I CORINTHIANS

CHAPTER 16

This chapter is more than a collection of Paul's different parting thoughts to the Corinthians. It is also a conclusion to the subject of this letter. Throughout the letter the Corinthians were called to life with a spiritual focus. The people mentioned in this chapter provide important illustrations of that spiritually centered life.

Rather than examine this chapter phrase by phrase, we shall survey it in groups of verses. However, we shall spend a little extra time with a few important words.

Verses 1-4

Paul wants the Corinthians to contribute weekly to a special collection that will be sent to the church at Jerusalem. Paul hopes to come to them and send some qualified Corinthians to deliver the accumulated gift. He is also willing to accompany them to Jerusalem, if that seems best at the time.

Verse 2, "Upon the first day of the week"

In Greek, the words "day" and "week" are not in this phrase. The word "upon," kata, can mean "down upon" or "according to." The word "first" is mian, which can be translated "one" (I Cor. 6:16, "one"; 10:8, "one"). The words "day of the week" are a translation of the single word sabbatou, a genetive form of the word "Sabbath," which is the Hebrew word for "rest." A straightforward rendering of the phrase is "according to one of the rest."

The impression we get when we rewrite the phrase in this way is that there is a selection of "rests," one of which is to be chosen as the pattern for the Corinthians' behavior. One Sabbath rest is the seventh day ceremonial Sabbath which Moses describes in Leviticus 23. Is there another Sabbath? Yes, there is. Hebrews 4:9 declares that there still remains a Sabbath rest for those people whom God calls as His people. The word "rest" in that verse is the word sabbatismos, essentially the same word as is used in I Corinthians 16:2. Who are the people of God? According to II Corinthians 6:16, God's people include the Corinthian believers, in fact, all those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Hebrews 4:10 explains the character of rest God has in mind in verse 9. Although verse 10 uses a form of the noun katapausis for "rest" and a form of the verb katapauo for "hath ceased" rather than the word sabbaton, we can say that it is talking about the same rest as the Sabbath rest of verse 9. The equivalence of the words is shown by the fact that the word "rest" in Hebrews 4:4 (a translation of a form of katapauo) is used in the quote of Genesis 2:2 which uses the Hebrew word shabath for "rest." The point is that what we learn about the use of the word "rest" in the book of Hebrews we can apply to the word sabbaton or "Sabbath" as it occurs in I Corinthians 16:2.

Hebrews 4:10 teaches that a believer who has entered into his rest is a person who stops from his own work, from his own effort to achieve something before God. A comparison with Ephesians 2:9 reveals that the work in view is the work to obtain salvation. A comparison with Titus 3:5 reveals that the work in view is the work to obtain righteousness. According to Hebrews 4:1-3,11 and Romans 4:4-5, the only rest that is obtained without works is the rest of salvation. It is the rest that is obtained not by means of works but through faith.

Salvation can be described as a "rest" because salvation means a believer is no longer required to obey the Law perfectly to please God, he no longer is running to escape from the pursuit of an angry God, and he is released from the slavery of being subject to the sinful commands of the flesh.

Hebrews 4:4 and 9-11 tell us the rest of salvation was prefigured by God's rest after creation. The idea is that God has done all that must be done for salvation. We simply enjoy the blessings of that rest. Hebrews 3:11,18 and 4:8 tell us the rest of salvation was prefigured by Israel's entrance into Canaan, led by Joshua. The idea is that the physical rest was not the real rest God promised them. Most wanted the physical rest they saw and not the promised spiritual rest of which Canaan was only a picture. Hebrews 4:7-9 tells us the rest of salvation is still available by faith today, just as it was then. We, as well as they, have heard the Gospel (Heb. 4:2). What do we do with that Word? We must be eager (Heb. 4:11, "labour" = "eager") to enter into it. Otherwise, the Word of God will be a witness against us.

Therefore, the phrase in I Corinthians 16:2 "according to one of the rest" can be understood as "according to the rest given by Jesus Christ" (Matt. 11:28).

