offering or sacrifice." Thus what is given to the needy, or to the church, is a sacrifice or offering to God.SIZE>

This impressive list is a testimony to the importance of giving as laid down in the New Testament; and any preacher will find such a catalogue as this helpful and stimulating.

A concluding line on this verse is from Hodge:.

The only reason that can be assigned for requiring the thing to be done on the first day of the week, is that on that day the Christians were accustomed to meet, and what each one had laid aside from his weekly gains could be treasured up, put into the common treasury of the church.[17]

As he may prosper ... This does not mean that only the prosperous should give, but that every man, in the extent of his prosperity, should give to the proposed collection.

In the whole matter of Christian giving, these verses indicate that: (1) all should participate, (2) according to the ability of each, and (3) that it should be done regularly and continually.

[7] F. W. Farrar, op. cit., p 549

[8] James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 291.

[9] F. W. Grosheide, The New International Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), p. 398.

[10] Charles Hodge, First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, 1974), p. 363.

[11] Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 6.

[12] S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 646.

[13] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 249.

[14] Charles Hodge, op., cit., p 364

[15] Ibid.

[16] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., A Review of the New Versions (Fort Worth, Texas: The Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Publications, 1973), p. 436.

[17] Ibid.


Verse 3

And when I arrive, whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem.

Paul did not propose to take charge of the contribution himself, suggesting here that men duly appointed by the congregations should with proper screening and recommendation be dispatched with the money to its destination. The care of the apostle to avoid all appearance of improper conduct in such a thing should be noted. He avoided all such suspicion of misappropriation of the funds. A list of the seven faithful men appointed to carry the money is found in Acts 20:4, along with a list of the various congregations they represented.


Verse 4

And if it be meet for me to go also, they shall go with me.

Macknight thought that Paul here "insinuated his inclination"[18] to favor an invitation to be in the group conveying the funds; and, of course, as it turned out, he was included. The notion that Paul meant that "if the amount was large enough"[19] he would be willing to go seems to be unjustified.

[18] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 293.

[19] Charles Hodge, op. cit., p. 365.


Verse 5

But I will come unto you, when I shall have passed through Macedonia; for I pass through Macedonia.

This evidently indicates a change in Paul's plans to visit Corinth; because in 2 Corinthians 1:15ff, there seems to be a critical attitude accusing the apostle of vacillating; but his postponement of his visit was founded in the highest wisdom. He would give them a little time to get their house in order before he came.


Verse 6

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.

The intention of spending some time at Corinth was fulfilled. "This he afterward found himself able to do" (Acts 20:2,3).[20]

Set me forward on my journey ... This is not a hint that he would expect to receive traveling expenses, rather having reference to the custom of the Christians accompanying departing guests for some distance at the time of their leaving, as in Acts 15:3; 17:15, and Romans 15:24.

ENDNOTE:

[20] John William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 434.


Verse 7

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. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; for a great and effectual door is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

I do not wish to see you ... The reason given was that he desired a longer visit than was possible at present; but this was also related to the deplorable conditions at Corinth. A short visit would not give sufficient time for working out all of the problems; besides, given time for the letter he was writing to have its effect, there might be fewer problems to solve at a later time.

If the Lord permit ... Paul's plans were made like those of any other Christian, subject to the sovereign will of God; and this was fittingly recognized by the apostle. The notion that the Holy Spirit was directing on a day-to-day basis every move that Paul made is surely denied by these words.

At Ephesus until Pentecost ... Pentecost was one of the three great national feasts of the Jews which fell in the May-June period. For full discussion of Pentecost, see my Commentary on Acts, pp. 31-35.

A great and effectual door ... The marvelous opportunity for Paul at Ephesus was one of the reasons assigned for his intention of staying longer.

And there are many adversaries ... To some people, this hardly would have appeared as a reason for staying; but Paul reasoned that where Satan had stirred up great opposition to the truth, there must also be great opportunities for saving people. The bold and dauntless courage of Paul shines in a remark like this. There are many New Testament accounts of the enemies he encountered and vanquished (Acts 20:19; Acts 19:23, etc.).


Verse 10

Now if Timothy comes see that he be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.

Without fear ... Paul's concern that Timothy might encounter some cause of fear at Corinth might have sprung from the fierce partisanship in the church there, or from the youth, inexperience and timidity of Timothy, or even from a combination of both.

