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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 16

 

 

Verses 1-9

DIVISION VIII PERSONAL MATTERS CHAPTER 16

SECTION 31 — THE CONTRIBUTION FOR JERUSALEM, AND PAUL'S OWN MOVEMENTS CH. 16:1-9

About the gathering for the saints. Just as I gave direction to the churches of Galatia, so do you also. Each first day from the Sabbath let each of you lay by him, treasuring up whatever success he may have; in order that when I come there may not then be gatherings.

And whenever I arrive, whomever you may approve, these with letters I will send to bear your favour to Jerusalem. And if it be worth my going also, with me they shall go.

Moreover, I will come to you whenever I have gone through Macedonia. For, Macedonia I go through: but with you perhaps I shall remain, or shall even spend winter, that it may be you who send me forward wherever I be going. For, you I do not wish to see now in passing. For, some time I hope to spend with you, if the Lord permit. But I shall remain at Ephesus till Pentecost. For, a door has been opened for me, great and effective: and there are many adversaries.

1 Corinthians 16:1. This cursory mention of the gathering for the saints suggests that it was already understood at Corinth. And this suggests that Titus, whom Paul sent (2 Corinthians 12:17 f) on this business and who began it (2 Corinthians 8:6) at Corinth, was to arrive there before this letter. See under 2 Corinthians 9:5. It may or may not have been referred to in the letter from Corinth. In any case its immediate and pressing importance sufficiently accounts for its mention here.

For the saints: “for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem,” Romans 15:26. See note. But this does not imply that to the Christians at Jerusalem the title saints was specially given. For Paul's readers knew to what saints he referred. Whether Paul gave direction personally on the journey of Acts 18:23 or on a journey during his sojourn (Acts 19:10) at Ephesus, or by messengers, or by letter, we have no means of knowing. He refers apparently to the direction recorded in 1 Corinthians 16:2. The mention of Galatia would remind the Corinthians that other churches were joining in the collection, and that whatever Paul said about it to them he said also to others.

1 Corinthians 16:2. First day from the sabbath: a Jewish mode of describing the day. For the week was unknown to the early Greeks. In Greece now Saturday is called the sabbath, Sunday, the Lord's day; Monday and Tuesday etc., the second, third day, etc.

Each of you: supposing that all will give something.

Lay by him: at home. Consequently, this was no public offertory.

Whatever success he may have: whatever surplus money he may have. This Paul asks them to retain so that they will not need to go after debtors or turn goods into cash, thus causing delay, when he comes. Consequently, this is not a general principle for all Christian giving, but a special “direction” for this present matter.

This verse (important coincidence with Acts 20:7) suggests that already special importance was given to this day; as is plainly implied in the title “the Lord's Day” in Revelation 1:10. A century later Justin (Apology i. 67) wrote: “On what is called Sunday there is a coming together of all who live in cities or country places.” The day which recalls Christ's love was specially suited for this work of mercy to fellow Christians.

1 Corinthians 16:3. You may approve: pays respect to the rights and judgment of the church by leaving to it the choosing of the messengers.

Approve: discover excellence by testing. For such proving of men living at Corinth, no letters would be needed. These must therefore (R.V. margin) have been written by Paul. How many such there must have been!

I will send; asserts Paul's apostolic authority, but declares that it shall be used according to the choice of the church. Their delegates shall have Paul's written sanction.

Letters: probably to different persons at Jerusalem.

Your favour: literally grace, (see under Romans 1:5,) and therefore illustrative of the grace of God. The contribution for Jerusalem is represented here (contrast Romans 15:27) as an act of undeserved favor. Cp. 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:19.

If it be worth etc.: if the collection be large enough to make a personal journey desirable. Paul's apostolic self-respect forbad a special journey for a small contribution. But, even if he go, the chosen messengers shall go also. An important coincidence is found in Acts 19:21, where Paul at Ephesus contemplates a journey to Achaia and then to Jerusalem. See further about the collection under 2 Corinthians 9:15.

1 Corinthians 16:5-7. Further information about Paul's purpose of coming to Corinth.

When I have passed etc.: He had formerly intended (2 Corinthians 1:15) to go direct to Corinth, then to Macedonia, and then back to Corinth. But, for the reason given in 2 Corinthians 1:23, he changed his plan. In 1 Corinthians 16:5-6 Paul contrasts with his passing visit to Macedonia his intended longer sojourn at Corinth. This whole purpose was accomplished: see Acts 20:2 f.

