Today: [1 Corinthians 16:] Contrasting the Corinthian Church with Your Church: In the concluding chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul addresses several practices that were common among the early churches that are entirely unheard of today. The early church moved in power beyond our comprehension in the ancient world. The church today wields very little influence. Perhaps we could learn where the problem lies by contrasting church as we know it and how the early church actually conducted itself.
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[1Co 16:1-24 KJV] 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by [your] letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. 4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. 5 Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. 6 And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. 7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. 8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and [there are] many adversaries. 10 Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also [do]. 11 Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren. 12 As touching [our] brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time. 13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. 14 Let all your things be done with charity. 15 I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and [that] they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) 16 That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with [us], and laboureth. 17 I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. 18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such. 19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. 21 The salutation of [me] Paul with mine own hand. 22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. 24 My love [be] with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
In concluding his first letter to the Corinthians Paul begins addressing issues related to their giving. We can learn from then, that as an apostle, Paul asserted authority over financial matters in the churches he established. There are indications that the other apostles conducted themselves in the same manner relating to the gathering and distribution of finances given by the people for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul brings this up pointing out that what he has to say to them about their giving is consistent with his policies throughout Galatia.
The first thing we observe is that offerings were to be laid in store on the first day of the week in the weeks preceding Paul’s arrival. He doesn’t want to engage in fundraising when he comes to teach and preach among them. That is an interesting practice that tells us a few things. First, the giving of the churches was not minimal. They gave in amounts that required the contributors to gather and store up what they would contribute over many weeks. This is different than today where a guest comes to minister and receives whatever sum is handy at the time from the people. The overall observation is that the level of giving of the early church congregants was radically higher than what is customarily given in our churches today. Think about it. The last time you gave to a guest minister you gave whatever was convenient to you at the time. What if you had planned for months ahead of time, laying money aside every week and giving the money beforehand so that the guest minister didn’t even have to think about such things when he or she arrived? We have experienced this ourselves in Edmonton, Canada with a church we minister at frequently. The pastor picks us up at the airport and hands us an envelope when we meet him in baggage claim to retrieve our luggage.
When you give, what should you give, in what amounts? You are to give what God has prospered you to receive. In other words, you don’t give what you don’t have. There are times that people give with money borrowed from a credit card. While their generosity and heart to give is commendable this isn’t advisable. Give as you have been given by God. Realize that no matter what amount of money you earn or receive it originates from God and not from yourself. People who don’t give or grumble about giving are demonstrating the attitude that they don’t believe that God gave it to them in the first place. Do you have financial resources? They originated in God no matter how they come to you in the first place. Give in acknowledgement of that fact. When you know a giving opportunity is ahead of you – lay up in store ahead of time. Let your giving represent not just what you have at the moment but what you have invested and laid in store over time. This is the manner in which Paul taught giving should be done.
The giving of the Corinthians was so expansive that it not only benefited Paul, but he says in v. three that he will take of their generous gift and also use it to distribute to the saints and leaders in Jerusalem. You can see then that the generosity of the Corinthians reflected the fact that God radically blessed them to the point that they were lifted from impoverished conditions and blessed beyond great measure to not only meet their own needs and to finance the gospel but to meet the needs of many others by their sacrificial and obedience giving.
In v. five then Paul gives the Corinthians his itinerary and timing for coming to be with them, hoping to winter with them. Here again, we see that Paul would come to stay with them for several months – not just for a few days. Could you see this happening in your church situation? Usually, a guest minister comes for only one or two services and then moves on. At best he may come for three days or if something really unusual is happening for a week or more. The early church was accustomed to receiving guest ministers for months at a time and making room for them in their lives, no doubt spending day after day in meetings after their day’s labors. This level of activity is apostolic in character. Do you have an apostle in your life? When they come around and you acknowledge them – be prepared to do something more than just church as usual.
In verse 10 we see another practice common to the early church that is unknown to us today. Paul is sending Timothy to the Corinthians with the admonition that they receive Timothy and take care of him and give him due respect and deference as he ministers in their midst. Can you imagine a guest minister sending a protege to your church without asking if it is permissible? This is what Paul did regarding Timothy, and there was no complaint on the part of the Corinthians. Though Paul was not a daily part of the Corinthian leadership – his authority was recognized. Today we have leaders who are recognized among us, but we complain if they travel too much. We hear this consistently. Realize that if your pastor has apostolic tendencies that God will call him away from the home pulpit and your attitude should not be adverse to this. Realize that your leaders are not hirelings and support them as they go about doing what God instructs them to do.
Paul goes on in v. 13 admonishing the Corinthians to stand fast in the faith and above all things to walk in love. He points out the house of Stephanus as examples of those that ministered to the saints. The Corinthians are told to submit themselves to the household of Stephanus because of their loving service. Here again a striking contrast to today. Can you imagine someone coming to your church and being assigned to a family in the church for them to submit to and be pastored by? Apparently in the early church less mature believers were expected to submit to and be mentored by older and more mature families.
Something else can be learned about the early church from v. 17. The Corinthians not only received Paul or the proteges he would send to them such as Apollos or Timothy – but they would also assign members of their own church to travel at their own expense with Paul to help him in his ministry. Can you see that happening in your church? Could you imagine your church raising money to meet the needs of a team of its own members being sent to provide material support and assistance to a traveling minister? This is exactly what the early church and specifically the Corinthians did, and Paul commended and encouraged the practice.
Having addressed these final matters that were of no small consequence to Paul or the Corinthians, he closes his letter. His closing remarks include a pronouncement against any among them who did not profess the love of Christ – that they be “Anathema Maranatha.” Most theologians translate this as “accursed from Christ,” but that is not the clear meaning. The word “Anathema” means to be “put on suspension” and “Maranatha” means “until the Lord comes.” What can we learn from this? When you have difficult people in your life – God does not expect you to just put up with them forever with no relief. My wife and I have seen this many times over the years, where a difficult person or family member torments those around them, insisting “if you call yourself a Christian you have to put up with me…” Not according to Paul. The “Anathema Maranatha” principle allows you when necessary to break off a relationship and put it entirely on hold or on suspension until God moves in the situation to correct the problem. This is a tool that correctly put into practice would give many people relief in difficult situations and relationships.
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