Lesson 40: "Concerning the Collection. . .[and] Stand Fast in the Faith" (I Corinthians 16:1, 13)

I Corinthians 16:1-24

Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #40.Welcome again! Glance again at the final verse in ch. 15. After emphasizing the importance of faith in the resurrection, Paul concluded in v. 58 that we are to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord..." With that "always abounding" thought, Paul moved on to a new subject. Take a moment to notice the similarity here in v.l to the way Paul began 12:1 and 7:1. When you have done that, let's read the first four verses. Beginning in I Cor. 16:1. We'll read v.1-4, are you ready? Let's read! "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 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. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go, they shall go with me." Alright, "concerning the collection for the saints..." Let's talk about that collection for the saints, just a moment. The collection here is undoubtedly a special collection or benevolent project. Luke in the last three verses of Acts. Ch. 11, told us about a prophet named Agabus that came down from the Jerusalem church to that big Gentile church in Antioch of Syria; where Agabus prophesied or foretold that there would be a great dearth. The word is D-E-A-R-T-H, "dearth." That word means a famine; but, it can be caused by natural disaster or possibly by political problems or just a simple economic crunch like a depression. In the next verse, Luke said that the dearth that Agabus predicted came to pass during the days of Claudius Caesar, i.e. while Claudius was the emperor of the Roman empire. Claudius was emperor from AD 41 to AD 54, you will recall he was the emperor that drove the Jews out of Rome, including Aquila and Priscilla. We have said before, some think that Claudius' wife, Agrippina (the mother of Nero), murdered Claudius to help her son Nero to become emperor. To help you get a grip on this; it seems Agabus predicted the dearth before Paul and Barnabas began even their first missionary journey. The Christians or saints in Judea were particularly hard hit by this dearth. I'm not clear on all the details. It may have been because of their geographic location. Or it may have been that the non-Christian Jews living in south Palestine had the upper hand politically and made it particularly hard on the Christians in obtaining food and etc, after the time of the Stephen persecution. Or, it may have been a combination of both and even more. It is evident that the big Gentile church further north in Antioch of Syria, and churches in other parts of the Roman empire fared much better (during the dearth) although it was felt over the entire Roman empire. So, Luke said in Acts 11:29, that the disciples at Antioch determined immediately to send relief to the brethren in Judea. That's about all we know about the benevolent project in which Antioch Christians helped the saints in Judea. I sense from reading between the lines {please note this is my thoughts, my thinking}: the economic problem or famine in Judea must have went on for several years. It was not just a short-term problem. There was much prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles, this is well known, well established and well documented. But, after the house hold of Cornelius, when the Gentiles were grafted in, so-to-speak, (i.e. when Gentiles started becoming Christians, Acts ch.10); some of these racial prejudices, even among Christians, were hard to deal with. Now, that should not have been the case; but it was. Just plain old stubborn people problems like those that occur in every community, even today. The benevolent relief project that began at Antioch of Syria must have neutralized the Jewish prejudice against their gentile brethren, somewhat. Thus, the physical relief program had a strong and proper spiritual side effect that promoted real Christian love and understanding. It would appear that the very first relief sent to the Jewish Christian brethren in Judea from that gentile church at Antioch was sent by the hands of Paul and Barnabas (according to Acts 11:30). As we move on from there to Paul's missionary journeys; the prejudice problem between these two races of people continued to be one of the greatest problems Paul and his co-workers had to deal with. Thus, it's quite evident; Paul continued to encourage other gentile churches to participate in a like program (as Antioch had done) as he went from place to place on his missionary journeys over a period of several years. We pick up on little bits and pieces of this (several places in the N.T.). For example, where we just read in I Cor. 16:1, Paul made reference to the churches in Galatia. Well, that's about all I know abut the churches in Galatia participating in this benevolent program; but, it's quite evident (from this verse) that Paul had encouraged the same program in Galatia, i.e. Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, etc. It was probably when Paul and Silas went back over that area of Galatia at the beginning of the second missionary journey, Acts 16:4-5 that Paul had encouraged the Judean benevolent program in Galatia. Now, that's a guess! Paul had been back to Jerusalem and had gone over Galatia again since that time; I'm talking about at the end of the second missionary journey and at the beginning of the third missionary journey; we learned this in Acts 18:32. From what is said later in II Cor. Ch. 8-9 and in Rom. 15:25-28, the first few verses in Acts c. 20 and Paul's final journey to Jerusalem (Acts c. 21) i.e. AFTER the time of I Cor. 16:1 where we are now; we pick up a lot more information, bib by bit, on this long range benevolent project. We learn later (II Cor. Ch. 8-9) that Paul had encouraged this project at Corinth apparently more than a year before the time we're talking about here in I cor. 16:1. Thus, it must have been during the 18 months Paul spent at Corinth near the end of the second missionary journey and before Paul came to Ephesus where he spent three years and where he wrote the I Corinthian letter we are now considering; that Paul had encouraged a similar benevolent project by the Corinthian brethren.

