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 Paul’s 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 Paul’s 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 today’s 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 Paul’s 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 woman’s 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: “’Paul’s 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 God’s law but am under Christ’s 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 God’s 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.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:15b–18 Paul’s gift to Corinth

1 Corinthians 9:15b–18

15b And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

At times, strong emotions break into Paul’s thinking and writing; 1 Cor. 15b is one such verse. Here are three translations of verse 15b:

(NIV) “. . . for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.”

(NET) “In fact, it would be better for me to die than — no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting!”

(Thiselton[1]) “I would rather die than — well, no one shall invalidate my ground for glorying!”

The last two translations are much closer to Paul’s Greek text and demonstrate his strong feelings about what his life is about — telling people about Christ crucified and seeing them grow into mature believers.

Verse 16 is rather simple in concept, though it sounds a bit strange to our ears. Just recall how many amazing heroes — from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or some death-risking rescue — say that they were not a hero because they were only doing their duty. Paul sees himself as a steward of the gospel (“I am simply discharging the trust committed to me” 1 Cor. 9:17b). Christ commissioned him to take the gospel to the gentiles. If he did not do so, he would be miserable over failing Christ (“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Cor. 9:16b). In preaching the gospel, Paul was doing his duty.

Paul thoroughly grasps the position he is in, because the prophet Jeremiah wrote eloquently of being under similar compulsion (Jer. 20:7–9). Jeremiah suffered severe persecution for speaking God’s message and considered remaining silent. Jeremiah tells what happened then (Jer. 20:9b): “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Paul understands that inner fire by personal experience. Since Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples in every nation, the fire of witness is to spread through us.

The only way Paul would be entitled to a reward is if he did something “entirely by personal choice.”[2] Thus, the first half of verse 17 says, “If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward.” Thiselton explains, “If Paul cannot ‘freely’ give his apostolic work (since to this he is pressed by God without choice), what is left to give freely is his toil and labor as a leather worker and salesman in the commercial [market].”[3] So, Paul surrendered his right to financial support as his own gift (1 Cor. 9:18). In this way he is going “the second mile” (Matt. 5:41).

So, how does this apply to the Corinthian church? Thiselton relates the ideas of Dale Martin by saying, “Paul does not ask every reader to give up a right, but those who have ‘rights’ to give up, i.e. the strong or socially influential. . . . Low-status persons, the weak, by definition have no [‘rights’] to give up.”[4] The socially influential are exactly the people exhibiting spiritual pride and trying to form stronger factions within the church. By example, Paul calls on them to imitate him instead.

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



[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 676.

[2] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 696.

[3] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 697.

[4] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 697–98.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:1–7 Paul is entitled to all apostolic rights

1 Corinthians 9:1–7

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.

4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 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? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?

Paul ended chapter 8 by explaining the harm that can be done to a weaker believer through the thoughtless exercise by some Corinthian believers of their full rights in Christ. Chapter 8 ends with this ringing statement: “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” So, Paul was willing to give up his right to eat meat associated with idol worship for the good of others in the church.

Paul’s theme does not change when we enter chapter 9. But you might think otherwise when you read the chapter heading provided by the NIV’s editorial team: “Paul’s Rights as an Apostle.” The NET Bible is almost identical with the heading “The Rights of an Apostle.” But the editors of the ESV get it right when they provide the heading “Paul Surrenders His Rights.”

Anthony Thiselton again lights the way by saying, “The argument about ‘rights’ and ‘apostleship’ simply runs parallel to Corinthian arguments about their ‘right to choose’ (cf. 6:12; 8:1–13; 10:23) in order first to establish the validity of the ‘right’ so that Paul, in turn, may choose to relinquish it where it threatens to harm the welfare of others, or of the church as a whole.”[1] Paul asserts his rights (1 Cor. 9:1–12a) only to model giving them up for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:12b–27). In this way, Paul incarnates the gospel — a theme we will return to later.

All of the rhetorical questions in verses 1–2 are structured in Greek to signal an emphatic, affirmative answer. Just imagine, no one in Corinth can claim to be an apostle, but Paul can! No one in Corinth has seen the resurrected Christ, but Paul has! If Paul has a share in the freedom bought by Christ on the cross, then surely his freedom surpasses them all. The living proof of his apostleship is the faith of the Corinthians themselves!

David Garland points out: “Paul casts his remarks as a fictitious defense because of the delicacy required when discussing oneself. . . . Sounding boastful is avoided if the speaker shows that he (1) is offering a defense against charges (apologia, [9:4]), (2) does so because of compulsion (anank?, 9:16–18), and (3) demonstrates that it is included for the good of others to admonish or instruct them (9:24–27).”[2] This helps explain the structure of chapter 9. Paul implements step one with presentation of his “defense,” starting in 1 Cor. 9:3.

