Notes on 1 Corinthians 16:1-12

1 Corinthians 16:1‑12  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Another and a very different topic claimed the service of the apostle, because it fell under the Lord's care for the church. It might seem wholly a matter for the saints; but experience itself proves how much they need in it the guidance of the Spirit through the written word. Hence pretension to superior spirituality here, as elsewhere, sinks below the dictates of love, and the dictates of every sound mind. How blessed to have the regulating wisdom of God, who deigns to give us His mind even for the smallest things of this life!
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the assemblies of Galatia, so do ye also. Every first of a week let each of you put by him, storing up whatever he may be prospered in, that there. be no collections when I come. And when I am arrived, whomsoever ye shall approve, them I will send with letters, to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem; and if it be suitable that I go, they shall go with me.” (Vers. 1-4.)
It is untrue that the assemblies were left without apostolic regulation, or that they were regulated differently. The snares and the circumstances of Galatia were as unlike those of Corinth as could be conceived; the directions given by the apostle were the same, and this, not merely on matters of the most momentous significance, as sound doctrine, and holy discipline, and the attesting institutions of Christ, so that the worship and public ways of the saints might present the same testimony everywhere, but here, as we see, even in the exercise of their liberality.
One cannot overlook the frequent remembrance of the poor saints at Jerusalem; and no doubt there were circumstances which gave them a special claim. Doubtless external distress prevailed, and persecution had left some widows and orphans. Not only were the believers very numerous there, but there only, so far as we read, had they sold their possessions and substance, so as to distribute to all, as any one had need there; only not one said that anything of what he possessed was his own, but all things were common to them, so that none was in want. But there, partly through this surprising testimony of unselfish love, poverty prevailed later; and none among the Gentile assemblies was so urgent as our apostle that relief should be sent for the brethren in Judea, not merely during the great famine under Claudius Caesar, but thenceforward, as we may gather from 1 and 2 Corinthians, as well as Romans. (Cf. Gal. 2:1010Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (Galatians 2:10); Acts 24:1717Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. (Acts 24:17))
Still, a general principle and practice we find laid down of the highest value for any time. The collection for the saints was bound up with the solemn and gracious associations of the first, or resurrection, day. It was to proceed regularly, not occasionally; it was to be done with conscience, according as we might be prospered, not under influence, or pressure, or haste, still less with indifference, or on mere human grounds. Thus faith and love would be called out, and healthfully applied, while waiting for the coming of the Lord. It seems that each was to lay aside at home what he judged according to the means given; but the mention of the first of the week, or Lord's day, points to their joining their contribution, when they came together, as every disciple did, to break bread. This is truly to lay up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupteth, and where thieves do not dig through or steal.
Again, the apostle was careful to leave no room for evil surmise or appearance; and so he here indicates a fresh application of the apostolic wisdom which we see in Acts 6 The multitude chose their own administrators. They contributed the funds, and they, not the apostles, chose men in whom they had confidence to dispense them. (See also 2 Cor. 8) As the church cannot impart a spiritual power, so the Lord alone gave gifts for the ministry or service of souls. (Rom. 10; 12:1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4) The apostles, personally or by delegate (as Titus), chose elders, being the chiefs of that authority of which the presbyters were the ordinary representatives locally. (Acts 14; Titus 2) Everything in the church rests on its own proper ground. Here, then, the apostle promises on his arrival to send with letters whomsoever they should approve to bring their bounty unto Jerusalem.
But the letters were to be his, not theirs as the Authorized Version says, following the mistake of the Vulgate, Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, and the Text. Rec., which punctuates wrongly in consequence. For what would be the sense of their approving by their letters when the apostle came? The Corinthians really were to select whom they approved, and Paul, on arriving, would send them on, furnished with letters from himself. So too the Greek commentators understood.
It is common to make the genitive dependent on μηιον, “meet,” and to deduce the meaning, “if the occasion, or magnitude of the collection, warrant an apostolic mission in order to carry it.” But such a sense, though grammatically possible, seems to me unworthy, not only of the apostle, but even of the delegates, and only tolerable because men have been lowered by the mendicant habits of Christendom. The truth is that the genitive of design, purpose, or the conclusion to be formed, as here, is a common Hellenistic usage, not infrequent in classical authors. The Authorized Version is therefore nearer the mark, and much more in unison with the dignity of all concerned, as well as with God's word and Spirit, which, while cherishing the largest self-denial and generosity, are wont to slight the resources of unbelief, and to brand covetousness as idolatry. If it were suitable, then, that Paul also should go, the delegates should go with him. He would guard his services from all ground for reproach, providing for things honest, not only before the Lord, but also before men.
"But I will come unto you when I shall have gone through Macedonia, for I go through Macedonia. But perhaps I shall stay, or even winter, with you, that ye may send me forward wherever I may go. For I do not wish to see you now in passing; for I 1hope to remain some time with you, if the Lord permit. But I will remain at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effectual door is open to me, and [there are] many adversaries. But if Timotheus come, see that he be with you without fear, for he worketh the Lord's work, even as I. Let none then despise him, but send him forward in peace, that he may come unto me, for I am awaiting him with the brethren. But concerning the brother Apollos, I besought him much to come unto you with the brethren; but it was not at all [his] will to come now, but he will come when he shall have good opportunity.” (Vers. 5-12.)
It is evident from verse 8 that the apostle was in Ephesus when he wrote to Corinth this first epistle. The spurious postscript in the common text, followed in the Authorized Version, says “from Philippi,” but it was really from Ephesus, as in the Vatican and some other copies; and therefore salutations are given from “the assemblies of Asia.” (Ver. 19.) His purpose was to pass through Macedonia: this is the force of M. γᾶρ διάρχομαι, a journey then before him as a settled thing, but not actually in progress. He might, perhaps, then stay, or even winter, with them, adding an expression of loving confidence that they might send him on wherever he might go. For he declined seeing them then, for reasons explained in 2 Cor. 1, hoping to remain some time with them, under the Lord's permission, instead of merely passing through. He should remain at Ephesus, where he then was, till Pentecost. That the Lord was there working was a sufficient reason, and none the less because there were adversaries many. He trusted to carry on the work, and help souls against Satan.
But his heart could not rest without commending Timothy, and the more as he was timid. He would have him be without fear in their midst, and deigns to put him as a workman of the Lord so far on common ground with himself. He is anxious that none should despise him—a danger among the saints, who are as open to be deceived by self-seeking men, as to slight true servants of Christ.
The case of Apollos is also instructive in more ways than one. Paul besought him to go to Corinth, rising above all feeling that not a few set him above himself; Apollos would not then go, it would seem, out of similar delicacy, unwilling to give occasion to such folly and wrong among the saints as they then were. We see how the Lord maintains freedom, as well as calls out grace, among His laborers, even when apostles wore there, recording it for our guidance when there are none. Nothing, in its way, can be happier than this picture of unjealous love and respect, but free as before the Lord, among servants so varied as an apostle, his young companion, and a comparatively independent laborer like Apollos.