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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 16



Verse 1

1.But concerning the collection Luke relates (Acts 11:28) that the prediction of Agabus, foretelling that there would be a famine under Claudius Caesar, gave occasion for alms being collected by the saints, with the view of affording help to the brethren in Jerusalem. For though the Prophet had foretold, that this calamity would be generally prevalent almost throughout the world, yet as they were more heavily oppressed with penury at Jerusalem, and as all the Gentile Churches were bound, if they would not be held guilty of very great ingratitude, to afford aid to that place from which they had received the gospel, every one, consequently, forgetful of self, resolved to afford relief to Jerusalem. That the pressure of want was felt heavily at Jerusalem, appears from the Epistle to the Galatians, (Galatians 2:10,) where Paul relates, that he had been charged by the Apostles to stir up the Gentiles to afford help. (149) Now the Apostles would never have given such a charge, had they not been constrained by necessity. Farther, this passage is an evidence of the truth of what Paul states there also — that he had been careful to exhort the Gentiles to afford help in such a case of necessity. Now, however, he prescribes the method of relief; and that the Corinthians may accede to it the more readily, he mentions that he had already prescribed it to the Churches of Galatia; for they would necessarily be the more influenced by example, as we are wont to feel a natural backwardness to anything that is not ordinarily practiced. Now follows the method — by which he designed to cut off all hinderances and impediments.

Verse 2

2.On one of the Sabbaths. The end is this — that they may have their alms ready in time. He therefore exhorts them not to wait till he came, as anything that is done suddenly, and in a bustle, is not done well, but to contribute on the Sabbath what might seem good, and according as every one’s ability might enable — that is, on the day on which they held their sacred assemblies. The clause rendered on one of the Sabbaths, ( κατὰ μίαν σαββάτων ,) Chrysostom explains to mean — the first Sabbath. In this I do not agree with him; for Paul means rather that they should contribute, one on one Sabbath and another on another; or even each of them every Sabbath, if they chose. For he has an eye, first of all, to convenience, and farther, that the sacred assembly, in which the communion of saints is celebrated, might be an additional spur to them. Nor am I more inclined to admit the view taken by Chrysostom — that the term Sabbath is employed here to mean the Lord’s day, (Revelation 1:10,) for the probability is, that the Apostles, at the beginning, retained the day that was already in use, but that afterwards, constrained by the superstition of the Jews, they set aside that day, and substituted another. Now the Lord’s day was made choice of, chiefly because our Lord’s resurrection put an end to the shadows of the law. Hence the day itself puts us in mind of our Christian liberty. We may, however, very readily infer from this passage, that believers have always had a certain day of rest from labor — not as if the worship of God consisted in idleness, but because it is of importance for the common harmony, that a certain day should be appointed for holding sacred assemblies, as they cannot be held every day. For as to Paul’s forbidding elsewhere (Galatians 4:10) that any distinction should be made between one day and another, that must be understood to be with a view to religion, (150) and not with a view to polity or external order. (151)

Treasuring up I have preferred to retain the Greek participle, as it appeared to me to be more emphatic. (152) For although θησανρίζειν means to lay up, yet in my opinion, he designed to admonish the Corinthians, that whatever they might contribute for the saints would be their best and safest treasure. For if a heathen poet could say — “What riches you give away, those alone you shall always have, (153) how much more ought that consideration to have influence among us, who are not dependent on the gratitude of men, but have God to look to, who makes himself a debtor in the room of the poor man, to restore to us one day, with large interest, whatever we give away? (Proverbs 19:17.) Hence this statement of Paul corresponds with that saying of Christ —

Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where it will not be exposed either to thieves, or to moths. (Matthew 6:20.)

According as he has prospered. Instead of this the old translation has rendered it, What may seem good to him, misled, no doubt, by the resemblance between the word made use of, and another. (154) Erasmus renders it, What will be convenient. (155) Neither the one nor the other pleased me, for this reason — that the proper signification of the word brings out a meaning that is much more suitable; for it means — to go on prosperously. Hence he calls every one to consider his ability — “Let every one, according as God hath blessed him, lay out upon the poor from his increase.”

