Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:19-24

19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

When Paul mentions the churches in the province of Asia (1 Cor. 16:19), he is again sending actual greeting but also making the Corinthians see that they are part of the larger body of Christ. Let them look above not only their factional divisions but also outward to see the bond of love between Christians everywhere. The Roman province of Asia was located in what is now western Turkey.

The role of Aquila and Prisca (a shortened form of Pricilla) is notable. Acts 18:1-3 informs us that Aquila was a Jew who, along with his wife Pricilla, was expelled from Rome (probably as a Christian) in A.D. 49, when Emperor Claudius closed down a Roman synagogue because of continuous disturbances centering on the figure of Christ.[1] They emigrated to Roman Corinth where they met Paul, another tent-maker, and both hosted him and worked with him in the trade. They also joined Paul in Ephesus, where a church met in their home.

Anthony Thiselton approvingly describes the research of another scholar concerning Pauls stay in Corinth: Murphy-OConnor convincingly paints a picture of Aquila and Prisca having their home in the loft of one of the shops around the market square (approximately 13 ft. x 13 ft. x 8 ft. without running water) while Paul slept below amid the tool-strewn workbenches and the rolls of leather and canvas.[2] Are you feeling the hardship?

Though Paul dictated his letter to a professional scribe or secretary, he could not resist writing a greeting in his own hand (1 Cor. 16:21). This was all typical. One of Pauls scribes actually identifies himself in Rom. 16:23.

Verses 22-24 serve as a sharp conclusion to the entire letter. The purpose of such a rhetorical conclusion was to reinforce the argument of the letter with emotional force. Here the vocabulary emphasizes Jesus Christ, love, and either the grace or the judgment that all will receive when Christ returns.

It seems most probable that in verse 22 the verb love refers to covenant loyalty. Covenant loyalty essentially amounts to obedience, just as Jesus emphasized with his disciples: If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15). In the Old Testament, the result of maintaining covenant loyalty to God was blessing, while breaking the covenant resulted in curses. The curse is expressed by the famous Greek noun anathema, which has been adopted into English most frequently in reference to a person who has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

Thiselton summarizes: Paul has reproached the [message] of the cross and the content of the gospel through the array of pastoral, ethical, and theological issues that bubble away at Corinth: Come on, he concludes; are you in or are you out?[3] The return of Christ will resolve this question once and for all.

Come, Lord! represents the Aramaic term Maranatha. Generations of Christians have echoed this appeal.

Paul closes by mentioning the grace represented uniquely by Jesus Christ and Pauls own special love for all who are joined to Christ (verses 23-24). Amen!

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. 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) 1343.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1343.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1351.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Paul’s synopsis

1 Corinthians 12:4-7

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Compare 1 Corinthians 12:1 with 12:4, paying attention to the word translated gift.

Now about the gifts (pneumatikos) of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Cor. 12:1)

There are different kinds of gifts (charisma), but the same Spirit distributes them. (1 Cor. 12:4)

The Greek word translated gifts of the Spirit in verse 1 (pneumatikos) means having to do with the divine Spirit. It could be a reference to either spiritual things or spiritual persons. The English versions have translated pneumatikos in a more specific manner in 1 Cor. 12:1 due to the context beginning in verses 4-6, where Paul begins his extensive argument about spiritual gifts. But this contextual translation obscures the fact that Paul has changed words and uses the Greek noun charisma in verse 4, meaning that which is freely and graciously given.[1] This word is closely related to the Greek noun charis, which is usually translated grace. Gods grace has come to us through Christ crucified.

So, what is the point? Some of the Corinthian believers — and some believers today — want to focus attention on themselves as spiritual by using the spectacular gift they have been given as proof of their supremacy over others. Paul is saying that emphasis is all wrong! God gave them this spiritual ability as a free gift, a grace-gift, not as their due. All honor should go to the gift-giver, not to the gift-holder.

It is easy to spot the deliberate parallels in 1 Cor. 12:4-6. Note, for example, the phrases different kinds and the same that occur in each verse. This heavy use of parallel phrasing focuses the mind on the few differences between the verses.

One such difference is the progression Spirit . . . Lord . . . God, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus and God the Father. In short, the entire Trinity is involved in providing spiritual gifts for the good of the church. Further, the Father, the Son and the Spirit are all different, but they are totally unified in their actions. Even the Corinthians should have gotten the hint that the variety of spiritual gifts should operate in unity and not division.