Send me forward: give the help needed for the journey. Cp. 1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 1:16.

That it may be your etc.: an end to be gained by, and therefore a reason for, Paul's purpose to come to the Corinthians last. It was a courteous acknowledgment of their ability and readiness to help him for the longer journey he had in view.

Wherever I be going. Perhaps his mind fluctuated between Jerusalem and Rome; Acts 19:21. In 1 Corinthians 16:7 he lingers upon, and thus emphasizes, his intended longer stay at Corinth, revealing a special wish for it and suggesting there were special reasons. Hence the prominent position of you in 1 Corinthians 16:7 a. It is unsafe to infer from the word now that Paul had already once seen them in passing, e.g. in his unmentioned journey during (Acts 19:1) his sojourn at Ephesus. The word was perhaps suggested by the present state of the Corinthian church, which made an immediate visit undesirable. And his hope to remain some time was a reason for his not wishing to come at once.

The Lord: Christ. Cp. James 4:15; Romans 1:10.

From 2 Corinthians 1:15 f, 2 Corinthians 1:23 we learn that Paul's original purpose was to come first to Corinth, then go to Macedonia, and back to Corinth; and the reason of the change, viz. to avoid the severity with which, if he came at once, he would be compelled to act towards some of the Corinthians. To avoid this he wrote the letter before us. 1 Corinthians 4:18 suggests that his change of plan was already known and misunderstood. A bold misinterpretation of it evoked 2 Corinthians 1:15 ff.

1 Corinthians 16:8-9. But I remain, in contrast to future journeys.

At Ephesus; indicates that there he wrote this letter.

Till Pentecost; suggests that it was written in the spring; and that the tumult (Acts 19:29) was not later than Pentecost. With this Acts 20:6 agrees well. We may suppose that during the summer, after passing through Troas, Paul was travelling about in Macedonia, that in the autumn he arrived at Corinth where he remained most of the winter, and that after again passing through Macedonia he sailed for Troas the following Easter.

A door great and effective: 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Acts 14:27; Revelation 3:8 : opportunities for great usefulness, already fruitful in results. An important coincidence with Acts 19:10. That Demetrius found it so easy to gather (Acts 19:24) a tumult against the Christians, proves how large an entrance Christianity had made, and that there were many adversaries. To Paul no motive for prolonged sojourn could be so strong as great opportunities, actual results, and many opponents.


Verses 10-23

SECTION 32 — SUNDRY DIRECTIONS AND SALUTATIONS CH. 16:10-23

If Timothy come, see that in his intercourse with you he may be without fear. For, the work of the Lord he works, as I also do. Then let not any one despise him. And send him forward in peace, that he may come to me. For I wait for him with the brothers.

About our brother Apollos: much have I exhorted him that he might come to you with the brothers. And not at all was it his will to come now: but he will come whenever he have a good opportunity.

Keep awake: stand in the faith act like men: become strong. All your matters, let them be done in love.

Moreover, I exhort you, brothers-you know the house of Stephanas; that it is a firstfruit of Achaia, and that for ministry to the saints they set themselves- that also you may submit to such persons, and to every one that joins in the work and labours.

I rejoice at the presence of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaiacus; because the lack of you they supplied. For they gave rest to my spirit, and to yours. Recognize then such.

The churches of Asia greet you: Aquila and Prisca greet you much in the Lord, with the church in their house. All the brothers greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

The greeting by the hand of me Paul. If any one does not love the Lord, let him be Anathema Maran atha. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. My love is with you all in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 16:10-11. If Timothy come: see under 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 1:1. Why Paul was uncertain about this, and whether Timothy actually arrived before Paul, we do not know. He started from Corinth with Paul (Acts 20:4) on the return journey. This verse suggests that this letter was likely to arrive before Timothy. Perhaps the bearers went direct by sea from Ephesus to Corinth: whereas Timothy went first to Macedonia.

Without fear: a coincidence with 2 Timothy 1:7, suggesting that Timothy was of timid disposition. But that to this was joined real worth, is proved by the commission (1 Timothy 1:3) afterwards entrusted to him. Paul bids his readers not to give him, by rude resistance, occasion for fear; and supports his warning by reminding them that to make Timothy afraid is to embarrass and hinder one who is doing (1 Corinthians 15:58) the work of Christ, the great work in which Paul is himself engaged. For the same reason (then let not) they must not despise him. Many are ready to despise the timid. This warning not to terrify or despise men who are doing God's work is needed today. That some six years later Paul urges (1 Timothy 4:12) Timothy so to act that no one will despise him because he is young, suggests that this was one possible cause of his fear.