To be concrete about some of his own rights, Paul uses rhetorical questions to assert two of his specific rights: “the right to food and drink” (1 Cor. 9:4), meaning financial support from the Corinthians for his ministry to them, and the right to have a wife accompany him (1 Cor. 9:5). If Paul had a wife, she would also have been entitled to support just as in the case of “the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas [Peter]” (1 Cor. 9:5).

The three rhetorical questions in verse 7 all expect the answer “No one!” Paul uses three metaphors: the soldier, the vine grower, and the shepherd. Paul appeals to common knowledge that each one has the right to be sustained by others or by their property.

In the next lesson, Paul will continue his argument by further strengthening his right to financial support from the Corinthians. Then he will explain why he waived that right for the sake of the gospel.

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



[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 661–662.

[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 406, citing B. Dodd.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians — Introduction

 History and Geography

The Greek city of Corinth has never lacked self-confidence, but that lofty opinion has not always served her well. Mighty Corinth led the Achaean League of Greek cities and defied the Romans when they said to break up the League. Roman consul Lucius Mummus took Corinth in 146 B.C., destroyed it, and killed the male population. The women and children were sold into slavery.[1] That was the city’s first failure in humility.

Julius Caesar — ever a strategic thinker — rebuilt Corinth in 44 B.C. as a Roman colony formally named Colonia Laus Julius Corinthiensis, meaning colony of Corinth in Honor of Julius.[2] Eventually, Rome sent many members of the freedman class (predominantly poor), military veterans, urban tradesmen and laborers to populate the colony. As a result, Latin was the official language of Corinth even beyond the time of the Apostle Paul.[3] New Testament scholar David Garland says, “When Paul visited, the city was geographically in Greece but culturally in Rome.” This history is vital in understanding the many problems Paul confronted in his letters to the Corinthian church.

Corinth and Ephesus

By looking at the map, you will see that Corinth was sited at the end of a narrow land bridge — roughly ten miles in length — connecting the Greek mainland to the massive peninsula named Peloponnesus, a place known as the ancient home of the Spartans. Corinth had a sheltered harbor and was just a mile away from a paved track used to haul cargo from the other harbor on the eastern side of the land bridge. This favorable geography made Corinth the main trade hub between Rome and the Roman province of Asia (modern Turkey). Springs provided an ample source of fresh water. Opportunities for gaining wealth abounded in Corinth.

The only alternative to shipping goods east or west through Corinth was the deadly trip around the Peloponnese peninsula. Those waters produced the violent storm that later swept Paul all the way to Malta where God intervened to save the lives of all aboard (Acts 27).

New Testament scholar Linda Belleville informs us: “Numbering some 500,000 slaves and 200,000 non-slaves at its height, Corinth’s cosmopolitan population was made up of a mix of local Greeks, Orientals (including a large number of Jews) and Italians.”[4] She compares it to San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

 Cultural Influences

A building boom made Paul’s Corinth the most dazzling of the Greek cities. Various types of stone were locally available for building. At its core Corinth centered on the pursuit of success using trade, business and entrepreneurial skill. This environment interacted with Roman culture through the Corinthians’ desire to have public status, to promote their own honor, and to have numerous clients or adherents of their faction. Garland summarizes the Corinthian attitudes by quoting what the Roman poet Horace said about the Roman populace: “[They are] ‘absurd slaves to fame, who are stupefied by titles and masks.’”[5]

 Religious Setting

Corinth drew both people and religions from all over the Roman Empire. Most people “believed that there was safety in numbers: the more gods that one appeased and had on one’s side the better.”[6] Capping them all was the Roman imperial cult, which worshiped the power and genius of the emperor. New Testament scholar Craig Keener capably describes Roman commercial practices, which directly affected the Corinthians, when he says: “Pagan symbols were prominent at major Mediterranean ports, and activities of the shipping lines and merchant guilds involved aspects of the [Roman] imperial cult.”[7] Anyone who wanted in on the wealth had to play the game of idolatrous patriotism. The imperial cult applied such terms as “Lord,” “savior,” and “son of God” to Caesar, not Jesus.

All had to honor the emperor, but there were also sacred places for the Roman-Greek pantheon of gods — at least twenty, including Zeus, Neptune and Venus — Egyptian mystery cults, Asian mystery cults, as well as a Jewish synagogue and the ever-present magicians. In short, Corinth had every possible combination of religions in the Roman world. The city was full of temples.

