Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:1-9 Sharing the burdens of others

1 Corinthians 16:1-9

1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

5 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

As I said in commenting on chapter 15, the Apostle Paul was a very practical theologian and church planter. In chapter 16 he deals with vital matters of human need within the body of Christ (verses 1-4) as well as plans for further contact and travel by himself (verses 5-9) and others (verses 11-12). He concludes chapter 16 with a series of exhortations and greetings; they are worthy of more attention than they sometimes receive.

Starting in 1 Cor. 1:2, Paul has stressed the relationship of the believers in Roman Corinth to all others belonging to Christ elsewhere. This expansion of their viewpoint was undoubtedly designed to help them discover their solidarity with Christians outside their own factions in Corinth. In verse 1, Paul reminds them of about the collection being taken to relieve the needs of believers in Jerusalem and urges them to imitate the similar effort of the churches in Galatia (located in what today would be central Turkey).

David Garland explains, We know from 2 Corinthians and Romans that he [Paul] hoped that the gift would cement the bond between the Gentile and Jewish Christian communities and that it would demonstrate that Christian unity transcended ethnic barriers and did not require Gentile Christians to become Jewish proselytes.[1] He further states that, in Greco-Roman society, charity toward strangers was not considered a virtue and was not connected with any expectation of reward from the gods. Jesus Christ demonstrated quite the opposite!

It was the common custom of Christians to gather on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2), in honor of both the resurrection of Christ and the coming day of the Lord. At that time every person in the church was expected to set aside their own money privately for the collection so that all would be ready for Pauls arrival. Of course, this begs the question: How much?

The key phrase about how much in 1 Cor. 16:2 has been translated as follows:

(NIV) in keeping with your income

(Revised English Bible) whatever he can afford

(New Jerusalem Bible) as each can spare

(NET Bible) to the extent that God has blessed you

(ESV) as he may prosper

(Garland) whatever he or she has been prospered

(Thiselton) in accordance with how you may fare

In our view, the translations shown above get progressively better as you near the bottom of the list. The rare Greek verb means to be led along a good road, to get along well, to prosper in its biblical and secular uses.[2] The verb is used in 3 John 2, where the writer prays that all may go well with you. Paul has much more to say favoring generosity in 2 Corinthians 8-9.

As was his custom, Paul labored to earn his way while establishing a church, but it was also his custom to permit a local church to meet his needs for travel expenses and companions when he set out for a new destination (1 Cor. 16:6). We all share the mission!

It is easy to sense Pauls wishes as well as his uncertainty about being able to act on them (verses 5-7). It is obvious that he intended to stay in Ephesus before coming to Corinth because of an unusually great opportunity for evangelism (verse 9). Paul found that when the gospel was moving in a community, the opposition grew more intense; the identical pattern may be seen in the public ministry of Christ in the Gospels. We too must spread the gospel and expect opposition when we do so.

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 752.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1323.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:7-12 Shame and honor in assembled worship

1 Corinthians 11:7-12

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

As we begin todays lesson, it will be helpful to remember that the context of these verses is the church in Roman Corinth gathered for worship. Perhaps they met in the home of one or more of their wealthy members or in several other locations. We can expect that some curious non-Christians were sometimes present, perhaps even someone who reported their activities elsewhere. We will see that God and the angels are part of worship as well.

As before, a lot of attention will be given to head coverings and their social and theological meaning. In the previous lesson (1 Cor. 11:1-6) we learned that men were not to wear a head covering, but women must wear one. These conditions were dictated by social propriety and to protect the reputation of the gospel in the community. In 1 Cor. 11:7-12, we learn that even deeper theological reasons exist and get deeper into the framework of shame and honor.

It is important to know what this passage does not mean, and David Garland sets us on the path: The logic is not, This man stands before God uncovered because of his spiritual subordination to Christ, so the woman should stand veiled because of her spiritual subordination to her husband, as [some] contend.[1]

A common failing of Christians today is that we do not appreciate the importance of creation and its impact on our life in Christ. But Pauls key point is that the woman reflects the glory of man, not of God.[2] The whole reason Paul offers in 1 Cor. 11:8-9 is the order of creation with man created first (Gen. 2:7) and the purpose of womans creation (Gen. 2:22) in that she was created for the man. Paul argues that the gender differences God established in creation have an effect on how corporate worship is carried out; in particular, cultural customs are used to symbolize that difference in a way that gives honor to God. Since man is the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7), his head must remain open to plain view. To do so honors God. The woman should cover her head (1 Cor. 11:6b) so as not to dishonor her head (i.e. the man, 1 Cor. 11:3). How would she dishonor the man? The surprising answer is that the woman dishonors the man by glorifying him (woman is the glory of man 1 Cor. 11:7) in a setting of corporate worship where only God is to be glorified/honored.

