One: 1 Corinthians 16.1-24
August 18, 2013 Series: One | First Letter to the Corinthians
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 16:1–16:24
Intro: One Divided Church
Chapter 16 is Paul’s final instructions to young, growing, vibrant, spirit-filled, yet deeply divided church. Just a few years after they were planted, the church had forgotten who they were in Christ. Division is the first sign that the gospel is lost—a deep belief in the gospel, a love for Jesus, will make our identity in Christ stronger. And a strong identity in Christ will take our identity with, and love for one another deeper. Through faith, Jesus adopts many children together into one family where each individual surrenders their own desires, yields their own needs to the needs of others, and contributes their own talents towards fulfilling the one mission for the glory of Jesus. The Corinthian church, however, is full of individuals competing against one another, and pursuing their own glory.
Paul’s intent in writing, and ours in preaching, is to get everyone to repent of their own agendas and get on mission together with Jesus’. Sadly, the greatest hindrances to the mission God has given His people are the people themselves. Temporary, passing, earthly things like power, money, and fame become too important. The letter climaxes in chapter 15 proclaiming belief in the resurrection. Now, after a full chapter of directing our eyes toward an eternity in heaven, Paul focuses them back on earth as the one Church, on one mission, with one gospel, through one local fellowship.
Paul Reminds the Corinthians of the ONE Church (v. 1-4)
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
Not About Giving
At the close of chapter 15, Paul reminded the Corinthians that their present labor is not in vain. The first thing that Paul addresses in chapter 16 is the taking up a one-time monetary collection for the saints—fellow Christians in need in Jerusalem. He tells them quite plainly that each week they are to set aside some money based on how God has blessed them, store it up at the church, and be ready to deliver when Paul returns (commitment to accountability; delivered by authorized men). There is something to learn about giving here, namely, “What do I intentionally set aside or store up, in order to be able to help brothers and sisters in need?” Unfortunately, this passage is often used as a springboard to talk about tithing. In 2nd Corinthians, we learn that the Corinthians’ wealth caused them to struggle with giving, unlike some of the poorer churches in Macedonia who were generous. Paul has some other direct instructions to them in his second letter to deal with this issue—but tithing is not what is most important in this text.
All About Unity
Why the collection at all? The greater point is the same one Paul made when he began the letter. In verse 2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. There is ONE Church. Corinth is not the only church in the world, just as we are not the only church in this nation, city, state, or even this street. There is a real danger when you believe that your church is “that” great. While we should be grateful for the church that God builds, we must fight becoming so enamored with ourselves that we believe that the gospel arrived in Marysville/Snohomish when we planted. This kind of attitude leads to feeling threatened when God graces a church MORE than he has graced us either with money, people, or opportunities. MOREOVER, in pride, we will refuse to cooperate with other churches that we have personally deemed LESS THAN us. We are ONE church. We partner with churches in Marysville and across the region through 3Strand. Many of you have come from other churches. Without question, I am glad you are here. And I hope that you truly become part of our family. But I would encourage you to take this opportunity to pray for those churches you came from…right now.
Paul Reminds the Corinthians of the ONE Mission (v. 5-12)
5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.
Plans for Mission
The ONE Church of God has ONE mission. Paul reveals his plan to return to Corinth in the Spring. His plans do not come to pass as he intends here. Perhaps this is why he states: IF THE LORD PERMITS. We must make plans as individuals, as families, and as a church for mission. But we must hold those plans loosely. As the Bible says, we commit our plans to Lord and He establishes our steps. In other words, we make plans. If you don’t have a plan for mission then you are not thinking about mission—and if you hold your plans too tightly then you’ll only be disillusioned. Paul’s current plan has him in Ephesus where a WIDE DOOR has opened. If you read Acts 19, we find that this opportunity that God opened up was full of persecution (See 19.26-29). The preaching of God’s Word leads to such widespread repentance that the economy of the city is disrupted. This leads to a city-wide riot in the local stadium. Isn’t this what we want to see in our cities? We plan to preach gospel, we plan to make sacrifices, we plan to take risks, and we plan to “GO” and make disciples. And even though we know it will be hard, we arrange our lives and prepare our families for the one mission of God in hopes of this happening.
Leaders of the Mission
God has given the church leaders to equip the church to complete the ONE mission. And while Paul plans to come, it is clear that the Corinthians would rather have their favorite leader, Apollos, visit them. And though Paul has encouraged him to come, Apollos does not believe it is the right time. Paul plans to send Timothy instead and it is clear that he is worried about whether or not Timothy will be respected (youth or inexperience). The Corinthians believe they know (better than Paul or God) who is best equipped to complete their personal mission. This should cause us all to question our attitudes toward the leadership you have for the mission here? Is there only one pastor that you will follow? Is there only one pastor you respect? Is there only one pastor you will listen to or can learn from? Whose mission are you on exactly? There is only ONE mission and its God’s. And God calls whom he wants to serve that mission for His glory. And while God’s mission is more than man, God works through men to accomplish it.
