1 Corinthians 16:5-24 (Concluding exhortations)

Writing letter to a friend.

Paul customarily ended his letters with a series of personal notes. It was a challenge to get a letter from place to place in ancient Rome. Normally, this was done by sending a scroll with a trusted friend.

Given that letter writing was based on friendships, and how much more difficult it would be to prepare separate scrolls, the custom had evolved of combining the text into a single letter. Besides, these personal notes helped remind people that Paul was a person who loved them, not just an authority figure with a pen and parchment.

(1Co 16:5-9 ESV)  I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia,  6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go.  7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.  8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost,  9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 

It’s ironic (to us) that Paul declares Ephesus a “wide door for effective work” with “many adversaries.” We want to shout, “Paul! Get your story straight! Which is it?” But with Jesus on his side, the adversaries will not prevail, and so it’s both.

(1Co 16:10-11 ESV) 10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.  11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Seems rather odd to say, regarding young Timothy, “let no one despise him.” What’s the deal?

I’ve only seen this thought from Ray Vander Laan and the People’s NT Commentary, who point out that Timothy was a mamzer under Torah. “Mamzer” is often misunderstood to mean illegitimate or a bastard, but that’s not quite right. Rather, a mamzer is the child of a sexual union banned by Torah, especially Leviticus 18. It could be a child of incest or, as in the case of Timothy, the child of a Jew and Gentile.

Among the Jews, a mamzer was despised and denied access to the Temple. After all, the Samaritans, considered lower than dogs, were mamzerim. The church in Corinth clearly had Jewish members, who would have been raised to detest a mamzer. And for all we know, the Gentiles felt a similar revulsion, responding in kind.

Paul refuses to let such attitudes govern his decisions about who will represent him in Corinth, but neither is he is so Pollyanna-ish as to imagine that Timothy’s birth heritage won’t become an issue. And so he speaks directly to them, insisting that Timothy must be accepted.

(1Co 16:12 ESV) Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

Most translations take “will” as referring to Apollos’ will, but there is no “his” in the Greek. God’s will may be in mind.

(1Co 16:13-14 ESV) Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  14 Let all that you do be done in love. 

Paul’s concluding exhortations have a military air —

The first two admonitions– “Be on watch” and “Stand (firm)” are military imagery from Paul’s apocalyptic vision that believers are part of God’s army who are to be on alert, at their battle stations (cf. 1 Thess 5:6, 10); the second also has the eschatological aspect of standing before the judgment seat and being found worthy, hence the addition “in the faith” (10:12; 15:1; cf. Rom 14:10).159 While the third– “Conduct yourselves in a courageous way”–and fourth– “Be strong”–injunctions probably reflect Ps 30:24 LXX (31:25) and may also have battle significance, they also certainly relate to Paul’s chiding the Corinthians for being childish, for being babies in the faith, and for not having grown more mature in the faith. 

As is typically the case in Greco-Roman rhetoric, the most important injunction is reserved for last, and, appropriately, is the most elaborate in form: “Let all the things that you do be done in love” (16:14). As noted earlier, love is what is most missing in the multifarious transactions of the Corinthians, so Paul’s final injunction calls for love to be the guiding presence in all that the Corinthians do.

J. Paul Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), n.p.

In short, grow up!

(1Co 16:15-18 ESV) Now I urge you, brothers– you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints–  16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.  17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence,  18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul establishes a dynamic here we should all study —

Stephanas was being sent back to the Corinthians from Paul. The following verses indicate that he and his colleagues had proven themselves to be of great service to Paul, as he knew they had already been to the church in Corinth. He must have been confident that whatever leadership Stephanas and the people of his household might be able to exercise back in Corinth could only contribute to the greater health and vitality of that church. Paul was so confident that that was the case that he urged them to submit to them and to people like them. The words [“]and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it[“] points to a broader basis upon which to judge those whose leadership should be recognized. To join in the word and labor at it would include devoting oneself to the service of the Lord’s people (as Stephanas’s household had done), but would also include other kinds of Christian ministry as well, perhaps emphasizing those aspects the contributed to the missionary outreach of the church.

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), n.p.

Paul’s point is simply that we should respect — submit to — those among us who set an example in service to others.

Who gets to be a leader in the church of Christ? Those who submit to others in the work of the church.

(1Co 16:19 ESV) The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

“Prisca” is a shortened form of “Priscilla.” They hosted a church in their house. In fact, the grammar is likely that a part of the church met in their home. It appears that the typical early congregation had a citywide eldership but met in several homes — rather an ancient form of the multisite model, except the elders of the city were the elders of the city, not those congregations that happened to agree with them on every point of doctrine. Nor did the early church seek to extend the authority of an eldership outside the city.

