A. The collection for the Jerusalem church.
1. (1-2) Receiving the collection.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
a. Now concerning is used again in this letter (see also 1 Corinthians 7:1, 8:1, and 12:1). It means Paul is replying to something the Corinthian Christians asked about.
b. The collection for the saints: Paul refers to a collection he gathered for the saints in Jerusalem. In several other passages it speaks of this effort among many different churches to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30, 24:17, Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 8:13, 9:9-12).
i. As I have given orders to the churches of Galatia: Paul mentioned his heart for the poor Christians in Jerusalem in Galatians 2:9-10. “The business of relieving the poor members of the church, is a moral duty, a sacrifice with which God is well pleased, Philippians 4:18; our faith must work by this love.” (Poole)
ii. Why was the church in Jerusalem so needy? There may be many reasons. We know they supported a large number of widows (Acts 6:1-6) and were in the midst of famine (Acts 11:27-30).
iii. Generally, Christians have excelled in these efforts of practical ministry. For example, why do you think the Red Cross is named the Red Cross? It started as a Christian organization.
iv. Some have thought that because Christians are commanded to help the poor, especially Christians in need, that this is more important than supporting ministers of the gospel. But in 1 Timothy 5 Paul speaks of the responsibility of the church to honor widows, and to consider ministers of the gospel worthy of double honor. So, while Christians have a responsibility to help the poor, it does not come before the responsibility to support ministers of the gospel.
c. The collection for the saints: General principles from the Bible for supporting the poor in the church:
i. Benevolence distribution is a potential source of conflict and division, and it is the job of deacons to prevent such problems by their wise, Spirit-led actions (Acts 6:1-7).
ii. The church has an obligation to help the truly needy (James 1:27).
iii. The church must discern who the truly needy are (1 Timothy 5:3).
iv. If one can work to support himself, he is not truly needy and must provide for his own needs (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:11).
v. If one can be supported by their family, he is not truly needy and should not be supported by the church (1 Timothy 5:3-4).
vi. Those who are supported by the church must make some return to the church body (1 Timothy 5:5, 5:10).
vii. It is right for the church to examine moral conduct before giving support (1 Timothy 5:9-13).
viii. The support of the church should be for the most basic necessities of living (1 Timothy 6:8).
d. Collection for the saints: The ancient Greek word for collection is logia. It means, “an extra collection,” one that is not compulsory. This was not a “tax” upon the Christians of Corinth. They were free to give as their heart directed them.
i. It is also possible that the sense of “an extra collection” refers to the idea that this was a collection to receive gifts above their regular giving. Paul may be receiving a special offering for the poor of Jerusalem.
e. As I have given orders… so you must do also: For Paul, this was not an option. The Corinthian Christians were responsible to take an offering among themselves for the needs of the poor Christians of Jerusalem. They could not say, “money is unspiritual. We will just pray for them.”
i. This commandment coupled with the idea of “an extra collection” shows that they were commanded to take an offering, but not every Christian was commanded to individually give. They had to give as God put it on their heart to give.
f. On the first day of the week: Paul wanted their giving to be systematic, not haphazard. When they came together for worship and the word, they were commanded to receive an offering at the same time.
i. The first day of the week also refers to the fact that early Christians met on Sunday, not the Sabbath. They were not against meeting on the Sabbath; they just knew that all days were alike to the Lord (Colossians 2:16-17), and wanted to celebrate the day Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:1).
ii. “It is plain from hence, that the gospel churches were wont to assemble upon that day; nor do we read in Scripture of any assembly of Christians for religious worship on any other day.” (Poole)
g. Let each one of you: Who was supposed to give? Each one. Paul wanted all to give. Every Christian should be a giver, because God is a giver (John 3:16).
h. Lay something aside, storing up: This has the idea of coming to church with your gift already prepared. In other words, you should seek God about your gift at home, and prepare it at home. This makes one seek the Lord more in their giving, and helps them resist any manipulation to give.
i. As he may prosper: Believers who have more should give more. We should give proportionately; that is, if you give $10 a week when you make $100 a week, you should give more money when you make more money.
i. We shouldn’t fear giving generously. Proverbs 11:24 is a great commentary on this idea: There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. No one thinks a farmer is “wasting” grain when he scatters it as seed; the more he plants, the more he will harvest.
j. That there be no collections when I come: Paul didn’t want to manipulate anyone! He wanted giving from the heart, as each heart heard from God, and not in response to a high-pressure fund-raising program.
2. (3-4) Sending the gift to Jerusalem.