 Establishing the Dates of Paul’s Ministry in Corinth

Paul’s ministry in Corinth is described in considerable detail in Acts 18:1–18. Acts 18:2 explains how Paul met two Jews recently expelled from Rome by order of Emperor Claudius. This decree was issued in A.D. 49. Garland says, “Acts 18:12–17 also refers to Gallio as the proconsul of Achaia [Greece], and an inscription fragment dates his tenure in office from July 1, A.D. 51, to June 30, A.D. 52.”[8] Garland goes on to suggest that the church in Corinth was founded in February/March, A.D. 50 and that Paul left for Ephesus by ship in September, A.D. 51. Paul taught the word of God for 18 months in Corinth (Acts 18:11). See the next section for the dates of other brief visits by Paul to Corinth.

Since Jesus was crucified in A.D. 33, Paul was proclaiming salvation in the name of Jesus just seventeen years later.

Paul’s relationship to Corinth

Belleville very capably summarizes Paul’s relationship to Corinth by saying, “The Paul-Corinthian relationship spanning seven years, three personal visits and four letters, is one of the most complex topics in New Testament studies.”[9] The two early stages of the relationship, as defined by Belleville, are summarized below.

Stage One “After a forced exit from Thessalonica and again from Berea (Acts 17:1–15; 1 Thess. 2:17–18), Paul made his way down the Aegean coast to Athens for a short layover (Acts 17:16–34; 1 Thess. 3:1–2) and then to Corinth where he settled down for about a year and a half (A.D. 50–52); Acts 18:1–18). . . . At some point he received enough financial support that he was able to drop his trade and give full attention to evangelism (Acts 18:5).”[10]

Stage Two “About 52 A.D. Paul left Corinth to briefly visit Jerusalem and then Antioch, his home base and supporting church. From there he went to Ephesus and set up his base of operations in the lecture hall of a local philosopher named Tyrannus (literally ‘the tyrant’). Three years were spent evangelizing, as Luke reports, ‘all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia’ (Acts 19:10). It was during this three-year period that Paul wrote the Corinthians three letters and made his second visit to the city.”[11]

The biblical books of First Corinthians and Second Corinthians are apparently the second and third of the three letters Paul wrote to the Corinthian church from Ephesus, about 250 miles by sea to the east. First Corinthians was written partly to reply to a letter sent from the Corinthian church to Paul and carried by three of its members (1 Cor. 16:7). They probably took back Paul’s answer (First Corinthians) in A.D. 54.

Later in A.D. 54 (summer or fall), Paul made a “painful visit” (2 Cor. 2:1; 12:14, 21; 13:1–2) to Corinth and then returned to Ephesus. In A.D. 55 or 56, Paul wrote Second Corinthians in answer to further (false) charges made by some in Corinth. Finally, in the winter of A.D. 56, Paul visited Corinth for the last time, staying about three months.

Copyright © 2012 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) 1.

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

[3] 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) 1, footnote 3.

[4] Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 14–15.

[5] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 4.

[6] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 9.

[7] Craig Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 427.

[8] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 18.

[9] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 15.

[10] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 16.

[11] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 16.

 

Exposition of Romans 5:1–2 You are standing on home base

There is serenity in seeing a child standing on home base and bragging to the other children about being safe during a game of tag. Many of us spent happy hours dealing with the pretend-risks of playing tag during childhood.

But childhood is over, and the path to safety is blocked by our sins. How can we reach home base now?

(ESV) Romans 5:1-2  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

The beginning of Romans 5 marks the boundary of a major division in the book. The key sentence of Romans 1-8 occurs in Romans 1:17b, which C.E.B. Cranfield translates as “He who is righteous by faith shall live.”[1]  Cranfield outlines Romans 1:18-4:25 as “The revelation of the righteousness which is from God by faith alone — ‘He who is righteous by faith’ expounded”; he also outlines Romans 5:1-8:39 as “The life promised for those who are righteous by faith — ‘shall live’ expounded.”[2] I accept Cranfield’s placement of Romans 5 with chapters 6-8, joining Douglas Moo, Thomas Schreiner and Grant Osborne.

Romans 5 also serves as a transitional chapter with strong links to what has preceded. We see that immediately with the opening clause “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith” (5:1), looking back to the theological arguments of Romans 3-4. Before we leave this backward-looking summary, we should clarify some issues of word choice.

The Greek verb dikaia? here (5:1) means “be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous.[3] This is terminology of a law court and is sometimes called “forensic” language. Some Bible translations prefer forensic language for Romans 5:1; NET and HCSB say “declared righteous by faith.“ Other translators like to boil it down to one word that has the same general force but is a bit less legal in nuance; so, ESV and NIV say “justified by faith.” Justified has the sense “vindicated.” Either way is acceptable so long as you remember that “declared righteous” and “justified” are saying the same thing. For precision, “declared righteous” is probably the better choice, as the standard lexicon suggests.

