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Bible Commentaries

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

1 Corinthians 16



Verse 1


1. Of the collection to be made for the saints in Jerusalem, 1 Corinthians 16:1-9.

2. Of Timothy and Apollos, whom the apostle commends to the confidence of the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 16:10-14.

3. The third paragraph contains exhortations and greetings, 1 Corinthians 16:15-20.

4. The last paragraph is the salutation written with Paul's own hand, 1 Corinthians 16:21-24.

Concerning the Collection for the Saints at Jerusalem

For some reason not now to be certainly ascertained, poverty prevailed in Jerusalem among the believers more than in any other part of the church. Almost all the special exhortations to provide for the poor, in Paul's epistles, have primary reference to the poor in Jerusalem. He had exhorted the churches of Galatia to make a collection for their relief; and then those of Macedonia, and he now addresses the Corinthians on the subject. It is a very common opinion that the poverty of the Christians in Jerusalem arose from the community of goods introduced among them at the beginning; an error which arose from an excess of love over knowledge. In thirty years that mistake may have produced its legitimate effects. Perfection in one thing requires perfection in all. Perfect equality in goods requires perfect freedom from selfishness and indolence. The collection made by the Syrian churches, as recorded in Acts 11:29, was in consequence of the death the Christian prophet Agablus warned his brethren was to come on all the world. Whatever may have been the cause, the fact is certain that the saints in Jerusalem stood in special need of the assistance of their richer brethren. Paul, therefore, undervalued and suspected as he was by the Jewish Christians, labored assiduously in their behalf. He exhorts the Corinthians to adopt the same arrangements in reference to this matter, which he had established in the churches of Galatia. A contribution was to be made on the Lord's day every week, proportioned to their resources, so that the collection might be ready when he came, 1 Corinthians 16:1, 1 Corinthians 16:2. He would either send it by persons whom they might approve to Jerusalem, or if the sum were of sufficient magnitude to make it worth while, he would himself accompany their messengers, 1 Corinthians 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:4. He announces his purpose to visit the Corinthians after having passed over Macedonia, and perhaps to pass the winter with them. His prospects of usefulness in Ephesus would detain him in that city until Pentecost, 1 Corinthians 16:5-9.

As to Timothy and Apollos he exhorts them to treat the former in such a manner that he might be free from fear among them, for he was worthy of their confidence, 1 Corinthians 16:10, 1 Corinthians 16:11. Of the latter he says he had urged him to go to Corinth with the other brethren, but that he was unwilling to do so then, but would go when a suitable occasion offered, 1 Corinthians 16:12-14. He exhorts them to submission to the household of Stephanas, and to every one who was laboring in the good cause, 1 Corinthians 16:15, 1 Corinthians 16:16. He expresses his gratification in seeing the brethren from Corinth, and sends salutations from those around him to the Christians in Achaia, 1 Corinthians 16:17-20. The conclusion of the epistle was written with his own hand as an authentification of the whole, 1 Corinthians 16:21-24.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

But concerning the collection which is for the saints. What saints were intended was already known to the Corinthians. Instead of for the saints, in Romans 15:26 we have the more definite expression, "for the poor of the saints who are in Jerusalem," in whose behalf, he tells the Romans, Macedonia and Achaia had made a contribution. The Greek word כןדי ́ ב in the sense of ףץככןדח ́, collection, is only found in this passage. As I have given orders, i.e. as I arranged or ordered. This is the language of authority. For although these contributions were voluntary, and were required to be made cheerfully, 2 Corinthians 9:7, yet they were a duty, and therefore both the collection itself, and the mode in which it should be accomplished, were proper subjects for apostolic direction. In the epistle to the Galatians there is no mention of this collection. It was probably ordered when Paul visited those churches. So do ye, i.e. adopt the same plan as to the mode of making the collection. What that was, is stated in the following verse.

Verse 2

Upon the first (day) of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as (God) hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

The collection was to be made every Lord's day; every one was to contribute; and the contributions were to be in proportion to the means of the giver. These are the three principles which the apostle had established among the churches of Galatia, and which he urged the Corinthians to adopt. Upon the first day of the week, literally, upon one of the Sabbath, according to the Jewish method of designating the days of the week. The Hebrew word, sabbath (rest), is used not only in the singular, but also in the plural form, both for the seventh day, and for the whole week, Luke 18:12. That the first day of the week was, by divine appointment, made the sacred day for Christians, may be inferred.

