Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of I Corinthians for a long time. It is the second longest book that Paul wrote. The Book of Romans is the longest book Paul wrote. I Corinthians is just a few paragraphs shorter. We came to the final chapter of the book. I want to finish the book tonight.
On the surface, the chapter seems to be that exciting. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot there, just a few greetings to some people. Actually, there are some great lessons for us in this chapter on giving and decision making. It is a very practical chapter. We see a very different side of Paul in this chapter. The first lesson has to do with money (16:1-4).
Before we look at what Paul says here, I need to give you a little background. One of the big problems with the Church of Jerusalem was poverty. In the ancient world, poverty was a real issue.
Many people were poor. For some reason, this church in Jerusalem was poorer than other churches in the first century. There were a number of reasons for this. First, there were a number of widows in the church (Acts 6:1-6). Second, there was great persecution in the church (Acts 8:1).
Third, there was a famine in the city of Jerusalem that lasted four whole years (Acts 11:28). The poverty was so great that people had to sell their land and houses to get some money (Acts 4:34). They had to share everything they owned (Acts 4:32).
He had asked the churches in Galatia to do this (16:1). That would include a gift from the churches in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. From II Corinthians, we learn that some of the churches from Macedonia gave money to this collection as well. It is interesting to me that Paul NEVER asked for money for himself or for his own personal needs.
Many televangelists are always begging for money. Paul never asked for money for himself but on several occasions he asked for money to met the needs of others (Titus 3:13). He asked some of the other churches he planted to help out and now, he asks the Corinthians to do the same thing.
The Corinthians said, “Great. We are on board. We want to help”. This was not only an act of compassion; it was an act of unity. Here we see one church helping to the financial needs of Christians in another church. It is also a cross-cultural ministry.
Poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem are getting a big gift from all of these Gentile churches who wanted to help them. It would be like a white church helping a poor black church out financially. So the Corinthians wrote Paul a letter and one the things they said to Paul was, “We want to help but how do we do it?”.
Paul answers that question in 16:1-4. It begins with the words “now about” or “now concerning”. Whenever Paul gave an answer to one of their questions he always began with those words (“now about spiritual gifts” or “now about food offered to idols”)
Paul’s Collection (16:1-4)
Paul instructed them to have the collection ready before he got there, so that when he got there, he wouldn’t have to raise money. Then they were to choose men in the church who are trustworthy to take it to Jerusalem. People you can trust with a big bag of money. They don’t have to be experts in finance or business; they just have to be honest, godly people who are trustworthy. They got to pick who the men were.
Paul offered to go with them men. It would be his second trip to Jerusalem to help these poor Christians. Paul and Barnabus made a trip in Acts 11. That was before Paul’s first missionary journey. They were sent out as representatives of the church of Antioch.
We know from the Book of Romans, which was written from Corinth on his third missionary journey that he decided to go to Jerusalem with them (Romans 15:25-26). After taking the money there to help out some poor Christians, he gets arrested (Acts 20:22; 21:17; 24:17).
What stands out to me in this whole plan is Paul’s compassion for people. Paul writes the greatest love chapter in the Bible in I Corinthians 13 and in this chapter he says, “Do everything in love” (16:14). But Paul did not just talk about love, he demonstrated it. Paul’s Christianity was very practical.
Paul had a heart for poor Christians. He didn’t just ask people to pray for these poor Christians. He asked churches to give a gift to them and he helped deliver their gift to this group of believers in Acts 11:27-30. This is love in action. That gift apparently was not enough, so he asked them a make a second gift for them.
Does the church have an obligation to help the needy? Yes. We should try to help the needs of Christians in our own church and possibly some in other places that need out support (cf. James 1:27; Romans 12:13).
Since this was something that Paul told all of his churches do, it is something that churches should still do today. The church is a body. When one member suffers, they all suffer (I Corinthians 12:26).
When I was living in Chicago and going to Harvest Bible Chapel, I was out of work for a year and a half. I was on unemployment and was trying to find a job but couldn’t find one for the longest time.
