Our study of Paul’s first letter to believers in Corinth concludes with today’s Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 16), and introduces the apostle’s second letter to the same congregation (2 Corinthians 1).
After an inspiring passage on the hope of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15), Paul concluded his letter with practical instructions, and a loving salutation (1 Corinthians 16).
Guidelines for Giving (16:1-4)
The letter was written at a time believers in Jerusalem were in the midst of dire straits. In other Scripture passages, Paul instructed the churches to collect a special offering to aid the impoverished believers in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 9:1; Acts 24:17). It is speculation on my part, but I believe the poverty experienced by the Jerusalem church was a result of prejudice and persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:14).
1 Corinthians 16:2-4 is instructive in the manner the offering was to be collected, and taken to the Jerusalem church. Briefly, Paul instructed the believers on:
1) When the offering was taken: “the first day of the week”
2) From whom the offering was taken: “every one of you”
3) How the offering was prepared: Set aside, or “lay by him in store”
4) The basis of the offering: “as God hath prospered him”
5) The urgency: Paul insisted the offerings be collected in advance, “that there be no gatherings when I come.”
6) Who was to administrate and deliver the offering? – “Whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality [gift] unto Jerusalem” (16:3). It was Paul’s intent to accompany the Corinthian brethren as they carried the offerings to believers in Jerusalem.
Though much of his letter was spent in addressing problems in Corinth, nevertheless, Paul hoped to spend the winter with the believers there (16:6). In his prolonged absence, he determined to send Timothy to Corinth, a man whom he loved as a son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:2). Concerning Timothy, who was a young minister, Paul urged the Corinthians to show him the respect of one who “worketh the work of the Lord” (16:10).
Closing thoughts (16:13-14) – So much more might be considered, but I close our study with a believer’s call to duty: 1) “Watch ye” – Be alert, vigilant; 2) “Stand fast in the faith” – Refuse false teachings, and defend the truth; 3) “Quit you like men” – Be bold, courageous in your ministry; 4) “Be strong” – Stand against the wiles of the devil and the world; 5) Do everything “with charity” (note, 1 Corinthians 13).
Paul’s first epistle to Corinth contained many admonitions induced by its carnality, divisions, and failure to deal with sin in the congregation. His second letter manifested the joy, and loving compassion of a faithful pastor, and apostle of Jesus Christ.
When the believers in Corinth received Paul’s admonitions in his first epistle, they humbled themselves, and repented of their sins. No wonder Paul’s opening salutation in his second letter to Corinth was one of rejoicing. After sending Timothy to Corinth for a season, he had returned to Paul (1:1; 1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Though he found himself in the midst of persecutions and afflictions, he nevertheless bid the Corinthian believers God’s loving favor and peace (1:2). The old apostle rejoiced, writing, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies [compassion], and the God of all comfort [encouragement]” (1:3).
Suffering Equips Believers to Comfort and Encourage Others (1:4-8)
A scarred veteran of persecutions, Paul assured believers, “the God of all comfort” (1:3) would comfort and console them in their times of trouble (1:4a). To what end had he suffered? “That we [Paul and other suffering believers] may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (1:4b).
Who better to bring aid and help to another, than one who had known trouble, and found God’s comfort was sufficient? Paul gave hope to believers who found themselves suffering hardships for Christ’s sake, and assured them by his own experiences, Christ’s comfort exceeded his sorrows (1:5b).
Looking beyond his troubles, Paul took comfort knowing he would be better equipped to minister to others in their trials (1:6). Unshaken by his sorrows, he had an affinity for believers going through similar trials, and encouraged them that his confidence and hope for them had not wavered (1:7).
Closing thoughts (1:8-9) – Unashamed by the sorrows and afflictions he had borne, Paul confessed he knew what it was to be so overcome with trouble he “despaired even of life” (1:8). In fact, the toil of trouble had so exhausted his strength he thought he might die (1:9a). It was in the hour of his extremity; he learned what every believer should know:
We dare not trust ourselves, but “but [trust] in God which raiseth the dead” (1:9).
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