Send him forward: as in 1 Corinthians 16:6.

In peace: the opposite of fear and contempt.

That he may come etc. “That Timothy is to come to me, and that I am waiting for him, is a reason why you should give him the help needed for the journey.”

With the brothers: probably companions of Timothy on this mission. That he had at least one companion, we learn from Acts 19:22.

1 Corinthians 16:12. This mention of Apollos proves, and was perhaps designed by the apostle to prove to the Corinthians, his perfect accord with Paul. And, if so, the faction called after Apollos was without his sanction. This supports our inference from 1 Corinthians 4:6 that the real leaders of the factions were men at Corinth whose names are unknown to us.

Exhorted him much: thinking perhaps that his presence in company with Paul's beloved companion Timothy would be a strong rebuke to those who wrote the names of Paul and Apollos on the banners of contending parties.

With the brothers: those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:17, who had brought the letter from Corinth and were now returning with the letter before us.

Now: emphatic. For reasons unknown to us, either the state of things at Corinth or his own circumstances, Apollos did not consider the present a good opportunity. When such arises, he will come. This verse suggests that Apollos, who was at Corinth when (Acts 19:1) Paul arrived at Ephesus, was not living at Ephesus. That there is no greeting from him, suggests that he was temporarily absent when Paul wrote.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Parting exhortations, as though the letter were finished.

Keep awake: in contrast to sleep, Matthew 26:40; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:10, i.e. spiritual insensibility. Let your spiritual senses be in full exercise, lest the enemy surprise you unawares. So 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 3:2 f. Another motive for watchfulness is the coming of Christ: Matthew 24:42; Luke 12:37.

Stand: as in 1 Corinthians 10:12; Romans 5:2; Romans 11:20.

In faith: practically the same as “stand in the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1. Belief of the good news is the element in which, (and the means by which, Romans 11:20; 2 Corinthians 1:24,) we maintain spiritual erectness.

Act like men: so 1 Maccabees 2:64, “And you, children, be strong and act like men touching the Law.”

Become strong: receive strength which (Ephesians 3:16) the Spirit is waiting to impart from time to time.

Notice the military tone of these words. We are sentinels on guard, and must not yield to sleep. In face of the enemy we must maintain our position: and we do so by abiding in faith. We must show moral courage. To this end we must accept the strength provided for us. This fourfold description of our attitude towards spiritual foes is followed by a description in one word of our attitude towards our fellow-Christians and fellow-men. Love must be the one element of our entire activity.

1 Corinthians 16:15-16. After what seemed to be a parting exhortation, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Paul remembers other matters which claim mention. Cp. Romans 16:17. In 1 Corinthians 16:10 ff he spoke of his own associates, Timothy and Apollos. He now commends to the Corinthians some members of their own church.

I exhort etc.; betrays something which, not knowing the circumstances, we cannot now understand. Apparently, the church members had failed to treat this worthy family with due respect.

You know etc.; breaks off the exhortation, to give a motive for acceding to it.

Firstfruit of Achaia: cp. Romans 16:5. The conversion of this family was doubtless an important step in the founding of the church at Corinth. Perhaps it was for this reason that Paul, deviating from his usual custom, baptized (1 Corinthians 1:16) them personally. Since the province of Achaia included Athens, this conversion must have been earlier than (Acts 17:34) that of Dionysius and Damaris, i.e. than Paul's first arrival at Corinth. See Introd. § v.

Ministry: Romans 12:7. There is nothing to limit the saints to those at Jerusalem, as in Romans 15:25. Probably it refers chiefly to members of their own church, with whom they would come most in contact. Stephanas and his family deliberately resolved to render what service they could to their fellow-Christians.

That you may submit etc.: both purpose and contents of the exhortation.

That also: to the service rendered by Stephanas must be added due recognition of it by the church.

To such; raises this exhortation into a universal principle for all men.

Submit: Ephesians 5:21. Not that they are to have their will in everything, but that we yield them the deference which befits their services to the church.