The work of the Lord, as I also do ... No higher recommendation could have been written for anyone than this. The noble Timothy was a loyal and able helper of the apostle throughout his ministry.


Verse 11

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.

This was a command that the Corinthians should accord full honors to the apostle's helper, a duty that probably needed to be brought to their attention. Factionalism always results in the neglect of obvious duties. Paul expected Timothy to rejoin him at Ephesus within a short time.


Verse 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.

This verse is significant in showing that Paul and Apollos were on friendly terms with each other and that neither Paul nor Apollos was in any manner responsible for the ugly factions that had grown up around their names at Corinth. Paul's desire that Apollos should go to Corinth might have been prompted by the thought that he could give valuable aid in correcting the Corinthian disorders. Also, as some believe, it is possible that communications to Paul from Corinth had requested Apollos to come. Despite their love and affection for each other, however, Apollos was not a pupil of Paul's and felt justified in denying the apostle's request, but promising to go later.


Verse 13

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

As McGarvey declared, "In these brief ... phrases, Paul sums up the burden of this entire epistle."[21]

Watch ye ... Although originally directed as an admonition to Corinth, this is a timeless duty of all Christians. The things they were to watch against were: (1) the danger of division, (2) the deception of false teachers, (3) the atheistic denials of the resurrection, (4) the failure of love of the brethren, etc.

Stand fast in the faith ... It is deplorable that the RSV renders this "Stand firm in your faith"; for what Paul plainly meant was that they should not depart from the Christian faith. This is the marching order for every Christian of all ties and places. Paul himself gave this the highest priority, saying near the end of life that "I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

Quit you like men ... This carries the weight of "Stop acting like spiritual infants, quarreling, boasting and indulging yourselves without discipline!" Many church problems are due to pure infantilism on the part of members who do not grow up spiritually.

Be strong ... Strength is manifested by courageous and unwavering loyalty to the word of God, by the resistance of temptation, by fleeing from it, by regular and faithful attendance at worship service, by constant and liberal giving, by loving consideration of the rights, opinions and needs of others, and by the repudiation of the world's value judgments.

Let all that ye do be done in love ... This summarizes the teaching of the whole 13th chapter. A constant and unfeigned love of the Lord, of his church as a whole, and of its individual members is the mark of a strong Christian. Love is "the greatest" because it is always marked by obedience. See under 1 Corinthians 13:13.

ENDNOTE:

[21] J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on First Corinthians (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1916), p. 164.


Verse 15

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).

Evidently, Stephanas had been baptized while traveling at Athens; for Paul's first visit to Achaia (at Athens) resulted in the baptism of Dionysius, Damaris, "certain men" and "others"; thus the name of Stephanas must be added to those. Here it appears that later his entire house (as many as were adults) had also obeyed the gospel. The position advocated by some to the effect that Paul depreciated the results at Athens (Acts 17:34) is rejected. It is far more likely that Stephanas was among the "certain men" mentioned by Luke.

Have set themselves to minister ... Farrar recorded a curious opinion that Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus were "perhaps slaves of the household of Chloe";[22] and that this paragraph might have been written to protect them against the wrath of the Corinthians due to their having delivered to Paul an account of disorders in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11). The origin of that supposition is not known. In any case, the men mentioned (especially the household of Stephanas) were giving diligent service to the church; and Paul ordered them respected.

ENDNOTE:

[22] F W. Farrar, op. cit., p. 551.


Verse 16

That ye also be in subjection unto such, and to every one that helpeth in the work and laboreth.

Evidently there was some basis for fearing that this advice was needful; and the surmise that they might have been slaves could be correct, as there were many slaves among the churches of that era.


Verse 17

And I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they supplied.

Fortunatus ... This man is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament; but Clement of Rome (30-100 A.D.) credited him with having been one of the messengers by whom Clement sent a letter (The First Epistle of Clement) to the Christians at Corinth.[23]

They supplied ... Dummelow paraphrased the thought as "Their visit has made up for your absence."[24]

[23] Clement of Rome in the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. I, p. 21.

[24] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 921.


Verse 18

For they refreshed my spirit and yours: acknowledge ye therefore them that are such.

It is not clear, exactly, what Paul meant by the statement that these men "refreshed" (past tense) the spirit of the Corinthians in the same manner of his own refreshment by their visit; but the interpretation of Meyer as quoted by Hodge may be correct: "You owe (to them) whatever in my letter serves to refresh you."[25]

Them that are such ... has reference to all persons of good will and Christian character who, by their very presence on earth, serve to refresh and encourage the followers of Christ the Lord.