Verse 3

3.And when I come As we are cheerful in giving, when we know for certain, that what we give is well laid out, he points out to the Corinthians a method, by which they may be assured of a good and faithful administration — by selecting approved persons, to whom they may intrust the matter. Nay more, he offers his own services, if desired, which is an evidence that he has the matter at heart.

Verse 5

5.When I shall pass through Macedonia The common opinion is, that this espistle was sent from Philippi. Persons coming thence to Corinth by land, required to pass through Macedonia; for that colony is situated in the farthest extremity, towards the Emathian mountains. Paul, it is true, might, instead of going by land, have gone thither by sea, but he was desirous to visit the Macedonian Churches, that he might confirm them in passing. So much for the common opinion. To me, however, it appears more probable, that the epistle was written at Ephesus; for he says a little afterwards, that he will remain there until Pentecost, (1 Corinthians 16:8) (156); and he salutes the Corinthians, not in the name of the Philippians, but of the Asiatics. (1 Corinthians 16:19.) (157) Besides, in the second epistle he explicitly states, that, after he had sent away this epistle, he passed over into Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 2:13.) Now after passing through Macedonia, he would be at a distance from Ephesus, and in the neighborhood of Achaia. Hence I have no doubt that he was at Ephesus at that time: thence he could sail by a straight course to Achaia. For visiting Macedonia, a long circuit was needed, and a more disagreeable route. Accordingly he lets them know that he will not come to them by a direct course, as he required to go through Macedonia

To the Corinthians, however, he promises something farther — that he would make a longer stay with them By this he shows his affection towards them. For what reason had he for delay, except that he was concerned as to their welfare? On the other hand, he lets them know how fully assured he is of their affection towards him in return, by taking it, as it were, for granted that he would be conducted forward by them in the way of kindness; for he says this from confidence in their friendship. (158)

After saying everything, however, he subjoins this limitation —if the Lord permit With this reservation, saints ought to follow up all their plans and deliberations; for it is an instance of great rashness to undertake and determine many things for the future, while we have not even a moment in our power. The main thing indeed is, that, in the inward affection of the mind, we submit to God and his providence, whatever we resolve upon; (159) but at the same time, it is becoming that we should accustom ourselves to such forms of expression, that whenever we have to do with what is future we may make everything depend on the divine will. (160)

Verse 8

8.I will remain. From this statement I have argued above, that this epistle was sent from Ephesus, rather than from Philippi. For the probability is, that the Apostle speaks of the place in which he was at the time, and not of a place, in going to which he would require to make a long circuit; and farther, in passing through Macedonia, (163) it would have been necessary to leave Corinth when already in the neighborhood of it, and cross the sea in order to reach Ephesus. He accordingly tells them beforehand that he will remain at Ephesus until Pentecost, adding the reason — in order that they may wait for him the more patiently. Erasmus has preferred to render it — until the fiftieth day, influenced by frivolous conjectures rather than by any solid argument. He objects, that there was as yet no day of Pentecost appointed among Christians, as it is now celebrated; and this I grant. He says, that it ought not to be understood as referring to the Jewish solemnity, because in various instances he annuls and condemns the superstitious observance of days. (Galatians 4:10; Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16.) I do not concede to him, however, that Paul celebrated that day at Ephesus from being influenced by a superstitious regard to the day, but because there would be a larger assembly at that time, and he hoped that, in that way, an opportunity would be presented to him of propagating the gospel. Thus, when he was hastening forward to Jerusalem, he assigned as the reason of his haste, that he might arrive there at Pentecost, (Acts 20:16;) but while others presented themselves there for the purpose of sacrificing according to the ritual of the law, he himself had another object in view — that his ministry might be the more useful in proportion to the largeness of the attendance. It were, however, an excessively poor meaning to understand Paul here as simply specifying fifty days. Besides, when he expressly says τὴν πεντηκοστήν (the Pentecost,) he cannot but be understood as speaking of a particular day. As to this festival, see Leviticus 23:16