In the context of the chapter, we can think of verse 2 in two different ways. One way can be expressed as, "In the manner in which God has given you grace of salvation, so give to the needs of others" (II Cor. 8:7-9)." From another perspective, it is possible to support the King James Bible's translation of "upon the first day of the week." However, we arrive at that not because of a direct translation, but on the basis of a spiritual understanding of the word "rest." Let us show how we can arrive at this second view of verse 2.

In the Old Testament, there was one rest which all of God's people had to observe, the rest of the seventh day Sabbath. That rest was one of the ceremonial laws (Lev. 23:1-3). In the New Testament, two Sabbaths are mentioned. In Matthew 28:1, for example, the words "in the end of the Sabbath" can be more directly rendered as "the evening of the Sabbaths," or we could think of it as saying "after one of the Sabbaths." Since it is a plural word, we must ask which one of the Sabbaths is in view? The answer is the ceremonial Sabbath observed on Saturday, that Sabbath had just ended when we read Matthew 28:1. The words "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" can be more directly rendered as "at the drawing near into one of the Sabbaths." Again, which Sabbath does that refer to? It must be a different Sabbath than the previous one, one that begins after the Saturday Sabbath. It must be the Sunday day of rest. In other words, Sunday, the first day of the week, is one of the Sabbaths.

According to Hebrews 4:5-9, the Jews who correctly observed the ceremonies as described by the Law still had to seek the rest of another Sabbath. The ceremonial Sabbath they observed was only a picture of the rest which the Messiah would obtain by the work of His own personal sacrifice for sin. In itself, the ceremonial Sabbath was nothing. In fact, it was a work which could easily be a snare to those who thought that by faithfully observing the ceremony they would please God. They had to learn that a person who lives by his own works must obey the Law perfectly. One slip and he is condemned, no matter how faithful he is in all other areas of his life (Gal. 3:10, James 2:10). This is an impossible standard for man because they are part of Adam's fallen race. The hope is the promise to which the Saturday Sabbath pointed. The ceremonies pointed to that other rest that is found through faith and not works (Rom. 4:4, 5, Heb. 4:1-3). A person who trusts in God's finished work of salvation rests from the demands of the Law because Jesus Christ met all those demands on his behalf (Matt. 11:28, 29, Gal. 2:16, Eph. 2:9, Heb. 4:10).

Believers no longer obey the ceremonial law of which the Saturday Sabbath was a part (Lev. 23:2, 3, Col. 2:16, 17). That ceremony was a picture of the rest which the Messiah would obtain by His personal sacrifice for sin. When Jesus came, He fulfilled that picture, and it was set aside as a physical ceremony. The spiritual rest it promised is still found in Christ Himself. According to Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, and John 19:31, Jesus rose again on the day following the ceremonial Sabbath. He rose on a Sunday, the first day of the week. That is the day Jesus Christ completed His salvation plan and secured the true spiritual rest for His people.

The Christian Sabbath or rest is the promised spiritual rest of salvation. The day of its celebration is on the day the promise was fulfilled. Therefore, the first day of the week is the day believers properly gather to worship their Savior and bless Him for the rest He has obtained for them. Because Jesus Christ worked, believers rest from the requirement to obey the Law perfectly to please God, rest from the pursuit of any angry God, and rest from the slavery of their sinful flesh. This rest is the "sabbath" mentioned in I Corinthians 16:2 and can be rewritten as "the first day of the week" to highlight its distinction from the ceremonial Sabbath. The "sabbath" of I Corinthians 16:2 is the same as the second "sabbath" of Matthew 28:1, Sunday, the day when Jesus arose, the day that showed God had done His work so that His people can now rest.

"let every one of you lay by him in store"

The word "him" is heauto, which has a strong, individual emphasis. It is used in a little different form in John 10:18 ("myself") to indicate a personal act in which there is no intervention or participation by another. Contrary to the common view of this verse, the idea is not that the church must weekly collect money from its members, thereby accumulating a fund for distribution as the need arises. Rather, the thought is that each member must privately and personally cultivate a habit of reserving part of what he has for the needs of others. Later, when a need arises, those individual savings amounts are gathered to meet that need.