1. From the distinction put upon that day by our Lord himself, John 20:19, John 20:26.

2. From the greatness of the event which its observance was intended to commemorate. The sanctification of the seventh day of the week was intended to keep in mind the great truth of the creation of the world, on which the whole system of revealed religion was founded; and as Christianity is founded on the resurrection of Christ, the day on which Christ rose became for that reason the Christian Sabbath.

3. From its being called by the apostle John the Lord's day, i.e. the day set apart for the service of the Lord, Revelation 1:10.

4. From the evidence that it was from the beginning the day on which Christians assembled for worship, Acts 20:7.

5. From the uniform practice of the whole church, which practice, having the clear evidence of apostolic sanction, is authoritative.

Let every one of you. It was an important feature of these apostolic arrangements, that the contributions were not to be confined to any one class of the people. The same amount might perhaps have been raised from the rich few. But this would not have answered one important end which the apostle had in view. It was the religious effect which these gifts were to produce in promoting Christian fellowship, in evincing the truth and power of the gospel, and in calling forth gratitude and praise to God, even more than the relief of the temporal necessities of the poor, that Paul desired to see accomplished, 2 Corinthians 9:12-14. Every one was to lay by himself, i.e. most modern commentators say, at home, נבס ̓ ו ̔ בץפש ͂ͅ. Compare נסן ̀ ע ו ̔ בץפן ́ ם, in Luke 24:12; see also John 20:10. The direction then is that every one should, on the first day of the week, lay aside at home whatever he was able to give, thus treasuring up his contribution. To this interpretation it may be objected that the whole expression is thus obscure and awkward. ‘Let every one at home place, treasuring up what he has to give.' The words do not mean to lay by at home, but to lay by himself. The direction is nothing more definite than, let him place by himself, i.e. let him take to himself what he means to give. What he was to do with it, or where he was to deposit it, is not expressed. The word ָחףבץסי ́ זשם means putting into the treasury, or hoarding up, and is perfectly consistent with the assumption that the place of deposit was some common treasury, and not every man's own house.

2. If Paul directed this money to be laid up at home, why was the first day of the week selected? It is evident that the first day must have offered some special facility for doing what is here enjoined. 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, i.e. put into the common treasury of the church.

3. The end which the apostle desired to accomplish could not otherwise have been effected. He wished that there might be no collections when he came. But if every man had his money laid by at home, the collection would be still to be made. The probability is, therefore, Paul intended to direct the Corinthians to make a collection every Lord's day for the poor, when they met for worship. As God hath prospered him; literally, whatever has gone well with him. He was to lay aside what by his success in business he was able to give. This is another principle which the apostle would have Christians to act upon. Their contribution should be in proportion to their means.

Verse 3

And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by (your) letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

Paul was not to receive the money himself. It was to be given to men selected and approved by the Corinthians, whom Paul promised to send, furnished with letters from himself, to Jerusalem. The words הי ̓ ו ̓ ניףפןכש ͂ ם, with letters, are not to be connected with what precedes, "approved by your letters," but with what follows, "I will send with letters." Otherwise there would have been no need of Paul's sending them. i.e. the persons approved by the Corinthians. The people were to collect the money; it was to be committed to men of their own selection; but Paul, as the author of the collection, was to send it to Jerusalem. If the apostle deemed it wise to place himself above suspicion, and to avoid giving even the most malicious the opportunity of calling his integrity in question, as is intimated here, and expressly stated in 2 Corinthians 8:19, 2 Corinthians 8:20, it must be wise for other men and ministers to act with equal caution. If called to disburse the money of others or of the church, let that money, if possible, be in some other custody than their own, that others may know what is done with it. Thus at least Paul acted.

Verse 4

And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.

And if it is deserving of my going; that is, if the collection be of an amount to make it proper for the also to go with it to Jerusalem, your messengers shall go with me. According to Acts 19:21, Paul purposed, after visiting Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem. But whether he would go at the time the contribution of the Corinthians was sent, depended on its amount. He would not modify his plans for the sake of having charge of the distribution of an inconsiderable sum.

Verse 5

Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.

It appears from 2 Corinthians 1:15, 2 Corinthians 1:16, that Paul's original plan was to go directly from Ephesus to Corinth, and from there into Macedonia, and then back again to Corinth, and thence to Jerusalem. He now informs them that he would go to Macedonia before going to Corinth. So eager were the false teachers in Corinth to find grounds of complaint against him, that they made this change of plan a grievous offense, and a proof that he was not to be depended upon either as to his purposes or his doctrine. This is apparent from the vindication of himself in the second Epistle. For I do pass through Macedonia; not, I am passing; the present tense expresses the purpose of the apostle as settled. The mistake as to the force of the tense here, probably led transcribers to date this epistle from Philippi; whereas, it is clear from 1 Corinthians 16:8, that it was written from Ephesus.