Paul Reminds the Corinthians of the ONE Message (v. 13-18)
13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love. What exactly is the ONE mission? Our mission is to preach the gospel to the world—the sinless life, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ our LORD. The gospel is THE source of life, meaning, it is always the primary focus of the attack by the enemy. Therefore, we must:
We guard the one message by being watchful –When he left Ephesus (Acts 20) he reminded the leaders from where the attack would come from within: Acts 20.29-31 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. Churches don’t die when the world dismiss us as foolish, passes ungodly legislation, or even inflicts violent persecution. Churches die when they deny the gospel of grace and wrongly believe 1) they have nothing to be saved from or 2) that they can save themselves.
We guard the gospel by standing firm in the faith – The gospel gives us a new permanent identity. I am not, therefore, defined by what I know, or what I do, what mistakes I’ve made, or what things I achieve, what family I’m from, or money I have. I am in Christ. I am saved, blessed, appreciated, reconciled, gifted, forgiven, new, and victorious. And because we live knowing who we are, we are free from having to find that in the world. We must stand firm in that identity 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Ephesians 4.14
We guard the gospel by having the courage to obey: The message of grace doesn’t kill obedience, it transforms it. We now obey with a different motivation, not be accepted, but because we are accepted. And because God has adopted us and gone from feeling like a cruel boss to a loving Father—we believe His commands are for our good and joy. Joshua 1.7-8. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go…we shall meditate on it day and night, so that we may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.
We guard the gospel by loving in all we do: Guarding the one message is not simply about being theological accurate…without love we are nothing. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love Ephesians 4.15-16.
We guard the gospel by respecting authority: The gospel makes us humble. Lord has given the church leaders whose examples we should follow. In Corinth, Stephanas, and his household, are identified as leaders to whom the Corinthians should willingly subject themselves to. One of the biggest issues in Corinth is competition for leadership. And because the Corinthians are easily impressed, they are easily swayed by the loudest voice. Paul, therefore, identifies exactly who, in their church, they should follow. Their chief characteristic is a commitment to serve the church and not be served by it.
We guard the gospel by recognizing laborers: Three men Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus were among the group to come and visit Paul. Not only did these men deliver the letter, they also shared their own report about the issues in Corinth. We can only imagine what the Corinthians might think about these men. They could very easily be characterized as self-serving STOOLPIGEONS who hate the church as opposed to brothers who love the church. Paul’s instructs the Corinthians to acknowledge the work of these men who denied their own comfort and did the “dirty work”. We are thankful.
Lastly, Paul Reminds the Corinthians of the ONE church—fellowship (v. 19-20)
19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
The Final Greetings
We are called as the one Church, onto one mission, with one gospel, through one local fellowship. Paul ends his letter with several greetings from the Churches they have never met as well as from good friends and brothers on mission elsewhere. Most importantly, Paul tells them to GREET ONE ANOTHER with a HOLY KISS. All Christians everywhere are part of ONE BIG ‘C’ church, but you and I have one little “c” church to love and greet with great affection. Our culture struggles with knowing how to be affectionate without making it sexual. In the early church, a holy kiss was practiced regularly—an intimate act that would have broken through even the most divided church.
Today, our affection rarely extends beyond a cold hand shake, a lifeless hug, or just a chin-lift. The question is not one of pragmatics, but one of attitude. How do we view this fellowship? Do we really want to embrace one another in love? Are we willing to be that close? Can we be impartial with our brothers and sisters? When you get to the point of having to have a “60 seconds of awkward” or meat and greet—we may have lost. My greatest hope is for people to be overwhelmed by our friendliness—that people will know one another, welcome one another, miss one another, and pursue one another. Romans 15.7 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God
Conclusion: Last Word(s)
The last two verses of the letter turn us all back to where we find the motivation, the means, and the model to do any of this: The grace of Jesus and the love of Jesus. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. If there is any church that deserved to be blown up from word one, it is Corinth. But Paul begins and ends his letter with grace. Our hope for change in our hearts, is not hoping we decide that more people behave differently. Our hope is that people will genuinely experience the grace of Jesus. We don’t welcome one another because we have earned it by becoming clean, religious, or good. We love because Christ has loved us. And if we don’t love one another, we don’t know the love of Christ.