This is a much stronger teaching than is normally applied to the verse. The verse demands a personal habit of reserving something for the Lord, rather than a public affair of giving. Paul expects each man to be spiritually mature enough to save a portion for the Lord's work and give it up as it is called for. This requires discipline and a strong spiritual focus, especially as each man begins to see those funds which he dedicated to the Lord grow. The temptation would be to use them for the urgent personal needs of the day, rather than give them to the important needs of the church later.

According to the first four verses of this chapter, a spiritual person is able to recognize that there is a better rest in the Lord than in what a man can find in the world. Therefore, he is willing to set aside some of the material blessings God gives him, focusing not on how others can help him, but on how he can help others.

Verses 5-9

These verses explain that Paul is on his way to Corinth and hopes to spend the winter with them. However, he will temporarily work in Ephesus because God has given him opportunity to preach the Gospel.

Verse 9, "a great door ... is opened"

According to Colossians 4:3, this phrase refers to an opportunity which God has created for Paul to preach the Gospel. No one can go through a closed door. God must open the door and we must walk faithfully. Notice that the open door also means that "there are many adversaries." Opposition to a faithful minister's work is not an indication of a closed door. In fact, opposition can mean the door is "great" and "effectual." Opposition is often an indication that the Gospel is doing its spiritual work and angering the adversaries. A description of Paul's work in Ephesus is found in Acts 19 (notice Acts 19:20).

It is not too much to say that the word "door" refers also to the Lord Jesus Christ. If we take the principle of I Corinthians 2:13 seriously, we must compare I Corinthians 16:9 with John 10:9 and Revelation 4:1. Then we can conclude that this verse is proclaiming the fact that the way to heaven is now open. Salvation is through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Rather than referring to a specific physical circumstance which Paul recognized as an opportunity to bring the Gospel, this verse is saying that salvation is now available to all who would believe at all times and in all situations (II Cor. 6:2). The "adversaries" are all those who always oppose the spiritual Gospel of salvation from sin (I Cor. 1:18,23). The fact that there are many adversaries is business as usual. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great door and an effective door. He is the all powerful Savior, more powerful than any adversaries (I John 4:4).

Incidentally, verses 5 through 9 give us the reason why Paul did not go to Corinth and set things straight personally. These verses also provide the historical background for such verses as 4:18,19 and the last half of 11:34.

Verses 5 through 9 illustrate true spiritual love by how Paul deals with the Corinthians. We might think that after hearing about the Corinthians' problems, Paul in his frustration and sadness would abandon them to their rebellion. However, he really likes the Corinthians and desires to spend time with them. He may have personally refused material help from them because of good reasons, but he still has confidence in them as a church and believes that God can use them to help others.

Verses 10-12

These verses continue the thought of verses 5 through 9. Paul is happy to send several people to them ahead of his own intended arrival, not just to check up on them, but to find fellowship and mutual support. He expects them to give Timothy a good reception.

Verse 10, "without fear"

This does not refer to Timothy's fear, but to the Corinthians' fear. Quite probably, this refers to the fear they might have when they are spoken to by Timothy. Timothy is not a fearful person, but his words, the words of the Gospel he brings, are fearful words to the disobedient. This, together with the words "in peace" (verse 11), reminds us that it is certainly one of Paul's hopes that the Corinthians take heed to those people who come to them in the name of the Lord (I Cor. 4:16-20).

Verse 12, "his will was not at all to come at this time"

They should not take Apollo's refusal to accompany the group to Corinth personally. The words "convenient time" do not convey the idea the Corinthians are low on Apollo's priorities. The words do not mean "when he feels like it." They are, in a different form, used in Hebrews 4:16 to express the "time of need" when we find grace. That time is "today," when the Gospel is available. Quite probably, Apollos, being a faithful steward, recognized an opportunity or convenient time to bring the Gospel where he was. Later, when he felt it was spiritually beneficial, he would also come to them again with the Gospel.

Verses 13,14

We can look at these verses in three ways. First of all, these verses can be thought of as principles. They are the spiritual standards which God has set for His people. Notice that there are no modifying phrases or exceptions. The commands of these verses are what God's people must strive for in all situations. No physical deficiency or difficulty will release us from the requirement to do what is said in these verses. No extenuating circumstances make us exempt. That is what we learned from I Corinthians 7:17-24.