Verse 6

And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.

‘I pass through Macedonia, but I will abide with you.' His visit to the former was to be transient, to the latter prolonged. In the second Epistle he speaks of himself as in Macedonia, and in Acts 20:2, Acts 20:3, we find that he left Ephesus after the uproar in that city and went to Macedonia, and thence to Greece, where he abode three months. The plan here sketched was therefore executed. He would remain with them for the winter, he says, in order that they might help him forward on his journey, i.e. attend him on his way, which was the customary mark of respect. Paul wished to receive this courtesy from the Corinthians rather than from others, as his affection for them, notwithstanding the trouble and anxiety they occasioned him was, as is evident from his second Epistle, peculiarly strong.

Verse 7

For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.

By some ב ̓́ ספי, now, is connected with טו ́ כש, I will. ‘I do not now wish, as I formerly intended.' Its natural connection is with י ̓ הוי ͂ ם, to see. ‘I do not wish to see you now in passing.' "But I hope;" instead of הו ́, but, the older MSS. read דב ́ ס; "for I hope to tarry with you." It seems that the intelligence which Paul received in Ephesus concerning the disorders in Corinth, determined him to write them this letter, instead of making them a passing visit, and to defer his visit for some months in order that his letter might have time to produce its effect. The same reason determined him, when he did go to Corinth, to remain there some time, that he might correct the abuses which had sprung up in his absence. The second Epistle shows how anxious he was about the effect of this letter, and how overjoyed he was when Titus brought him the intelligence that it had brought the people to repentance. If the Lord permit, ( ו ̓ ניפסו ́ נח ͅ) or, ‘If the Lord shall have permitted' ( ו ̓ ניפסו ́ רח ͅ). The latter reading is adopted by the later editors. The Lord is Christ, whom Paul recognized as ordering all events, and whose guidance he sought and always submitted to.

Verse 8

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

There were two reasons, therefore, for his remaining at Ephesus, his abundant opportunities of usefulness, and the necessity of withstanding the adversaries of the gospel. Paul's plan was to spend the spring at Ephesus, the summer in Macedonia, and the winter in Corinth. The Pentecost of the following year he spent in Jerusalem. He could not leave Ephesus soon, for, he says, a great and effectual door is opened to me. A door is a way of entrance, and figuratively an opportunity of entering into the possession of the convictions and hearts of men. A great door was opened to the apostle, he had a wide field of usefulness. The epithet effectual does not agree with the figure, but the meaning is plain — the opportunities were such as could be turned to good effect. And there are many adversaries. The opponents of the gospel varied very much in character in different places. Those in Ephesus were principally men interested in the worship of Diana. The pressure of the heathen seems to have driven the Jews and Christians to make common cause, Acts 19:22. Whereas, in Corinth, Paul's most bitter opponents were Judaizers. The presence of such violent adversaries rendered the personal support of the apostle more necessary to the church.

Verse 10

Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also (do.)

In Acts 19:22, we read that Paul "sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season." Timothy, therefore, at this time, was traveling through Macedonia, and expected to reach Corinth, whither the apostle had sent him; see 1 Corinthians 4:17. Besides this mission of Timothy, there was another some time later, consisting of Titus and other brethren, who were sent to learn the effect produced by this letter; and whose return the apostle so anxiously awaited, 2 Corinthians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 2:13. Paul requests the Corinthians so to receive Timothy that he might be there without fear. It was not fear of personal violence, but the fear of not being regarded with respect and confidence. The reason by which he enforces his request shows the nature of the evil which he apprehended, for he worketh the work of the Lord. If they would recognize this, Timothy would be satisfied. The work of the Lord, as in 1 Corinthians 15:58, may mean either that work in which the Lord himself is engaged; or that which he has prescribed. As I also do. A comprehensive commendation. Timothy preached the same gospel that Paul preached; and with like assiduity and fidelity.

Verse 11

Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.

Therefore, i.e. because he works the work of the Lord, he is entitled to respect, and ought not to be despised. Perhaps it was Timothy's youth that made the apostle specially solicitous on this account, 1 Timothy 4:12. But conduct him forth in peace; i.e. attend him on his journey in a friendly manner. That he may come to me. It was not Paul's wish that Timothy should remain in Corinth; but after having executed his commission, 1 Corinthians 4:17, he was to return to the apostle. He did thus return, and was with Paul when he wrote the second Epistle, 2 Corinthians 1:1. I expect him with the brethren, i.e. the brethren whom Paul had appointed as Timothy's traveling companions. It is rare in the New Testament that we read of any one going on a missionary tour alone.