And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
a. Whomever you approve by your letters, I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem: Paul wanted a representative from the Christians in Corinth to help deliver the gift to Jerusalem. The Corinthian Christians could choose their own representative. Paul did this to be above reproach in financial matters.
b. Your gift: Literally, Paul calls giving a charis – a grace, a gift freely given. Paul calls it a grace, “because it flowed from their free love towards their poor brethren… or because their sense of the free love and grace of God to them, was that which moved them to that charitable act.” (Poole)
i. Sometimes Paul called giving a koinonia, which means “fellowship, sharing” (2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:13, Romans 15:26).
ii. Sometimes Paul called giving a diakonia, which means “a practical service or ministry” (2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:1, 9:12-13).
B. Concluding words.
1. (5-9) Paul’s plan to visit the Corinthian Christians.
Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
a. If the Lord permits: Paul leaves all his plans up to the will of the Lord. He planned to go through the region of Macedonia, visiting Corinth. But things happened differently than he planned. Instead, Paul made a soon, painful visit to Corinth to personally confront them in some areas.
i. “I know the fascination of having a programme, and having everything in order, and knowing where we are going; but let us leave room, at any rate, for the interference of God.” (Morgan)
b. I will tarry in Ephesus… for a great and effective door has opened to me. Why didn’t Paul go to Corinth immediately? Because he sees that God had given opportunity now in Ephesus. Paul wisely relied not only on his own desires, but also on God’s open doors. Paul knew the secret of directed service.
c. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries: Paul also knew that opposition often accompanies opportunities. Acts 19 speaks of both the opportunities and opposition Paul had in Ephesus at this time.
2. (10-11) Timothy’s coming to Corinth.
Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.
a. See that he may be with you without fear: Paul had trouble with the Corinthian Christians not respecting his authority as an apostle and as a minister of the gospel. If they didn’t respect Paul, what might they do to a young man like Timothy? So, Paul asks the Corinthian Christians to respect Timothy when he comes.
b. Let no one despise him: This echoes Paul’s later words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12. Apparently, Timothy suffered from both a lack of confidence and a lack of respect. It was important for God’s people to not take advantage of this in Timothy, and it was important for Timothy to never give others reason to despise him.
c. That he may come to me: Wherever Timothy was, he was on his way to see Paul, and would probably stop in Corinth on the way.
3. (12) Apollos will come to Corinth at a later time.
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.
a. I strongly urged him… but he was quite unwilling… he will come when he has a convenient time: Paul did not sit as a “commanding officer” over Apollos, who is mentioned among the apostles (1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22). This gives a rare insight about how the early church leaders related to each other. It was not a hierarchical relationship and Paul did not dictate his will to Apollos.
4. (13-14) Instructions to stand fast and to love.
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.
a. Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong: In a sense, each of these mean the same thing, simply saying it in a different way. Christians are to be like strong soldiers, on guard, watching for their Lord’s return.
i. Jesus commanded us to watch (Matthew 24:42, 26:41, Mark 13:37).
ii. Paul warned Christians to stand fast in their liberty in Jesus (Galatians 5:1), in Christian unity (Philippians 1:27), in the Lord Himself (Philippians 4:1), and in the teaching of the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
iii. This is the only place in the New Testament where the word translated be brave is used (andrizomai). Literally, it means, “to act like a man.” Be brave in the King James Version is quit you like men. That is a good, accurate translation of the idea behind the ancient Greek word.
iv. Christians are told to be strong in passages like Ephesians 6:10 and 2 Timothy 2:1.
v. “The terms in this verse are all military: Watch ye, watch, and be continually on your guard, lest you be surprised by your enemies… Stand fast in the faith – Keep in your ranks; do not be disorderly; be determined to keep your ranks unbroken; keep closetogether… Quit yourselves like men – When you are attacked, do not flinch; maintain your ground; resist; press forward; strike home; keep compact; conquer… Be strong – If one company or division be opposed by too great a force of the enemy, strengthen that division, and maintain your position… summon up all your courage, sustain each other; fear not, for fear will enervate you.” (Clarke)
b. Let all that you do be done with love: All the watching, all the standing fast, all the bravery, and all the strength the Corinthian Christians might show meant nothing without love. They were called to do all those things in a meek, humble spirit of love.
5. (15-18) Concerning Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus.