My unemployment check didn’t cover all of my expenses and bills to support five kids. I will never forget one day in December around Christmas time, after small group, some of the men handed me a check and I was shocked. We actually had some money to buy Christmas presents that year.
Another thing that stands out in this section is Paul’s integrity. Paul was very careful when it came to money. Paul was not going to touch the money at all to avoid any hint of a scandal. He did not want to come as a fund-raiser. The Corinthians were to raise the money. The Corinthians were to keep the money and they were to send the money by messengers of their own choosing.
They chose the men and all Paul did was to commend the men. Paul did not want to give anyone the impression that he was taking this money for himself. His personal integrity was at stake. Later on his life says, “I have coveted no man’s silver, no man’s gold, and no man’s apparel” (Acts 20:33). Paul was not doing this for himself. He did not even take a salary from the churches he started, although he had a right to.
Paul then gives the Corinthians four principles of giving in this section. They are not the only principles of giving. There are more in other passages of Scripture but there are five that stand out in this section.
Five Principles for Giving
1. Giving is to be Mandatory
This giving was not to be optional but mandatory. Who was supposed to give? Paul says, “Each one of you” (16:2). Every Christian in the church was expected to give. Paul wanted all to give. They weren’t expected to all give the same amount but they were all expected to give.
Rich people were expected to give and poor people were expected to give. Remember, there were both rich and poor people in this church (11:21). If you are completely broke, you can throw a quarter or a penny in the offering.
Even the poor in the OT had to bring some kind of an offering to God. If they could not afford to buy cattle or sheep, they could bring a turtle-dove or pigeon and if they could not afford that, they could bring some flour (Leviticus 5:7-13).
2. Giving is to be Planned
Giving was to be planned, not just spontaneous. Paul says that they were to set this money aside (16:2). They were to come to church with this already prepared. They were not to go and wait until the Spirit moves them to take your wallet out.
3. Giving is to be Proportionate
Giving is to be proportionate to your income. Some will give more than others. How much were they to give? This may seem a little strange but Paul doesn’t say how much they were to set aside for this collection. His only rule is that we should give “as God has prospered”.
Paul does not tell each person to give a certain amount. He does not even tell each person to give a certain percent. He doesn’t say, “On the first day of the week, everyone should bring in ten percent of their income”.
II Corinthians 9:7 says, “each decide in your heart how much to give”. That is very different from a predetermined amount that everyone is required to give. Giving is to be “according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (II Corinthians 8:12; cf. Ezra 2:69).
4. Giving is to be Regular
It was to be done “on the first day of the week”. Why was that day chosen? It was because that was when the church met (on Sunday).
Keith Krell is absolutely right here when he says, “This implies that people got paid once a week in the first century, and that’s why they are encouraged to give once a week. If you get paid twice a month I’m sure God will accept your giving twice a month. The important point is that you give on a regular basis.”
5. Giving is to be Voluntary
Giving was a command. It wasn’t optional but Paul does not use high pressure tactics to get people to give, like the telemarketers or door-to-door salesman that try to twist your arm to get money. It was to be voluntary as the Lord has prospered you (II Corinthians 9:7). Giving is a command but the specific amount we give is between you and God. It is voluntary.
Paul’s Coming (16:5-9)
After talking about the collection (16:1-4), Paul talks about his coming (16:5-9). Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote I Corinthians. Ephesus is in modern-day Turkey. Paul had some definite plans. He wanted to get from Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) to Corinth (modern-day Greece) and he wanted to get there through Macedonia.
That was not the shortest way on the map but he wanted to visit the churches he started on his second missionary journey. When he gets to Corinth, he wanted to spend some time there (16:7) but he did not want to leave immediately, because he had an open door to minister in Ephesus.
When he finally gets to Corinth, he wanted to stay for a while and spend some quality time with the Corinthians. Remember, this church had all kinds of problems.