Verse 12

As touching (oar) brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.

Either the Corinthians, among whom Apollos had already labored, had requested Paul to send him to them again; or for some other reason, the apostle earnestly wished that he would accompany the brethren from Corinth, who were to carry this epistle back with them; see 1 Corinthians 16:17. It appears from this verse that Apollos was not under Paul's authority. No reason is given for his declining to go to Corinth but that he was not willing. Why he was not willing is matter of conjecture. Many suppose it was because his name had been mixed up with the party strifes which disturbed the church there, 1 Corinthians 1:12. I greatly desired him; or, I often exhorted him, that he would come, etc. י ̔̀ םב does not here mean, in order that, but indicates the purport of the request.

Verse 13-14

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.

These concise exhortations form a fitting close to the epistle; each being adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the Corinthians, though of course applicable to all Christians in their conflicts with the world.

1. He exhorts them to watch, i.e. to be wakeful, constantly on the alert, that their spiritual enemies might not gain advantage over them before they were aware of their danger.

2. Beset as they were with false teachers, who handled deceitfully the word of God, 2 Corinthians 4:2, he exhorts them to stand fast in the faith. Do not consider every point of doctrine an open question. Matters of faith, doctrines for which you have a clear revelation of God, such for example as the doctrine of the resurrection, are to be considered settled, and, as among Christians, no longer matters of dispute. There are doctrines embraced in the creeds of all orthodox churches, so clearly taught in Scripture, that it is not only useless, but hurtful, to be always calling them into question.

3. Quit you like men. The circumstances of the Corinthians called for great courage. They had to withstand the contempt of the learned, and the persecutions of the powerful.

4. Be strong. Not only courage, but strength, was needed to withstand their enemies, and to bear up under the trials which were to come upon them.

5. Let all your affairs be conducted in love, i.e. let love prevail, in your hearts, in your families, in your assemblies. The preceding parts of the epistle show how much need there was for this exhortation; as the church was rent with factions, and even the Lord's supper, every where else a feast of love, had become in Corinth a fountain of bitterness.

Verse 15

I beseech you, brethren, [ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and (that) they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,] that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with (us,) and laboreth.

The family of Stephanas was the first family in Achaia that embraced the gospel. In Romans 16:5, Epenetus, according to the common text, is said to have been the first-fruits of Achaia; but there the true reading is Asia; so that there is no conflict between the two passages. Of the family of Stephanas it is said, that they addicted themselves to the ministering of the saints, i.e. devoted themselves to the service of believers. The expression does not necessarily involve the idea of any official service. The exhortation is, that ye also submit yourselves to such. ‘As they serve you, do you serve them.' Nothing is more natural than submission to the good. And to every one that helpeth with (such), and laboreth. This may mean, submit yourselves to every one who co-operates with such persons; i.e. to all who in like manner are addicted to the service of believers. Those who serve, should be served.

Verse 16

I beseech you, brethren, [ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and (that) they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,] that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with (us,) and laboreth.

The family of Stephanas was the first family in Achaia that embraced the gospel. In Romans 16:5, Epenetus, according to the common text, is said to have been the first-fruits of Achaia; but there the true reading is Asia; so that there is no conflict between the two passages. Of the family of Stephanas it is said, that they addicted themselves to the ministering of the saints, i.e. devoted themselves to the service of believers. The expression does not necessarily involve the idea of any official service. The exhortation is, that ye also submit yourselves to such. ‘As they serve you, do you serve them.' Nothing is more natural than submission to the good. And to every one that helpeth with (such), and laboreth. This may mean, submit yourselves to every one who co-operates with such persons; i.e. to all who in like manner are addicted to the service of believers. Those who serve, should be served.

Verse 17

I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.

These were members of the church in Corinth, who visited Ephesus probably for the express purpose of seeing the apostle, and of consulting him on the condition of the church. They were probably the bearers of the letter from the Corinthians to Paul, to which he alludes in 1 Corinthians 7:1. The reason why he rejoiced in their presence was, that they supplied what was lacking on the part of the Corinthians; or rather, the want of you ( פן ̀ ץ ̔ לו ́ פוסןם ץ ̔ ןפו ́ סחלב; ץ ̔ לו ́ פוסןם being objective, as in 1 Corinthians 15:31.) The presence of these brethren made up to the apostle, in a measure, the absence of the Corinthians. Another explanation is, ‘they have done what you failed to do,' i.e. informed the of the true state of things in Corinth. The former view of the meaning is the common one, and is more in keeping with the tone of the passage, which is affectionate and conciliatory. This too is confirmed by what follows.