Verse 9

9.For a great and effectual door is opened to me. He assigns two reasons for remaining for a longer time at Ephesus — 1st, Because an opportunity is afforded him there of furthering the gospel; and 2dly, Because, in consequence of the great number of adversaries that were there, his presence was particularly required. “I shall do much good by prolonging my stay here for a little while, and were I absent, Satan would do much injury.” In the first clause, he makes use of a metaphor that is quite in common use, when he employs the term door as meaning an opportunity. For the Lord opened up a way for him for the furtherance of the gospel. He calls this a great door, because he could gain many. He calls it effectual, inasmuch as the Lord blessed his labor, and rendered his doctrine effectual by the power of His Spirit. We see, then, how this holy man (164) sought everywhere Christ’s glory, and did not select a place with a view to his own convenience or his own pleasure; but simply looked to this — where he might do most good, and serve his Lord with most abundant fruit; and in addition to this, he did not merely not shrink back from hardships, but presented himself, of his own accord, where he saw that he would have to contend more keenly, and with greater difficulty. For the reason why he remained (165) was, that many adversaries were at hand; and the better equipped he was for enduring their assault, he required to be so much the better prepared, and the more resolute.

Verse 10

10.But if Timothy come. He speaks as if he were not as yet certain as to his coming. Now he charges them as to Timothy, so that he may be with them in safety — not as though he were in danger of his life among them, but because he would have enemies of Christ (166) to oppose him. He wishes, therefore, that they should carefully take heed that no injury be done to him.

He adds the reason — for he worketh the work of the Lord Hence we infer, that the Church of Christ ought to be concerned for the preservation of the lives of ministers. And assuredly, it is reasonable, that, in proportion as an individual is endowed with superior gifts for the edification of believers, and applies himself to it the more strenuously, his life ought to be so much dearer to us.

The clause — as I also do, is made use of, either to express his excellence, or simply to point out the similarity as to office, inasmuch as both labored in the word.

Verse 11

11.Let no man, therefore, despise him Here we have a second charge, that they may not despise him — perhaps because he was as yet of a youthful age, which usually draws forth less respect. He wishes them, therefore, to take care, that there be no hinderance in the way of this faithful minister of Christ being held in due esteem — unless, perhaps, it be that Paul reckoned this very thing to be an evidence of contempt, if they were not concerned, as it became them to be, in reference to his life. This injunction, however, appears to include something farther, that they should not undervalue Timothy, from ignorance of his worth.

In the third place, he charges them to conduct him forward in peace, or, in other words, safe from all harm, for peace here means safety.

Verse 12

12.As to our brother Apollos. He had succeeded Paul in the work of building up the Corinthians; and hence he has in previous passages ascribed to him the office of watering. (1 Corinthians 3:6, and Acts 19:1.) He now states a reason why he does not come with the others, and he states the reason of this, in order that the Corinthians may not suspect that he had been hindered by him. For the better he was known by them, they were so much the more favourably disposed towards him, and they would be the more ready to conjecture, that matters had been designedly contrived, that he should not go to them, in consequence of offense having been taken. (167) They might, at least, be prepared to inquire among themselves: “Why has he sent these persons to us rather than Apollos?” He answers, that it was not owing to him, inasmuch as he entreated him; but he promises that he will come as soon as he has opportunity.

Verse 13

13.Watch ye. A short exhortation, but of great weight. He exhorts them to watch, in order that Satan may not oppress them, finding them off their guard. For as the warfare is incessant, the watching requires to be incessant too. Now watchfulness of spirit is this — when, free and disentangled from earthly cares, we meditate on the things of God. For as the body is weighed down by surfeiting and drunkenness, (Luke 21:34,) so as to be fit for nothing, so the cares and lusts of the world, idleness or carelessness, are like a spiritual surfeiting that overpowers the mind. (169)

The second thing is that they persevere in the faith, or that they hold fast the faith, so as to stand firm; because that is the foundation on which we rest. It is certain, however, that he points out the means of perseverance — by resting upon God with a firm faith.