Lessons on Decision Making
1) It is not wrong for us to make plans or to set goals.
They should be based on prayer and godly counsel but they are not wrong (Proverbs 12:5). Paul made his plans and we make plans all of the time (go to this school or that school, marry this person, go into this profession).
2) ALL plans are subject to the will of God.
God is sovereign over all of our plans (Proverbs 19:21). That is why Paul says, “I hope to spend some time with you, IF THE LORD PERMITS” (16:7). Paul left all his plans up to the will of the God. God often thwarts some of our plans and that is why we need to pray, “if it is your will” (James 4:13-15). That was a prayer that even Jesus prayed (“not my will but yours be done”).
3) We need to maximize our opportunities.
Paul wanted to minister in Ephesus and he wanted to go to Corinth and minister but the door in Ephesus was still open. People were receiving the gospel in Ephesus so he was not ready to leave yet. We need to make the most of the opportunities God gives us.
Ephesians 5:16 says that we are to “make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil”. The problem is that we often waste the opportunities God gives us. For parents, it means making the most of the time they have with their kids before they leave the house.
Paul’s Companions (16:10-12)
He said that Timothy is coming to see you right now but Apollos is not. Timothy was coming to see them (cf. 4:17) but Paul was concerned about him. Some of the Corinthians didn’t like Paul and they were going to treat Timothy (Paul’s right–hand man) with contempt.
The same word is used in Luke 18:9. They looked down on him. They despised him. He wasn’t an apostle and didn’t have the gifts or authority that Paul had. The lesson here is that people who minister the Word of God should be treated with respect and should be honored, not dishonored.
Apollos is not coming. This is interesting. The Corinthians liked Apollos better than they liked Paul. He was more popular. That didn’t bother Paul. He still got along fine with Apollos. He still encouraged Apollos to go see the Corinthians but for some reason he did not want to go at that time. Paul as an Apostle did not say that he had to go right then.
Paul’s Commands (16:13-14)
Paul lists five closing commands for the Corinthians.
1. Be on your guard (16:13)
2. Stand firm in the faith (16:13)
3. Be courageous (Greek says “act like men” or “be manly” (16:13)
4. Be strong (16:13)
5. Do everything in love (16:14)
Paul’s Consideration (16:15-18)
Paul mentions the names of three people – Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. They were apparently the three people that carried the letter of the Corinthians with their questions to the Apostle Paul. Paul talks a lot about Stephanas. This is a person who was apparently not treated too well in the church.
Some may not have respected him. He says two things about him. He was one of the first people saved in the whole area (Greece). He is an older Christian. In fact, he was one of the very few people Paul baptized (1:16). Paul also says that he is devoted to ministry.
Paul’s Conclusion (16:19-24)
Here we have Paul’s final greetings. Notice the reference to house churches. Aquila and Priscilla had a church that met in their house. Churches did not meet in church buildings until the third century. After the greetings, he put on a curse. He says, “cursed is anyone who does not love the Lord Jesus”.
The KJV reads “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” Anathema is a Greek word (cursed). Maranatha is an Aramaic word (our Lord comes). Mar=Lord. An =our. Atha=comes.
The KJV does not put any punctuation between the two words, which is a mistake. It combines a curse and a prayer. There should be a period between the two words. This raises an important question for you to answer. Do you LOVE the Lord Jesus?
That is strong language. There is no neutrality when it comes to Jesus. You either love him or hate him. Those who hate him are under a divine curse. They end up in Hell. How can you tell if you love Jesus? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Notice how Paul ends his letter. He signs it. He autographs it. Someone else wrote the letter. He used a secretary and dictated the letter. There were no computers in the first century. All letter writing was done by hand. Maybe his handwriting was really bad but at the end he signed it. He did this with all of his letters (Colossians 4:18; II Thessalonians 3:17).
Why did he do it? To guarantee he wrote the letter. He did it for the same reason we sign a letter after typing it. He also did it because people tried to forge his letters and write letters in his name (II Thessalonians 2:2).