O.K., I got carried away and I've spent far too much time on this; but, what we read here in ch. 16:1 has reference to the congregational mechanics of how the Corinthians were to carry out this project, they had earlier elected to do; but it had undoubtedly got sidetracked and lost in the debris of all their other preacheritis problems, marriage problems, spiritual gifts debates and resurrection from the dead arguments. Please note, Paul had not commanded or required this benevolent project of the Corinthians. This is quite clear from II Cor. 8:8ff. The Corinthians (at least some) had wanted to do this. So, the orders that Paul had given to the Galatians (here in v. 1) was the same procedure by which the Corinthians were to carry out a similar project. The order had to do with the procedure or mechanics of it, as I said, That was the procedure? Look at v. 2! (#1) It was to be done on Sundays, the first day of the week. Now, I get the impression this is not a reference to their regular worship assembly, necessarily. This was done at the regular assembly time, no doubt, for convenience sake. (#2) When it says, "let every one of you..." it implies every Christian was to purpose something and to lay by something; not just the rich and not just if you are in a generous mood. All Christians were to participate in an orderly way, rich Christians and poor Christians. (#3) "to lay by him in store" means very simply to put into the church treasury. (#4) The amount they were to put into the treasury was to be decided b y every person and their decision was to be guided by how much they had been prospered over that week. That takes into account the amount of income and dependency. Then, (#5) the congregation was not to wait and try to gather or collect it all at some future time when it was to be delivered to the poor saints in Judea. So, here we have a procedure for all congregations in doing similar things. (#6) The congregation was not to merely send the money to Paul; but, they were to be responsible for delivery as well as collection. When Paul would come to them later, he might be able to assist them in this; but, it was not Paul's project.

Let's read v. 5-9. Have you got it? Here we go! "Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia; for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door of effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." As Paul had promised back in 4:19, Paul here reaffirmed his promise to come to Corinth. Paul then informed them he was going to Macedonia first; probably Philippi and Thessalonica. This was most likely a change of plans. We learn in II Cor. 2:Iff, at least one reason for this change. Paul wanted to give the Corinthians a little space to get their problems settled themselves before Paul came to them. And fortunately, it worked out well, we shall learn. However, Paul in turn promised to stay with them longer when he did come; possibly over the winter (v.6). Another reason Paul gave for not coming immediately was (in v. 8-9) that the work in Ephesus was very fruitful at that time and he was needed there. Paul's plans were to stay at Ephesus until Pentecost (or about June on our calendar). However, we learn in Acts 20:1, because of the riot at Ephesus, Paul departed Ephesus a little earlier than he had intended. We learn there also in (v.3) that Paul spent three months the next winter in Greece, which was probably Corinth; thus fulfilling his promise here in v. 6. This may be jumping the gun; but, it was during that three months the following winter at Corinth that Paul wrote the book of Romans and the Book of Galatians. Right now let's read v. 10-11. Are you ready?
"Now if Timothy come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. 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." Paul was probably concerned that Timothy would wind up caught between two of the factions at Corinth and be mistreated, being a rather young man. Paul had said back hi 4:17 that he had already sent Timothy "unto you", i.e. unto Corinth; so, what is this "if Timothy come" bit in v. 10? It turns out that Paul did not send Timothy directly to Corinth. We learned in Acts 19:22 that Paul sent Timothy from Ephesus into Macedonia first with another brother named Erastus. Timothy and Erastus apparently departed Ephesus before the three brethren from Corinth with the list of questions arrived in Ephesus. Undoubtedly, Timothy had planned to come by Corinth on his return to "Ephesus; you might take a look at your map. However, the way it worked out, Timothy was apparently intercepted by Titus before he reached Corinth. We'll get into the details of what really happened in II Corinthians. But right now, let's read v. 1 '2, got it? Put your eyes on v. 12! "As touching our 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." Apollos knew this was a bad time for him to show up at Corinth. You will recall Apollos was looked upon by some Corinthians, as one of the faction leaders (1:12). Obviously, Apollos did not think of himself as a faction leader. Furthermore, it is obvious there were no factional difference between Paul and Apollos; they were working together in trying to get the Corinthian mess resolved. In v. 13 Paul began to close out the epistle. Let's read v. 13-16. Ready? Here we go, v. 13: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong. Let all thins be done with charity. 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." In closing, Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to: -watch- stand fast in the faith -quit their worldly conduct - and practice charity, as Paul had discussed back hi ch. 13, you' remember. He held up the household of Stephanas; (who we learn here) were the first converts of Achaia, i.e. in and around that bit metropolis of Corinth and thus were more mature hi the faith; Paul held them up as examples to the others and encouraged them to look to the more mature hi the faith (v.16).

Let's read the rest of the chapter. It'sv. 17-24, eight more verses. Here we go, beginning hi v. 17. "I am glad of the coining of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaichus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much hi the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with a holy kiss. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen." Alright, Paul knew that some would be turned off at the three men from Corinth that came to Paul, i.e. Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaichus. So, Paul tried by commending these brethren to eliminate all the trouble he could. He asked the Corinthians to acknowledge them (v. 18). Asia mentioned hi v. 19, was the province of Asia where Ephesus was located. This shows that there was more than one congregation in the province of Asia and that all those congregations were hopeful and praying the Corinthians would get their problems corrected. You will remember Aquila and Priscilla; Paul's tent making friends. Paul mentions the church hi their house. This probably means that a small congregation used Aquila and Priscilla's residence as a place of assembly. At a later time, we learn hi Rom. 16:3-4-5; that Aquila and Priscilla had gone back to the city of Rome and in Roma a church met hi their house also. This tent-making man and wife were also some of the first members at Corinth, you'll remember, and of course knew many of the members hi the Corinthian church. Paul said, they "salute you much hi the Lord." (V.I9) In v.20, Paul urged the Corinthians to greet each other. That was another way of saying; get rid of your differences. For those who refused to love the Lord enough to correct their problems; Paul said hi v.22, "let him be Anathema, Maranatha." These are Aramaic words. There has been much discussion as to why Paul gave this expression hi Aramaic and exactly what the phrase means. Anathema means literally: let him be devoted to destruction. The second word, "Maranatha" is disputed as to whether it means: the Lord come or the Lord has already come. I'll let you figure it out; since that's all the tune we have hi this lesson. SO, that concludes another book: I Corinthians! I'll be with you hi lesson # 41; until then, have a good day.

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