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First Corinthians: Practical Matters

January 31, 2008

With the stirring conclusion to chapter 15, Paul had completed the primary task of the letter. He had addressed a litany of serious spiritual issues in the Corinthian church, concluding with the message of triumph and hope, the resurrection. In chapter 16 he addressed some miscellaneous practical matters, and closed the letter.

First, he gave instructions about how to collect the offering for the church in Jerusalem. They were to take up the collection on the first day of each week, so that no collection would need to be taken when he arrived. Paul requested cautious arrangements to avoid any appearance of impropriety with the money when it would be delivered to Jerusalem.

Paul wanted to come to Corinth — obviously he saw the need for outside leadership help — but had conflicting needs in Ephesus that prevented him from coming immediately.

1Co 16:5-9 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you–for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

One can only imagine the difficulty in deciding to delay a visit to Corinth. The church there certainly needed help from a strong leadership. Since he could not come himself, Paul intended to send Timothy to them (1 Cor 4:17). The situation in Corinth would have been challenging for a seasoned veteran, but Timothy was a young man. Paul admonished the church to receive Timothy with respect and to treat him well.

Paul had wanted to send Apollos but he was unwilling to go at the time. Many commentators believe Apollos may have been reluctant to go because of the factions that had formed, one of which was aligning behind him. Perhaps he did not want to run the risk of feeding that unhealthy situation. Or perhaps some situation where Apollos was currently serving required that he not leave immediately. Paul assured the Corinthian church that Apollos would come when he had opportunity.

1Co 16:13-14 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

Those five traits were characteristics of Jesus, and his followers are called to exhibit those same traits. Especially pertinent to the Corinthians was the instruction to do it all in love.

Paul urged the church to submit and support its leaders.

1Co 16:15-16 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.

It seems that wherever Aquila and Priscilla went, they hosted a church in their house (Rom 16:5, 1 Cor 16:19).

1Co 16:19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

Paul sent his love and greetings, along with that of the others with him. It is remarkable, given the depth of issues he had addressed in this letter, the warmth of his greetings in the end. He did not hesitate to call them the church of God in the opening of the letter. And he did not withhold his affection at the end of the letter. With all their failures, these Corinthians were Paul’s dear brothers and sisters. That would become all the more emphatic in the next letter.

The issues Paul addressed in this letter would apparently, for the most part, be addressed to Paul’s satisfaction (2 Cor 7:6-9). But Paul would soon have to write them another difficult letter, and would have to visit them a third time (2 Cor 13:1).

We can take comfort in the devotion of Paul to this trouble-filled church. God does not give up on his children, and neither should we. In chapter after chapter, Paul called the Corinthian church back to the gospel. Because of the gospel, they should live a certain kind of life. That is also the take-home message from the letter for us today.

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