In the third exhortation, which is much of the same nature, he stirs them up to manly fortitude. And, as we are naturally weak, he exhorts them fourthly to strengthen themselves, or gather strength. For where we render it be strong, Paul makes use of only one word, which is equivalent to strengthen yourselves.

Verse 14

14.Let all your things be done in love Again he repeats what is the rule in all those transactions, in which we have dealings with one another. He wishes, then, that love shall be the directress; because the Corinthians erred chiefly in this respect — that every one looked to himself without caring for others.

Verse 15

15.Ye know the house of Stephanas We know, from daily experience, of what advantage it is, that those should have the highest authority, whom God has adorned with the most distinguished gifts. Accordingly, if we wish to secure the welfare of the Church, let us always take care that honor be conferred upon the good: let their counsels have the greatest weight; let others give way to them, and allow themselves to be governed by their prudence. This Paul does in this instance, when admonishing the Corinthians to show respect to the house of Stephanas. Some manuscripts add, and Fortunatus. (170) For God manifests himself to us when he shows us the gifts of his Spirit. Hence, if we would not appear to be despisers of God, let us voluntarily submit ourselves to those, on whom God has conferred superior gifts.

Now, that they may be the more inclined to put honor upon that house, (for as to the other, it appears to me to be, in this place at least, a spurious addition,) he reminds them that they were the first-fruits of Achaia, that is, that the household of Stephanas were the first that had embraced the gospel. Not indeed as though the first in order of time were in every case superior to the others, but where there is perseverance along with this, it is with good reason, that honor is conferred upon those, who have in a manner paved the way for the gospel by promptitude of faith. It must be observed, however, that he dignifies with this honorable title those, who had consecrated to believers their services and resources. For the same reason, he bestows commendation a little afterwards upon Fortunatus and Achaicus, that, in proportion to a man’s superiority of excellence, (171) he might be held so much the more in esteem, that he might be able to do the more good. Farther, in order that the Corinthians may be the more disposed to love them, he says, that what had been wanting on the part of their entire Church had been compensated for by their vicarious services.

Verse 19

19.With the Church that is in their house A magnificent eulogium, inasmuch as the name of the Church is applied to a single family! At the same time it is befitting, that all the families of the pious should be regulated in such a manner as to be so many little Churches. As to the term Congregation, which Erasmus has used in preference, it is foreign to Paul’s design; for it was not his intention to designate a crowd of persons by a mere common term, but to speak in honorable terms of the management of a Christian household. His saluting them in the name of Aquila and Priscilla, confirms what I have noticed above — that the Epistle was written at Ephesus, not at Philippi. For Luke informs us, that they remained at Ephesus, when Paul went elsewhere. (Acts 18:19.)

Verse 20

20.Salute one another with a holy kiss. The practice of kissing was very common among the Jews, as is manifest from the Scriptures. In Greece, though it was not so common and customary, it was by no means unknown; but the probability is, that Paul speaks here of a solemn kiss, with which they saluted each other in the sacred assembly. For I could easily believe, that from the times of the Apostles a kiss was used in connection with the administration of the Supper; (172) in place of which, among nations that were somewhat averse to the practice of kissing, there crept in the custom of kissing the patine. (173) However this may be, as it was a token of mutual love. I have no doubt, that Paul meant to exhort them to the cultivation of good-will among themselves — not merely in their minds (174) and in needful services, but also by that token, provided only it was holy, that is, neither unchaste nor deceitful, (175) — though, at the same time, holy may be taken to mean sacred.

