SESSION 22 — “To a Church in Crisis, With Love,” a Bible study of 1 & 2 Corinthians

Text: 1Corinthians 16 

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I teach today. This final chapter of 1Corinthians appears, at first, to be a collection of unrelated instructions. But I see that the underlying theme is giving honor and being obedient to the Spirit-filled leaders of the church in Jerusalem, and those whom Paul plans to send to them. Why? To honor such leaders is to honor Christ!

So, if I were to give this a title, it would be, “Honor Christ.” 

Verses 1-2 —

The collection is for the saints (the church) in Jerusalem, who are impoverished  because of severe persecution from their fellow Jews. They are shunned and banned. No one will hire them, so they have no money. But the collection is made not only because of their poverty, but because Christians honor Christ when they honor their Spirit-filled leaders —

Hebrews 13:17   Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

The collection is not to be randomly taken, but is to be done on the first day of every week — Sunday. Paul commands the believers at Corinth to save through the week, according to their ability, so the collection can be gathered BEFORE Paul comes. If it isn’t done until he comes, they should be ashamed of themselves.

This is practiced throughout the churches. Paul writes to the Romans, reminding them that other churches are making a contribution —

Romans 15:26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.

The  spiritual things in which they share are salvation and sanctification (the infilling of the Holy Spirit) through Jesus Christ, who was a Jew by birth (though fully God). So, material blessing is a means of honoring the source of their spiritual blessings — Jesus Christ, and the Jewish apostles who were the first to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.

Verses 3-4 —

Paul speaks of his upcoming visit, instructing them that when he arrives, they may appoint emissaries with letters, to bring their gift to Jerusalem. 

But the emissaries that are chosen may go to Jerusalem with Paul, if that is suitable. It will depend on whether his visit with the believers at Corinth is completed by the time the emissaries are ready to travel. 

Verses 5-7 —

Paul assures them that he is coming, after he goes through Macedonia. He has not visited the churches there for several years, though all reports are good. Indeed, they are remaining steadfast in the faith, and they send in collections over and above what is expected. So, on his way to Corinth, he will visit them — probably from spring through early summer.

Verses 8-9 —

Another reason why he wants to go through Macedonia is this — a wide door for effective, fruitful ministry has opened. But as it is today in ministry, there are many adversaries and great opposition to the gospel (see Acts 19:23-24 for an example). Since he will have opposition, he will need to spend significant time there, in order to further the gospel.

Paul wants the believers at Corinth to understand that when he comes to them, his visit may well be lengthy. He has wanted to visit them, simply because he loves them with God’s divine love. He wants to fellowship with them, as well as to determine whether they are now obeying his instructions.

But we know that this visit will turn out to be painful. Surely, Paul has an inkling that he might find the church at Corinth to be still in disarray, in spite of his instructions in 1Corinthians. He has already chided them because he faced opposition even from some of them — both from believers who questioned his apostleship, and from false teachers.

So, Paul alerts them that he may need to remain with them, possibly spending the whole winter in Corinth. When he has completed his work among them, he informs them that they may send him on his way (indicating financial help from them) to his next destination.

He does not want to see them just in passing, but hopes to remain with them for some time, if the Lord permits. Paul is governed by the Lord’s will, not his own! Would that this could be said of all of today’s church leaders, and all Christians!

Verses 10-11 —

Paul now gives instructions about Timothy, whom he may send as his personal delegate to visit them. Timothy is a leader in the church, and has traveled extensively with Paul (see Acts 16:1-3, 2Timothy 3:10-14 and 2Timothy 4:1-5). 

What are his instructions to the believers at Corinth regarding Timothy? To receive him as a leader, honoring him (and thereby, honoring Christ). They are not to cause Timothy to fear (that is, fear that he might not be well received by them). Why? Because Timothy, like Paul, is doing the Lord’s work! They are both filled with the Holy Spirit, and both evangelize!

So, Paul commands this — let no one despise him (treat him with contempt). It is amazing that he has to instruct the believers at Corinth in this way, but indeed, some of them have received Paul with contempt! 

After Timothy’s visit to them, the church at Corinth is to send him on his way (with funds) in peace (with a blessing of peace). Paul knows that Timothy’s visit may cause upheaval in the church at Corinth, because Timothy will teach and exhort just as Paul teaches and exhorts. But Paul commands the church at Corinth that regardless of what Timothy says to them, they are to send him off properly, and not angrily.

Verse 12 —

Apparently, the church at Corinth had asked Apollos to return and minister to them, with the brethren. They were likely looking for kinder words that would contradict Paul’s exhortations. When Paul learned of their request to Apollos, Paul strongly urged him to go. He knew Apollos would speak the truth to them! 

But it was not at all (not in any way) Apollos’ desire to come immediately. He did not obey the church at Corinth, but his own Spirit-filled leaders, and most importantly, the Lord. He would come when he had opportunity — that is, when his current assignment permitted it.

