Letters to the Corinthians: Saying Goodbye

It’s something of a special moment – finally reaching 1 Corinthians 16, the very last chapter. This happens to be the thirtieth post – of breaking down the letter by chapters and sections and reading the verses trying to figure out how much of it still applies exactly as written or how creative we’ve gotten in making it applicable to us today. Of course, the series is called Letters to the Corinthians, so we’re really at the half-way point. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, right here …

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 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. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

Times have changed. We don’t do tithing like this in general. We don’t do letters of introduction either. We would recognize this as something we don’t have to do.

After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. 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. 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. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Makes sense really, the Corinthians are such troublemakers that a passing visit is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.

I know from earlier on that Paul had his fans and his detractors, odds are being associated with Paul meant that Timothy could be in for some trouble – so Paul thinks ahead and tells the church to treat him well and leave him in peace.

Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.

I’m trying to imagine this conversation taking place – Paul being an apostle and all doesn’t give him the authority to order Apollos to drop whatever he’s doing and head for Corinth, it takes a little convincing. I kind of wonder if Apollos heard about his fan club and didn’t want to make things worse by legitimizing their devotion to him while bearing this letter to the Corinthians. After all, Paul’s fan club would likely be excited: “See? We told you he’d write us back! He’s our number one teacher! At least our guy cares about us. Where’s your guy? Has he forgotten about you?

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

Sound like the making of a pretty great worship song to me. I don’t think we hear the message to “do everything in love” nearly often enough these days.

You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.

Achaia is just west of Corinth – that’s the place where Apollos debated the Jewish leaders in the synagogue. Here’s where I think Paul could be a little more gracious: “they have supplied what was lacking from you” Didn’t Paul just say: “But I have not used any of these rights. 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.” (Chapter 9.) Let’s change the context a little bit: Paul is standing in front of the vending machine at work. He notices Cory standing next to him and goes off on a dialogue that even though Cory should support him with food and money, he doesn’t want Cory to because he wants to boast that he hasn’t used this right. Five minutes later, Steven, Fortunata, and Aiken arrive and give Paul lunch and a good sum of money to cover dinner and travel expenses. Paul complements them, calls them a great example, and tells Cory that they did what he didn’t. In Paul’s defense, that was half a letter ago. He might have forgotten.

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. All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Yep, that’s the same Priscilla and Aquila that taught Apollos in Acts 18. When they aren’t teaching skilled debaters, they’re hosting a church at their house. I once saw a coloring book page about that – it showed Aquila going through the scriptures with Apollos while Priscilla poured refreshments into their glasses. That’s probably not what the story meant to suggest. I hoped that it would have been more of a team effort, with both of them being really well grounded in Scripture in their own right, but needing each other to tell the tale correctly to make sure that neither one of them leaves out any important details.

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

As opposed to Not-Paul, but this is him signing off, so we know it’s probably the real deal.

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

Well that’s harsh. Some days it’s not as easy as others.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

Now that’s the right way to end a letter.

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

That too. It’s sad that some manuscripts don’t include that last amen, it must have gotten lost over centuries – but it’s just as well. After all, there’s still a whole other letter to read.

But first a challenge – the original audience would have likely gathered together where the letter would be read to them, from beginning to end – so it seems fitting that we set aside a little time to put ourselves in their shoes: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/ Listen to as many chapters as you can – one after the other (approx. running time is roughly 45 minutes). Listen in with a few other people and talk about what you heard – do all of you arrive at the same conclusion on everything? Did what ever stand out to you also stand out to another? By the time you got a few chapters into it – did it sound like it had begun to run together and was difficult to discern where you were in the chiasms Paul used? It’s different, isn’t it – listening into something as opposed to reading it?

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