And to every one etc.: To those who, like Stephanas, render help to their fellow-Christians, Paul now adds every one who joins with others in Christian work.

And labours; suggests the weariness which frequently accompanies Christian work. To every toiler for Christ we must give the deference due to his work.

1 Corinthians 16:17-18. The presence: or arrival. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 and often the same word denotes the second coming of Christ. We cannot doubt that these men brought to Paul the letter from Corinth, and took back the Epistle before us, which was Paul's reply to it.

Stephanas: the good man mentioned above.

Fortunatus. A man of this name was one of the three bearers of the epistle of Clement of Rome (ch. 65) to the Corinthian church. He and Achaiacus are quite unknown.

Because etc.: special cause of Paul's joy.

The lack of you: your absence. By coming as delegates, and expressing the feelings, of the whole church, they in some measure made up for the absence of those they represented. In them Paul seemed to welcome the whole church. Cp. Philippians 2:30. Had they come only as private persons, his joy in receiving them would not have been so great. This cause of Paul's joy is further explained in 1 Corinthians 16:18 a.

Rest to my spirit: 2 Corinthians 7:13; cp. Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:20.

My spirit: Romans 1:9 : the noblest element of his being. These words suggest that before the coming of these men Paul was in restless anxiety about the Corinthian church, perhaps because of the very bad news brought by the household of Cloe and by others. This anxiety would seem to have been somewhat allayed by the more exact information given by these messengers. But the letter before us was, nevertheless, written (2 Corinthians 2:4) with “many tears.” The words and yours suggest that as Paul was anxious about the Corinthians so they were anxious to communicate to him; and that it was a relief to them to be able, through the coming of these men, to express to the apostle their feelings. The journey of the messengers was therefore a service both to Paul and to his readers. This suggests that underneath the factions there lay genuine loyalty to the apostle. Of this we shall find abundant proof in the Second Epistle.

Recognize etc.: similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 : “take note of the service they have rendered.”

Such: as in 1 Corinthians 16:16.

1 Corinthians 16:19-20. Asia: the Roman province, as in 2 Corinthians 1:8; Romans 16:5; Revelation 1:4; Acts 2:9; Acts 16:6. Its capital was Ephesus, whence (1 Corinthians 16:8) Paul wrote this letter. That there were other churches in Asia, agrees with Acts 19:10; Acts 19:26. And a few years later we find (Colossians 4:13) churches at Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse, in the extreme east of the same province. These churches were probably a result of Paul's labors during the three years preceding the writing of this letter, although at least two of them (Colossians 2:1) had not been visited by him personally. In Revelation 1:11 we find other churches in the same province, which may have been founded at the same time. We can well conceive that, as suggested in Acts 19:10, men from all parts of the province heard Paul preaching at Ephesus, and thus various churches were formed, which kept up communication with the great apostle. And in writing to the Corinthian church, he conveys, in accordance probably with the expressed wish of some churches and with the known sentiment of all, this brotherly greeting. That Aquila and Prisca (see Romans 16:3) were now with Paul at Ephesus, accords Acts 18:19. And their much greeting accords with their long connection (Acts 18:2; Acts 18:11; Acts 18:18) with Corinth.

In the Lord.] This greeting was an outflow of their union with the one Master.

Church in their house: interesting coincidence with Romans 16:5.

Holy kiss: 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14. Cp. Justin, Apology i. 65: “We salute one another with a kiss when we have concluded the prayers.” The kiss is still retained in the worship of the Coptic church.

1 Corinthians 16:21-23. By the hand of me Paul: Colossians 4:18 : a mark of genuineness, 2 Thessalonians 3:17. It implies that the earlier part was not by his own hand. So Romans 16:22. Doubtless he wrote also 1 Corinthians 16:22-23. The words “Jesus Christ” in A.V. of 1 Corinthians 16:22, but not in the four oldest MSS., are a good example of a correct explanatory gloss which was very early copied into the text and thus found its way into many MSS., and Versions.

Does not love etc.: an appeal to the conscience of many church members at Corinth, revealing the hidden source of the various misconduct (cp. John 14:23) which in this letter Paul has condemned. Against this root of all the disorders, viz. absence of love to the common Master, he now pronounces his most tremendous sentence, a sentence the more emphatic because written by his own hand.

Anathema: as in Romans 9:3.