Perhaps we can better understand this reasoning by saying that in corporate worship the attention should be on honoring/glorifying God, but the beauty of women (by creation) is such that they attract attention belonging to God. When that happens, the shame attaches to their husband (her metaphorical head) or to the men gathered for worship. What can the woman do? She can behave and dress in a way that does not draw attention and symbolize such intent by wearing a head covering.[3] Symbols in our culture are different, but the principle stands.

The man and the woman are not taking their respective actions — men without head covering and women with one — for any personal advantage, as Anthony Thiselton points out: Pauls main point is that man and woman are both the glory of another and therefore both have an obligation not to cause shame to their heads.[4]

The foregoing is difficult enough, and 1 Cor. 11:10 adds more mystery by mentioning angels. First, Thiselton argues that what we have here is a continuation of the issue of assertive autonomy . . . versus self-control that we have tracked earlier in the letter (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23).[5] This means the woman should use her freedom and authority in Christ for the good of others and especially for her metaphorical head; that behavior manifests self-control and love. As to the angels, Thiselton reminds us that both Jewish and Christian traditions teach us that Christians worship the transcendent God of heaven in company with the heavenly host.[6]

We began with the assumption that Paul had received a report that women might be asserting their freedom in Christ in a damaging way during corporate worship. Although he has focused a lot of attention on women and how they should use their freedom, he does not by any means back off of his assertion that in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman (1 Cor. 11:11). He adds an additional statement in verse 12 that shows how dependent man and woman are on each other. While Paul has said, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28), it is also true that creation order limits this new freedom, because everything comes from God (1 Cor. 11:12).

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 523.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 523

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 523.

[4] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 837, quoting Judith Gundry-Volf.

[5] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 839.

[6] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 841.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:21-23, The best retirement plan of all

1 Corinthians 9:21-23

21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

In verses 21-23, Paul continues to explain his statement I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible (1 Cor. 9:19). The phrase those not having the law (1 Cor. 9:21) is clearly a reference to the Gentiles, who do not live by the Law of Moses or the interpretation of those laws by Judaism.

Even though Paul is a Jew by birth, he has already said, I myself am not under the law (1 Cor. 9:20). While discussing his approach to the Gentiles, Paul adds to his previous statement by saying, I am not free from Gods law but am under Christs law (1 Cor. 9:21). David Garland helps us see this change in Paul as a matter of identity when he says: [Paul] is speaking theologically about living under grace. Previously, his self-understanding as a Jew was bound up with his obedience to the law (cf. Phil. 3:6); now it is bound up with his relationship to Christ (Phil. 3:7-11).[1]

Gordon Fee adds some new elements when he says, For Paul the language being under (or keeping) the law has to do with being Jewish in a national-cultural-religious sense; but as a new man in Christ he also expects the Spirit to empower him (as well as all of Gods new people) to live out the ethics of the new age.[2] For another glimpse of the phrase the law of Christ, Paul says in Galatians, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). We who follow Jesus are to obey the law of Christ. As to what that means, we can look at what the apostles understood Jesus to mean as recorded in the New Testament.

In regard to the identity of the weak, we must exercise due diligence. In 1 Cor. 8:7-10, the phrase the weak refers to believers who are overly conscientious or believers who feel insecure about the exercise of their freedom in Christ. In the context of chapter 8, Paul identifies the weak as believers in 1 Cor. 8:12. However, in chapter 9, Paul seeks to save those he describes as the weak, and that means they are unbelievers. Anthony Thiselton describes the weak in chapter 9 by saying, In this context the weak may mean those whose options for life and conduct were severely restricted because of their dependence on the wishes of patrons, employers, or slave owners (emphasis his).[3] Garland agrees by saying, The weak in this verse represent non-Christians whom he seeks to win for the Lord.[4]

The second half of verse 22 is famous and widely quoted. What did Paul originally mean by it? Garland says that he is explaining how in his apostleship the principle of [self-denial] — in short, the principle of the cross — operates in his own experience.[5] Paul could have lived in one of the finest houses in Corinth, could have been revered as one its greatest orators, and could have enjoyed its finest banquets — although held in idol temples — every night of the week. All this he could have done while being financially supported by the Corinthian believers. But, for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23), he made sure that even the weak were not left out by working among them as a man of the cross.

Given the choice between pleasure and profit now in the ranks of the upwardly mobile Corinthians or honor and glory later with Christ in the age to come, Paul chose to share in the blessings of the gospel. He shows us the path we must choose to take.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 431.

[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 430.

[3] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 705.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 434.

[5] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 435, quoting D.A. Carson.