Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
The journey through the first letter Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians has been a rather exciting and enriching one. In this final “salutation” chapter, terror and tenderness are strangely mingled in his parting salutation, written by Paul’s own hand. He has been obliged, throughout the whole epistle, to assume a tone of remonstrance abundantly mingled with irony and sarcasm and indignation. He has had to rebuke the Corinthians for many faults, party spirit, lax morality, toleration of foul sins, grave abuses in their worship even at the Lord’s Supper, gross errors in opinion in the denial of the Resurrection. In today’s study, we shall learn a lot from this parting salutation.
Verses 1-4 Directions About Some Charitable Collection to Be Made In The Church
In this chapter, Paul begins with directing the Corinthians about a charitable collection on a particular occasion, the distresses and poverty of Christians in Judea, which at this time were extraordinary, partly through the general calamities of that nation and partly through the particular sufferings to which they were exposed. It was not a peculiar service which he required of them; he had given similar orders to the churches of Galatia, v. 1. He desired them only to conform to the same rules which he had given to other churches on a similar occasion. He did not desire that others should be eased and they burdened, 2 Co. 8:13. He also prudently mentions these orders of his to the churches of Galatia, to excite emulation, and stir them up to be liberal, according to their circumstances, and the occasion. Those who exceeded most churches in spiritual gifts, and, as it is probable, in worldly wealth (see the argument), surely would not suffer themselves to come behind any in their bounty to their afflicted brethren. The good examples of other Christians and churches should excite in us a holy emulation.
In verse 2 Paul teaches us how to form the habit of giving without being under pressure. Each person should set aside any amount he/she could spare from time to time, and by this means make up a sum for this charitable purpose.
When God blesses and prospers us, we should be ready to relieve and comfort his needy servants; when his bounty flows forth upon us, we should not confine it to ourselves, but let it stream out to others.
Works of mercy are the genuine fruits of true love to God, and therefore are a proper service on his own day. Paul’s intention when in he said “I will send whomever you approve with letters [of authorization] to take your gift [of charity and love] to Jerusalem;” was not to meddle with their contributions without their consent. We should not only charitably relieve our poor fellow-Christians but do it in such a way as will best signify our compassion to them and care of them.
Verses 5 – 9 The Visit, The Work and The Challenges
In this passage the apostle notifies and explains his purpose of visiting them,
His purpose: he intended to pass out of Asia, where he now was and to go through Macedonia into Achaia, where Corinth was, and to stay some time with them, and perhaps the winter, v. 5, v. 6. He had long laboured in this church, and done much good among them, and had his heart set upon doing much more (if God saw fit), and therefore he had it in his thoughts to see them, and stay with them.
The heart of a truly Christian minister must be much towards that people among whom he has long laboured, and with remarkable success. His stay among them, he hoped, would cure their factious humour, and reconcile them to himself and their duty.
In verse 7 he adds, “if the Lord permits”: This shows that though the apostles wrote under inspiration, they did not know thereby how God would dispose of them. All our purposes must be made with submission to the divine providence. We should say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this and that, James. 4:15 . It is not in us to effect our own designs, without the divine leave. It is by God’s power and permission, and under his direction, that we must do everything.
However, he intends to continue to stay in Ephesus for a while because a great door, and effectual was opened to him; many were prepared to receive the gospel at Ephesus, and God gave him great success among them; he had brought over many to Christ, and he had great hope of bringing over many more. Great success in the work of the gospel commonly creates many enemies. The devil opposes those most, and makes them most trouble, who most heartily and successfully set themselves to destroy his kingdom.
Adversaries and opposition do not break the spirits of faithful and successful ministers, but only enkindle their zeal, and inspire them with fresh courage.
Verses 10 -12 Recommendation of Timothy to Them, And Apollos’ Intended Visit
Here the apostle recommends Timothy to them. He bids them take care that he should be among them without feat. Timothy was sent by the apostle to correct the abuses which had crept in among them; and not only to direct, but to blame, and censure, and reprove, those who were culpable. They were all in factions, and no doubt the mutual strife and hatred ran very high among them.