ENDNOTE:

[25] Charles Hodge, op. cit., p. 371.


Verse 19

The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Prisca salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

Aquila and Prisca ... See my Commentary on Romans, pp. 511-513 for comment on this distinguished couple. The whole world of Gentile Christians were under a debt of thanks to them for having saved Paul's life, an event of which absolutely nothing is known; but the New Testament affords several splendid glimpses of this remarkable Christian couple.

And the church that is in their house ... Prisca and Aquila, to follow the order Paul himself sometimes used, were of sufficient wealth and generosity to provide a meeting place for Christians in their residence, a thing they did both in Rome and at Ephesus. Russell said that "It is probably that there were as yet no special buildings for Christians";[26] in fact, Barclay went much further, declaring that "It is, in fact, not until the third century that we hear about a church building at all!"[27]

The churches of Asia salute you ... This is a reference to the proconsular province of Asia, and not to the continent.

[26] John William Russell, op. cit., p. 435.

[27] William Barclay, op. cit. p. 187.


Verse 20

All the brethren salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss.

A holy kiss ... Why did this lovely custom, which certainly prevailed in those times, disappear? As Barclay said: "(1) It was liable to abuse, and (2) it was liable to misinterpretation by heathen slanders, and (3) the church itself became less and less of a fellowship."[28]

This custom is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16, and in 1 Peter 5:14; and the feeling persists that the third reason cited by Barclay, above, is the principal cause of its disappearance. Christians do not always love one another as they should. Yet it must also be allowed that the apostolic order of such a thing was related to the customs of the times and should not be construed as binding in times and cultures as diverse from theirs as is ours.

ENDNOTE:

[28] Ibid., p. 188.


Verse 21

The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.

This was Paul's authentication of the epistle, his signature. Paul's letters were usually written by a secretary, an amanuensis, probably Sosthenes in the case of this epistle (1 Corinthians 1:1). Tertius wrote Romans (Romans 16:22); and Paul also wrote the salutation and signature of 2Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:17), indicating that an unnamed amanuensis wrote that epistle also.


Verse 22

If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Marana tha. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Anathema ... means a thing accursed, leading to the necessary deduction that a refusal to love the Lord makes one an enemy of God.

Marana tha ... The comment of F. F. Bruce on this expression is as follows:

If this word is divided as Marana tha, it means "Our Lord come"; but if we divide it Maran atha, it means "Our Lord has come." It is an Aramaic phrase which found its way into the liturgy of the church from its earliest days.[29]

The point to be emphasized is that this expression just as easily means "Our Lord has come" as it does the other proposition, "Our Lord come." There is no need whatever, then, to accept as binding the latter meaning as indicated in English Revised Version, the Revise Standard Version, and other versions, leading to the hurtful and erroneous idea that the apostles believed the Second Advent was at hand. Phillips translated this, "May the Lord come soon."

It is far preferable to divide the word Maran atha, as in the King James Version, giving the true meaning that "Our Lord has come in his incarnation." The scholars who prefer the other division are influenced by some of the literature (unbiblical) of ancient times in which the other division is the usual one; but Bruce explained that, by early post-apostolic times, these verses had become a kind of liturgy used at the Lord's table; and in that usage, it had reference to the Lord's coming to be with his followers in the assembly, as he had promised (Matthew 18:20). Thus, upon examination of this, it is certain that there is no reference whatever in this word to the Second Advent.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you ... For a discussion of this characteristically Pauline greeting, see my Commentary on Romans, p. 13. This beautiful greeting, which Paul so frequently used, was not enough in this first epistle to Corinth. Paul had written some of the sternest rebukes in the holy Scriptures, and he had borne down upon them with all of his apostolic power to force a correction of their shameful abuses; therefore, he would not close with the usual greeting, adding to it an affirmation of his love for every one of them.

ENDNOTE:

[29] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 100.


Verse 24

My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

In Christ Jesus ... This phrase beyond all others is the badge and signature of the gospel Paul preached. The whole book of Ephesians, practically, is founded upon the conception inherent in this phrase which so abounds in his writings. If one is "in Christ" and if one is "found in him" (Philippians 3:9), salvation is assured and heaven is certain! It was that relationship to the Corinthians as his fellow-members of Christ's spiritual body to which Paul appealed in this final loving word. Amen.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-corinthians-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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