Verse 13 — 

Now, Paul writes some final exhortations to the believers at Corinth. Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. What does Paul mean?

#1 — Be on the alert — Be on your guard. Given the problems at Corinth, this surely refers to being wary of false teachers. It is the same exhortation he gave the elders at Ephesus when they came to him at Miletus —

Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

#2 — Stand firm in the faith — Given their penchant for re-writing the gospel, based on false teachers among them and from outside, they have not stood firm. Now he commands them to do it.

#3 — Act like men — Right now, they are acting like the infants in Christ that they truly are. But he is commanding them to grow up!  

#4 — Be strong — This is an echo of 1Corinthians 15:58 — Be steadfast, immovable, always super-abounding in the work of the Lord They have not been strong! Again, he exhorts them!

Verse 14 —

The original Greek is “All things of you in love, let it be.” That is, “All things that you do must be done in love; this must come into being in you.”

All they have done up to this point has NOT been done in the divine love of God because they are not yet filled with the Spirit! Therefore, they are not compelled and held captive by His love. And so, this is an exhortation for heart change! 

All that the believers in Corinth do MUST now be done in God’s divine love! Otherwise, they remain as they are now — sounding gongs and clanging cymbals, and jealous and strife will continue among them. Oh, that they would heed Paul, who has exhorted them to be filled with the Spirit! It is the same in the church today!

Verses 15-18 —

Again, Paul exhorts them to honor their leaders (and thus, honor Jesus Christ, who appointed them). Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, who are originally from Corinth, are being sent by Paul. The believers at Corinth know that the household of Stephanas were the firstfruits (the first to believe) in the region of Achaia. And these three men have devoted themselves to ministry to the saints (all believers). So, Paul commands the church at Corinth to honor them, also.

So, he is sending Timothy. Apollos will come when he is able. Now, Paul tells the believers at Corinth that he is also sending three others! Major corrections are required, and Paul needs their assistance, until he himself can come and reprimand the church at Corinth!

Again, this is a call for the believers at Corinth to be in subjection to the leaders of the church. Paul commands them to submit to them, and to everyone who helps in the work and labors of the spreading of the gospel — that is, all leaders who are appointed by Jesus Christ to come to them. 

Paul rejoices over and strongly commends Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. They have supplied what was lacking on the part of the church at Corinth. What was lacking? Respect and honor, and refreshment of Paul’s spirit.

Refreshment of our spirits — it is always so, when longtime, Spirit-filled believers meet after a long absence! There is much fellowship with the Father and the Son, in the Spirit, which is always an encouragement to those who have been out in the harvest fields to which Christ has called them. 

Therefore, the believers at Corinth are to recognize and honor them! Why does Paul keep repeating this, for each one he sends to them? It is because they are infants in Christ, beloved. Therefore, they have not honored Paul. Let today’s church hear what the Spirit is saying!

Verses 19-21 — 

As was common in all letters to the churches, Paul tells them all the brethren from all the churches in Asia greet them. Aquila and Priscilla greet them. You will recall that they are Jews who were originally from Rome but were expelled because they were Jewish. This couple met Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:2 and forward), were saved and filled with the Spirit, and then went to Ephesus to continue sharing the gospel, establishing a church in their house (Acts 18:2 and forward). 

He concludes by saying all the brethren greet them, and that the believers at Corinth must greet one another with a holy kiss. It probably is common in their culture to greet with a kiss. But Paul says the kiss of greeting must be holy, and that they — fighting among themselves as they are — must kiss each other! Again, Paul infers that they must become holy, by being wholly filled with God’s Holy Spirit and His love!

He emphasizes that this greeting is in his own hand. Paul’s heart is for them, and not against them!

Verse 22 — 

This is a warning to Paul’s opponents at Corinth. If anyone among them does not love the Lord — and their lack of love for Christ is evident by their actions — they are to be accursed. Paul uses the same exhortation to those who deviate from the gospel at Galatia (Galatians 1:8-9). 

He adds, Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! It is an eschatological (end times) prayer and fits well with his message to the believers at Corinth regarding the false teaching to which they have been listening —

Revelation 22:17   The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. 

Revelation 22:18   I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

Revelation 22:20   He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Verses 23-24 —

Paul closes with a benediction, the uttering of a blessing, as he prays —

— The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you (may His work in your hearts be evident in your lives).

— My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen (let it be so). 

Indeed, his love is with them — not human love but the divine love of God which compels him and to which he is captive! Amen!

As I said last time, I will not publish 2Corinthians until the fall, so I have time to record a dozen sessions before I begin publishing. That will give me some leeway for travel and such, allowing me to still publish once a week. 

I look forward to continuing to explore the Word of God with you! As with Paul, I do it because I am compelled by His divine love, because of my love for you all, and I am only able to teach you because of His divine empowerment! May you apply this Word to your heart, beloved! Amen! So be it, Lord Jesus!