He warns them against despising him. Faithful ministers are not only to be well received by a people among whom they may for a season minister, but are to be sent away with due respect. Timothy was employed in the same work as Paul, and acted in it by the same authority, v. 10. He did not come on Paul’s errand among them, nor to do his work, but the work of the Lord. Though he was not an apostle, he was assistant to one, and was sent upon this very business by a divine commission. And therefore, to vex his spirit would be to grieve the Holy Spirit; to despise him would be to despise him that sent him, not Paul, but Paul’s Lord and theirs. Those who work the work of the Lord should be neither terrified nor despised, but treated with all tenderness and respect.
Next, he informs them of Apollos’s purpose to see them. Though one party among them had declared for Apollos against Paul, yet Paul did not hinder Apollos from going to Corinth in his own absence, instead, he encouraged him to go. He had no suspicions of Apollos.
Verses 13 – 18 Admonishment onto Watchfulness, Constancy, Charity, And Paying Due Regard to Fellow Labourers In Their Work
In this passage the apostle gives some general advices;
1. That they should watch (v. 13), be wakeful and upon their guard. A Christian is always in danger, and therefore should ever be on the watch; but the danger is greater at some times and under some circumstances. The Corinthians were in manifest danger upon many accounts: their feuds ran high, the irregularities among them were very great, there were deceivers got among them, who endeavoured to corrupt their faith in the most important articles, those without which the practice of virtue and piety could never subsist. And surely in such dangerous circumstances it was their concern to watch.
2. He advises them to stand fast in the faith, to keep their ground, adhere to the revelation of God, and not give it up for the wisdom of the world, nor suffer it to be corrupted by it—stand for the faith of the gospel, and maintain it even to death
3. He advises them to act like men, and be strong: "Act the manly, firm, and resolved part: behave strenuously, in opposition to the bad men who would divide and corrupt you, those who would split you into factions or seduce you from the faith: be not terrified nor inveigled by them; but show yourselves men in Christ, by your steadiness, by your sound judgment and firm resolution.
4. He advises them to do everything in charity: Our zeal and constancy must be consistent with charity. When the apostle would have us play the man for our faith or religion, he puts in a caution against playing the devil for it. We may defend our faith, but we must, at the same time, maintain our innocence, and not devour and destroy, and think with ourselves that the wrath of man will work the righteousness of God, James. 1:24.
He gives further advice on how they should behave towards those that had been faithful in the service of God. He gives us their character
(1.) The household of Stephanas is mentioned by him, and their character is, that they were the first-fruits of Achaia, the first converts to Christianity in that region of Greece in which Corinth was.
(2.) He mentions Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, as coming to him from the church of Corinth. The account he gives of them is that they supplied the deficiencies of the church towards him, and by so doing refreshed his spirit and theirs, v. 17, v. 18. They gave him a more perfect account of the state of the church by word of mouth than he could acquire by their letter, and by that means much quieted his mind, and upon their return from him would quiet the minds of the Corinthians.
Verses 20 – 24 Conclusion: Solemn Admonition and Good Wishes
And in this last solemn warning he traces all these vices to their fountainhead-the defect of love to Jesus Christ-and warns of their fatal issue. ‘Let him be Anathema.’
But he will not leave these terrible words for his last. The thunder is followed by gentle rain, and the sun glistens on the drops; ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ Nor for himself will he let the last impression be one of rebuke or even of warning. He desires to show that his heart yearns over them all; so he gathers them all-the partisans; the poor brother that has fallen into sin; the lax ones who, in their misplaced tenderness, had left him in his sin; the misguided reasoners who had struck the Resurrection out of the articles of the Christian creed-he gathers them all into his final salutation, and he says, ‘Take and share my love-though I have had to rebuke-amongst the whole of you.’
Parts of this study was culled from biblestudytools.com