(1Co 16:20 ESV)  20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 

Of course, we know that the holy kiss thing doesn’t apply today. We don’t even have to sort through the Greek and the grammar — because clearly kissing each other was a cultural thing that doesn’t apply in the modern American world. The eternal principle behind the rule is love and therefore a warm, familial greeting. Maybe a handshake in today’s culture. (It’s easy to see this principle when we really, really don’t want to do it.)

(1Co 16:21-24 ESV)  I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.  22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!  23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Paul surely dictated the original draft of this letter using an amanuensis.

Paul calls down a solemn curse on anyone who does not love (phileō; again in Paul only in Titus 3:15) the Lord. He does not speak of the absence of some special degree of love, but of the lack of love for Christ at all. Love is of central importance for all Christians. … The strong expression (immediately following Paul’s taking up the pen himself) shows the depth of the apostle’s feelings on the importance of a right attitude to the Lord. If anyone’s heart is not aflame with love for the Lord, the root of the matter is not in him. He is a traitor to the cause of right. Paul cannot contemplate such a person calmly.

Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 7; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), n.p.

Maranatha is a difficult word.

He follows with the Aramaic Maranatha (which NIV translates Come, O Lord!). Being Aramaic, the expression cannot have originated among the Greeks, but must go back to the early days of the church in Palestine. Moreover it must have expressed a sentiment that the early church regarded as very important, else the foreign word would never have been taken over in this way by Greek-speaking Christians (we still use words like Hallelujah and Amen).

It is not certain how we should understand the expression. The first part is the word Mar which means ‘Lord’, and we should not overlook the importance of the ascription of this title to Jesus in the early days of the Palestinian church. ‘Our’ is conveyed in Aramaic by the addition of an or ana. The latter part of the expression is from the verb ʾatha, ‘to come’.

If we read atha it might mean ‘has come’, in which case there is a reference to the incarnation as Chrysostom held. Or it could mean ‘comes’ (cf. Matt. 18:20). It might even be future, ‘Our Lord will come’ (so Edwards; Conzelmann says this is impossible; Caird refers to Phil. 4:5).

Probably the best way of taking it is to divide the expression as Marana tha and take the verb as imperative, ‘Our Lord, come’ (a prayer like that in Rev. 22:20, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’). It would then express the eager longing felt by the church in those early days for the speedy return of the Lord. 

Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 7; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), n.p.

The letter that opened with grace (1:3) closes with an affirmation of grace (16:23), symbolizing that all the concerns of the letter–and indeed all of life–are enclosed in and supported simply and profoundly by God’s grace. Without God’s grace we cannot begin the day and face its challenges and opportunities; without God’s grace we cannot make the most of the opportunities and find the strength to meet the challenges; and without God’s grace we cannot find the peace that allows us to let go of all our unfinished work when the night comes and we must rest.

J. Paul Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), n.p.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to 1 Corinthians 16:5-24 (Concluding exhortations)

  1. Alabama John says:

    Paul was single so I take what he says about women and marriage with a grain of salt.

  2. Dwight says:

    Paul was single in his journey’s but there is fair evidence he had a wife. I cor.9:5 “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” He was a Pharisee and of the Sanhedrin court, which usually meant they had a wife according to the Jewish system.
    This doesn’t mean he did as there is no evidence of this, but he could have.
    Most quote I cor.7:8 ” Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” to indicate he wasn’t married, which he wasn’t, but this doesn’t mean he coudln’t have had a wife. He was talking about being celibate, as the unmarried or the widows could stay if they practiced self-control. As noted of Joseph and Mary, Paul could have traveled with a wife without having relations with her.
    But it is all speculation either way.

  3. Alabama John says:

    Paul divorced or even worse? Way too speculative.

    He was single.

    Traveling with a wife is only celibate until you get to the first motel or dark dry place.

    Joseph knew his was pregnant by God, rest of us don’t.

  4. Dwight says:

    I never argued that Paul was divorced, but he could have a wife, without marrying her. And still Joseph traveled with Mary long distances as a wife without marrying Mary. We place very little stock in the fact that they were bound by or did many things that we find silly, such as having a wife, but not having sex until later. They practiced a lot more self control then we give them credit for.

  5. Alabama John says:

    Paul was single.

    Joseph and Mary were two very special humans chosen by God and they, (both of them) were an exception to the rest of us humans in so many ways.

    Remember Mary and Joseph had other children later, the normal way.

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