Verse 22

22.If any man love not the Lord Jesus The close of the Epistle consists of three parts. He entreats the grace of Christ in behalf of the Corinthians: he makes a declaration of his love towards them, and, with the severest threatening, he inveighs against those that falsely took upon themselves the Lord’s name, while not loving him from the heart. For he is not speaking of strangers, who avowedly hated the Christian name, but of pretenders and hypocrites, who troubled the Churches for the sake of their own belly, or from empty boasting. (176) On such persons he denounces an anathema, and he also pronounces a curse upon them. It is not certain, however, whether he desires their destruction in the presence of God, or whether he wishes to render them odious — nay, even execrable, in the view of believers. Thus in Galatians 1:8, when pronouncing one who corrupts the Gospel to be accursed, (177) he does not mean that he was rejected or condemned by God, but he declares that he is to be abhorred by us. I expound it in a simple way as follows: “Let them perish and be cut off, as being the pests of the Church.” And truly, there is nothing that is more pernicious, than that class of persons, who prostitute a profession of piety to their own depraved affections. Now he points out the origin of this evil, when he says, that they do not love Christ, for a sincere and earnest love to Christ will not suffer us to give occasion of offense to brethren. (178)

What he immediately adds Maranatha, is somewhat more difficult. Almost all of the ancients are agreed, that they are Syriac terms. (179) Jerome, however, explains it: The Lord cometh; while others render it, At the coming of the Lord, or, Until the Lord comes. Every one, however, I think, must see how silly and puerile is the idea, that the Apostle spoke to Greeks in the Syriac tongue, when meaning to say — The Lord has come. Those who translate it, at the coming of the Lord, do so on mere conjecture; and besides, there is not much plausibility in that interpretation. How much more likely it is, that this was a customary form of expression among the Hebrews, when they wished to excommunicate any one. For the Apostles never speak in foreign tongues, except when they repeat anything in the person of another, as for example, Eli, Eli, lammah sabathani, (Matthew 27:46,) Talitha cumi, (Mark 5:41,) and Ephphata, (Mark 7:34,) or when they make use of a word that has come into common use, as Amen Hosanna. Let us see, then, whether Maranatha suits with excommunication. Now Bullinger, (180) on the authority of Theodore Bibliander, has affirmed, that, in the Chaldee dialect, Maharamata has the same meaning as the Hebrew term חרם, cherem, (accursed,) (181) and I was myself at one time assured of the same thing by Wolfgang Capito, (182) a man of blessed memory It is nothing unusual, however, for the Apostles to write such terms differently from the way in which they are pronounced in the language from which they are derived; as may be seen even from the instances brought forward above. Paul, then, after pronouncing an anathema on those who do not love Christ, (183) deeply affected with the seriousness of the matter, as if he reckoned that he had not said enough, added a term that was in common use among the Jews, and which they made use of in pronouncing a sentence of anathema — just as if, speaking in Latin, I should say, “I excommunicate thee,” but if I add — “and pronounce thee an anathema,” this would be an expression of more intense feeling. (184)


“Henrici Bullingeri, Ecclesiastae Tigurini, spectatisa, doctrine, pictaris, et eximii candoris viri, memoriae;” — (To the memory of HENRY Bullinger, ecclesiastick of Tigurum, a man most distinguished for learning and piety, and extraordinary candour.)

Doctrina si interire, si Pietas mori,
Occidere si Candor potest:
Doctrina, Pietas, Candor, hoc tumulo iacent,
Henrice, tecum condita.
Mori sed absit ilia posse dixerim;
Quae viuere jubent mortnos,
Immo interire forsan ilia si queant
Subireque tumuli specum,
Tu tu, illa doctis, tu piis, tu candidis,
Et non mori certissimis,
Edaci ab ipsa morte chartis asseras,
Ipso approbante Numine.
Foedus beatum! mortuum ilia to excitant,
Et tu mori ilia non sinis:
At hunc, amici, cur fleamus mortuum,
Qui viuat aliis et sibi

“If Learning could expire, if Piety could die,
If Candour could sink down,
Learning, Piety, Candour, are laid in this mound,
O Henry, buried along with thee!
But forbid that I should say that those things could die,
Which command the dead to live.
Nay, if they could possibly expire,
And be entombed,
Thou, by thy writings learned, pious, candid,
And perfectly secured against death,
Wouldst shield them from devouring death,
The Deity himself approving.
Blessed agreement! They raise thee up from death,
And thou dost not suffer them to die!
But, my friends, why should we weep for him, as dead,
Who lives to others and himself?”

Beza’s “Poemata Varia,” Ed.


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Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

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