Another progression is the sequence kinds of gifts . . . kinds of service . . . kinds of working. At first glance, these phrases seem to focus on the gifting, service or work carried out by each believer, but that misses the point. We have already noted that the gifts are apportioned by the Spirit (verse 4) as a matter of God’s grace or kindness. The different types of service are all designed to honor the same Lord (verse 5). The phrase kinds of working (verse 6) speaks not only of work but of bringing about results[2], and Paul attributes this working to the same God who produces all of them in everyone (1 Cor. 12:6b, NET). So, there is much more emphasis on what God is doing than initially comes to our attention.

Another difference stands out in the parallel phrasing of verses 4-6; it is the phrase in all of them and in everyone (1 Cor. 12:6).Thiselton explains that in verses 4-6 Paul is succinctly introducing his coming argument in 1 Cor. 12:7-30.[3] So, it is vital right at the start to say that every single Christian has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. This leaves no room to claim — as some were doing in Roman Corinth and as some are doing today— that only those with certain gifts, notably tongues, could be considered spiritual.

If taking personal credit is a warped attitude about spiritual gifts, what can we say about the right attitude. Thiselton gives us a treasure when he says, Jean-Jacques Suurmond sums up this issue well: It is not so much a matter of having a gift, as of being a gift.[4] That comes close to expressing all that Paul is saying about a Christ-centered life in First Corinthians!

Now it should be clearly stated that since God has graciously gifted you as a Christian with a specific spiritual gift, he is expecting results. You are a steward of all that God has given you, and a day has been set for your stewardship to be evaluated. Since your gift is given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7), it is clear what the evaluation will entail. Heads up!

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

[1] BDAG-3, charisma, gift, q.v.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 933.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 929.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 902.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 4:6-13, Who will reign with Christ crucified?

1 Corinthians 4:6-13

6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world — right up to this moment.

As stated before, Paul is trying to deal with Corinthian pride and a dangerous reliance on human wisdom. In verse 6 he reveals that his previous statements about himself, Apollos and Cephas — “I follow Paul” (1 Cor. 1:12 and 3:4), “I follow Apollos” (1 Cor. 1:12 and 3:4), and “I follow Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12) — were actually a polite fiction to avoid naming the real faction leaders in Corinth. Why would Paul substitute for the names of the real faction leaders? David Garland says, “By using aliases rather than fingering the real culprits and by stressing that his deprecation of the role of leaders as servants extends also to himself (‘What, then, is Paul?’ 3:5), he allays potential resentment and makes it easier to swallow the medicine.”[1] Wise!

What, then, was he trying to say to the leaders and their factions? “Learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” (1 Cor. 4:6). The phrase “what is written” probably refers to the Old Testament quotations Paul has used in the letter to this point. Those sum up to teach this: “While it is the wisdom of the world to indulge in human boasting, there is a simpler, more perfect kind of wisdom, that of boasting only in the Lord.”[2]

In Roman Corinth the desire to rise higher in social standing than others was exceptionally strong, and this cultural pressure had seeped into the church. In 1 Cor. 4:7, Paul unleashes some powerful questions. Ben Witherington puts the first question into this form: “What makes you think that you are so special that you should be judging God’s agents?”[3] After that crushing blow, the hammer strokes keep falling: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7b). You will do yourself a great favor to reflect on those questions! The whole idea of God’s kindness toward us, his grace on our behalf, is that grace is an unexpected gift. God is kind to us in Christ because it pleases him to be so.

You have probably realized that chapter 4 is full of irony and sarcasm to which Paul adds exaggeration in verse 8. Garland explains, “The Corinthians basic blunder is that they already see themselves as morally and spiritually perfected, without having to experience the bodily struggles which Paul sees as the sign of life in Christ.”[4] They imagine themselves to have done all that without Paul!

With tongue in cheek, Paul contrasts the spiritual kings in Corinth (verse 8) with God’s apostles who are led behind a Roman victory parade and have only the expectation of death (verse 9). While the Corinthians are — to their own perception — wise, strong and honored, God’s apostles are foolish, weak and dishonored (verse 10). The painful list of hardships listed in 1 Cor. 4:11-13 recounts all those things Paul and the other apostles have endured to preach Christ crucified to the alleged spiritual champions in Corinth’s divided factions.

In 1 Corinthians 4:13, Paul sums up his apostolic experience by saying, “We have become the scum of the earth and the scrapings from everyone’s shoes”[5] — right up to this moment of reputed Corinthian spiritual triumph.

Just one question stands: Which of these two groups, the spiritually triumphant Corinthian factions or the mistreated apostles, bears a greater resemblance to Jesus crucified on a Roman cross?

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) 133.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 136.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 141.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 138, citing D.W. Kuck.

[5] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 365.