Verse 18

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

For, i.e. They have supplied your place, for their presence has had the same effect as would have followed from our being together. It has refreshed me, and it has had a corresponding effect on you. ‘To them,' as Meyer and others explain it, ‘you owe whatever in my letter serves to refresh you.' Others think that the apostle refers to the effect of the return of these brethren to Corinth, and the assurances they would carry with them of the apostle's love. Or, Paul may mean, that what refreshed him, must also gratify them. They would rejoice in his joy. However understood, it is one of the examples of urbanity with which this apostle's writings abound. Therefore acknowledge them that are such, i.e. recognize and appreciate them properly.

Verse 19

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

Asia here means proconsular Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital, and which included the seven apocalyptic churches. To salute, in a general sense, is to wish safety to; in a Christian sense, it is to wish salvation to any one. This was included in the Hebrew formula of salutation, "Peace be with you," which passed into the service of Christians. To salute any one in the Lord, is to salute him as a Christian and in a Christian manner. It is to salute him because he is in the Lord, and in a way acceptable to the Lord. Aquila and Priscilla, when driven from Rome, as mentioned in Acts 18:2, settled in Corinth. They accompanied the apostle to Ephesus, and remained there, Acts 18:18. The church which is in their house, i.e. the company of Christians which meet in their house. As the same expression is used Romans 16:5, in connection with their names, it is probable that both at Rome and Ephesus, they opened their house as a regular place of meeting for Christians. Their occupation as tent-makers probably required spacious apartments, suited for the purpose of such assemblies.

Verse 20

All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with a holy kiss.

As all the brethren in this verse are distinguished from the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:19, it may be inferred that only a portion, and probably a small portion of the Christians of Ephesus were accustomed to meet in that place. The apostle exhorts them to greet one another with a holy kiss, Romans 16:16; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26. This was the conventional token of Christian affection. In the East the kiss was a sign either of friendship among equals, or of reverence and submission on the part of an inferior. The people kissed the images of their gods, and the hands of princes. In the early church, the custom was for Christians when they met to kiss; and in their assemblies, especially after the Lord's supper, this token of Christian brotherhood was interchanged. Paul seems here to request, that when his letter was publicly read, the members of the church would give to each other this pledge of mutual forgiveness and love.

Verse 21

The salutation of (me) Paul with mine own hand.

As Paul commonly wrote by an amanuensis, he was accustomed to write with his own hand the concluding sentences of his epistle as an authentication of them, Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17. He remarks in Galatians 6:11, on his having written that epistle with his own hand as something unusual, and as indicating a peculiar stress of feeling.

Verse 22

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema. Maran atha.

This and what follows is what Paul himself wrote. They are words which need no explanation. They carry with them their awful import to every heart. If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ. If our Lord be "God over all and blessed for ever," want of love to him is the violation of our whole duty. If he be not only truly God, but God manifested in the flesh for our salvation; if he unites in himself all divine and all human excellence; if he has so loved us as to unite our nature to his own, and to humble himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life; then our own hearts must assent to the justness of the malediction pronounced even against ourselves, if we do not love him. We must feel that in that case we deserve to be anathema. Nay, we thereby are a thing accursed; we are an object of execration and loathing to all holy beings by the same necessity that holiness is opposed to sin. Maran atha are two Aramaean words signifying "The Lord," or "our Lord comes." It is a solemn warning. The Lord, whom men refuse to recognize and love, is about to come in the glory of this Father and with all his holy angels, to take vengeance on those who know not God, and who obey not the gospel. So deeply were the apostles impressed with the divinity of Christ, so fully were they convinced that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, that the refusal or inability to recognize him as such, seemed to them a mark of reprobation. If this truth be hid, they say, it is hid to them that are lost, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6.

Verse 23

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (be) with you.

As to be anathema from Christ, to be the subject of his curse, is everlasting perdition; so his favor is eternal life. "May his love be with you," is a prayer for all good.

Verse 24

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

"My love in Christ" is my Christian love. Paul in conclusion assures them all, all the believers in Corinth, even those whom he had been called upon to reprove, of his sincere love.


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Bibliography Information
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians.

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