Maran atha: “our Lord has come;” in Aramaic, the vernacular of Palestine. See Romans, Introd. § iii. 5. Of the word Maran, the chief part, Mar, “Lord,” is found in Daniel 2:47; Daniel 4:19, etc., written in the same language; and is now used as a title of dignity by the Nestorians. In Daniel 7:22 the exact word Atha is used, as here, for the second coming of Christ. The presence of these Aramaic words here implies that they were understood by the readers. And this suggests that they were common among the mother churches in Palestine, and thus passed in their original form to Gentile Christians. That these words are used as a warning implies that has come refers to Christ's coming in judgment. In prophetic vision the church looked upon the moment of His appearance as though it had already come. This anticipation of the coming of Him who comes to destroy (1 Thessalonians 5:3) those who love Him not, Paul uses to support the curse just pronounced.

My love etc.: suitable conclusion of a letter containing so much reproof and ending with so tremendous a curse. For every word had been prompted by genuine love for every one of the readers. Thus Paul is himself an example of that which in 1 Corinthians 16:14 he prescribed for others. His affection goes out after, and rests upon, and remains with, all of them. And it is no worldly affection, but an offspring of his union with Christ Jesus.

REVIEW OF THE EPISTLE. During the latter part of his sojourn at Ephesus, a sojourn marked by great opportunities, great success, and the hostility of many foes, Paul was filled with anxiety by tidings about the church at Corinth. He heard from reliable persons that the whole church was divided into parties; and that of these parties the two largest had inscribed on their respective banners the names of himself and of his friend Apollos, while another made use of the name of Cephas, and a fourth used the sacred name of Christ. A case of incest worse even than heathens committed had occurred among them: and the offender was tolerated by the church. Christians not only quarrelled but brought their disputes into heathen lawcourts. The Lord's Supper was made an occasion of ostentatious display and of revelry. And some church members asserted that resurrection of dead men is impossible, some on the ground that bodies of flesh are not fitted for the world to come; meaning by this assertion to deny that there is a life beyond the grave, regardless of the immoral practical consequences of such denial. It had also, apparently, been reported to Paul that some female members, casting aside their distinctive and modest head-dress, ventured to speak in the assemblies. Probably also, in spite of an earlier, but now lost, letter from the Apostle, some taught that the Gospel which broke down the Mosaic restrictions about food had also removed all restrictions on the intercourse of the sexes.

Amid the anxiety caused by this sad news, arrived at Ephesus three members of the Corinthian church, bearing to Paul the greeting of the whole church and a letter asking for information on sundry matters. He welcomed them with joy; and found in them some alleviation of the anxiety the rumors had caused him. The letter they brought asked whether Paul would advise or dissuade from marriage; what was to be done about food offered in sacrifice to idols; and sought information, probably, about the exercise of spiritual gifts. Possibly, it also contained a reference to the public speaking of women.

Paul writes in reply. In spite of their gross disorders he remembers that his readers are a church of God, men whom God has solemnly claimed to be His own. And he recognizes their firm belief of the gospel and their general knowledge and intelligence. But before he can answer their questions he must deal with the far more serious matters which have come to his ears.

Of these, the factions claim first attention, as being a universal disorder and one which was sapping the life of the entire church: Paul deals next with the case of incest and its toleration by the whole church; and with the lawsuits, and the grasping spirit which they revealed: he then refers generally to the matter of sensuality, a sin for which some endeavored to find excuse. After these more pressing matters, the apostle answers his readers' questions about marriage, and about meat sacrificed to idols. Improprieties among women next receive attention; and then the disorders at the Lord's Supper. After these matters Paul treats at length the whole subject of spiritual gifts, thus answering his readers' last question. He discusses next the false teaching about the resurrection put forward by what was probably a small minority of the church. In view of his purposed visit, he gives directions about the collection for Jerusalem, and speaks of his own movements. Sundry directions about his colleagues, Timothy and Apollos, and about the family of Stephanas and the deputation from Corinth, with salutations and a final warning, close the Epistle.

Throughout the whole we notice that Paul traces each matter of detail to some broad principle from which he deduces a rule of conduct. He thus gives to passing details an abiding worth as illustrations of principles bearing upon all men in all ages and all circumstances. Of this method, Romans 14 furnishes another example. It is the only correct method of Christian ethics.

The effects of the letter we have just studied, we shall be able to trace in the second letter, which now lies open before us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/1-corinthians-16.html. 1877-90.

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