Secondly, we can think of these verses as expressing Paul's confidence in them. Paul can expect these spiritual goals to be successfully reached by many in the Corinthian church. It is reasonable to expect people who are truly spiritual to have the power to obey spiritual standards. Paul would not have bothered to write this letter if he thought no one would listen to what he said or make an effort to obey. Paul believes many in the congregation will be a positive spiritual influence. Paul is not asking too much nor would he be surprised if they actually did what God desires (I Cor. 1:4).

Thirdly, we can think of these verses as a description of a truly spiritual person. These verses describe what a spiritual person really wants to do. A spiritual person would agree with the things Paul wrote here. It is his delight to seek these spiritual attributes because they glorify and please his Lord, Jesus Christ. These verses describe what God would do in all situations, and spiritual people want to imitate Him (I Cor. 11:1,2).

Verse 13, "quit you like men"

These words are one in Greek, andrizesthe. It is used only here in the Bible and gives the idea of "play or act as a man." While the word aner, upon which it is based, is a word reserved for man as a male, distinct from female (Matt. 1:16, "husband"; Matt. 14:21, "men"), these words apply to all believers, male or female. The idea is that acting as a man, or someone who is grown up and able to shoulder the responsibilities required of him, is a noble goal towards which all believers should strive (Phil. 3:13, 14).

Verses 15-18

In these verses, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they should honor and support God's servants who do His will.

Verse 17, "for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied"

This phrase does not mean that Paul is rebuking the Corinthians because they did not provide him with material help. Paul did not expect any, nor desire any for reasons which he gave in this letter. Rather, it is a statement of fact. The Corinthians were far away. Therefore, they were not there to help him. Paul was supported by the three men mentioned in this verse.

A similar idea is found in Philippians 2:30. Inasmuch as Paul was quite content with the provision the Philippians provided him, Philippians 2:30 must refer to the fact that when he wrote the letter to the Philippians, he was not with them. Epaphroditus took care of any physical needs which the Philippians could not directly give to him. In a similar way, we can think of I Corinthians 16:17 as an encouragement to the Corinthians. Paul is saying, "See, God always provides what He knows His servants need. Although I am not with you, do not worry. I am O.K. Your prayers for me are being answered."

Verses 19-24

These verses reveal the spiritual concern different members of the church have for each other. No matter what difficulties and immaturities one part of the church struggles with, the spiritual members of other parts of the church have a heart that wants the very best for those in trouble.

The Greek word aspazomai is found so often in these verses that it deserves a little attention. It occurs twice as "salute" in verse 19, twice as "greet" in verse 20, and in the form of the noun "salutation" in verse 21. Its root word, spomai, is used only twice. It means "drawing out a sword" (Mark 14:47, Acts 16:27). With the prefix a, the word means "to keep one's weapon sheathed" as a gesture of nonaggression. The spiritual point could be that while the sins of the Corinthian church were well known to the other congregations, no one had a desire to bear the sword of God's Word in judgment against them. The greatest encouragement for people who are struggling to put aside their sin and return to a more obedient life is the nonjudgmental, patient, friendly, warm, and supportive love of other spiritual people.

Verse 22, "Anathema Maranatha"

The best understanding of the Aramaic word maranatha is "the Lord comes." The idea of the verse is the frightening fact that the Lord comes with a curse for all who do not love Him. If a person does not love the Lord, then there are no real words of encouragement and support that can be given. The only thing such a man can look forward to is the coming of the Lord in judgment. If the Corinthians are acting like those who do not love the Lord but love this world instead, they ought to reconsider before it is too late.

Verses 23,24, "The grace of our Lord ... my love be with you"

After the final warning in the above verse, the letter ends in a positive, hopeful tone. God has His plan for every individual who has ever lived on the earth. Paul's personal desire is that the plan for the Corinthians includes grace. It is certain that he cares for them. The whole letter has been an expression of his love for them, the love that is found in Jesus Christ. It is his prayer that the Corinthians experience the greatest of all spiritual blessings, grace.

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