(ESV) Romans 5:1b we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Since all of us had been lacking God’s approval (3:23) and expecting his wrath (1:18) because of our universal domination by sin (3:9), the statement that we have “peace with God” (5:1) provides terrific relief. This change in our condition is described by Paul in Colossians 1:13 by saying, “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (NLT).

The word “peace” is a good example of how Greek and English do not enjoy a one-to-one relationship. For English speakers, peace is primarily “freedom from war or a stopping of war.”[4] Here (5:1) the Greek noun eir?n? means “a state of well-being, peace.”[5] According to theologian Herman Ridderbos, peace refers to “the all-embracing gift of salvation, the condition of shalom, which God will again bring to unrestricted dominion.”[6] Bring it on!

As for the phrase “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1), Douglas Moo says, “That all God has for us is to be found ‘in’ or ‘through’ Jesus Christ our Lord is a persistent motif in Rom. 5-8.”[7] I am reminded of Paul’s clause in Col. 3:11b: “Christ is all and in all” (NET), a fitting summary of life in Christ! Actually, I prefer a more literal translation: “All and in all — Christ!”

(ESV) Romans 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Christ is the “him” (5:2) who provided us the life-giving access into grace. Greek grammar authority Daniel Wallace states that the two Greek perfect-tense verbs in this verse as stress our current status: we currently have access and stand in the realm of grace.[8] We stand in the safety of this grace through Jesus.

This amounts to an astonishing change in status; we have moved from being “under sin” (3:9) to standing in grace (5:2)! When you consider that is the difference between heaven and hell, the significance becomes more apparent.

The dramatic change of status makes it all the more puzzling that translators throttle back on Paul’s word selection in the remainder of Romans 5:2. The Greek verb kauchaomai means “to take pride in something, boast, glory, pride oneself, brag.”[9] The lexicon specifically suggests the verb should be translated “boast in something” in Rom. 5:2 due to combination with the Greek preposition epi. What is worth boasting about? ESV says the “hope of the glory of God” (5:2).

There is a big difference between boasting and rejoicing. Dunn explains Paul’s bold use of the word boast, which has been used negatively prior to this point in Romans:

Not by accident Paul picks up again language (“boast”) which he has used only pejoratively [i.e. as something to avoid] so far (2:17, 23; 3:27; 4:2). Since boasting epitomized Jewish pride in Israel’s privileged status among the nations, so Paul deliberately inserts the equivalent note into this conclusion of his argument so far. . . . Paul does not condemn “boasting” per se; on the contrary, it should be a natural and proper response to the wonderful favor of this divine patron.[10]

So far, we have said that “boast” is superior to “rejoice” in Romans 5:2b, but improvements have not been exhausted. You will recall that the Greek phrase underlying “the glory of God” also occurred in Romans 3:23. Concerning that verse, Cranfield reluctantly admits, “Taken by itself, [the Greek phrase translated ‘the glory of God’] h? doxa tou theou could, of course, mean ‘the approbation [approval] of God, as it does in John 12:43 (cf. John 5:44), and it is so understood here by some.”[11] Using that meaning, I recommended that Romans 3:23 be translated “For all have sinned and lack God’s approval.”

The same Greek phrase occurs in Romans 5:2, and the same translation applies here as well. The standard Greek lexicon also offers divine approval of a person as one translation alternative in 5:2.[12] After all, justification by faith is all about our becoming acceptable to God.

So, to sum up, I believe the best translation of Romans 5:2 would be: “Through him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in expectation of God’s approval.” The only way we can stand securely in grace is because Jesus won our access through his death.

Standing in grace

Through Jesus Christ our Lord we have not only gained well-being before God but also the right to stand in the realm of grace. This is what you may expect when God approves of you through faith in Jesus Christ.

1. What does having peace with God do to stabilize your Christian life? How does having peace with God undercut the idea that we must use good works to maintain a status of salvation?

2. How does knowing you already stand in the sphere of grace affect your motivation to live for Christ?

Stand where God has placed you, with grace and peace surrounding you because of Christ.

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975)  27.

[2] Cranfield, Romans, 28.

[3] BDAG-3, dikaia?, be acquitted, q.v.

[4] “peace,” Webster’s New World Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Michael Agnes, Ed. in Chief (New York: McMillan, 1999).

[5] BDAG-3, eir?n?, well-being, q.v.

[6] Herman Ridderbos, Paul, Trans. John Richard De Witt (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975) 184.

[7] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 300.

[8] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 576.

[9] BDAG-3, kauchaomai, boast, q.v.

[10] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 264.

[11] Cranfield, Romans, 204.

[12] BDAG-3, doxa, approval (meaning 3), q.v.