I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints—that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
a. Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus: These were the three men who brought the questions of the Corinthian Christians to Paul. As Paul sends them back with this letter, Paul asked that they be received as devoted servants of the Lord.
i. Apparently, Stephanas was the head of the household, and Fortunatus and Achaicus were two household slaves of his, who accompanied him on his visit to Paul. Fortunatus and Achaicus were common names for slaves or freedmen (former slaves).
ii. Fortunatus: “This man is supposed to have survived St. Paul; and to be the same mentioned by Clement in his epistle to the Corinthians, sec. 59, as the bearer of that epistle from Clement at Rome to the Christians at Corinth.” (Clarke)
b. They refreshed my spirit: Paul was especially grateful for their coming, because they ministered to Paul’s needs when they visited. They did what the Corinthian church should have, but did not (what was lacking on your part they supplied).
c. Therefore acknowledge such men: Paul could call the household Stephanas the firstfruits of Achaia because they were among the first saved in that region, and were baptized by Paul himself (1 Corinthians 1:16).
6. (19-20) Greetings from afar.
The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
a. Aquilla and Priscilla were a married couple who ministered with Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:1-3, 18:24-28). Now they were in Ephesus with Paul and sent their greetings to the Corinthian Christians.
b. The church that is in their house: The early church met in houses, because they had few meeting places of their own until the third century.
i. Clarke on the church that is in their house: “That is, the company of believers who generally worshipped there. There were no churches or chapels at that time built; and the assemblies of Christians were necessarily held in private houses… The house of Philemon was of the same kind; Philemon ver. 2. So likewise was the house of Nymphas, Colossians 4:15.”
ii. Morris notes that the entertaining room in a moderately well-to-do household could hold about 30 people comfortably. Therefore, in any given city, there were probably many different “house churches.”
c. Greet one another with a holy kiss: Jewish custom and early church tradition indicate that the holy kiss was a common greeting in that culture.
i. John Trapp on the holy kiss: “Not hollow, as Joab and Judas; not carnal, as that harlot, Proverbs 7:13.”
7. (21-24) Paul’s personal, final words.
The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s. If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
a. With my own hand: Paul had a secretary write the letters as he dictated them. Often he added a personal note at the end in his own handwriting – which seemed to be poor, according to Galatians 6:11.
b. If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed: Paul again stresses the importance of love, pronouncing a heavy curse on those who talk of commitment to Jesus, but have no genuine love for Him.
i. How can we tell if someone does or does not love the Lord Jesus Christ? “Love is an affection of the heart, but discernible by overt acts.” (Poole)
ii. Accursed uses the ancient Greek word anathema. Paul said in Romans 9:3 that he was willing himself to be anathema from Jesus if it could accomplish the salvation of the Jewish people
iii. In fact, anathema was the third of three levels of discipline among the ancient Jews. The first level was a simple separation of a man from the synagogue for 30 days. If one did not repent in the 30 days, he was under the second degree of discipline, giving him still an undefined time to repent, but warning him of the dire consequences to come. The third level was the anathema, and with that all hope of reconciliation and repentance was cut off. The man could never be reconciled to the synagogue, and was no longer accounted as a Jew at all.
c. Love the Lord Jesus Christ: How can we grow in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ?
i. Samuel Rutherford described how to grow in love to Jesus: “Strive to make prayer, and reading, and holy conference, your delight; and when delight cometh in, you shall, little by little, find the sweetness of Christ, till at length your soul be over head and ears in Christ’s sweetness. Then shall you be taken up to the top of the mountain with the Lord, to know the delights of spiritual love, and the glory and excellency of a seen, revealed, felt, and embraced Christ; and then you shall not be able to loose yourself off from Christ, and to bind your soul to old lovers; then, and never till then, are all the paces, motions, and wheels of your soul in a right tune and spiritual temper. But if this world and the lusts thereof be your delight, I know not what Christ can make of you; you cannot be metal for a vessel of glory and mercy. My desire is that that Lord would give me broader and deeper thoughts to feed myself with wondering at his love. I would I could weigh it, but I have no balance for it. When I have worn my tongue to the stump in praising Christ, I have done nothing to Him. What remaineth then, but that my debt to the love of Christ lie unpaid for all eternity!” (Cited in Meyer)
d. O Lord, come! Paul looked for the return of Jesus. Marana tha is Aramaic for O Lord, come! This was one of the earliest words of the Christian vocabulary.
e. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all: The letter ends with Paul pronouncing a blessing of grace and love towards the Corinthian Christians. Paul’s final word (before the Amen) is Jesus. He has emphasized Jesus from beginning to end in this letter.
f. Paul’s final words, written with his own hand, do much to reveal his heart of love, even though he had to rebuke these Corinthians strongly. It was Paul’s love, for both Jesus and His church that made him such a great apostle. Love, expressed through humble service, makes us great in the Kingdom of God.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission