Beloved, we have come to the end of a long journey, here. A book with 16 chapters has with this study taken us 22 separate studies to get through, but here we are with the home stretch in front of us this evening. We have had through our trip through this letter, written more than 1900 years ago, a real picture window’s view into the beliefs, practices, and attitudes within the church in Corinth, and a corrective explanation from the Apostle Paul himself as to how things SHOULD be in the church as it practices. It is no real surprise to me that this final chapter is a reflection of that, with Paul (either consciously or unconsciously, it doesn’t matter which) giving us a glimpse at how things are done throughout the Christian church around the known world at the time.
I once heard a phrase that comes to mind when I consider this. That phrase is “New Testament simplicity.” It seems simple how those saints met in those early days of the church. Now we have all this needless, engineered liturgy and ceremony, some it good, some of it not, and people tend to pick and choose what they want to do in terms of gathering and the activity of the gathering they are in. These people tend to think of the church where they gather as “their” church, but it shouldn’t be. That gives visions of Laodicea, where the Lord Jesus Christ King of kings and Lord of Lords that He is Creator God of the universe Himself, is OUTSIDE the church knocking on the door to see if any will let Him in! That’s hardly simple and it isn’t really orthodoxy or orthopraxy and agape love is nowhere to be found. Instead these people tell us that to love our neighbour, we must wear a face diaper and open the doors for wolves to come in and mercilessly consume the sheep whom while doing so tell us that we should be living our best life now, all while speaking in our heavenly prayer language all at the same time.
Beloved that isn’t Christianity. Call it whatever you like but none of that is the simple gathering to a loving Sovereign Saviour that gave up his position in Heaven as God, became a man and died to vicariously pay the penalty for our sins. Paul has given us a picture of what it SHOULD look like. And here comes the appropriate question: How do WE measure up? If we’re being honest with ourselves, not very well. We’ll say more about that later, because I am coming to some conclusions that I think I knew a while ago but didn’t have enough know-how to go about it. Now I do and it is the mercy and kindness of God that He is showing this to us now. What to do about it I have no idea at the moment, but I do trust that my Saviour will make it know to me at the right time through His own good providence.
I broke the chapter down like this:
KV16: A window into submission to God in the church
…that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.
1-4: A window into the early church practices
5-9: A window on the Apostle Paul himself
10-12: A window on other brothers and sisters in Christ
13-18: A window with a view on early church leaders
19-24: Final greetings to Corinth from the family of God
When you think about my outline of this final chapter of the book, you can see everything we have discussed in the course of our study of 1 Corinthians in miniature. There are at least references to the ideas Paul has talked about and there are final outworkings that eventually sunk in at Corinth as least if we consider that Clement of Rome did not see the need to address any of this though I admit that is somewhat conjectural on my part. Let’s just jump in and see what the Lord has to say to us.
KV16: A window into submission to God in the church
…that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.
What we see here is a window that is left open by the Apostle himself into the proper doctrines and practices of the early church and how it was at least supposed to operate. Corinth, at least at this stage of development, had not yet arrived at that standard that all of the other gatherings seemed to have by then attained. Given the debauchery that Corinth was known for (remember that verb “to Corinthianize”), this is not surprising, and when I look at my own twisted life, I realize that we are all learning, and some things take time. Let’s hop into the text and see what Paul is saying here.
1-4: A window into the early church practices
It seems easy for me to see that Paul is offering final instructions given that thee isn’t a whole lot of the chapter left to read, right? However, it seems telling to me what Paul chooses to address here. The very first thing Paul is showing with his letter, first to Corinth, and then to anyone else who will read the letter, is how the early church took care of itself. Let’s jump in here.
1: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.
• Paul is referring to an era in time where the saints, that is fellow believers, in Jerusalem were struggling just to have food to put on the table, at least partly because of a persecution of those believers at the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem, right there in the heart of Israel, where the largest concentration of Jews in the world lived, though there was at the time a very large diaspora of Jews throughout the known world. I suspect that when a believer was found out, he was put out of the temple as a heretic to the Jewish religion, which was no longer following Yahweh God. As a result, other believers throughout the world came to their financial aid.
• This was done by taking up a collection for those saints there every Sunday. It is not clear to me where that started, but it did start, and because the mercy ministry of supporting those in need is always a good thing, it was lauded by Paul and the other Apostles of the time. Paul would have directed the churches of the regions of Galatia to set a portion of the regular collection for expenses incurred by the house of God as support for those saints in Jerusalem as a means of help and support for them. Here, he tells the Corinthians to do the same.
• This actually makes a kind of a point in my brain, and I’m not the only one to think this. Today, most “churches” own property, or are paying a mortgage on it and structures on that property. That eats up a lot of the weekly giving seen in a church. I always ask the question in my own head, “What percentage of this is going to the “works” portion of what Christ saved us for? Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are saved to do those good works, so how is the congregational giving equipping us to do so? Beloved, make sure that the lion’s share of it after the expenses of keeping up the building are dealt with goes to that, and not building better gardens to beautify the grounds. Sure, make the grounds look good, there is testimony to consider, but make telling people about Jesus, the need for their justification before God, and their subsequent salvation by discipling your emphasis. If you aren’t doing that, then you might as well ask yourself what other social clubs you could give your money to, because you are decidedly NOT doing God’s work of Gospel ministry or kingdom building. Moving on.
2: On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
• Okay, now we are getting a look into the basic practices of the early church. Here we know that they met on the first day of the week. We covered this in Chapter 11 (if not chapter 10), but that meeting on the first day of the week is a change from the previous order of things. From the beginning, before there was an Israel, or before the Law was given to Moses, Yahweh God Himself, after creating the earth in six literal and consecutive days, rested from His works on day seven. Our calendar week has ALWAYS started on what we today call Sunday, but many believers make a point of calling The Lord’s Day. Without getting into who the days of the week were all named after (not the point this evening though interesting), it always ended with a day of rest, the Sabbath.
• However, the Church has always met on the first day of the week, Sunday. Right from its inception! Why? Saints and neighbours, it is because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. It is the very reason we call it the Lord’s Day. It is the day that we have chosen as a corporate person (the bride of Christ) to honour the day of the One whom our collective soul loveth, as per the Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s! (SoS 1:1) Some, for this reason, call it the “Christian Sabbath,” and I will not dispute that it is the day the Church should meet. However, the “sabbath rest” of the believer is every day, in that we are to cease from our own works and do the works of Yahweh God every chance we get. That’s how Jesus did it (He even healed on the Sabbath! Scandalous! LOL!).
• Also, they made it a point to do this every week. It does not tell us how this was collected, and I have seen (especially since COVID-19) a variety of ways that these givings have been collected. Let’s consider them for a moment. They were given willingly. They were given as a person prospered, so there was no onerous task of paying if you could not placed on the believer. These givings were stopped when Paul came. The practice of the “love offering” is not prohibited here, nor is it authorized here. Stop using this as proof-text, please. That’s what this verse says about it.
3: When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;
• Paul places the responsibility of picking its representatives on the given congregation. This is something we can see in other places as well, and it actually comes from the Holy Spirit Himself. Acts 13:2 says this:
○ While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
• Now again, this is a warning to my Charismatic and Pentecostal friends that will use this as a proof text to say that God speaks to individuals with His voice outside of Scripture today. The text does not say that. It says that the Holy Spirit has a voice. It does not say it was that “still, small voice” that some of you claim you can hear. It didn’t stutter, it was not unclear, it was perhaps even audible to the men that heard it. However, it was in the days before all of the New Testament had been written. In fact, if you will observe for a moment, you will notice that verse from Acts was written in the past tense by Luke. This means that Luke wrote it down some period of time AFTER the events actually occurred, and probably after Luke had interviewed all of the relevant people.
• To return to my point, however, the Holy Spirit placed the responsibility on the local gathering to support these men as they did the work God Himself had called them to do. In the same way, Paul was placing the responsibility of choosing the men that would carry the monetary gift to the church in Jerusalem on the local church. Paul uses the Phrase, “whomever you will approve.” This is a logical thing – the leaders in Corinth will know who they can entrust with that particular task, because they are observing everyone’s growth in Christ! What? The leaders of a church observe your growth in Christianity? Isn’t that creepy? No, beloved, it is our JOB, and one all leaders of all congregations everywhere should take more seriously than we do at times.
• Paul also would write them letters of introduction to the congregation in Jerusalem. This is still in practice today, actually. I had such a letter written for me once, though it was the mid-1990s, and it was sent by email. I was picking up an order of books for the brother that ran our miniature bookstore, and they wanted to let them know it was okay to release the books to me, I wasn’t some random guy, I was a brother in good standing in fellowship that they had selected for the task.
4: and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.
• Paul even says that he is willing to accompany those brothers all the way back to Jerusalem with their gift if that is convenient for Paul. Wow, wouldn’t that have been cool? To travel with Paul, and to get to pick that massive brain of his? I admit I’m a bit envious of those guys that the Corinthians would have chosen. This was not uncommon, either – travelling together offered more than fellowship, because there was literally safety in numbers, and the larger the number, the more safe you were, especially when moving money.
What we can see of the practices of the early church here are pretty clear and straightforward. What I begin to see developing though is actually a step past that – they are reasoned approaches to things. They are not born in superstition or moronic religious tradition, they are revealed by God in some cases like the communion sharing or baptism, but beyond that, they are responses to needs, typically. At least that’s what I read. Maybe you see something else, and that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t contradict or nullify Scripture.
The next section is a little more personal, especially for me, because I consider this man a sort of mentor, though we have never met (yet).
5-9: A window on the Apostle Paul himself
In this thought unit, we get a look at several character traits of the Apostle Paul, and in my thinking, these are things to be emulated. You all have heard me talk about how I was an abused child, but I was also the son of an absentee father for some critical periods of my life. My dad drove a transport truck for a lot of my childhood, and in fact owned his own truck (well, the bank owned it, and it cost more than the house I grew up in, so he had to be on the road or we didn’t eat. Anyway, because I wasn’t able to learn from him the way a normal boy does, I latched onto men I thought had great character. It wasn’t a decision or anything, any fatherless youth does it too. At 18, I was saved by the Grace of God, being regenerated by him, and those of you who know my testimony know that I was radically altered. I actually wanted to be a better man, and I became a walking New Testament for a while.
In that New Testament, I found a guy named Paul. And I really wished I could get to know him. Being a bookworm, I had already come to know about a few guys I admired. King Arthur. King Aragorn. His friend Gandalf. A pseudo-historical man named Robin of Loxley. Yes, I’ve read the book. The book was fantastic. The ending sucked, though it was poetic. Kind of like this man Paul. And Beloved, Paul is an archetype of what we should aspire to. So let’s learn some things from the next though unit about the character of the man who wrote or was responsible for about half of the books of our New Testament. (I include Hebrews here because I believe it is a sermons he himself preached, but that Luke wrote down later.)
5: But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia;
• Paul is self-directed, that is, he makes his own decisions. He is pragmatic, in that it is convenient for him to do this in an order that suits him and gets him there. He is also earnest, because we read elsewhere that if he says it, he will do it, Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise. We should learn that.
6: and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go.
• Paul is suggesting here that he is going to check in, and he is putting out all the possibilities. He’s laying out all his cards to the Corinthians, and he isn’t hiding from them any of the options. He is hoping that they will welcome him, and that there hospitality will help him move along to others who need the gospel that we talked about in detail over the last 3 weeks. He’s straightforward, is plain in his speech, vocalizing his intentions clearly, and shares his expectations as a way of instruction.
7: For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits.
• He wants to remain there with them. From the corrective tone of his letters, I would suggest to you all that this is for the purposes of instruction in the faith for the Corinthians, and that speaks of his willingness to bring those that want to follow along in the faith. Yet for that willingness, he subjects himself to the will of Yahweh God with the simple phrase, “if the Lord permits.”
8: But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost;
• Paul was at the time of the writing of this letter was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. It was his plan to complete his 3-year stay in Ephesus, and then travel to Corinth. What we see here is that Paul was faithful. He knew the mind of the Lord, and he kept on until the job was done. This isn’t the only place in all his letters we see that, either. Nevertheless, it was his hope to winter in Corinth.
9: for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
• Here we see that Paul never missed an opportunity that God presented him, and that he was both bold and courageous. I am certainly neither bold nor courageous, though I am trying to use the opportunities that God has given me to practice those traits. But Paul? Now there’s an example! He saw God open a door, and he stepped through, and with a servant’s heart identified all of the people he would serve in God’s name, and didn’t let his adversaries even slow him down. At least not by intimidation. I wish I shared that DNA, boy…
There was one individual that I actually resemble a great deal, and he is one of the subject of the next paragraph. His name is Timothy. He was by all accounts a shy fellow that was less certain of himself than he was called upon to be, and he even had a few health problems to deal with. Here, let’s have a peek.
10-12: A window on other brothers and sisters in Christ
There are others that we see in the New Testament that we can see, and we can see how they behaved and also how Paul thought of them. Let’s have a look at the text.
10: Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.
• Here is where we can see some things. First, we see the care and concern of Paul for a man that he considered his son in the faith. Timothy was likely saved in Lystra where Paul was stoned and left for dead, perhaps at that very event. That is speculation, but it isn’t mine, it’s actually John MacArthur’s, and his conjecture is far more educated than mine. Paul knew Timothy was a shy and introverted man, in today’s terminology. I am the same way. I know, I can project a lion-like confidence, and talk a good fight, and maybe even put up a solid physical battle, but I often find myself pushing myself out there and being all extrovert-like, when the opposite is actually true. Please note, an introvert recharges his batteries with alone time. If you see me getting tired in the work, suggest I take a day off as opposed to offering to buy me lunch. Introverts recharge their own batteries, Extroverts recharge off of others. Both are socially fine, you just have to know the difference and see to the needs of both.
• Also, we can see that Timothy is a shy and fearful man, compared to Paul. Shy and fearful does not mean he couldn’t do the job, by the way. It means he has different obstacles to overcome than a brash plain speaker like Paul. Timothy was Paul’s choice for his heir apparent. It didn’t make one bit of difference. God made them both, and called them both, and gifted them both. He also used them both. I bet the saints that were at Ephesus in those days have a few stories to tell about both of these men. What we do know is that Timothy was also Yahweh God’s servant, just like Paul.
11: So let no one despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.
• Paul was concerned that some people would view the shy and withdrawing Timothy as weak, but nothing could be further from the truth. You all know me. I have never run from a fight, though I have been known to tactically retreat to more favorable ground or deny battle as a better way of solving an issue. Paul’s concern for Timothy is that he would continue to serve the Lord in the way God told him to. Paul and Timothy were to work together a while longer before it was time to put down the task for Paul.
12: But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.
• Apollos is the next brother that we see Paul list here. In fact Paul encouraged him to go with some of the brothers to Corinth, but Apollos was otherwise engaged, and did not want to put down that task at that time. We can discard the conjecture of some critics that suggest that Apollos didn’t want to return to Corinth because of bad experiences, or the cult-like following some false believers had given him because Apollos was willing to go, as Paul tells us, “when he had opportunity.” If Apollo was a genuine man of God, we can take both Apollos at his word, and Paul, who had clearly taken Apollo at his word.
All of these leaders of the early church were well known to the believers of the time as godly individuals that served the Lord. All of the false believers that were already present that were causing the issues for Paul were smooth talkers. We can recognize some of these false brethren easily today. I won’t name them now, we have in previous studies, but I will say that they are only in it for what they can get out of it for themselves. Stop supporting the ministries of these people. I won’t say that I have never made money from being in ministry. I’m an ox on the threshing floor, and there is no issue with a preacher making money from his preaching. But did you know that their top prosperity gospel preacher (okay I will name one) Kenneth Copeland, made more than $30 million dollars in 2020? When people had less money to give away. Probably needed a new private jet. Wolf. Mark and avoid.
I can tell you that BereanNation.com doesn’t operate that way. If you want to send us money, that’s up to you – but we will never ask you for it with no reason. Put your wallet back in your pocket. Your money is safe. God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s supply. Buy the truth – and do not sell it. Proverbs 23:23. Moving on.
13-18: A window with a view on early church leaders
This paragraph shows us a view of what church leaders looked like in the infant church. In fact, the first two verses of this thought unit set down the powerful principles that God expects all of His children to follow, but especially those in leadership. You want to lead in the house of God? Here are your objectives that you should integrate into your being, because this is what these early church leaders displayed. The text itself does a better job describing and explaining than I do, let’s see what it says.
13: Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
• The first thing that leaders in the body of Christ should be is alert. The Greek word is gregoreo, yes it does sound like a name, but it means to be awake, to be watchful. Observant is a modern word we put on it, but that’s only a shade of the meaning. If you’ve played team sports, you’ll know what this means. The point guard on a basketball court can often see the play developing positionally before anyone else. He will often call out the play or give a heads up on defense as to what’s coming, something I learned in high school.
• The next thing that leaders display for all to see is their firm footing in the faith of Christ. The Greek for “stand firm” is interesting to me. It is the present tense of histeka, which is the perfect tense of histemi, “to make to stand.” The leader in a gathering will not run. He will also make his stand solid in preparation for whatever comes his way. The picture here is a soldier on a battlefield making his footing firm. It should be said that we are figuratively standing in “the faith,” notice the article, which indicates that firm persuasion or opinion held so strongly that it convicts us to act in accordance with it. That is that Jesus died for sinners, and has risen to show not only that He paid the penalty, but He broke its power and set us free from sin, praise God.
• Leaders in the church should also andrizo. That simple word in Greek conveys a library of meaning in English. Early uses in English include Shakespeare in a number of his plays, with the phrase, “play the man.” Paul himself meant that we are to act like men, and in the best sense of that, ignoring feminism for this conversation. We are to be strong, courageous, firm in our position, awake and ready to stay or go as the moment dictates, self-aware and engaged with everything around us. This is hard to do when we all hide in our homes and do not meet as the church. Beloved, we are commanded to assemble, and I think personally that if your church isn’t meeting physically, restrictions aside because they are part of a bigger issue and conversation, and if you as a leader aren’t letting us meet as a church, you should be ashamed of yourself. And if you’re just a rank-and-file member someplace, and you have been forbidden by your church leadership to meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you just plain need to find a real place of fellowship. And if you are someone that is called leader, and your church is opened and you don’t agree with that opening of your gathering, please go find a different social club.
• Leaders are also commanded by Paul here to “be strong.” This is the passive verb form of the Greek venb kratos, meaning strength. What that means is that leaders are standing “in strength,” but it isn’t their own strength. It is literally Christ’s strength. Paul said to the Galatian church, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (2:20, literal) You want to be a leader? Learn to stand in a strength that is not your own.
14: Let all that you do be done in love.
• Leaders never act out of expediency or any agenda other than love. It might be love for the Saviour, or it might be love for you and your family, but this is where it needs to come from. If a leader will come out of any other motive – irritation, a desire to control, or even anger – it isn’t a godly leader in front of you. Let’s look for a moment at Titus 1:6-9 as a list of qualifications for such a godly leader:
○ …if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
• All of these things must operate out of love – otherwise, said “leader” is no better than a “clanging cymbal,” according to Paul earlier in this letter (1 Cor. 13). We even have an example in Scripture of a church that had left its first love in Ephesus. See Rev. 2:1-7 for details, but the point here is that just doctrine is not enough. And the Charismaniacs prove that the emotion they are identifying as love is not. Right practice is not enough. As good and as true and as right as those things are, in that they are given by God to every person, if one is not operating in agape, then it isn’t worth one thin dime. Aspiring church leaders take note.
15: Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),
• If you are not sure what we are talking about, then here is an example from the church in Corinth. Paul explains in this verse about them and how they operate. A man named Stephanas is that example, along with his entire household, whatever that meant. Details are sparing in the New Testament. He was among the first, if not the first, that the Lord saved in the Roman province of Achaia, near Macedonia, and was on the Peloponnese, the very area where Corinth was located. It is evident that the Lord saved them, because Paul tells us that they have “devoted themselves for the ministry of the saints,” the saint being the New Testament people of God, not the Roman Cult Church version. I like the way the KJV puts this one, because it seems instructive: “…they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints…” Not just Stephanas, but his entire house. That word for “ministry” is actually the Greek diakonia, which we have transliterated into English as deacon. That word is meant to describe the exercise of a spiritual leader in the house of God. If you look at the original group of deacons in Acts 6:3, the description that the Apostles gave the congregation for selection to leadership is this: “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” Men who were walking in a worthy manner! Gee, where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, it was HERE!
16: that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.
• And how are we all supposed to behave in relation to actual leaders in the house of God? We are to be in subjection to them. This is controversial to the false converts among us, because they KNOW that there are false converts that will pervert this, because they are the ones doing it, and they don’t want it to be done to them!
• However, for the one that has a worthy walk with Christ, this is a non-issue. He’s been called (by the congregation by the way, in case you were wondering) to leadership, I should do as he says. And this isn’t a call to blind obedience, Beloved. Anyone who teaches that is a cult leader in the making. Not even Jesus demands that. He called me with my eyes open. He certainly called Paul that way.
• No, the people that want to have a constitution other than what is in Scripture, people that demand control, or try to legislate things so that they have the final word, or whine and moan when they don’t get their way, these are false brothers for the most part, and they can draw new believers after them, and that’s why real leaders have to be awake. You need to see these individuals, false brethren, coming. Anyway, moving on.
17: I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part.
• Here are some more of these men that had a worthy walk – they must have, the Apostle Paul himself named them for us to read about in Scripture! We have already read about Stephanas, but there are two others here, Fortunatus and Achaicus, and it seems all we know about them is their names, and that these were men who walked in a worthy manner after the Lord Jesus Christ. I think that was the lacking that Paul spoke of here – the lack of a worthy walk. It is difficult to fellowship with those that are walking after the flesh because they are moving in a different direction than you. If you are walking with the Lord, you are being transformed in trials and learning to praise God for it. If you are not, but walking in the flesh, all you are doing is complaining. Nobody likes that. It makes you feel alone. Don’t quit though, becaue the Lord is training you for service in His kingdom.
18: For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
• Whatever we do know of these men, we knew they were an encouragement to Paul. And Beloved, don’t you find that in your own walk? When you meet a brother or sister that is really walking with the Lord, are they not a real encouragement to you? And hopefully you are to them in return! But these men, these leaders in the church, they were refreshing to Paul. And these men deserved the recognition as leaders for which Paul had singled them out.
Beloved, this is what leaders in the first century church were like. In our own congregation, I see a couple that are like that, and a few more who are on their way. I won’t name them, so don’t ask me, but these brothers and sisters are of great encouragement and comfort to me. I will mention one, and that’s Susan M. Many of you will know her as the band flutist, and we should pray for her and her family. Her mom passed away (she was a believer) in the wee hours of this morning. She is in Montreal with her family now and talking about next steps. Pray for her.
19-24: Final greetings to Corinth from the family of God
That brings us to our last paragraph in 1 Corinthians, Beloved! This is the traditional close of a Pauline letter, with greetings going to and from the saints in all the places where Paul has been. I can remember this kind of thing from my days in a Brethren-like congregation. The leaders were always writing letters of greeting to share news and prayer requests with other gatherings of which they were aware, and whenever we heard about that happening, the cry was always, “Say hi from me!” I remember being encouraged by a fellow that once spoke about Quartus a brother at the end of Romans. We don’t know anything other than his name – and that he loved God’s people. He sent his greetings along. I think it is a demonstration of that phileo that we can have for others, and even of the agape that we can have in that we desire their encouragement in the faith. On with the text.
19: The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
• Remember, Paul was writing from Ephesus, and if you were with us in person when a few years back (2013-2014) when we did this through Revelation in brief, you learned where Ephesus was in modern-day Turkey, and in fact where all of the churches of Asia were concentrated at the time. Can you imagine being there, while an elder reads out a letter from the Apostle Paul, and you hear this line? “The churches of Asia greet you!” It would give you a sense that you are not just tied down to some local thing, but that you are part of an actual word-wide movement of God!
• We also see a very clear picture of how the churches met in the first century as opposed to today, in the main. Aquila and Prisca owned a house. Aquila was a tent-maker like Paul. His house was perhaps a compound where tents were made to sell or to order from the Roman military. He would have had a large place for people to gather that included walls and a roof, where they also lived. The church met there in their house. I’ve been in house churches like this. God is not limited to the church building, Beloved, He is literally everywhere. It is His attribute of Omnipresence. Moving on.
20: All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
• Likewise, “All the brethren greet you!” Many of the saints may have know some of the people in those other gatherings. It gave a sense of community as well – but a community within a community. And if you really think about this, it is a community of light and life within a much larger community of death and darkness. Beloved, we are different. We are SUPPOSED TO BE different. People will hate and mock us because of that difference, and Jesus even warned us about it. Don’t let it discourage you or even change your activity. It hated Him, it will hate us also. Call it information. The more you hear, the more you know you’re being effective. I am not saying that there will be no personal price to pay. But beloved, Be who you are.
• Recently, those of you who know me on Facebook saw a name change to my account. This was to try to fight off nosey HR agents that would Google my name after a great telephone interview seeing my conservative and Christian roots. I need to work to provide for my family and the needs of this ministry. I was trying to give myself a leg up out of the hole I am starting in. I have lost at least three job opportunities that I am aware of, and probably more. I decided that I am going to be who I am, though. If they won’t hire me for who I am, it isn’t worth working there. But now I have to wait 30 days to change my name back, thank you Facebook.
• We also see that the expression of emotion in the Spirit of Christ is not forbidden! It was a custom in those days to kiss each other on the cheek or both cheeks as a greeting or farewell. I have done that, with women who are not my wife! Actually in front of not just my wife, but the entire congregation now that I’m thinking of it. But I understand if this makes people feel uncomfortable. Today’s version of this might be the holy handshake. Or in COVID-19 lockdowns, the holy elbow-bump. I know at Grace Church under John MacArthur, they full on kiss and hug and shake hands. And they have not reported a single case of COVID-19 among their members that meet at the main site. There have been some that have gotten it, and they survived, and they just didn’t go and meet while they had it. Don’t be afraid to express your emotions.
21: The greeting is in my own hand—Paul.
• At this point in Paul’s career as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he had encountered some false teachers that had been demonically inspired, and that had written a counterfeit letter from Paul to the church at Thessalonica. That’s what caused him to write his second letter there. Paul, as did many people actually dictated his letters to a scribe, who applied the ink to the papyrus for him. After the Thessalonian incident, they cam up with a technological solution to the problem – Paul would sign the letters and usually include a line of greeting, in his own hand.
• That actually has some implications, by the way. That means there were brothers in fellowship everywhere Paul wrote a letter to that both knew Paul, and who could authenticate his handwriting. But today, we do the same thing electronically. I typically don’t explain this, because it’s like speaking in unknown languages to those that don’t know this stuff, but every computer, every cell phone, every tablet device, etcetera, has a unique and encrypted identification code. It’s one of the reasons that places like Facebook can identify you, regardless of what route over the internet you take to get to their servers. But Paul’s signature? That would have been hard to fake. That’s why this verse is here – it is quality control and verification of authorship – and is even part of the inspired text, so that the Holy Spirit tells us about how we can in what is now a low-tech fashion, foil all the high-tech surveillance. No one can counterfeit you. At least not yet. Next verse.
22: If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.
• Paul is now giving us the means to tell counterfeit believers, not just counterfeit letters. If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. The word for love here, is interestingly phileo, meaning that an actual affection for Jesus Christ is the mark of a true believer. We are called by and to agape, but we must develop an affection for God also. How do you develop an affection for someone? That is very simple: you spend time with that person. Do you spend time with the Lord every day? Don’t claim to have a worthy walk if you don’t.
• That word for “accursed” is the strongest possible Greek term for the word: anathema. It is the same word that Paul uses in the first chapter of Galatians. The word has even managed to slip into usage in English, though over the last 40 years or so, it has fallen out of use, at least in my hearing.
• Maranatha is actually a phrase, not a word. The Greek should be written as maran atha, or “Our Lord comes, the meaning in any case. Some have legitimately stated it can also be translated as O [our] Lord come, as a kind of prayer, and either way works here. I prefer the former, but if you prefer the latter, that’s cool with me. Here is the way I learned this verse: If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be anathema [to you]. Our Lord comes. There is serious weight to that. Would you hang out with people that are supposed to be accursed to you? Especially with the specter of our Lord’s soon return in mind? Beloved, that’s how we’re supposed to look at things. I’m not saying don’t have unbelieving friends. By all means, and preach the gospel to them at every opportunity. Just – don’t hang out with them. Hang out with God’s people, also known as those who walk in a worthy manner. Remember 15:33 – bad company corrupts good morals. And it never works the other way around.
23: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
• Paul is wrapping up, and what better wish could you have for anyone anywhere than that the grace of the Lord Jesus be with someone? What is the grace of the Lord Jesus? Beloved, it is the gospel from A to Zed (because I’m Canadian by birth). It is the good news of justification from our evil deeds and character, it is the awesome news to all believers of a new nature that Christ gives to us to walk in sanctification, and it is the news that all believers will someday all be with Jesus forever when history is wrapped up on this terrestrial ball, as one hymn writer put it. In deed, that is my desire for anyone that should watch this study or part of it in the future. May the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ be also with you. In fact, [next verse]
24: My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
• That word for love is that agape, that love by choice that we are commanded to operate from. It is God’s defining, self-giving, self-sacrificing love. That love is more than a stray and barely controlled emotional affection. It is a deep and abiding choice to be connected to you in a very real and deep spiritual way through Christ. There is no better or more wothy love to have, and it is my prayer that we would have it for all of mankind, because it is the love that God has. When it says “God is love” in 1 John 4:8, this is the Love that God is. It is that deep, abiding, conscious choice to be connected to all those that are His. May THAT love be with people as we close out this epistle of Paul.
And that, Beloved, is the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians! I’ll get the livestream replay edited and put up as soon as I can.
Now, the next book of Scripture we will be studying is 2 Corinthians, and it is the last letter of Paul to the Church that we have to study. We’ve covered them all, and most of it on video! Those are up on the website that you will see on the screen, and on our YouTube channel, YouTube.com/gwbrinkman. Go check it all out. We pretty much always link from there these days, although you will find most of them on my personal page on Facebook. Apparently there is a way to search the archives.
I feel like I have just completed a marathon of sorts, and I am taking the next two weeks off from this study. All of our other weekly appointments will continue, but a lot of work goes into these studies, so I think I need the break, or my health (precarious as that is) will begin to decline. So Beloved, and Neighbours, we’ll see you in three weeks for the book overview of 2 Corinthians – Paul’s defense of his ministry.
Let’s close in prayer.